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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - MCGOWANNotes, quotes and observations about our sporting world …

• The Seattle Times has reported that the Trail Blazers will soon announce a partnership with Root Sports Northwest to carry the team’s games on TV.

The Blazers have one year left in a 10-year, $120-million contract they signed with Comcast SportsNet Northwest in 2007. The Blazers have been in negotiations with both companies for future broadcast rights for several months. A decision is supposed to be made by Friday.

The Seattle Times report “is false,” says Chris McGowan, Portland’s president/business operations and CEO. “We haven’t made a decision yet.”

A clause in the Blazers’ contract would allow a new carrier to buy out CSN for the final year of the deal.

“Regardless of our decision, (Blazer games will be) on Comcast next season,” McGowan says.

The Mariners are the majority owner of RSN (formerly Fox Sports Northwest) and carry their games on the network. DirecTV is a minority owner, which is a big deal since subscribers have not been able to get Blazer games during the course of the contract with CSN. Those subscribers would get the games if RSN takes over.

“Distribution is super important to us,” Chris McGowan, the Blazers’ president/business operations and CEO, told me in March. Time will tell if that tips the scale in RSN’s favor.

• I’ve had several emails from readers who worry that owner Paul Allen intends to move the Blazers to Seattle. Not in the next few years, at least. An exclusive-site agreement signed in 1993 requires the team to remain in Portland through 2023.

• Portland sent $1.2 million in cash along with a future second-round pick to Orlando for the chance to take Maryland’s Jake Layman with the 47th selection in the recent NBA draft. But why?

The 6-9, 220-pound forward was the No. 4 scorer (11.6 points) and No. 3 rebounder (5.3) as a senior on a Terrapins team that reached the Sweet Sixteen last season. Layman’s shooting numbers were good — .500 from the field, .396 from 3-point range and .832 from the foul line.

“Jake has always blown people away with his athleticism,” says Roman Stubbs, the Washington Post beat writer for the Terps. “He has great length and he can really jump, but he can also shoot, so he is a multi-dimensional offensive player.

“The biggest thing over the past four years has been his lack of consistency. When he is aggressive and locked in, he is one of the best players on the court, but he would sometimes disappear from games. He got better with that his senior year.”

Layman will be with the Blazers during their appearance at the Las Vegas Summer League next month.

“He could be viewed as a steal (in the draft),” Stubbs says. “It’s rare to have that feeling about a four-year college player, but he has a huge upside. The key for him is to be aggressive and have that NBA mentality every game, but he has the athleticism and shooting ability to stretch the floor and be an offensive threat.”

• There’s no question the Blazers have made a bid to sign free-agent center Hassan Whiteside, the emerging talent who has spent the past two seasons with Miami. The Heat want desperately to retain Whiteside, who also is being sought by Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers, among others.

Miami can offer Whiteside, 27, a four-year maximum contract worth $98 million. Other teams can offer $94 million over that span. What it may come down to is how a team projects to feature the 7-footer in its offense.

Whiteside, who averaged 14.2 points and 9.3 shots a game last season, would like to have more scoring opportunities. He would certainly get that with the talent-shy Lakers, and perhaps with the Mavericks, with whom Dirk Nowitzki’s reign as go-to guy is nearing an end. It wouldn’t be so much the case in Portland, where Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum figure to carry the bulk of the offense in the near future.

I think Whiteside winds up re-signing with the Heat, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see him go with either Dallas or the Los Angeles Lakers.

• Even with all the defections, the U.S. Olympic basketball team will still feature centers DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, forwards Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Paul George and guards Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson and DeMar DeRozan.

Who is going to beat the Americans at Rio de Janeiro? Nobody.

• Nate McMillan’s coaching staff at Indiana has a familiar feel to Portland fans. His three assistants are Dan Burke, a Canby native who began his long coaching career as video coordinator for the Blazers under Rick Adelman; former Blazers assistant Bill Bayno, and Popeye Jones, whose sons Seth and Caleb have been standouts for the hockey Winterhawks.

• Former Lake Oswego High golfer Tye Gabriel finds himself in an unlikely position this week — with a spot in the PGA Tour’s $3.2-million Barracuda Championships at Reno, Nevada.

Gabriel, 24, earned the gig by winning last week’s Sierra Nevada Open at Reno with a 54-hole total of 18-under-par 198. Gabriel, who finished his college career at Saint Mary’s after transferring from Oregon, had won $735 in eight events on the Latinoamerica mini-tour this year.

“Tye made one of eight cuts,” says his father, Chip Gabriel. “He came home, regrouped, went to Reno and got hot at the right time.”

• Sad to note the passing last week of Bjarne Jensen, the former Franklin High three-sport star and Oregon Ducks linebacker.

Jensen, 49, died of complications related to diabetes and cancer.

Jensen’s life took a downturn in 1994, when he was involved in an automobile accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. In recent years, he had a series of health issues.

Even through his disabilities, Jensen made a huge impression on those around him.

“Bjarne was bigger than life,” says Portland’s Elizabeth Vranizan, his former partner and the mother of their daughter Nissa, 17. “He had a great sense of humor. He tried not to take things too seriously. He would always find something to joke and laugh about.

“He cared about old people. I appreciated that side of him. He was humble and down to earth. But he suffered from a depression nobody really knew. Life changed so dramatically after that accident.”

Through it all, Jensen carried a love for athletics.

“He really missed playing sports,” Vranizan says. “He loved to watch all the games, and he was passionate about watching the Ducks.”

Vranizan’s memorial service is set for 11 a.m. July 9 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Southeast Portland.

• Joni Huntley, my long-time friend and former classmate at Oregon State, will be inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame on Saturday at Reno, Nevada.

Huntley, who turns 60 on Aug. 4, is one of the state’s greatest female athletes ever. The summer before her senior year at Sheridan High in 1974, she set the American high jump record at 6-0 1/4. That stood as a state high school record for 39 years.

As a freshman at OSU, Huntley won the high jump and long jump at the national AIAW Championships. Huntley, who was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the high jump five times, placed fifth in the 1976 Olympic Games at Montreal and earned a bronze medal with a personal-record 6-5 1/2 in the 1984 Olympic Games at Los Angeles.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Huntley says of her career day at L.A. in ’84. “I went in ranked 28th of the 30 competitors. I was considered over the hill. I had three PRs in one day.”

Huntley recently retired after a long career teaching kindergarten with the Portland Public Schools. She still works part-time teaching in the Tag program with PPS, as a supervisor at Concordia University and as a personal tutor.

“It’s exciting (the national federation) would honor me in this way,” says Huntley, the first female from Oregon to enter the national hall of fame. “It’s a good thing for women’s sports, that we are starting to get acknowledged from that era. As I look back, there are a lot of other women are deserving.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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