The managerial soap opera playing out in Portland seemingly could affect the brain trust in Oklahoma City. While the Blazers and Thunder battled it out on the court Sunday night, and continue to compete for the title of league’s best up-and-comer, the team’s front offices could soon start competing for the services of the same man.
Thunder assistant general manager Rich Cho already has had his name tossed into the speculative short list of candidates to replace recently fired Blazers vice president of basketball operations Tom Penn. Penn was described as Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard’s right hand man, and Cho has a close relationship with Pritchard. But jumping to Portland to assume the same position would be a lateral move for Cho. The more intriguing prospect could be Pritchard’s job, which is widely believed to be up in the air despite his dazzling makeover of the Blazers. Whether the Blazers will indeed cut ties with Pritchard remains to be seen. Cho currently isn’t believed to be on the Blazers’ radar for the potential opening. But he has the credentials to be in the conversation. Cho is in his 12th season with the Thunder/Sonics franchise. When general manager Sam Presti took the reigns in 2007, he flanked himself with his own people. People he knew. People he trusted. He retained Cho. Cho is as integral as any person in the organization. He handles contract negotiations, salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement matters, player contracts and all player personnel issues. He’s had a hand in coups such as Thabo Sefolosha’s contract extension last October, a deal that helped OKC avoid having the defensive stopper’s restricted free agency tie up its salary cap room this summer; Nenad Krstic’s offer sheet last season that New Jersey couldn’t afford to match; and the lopsided financially motivated trade with Utah that brought Eric Maynor to town. Cho also overseas operations for the Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League. It’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Portland passes up Cho.