Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen released a statement saying she’s focused on winning, not selling the team. It almost sounded like a message to Portland star Damian Lillard, who reportedly wants to assess the team’s direction before signing a contract extension.
But, according to a new report, Allen isn’t talking directly to Lillard at all.
Sources told The Post, there is growing disarray behind the scenes. A highly placed team staffer alleged that Jody’s “toxic behavior” — dating back to allegations of harassing bodyguards and violating US import laws — has spilled over into the management of the team.
She has also refused to talk to Blazers star player Damian Lillard, who reportedly has had issues with the way the team is being run, the team source claimed.
“Damian wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jody about the team and she didn’t return his call. Then he tried to email her. Eventually she just never responded and put him in touch with Bert,” the source alleged. “When you own a team, there are critical key decisions to make and you should be the one involved in making the decisions.”
I’m skeptical about information like this on Lillard coming through New York, where the Knicks had seemingly been trying to pry him loose.
The only named source in the article is former Trail Blazers executive Larry Miller. Miller is now a Nike executive. Nike founder and chairman emeritus Phil Knight is trying to buy the Trail Blazers – and getting shot down by Allen. Maybe everything Miller says is accurate. But he has a conflict of interest as he argues Allen should sell the team and alleges problems in Portland.
Miller brought up former Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey, whom the team fired last year for workplace misconduct. But there’s room to debate whether Olshey’s behavior reflects on Allen and therefore ongoing issues within the organization. Allen didn’t take over the team until 2018. So, most of Olshey’s tenure predated her. There’s a case Allen deserves credit for cleaning up a problem.
Along those lines, Allen never chose to buy an NBA team. She inherited the Trail Blazers from her brother, Paul Allen. It wouldn’t be shocking if she weren’t interested in conducting day-to-day basketball-operations duties – even as high level as talking with Lillard.
There’s also a theory the Trail Blazers want to move on from Lillard but don’t want to be seen as having spurned the loyal star. Maybe Allen is deliberately neglecting Lillard. He’s coming off a down season, will turn 32 next week and could get even more expensive. It might not be kind, but giving Lillard the cold shoulder isn’t totally insensible. (However, if not wanting to keep Lillard, simply not offering him a contract extension would be far more honorable – though your mileage may vary on the importance of honorability in this aspect of professional sports.)
If Allen is truly disregarding Lillard, it would look like quite the sea change for her. In 2020, then-Portland guard C.J. McCollum commended Allen for voting no on the NBA’s bubble plan: “We play for an ownership group that actually listens to its players.”