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Odd draft night in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — There were rumors the Portland Trail Blazers were going to make a big move on draft night. What happened was downright odd.

A report surfaced less than an hour before the draft started that general manager Kevin Pritchard had been fired — but was still going to be involved in the draft process.

The Blazers immediately went into lockdown and no one would comment — even off the record — on the dismissal. Pritchard was sequestered in the so-called war room. A sampling of representatives for current Blazers players were in the dark, having only heard the rumors.

In the meantime, Portland conducted a solid, but lackluster, draft.

First the Blazers selected Memphis swingman Elliot Williams with the 22nd pick. Williams averaged 17.9 points, four rebounds and 3.8 assists with the Tigers last season as a sophomore after transferring from Duke.

The Blazers also traded forward Martell Webster to Minnesota in exchange for forward Ryan Gomes and 16th overall pick Luke Babbitt of Nevada.

And finally, Portland selected Nevada guard Armon Johnson with the 34th pick. Johnson averaged 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists with the Wolf Pack last season as a junior.

When it was all over, the Blazers confirmed it. Pritchard, a fan-friendly GM who had ushered the team out of the Jail Blazers era, was "relieved of his duties." No reason was given.

Pritchard ducked out of the Blazers' practice facility without commenting.

"Parting ways with a popular general manager is not something we take lightly," billionaire owner Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, said in a statement. "In the end, we decided to make a change."

The picks Pritchard helped to make Thursday night could figure into a bigger deal when free agency opens on July 1 — a deal that will be made without him. Michael Born, Portland's director of NBA scouting, and Chad Buchanan, director of college scouting, will fill Pritchard's role until a replacement is found, the Blazers said.

Babbitt, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward, averaged 21.9 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Wolf Pack before deciding to leave school after his sophomore year. He was the highest pick out of Nevada since Kirk Snyder was selected at No. 16 in 2004.

Gomes spent the past three seasons in Minnesota after coming over from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade. He averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season.

After transferring from Duke, Memphis native Williams was able to play for the Tigers last season because he was granted a hardship transfer to care for his ill mother.

The last two Tigers drafted in the first round went on to become NBA rookies of the year — Tyreke Evans last season and Derrick Rose the season before that.

Pritchard, aware he's been in the hot seat for several months, said last week he would fight for his job, repeating the phrase "may the best man win." So there was speculation that he would make a major move in an effort to save his job.

But no such blockbuster materialized.

Earlier this week the Blazers were in talks with several teams about deals involving swingman Rudy Fernandez, according to a source close to the negotiations who did not want to be identified before a deal was official. No deal was struck.

There also was talk the Blazers are interested in New Orleans' Chris Paul. Portland is in position to make sure a move, because it holds a mid-level exception worth about $6 million, and the expiring contracts of guard Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla, which total about $14 million.

Coach Nate McMillan said he had become close friends with Pritchard and was sorry to see him go.

"It's been a great relationship, it's been a great partnership, and I respect what he's done with this team," McMillan said.