To many NBA observers who were watching the NBA Draft yesterday , it was not any picks by any team during the course of the draft, nor was it the trades that gave both the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat bigger salary cap spaces in anticipation of the first day of free agency in the 1st of July.
It was the sudden and largely unexpected firing of Kevin Pritchard by the Portland Trail Blazers as the team's general manager was the event that produced the biggest shock waves all around the NBA world - the same general manager who helped lead the Blazers away from it's old "Jail Blazer"-days to a team that ultimately won respect for both it's off-court transformations and on-court performances.
Sure, picking Greg Oden 1st overall in the 2008 NBA Draft has clearly not proven to have been the right decision for the Portland Trail Blazers, and picking him over Kevin Durant, who has blossomed into an NBA superstar deprived fans in Portland of being able to watch a high-scoring team with the pleasure of having both Durant and Brandon Roy wear Blazer jerseys - who knows, maybe that team might be closer to an NBA title than Portland is now?
However, the firing of the man that enabled the Blazers to transform from a team full of players causing trouble all around the Portland-area to a team full of top-class citizens and a team that is on its way to being an elite-level NBA basketball club.
I don't live in the Portland-area, and I don't have a good idea what caused Pritchard to be fired by Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, but I just don't get why the Blazers would fire the man who single-handedly changed the fortunes of their team.
It probably is likely that Allen had begun to have grown frustrated at Pritchard's growing-stock among NBA observers, and maybe thought that Pritchard in a way became larger than the team itself, but even then, firing him?
This was the guy that drafted Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, and the guy that brought Andre Miller as a free agent and also traded for Marcus Camby once the team's top-two centers Oden and Joel Pryzbilla had gone down for the season due to injurries.
Sure, drafting Oden over Durant has proven to be a dark-spot, but the team has largely been good enough to not fail and fall in the standings due to that pick. The great list of other players picked by Pritchard should more than make up for picking Oden, along with Portland's three-straight .500-or-above seasons, and it's two consecutive playoff appearances.
In my opinion, this is simply another case of an owner feeling the need to display his ego and try to show the fans that he is in change - and that the general manager is not a bigger face than him, which I feel will simply haunt the Blazers. Letting a general manager go right before free agency will do nothing but cause free agents to less likely even consider seriously signing with the Trail Blazers.
The way Pritchard was fired and the timing also showed the lack of class by Allen displayed in this firing - Pritchard was fired just before the draft, but Pritchard insisted to still lead the team's draft process.
Looking at the great work Pritchard did while general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, I really do think that there will be a long list of suitors for his services. This isn't just a middle-tier general manager that had just gotten fired for not leading his team to the playoffs, and is on the market to be hired to become an assistant general manager for some team, Pritchard is a proven builder of a team, and I am sure his stock will be high.
Guys that turn a franchise from a losing product with bad off-court problems to a winning product with no off-court problems and a team universally loved in it's market don't come into the market often - I fully expect a long line of suitors for his services.
Shame on you Blazers, you just let go what I believe is among the best general managers in the National Basketball Association, and all of sport.
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