Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday, Monday.... Blazers vs. The Oregonian-Part Deux

This is a story about an ongoing battle, with another strange and unorthodox response, followed by some misconceptions, and finally a refershing twist in which a company strongly stands behind it's employees. I have been in sports media since 1988, worked on both sides of the "fence" (team employee and media member) and have never, ever seen anything like the battle between the Oregonian and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Battle Resumes
Once again the only major league professional sports franchise and the newspaper of record, the only daily paper in Portland and by far the most important media outlet in Oregon and Southwest Washington, are at odds. At the core of the issue is a story written by Blazers lead beat writer Jason Quick last week in which Nate McMillan was critical of his team in a variety of ways. Here is part of the article:
McMillan said the team's "attitude" -- not pressing roster concerns or the team's 6-14 record -- was the most relevant topic. Certain players on the team are too selfish, not committed to the professional game, and don't play hard enough during games, he said.
"You've got to have the attitude that you want to be here, and if you don't, then when you are here, you work while you are here to make this club a better team," McMillan said. "So, do the things you are supposed to. Be where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there. And when you are out on the floor, give 100 percent, and when things aren't going right, look at yourself first."


Then Quick took the next step, the obvious assumption by ANYONE who follows, covers, or yes even works for the team:

The topics point directly at (Zach) Randolph, who at least three times this season has been tardy to team functions, at times gone through the motions on the court, and recently, expressed indifference -- at best -- about his desire to play in Portland any longer.

One Center Court Responds by Pushing "the red button"
The story ran on Wednesday. By noon on that day, the following came from One Center Court:

STATEMENT FROM TRAIL BLAZERS HEAD COACH NATE McMILLAN
CLARIFYING OREGONIAN ARTICLE
“I need to clarify some recent remarks that I made to the Oregonian’s Jason Quick that appeared in today’s newspaper.
The vast majority of the comments I made were in reference to the entire team and the their need to step up their attitude and provide leadership.
I did not single out any particular player. It is unfortunate that the Oregonian twisted my remarks to single out Zach Randolph. That was never my intent.”


While it may not have been Nate's "intent" it was obvious to everyone who he was referring to.
By calling out the writer by name, along with the newspaper, the Blazers took the unheard of public relations move of responding to a negative story. Poor move, bad decision, and not the "norm" you would find elsewhere in the country or from other organizations. But this is one of those things that make the Blazers......well the Blazers.

Of course, the story doesn't end there.

Quick and Canzano Anti-Blazers? Come on, how paranoid can we be?
This animosity between the team and the newspaper (specifically Jason Quick and Columnist John Canzano) continues to fester. But the strange thing is, knowing both sides, it was an acrimonious relationship on one side only: the Blazers. Contrary to what many fans and employees at One Center Court may think, neither Quick nor Canzano has an anti-Blazers agenda or are "anti-Blazers." In fact, truth be told, most of us in the local media would rather cover a winner, a playoff team that the town fully supports and is a part of the community that brings with it a sense of pride. You know, the way the team WAS years ago. It is good for everyone if the team does well.

The Oregonian takes a stand
If you have not read this story from Sunday's Oregonian sports section, do so now.
http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/sports/1134887104265280.xml&coll=7
The fact that the newspaper's management stood up and backed Quick in a such a public way is refreshing in today's corporate climate. The Blazers spend money on advertising and do have a lot of "juice" in this city, and many media outlets would have caved to whatever pressure was put on by the Blazers. Not the Oregonian. I applaud and admire Sports Editor Mark Hester for coming out and being so open in discussing the meeting and the paper's stance on the subject.

Some final thoughts on this issue.....at least until the NEXT battle commences.
First, the way it has been handled from the Blazers standpoint could not have been worse. To issue a statement from Nate McMillan, on the day of a game, and go on the offensive against the writer and newspaper was a move that makes no sense.
What good does a statement like that do? The old saying, something along the lines of "don't pick a fight with he who buys ink by the barrel" would have been a better path. Unlike the Darius Miles document fiasco from last year, one story that portrayed the new coach being unhappy with the star player would be read, digested, and go away the next day. This is not the kind of story that would fester. But when the decision to issue a statement was made, the story grew. It was also a gross error in judgement by the team to attack the writer personally. The main issue Nate McMillan had with the story was the headline, which the writer does not write. Why would they not just let Nate deal with it personally with Jason Quick? There is one media member who travels on a regular basis with the team, Jason Quick, and it would have been a simple solution for the two to iron things out like adults on their own. It appears that the team made the decision not to allow that to happen.
For my money, Jason Quick is one of the better beat writers I have been around in the NBA. His contacts, relationships, and knowledge along with the fact he has the stones to go after the story make him better than most.
I also believe that the Executive Director of Communications for the team, who is in his fourth season here, does a good job. He knows the market, the media, the climate, and how to deal with the issues that arise here. That only comes as a result of years of experience with yellow hummers, dog fighting, and trading cards being used for id. But I also know the people above him, and the large turnover of people on the communications staff below him, may hinder the process of effective media relations, and that must be what happened here.

As I look at it, the only agenda seems to be from upper management who would love nothing more than to see Jason Quick removed from the beat. In their world, life would be much easier, accountability next to nothing, and they could continue down the path of destroying this once proud franchise with only the little old PM Drive show on Portland's only all-sports station
there to hold them accountable. If Quick were not there, and the Oregonian put a lesser writer on that beat, then people would begin to buy tickets again, the corporate advertising dollars would be better than ever, and the town would love the team again-even with a 20-62 season staring them in the face.

Your thoughts welcome in the comments below.... otherwise, a week off, a little vacation time coming, and don't forget to join us for our two special shows live from the Holiday Bowl in San Diego next week.

Thank you and goodbye
Ian

19 Comments:

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Chris Snethen said...

Excellent post. The Blazer/Oregonian fued is nothing new. For whatever reason the organization doesn't like the harsh light of the truth shone on them at anytime. And it's not just under Allen's ownership. The Weinberg/Glickman days were no picnic for The O either. Ask Terry Frei or Kerry Eggers. Here's hoping The Oregonian stands behind Quick and sticks to their guns. I think the Blazers need The Oregonian right now way more than The O need the Blazers.

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duane Petterson

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger luiluiely said...

I applaud the O for standing behind Quick, but I think the "headline" could have been a direct quote from the article and not an inference about Zack.

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm driving in to work and heard a short sound bite by Quick on the Fan. He was explaining the article which Nate was not happy with (focused on Zach v. whole team). Quick said something to the effect that Nate was talking about a group of individuals on the team including Zach. And then Quick said what was going on was that Nate was trying to send Zach an indirect message.

My thought is that if you know what Nate was doing, why not help the coach out? Why isolate the article only on Zach and throw it in Zach's face. He should have wrote it just like Nate explained . . . "there are X problems with a group of players, including Zach" and title the article focusing more on team problems. I'm guessing Nate is here for a while. Quick should have used this as an opportunity to develop a good relationship so as to get more information down the road. It benefits Nate and Quick. Did Quick really feel he had to spice up the article by focusing only on Zach in the title?

My conclusion after hearing his statements: either Quick doesn't get it or he can't sell it.

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bias you have! The Blazers gave a statement in response to backing Nate and you call it paranoia, but the editor comes out with an article defending Quick and you call it defending his employee, then applaud him for it. Major bias you have there!

 
At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Dan Binmore said...

Quick and Canzano have repeatedly been factually wrong, and have repeatedly been negative about the team. It's clear from Hesten's article that Nate McMillan still has issues with the article, as he should. Check the Portland Tribune for a measured, intelligent article about this situation.

 
At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Headbonk said...

The Oregonian/Blazers relationship follows a pattern. There was a time that Jaynes and Eggers wore the pants in this city, and now we are seeing the begining of the end for Quick and Canzano. If there is one thing that remains constant it is change. Most beat writers change as the sports franshise goes through a transition, why that is might be hard to quantify. Maybe it is just the nature of how the relationship works. New guys, new back up beat reporter that gets more credability as the old one watches his slip away. My bet is that Mike T will be the Blazer beat writer by seasons end, or at least heading into the 2006-2007 season. As for JC, he is just a guy that likes to stir the pot. The problem is that his ego is always part of the recipe.

I have also noticed a pattern regarding the only all sports station in town. Whenever the Stars Cabaret commercials start running change is about to occur. Be careful Ian, the strip club commercial curse has returned to your station. That always means one thing, the powers that be will soon be clearing house. As someone that has listened to this station on multiple channels for many years I have noticed this strange pattern. I would even bet that you guys will soon be pushed into discussing more off-sports topics and get a little more edge into the show.

Many thanks,
Headbonk

 
At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just hope cannedham and jasonslows move away and cover some other lucky team.

 
At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe people are standing up for the Blazers on this issue. Wow (shaking head)...

Nate's problem was with the headline, plain and simple. Nate did not speak the quotes attributed to him in the Blazers release.

People need to understand that a reporter such as Quick has a tape recorder for all interviews. Notive that there are NO claims by the Blazers that any of the quotes were incorrect.

So why is there a problem?

Because the $84 million man won't work hard for the new coach.

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because Quick distorted the truth with the title. Media is a very powerful and influencial tool, and writers understand the power of the press. Some are willing to let Quick off the hook by hiding behind the editor. Ironic, a writer who holds management accountable for everything now wants to blame his article's title on a staff person.

 
At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quick and Canzano have been turning Blazer quotes into their own skewed opinions for quite some time. The only time I can stomach their articles is when they are covering the thoughts of Blazer fans as opposed to the coaches and players. I've grown annoyed with their 'interpretations' and would welcome some fresh viewpoints from their replacements.

 
At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That piece in the Oregonain on Sunday was pure B.S. Jason Quick -- a first rate professional???! This, about a guy that doesn't even know the nuances of the NBA Salary Cap??

Hey Ian -- step away from the Kool-Aid that the Oregonian is feeding you. You probably obviously don't even know about the banner headline that Quick & Canzano came up with that screamed:

Iavaroni to be next Blazers coach.

That episode alone should have been enough to let people know that Crapzano and Quick are clueless.

 
At 10:38 PM, Blogger BuddyJay said...

Toronto to contend for the wild card? How about contending for the East title. Mariners should be half as aggressive!

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger BuddyJay said...

YO YO VACATION BOY!

The most posts this blog has received in a long time, and then nothing. Dec 19th to at least Dec 29th.

Gotta keep it going with at least a little something to keep the interest.

HOW ABOUT:
Sports radio 1080 the fan seems to have a theme. Give your Blazer opinion then state that management is sticking to a plan and that is "GREAT." I have heard this verbatum from Big Suck and G. Dawson. Ian is the only one I have heard break stride with this theme lately.

I can't really figure out where the plan is going an why it is so important to stick to. You deviate from every plan you have in the past couple years unti you finally find a nice spot at the bottom, then it's time to stick to your guns? That's great the team is fighting, but that is more a product of the best signing managament has made ... the coach.

On the current path, the team stands to lose Joel P at the end of the year, and a lot more games next year. The current plan stands firmly on the shoulders of Z Randolph and D Miles. One solid puzzle piece and the other consistent at being inconsistent. These two shoulders can't even hold a team above 500 let-alone build a championship.

So it's all about the youth right? Stick to the plan and let the young guys develop. Well, great, but L James ain't here folks. Youth needs time to develop, and I don't mean playing time. Solid team build their youth through a progression of minutes over years, not trial by fire.

Take a look at the LA Clippers this year. A couple key moves and the right contracts for the right guys, and they are on top of the division. They aren't putting the franchise on the shoulders of the young point guard, they brought in Sam Cassell for veteran leadership. And PS, they signed the right guys to long term deals, Magette and Brand are the same thing as Randolph and Miles, only desire and talent separate them.

So stick to the plan and waste a few more years only to promiss better days when contracts come up? Haven't we heard that one before?

 
At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised that Ian would post this. The other main anti-Blazer media outlet would be Ian's show. Canzano and Quick should take the next greyhound out of Portland and take KFAN with them. The Portland media was the same shady group of hacks that ran Rasheed out of town trying to make mountains out of molehills.

How about actually supporting the team and propping them up? It's ok to be critical but you guys haven't had a damn positive thing to say about the second youngest team in the NBA and its new coach.

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger BuddyJay said...

Well, it's the fact that management thinks having the second youngest team is the way to build. Where has that worked in the past? Also, Ian's blog posts anything anyone wants to say, like your post. How about critiquing my comments instead of throwing acusations, it would be a better debate.

Do you really want to call Wallace's antics in Portland mole hills? Really? His angry behavior and stints of brilliance never balanced eachother. You say passion and I say ignorance. You say conspiracy and I say he never got 'it'.

Now, get back to my email Mr. Annonymous, and let's have some debate on points.

 
At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Zach said...

What do you think of the comment in the recent ESPN the Magazine stating that Nate McMillian has had enough and that he wants to move everyone except Przybillia, Webster, and Jarrett Jack (Page 86, 3Seconds)?

Do you think there is any truth to that, especially when you consider the comments that McMillian made to Jason Quick? Maybe Quick did misinterpret the coach, maybe it's not just Z Bo he wants gone but the whole damn lot of them.

And just to move on from As the Blazers Turn, with the Mariners signing Carl Everett to add piss and vinegar to the team, and Everett being a marginal talent at that *cough* what a horrible OBP *cough*, is it really worth the risk of upsetting the club house and the community? At least when the Eagles signed TO, TO is one of the most phenomenal talents in the league. Everett is not, he's not a game changer, or even a batter that pitchers fear. I can understand taking a risk on signing someone of questionable character to improve a team, I mean come on, the Mariners have been one of the worst teams in the league the last two years, but I just don't feel that risking losing the communities support over a player that isn't really going to make you better just isn't worth it.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger BuddyJay said...

When you see what the team has to work with, I bet any coach would like to get out from under the big two contracts and the phenom potential, cough cough, of Sebastian. But how could they? They would have to take on just as troubling contracts or just as flawed players. Seems management has locked Nate into this roster for a year or two more.

Wasn't Everett enemy #1 of Mariner fan? I just asked myself and the answer is YES! I agree with the down side, but I think his bat could add the necessary punch and guts the lineup lacked last year. How bad is that on base percentage?

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Zach said...

Everett batted .251 last year with an OBP of .311 and only 48 walks. As a longtime M's fan, of course we all got spoiled by having the greatest DH of all time, Edgar Martinez, putting up the Moneyball stats all the time. I just feel that as a DH, who's only job is to be an offensive threat, that Everett is seriously lacking, especially given his reputation as a cancer.

To put it in comparison, Richie Sexson, while batting a similar .263 put up an OBP of .369, even with all of Sexson's strike outs. Sexson also plays damn near gold glove first base, making him infinately more valuable. It could be I'm putting too much into Moneyball statistics, but I feel that the M's had no need to sign Everett. They could have rotated left field and DH between Ibanez and Mike Morse, keeping Morse, a great young talent, in the every day lineup to develop. (Morse's BA was .278 and OBP was .349 last year, and the M's are hoping he will develop into a legitimate 30 home run a year power threat). I just think that would have been the more reasonable action, you develop young talent, don't really lose anything offensively, and don't aggravate the fan base by making us deal with Everett.

 

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