On May 23, 2011 the Portland Trail Blazers fired GM Rich Cho. Nearly a year later, the team has yet to hire a replacement. No biggie, considering the team's two franchise cornerstones have recently left the squad because of career-altering injuries, a needed rebuilding plan was formulated on the fly as a result, the group is in search of a new head coach after firing its top man in March, and it has both lottery interest and cap space to deal with during an offseason that starts a week from Friday.
On April 18, 2012, Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen took to his personal website to post four pictures of a creepy-looking octopus (links that were promptly tweeted by Allen, and re-tweeted by the Trail Blazers' official account), with the sea creature in question purportedly going through "the four stages of reading a John Canzano column about the Portland Trail Blazers." Canzano is The Oregonian's top columnist, a scribe who dared question in print on whether or not Allen was "in or out" when it came to aggressively rebuilding a Blazer team that appears to be on his backburner.
And, instead of firing back on his Twitter account, or holding an impromptu press conference before attending Portland's final home game of the season on Wednesday, or issuing a typically tepid statement through the team's PR division, Allen just got cute with what Deadspin's Erik Malinowski referred to as a less than "advanced grasp of HTML coding." The pictures, weirdly, can be seen here:
Rather than staging monkey knife fights in international waters, deep sea diving and octopi picture-takin' seems to be all the rage amongst the 1 percent set these days, and the shots of this octopus were from Allen's own stock. Cool stuff, I think, and he should be proud of his snaps. What he does with his personal time and personal fortune is completely up to him.
When you buy a professional franchise, though, you take on a civic duty. Yes, it's a private interest, and he's under no real obligation to serve the Portland community, but this is exactly why Canzano wanted to know (after nearly a year of seeming inaction on the GM front) if Allen was fully committed to the Blazers. And though John can get a bit blustery at times with his columns, he's not wrong in his take, and was tactful in wondering if the Trail Blazers may mean less to Allen now than they did before the tough blows of losing both Greg Oden and Brandon Roy to devastating knee injuries.
Right now, your headline, Mr. Allen. It's either, "Allen chases his championship" or "Billionaire throws in the towel." There is no in between. No tap dancing on the line between relevancy and pretense. You're either in or out. The hokey pokey must stop. Because what's the point, right?
People in Portland need the Blazers to get it together. Healthy or not, as a region, we're not diversified and are overly reliant upon the NBA franchise. Think about it. The weather October through April can be tough. It's gray. It's dreary. It rains. We go inside during those months, and look to the Blazers to help get us through the winter. They become sunlight. And some years they've shined, but under Allen, more and more, it just feels like they're a giant puddle, reminding us that it's soggy around here.
This is Portland's only major-league team, and though the squad has continually made playoff runs over the last 36 years, it's also been dealt cruel blows with injuries to not only Roy and Oden, but Bill Walton and Sam Bowie. Toss in "I wasn't a chemistry major"-reign of Bob Whitsitt, the Jail Blazer era that followed, and Blazers fans have been through a lot. Too much, if we're honest.
As Canzano points out, it's no great shame if Allen wants to sell the team and move on. But if he is "in," he needs start spending money, refurbish the team's infrastructure, and find a GM/coach duo that the region deserves.
And, ideally, not spend the hours leading up to his appearance at Portland's last home game for the next 6 1/2 months crapping out petty responses to newspaper columns he didn't like. The eccentric billionaire image doesn't really go over too well in your community when you don't eccentrically spend money on the basketball team you own.