Stuff on my mind: NBA lockout craziness, Pilots-Vikings hoops, World Cup camera work, Mariners' missing bats, and more
On the mind of a sports writer as we head into (I'm hoping) the sultry dog days of summer in P-Town ...
• Billy Hunter makes no secret he is using NBA players heading to play in Europe as a chip for a new collective-bargaining agreement.
'The lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable deal,' the NBA Players Association executive director said in a memo sent out to players (and also intended for the media) last week. 'It is important for the owners to understand there may be significant consequences ...
'If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them.'
Employ them, yes. And for the biggest names, it's not bad money - but nowhere near what they've made or will make in the NBA.
The players who are playing in Europe or are talking about - guys like Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash - don't need the money. The players who do - the Luke Harangodys of the NBA - aren't going to get romanced by Real Madrid or Besiktas.
NBA owners aren't going to be influenced at the bargaining table by any players leaving. All it does is make the union look more divided. Those players will be back at the drop of the hat if a new CBA is brokered. In fact, they'll have out clauses allowing them to honor their NBA contracts once the lockout ends.
I know Amare Stoudemire has talked about playing overseas, too. But I like that the New York veteran is organizing team workouts with his Knicks teammates in Los Angeles for next month. I'll be curious to see if LaMarcus Aldridge gathers the Blazer players in Portland as the summer closes.
• Aldridge, incidentally, on a recent tweet: 'I might be left handed by the end of the summer! All left handed workouts!'
• The NBA is prohibiting its teams from putting anything lockout-related or about its current players on their individual websites.
On the Trail Blazers' site, there is a photo of Cliff Robinson swatting a Clipper layup attend during the 1994 season opener at Yokohama, Japan; a photo gallery that includes the 1999-93 Blazer dancers (hello Michelle Woodard); information about Nike hoop clinics and the Kia summer tour and Blazer dance auditions and an offer to buy season tickets for 2011-12 (jump on it, fans!).
Team roster, 2010-11 stats and bios of the players have vanished. Seems silly.
Featured on the current NBA.com home page are stories about 'game-changers,' including Wilt Chamberlain, and the 1976-77 Trail Blazers: 'Worst to First: Portland comes out of nowhere to win its first NBA title.' There are, however, also links to every player in the league as well as stories about both Deron Williams and Sasha Vujacic (Maria Sharapova's fiance) playing in Turkey.
Double standard, it would seem.
Perhaps the league office wants to control the information flow. Can't trust those team executives, who face the loss of a draft pick for saying the wrong thing to a scribe.
• In a column last week, a source told me the Blazers had been threatened with a $1 million fine after acting General Manager Chad Buchanan answered 'yeah' to a media question to the effect of, 'It's too bad there is no summer league this year.'
The next day, an NBA exec emailed me a link to an Oregonlive.com story that he says is the one I was referencing.
'It's not ideal because that would have given us a chance to see Elliot (Williams),' Buchanan was quoted as saying. 'Elliot was healthy and ready to participate in summer league. It's disappointing (Williams and other young Blazers) won't have that opportunity, and whoever we would draft (in the would have been there as well.'
Also: 'You would like to have that summer league opportunity because it's a chance for your coaches to get their hands on them and evaluate them against other players they're going to be competing against going forward.'
When I suggested to the league rep that those were pretty innocuous quotes, and that they were issued on June 18 - two weeks before the lockout began - he responded, 'Nothing involving bargaining could be discussed.'
Doesn't sound like bargaining to me.
• Shocker that the Blazers relieved a pair of long-time executives of their duties last week - Scott Zachry, executive producer with Blazer Broadcasting, and Chris Dill, vice president/chief information officer. Zachry had been with the club 22 years, Dill for 21.
I'm told the moves may not have been lockout-related, but it's hard to believe that's the case. If it's a matter of saving a couple of higher-end salaries, it's regrettable. Don't know Dill, but he had a good reputation there. I worked often with Zachry over the years and regarded him with the utmost of respect. It's a big loss for the Blazers.
After the decision was reached on Dill and Zachry, Blazer employees were gathered and told no other layoffs were planned. I wonder if that put their minds at ease.
• Around the league, teams are reacting to the lockout by paring staff. In Detroit, 15 employees lost their jobs. In Charlotte, radio play-by-play voice Scott Lauer was among at least seven workers let go.
Last week, the NBA laid off 114 employees - 11 percent of its work force - from nearly every department, including marketing, community relations, player programs, broadcasting and information technology.
This after a record-breaking year of TV ratings and interest in the NBA.
Somebody is not thinking clearly here.
• The University of Portland and Portland State won't meet on the hardcourt next season for the first time since 1998-99.
It was supposed to be the Pilots' home game next season.
'We couldn't find a date that works,' UP coach Eric Reveno says. 'We still haven't completed our schedule, so it's not 100 percent that we won't play, but it doesn't look good.'
PSU coach Tyler Geving said the schools had penciled in Dec. 17 for a matchup at Chiles Center, but the Pilots called and said they had to play Montana that night.
'It's disappointing,' Geving says. 'We'd like to play them.'
Reveno says he wants to play the Vikings, too.
'I'd like to play them every year,' the UP coach says. 'I'd like to play Oregon and Oregon State every year. I'd like to do a lot of things when it comes to scheduling. but it's hard to do.
'It's not the end of the world. We'll get back to it next year and get (the Vikings) back on the schedule.'
The city's two Division I programs ought to play home-and-home series every year. They're near the same level of competition - PSU won four in a row before Portland beat the Viks last season - and draw well when they face each other. It's a no-brainer.
• Recent pick-up games at Stott Center, incidentally, have included such NBA types as Dante Cunningham, Steve Blake and Ime Udoka.
• Couldn't believe the lousy camera work by ESPN in the closing moments of overtime and during the penalty-kick portion of the Women's World Cup soccer finals.
In particular, ESPN's camera crew blew it in regards to the drama surrounding U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was dealing with a knee injury that may have impacted the outcome in Japan's victory.
As medical staff taped and treated Solo between the extra session and the penalty kicks, cameras showed only the goalie's backside. Same thing as she ran out toward the goal for the penalty kicks. Same thing as Japan deposited three of four kicks by Solo into the net to win.
Only shots of Solo's backside. Never shots of her face to see what emotions the most important U.S. player at the moment was feeling. What, was ESPN working with only one camera?
Afterward, Solo was shown - again, from behind - hugging somebody in the crowd. It was never identified whom.
Finally, 10 minutes or so after the game ended, Solo's face was shown to the ESPN audience. It wore a stoic look. Perhaps the emotion was gone by then.
• It's too late to get them back in the playoff race, but the Seattle Mariners need hitters as badly as Portlanders need a new Interstate-5 bridge.
The sad-sack Mariners, who have lost 11 games in a row, are hitting a collective .221, worst in the major leagues. Among the averages of the regulars are Chone Figgins (.183), Franklin Guttierez (.190), Jack Cust (.207), Miguel Olivo (.217), Justin Smoak (.227) and Jack Wilson (.228). Even old reliable, Ichiro Suzuki, is on pace for a career low while plummeting to .262.
The M's shouldn't sacrifice prospects to get immediate help at the plate, but their motivation has to be 100 percent directed - now and in the near future - at sacrificing some pitching to get a few players who can swing the bat.
• Pushing toward August and look which perennial major-league also-rans are contenders - Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It's great to see.