Blazer owner backs GM amid rumors swirl

PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen issued a statement affirming his support of general manager Kevin Pritchard as rumors fly concerning Pritchard's future with the team.

"I support everyone who works for me, including Kevin Pritchard, and that's why he's our general manager," Allen's statement said. "We all have the same goal — to bring another NBA championship to the great fans of Portland."

Last week the Blazers fired Tom Penn, Portland's vice president of basketball operations, touching off speculation that perhaps Pritchard was next. Penn was considered a salary cap specialist and key to many of Pritchard's player moves.

The Blazers would say only that Penn was dismissed for "philosophical differences."

There was further conjecture when agent Warren LeGarie, who represents Pritchard and Penn, made comments to several reporters suggesting Penn's firing was a message to Pritchard.

Pritchard and Blazers president Larry Miller spoke informally at the team's practice facility on Monday.

Asked if the organization planned on offering Pritchard a contract extension, Miller said that decision would wait until the end of the season.

"Well, the reality is, the way this organization has worked and the way most organizations work is that you get to the end of the season and you evaluate what's going on," Miller said. "We're going to take that same approach going into this."

Pritchard, meanwhile, expressed hope he would continue as Portland's general manager, a position he's held since early 2007.

"I think it's been, in some articles, that we're not connected. That's not right. I don't like that. I don't like when I see things written that aren't correct. We have a wonderful organization. We're a family. Do we have bumps in the road? Absolutely. We don't always agree on everything. I've told you guys this. I think what makes a great organization isn't that you disagree it's how you come together after you disagree."

Allen had remained silent on the matter until Thursday, when he put out a statement before Portland's game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Public sentiment was in Pritchard's favor. Several online petitions supporting the Blazers GM have appeared in the past week. One fan at the Rose Garden on Thursday night wore a Blazers' jersey with Pritchard's name on the back, another held a sign reading "Don't Ditch Pritch."

Pritchard was on a scouting trip and not at the game.

Allen in his statement also reiterated that decisions about personnel will be made after the season.

"We are not going to make any more long-term decisions today. When the season ends we will evaluate how best to move the Trail Blazers forward," the statement said. "That's no different than the way we have operated for the past 21 seasons."

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