Blazers Burn It All Down With Amazing Speed And Lack Of Grace

There will be no period of acclimation for Blazers fans, who have been thrust into the fiery pits of rebuilding in the NBA.

Now that, ladies and gentleman, is how you burn an era to the ground. The Portland Trail Blazers were the league's most active team at the NBA trade deadline, executing two major deals, firing their head coach, and waiving their former No. 1 pick.

Following the Twitter feed of Ben Golliver, half of the team at SB Nation's amazingly productive Blazer's Edge, on Thursday was something incredible. At one point, Golliver went into all caps mode to spread transaction news -- my favorite was certainly "BLAZERS' BLOODY DEADLINE RUINED BY RAYMOND FELTON'S SURVIVAL?"

The imagery is astounding.

Golliver followed that up with a fuller exegesis on that issue, documenting the destructive impact Felton and Jamal Crawford have had this season and their roles in ending the era. In the end, it comes back to owner Paul Allen and his dysfunctional management of the club.

This team, remember, still doesn't have a general manager -- Allen fired Kevin Pritchard hours before the 2010 NBA Draft, and he kept replacement Rich Cho only 11 months. Chad Buchanan has been in control in an interim role ever since, though all indications suggest that Larry Miller, the team's president who has no direct basketball personnel experience, is actually running the show.

By the end of the day, the Blazers had traded Marcus Camby for a somewhat hilarious package of expiring contracts (Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet) and Gerald Wallace for a pair of players who won't suit up this season plus a draft pick. They'd waived Greg Oden. They'd canned Nate McMillan after six and a half seasons.

The Blazers were a team that had fallen below .500 and essentially out of the tight West playoff chase, a team that watched its star LaMarcus Aldridge land his first All-Star honor, but struggled nightly to give him even a modicum of reliable help, and a team that had clearly come into games prepared to lie down at the first sign of trouble. That 42-point loss to the Knicks on Wednesday was an extraordinary event, but damning in the greater narrative of the fall of Portland.

Given all of that, burning down the franchise is actually the right move. It makes perfect sense to strip away as much 2012-13 salary as possible, to load up on potentially high draft picks, and to give the team's only great assets -- Aldridge and Nicolas Batum -- a fresh start with new leadership.

But any drastic tanking deserves a bit of attention paid to the presentation, and Portland couldn't have done it worse. Reports suggest most Blazers employees, including in the front office, found out about McMillan's dismissal from media reports. The Blazers' broadcasters were holding a deadline webcast on the team's website when the news broke; the pair had to quickly cut to a commercial to assess the situation.

As Golliver notes, the fact that Felton remains and will apparently continue to be the team's starting point guard is a terrible message to the rest of the roster. Felton is on an expiring contract; the team could actually have waived him instead of Oden or young Chris Johnson, and had either Jamal Crawford or rookie Nolan Smith slide into the starting lineup.

There's something to be said for being eased into the burning incinerator that is rebuilding in the NBA. Portland knows the reality well, having seen the Blazers scorch Earth to tear down the Rasheed Wallace-Bonzi Wells club. That time, the Blazers got lucky, quickly landing stars in Aldridge and Brandon Roy and, it seemed, in winning the Oden lottery. It might not be so swift this time. Ask the Sacramento Kings or the Washington Wizards. Ask the Minnesota Timberwolves or New Jersey Nets. Ask the Memphis Grizzlies or Toronto Raptors. It doesn't come out smelling like roses every time.

But there will be no time for acclimation in Portland; the speed with which the Blazers were dismantled may accelerate the process of reconstituting the franchise, but it will be an added burden to fans adjusting to a new reality.

That Paul Allen did to the Blazers in full what he has so frequently done in parcel is a new experience to behold, and one that cannot be comfortable. We'll see in the end as to whether the complete lack of grace in the Blazers' self-destruction was worth it.

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