Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey won’t back down from the notion of making the playoffs as a goal this season, saying the same is true for all 30 teams, as The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman relays via Twitter. Still, player development is also a priority, Olshey said, as Freeman notes in a full piece.
“Same way we always do,” Olshey said of the way the team will measure its success this season. “Are our players getting better? Are we building a culture? Are we better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning? And does this roster have the potential to sustain excellence?”
Much has changed for the Blazers, who didn’t re-sign any of their seven free agents from last year. See more from Portland amid the latest from the Northwest Division:
- Nuggets coach Michael Malone is pumped about adding Mike Miller, whom he calls a “deadly shooter” with championship experience who can serve as a mentor to the younger players on the roster, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post chronicles. Miller seemingly had other options, with the Grizzlies, Thunder and Mavericks reportedly interested in him this summer before this week’s buyout from the Blazers, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Nuggets. “I’m excited,” Miller said Thursday about joining Denver, according to Dempsey. “I’ve always had a great relationship with this organization. I think they do a great job. The fans in Denver are fantastic, which makes it exciting. We’ve got this young team, which they continue to build, and hopefully we’ll have a successful season.”
- Miller relinquished $200K in his buyout, leaving Portland with an obligation of about $3.08MM to him on this season’s books, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Miller signed a minimum-salary deal with the Nuggets, but teams often waive set-off rights when buyouts take place, so it’s unclear if the Blazers will recoup any additional money because of Miller’s Denver contract.
- Both the Thunder and max salary signee Enes Kanter are focused on improving his woeful defense, and the team believes increased production for him on that end of the floor will have much to do with the rest of the team around him, as Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman details. “It was a different system for him coming in. He [was] playing in Utah, where we played a totally different defense than they played last season, so of course there’s gonna be some growing pains,” Kevin Durant said. “Now, he’s focused, he’s locked in a little bit more, and he’s learning just as quickly as we are.”
- Blazers trade acquisition Maurice Harkless has looked strong during voluntary team workouts and the first days of camp, and he’s giving free agent signee Al-Farouq Aminu a run for the starting job at small forward, The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman observes. Harkless is eligible for a rookie scale extension through November 2nd, though no indication has emerged to date that the Blazers are thinking about giving him one. Harkless admits the lack of playing time with the Magic last season was a challenge, but the Blazers plan to give him plenty of opportunities this season, as fellow Oregonian scribe Mike Richman details.