Trail Blazers fans have long dreamed that Portland may one day welcome the best and brightest in the NBA by way of hosting an NBA All-Star Weekend. And on Thursday, the team took steps to make that dream a reality by submitting a bid to host either the 2017 or 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Rip City.
“For our fan base, it’s long overdue, particularly in one of the few cities that has yet to actually host an NBA All-Star game,” said Chris Oxley, General Manger of the Rose Quarter. “This, quite frankly, could be the single-most significant sporting event or event in general that the city has every had the ability to host. I think that’s very meaningful in terms of Portland taking it to the next level as a host of future major events.”
The theme of the bid, which was submitted to the NBA on Wednesday and entitled “We Got Next,” promotes Portland as the 10th fastest growing city in the United States while noting major sportswear companies like Nike, adidas and Columbia are based in the area. The materials also call out Portland’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge while noting over 400 wineries and 60 breweries are all within an hour’s drive.
“True to being from Portland,” said Oxley, “the bid is very unique, very creative and I think different that what other cities would put together.”
Chris McGowan, President and CEO of the Trail Blazers, has been steadfast since taking the helm back in 2012 that bringing an All-Star Game to Portland was one of the organization’s priorities.
“Consistent with what we’ve said from Day One is when the opportunity to bid on any available All-Star Game occurs, we’d obviously put our best foot forward and bid,” said McGowan. “So we were kind of waiting until the opportunity presented itself, which happened three months ago.”
Since then, the Trail Blazers and the Rose Quarter have worked with with City of Portland, Metro, the Oregon Convention Center, Travel Portland, the Oregon Sports Authority and local hotels to craft the bid and assure that the logistical challenges that hosting an NBA All-Star game poses can be met.
“The NBA is not just looking for the team to play the lead role,” said Oxley. “They’re looking for a cohesive unit from the host team bid community to put the right bid together. As a basketball organization, we don’t have the ability to do this in and of ourselves. All of these guys are the legs on the stool to make this thing happen.”
A lack of hotel rooms in a centralized location has been one of the main reasons Portland has never been seriously considered to host the All-Star Game. But with a new convention center hotel currently in the works, the one nearly insurmountable obstacle to the Trail Blazers’ bid no longer exists.
“As we looked at this, it became clear to Chris (Oxley) and I that there really aren’t tremendous hurdles,” said McGowan. “The city is fully capable of hosting an All-Star game, the region is fully capable and we, obviously, have an arena and a campus and the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and a Convention Center and eventually a convention center hotel all in very close proximity to each other.”
But even though McGowan and Oxley feel like have a strong case with regard to bring an All-Star game to Portland, there’s also a number of other teams that would argue the same.
“The only hurdle would be, I’d say, competition amongst other teams that are bidding for this,” said McGowan. “We’ve heard there are anywhere from six to 10 other franchises bidding. Getting the NBA open-minded to coming to Portland — they’ve been on record saying that they would be willing to look at an All-Star Weekend in Portland.”
There is no deadline for the NBA to make the decision, though McGowan said he expects to hear from the league “sometime this year.” Until then, Trail Blazers fan will have to keep their fingers crossed that their All-Star dreams will finally come true.
With Portland’s foray into free agency now complete, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
In this almost all Twitter-submitted questions edition, we discuss the signings of Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard, the decision to match the offer the Brooklyn Nets extended to Allen Crabbe, how the additions and returns could change lineups going forward and the notion that the Trail Blazers need to make a trade. There’s also some hot Pokemon Go and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” talk to start the show, so you might want prepare yourself to fast-forward through the first few minutes.
UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.
After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…
The Portland Trail Blazers have matched Allen Crabbe’s four-year, $75M offer sheet with Brooklyn, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
Nets bid on Crabbe has been thwarted — and Crabbe returns to Blazers on four-year, $75M contract. Now, Nets wait on Tyler Johnson sheet.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
The message out of Portland ownership and management is clear: Blazers trying to win this year and beyond — loading up on this roster.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.
But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.
There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…
— Allen Crabbe (@allencrabbe) July 10, 2016
With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.
UPDATE: The team has officially announce that they have signed Meyers Leonard to a new contract. From the press release…
“Meyers is a core member of our organization and continues to show the promise and potential we anticipated when we drafted him,” said Olshey.
Leonard averaged career-highs with 8.4 points (44.8% FG, 37.7% 3-PT76.1% FT), 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 21.9 minutes in 61 games (10 starts) in 2015-16. He missed the final 14 games of the regular season due to an injured left shoulder.
“Today is a day which is hard to describe. I’m overcome with happiness and joy,” said Leonard. “I’m thankful for the people who have remained loyal and loving in my life. This is the product of a lot of hard work and time. I feel like I have found a new gear mentally and physically and really am excited for the next four years. The future is going to be bright with this team.”
The Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard sat down at the negotiating table prior to the start of the 2015-16 season in an effort to hammer out a new contract in an effort to keep the 7-1 power forward from hitting the (restricted) free agent market. Despite mutual interest, the two sides were unable to strike a deal, though considering the Trail Blazers had the right to match any offer Leonard received as a free agent, it always seemed likely he’d be back even if terms on an extension couldn’t be reached.
As it turns out, an offer sheet from another team wasn’t needed for both sides to ultimately come to an agreement.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Leonard and the Trail Blazers have agreed on a new four-year deal worth $41 million…
Leonard, a restricted free agent, has built his value as a stretch four with an ability to spread the floor and deliver a presence on the defensive boards.
Leonard is part of a core expected to compete for 50 victories in the Western Conference this season.
Leonard, 24, missed the final 20 regular-season games with a left shoulder surgery in 2015-16, but has shown steady improvement in the past two years after being selected at No. 11 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.
The reported four-year deal is roughly the same as the offer the Trail Blazers reportedly extended to Leonard prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. At the time, it was reasonable to assume Leonard might receive a larger offer from another team, as his combination of size, athleticism and shooting are highly sought after in today’s NBA. But missing the final 20 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, not to mention the widely-held assumption that the Blazers would match any reasonable offer for Leonard, likely cooled interest from other teams. And though he didn’t say it explicitly, it always seemed as though Leonard’s preference was to continue his career in Portland after being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick of the 2012 Draft.
“I was drafted here, I’ve been with Terry (Stotts) the entire time, Neil (Olshey) obviously drafted me, being here with now our franchise player Damian (Lillard),” said Leonard back in March. “So the future is bright here and I truly hope that I can be a big part of it.”
Leonard returns to a big man rotation that features Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Festus Ezeli, who signed with Portland as a free agent on Friday.
While Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the team is done chasing new free agents for the year, whether restricted free agents Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe, who received an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets worth reportedly $75 million over four years on Thursday, return to Portland next season is still to be determined. The team has until 9 pm Sunday night to decide whether or not to match the offer made to Crabbe.