As the majority of America is gearing up for Independence Day with the BBQs and parties that accompany the weekend celebrating the holiday, the gears are turning at a much more furious pace for the Portland Trail Blazers. Why? Free agency starts on July 1st.
With the draft behind us now, the front office is turning their attention to phase 2 of this rebuilding summer. When it comes to the NBA, the term "offseason" is thrown around incredibly loosely. I would pay anybody to ask Neil Olshey, or any member of the front office for that matter, how their offseason was (Hint— they have no offseason!) This is one of the most pivotal summers for the franchise, ever. We all said the same thing last summer. I know, I know. But a certain all-star turned the pressure up on the front office this summer.
These last few days have been really tumultuous if you are a Blazer fan and especially if you are a LaMarcus Aldridge fan. The reports started to come out that Aldridge wanted to be traded away from the rebuilding process in Portland to a contender such as Chicago, Los Angeles, or Dallas. The reports, at first, seemed like draft time rumors or rumblings that were game planned by agents or rival executives. That is, until we woke up Thursday morning. Thursday morning, there were columns from Jason Quick of The Oregonian and Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet Northwest about how Aldridge truly did want out of Portland if the franchise does not put more talent around him to help him excel and compete during his prime years.
If Olshey and the rest of those in charge in Portland were planning on taking an island vacation or Caribbean cruise this summer, better cancel those plans. Aldridge just turned it up to DEFCON 5!
I am in no place to start rumors or be an armchair GM right now. The draft is incredibly simple compared to the complex dance of free agency. With the draft, when CJ McCollum's name was called with the 10th pick, everybody knew he was coming to Portland. No negotiations, no questions. However when it comes to free agency, there is courting, negotiating, larger numbers on the contract, and stiffer competition for each player available. Portland has never been seen as a prime landing spot for free agents.
This is where Olshey can prove he is up to the task of being the General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. I have been a big proponent of him and what he can do for the team; however that all hangs in the balance this summer. Who he brings in and the way that this team shakes out before the tip next fall will be really telling of the vision of this regime.
I am as big of a Blazer fan as the next guy. I was super stoked after the Blazers' draft. They addressed needs, targeted their guys and went after them. The team did not do anything to mortgage their future for a temporary stopgap rookie. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Jeff Withey, Grant Jerrett and Marko Todorovic all appear to be players that can fit some kind of need for the Blazers. If nothing else, they can add depth to a team that had an abysmal bench last season, the worst in recent history. Four of those picks were second round picks and are no-risk, no-guaranteed money trials of these prospects.
The next task of the summer is even more important … free agency. Blazer fans get all stoked out for the draft, no one more than myself, but nobody gets too excited for the free agency period. For me, I am more nervous than anything. If no needle-moving free agent is signed, that could spell the end of Aldridge's storied run with the Blazers and a longer rebuilding process.
So for all you Blazer fans, keep your eyes hooked on Twitter and Oregon Sports News to follow the free agency journey that Olshey and the front office take us all on. Let's all hope that there is a veteran center that wants to come join this young, somewhat talented team. All eyes on July 1st.