Lost in the Shuffle: Blazers Oust Another GM

The Portland Trail Blazers shocked NBA insiders on Monday by announcing the dismissal of general manager Rich Cho. Cho was with the team nine months after replacing former general manager Kevin Pritchard following last year’s NBA draft. The Blazers named director of college scouting, Chad Buchman their acting general manager and no timetable for a permanent replacement has been reported, according to Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge.

The abrupt firing, which has been discussed only in passing by the NBA media east of the pacific northwest, has led to a laundry list of questions regarding the chemistry between Cho and Blazers management, specifically owner Paul Allen. Adding to that claim, all assistant GMs and scouting staff have been retained by the organization, according to Golliver.

Despite solid offseason and mid-season acquisitions, Cho was dismissed
from the Blazers after nine months. (Photo: courtesy of The Oregonian)

Earlier this week a report surfaced that Cho was pushing for the suspension of shooting guard Brandon Roy following his complaints over playing time after game 2 of the the Blazers first round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks. Paul Allen nixed the idea of suspending Roy. Blazers management deny that that particular rift led to Cho’s dismissal. The Blazers have been kicked out of the playoffs in the first round for three straight seasons.

Stocked with young talent at nearly every position and an owner willing to spend in order to win, the Blazers general manager position was thought to be a top job in the NBA when Cho was hired away from the Oklahoma City Thunder after nine seasons as assistant GM. However, after former general manager Kevin Pritchard’s rather peculiar dismissal last year (along with highly touted assistant GM Tom Penn) and Cho’s firing just nine months into the job this year, future candidates must wonder if Blazers owner Paul Allen is looking for more control of the team or is simply difficult to work with, putting chemistry issues ahead of team performance.

Whatever the case may be, inconsistent management and front office turnover in Portland has turned this once attractive position into one of the more undesirable jobs in the NBA. The new GM must decide  whether to resign Greg Oden, how to handle Brandon Roy’s ailing knees and somewhat prickly personality and find a point guard of the future.

Cho was praised for his trade that sent Joel Pryzbilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and conditional first round picks to the Bobcats for Gerald Wallace. Wallace played a large role in sustaining a season that was marred by injuries from key players like Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. The offseason signing of free agent forward Wesley Matthews was also praised throughout the NBA. Matthews had a career year and looks to have a bright future with Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge was named All-NBA third team under Cho’s leadership.

Blazers president Larry Miller told Golliver that Cho was “shocked” to learn he was being fired but to Blazers management, the writing was on the wall as the season progressed. The Blazers finished the season with a 48-34 record.

“The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn’t right,” Miller told Golliver. “This was a tough move because I respect Rich and he was a good person with many skills. But it simply wasn’t a good match.”

Now the Blazers must endure more front office turnover, which often produces new strategies and new philosophies from the top, which often leads to player movement. The Blazers built a foundation around Greg Oden and Brandon Roy only to see it crumble to severe knee injuries. The front office managed to reload as opposed to rebuild due in large part to the additions of Marcus Camby, Wesley Matthews, Gerald Wallace and the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. After being intricately rebuilt brick by brick, Portland fans don’t deserve to watch their team crumble again â€” this time from the top on down.

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