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Canzano: Best Trail Blazers trade involves Phil Knight
My wish for the NBA Trade deadline.
The Phoenix Suns lowered the boom on the NBA, didn’t they? So did the Dallas Mavericks. And the Utah Jazz are busy stacking draft picks.
Trail Blazers, Inc.?
Portland’s NBA franchise is busy making small plans again.
The league’s noon PT trade deadline is creeping close, but it feels so far away from the Trail Blazers. I woke on Thursday and couldn’t help but wonder how things might be different if the franchise would just make the one trade fans deserve.
That image the other night of Phil Knight, sitting alongside LeBron James’ children is seared into my psyche. The Nike co-founder had Bronny on one side, and a sea of fans behind him, cameras raised, capturing history. LeBron was in the air, mid-shot, about to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Knight was there for it all, his Nike sneakers on the baseline. He even sought out LeBron in the arena hallway after the game.
Said LeBron: “I saw you down there with my boys.”
Said Knight: “I wouldn’t have missed it. It was a great thrill.”
Knight still wants to buy the Trail Blazers.
“Not for sale,” the franchise insists.
Forgive me, but Josh Hart for Cam Reddish isn’t the trade I hoped for this week. Knight for Jody Allen? “Shoe Dog” for the trustee — straight up. Who says “no” to that trade?
Joe Cronin, get that deal done today.
I’ll go sit on the curb on SW Broadway and wait for the championship parade. Be clear, I don’t blame the Blazers’ GM for what’s happening now. He inherited a lousy hand, left by his predecessor.
Neil Olshey was the king of low-key moves. He sold the fan base on the promise of a bright, sunny future, then lit up the February deadline sky by swapping Skal Labissiere and some cash for a second-round draft pick.
NBA champions build their rosters using the draft, free agency and the trade deadline. Portland hasn’t consistently utilized at least two of the three available methods in the last 20 years.
Draft and wait.
Draft and hope.
That tired philosophy makes me think about something Gordon B. Hinckley once wrote: “You can't plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”
Suns new owner Mat Ishbia came out swinging. He threw open a two-year “win now” window and invited Kevin Durant to climb through it. Owner Mark Cuban took a wild swing in Dallas, betting on Kyrie Irving. And anyone who has followed the GM career of Danny Ainge knows he’s scheming in Utah.
What would Knight have done at the deadline if he owned the Blazers?
What wouldn’t Knight have done?
LeBron was growing antsy in Los Angeles. Durant was on the trading block. Who else? What else? Anyone think the entrepreneur who built the largest global sports brand in history would have been content to sit still — whispering — while the league roared around him?
Sun Tzu may have authored “The Art of War” but had Knight been around at the time, he’d have written the foreword.
Knight has a birthday coming up. He’ll turn 85 in a few short weeks. I’ve talked with a number of people who have worked closely with him over the years. They tell me he’s shrewd and visionary. His close friends rave about his loyalty, intelligence, generosity and passion. We’ve all witnessed Knight’s “go for it” ambition with his unwavering financial support of the University of Oregon.
Pat Kilkenny, the one-time UO athletic director and long-time booster, is a friend and ally of Knight. They both love and support the Ducks. They worked shoulder to shoulder on the Matthew Knight Arena construction project.
Kilkenny was raised on a ranch in Eastern Oregon. He built an empire in the insurance business. After that, he bought and sold a number of successful companies. I bumped into Kilkenny in a Las Vegas casino once. We spoke for a moment. I complimented him, comparing Kilkenny’s business acumen and keen vision with that of Knight.
Kilkenny waved me off and said: “I just try to be prepared for what might be around the corner. Phil possesses the ability to see around corners.”
The Trail Blazers aren’t currently for sale. Or at least that’s the narrative being sold. The braintrust is presumably waiting for the league’s television deal to be negotiated, so it can inflate the sales price.
Bake it into the sale.
Get it done today.
I’ve written this before, but Knight needs to own Portland’s NBA franchise. Not because I fear the Blazers might be sold and moved, but because I think there’s a chance they go nowhere at all without him.
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