On KD and Dame, Shaedon Sharpe, an introduction to The O's new columnist, LIV arrives: The I-5 Traffic report
The weekend that was and the week to come along the I-5 Corridor.
PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers started the week with a trade for Jerami Grant and ended the week with Damian Lillard openly campaigning for Kevin Durant’s services.
In the middle, they pinned the hopes of the franchise on Shaedon Sharpe, a boom-or-bust candidate selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.
We start this week’s I-5 Corridor Traffic Report off with a back-and-forth between Shane Hoffmann and myself as last week’s events unfolded.
Thursday, 3 p.m.
Alger: Ok Shane, welcome to your first summer in Portland. It can be magical – just look at that forecast coming up. But the start of the summer also means the NBA Draft. And, well, you haven’t really earned your stripes in this city until you’ve experienced it go through the devastation of an Oden or Bowie or Webster selection in the first round.
I hope you’re ready to be hurt.
Hey — at least the Blazers padded whatever disappointment this pick is sure to bring to the franchise with this Jerami Grant trade, right?
It can be magical… that is, if you have AC. Which, of course, I do not. That aside, let’s start with the Grant trade.
When I saw the report that the Blazers wanted him months ago, I cackled. To me, it reeked of another move in a series of such that would force the Blazers to remain in NBA purgatory — a perennial playoff team, one that would struggle to make meaningful noise in the postseason and fail to make meaningful, young talent acquisitions due to late-round draft picks and a costly salary cap situation.
It’s a low-risk move for the Blazers; a redeeming trade after they shipped out CJ McCollum, Robert Covington and Norman Powell for a Starbucks Frappuccino and a bag of Lays. It’s a nice trade, that is unless the Pistons — who far and away lead the league in cap space — or another team turns up the heat on Portland to match a near-max deal for restricted free agent Anfernee Simons… more on that later.
Grant is a fine player. He’d be a great No. 3 option on a contending team and plays enough defense that he may get a couple of double takes here in the Rose City. But how many years of “Should they trade C.J. McCollum?” did this city go through just to blow up a roster and rebuild it to something that…may just be as good as it was before? Seriously, nothing against Grant, I just don’t see how whatever version of this team they’re assembling right now is going to be any better than the 2019 Western Conference Finals team. There’s certainly moves to be made, but unless Portland can become an overnight free agent destination, I just don’t see a path to contention while Dame’s still in his prime. There’s more parity in the league than the super team heavy 2010s. You don’t have to construct a roster that needs to be better than the best regular season team of all time. But you still need to be really good to win a title and Portland is far from that as currently constructed.
Wholeheartedly agree. While the move itself seems to be decent value on paper, it hasn’t significantly shifted how I feel about this team moving forward. He’s on an expiring contract which is helpful, and his skillset will be welcomed to a team who’s rotation consisted of a slew of G-Leagues level players last season. This has been my gripe with the Blazers the past few years, they’ve made some smart moves and consistently get good players, but not often are they moving the needle with elite, or even great players.
The Blazers draft Shaedon Sharpe at No. 7, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard out of Kentucky. The former No. 1 player in the 2022 class reclassified to the 2021 class and redshirted this last season with the Wildcats.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, especially since it seems like most Blazers fans are hesitant of the pick, but I actually think the Blazers did the right thing here.
What I like about this pick is that they’ve taken an upside swing — selecting a player who, at his fullest potential, could be a true No. 1 — while not completely compromising their win-now goal.
Sure, there are a handful of other players that they could have taken at No. 7 that may be ready to contribute earlier (Jeremy Sochan comes to mind), but how many rookies in the NBA each year can make meaningful playoff contributions… not many. And playoffs is the goal, no?
This pick reminds me so much of the Simons selection. He went No. 24 in 2018 and was widely viewed as “raw” and as a “project” with little legitimate film to draw from. The skillset was there though and look now, he’s become the Rose City darling.
I get that Sharpe hasn’t played. But if he had played this year, there’s a significant chance he would have gone top 3. Seriously. He’s a bouncy, long guard/wing and one of the best shooters in the draft. Think Chicago’s Zach Lavine.
The Blazers haven’t had too many picks in this range. That they took someone who has a chance to be the draft’s best scorer one day is a good sign.
Alger: At some point we all need to agree that a large part of whatever happens next for the Blazers needs to involve some luck. Every title contending team needs a bit of it. And if the Blazers can get some luck, I love this pick. It’s not a sure thing. I don’t like that this is essentially a high school-to-NBA scenario and that, at 19, you’d expect him to need at least a few years to develop into whatever he’s going to become. I really don’t like that Dame will be 32 this season.
But, I mean, if this:
translates to the NBA, Sharpe isn’t just a player that will compliment Dame in the present. He has the potential to shape Portland’s future after Lillard, too.
Sunday, 9 a.m.
Alger: Speaking of luck: I’m assuming you saw Dame’s instagram last night? I have no idea what it would take to make that happen, but the more I think about it, the more I like it for both Lillard and Durant as legacy plays. Dame would finally have a teammate who could help him get over the mountain without leaving Portland, and you can’t tell me this city wouldn’t completely embrace KD, one of the most talented players in history who really just wants to be liked.
As a quick aside: One of the stories I wrote for The Oregonian when I was an intern in 2010 was covering a “Bring LeBron James to Portland” rally outside the Rose Garden. I thought they were nuts.
As skeptical as I am of the whole KD thing, I was surprised that Dame posted that on his instagram… doesn't really seem like his style, does it?
Now, I don’t blame fans for falling head over heels at the idea of KD coming to Portland. But here’s the thing, he’s not a free agent. If — and this is a big if — he tells Nets management that he wants out, I’d expect he would demand he’s traded somewhere with a chance to compete AFTER they’ve shipped out whatever it takes to acquire him. And let’s be real, if Durant hits the trade market, the Nets should, and likely will, demand a haul that comes close to matching the largest ever return in a trade. It would assuredly be the biggest package since Anthony Davis was shipped out to LA.
As for what Portland has to offer… I would imagine they would need to re-sign Simons and pair him with one or two of Nassir Little, Shaedon Sharpe, Josh Hart, etc. Then, the Blazers would need some salary filler and a slew of future draft picks. That may not even be enough. And that would leave Portland’s cupboard looking pretty bare, don’t you think?
Sorry to get in the weeds and ruin anyone’s fever dream here, but it’s kind of my job to be objective. If however, KD somehow makes his way here, I’d likely move to Portland full-time and demand you get me an I-5 credential to cover the Blazers year round.
As we move into free agency, I’ll leave you all with this quote from general manager Joe Cronin:
“We’ll continue working the trade lines, looking for upgrades, and when the time comes enter the free-agent market and look for specific needs.”
I’m glad he’s aware there’s more work to do. I glanced at the Blazers’ updated depth chart today. The roster has a long way to go before I’m convinced they could attempt to make it out of the first round. Until then, I can’t wait to watch Sharpe in Summer League.
The “disrespect” of Sha’Carri Richardson
One of the shockers from the USA Track & Field championships in Eugene: sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson failed to qualify for the 100m and 200m finals. Richardson, who will now not compete in next month’s World Championships, didn’t speak with reporters after the 100, then issued a statement to the media after her failed 200 attempt.
"I'm coming to speak, not just on my behalf but on all athletes' behalves, that when you guys do interviews, y'all should respect athletes more," Richardson said. "Y'all should understand whether they're coming from winning, whether they're losing, whatever the case may be. Athletes deserve way more respect than when y'all just come and throw cameras into their faces.
"Understand how an athlete operates and then ask your questions. Then be more understanding of the fact that they are still human, no matter just to the fact that y'all are just trying to put something out in an article to make a dollar. Thank you."
And now, just for some perspective: Here’s video of the media’s reported lack of respect.
Anyway, here are some great shots from Sean Meagher, including one of Devon Allen, who finished third in the 110m hurdles to qualify for the World Championships.
Bill Oram, Oregonian sports columnist
I think a lot of you will enjoy reading Bill Oram, The Oregonian’s new sports columnist. He comes to Portland from The Athletic and has covered the Lakers for the last decade. Though, many say his greatest career accomplishment came as the editor of the Montana Kaimin when he hired a young Tyson Alger to the college paper’s sports staff.
Bill writes with heart and his eye for unique stories will be a great addition to this state. One of my favorite stories I wrote for The Athletic came after a text from Bill implored me to go write about Oregon State’s Elite Eight basketball run through the lens of Beaver, Oregon.
It was off the wall. It turned out really good. I thank Bill for that one.
But here’s the thing about Bill — you’re going to have to get used to the puns. It’s right there in his Twitter bio: “Montana Grizzly, Tillamook cheesy. And puns. So many puns.”
For the most part, I’ve learned to not engage with most of Bill’s tweets. You don’t want to encourage that sort of behavior. But every once in a while he’ll get me.
Here’s the best of the worst:
Pumpkin Ridge had a spot on the front page of ESPN.com on Sunday as a part of a story about the LIV Golf Tour’s U.S. debut this week at the North Plains course.
Now the politicians are getting involved.
From Oregon senator Ron Wyden, per the AP:
“It’s wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia tries to cleanse blood-stained hands, in the fight for Oregonians to get justice — Fallon Smart was killed very close to our house in Southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run death, was, based on all the evidence, whisked out of the country by the Saudis before he stood for trial.”
And a statement signed by 11 area mayors:
“We oppose this event because it is being sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights abuses are documented. We refuse to support these abuses by complicity allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyard.”
Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson headline the names expected to compete this week.
— Tyson Alger
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Don't forget about LaRue Martin. "Two for LaRue" ...as Bill Schonely would say (unfortunately not very often).