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Blazers' Buchanan breaks down moves with Roy, Oden, salary cap – and a possible playoff run

by:  BUCHANAN

A primer on where the Trail Blazers are in the decision-making process as they move forward toward their preseason opener against Utah next Monday at the Rose Garden:

• Portland's management team has presented a recommendation to owner Paul Allen in regard to Brandon Roy's contract situation.

The Blazers will either provide for medical retirement or will use the NBA's new amnesty clause on the former guard, who announced last week that his career is over due to knee problems.

'It's ultimately up to ownership to make the final decision,' interim general manager Chad Buchanan told the Portland Tribune Tuesday night. 'It's in their hands now.'

If Roy is allowed to pursue medical retirement, a major portion of the remaining $63.87 million owed to the three-time All-Star would be covered by insurance.

Amnesty would mean the Blazers would fall below the luxury-tax threshold and would allow the club to use the full mid-level exception at four years and up to $21 million. Currently, they are over the threshold and limited to spending the mini-mid-level exception, with a ceiling of three years and $9.4 million.

Teams can use the amnesty clause once at any time during the next five years. The deadline to use it for this season, though, is Friday.

• The 2011-12 salary cap and luxury-tax threshold remain the same as last season - $58.04 million and $70.31 million. Because of a schedule reduced from 82 to 66 regular-season games, players' salaries are pro-rated to about 80 percent of a full season's pay. For cap purposes, though, the full-year amount is used.

Portland is right at the luxury-tax threshold, figuring in Roy at $15.03 million but not including the salaries of Greg Oden and newly signed free agent Kurt Thomas.

Buchanan would not reveal financial figures for either player.

Thomas, in his 17th NBA season, is reportedly making the veteran's minimum, which for a player with 10 years or more service is $1.35 million this season. Buchanan said Thomas has two years fully guaranteed with the Blazers.

Oden signed for less than the Blazers' $8.79 million qualifying offer. There are no indications how much less, and the Blazers aren't saying.

• Portland has 13 players with guaranteed contracts, including Roy. The others are Oden, Thomas, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, Armon Johnson and Nolan Smith. Chris Johnson and Earl Barron are on non-guaranteed deals.

The contracts of Johnson and Barron become guaranteed if either is still on the Portland roster on Jan. 10.

If Roy is waived and the amnesty provision employed, the Blazers would be under the luxury tax and would have access to the bi-annual exception at two years and $3.9 million.

'We're looking at all options, trying to be prepared with whatever direction we go' on Roy, Buchanan said. 'If we end up using amnesty (with Roy), we'd look at signing two players. Our biggest need is a front-court player, but we have a need in the backcourt as well. We have two holes to try to plug.'

• It sounds farfetched now given Oden's physical condition, but the Blazers are in position to offer the 7-foot center a major contract next summer using the Larry Bird exception.

Oden could command a maximum five-year offer beginning at $13.6 million, with 7.5 percent annual increases, under Bird rights. Other teams could start at the same figure but offer only a four-year deal with 4.5 percent annual hikes.

The Blazers could also work a sign-and-trade deal with Oden if they were so inclined.

• Buchanan sounds as if he expects another winning season and run at the playoffs for the Blazers.

'We're not unrealistic enough to think this is a championship-caliber team right now,' he said. 'But we feel we'll be very competitive, to be able to compete to make the playoffs again.

'Last year, after Gerald settled in, we had some good wins down the stretch (of the regular season) and gave Dallas a competitive series. A lot of the key components of that team are back, along with Raymond, who gives us a chance to play a more up-tempo style of offense.

'The key thing could be depth off the bench. We have to have some of the younger guys step up and give us a lift. It will be a challenge, but we think it can happen.'