For the Blazers, a lot to get accomplished before Santa arrives

For the Blazers, a lot to get accomplished before Santa arrives
November 26, 2011, 8:27 pm
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There's no question that all of the NBA has plenty of work to do before it opens its abbreviated season on Christmas Day.

But I'd say the Trail Blazers have more going on than most teams. Check it out:

-- First things first. A free-agency period will begin soon and that means we will finally find out what Greg Oden is going to do. Will Oden, a restricted free agent, accept his team's one-year qualifying offer? If he does, that quite likely means Oden will be gone after this season. Will he sign with another team for more seasons and more money? If so, that affords Portland an opportunity to match the offer and perhaps keep him over a longer term.

And oh, by the way, what kind of shape is Oden in? Well, that's a question I've been asked repeatedly over the past two months and I don't have an answer. I doubt his own team knows. The Blazers, because of the lockout, have been prohibited from contacting Oden. Last we heard, the big man was beginning a running program.

How is it going? How is he feeling? What does he weigh? Don't know the answers but it's going to be fascinating to finally see him and find out where he is in his rehabilitation.

If he can play, this team becomes infinitely more fun to watch.

-- With deals to be made, who will make them for the Trail Blazers? Will this team name a new general manager? Well, I've been hearing for a month now that the Blazers will probably not hire a GM for the upcoming season. Apparently the team is content with interim Chad Buchanan and president Larry Miller running things -- with puppetmaster Bert Kolde behind the scenes making sure owner Paul Allen gets what he wants.

Why? Well, you might consider that apparently the Blazers are still paying a hefty salary to Tom Penn NOT to be the team's assistant GM. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000, I hear.

So, let's see how well the team can function without a GM, then.

Can't wait to see how THAT works out.

-- Can the Blazers integrate a new point guard, Raymond Felton, into the mix with a minimum amount of training camp and perhaps no exhibition games? That's a tall order.

A team's point guard is where everything starts and to go with a new one this season, one with little time to find team chemistry, is going to be difficult. Combine that with the uncertainty surrounding Brandon Roy and Greg Oden and you have a lot of questions.

-- What about Brandon Roy? Is there an amnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement? Yes, apparently there is. Will the Blazers use it to dump Roy's salary? Well, maybe. But maybe not just now.

The amnesty clause most mentioned to be a part of this agreement is one with a two-year option tied to it. That would allow Portland to hold onto Roy for one season, find out how his knees are going to hold up, then exercise the option next season if it wishes.

-- The Trail Blazers have had disruptions on their coaching staff again, as popular and well-respected developmental coach Bill Bayno has departed to join the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will that play out on a team with so many question marks going into this training camp?

-- Speaking of training camp, this one is much more important than most. The Blazers must get their players in shape while getting them ready to play together, as a team, in a season short enough that a slow start could seriously jeopardize playoff seeding.

In conclusion, I'd say that while this season will last only 66 games, it will provide as much mystery as any recent campaign. I have no idea at this time what to expect.

Will this be a good team? If Oden is healthy, does it have a chance to be a great team? What impact will Felton have? How about a healthy Wesley Matthews and a more-mature Nic Batum?

Don't know. And that's what makes this whole thing so much fun to think about. I can't wait for training camp to open!