Blazers must deal with long-term issues
Knocking it about on a number of sporting subjects ...
• Sure, it would be great for this season's Trail Blazers to retain center Hassan Whiteside, who has been such a positive force for the team. The 7-1 veteran ranks among the NBA's top six in blocked shots, rebounding, field-goal percentage and double-doubles. I wrote a couple of weeks ago he was deserving of All-Star consideration; Portland's sorry first-half record and a vague reputation as a "stat chaser" squashed that possibility.
But the idea that it's better for the Blazers not to make a deal for him before Thursday's noon PT trade deadline is misguided in a couple of ways.
First, Jusuf Nurkic is Portland's pivot of the future. Whiteside thinks he could play alongside Nurkic in the starting lineup, but that's unlikely in today's perimeter-minded, fast-paced, 3-point shooting NBA. Whiteside wouldn't be happy playing 15 to 20 minutes a night as Nurkic's backup, no matter how much he says he wants to stay with the Blazers.
Then there's the matter of his contract. Whiteside is in the final year of a deal that calls for him to make $27.1 million this season. He won't command anything near that as a free agent this summer, but he'll be an attractive candidate for a decent contract with some NBA teams. It would reasonable to expect him to get a deal calling for $10 million to $15 million per season.
The Blazers will be trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $139 million. They're at $110 million in commitments now for next season (if they keep Trevor Ariza), and that's before dealing with Rodney Hood (who will opt out of his $6 mllion pact) and Carmelo Anthony.
Whiteside carries Bird Rights, so the Blazers can pay him whatever they want — if luxury tax is no object. They could also offer the full mid-level exception, which would be $9.72 million for a non-taxpaying team and $6 million for a taxpayer. Those deals can go four years with raises of five percent each season. Best-case scenario would be an offer of four years and about $42 million.
Even that is a lot to pay a backup center, but Whiteside isn't a backup. Therein lies the problem for the Blazers. If Whiteside isn't traded, it's because general manager Neil Olshey couldn't find a deal that made sense, not because he decided to keep him to help with this year's playoff push.
That's being shortsighted. Olshey has to have the team's future in mind beyond this season. And if Nurkic remains a Blazer, the future doesn't include Whiteside.
• No surprise here: The Blazers-Los Angeles Lakers game at Staples Center last Friday served as the second-most watched regular-season NBA game in ESPN history, drawing an average of 4.41 million viewers. The record is 4.88 million viewers for the first meeting between Houston's Yao Ming and the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal in 2003.
Blazers courtside reporter Brooke Olzendam is spending February promoting the importance of
automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in saving lives and raising funds for the American Heart Association.
This is a project dear to — no pun intended — Olzendam's heart. In 2011, her husband of 10 days — Andy Collins — had a heart attack and died while running on a treadmill at age 27.
I wrote about that sad time for Brooke in the following story that was published in 2017.
Go to trailblazers.com/heart to donate to the American Heart Association. The Blazers will match the first $5,000 in donations.
• After 28 years coaching at Lake Oswego High, Steve Coury thought he'd had all of the best of experiences in football.
Then came the opportunity to coach the West team in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 4 at San Antonio, a game carried live on the NBC Sports Network.
It couldn't have gone much better. Coury's West team beat the East 33-20, and his star running back, Casey Filkins, scored a touchdown.
"It was an unbelievable experience, and not just because we won," Coury said. "Don't get me wrong — you sure as heck want to win, and that capped everything off. But the chance to be around such great young men as we had on our team ... it gives you a refreshing look at life. I have a great deal of respect for every one of them."
A high school all-star game is going to feature the passing game, and Filkins — bound for Stanford — got to carry the ball only four times, but one went for a 5-yard touchdown.
"It was great to be coaching Casey one last time and, on a national stage, to get him a touchdown," Coury said.
Coaching the running backs was Karl Halberg, Coury's former teammate at Oregon State and a member of the Lake Oswego coaching staff for the entire Coury era.
One of the players who caught Coury's eye was Noah Sewell, the 6-2, 265-pound linebacker from Orem, Utah, who will play at Oregon next season. Sewell's older brother, Penei. won the Outland Trophy as an offensive tackle for the Ducks this season.
"We had a fourth-and-4 at our own 39 and ran a fake punt with Noah," Coury said. "I told our special-teams coach, 'I don't think anybody's going to stop him.' He ran for 30 yards."
The special-teams coach was Keanon Lowe, the Parkrose High coach who recently accepted the position at West Linn.
"I got to know Keanon better during our week in San Antonio, and I'm so impressed with him," Coury said. "He's a personable guy with a good football mind. He'll do a great job at West Linn. He wants to eventually get into college coaching; someone will get a gem when they get him."
Records are being set and approached in the Barlow High basketball program.
Senior shooting guard Jesse White became the Bruins' career scoring leader with a career-high 41-point outburst in a 75-58 win over Sandy last Friday. White moved past Freddy Jones with 1,895 points to Jones' 1,884.
The 6-1, 170-pound White — who has verbally committed to Western Oregon — is averaging 30 points per game in league play and is shooting 57 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range.
"Jesse doesn't wow you with his athleticism, but he has an uncanny ability to shoot the basketball," said coach Tom Johnson, who is in his 34th season at Barlow and 37th overall in the high school ranks. "Freddy is the best player I've ever coached. I have a ton of people I consider tied for second, and Jesse is one of them. He's tough-minded and a relentless worker. No kid has spent more time in our gym than Jesse White in his four years."
Johnson also is approaching a milestone. His career coaching record is 598-322, and he will become the eighth coach in the state's prep history to reach the 600-win mark if the Bruins (11-6) beat Central Catholic on Wednesday and Centennial on Friday.
Those ahead of Johnson: Mike Doherty (850-390 in 50 seasons), Nick Robertson (704-311 in 41 seasons), Dennis Murphy (645 in 35 seasons), Gary Hull (645 in 31 seasons), Barry Adams (652 in 40 seasons), Craig Rothenberger (636 in 48 seasons) and Ken Harris (619 in 39 seasons).
• Oregon State junior Ellie Slama has been invited back to participate in the Augusta National Women's Amateur April 1-4. The final round is played at Augusta National, the home of the Masters Tournament that is staged the following week.
A year ago, Slama carded rounds of 75 and 78 to finish in a tie for 52nd in the 72-player field. She also got to play a practice round at Augusta National and shot a 4-under 68.
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