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Miller: Blazers haven't reached out to Lakers regarding Kupchak

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Associated Press
4/19/2012 8:32:42 PM
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said the team has not reached out to the Los Angeles Lakers for permission to talk to general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Miller would not comment specifically on an ESPN report Thursday that the Blazers are interested in interviewing Kupchak about the general manager's job in Portland. The team does not want to name potential candidates.

But he did say that that the Blazers had not taken the step of asking the Lakers for permission to talk with Kupchak, who has been the head of basketball operations for the Lakers for 12 years.

The Blazers are currently operating under interim general manager Chad Buchanan, who was Portland's director of college scouting until the team parted ways with former general manager Rich Cho last May.

Cho had been with the Blazers for less than a year when he was dismissed by billionaire owner Paul Allen. The search for a replacement was suspended during the NBA lockout and only recently resumed.

"We're moving along. We've got a few people we've reached out to, we've got a couple of people we have plans to talk to, and we've been contacted by a number of people," Miller said. "Our plan is to try not to move too fast. We want to take our time to get the right person. But it is moving. "

Miller said that no candidate has been interviewed by Allen yet.

He said the priority will be to hire a general manager, ideally by the NBA draft in June, and then that person will be involved in the search for a new head coach. The Trail Blazers fired coach Nate McMillan at the trade deadline and replaced him on an interim basis with assistant Kaleb Canales.

Whoever is hired as general manager will inherit a team that has had a tumultuous season. The Blazers were rocked at the start of training camp when three-time All-Star Brandon Roy abruptly announced his retirement because of ongoing issues with his knees. The Blazers also learned that former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden was still having trouble with a surgically repaired knee.

The Blazers appeared to address issues with their roster by acquiring sixth man Jamal Crawford and veteran Kurt Thomas. But from mid-February to mid-March, the team went 6-13 and fell out of the playoff race in the Western Conference.

As a result, McMillan was fired after six seasons and the Blazers appeared to move into rebuilding mode by trading away starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace. The team also waived Oden, who had three microfracture surgeries on his knees and played just 82 games in five seasons in Portland.

Because of their player moves, the Blazers look to have an active off-season -- and that's not including the GM and coach search. If Crawford decides to opt out of his contract, it appears that the Blazers will have some $25 million in cap space to manoeuvr into free agency. They'll also have up to four picks in the NBA draft.

Miller said that Buchanan, who has been praised for his management of the team given the circumstances, would be considered for the GM job. Earlier, the Blazers had said that Buchanan was not a candidate because the team was seeking someone with previous experience as a general manager.

Miller also addressed concerns that the Blazers were having trouble attracting candidates because of the turmoil surrounding the team, including ever-present rumours that Allen is planning to sell the team. The owner has vehemently denied those rumours.

"I think people realize that we're in a good position going into the off-season with the picks that we potentially have, with the cap space that we have. I think it's an attractive situation for somebody," Miller said. "I've gotten no feedback from anyone that people are concerned with where we are. To me, if anything, it's just the opposite."

Mitch Kupchak  (Photo: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

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(Photo: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
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