From Comcast SportsNetPORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Paul Allen insists he's not going to sell the Portland Trail Blazers, but says this season is the most disappointing he's had in 24 years as the team's owner.The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft posted an open letter to fans on the Blazers' team website on Tuesday evening. In it, he reiterated what he's said all season long, that the team is not for sale."I'm working hard to get this team back on track," he wrote. "No offers have been made to buy the team and none have been solicited."The Blazers wrapped up the lockout-shortened season 28-38 and out of the playoffs. Portland is operating with an interim general manager and is looking for a head coach -- but the team has also collected up to four picks in the upcoming NBA draft and has freed up considerable cap space for free agency.Allen said he will be financially sensible with the moves the team makes."One thing we are not going to do is to spend money like there is no tomorrow, and calls to do so just don't make sense," Allen said. "I've tried that path before -- it doesn't work and is not sustainable. We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward."When the Blazers opened training camp in December, they were hit with bad news. All-Star guard Brandon Roy announced his retirement because of ongoing issues with his knees, former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden had suffered another setback with his knees, and forward LaMarcus Aldridge needed a procedure to treat a heart condition.Portland answered by signing free agent Jamal Crawford and making some other moves before Aldridge returned and the team got off to a fast start. But soon losses started to mount, and at the trade deadline the Blazers dismissed respected head coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers also traded starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, and waived Oden after five disappointing seasons."These things happen in sports. Injuries are part of the game. Sometimes you have bad luck. But as the 2011-2012 season played out, I was asking myself the same question I know a lot of you were asking: What happened to a season that had such promise?" Allen wrote. "There are no easy answers for that."Allen confirmed he has interviewed one candidate for the general manager's position personally. President Larry Miller said recently that acting GM Chad Buchanan would be considered."We're moving forward thoughtfully because we must ensure we have the right fit," Allen said. "Ideally, we'd like to have someone in place before the draft and before we decide on a permanent coach, but finding the right executive may take time."
A lot can happen between now and the 2017 NBA Draft on June 22. The NCAA Tournament isn't even over yet. But as of now, many project University of Washington guard and former DeMatha standout Markelle Fultz to be the No. 1 overall pick.
One of his biggest competitors for that honor is UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, whom many expect to be the second pick at this point. Ball, however, says he should go first.
"Markelle's a great player, but I feel I'm better than him," said Ball, who led the Bruins to a pair of blowout victories over Fultz's Huskies this season.
"I think I can lead a team better than him," Ball added. "Obviously he's a great scorer -- he's a great player, so I'm not taking that away from him."
Both Ball and Fultz are exceptional talents, each good enough to be the No. 1 overall pick in other NBA Draft years. But only one can go first and Fultz may have the edge.
At 6-foot-6 and with 7.6 assists per game, Ball is both taller and arguably more gifted as a passer. But Fultz is a rare athletic talent with his speed and leaping ability and scored 23.2 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.3 percent from three this season.
Both project to be perennial All-Stars, so it will be no easy decision for whomever lucks out with the top overall pick. But clearly Ball believes he should be the guy.
The 2017 NBA Draft class just keeps getting deeper. North Carolina State freshman Dennis Smith, Jr. has declared for the draft, according to ESPN, adding another potential superstar point guard to the mix.
Smith was sensational for the Wolfpack with 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds this season. He shot 45.5 percent while being the main focus of every opposing defense.
Listed at 6-foot-3, Smith made highlight reels consistently with high-flying dunks. Some have compared him to former Maryland great Steve Francis.
Worth nothing, however, is the fact Smith had surgery to repair a torn left ACL in August of 2015.
Right now Smith is projected as a top 7 pick, but just the fifth-best point guard by DraftExpress.com, behind UCLA's Lonzo Ball, Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and Markelle Fultz of the University of Washington.