Big changes coming to NBC Sports Northwest
Poring over some sports subjects of the day. …
• Plenty of changes are in the works at NBC Sports Northwest.
Brian Noe has taken over the noon-to-3 p.m. slot previously held by Dwight Jaynes and Aaron Fentress. Serena Winters will now be hosting "The Bridge" show by herself.
And Jason Quick's departure from the company is imminent.
Noe, most recently of Nashville, Tennessee, has been hosting a national radio show for FOX Sports on weekends that was carried by KPOJ (Rip City Radio, 620 AM), which simulcasts NBCSNW local shows.
"He's a guy we've had our ears on for some time," NBCSNW general manager Len Mead says. "A really creative, interesting talent. He has a national voice. We were excited that, as we got to know him, he was interested in this market and being part of what we're doing. He seemed like he'd be a really good fit."
Winters, who came to Portland early this year from Los Angeles, had previously co-hosted "The Bridge" with Fentress. Now Serena will host the hour-long week-day program solo.
"We had that in mind when we brought her to market," Mead says. "She has developed nicely and has a comfort level now. (Hosting solo) puts more emphasis on the guests and contributors we surround her with. Aaron will still be part of the program, as a contributor rather than guest host."
Jaynes and Fentress, who hosted the simulcast midday talk show for only a few months, will concentrate now on "the digital side," Mead says, meaning writing for the website and participating in videos, podcasts and social media reports.
"More and more, our priority is growing and doing better on the digital side with what we offer to our fans," Mead says. "Dwight and Aaron are two of the strongest guys you could ask for on your roster. They are highly respected, really solid writers who are not shy with their opinions. That's one of the reasons we were doing radio with them.
"Over the course of the last several months, it has become more clear we need for them to focus all the way on the digital side. We could not ask them to contribute as much on the digital side and still have the hours necessary to make a great radio show every day."
Mead declined comment on the status of Quick, who has been NBCSNW's chief Trail Blazers reporter for the past two years after leaving The Oregonian, where he worked for 21 years.
"Jason Quick is under contract, and he is our Blazers insider," was all Mead would say.
Not for long, sources tell The Tribune, saying Quick is expected to work only until the end of the month. Quick's departure may have been a mutual decision, involving a differing philosophy about how the team should be covered.
Dan Sheldon's status as host of several of the network's shows, including the Blazers' postgame "Talking Ball," is up in the air. In fact, there is no certainty that there will be a "Talking Ball" during the next NBA season.
"I'm not ready to get into that right now," Mead says. "There will be a time later this summer when we'll be ready to talk about our Blazers content plans. We're just not there yet."
Winters is a pro who has made a positive impression during the embryonic stages of her career in Portland. Jaynes and Fentress are, as Mead says, two of the most trusted sports journalists in the city. It's good that their positions with NBCSNW are secure.
But the network will miss Quick, 48, an excellent reporter who is comfortable in front of the camera and has been an important conduit of information between the Blazers and their fans. He's also someone willing to convey the bad along with the good, which has irked Blazer brass at times.
Ditto with Sheldon, perhaps the best talent in sports TV/radio in town. He would be missed if he's not back with NBCSNW once their full new lineup is announced.
Whatever happens, Sheldon will continue co-hosting his morning radio show with Nigel Burton on Rip City Radio.
• Representatives of the Portland Diamond Project have been working behind the scenes to procure land to build a major league ballpark.
"We'd like to have a property controlled within four to six weeks," PDP managing partner Mike Barrett says. "We think that's possible."
PDP reps have explored the possibilities of five sites in Portland — the old Esco site, Portland Public Schools, Terminal 1 and 2 along the Willamette River and a South Waterfront property owned by the Zidell family.
Jay Zidell said two weeks ago he had met with PDP officials about the site, which the family calls "Zidell Yards," a spot located between the developed north and south ends of the South Waterfront.
Noel Johnson, project manager of the investment group of the old ESCO property, told the Northwest Examiner he expects it will eventually be sold to high tech/engineering companies. That site seems the most unlikely of the bunch to go to the PDP group.
The other four sites are definitely in play, though, along with one outside the city limits that the managing partners are keeping secret.
A major league team in Portland could come in one of two ways — through expansion or relocation.
On the Dan Patrick Show Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB wants to add two teams after Oakland and Tampa Bay get their stadium situations taken care of. He mentioned Las Vegas, Portland, Nashville, Charlotte and Montreal as potential expansion sites.
It's still a possibility that the A's will relocate at some point. And in May, the Arizona Diamondbacks were given permission by Maricopa County to leave Chase Field as early as 2022. Diamondback officials have already begun making calls — and Portland is on their list.
A new major-league stadium has a 2 1/2- to 3-year build cycle. PDP officials say in a perfect world, a team would be in place for — that's right — the 2022 season.
• As one who is critical of the between-quarter sideline interviews of head coaches during NBA games — it's a distraction while they're trying to do their job — I was prepared to be of the same thinking about the live mike on players during Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game.
As it turns out, it wasn't so bad.
In fact, it worked well for the players and the fans.
It was an exhibition game, after all.
Broadcasters Joe Buck and John Smoltz kept the conversation light — except when Buck asked the Dodgers' Kemp about a potential trade for Manny Machado — and the players seemed to enjoy it. The ploy plays best with an outfielder, who doesn't get as much defensive work as an infielder. I didn't see the entire game — I was switching back and forth with the Blazers' summer-league telecast — but I didn't see any players at other positions speaking to the broadcasters as the game was being played.
None of the players got a ball hit to them during the half-inning they were miked up for the national TV audience, at least while I was watching.
The next inning after his turn, Trout blasted a home run to left field. Talk about seizing the moment.
After Kemp's turn with the live mike, Buck told him, "You're leading off next inning."
Then: "Keep the mike on," Buck implored.
"Heck no," Kemp said, smiling as he jogged in from the outfield. "This kid (Blake Snell) is throwing 99 miles an hour."
Could it be done during a regular-season game? Nope. There's too much riding on a game's outcome, and too many things that could go wrong. But it was fun to hear the players' thoughts as they stood out in the field, waiting for the next pitch.
• The Winterhawks recently lost a promising young play-by-play announcer when Evan Richardson departed after one season on the job.
"He has a girlfriend, and their plan was for her to come out here," Portland President Doug Piper says. "She got a gig in Toronto and wanted to stay there. He went back to be with her there."
I'd like to see Richardson's replacement get the opportunity to ply his trade on the radio. Last season, Richardson's feed was available only via the internet. The Hawks dropped over-the-air radio once before and returned for several seasons on KPAM (860 AM). I'd like to see them return to the air waves and make it easier for fans — especially the older ones — to listen to games.
"I'd like to be on the radio, too," says Piper, who is pursuing a potential station this summer for next season.
• I'm sure Tom Hewitt is making the best of his new residence while surviving the 100-plus-degree heat of Sun Lakes, Arizona, playing golf pretty most every day.
It's rough to be retired, but as Hewitt says, somebody has to do it.
Hewitt, 63, has hung up the microphone after 20 years as play-by-play broadcaster for Portland State football and basketball. The Seattle native also hosted a Saturday golf show for 27 years on various local radio stations.
"It's time to do something different," says Hewitt, who coached basketball for 41 years at the college and high school level and also taught 32 years for Portland Public Schools. "It's time to do some things with Cheryl (his wife). We'll travel the country in the summers and do some things to get out of the heat."
Hewitt, who lived in Portland for 41 years, was a fixture on the city's sporting scene for nearly that long as a coach and broadcaster. He's a terrific guy, so his departure will be a loss to those who had grown used to seeing him at games.
• Adley Rutschman, Oregon State's sophomore catcher and the College World Series Most Valuable Player, got through most of the Beavers' season with a sore right shoulder that limited his ability to throw the ball.
Before the national champions' NCAA super regional victory over Minnesota in early June, Rutschman flew to Los Angeles to see Neal ElAttrache, one of the foremost sports medicine experts in the country.
ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon who serves as the Dodgers' team physician, performed tests on the shoulder and delivered good news, said Adley's father, Randy Rutschman.
"(Dr. ElAttrache) said Adley's rotator cuff is strong and he should be able to get through it," the senior Rutschman said. "He said he should be able to play through the summer, and then get some rest. If he needs repair in the future, he said (the shoulder) will come back just as strong as ever."
ElAttrache was right. Rutschman got through the college season fine, and split time between catcher and designated hitter for the U.S. Collegiate National Team that went 12-3 this summer. He was named the MVP of a five-game series with Japan and led the U.S. team with a .355 batting average in the nine games he played.
• Major league clubs are beginning to draft college players at a higher percentage than in the past. They'll still take the great player who wants to sign out of high school, but appreciate the three years of experience a top-flight collegian gets, along with the added maturity.
"To get a good high school player, you have to pay him a lot of money," says Mike Bell, in his eighth year as director of player personnel for the Arizona Diamondbacks. "They typically go early (in the draft). The failure rate is so great in baseball. It's such a tough game.
"You're playing almost every day. Short season (Class A ball) is 76 games, but a full (minor-league) season is 140 games. For a high school kid, it's a grind on them to play that much. A mature college kid can handle it a little bit easier. It's not that we can't bring the high school players in. We just know we're going to have to be a lot more patient with them."
• I found these NBA statistics from the 2017-18 season, offered by Basketball Intelligence website, both interesting and instructive:
Leaders in possessions last season: 1. LeBron James 7,425. 2 Jrue Holiday 6,879, 3. Anthony Davis 6,501, 4. Khris Middleton 6,486, 5. Russell Westbrook 6,448. 14. CJ McCollum 6,167 (just behind James Harden at 6,216). 25. Damian Lillard 5,754. Next-highest Blazer: 87. Jusuf Nurkic 4,406.
Positional breakdown: McCollum played shooting guard 82.8 percent of the time, small forward 8.8 percent and point guard 8.4 percent. Lillard played point guard 78 percent and shooting guard 22 percent.