Paul Allen Q&A: 'It's been a fantastic year'
These are the salad days for Paul Allen, the owner of the Trail Blazers and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. It's like someone who has hit the lottery jackpot twice in one year.
Allen's Blazers, who finished last season 33-49 and on a 13-game losing streak, are 19-4 and boast the best record in the NBA's Western Conference. Allen's Seahawks are 11-2, the best mark in the NFL.
Combined, the Seahawks and Blazers are 30-6, a winning percentage that is a shocking 83.3 percent.
Since Allen, 60, bought the Blazers from Larry Weinberg in 1988, Portland has had some excellent teams. The 1989-90 and 1991-92 clubs led by Clyde Drexler reached the NBA finals, and the 1999-2000 squad came within a Game 7, fourth-quarter collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers of making the finals. The Blazers haven't won a playoff series since that year, though -- the longest drought of any franchise in the West.
Allen, a Seattle native and resident of Mercer Island, Wash., bought the Seahawks in 1997 to ensure the franchise remained in Washington after former owner Ken Behring threatened a move to Southern California. The Seahawks reached the Super Bowl in 2005, losing 21-10 to Pittsburgh, and they are now positioned to make another push to get there under coach Pete Carroll.
The Portland Tribune caught up with Allen at halftime of Thursday night's 111-104 victory over Houston at the Moda Center to get the owner's reaction to the success of his two franchises.
Portland Tribune: It must be hard to be humble to be the owner of the Seahawks and the Trail Blazers right now.
Allen: Well, we have a lot yet to accomplish for both teams, but it's really exciting. I love the response of the fans both here and in Seattle. People are super excited. As a team owner, you love to have those years when things are going really well. The players are excelling, and everybody feeds off that energy. It's great to see.
Tribune: Your history has been as a basketball fan first. Have you grown to love football, too?
Allen: Of course I love basketball. I was asked to get involved with the NFL team, but I started out as a kid going to football games with my father. Once you become an owner of the team and you get to know the coaches and players and have owned the team for a number of years, it's a totally different thing. But I do enjoy football, too. It's played outdoors in the elements. It's once a week. That lends a certain kind of drama. The sheer ferocity of football is different. The NBA is intense, but the NFL is a whole 'nother level of intensity and dramatic, game-changing plays. They're both really exciting sports, and this year has super exciting for me.
Tribune: Has the Blazers' incredible start caught you by surprise?
Allen: I said not long ago that we've exceeded initial expectations. But once you get on a roll, everybody expects you to continue that. It's fun to see when you step up to a certain level, people buy in. They believe. But the games never stop coming. It's always interesting to see the ups and downs of the season. With the Seahawks, we're a few weeks away from the playoffs. We have a long way to go here in Portland for that.
Tribune: Are you beginning to feel the Blazers are a team capable of winning the NBA championship this season?
Allen: Oh, I never make predictions like that. We made a concerted effort in the offseason to bolster our bench. We knew we had a solid starting group. This is a good example of the difference a solid bench can make. This is much more of a wide-open year out West. Some of the teams that have been traditional powers like the Lakers not doing as well as they have in past years. If you're in the West, the teams are going to be so comparable from one through eight, there are going to be some interesting match-ups in the playoffs.
Tribune: Do you think experts are beginning to look at the Blazers at a favorite to get out of the West into the NBA finals?
Allen: I think most people at this point would still rank us as an underdog.
Tribune: What about the Seahawks? They were expected to be good, but this good?
Allen: Any time you're at this point in the season and you've only lost a couple of games, given the parity you have in the NFL, that's extraordinary, and you have to savor it. But there are games coming up that are very important in positioning for the playoffs. It's been a fantastic year. I was trying to think if I've ever had the Seahawks and the Blazers doing so well simultaneously.
Tribune: The answer is no.
Allen: It's a thrill every couple of days to see these two teams play.
Tribune: The Seahawks have one of the true phenomenons in the NFL in second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. What do you make of him?
Allen: Russell is just great. His demeanor, the way he is such a student of the game, the way he continually works on improving his play and makes everybody around him better -- it's just been great to watch that happen.
Tribune: The possibility exists for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl and the Blazers to win the NBA championship. What would be your reaction to that?
Allen: That would be wonderful if that happens. They would happen at two different times of the year -- one in February, one in summer. But I would never predict something like that. We've been to the Super Bowl with the Seahawks once, and it was an unbelievable experience. They actually had my name on a locker in the locker room. Walking in and seeing that, that was unbelievable. The intensity of the Super Bowl is one-of-a-kind. An NBA finals is best-of-seven. But the Super Bowl, one game, winner-take-all. The intensity is off the charts. We're going to find out about both teams in the next couple of months. I can't wait to see what happens.