Blazers looking to move up in draft, take point guard
And news, thoughts on Oden, Schonz, Shaq and more
Knocking off a few NBA items on my list as we head into another big sports weekend ...
• The Trail Blazers, who own the 21st pick, are looking to move up in the June 24 draft.
According to a league source, Portland would like to get into the top seven to be in position to take Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker. That might mean packaging veteran point guard Andre Miller and the No. 21 pick for another team's player along with a top-seven pick.
Acting general manager Chad Buchanan was noncommital on the report.
'Any possible avenue that will improve our team - moving up in the draft, a trade, whatever - we will consider,' Buchanan said.
• Cleveland, which owns picks 1 and 4, would like to have the first two picks to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derek Williams, according to reports. Minnesota, which owns the second pick, might be willing to move the choice for the No. 4 selection and other considerations after this week's signing of Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.
• The Timberwolves, incidentally, must finally relinquish the first-round pick they gave up along with Sam Cassell in the 2005 trade for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. The pick officially loses its lottery protection in 2012, meaning the Clippers get it next year no matter what.
• The Blazers will play host to six former college players on Monday in a pre-draft workout, but only one - Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried - is under consideration as the team's first pick. Others taking part in the session are Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning of Washington and guards Jon Diebler of Ohio State, Corey Fisher of Villanova and Austin Freeman of Georgetown.
Portland has three more workouts tentatively scheduled for June 16-18. In between, two members of the Portland staff - Mike Born, the director of NBA scouting, and assistant general manager Bill Branch - will join international scout Jason Filippi in Italy for the adidas Euro Camp June 11-13. They will see about 65 of Europe's top 18-to-22-year-olds in a three-day camp.
'Maybe a third of the kids are draft-eligible,' Buchanan said. 'With the others, it's a chance to evaluate them for the future.'
• A year ago, Portland brought in more than 60 candidates for the draft for group workout sessions. This year, 36 players are scheduled as the Blazer brass streamlines the process.
'We've evaluated the kids on the court with their college teams, some of them for three or four years,' Buchanan says. 'These workouts are an opportunity for us to meet them in person and get a feel for them as people. It's also a chance to match them up against guys they haven't played against.
'But the on-court stuff is a small part of it. It's more about the personal aspect of getting to know the guys.'
This is Buchanan's seventh draft with Portland as a scout, director of scouting and acting GM. Has he ever been blown away by a player's workout?
'I can't think of one kid who came in and completely swayed your opinion,' Buchanan says. 'It's very rare that happens. Usually, (the opinion changes) in more the subtle things - maybe a guy has a little more speed than you thought, maybe he is a little more athletic. Mostly, though, it's about sitting down with them and you sit down and gain a feel for what the guy is about.'
• It appears as if the Blazers aren't close to making a decision on their two major items of business outside the draft before July 1 -- the contracts of center Greg Oden and Miller. The day after the NBA finals end, the Blazers can extend Oden a one-year qualifying offer ($8.8 million) or a more long-term deal. Or they can match any offer Oden receives from another team. The Blazers have until June 29 to exercise the $7.8-million option on the final year of Miller's pact.
'We're going to take our time,' Buchanan said. 'We discuss it on a daily basis as a group (including Born, Branch, assistant GM Steve Rosenberry and chief scout Joe Cronin), along with (team president) Larry Miller and (coach) Nate McMillan. We feel we have a direction on where we want to go, but we're going to be very deliberate in making the right decision on both of those things.'
• Oden, continuing his rehab from microfracture knee surgery, is working with a personal trainer in Los Angeles for most of the summer. Buchanan and Born flew to L.A. to watch a recent workout.
'Greg is on a good schedule,' Buchanan said. 'He's very focused and zeroed in on what he needs to do.'
• Blazer guard Patty Mills is playing for the Australian national team that will face Team China twice later this month - in Perth on June 24 and at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 26.
• Legendary Blazer broadcaster Bill Schonely - who turned 82 on Wednesday - is one of three finalists for the electronic half of the Curt Gowdy awards, given annually to one member of the electronic and print media as part of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame process.
Other finalists on the electronic side are Jim Durham, currently calling NBA games nationally for ESPN radio, and Mike Gorman, TV play-by-play voice of the Boston Celtics.
The eight-person selection committee was scheduled to vote this week.
• Shaquille O'Neal's legacy won't be tainted by his declining production over the final five years of a brilliant 19-year career. Shaq ranks seventh on the NBA/ABA career scoring list (28,596) and 13th in rebounds (13,099) and owns four championship rings.
There has never been a big man like the 7-1 O'Neal, who now weighs in the 330-pound range but was much more lithe and agile through the first 10 years of his career.
Where does he rank among the great centers in history? Definitely among the top five along with Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon. I'd place Shaq third behind Wilt and Kareem but ahead of Russell and Olajuwon. It's the stuff great debates are made of.
I remember interviewing Shaq during his first week as a rookie with Orlando in 1992. His wit and personality were apparent even then, and I've enjoyed getting to know him a little over the years. His joie de vivre and larger-than-life imprint on the league will be missed.
• Call me old-fashioned, but I've grown weary of LeBron James' posing after a showy dunk or spectacular play. Is it really necessary? (I know - Shaq frequently did the same thing. Doesn't mean I have to like it.)
That said, James' talents may very well be in the same class as Michael Jordan's - or even better, as Scottie Pippen has suggested.
But Pippen shouldn't have made such thoughts public. Came across as Scottie being jealous of his old teammate.
• It's not fair that maybe the two best players in today's NBA - James and Dwyane Wade - are on the same team. But that's the world in which we live.
• Dallas' Game-2 comeback - man, did that one catch me by surprise - could make for one of the most compelling series in NBA finals history.