Off season contract negotiations, injuries and retirement cause major player movement in Rip City’s team
Significant roster changes have been made to the Portland Trail Blazers team in 2011.
Since the end of the 2011 season, the Blazers have made substitutions at point guard by swapping out Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, and have also made changes to their bench by shedding Rudy Fernandez and signing Jamal Crawford.
In June 2011, the Blazers traded Fernandez to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round draft pick, and then sent that pick, along with Miller, to Denver for Felton. Right before the season started, the team also signed Crawford to a two-year, $10 million contract.
At 27 years old, Felton is eight years Miller’s junior and has more active offensive statistics. Although Felton will be a free agent at the end of the season, it is expected that the Blazers will attempt to retain him.
Crawford, 31, is a former Sixth Man of the Year who has noticeable offensive skills at the shooting guard position. He was a contributor to major Blazer wins over Denver and Los Angeles in the first two weeks of the season, dropping 22 points on the Nuggets and 17 on the Lakers.
Along with signing new players to the team, the Portland Trail Blazers also began the 2012 season without three of their key 2011 players.
Brandon Roy, the face of the franchise over the last few years, announced his retirement in December after just five years in the NBA. He suffered from knee problems in the previous two seasons and a full recovery seemed doubtful. In the 2011 season, Roy was markedly absent, playing in his fewest number of games and posting his worst numbers in all offensive categories.
Roy is owed $14.9 million for 2012 and a remaining $49 million for 2012–14, but his retirement will void the final two years on his contract. This leaves Portland responsible only to pay his 2012 salary. After his retirement announcement, the Blazers elected to invoke the amnesty clause on him, thus further lessening their financial burden. His salary will be wiped off of their cap, reducing the overall payroll to $62 million, which exempts the team from paying the NBA luxury tax line currently set at $70.1 million.
Roy will not be the only notable absence from the 2012 Blazer squad. Center Greg Oden, the team’s highly touted former number-one pick from 2007, suffered a setback in his recovery from a 2011 injury in December, leaving the question of whether he will play at all in this season. This latest injury adds to the long list of injuries for the embattled Oden, who has missed two entire seasons, including the 2011 season, and has only played a total of 82 total games since 2007.
A restricted free agent in the offseason, Oden recently signed a one-year, $8.8 million contract to stay with the team, but following his injury the deal was altered to one year and $1.5 million.
Patty Mills, who earned $937,195 in the 2010–11 season, left the NBA in order to play professionally in China. As of Jan. 3, Patty Mills was released from his contract with the Xinjiang team due to a hamstring injury.