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Blazers swing for the fences

Team drafts two coveted players; flurry of moves remakes roster
by: Ronald Martinez, Portland traded up in the NBA draft to get Texas big man LaMarcus Aldridge (left) with the second pick.

The next front office to proclaim, 'We blew it!' after an NBA draft will be the first.

So when President Steve Patterson, coach Nate McMillan and director of player personnel Kevin Pritchard were wont to gloat to the media and Trail Blazer fans about the team's draft Wednesday night, it wasn't unusual.

But Patterson, McMillan and Pritchard absolutely believe they made a difference in landing Texas forward-center LaMarcus Aldridge and Washington guard Brandon Roy.

'To mix sports metaphors, we hit a home run,' Patterson said.

'I'd say a triple, with a definite chance for a home run,' Pritchard said.

Pritchard - whose handprints are all over this draft - began by cautioning, 'Time will tell.'

He's right. In a year or two, everyone will be better equipped to judge the Blazer draft class of 2006.

Nobody can say the Blazers sat on their hands in this one, though.

They set an NBA draft-day record with six trades, two of which will be directly tied to the future of the franchise. They acquired four rookies in the first round - two looked at for immediate help, two regarded as future assets.

In a trade consummated moments before the draft, Portland dealt the No. 4 pick, forward Viktor Khryapa and future considerations to Chicago for the No. 2 pick. With that pick, the Blazers took the 6-11 Aldridge, who averaged 15.0 points and 9.2 rebounds as a sophomore at Texas last season.

Earlier in the day, Portland sent point guard Sebastian Telfair, center Theo Ratliff and a second-round pick in 2008 to Boston for center Raef LaFrentz, guard Dan Dickau, the No. 7 pick and cash considerations. With that pick, the Blazers selected Villanova point guard Randy Foye.

Then, during the draft, the Blazers announced they were swapping Foye's rights to Minnesota and cash considerations for the No. 6 pick, Roy, the Pac-10 player of the year in 2005-06 who was picked by the Timberwolves for Portland.

On Pritchard's board of draft candidates, Aldridge was second behind Italian forward Andrea Bargnani. Toronto, who took Bargnani with the No. 1 pick, had talked trade with teams about the pick in the weeks leading to the draft. But the Blazers believed that to be a smokescreen, that the Raptors intended on taking Bargnani all along.

So the Blazers focused on getting up to No. 2 to snare Aldridge, a player they were enamored of since his private workout in Portland a couple of weeks ago. There were other suitors, and the Blazers were concerned Charlotte would draft Aldridge with the third pick -though ESPN's Jay Bilas disputes that would have happened.

'We spent a lot of money'

Roy was fourth on Pritchard's board behind Bargnani, Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas, the Louisiana State forward the Blazers selected for Chicago at No. 4. Blazer brass was confident Roy wouldn't be a top five pick but worried that another team would trade Minnesota for the sixth pick. So the Blazers paid a lump sum to the Timberwolves, who took Roy, had Portland take Foye and made the swap.

The Blazers decided against going for Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, who went to Charlotte with the third pick. Morrison's diabetes did not play a factor. Blazer brass likes his shooting and scoring ability but feels he is one-dimensional, that he's neither a rebounder nor defender.

Later in the first round, Portland bought the rights to the No. 27 pick from Phoenix and chose Sergio 'Spanish Chocolate' Rodriguez, 20, a flamboyant 6-3 point guard from Spain. With the 30th and final pick in the round, the Blazers drafted 6-10 forward Joel Freeland out of England, an active 19-year-old who reminds them of New York rookie David Lee.

Teams are limited to spending $3 million for first-round picks. Portland essentially bought Nos. 6 and 27. How much did owner Paul Allen spend?

'We spent a lot of money today,' Patterson said. 'It's like, 'Wow.' '

Pritchard, who worked as a scout with San Antonio before arriving in Portland two years ago, used the bulldog approach in this draft.

'I learned this from the Spurs,' he said. 'You figure out what you want and you go get them.'

Rodriguez, who has visa issues, will stay in Spain for at least another year. Freeland, a raw talent, will remain in Europe for a year or two of seasoning. Aldridge and Roy - the latter the most NBA-ready player in the draft - will be in Portland's rotation next season.

More action expected

McMillan believes Portland's most pressing needs are 1) scoring, 2) a wing defender and 3) a big man. With Ratliff gone and Joel Przybilla becoming a free agent Saturday, Aldridge fits the latter category and has better scoring potential than either Przybilla or Ratliff. Roy fits the other two needs.

Some analysts figure the Blazers bombed with this draft. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith called it 'a waste of my time' and 'absolutely inept.'

'There are national pundits who have never done this for a living shooting their mouths off,' Patterson answered. 'We were fortunate to close out the deals we made and get players who want to be here.'

Blazer business is far from over this summer. McMillan said the team's No. 1 priority is re-signing Przybilla, and that Ratliff's departure should prove to Przybilla that he is the Blazers' guy. Patterson will continue to try to trade Darius Miles, though the market is more none than slim for the troubled small forward. Odds are Miles will be with the team when training camp breaks in October.

Today, McMillan takes Aldridge, Roy and veterans Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw, along with a few other roster hopefuls, to Reno, Nev., for a few days of training. 'We'll practice twice on the Fourth of July,' the coach said with a grin. Then they'll head to Las Vegas for a week of summer-league play.

A lot of work remains to be done. The Blazers are still extremely young and won't be very good for a while. But it appears they laid some important groundwork on draft night as they build for the future.

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