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Blazers, NBA, college football – and a Vegas proposal

by: JAIME VALDEZ The Trail Blazers are still learning about general managers, says President Larry Miller.

On my mind as we spring into a crowded Memorial Day sports weekend ...

• Caught up with Geoff Petrie, who emphasizes he has a contract (through 2013) as senior vice president/operations for the Sacramento Kings and is not a candidate for the vacant general manager job in Portland.

'I have an important job to do,' Petrie says. 'On the basketball, there is plenty of reason for optimism going forward. We have two really good young players (Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins), a great draft pick (No. 7) and an enormous amount of real (salary-cap) room.'

On the business side, the Kings have one foot out the door to Anaheim or another locale after next season unless the city of Sacramento provides public support for a new arena.

Petrie's daughters both live in the Portland area. I think he could be convinced the Trail Blazers would be an opportunity he can't pass on, if owner Paul Allen is willing.

• Colleague Jason Vondersmith brings up a valid point about Blazer President Larry Miller's comment - 'This whole year has been a learning experience for us' - following the firing of GM Rich Cho.

The NBA is not a place for learning experiences. There's no time, no room for error. You have to be right with every decision, or the franchise suffers. Whether or not Cho and Kevin Pritchard were mistakes, you can't just chalk it up to 'a learning experience.'

Besides, Paul Allen has been the Blazers' owner for 23 years. He needs more time than that to learn what the league is all about?

• Through July 1, Allen is paying off Cho and his predecessor, Kevin Pritchard, for not working for him. Cho will get checks through June 2014 unless he takes another job.

But Allen is getting off easy compared with Notre Dame, which paid nearly $7.3 million in buyouts to former football coaches in 2009 - Charlie Weis ($6.64 million) and Tyrone Willingham ($650,000). For Weis, that was in addition to about $1.4 million in salary and other compensation for that season.

Weis is now making $875,000 annually as offensive coordinator at Florida. Talk about stealing money - Charlie's the poster boy.

• Hubie Brown started it, I think, a few years back. Lately it has spread like a contagious disease among basketball sportscasters: 'The (insert team nickname) must score the basketball.'

Mark Jackson uses the phrase often. Jeff Van Gundy said it the other night. Our own Michael Holton, for criminy sakes, has said it.

Fellas, you score points. You shoot the basketball.

• ESPN's Stuart Scott, after an interview Wednesday night with new Lakers coach Mike Brown: 'Hey Laker fans, don't sleep with this man. He's the fifth-winningest coach percentage-wise in NBA history.'

Do you think Scott meant, 'Don't sleep on this man?'

Or what?

• Of course Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is right. He deserves a statue outside of Staples Center. No argument here.

But it is unbecoming for anyone to campaign for that in public, as the Hall-of-Famer did through a series of tweets and in an interview with The Sporting News this week.

• I'm hearing more clamor on the subject of paying college student-athletes, a popular notion among talking heads who aren't thinking things through clearly.

Only 14 of 120 Division-I football schools showed positive net revenue for the 2009 fiscal year, according to the NCAA. Whether or not you think schools are spending their money wisely, until it gets corrected, funding is simply not available.

Scholarship athletes get tuition, room-and-board, training table, medical and dental care, tutorial, nutritional and strength-and-conditioning help and make connections that can help them springboard a career outside of sports. The situation isn't ideal, but it's way ahead of whatever's in second place.

• I hate to take on a high-schooler, but ...

Kyle Kalis of Lakewood, Ohio - one of the nation's top offensive tackles from the class of 2012 - has verbally committed to Ohio State. He says times have been tough in recent months since NCAA violations committed by coach Jim Tressel became public.

'Ever since all of this started up, (college coaches) from all over the country have started to come watch me and the team lift,' Kalis tells The Sporting News. 'They force me to sit there and listen to all their sales pitches, which is the most annoying thing anyone could ever imagine. It's like watching the HSN channel all day, except instead of selling Dyson vacuum cleaners, they're selling you scholarships and opportunities.'

Somebody please tell Kalis there are more annoying things than to have college scouts tell you how good you are and offer a scholarship. If he doesn't want the sales pitch, tell them. What's really annoying is to hear a coddled, pampered athlete complain about it.

• Texas developer Chris Milam is proposing to build what he is calling the 'Las Vegas National Sports Center' - a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex to be built at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Milam's plan calls for a 17,500-seat arena designed for NBA games; a 36,000-seat MLS stadium that could be expanded to 50,000 for college football bowl games and to 72,000 for the NFL, and a 9,000-seat Triple-A baseball park that could be expanded to 36,000 to accommodate major league baseball.

Milam, who promises to invest more than $500 million in equity to the project, says it would require no new taxes and no redirection of existing taxes. Taxes generated only by the athletic facilities and user fees would help pay for the project.

I'm not sure if it will ever fly. But wouldn't it be nice to have somebody with deep pockets and aspirations like Milam in Portland?