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Eggers: Blazer execs gear up to shop for free agents

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Neil Olshey, Trail Blazers general manager, is likely to look for additional bench stability during the free-agent signing period.Knocking it around the lot on a variety of items ...

• Shopping season for NBA free agents started on Tuesday, with the Trail Blazers in the market for at least a pair of veterans to add some stability to the bench for the 2014-15 season.

Portland general manager Neil Olshey is looking for players willing to sign a short-term contract — something like the one-year-plus-option deal Mo Williams agreed to last season.

The top-drawer free agents will be reluctant to sign for anything less than three years, so Olshey will be in the mix for the next-tier players. If he doesn’t re-sign Williams — I’m not discounting that possibility, though Williams told the media he is looking for a three-year deal — Olshey will need a back-up point guard. Beyond that, I’m guessing the Blazer exec will take the free agent he feels best fits the Blazers, regardless of position.

Portland will have the mid-level exception, which can start as high as $5.15 million for nontaxpayers and run as long as four years. And the biannual exception, which can start as high as $2.02 million and go up to two years.

Among the big men who will be on the market and could be in the mid-level price range are Kris Humphries, Channing Frye, Spencer Hawes and Jordan Hill. Emeka Okafor will be there, too, but is more of a gamble after missing all of last season with a neck injury.

Wings and shooting guards who would be available for the top exception include Trevor Ariza, Patrick Patterson, Rodney Stuckey, Nick Young, Evan Turner, P.J. Tucker and C.J. Miles.

Point guards who will be looking to sign for the upper price tag include D.J. Augustin, Devin Harris and Patty Mills.

Others on the free-agent market who will be more in line with the biannual exception include bigs Kevin Seraphin (who has played well against Portland), Elton Brand, Charlie Villanueva and Chris Kaman, wings/shooting guards Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, and point guards Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake and Beno Udrih.

Portland should be able to improve its bench by signing a couple of these players, though there will be plenty of competition. At least 17 teams are positioned well below the projected salary cap of $63.2 million and will have room to sign free agents at more than the mid-level exception.

• While the recent trip to Los Angeles by Olshey and owner Paul Allen to present a three-year, $55.5 million maximum contract extension offer to LaMarcus Aldridge’s agent, Arn Tellum, may be fruitful in terms of sending a message to their All-Star power forward, there is almost no chance Aldridge will accept.

He almost certainly will play out the final year of his contract and be in line for a free-agent contract with which Portland could pay him $108 million over five years.

Next summer will be a big one for Olshey, who will have Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum still under contract for 2015-16 but presumably nothing else. The deck would then be clear to be aggressive on the free-agent market, with an attempt to sign big-name talent before re-signing players such as Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez under the Larry Bird Exception.

That’s always a gamble, because when a player becomes a free agent, he is going to listen to all offers. Still, it’s an enviable position for Olshey, with a chance to put together an even stronger roster in search of what he hopes will eventually be an NBA championship in the City of Roses.

• NHL executives showed what they think of talent in the Western Hockey League by choosing nine WHL players in the first round of the recent NHL draft.

And they showed growing respect for the Portland organization by selecting four players — Dominic Turgeon, Alex Schoenborn, Keegan Iverson and Chase De Leo — in the third and fourth rounds.

It’s a credit to what former GM/coach Mike Johnston, recently hired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, built over his six years in Portland. When Johnston took over in 2008, the Hawks had nobody taken in the draft.

• Former Winterhawks assistant coach Travis Green has decided to turn a figurative three-team tug of war for his services into a two-way competition.

With Green as interim head coach in place of the suspended Johnston, the Hawks won the WHL championship and made it to the Memorial Cup finals in 2013. Green was then hired by the Vancouver Canucks as head coach of the American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, N.Y. The Comets started 0-8-0-2 but rallied to finish 35-32-5-4.

Vancouver wants Green back. But Johnston quickly spoke with Green — his top aide during his first five years in Portland — about an assistant coach position in Pittsburgh. And Portland president Doug Piper will speak with Green this week about replacing Johnston with the Hawks.

Green, speaking from his home in Irvine, Calif., says he has decided against going to Pittsburgh.

“But I’ll say this: I’m really happy and proud of Mike," Green says. "It’s well-deserved. Pittsburgh is lucky to have Mike.”

• Maybe there is still hope that Portland will one day be in line to gain an NHL franchise.

During the first year of new ownership, the Phoenix Coyotes operated at a net loss of more than $9.4 million during the 2013-14 season, according to a report released by the city of Glendale.

The Coyotes were last in the NHL in average home attendance at 13,775 per game at Jobing.com Arena.

The city of Glendale is on the hook to pay millions to the Coyotes’ owners to run the taxpayer-funded facility.

Maybe the franchise will become available again. On the other hand, such lack of success at the gate might give pause to Allen and Blazers’ president and CEO Chris McGowan, who aren’t going to be eager to take on an endeavor that won’t reap financial dividends.

• McGowan got some good news when the Metro Council voted to go ahead with a deal to subsidize a convention-center hotel with $60 million in Metro-issued revenue bonds.

The NBA’s excuse for never having played an All-Star Game in our fair city has been lack of a headquarters hotel. Well, we’re going to have one soon. The Blazers say they will lobby to get the All-Star Game here, though it’s not a money-maker and is, frankly, extra work for the hosting team.

“We will be really active in bidding for future All-Star games,” McGowan says. “Our passionate fans deserve the chance to witness this type of celebration of the game of basketball. ... Approval of the convention center hotel is a very positive step in our quest to bring the game to our city.”

• A familiar face and voice in Portland broadcasting has left town.

Scott Lynn, for 33 years a fixture on the city’s sportscasting scene, moved this week with wife Sharon to Largo, Fla.

Lynn, 60, spent nine years at KGW-TV and 24 years at KEX radio before being laid off from his radio job last August. Since then he has filled in for the Blazers and with Oregon State basketball and was working TV play-by-play for the Arena Football League Portland Thunder until last week.

Scott’s wife, Sharon, was laid off from her government nursing job 10 days after Scott lost his job last summer.

“We decided since nothing was happening for us here on a full-time basis, we’d sell our house here, downsize and buy one in the Tampa area,” Lynn says.

“I’m not saying I’m retired, but if I am, there are worse places than to be within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico. Not a bad place to spend our sunset years.”

Lynn says he has mixed emotions about leaving Portland.

“I’m excited about entering another chapter in our lives, and hopefully there is something there for me in broadcasting,” he says. “But Portland has been home. We raised our family here, and have many friends. Just saying good-bye to them has been hard.”

Lynn was one of the good guys in Portland sports media, a capable voice who handled a variety of duties with expertise and professionalism, a good man with whom to share space in a press box. He will be missed.

The Thunder, meanwhile, lucked out. They’ll finish the season with Blazers’ TV voice Mike Barrett doing play-by-play. He worked last Thursday’s win over New Orleans as if he’d been doing it the entire season.

• A couple of documentary screenings local sports fans won’t want to miss are scheduled in the coming weeks.

The Portland debut of “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” the story of the five-year reign of the independent Portland Mavericks of the 1970s, is set for 8 p.m. on July 11 at the Northwest Film Center.

The minor-league team, owned by actor Bing Russell, managed by Frank “The Flake” Peters, and counting the great Kurt Russell among its players, was both wild and wildly popular during its five-year run.

Portlander Rob Neyer, FoxSports.com’s senior baseball editor, will introduce the film.

A screening of “Inner-City Champions,” chronicling the life and career of former Portland State basketball great Freeman Williams, will take place at 7 p.m. on July 15 at Hoffman Hall on the PSU campus. Thanks to producer Fred Hawthorne, I reviewed an advance copy a few months ago. It’s worth the watch.

• Nice to see that donors have stepped up to fund an $850,000 renovation to Joe Etzel Field on the University of Portland campus. The first phase includes new fencing and a scoreboard and eventually lighting. The Pilots, who have suffered losing campaigns in 16 of 17 seasons under coach Chris Sperry, can certainly use the help.

• In 2010, Jerrard Randall, a highly recruited prep quarterback out of Hollywood, Fla., made a verbal commitment to Oregon.

When it came to my attention that Randall’s MySpace page carried objectionable language, gang references and a photo of someone holding guns, I wrote about it, even after then-Ducks coach Chip Kelly phoned me twice to try to talk me out of it.

Randall never wound up at Oregon. He instead signed with Louisiana State, spending two seasons there before transferring to Northeast Mississippi CC in 2013.

Now the 6-1, 180-pound Randall has surfaced at Arizona, where he’ll be a redshirt junior and among five hopefuls battling to replace B.J. Denker as the Wildcats’ starting signal-caller.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @kerryeggers