Saturday, March 20, 2010
Sources: Penn's firing causes concerns
By Henry Abbott
After a mysterious firing of his key aide, the Portland Trail Blazers are at risk of losing general manager Kevin Pritchard, according to NBA sources.
A few days ago, the Blazers fired assistant general manager Tom Penn. Around the league Penn is prized as an attorney who mastered the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.
The firing of Penn concerns many fans who are troubled by the potential loss of Pritchard, who orchestrated the team away from a troubled Blazer past, on and off the court.
"I think their fears are justified," said Warren LeGarie, agent for both Pritchard and Penn. "We've been given no indication that this team sees Kevin as somebody who will be there on a long-term basis. All we've seen is them taking away people that Kevin feels are important to his ability to do his job successfully.
"I've been a Blazer fan from early on. I've been involved in some way with the team for many many years. I want them to be successful. They gave Kevin an unbelievably wonderful opportunity. But in order to make that opportunity work, he still needs to have people who believe in him around him, and people that he'd like to have, and that's certainly not the case anymore."
Perhaps the worst news for Blazer fans is, according to sources, last summer LeGarie became so convinced the Blazers would not commit to Pritchard that the agent has spent the better part of a year looking for another team to take on Pritchard and Penn. The firing of Penn only confirmed his suspicions.
Blazers team president Larry Miller was non-committal about Pritchard's future.
"Kevin is the GM here," Miller said. "I can never commit to anybody being around long term. I don't know that I'll be here long term. That's just not the way it works. To me, Kevin is our GM, and my feeling is we should focus on finishing out the season, trying to win games, trying to have a successful run in the playoffs. That should be our focus right now. The situation with Tom was an isolated incident. It's unfortunate, but hopefully we can put it behind us."
Henry Abbott is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.