Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, and his lonely Saturday night walk – OregonLive.com
On Saturday, the man who is never alone wanted to be alone.
Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, a billionaire who is constantly shadowed by bodyguards and doting employees, left the Moda Center on Saturday without a word, his head drooped, his feet shuffling and his hat pulled low.
Left behind in his private suite were cakes befitting of a wedding, the delicate details of the frosting still evident, for they were not even touched.
“Such a shame,” an employee said as the grand desserts were wheeled out. “They were from Papa Haydn.”
It’s hard to blame the Blazers’ owner for losing his appetite during this playoff series against Memphis. In three games, the Blazers and Grizzlies have played 144 minutes. The Grizzlies have led for 131 of those minutes, and nearly half of that time (59 minutes) has been spent owning a double-digit cushion.
Normally, the Blazers owner makes at least one pit stop before leaving the Moda Center. On rare occasions, he heads to the locker room. And sometimes, he stops by the coaches’ offices.
But on Saturday, as general manager Neil Olshey peeled off into the locker room entrance, Allen walked on.
And almost always, Allen stops in the private suite, perhaps to indulge in Papa Haydn desserts, or his other favorite Portland delicacy, Escape From New York Pizza.
But on Saturday, as Bert Kolde, his right-hand man and director on the Blazers’ board, stopped off at the suite, Allen trudged on.
He didn’t say a word to either Olshey or Kolde. And as he inched down the hallway at a snail’s pace, he didn’t look up but once, to slightly veer from a ballboy wheeling a cart hauling water coolers.
I’ve never seen Allen provided with such a berth. And I’ve never seen him walk so slowly, or with such a dejection.
It is the scene that will resonate after this soul-sucking, death-by-one-million-cuts series against Memphis.
This hasn’t been just a beat down. As evident by Allen’s solemn walk Saturday, this has been a foundation rattling defeat.
Two months ago, we thought these Blazers were in the mix to contend for the NBA title. But that was before Wesley Matthews was lost for the season. Before we discovered Arron Afflalo was nowhere near as good as advertised. And before anyone could imagine Damian Lillard would be so vastly outplayed by Mike Conley head-to-head.
Now, questions abound.
There is unease about the future of LaMarcus Aldridge, who will become a free agent on July 1. ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Saturday reported that he asked Aldridge if Portland is his No. 1 choice. Broussard said Aldridge smiled and said “We’ll see.”
And after Game 2 in Memphis, Olshey gave the team the option to stay the night and fly home on the team charter, or return to Portland on their own.
Take it for what it’s worth, but only one player wasn’t on the team charter: Aldridge.
“I didn’t want to stay in that hotel one more night,” Aldridge said on Saturday. “So I bought my own ticket and flew home.”
Having stayed in Memphis hotels, I don’t halfway blame Aldridge for wanting to get back to Portland as soon as possible. But it also doesn’t scream brotherhood, or togetherness, either.
But back to Allen.
Since his Seattle Seahawks have become the class of the NFL, it has indirectly put the Blazers on the hot seat. After all, if the Seahawks can do it, why can’t the Blazers?
Allen has always been known as a demanding, hands-on owner with a willingness to open his checkbook. But that comes with a high bar of expectations.
He has spent millions upgrading the team’s practice facility and the Moda Center locker room. And in the past year, he has given contract extensions to coach Terry Stotts and Olshey.
Now, with what looks like a certain, and demoralizing, first-round exit, coupled with confusing smoke signals from the franchise player, Allen will once again be asked to open his checkbook. Matthews is a free agent. Robin Lopez will be up for a new contract. And Lillard is headed for a big payday.
Money, it turns out, can’t always buy you happiness.
Sometimes, it just buys you enough space to walk alone, in silence.