Blazers take a long look at Georgia’s Caldwell-Pope

SEC player of the year workouts in Portland




TUALATIN, Ore. — The atmosphere inside the practice facility on Monday morning had the feel of a Portland Trail Blazers’ Cabinet meeting.

On the sideline during the team’s third pre-draft workout, team owner Paul Allen sat next to general manager Neil Olshey.

Down the row of padded folding chairs or milling about the gym, more front-office types, specifically the important guys who get their smiling head shots pictured inside the team’s media guide: the assistant general manager, the director of college scouting, the head NBA scout, the salary cap analyst as well as the basketball analytics manager. Not to mention at least four current players and the majority of the coaching staff also gathered.

Even head coach Terry Stotts, assisted by two crutches after undergoing his second hip surgery of this offseason, reappeared after taking the last workout off.

“You definitely notice them,” Kansas senior Elijah Johnson said while gesturing over his shoulder at the contingent. “When they’re right there on the sideline like that, you can’t help but notice them.”

With all due respect to Johnson, the team personnel likely could not help but notice another player: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the first true lottery prospect that the Blazers have brought in for pre-draft workouts.

Caldwell-Pope, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound shooting guard, had averaged 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds during his sophomore season at Georgia. After winning the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award, Caldwell-Pope declared for the NBA Draft and has consistently been labeled a top 20 pick.

The Blazers hold the No. 10 selection and could have considerable interest in Caldwell-Pope as evidenced by the fact that the team scheduled a dinner date with the prospect after he landed in Portland.

“We had a great conversation,” said Caldwell-Pope, who mentioned that Olshey and the “scouting team” attended the dinner. “They got to know me. Asked a lot of questions. It went well.”

The Sunday night dinner — which seemed more like a job interview than a merry feast — recalled memories of the hospitality shown to Damian Lillard.

Before last summer’s Draft, several Blazers staffers broke bread with Lillard, the team selected him with the sixth pick and the union proved prosperous as Lillard plugged the hole as the franchise point guard and ran away with the 2012-2013 Rookie of the Year award.

The fate of Caldwell-Pope remains to be seen, especially since Allen and every other team official did not comment after the workouts. Still, Caldwell-Pope took the time to review the Monday session — only his second workout with an NBA team — and highlighted the positives and negatives.

The six participants competed in various games of 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 and also showcased their skills in dribbling and shooting drills. Caldwell-Pope, who made just 43.3 percent of his shots as a sophomore, praised his energy but regretted moments when his jumper failed him.

“I’d say it was average,” Caldwell-Pope said, describing his shooting performance on Monday. “I missed some wide open shots, but I had good looks. Felt good coming off but it didn’t go down like I wanted.”

During the 3-on-3 competitions, Johnson said that he teamed with Caldwell-Pope and BYU big man Brandon Davies against point guard Abdul Gaddy (Washington), guard Sherwood Brown (Florida Gulf Coast) and forward/center Jared Berggren (Wisconsin). After a rough start, Johnson said that the trio gelled for a strong closing.

“Actually, at the beginning of the workout, we were losing a lot” Johnson said. “But towards the end, we started to win most of the games. I feel like we split the workout.”

With workouts in Minnesota and Portland behind him, Caldwell-Pope said that he still has seven more on the horizon, which includes the Cleveland Cavaliers who own the Nos. 1 and 19 first-round picks.