Canzano: Mailbag takes on Phil Knight, Damian Lillard and the Pac-12
Your questions... my answers...
It was a wild week. Phil Knight popped up with a $2 billion-plus offer for the Trail Blazers. The Pac-12 football season is on the horizon. And I’m having a blast with this new endeavor.
I solicited “Dear John” questions from readers this week.
Your questions… my answers:
• Question: If “Uncle Phil” gets the Blazers... think Chauncey Billups will still be head coach? — @DaNickyV15
Answer: If Phil Knight really wants the Blazers, he’s going to get them. But I think this process is going to take some time. Billups is just one season into a five-year contract and there’s a team option for a sixth season. It won’t get that far. I think the Blazers’ coach has 1-2 more seasons in Portland. The possibility this sale drags out ends up his ally.
• Question: John, put on your “Carnac the Magnificent” hat and look into the future... It's the tip-off to the 2025-26 season. What is the state of the Blazers' franchise? Who owns the team? Is Dame still in Portland? — @ManSlinger
Answer: Phil Knight and Alan Smolinisky own the Blazers and fans are thrilled. Damian Lillard, now 35, isn’t on the roster. But neither is his now $50-million-plus annual salary. Gasoline is $7 a gallon, 62-year old Tom Cruise stars in blockbuster hit Top Gun 4, and Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are still locked up in appeals.
• Question: By withdrawing from the NBA draft, is Gonzaga forward Drew Timme setting a possible trend in college basketball? With attractive NIL fees, will players on Timme's skill level figure that they're better off staying and developing in college, getting a six-figure NIL fee and avoiding the NBA's D-League or playing overseas? — Tom Hamilton, Bend, Ore.
Answer: I sat beside Larry Brown during the NCAA Tournament during one of the Gonzaga games. He said Timme was his favorite college player. In part, because the kid has an unusually mature mentality. All five of Gonzaga’s starters declared for the NBA Draft. Three of them reversed course before Wednesday’s 8:59 p.m. PST deadline. Timme posted “I’m back” on Twitter at 8:14 p.m. The fact that he has five NIL deals definitely made that easier.
• Question: Which Pac-12 programs do you feel have a realistic shot at possibly growing into regular contenders for the national title over an extended period of time, along the lines of Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Clemson, etc.? — Ron Sellers
Answer: USC and Oregon are out front. After that, I’d add Utah and Washington to the conversation. Those four have the financial stability and necessary infrastructure to become national contenders if things break right. There are others that could rise up in a given year but that’s the short list.
• Question: The Pac 12 Network has an app. Why isn't it possible to subscribe to the network that way if your TV provider doesn't carry it? I'd pay during the football season for access. — Jon Turnbull
Answer: A change in how the network is distributed mid-contract would trigger a clause allowing the current distribution partners to renegotiate their rate. I’d pay for it, too, but I think we’re stuck until the new deal kicks in after the 2024 season.
• Question: Throughout their history the Blazers have had a hard time attracting free agents. You can’t make the city bigger. You can’t make the nightlife better. What can they do with things they control to make it an attractive place for free agents? — @olygriff
Answer: Phil Knight’s arrival would help. He hasn’t been involved in the day-to-day at Nike for a while, but look at what that company did over the years under his guidance. The Blazers would shed decades of losing mentality and adopt a more aggressive, forward-thinking, innovative approach. Knight “gets” it and I think he’d get better players because of that.
• Question: How has your thought process changed in how you write and what you write about since you decided to go out on your own and be your own boss. — @2022SportsGuy
Answer: I wake up and write what I want to write every day. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m getting phenomenal editing from my wife, friends and a line of newspaper colleagues. I’m joyful. I think you can probably tell. My 1-to-1 connection with the reader has improved since going “rogue.” I’m blown away by the number of people who are reading me and subscribing. I have big plans for the next few months. I’m grateful for the support and you are stakeholders.
So, thank you.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate all who have supported, subscribed and shared my new independent endeavor with friends and family in recent months. If you haven’t already — please consider subscribing.
Nike attracted a lot of folks with their wiz bang campus. Those days are over. Their workforce scattered to the four winds during Covid and they're resisting the plan to return. They're suddenly forced to compete in a world where location and lifestyle matter and they're losing. Phil might have gotten it three decades ago, but those days are over.
Now, counterpoint. Zion spent the last year rehabbing in Beaverton. I'd be curious why and what lessons can be learned from that which could be applied to bringing top-level folks out here. There's something there.
Only a %50 million Lillard contract? I'm sure he's angling for a lot more than that.