THE FRONT ROW with Mark Nelke June 27, 2013 - Coeur d'Alene Press: Sports

THE FRONT ROW with Mark Nelke June 27, 2013

Good luck Olynyk, but beware....

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 12:00 am

When I heard the Portland Trail Blazers might be considering drafting Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga tonight, two things crossed my mind:

One, that would be neat if the NBA team from my home state - the team I screamed and yelled for in 1977, when they won their only NBA title in the midst of Blazermania - picked up a big man apparently on the rise.

But two, on the other hand, given the bad luck that seems to happen to their draft picks, do I really want to wish that curse on the latest lovable Zag?

DO WE need to go much further than center Greg Oden, who was seemingly injured for good moments after his name was called in 2007, or guard Brandon Roy, who was apparently healthy for four years at the University of Washington. But, not long after putting on a Trail Blazers uniform, Roy's knees started to deteriorate, his Portland career ended, and a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves appears to be over as well.

And if you want to go way back, look up Sam Bowie, whom the Blazers drafted ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984, who broke his leg with Portland and was never the same.

And, of course, Bill Walton, who led the Blazers to the '77 title and a 50-10 start in 1977-78, before myriad leg injuries shelved him and eventually led to a messy divorce from the club.

If Olynyk, a 7-foot forward who had a monster season as a junior, is available when Portland picks tonight at No. 10, he might want to not answer the phone if the Blazers call - hoping perhaps they hang up and go on to the next person on their list.

BESIDES, THE Blazers as currently constructed are pretty much a mess. They have some good players in point guard Damian Lillard, forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge and swingman Nicolas Batum, but little else.

The team appears to have no direction - the times I watched them, they didn't look like they had any idea what they wanted to do on offense. They seemed to pass the ball

around with no purpose, then whoever had the ball as the shot clock ran down jacked up a shot. Opposing teams knew who to take away and once they did, the Blazers didn't seem to know what Plan B was.

The result was a 33-49 season, and no playoff berth. Meanwhile, the guy picked after Oden, Kevin Durant, is having a pretty nice career.

FOR ALL the success of Gonzaga in its current run of 15 straight NCAA tournament appearances, that hasn't translated once the Zags reached the NBA.

Their best NBA success story remains John Stockton, who was pretty lightly regarded coming out of GU way back in 1984.

Of their other three first-round picks - Dan Dickau in 2002, Adam Morrison in '06 (and the third overall pick) and Austin Daye in '09 - only Daye is still in the league, with Memphis after having been traded by Detroit during the past season.

Their second-rounders are either end-of-the-bench guys (Ronny Turiaf, 2005 and Robert Sacre, '12) or not in the league (Blake Stepp, 2004).

What will help Olynyk is he has a face-the-basket game the other Zag posts lacked. It will also help if he goes to a team that knows how to utilize him, like San Antonio did with Danny Green, and the Miami Heat do with their collection of spot-up 3-point shooters.

They showed a replay of the '84 NBA draft the other day on TV. It was televised by the USA Network back then, and during the day if I remember correctly. Anyway, the buzz at that time was whether the Jazz would take a chance on a skinny, unproven point guard from a small school, or draft the local kid, high-scoring forward Devin Durrant from just down the road at BYU.

Looks like the Jazz made the right call.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter at CdAPressSports.

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