PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers made headlines on draft night last season by firing their general manager.
On the surface, this season's draft looks to be much tamer with Portland slated to make the 21st and 51st selections on Thursday. But already the rumors are flying about what the Blazers might do.
Most of the talk surrounds point guard Andre Miller, whom acting general manager Chad Buchanan said is generating interest from around the league.
The Blazers hold a $7.8 million option on Miller for next season and have until June 29 to exercise it. Additionally, his contract for next season is non-guaranteed, making him attractive to teams looking at the bottom line in light of the NBA's uncertain labor situation.
With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire June 30 and owners and players far apart on a new deal, there's the possibility of a lockout and a shortened or canceled 2011-12 season.
"We're going to see as we listen around the league," Buchanan said about Miller's situation. "There's a lot of interest in Andre for various reasons. At the same time, we value him and realize what he's done for us the last two years."
Miller is a proven starter and has indeed been a steadying force, averaging 12.7 points, 7 assists and 3.7 rebounds last season.
Buchanan, the team's director of college scouting, took over as Portland's interim GM after the team abruptly dismissed Rich Cho because of a chemistry conflict. Cho quickly landed on his feet, becoming general manager of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Last season at about this time, the Blazers also looked to Buchanan and Michael Born, the team's director of NBA scouting, after abruptly firing Kevin Pritchard on draft night. The dismissal ended months of speculation that Pritchard, who had been in the position for six seasons, had fallen out of favor with billionaire owner Paul Allen.
Cho lasted less than a year in the job.
Buchanan said last week that Portland's top needs at the moment are at the point — where the team is thin even if it decides to bring Miller back for another season — and at center. The Blazers started Marcus Camby for much of last season at center while Greg Oden, the former No. 1 draft pick once hailed as the future of the franchise, sat out with more knee issues.
While Camby, like Miller, put up good numbers and provided invaluable leadership, the reality is that he's 37 and closing in on retirement.
There are also questions swirling about whether the Blazers will make the $8.8 million qualifying offer to keep Oden, who becomes a restricted free agent.
Oden didn't play this past season after microfracture surgery on his left knee. He missed his rookie season in 2007-08 after microfracture surgery on his right knee. Two seasons ago he broke his left kneecap.
Because of his injuries, the 7-foot former Ohio State star has played in only 82 games over parts of two seasons, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Buchanan said last week that the Blazers would turn to Oden later.
"Until we get through the draft, we're not going to focus in on that," Buchanan said.