The Blazers are playoff bound this year and that’s thanks in part to the work of General Manager Neil Olshey. The Portland decision-maker took some time last week to sit down with Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW for an interview and Chris Haynes has the goods. Let’s take a look at the highlights..
How were you able to acquire Robin Lopez for virtually nothing?
It’s the old, how do you become a millionaire? First start with a million dollars. So, I think what we had to do was be really optimistic. We had a very specific need and that solidified what we were looking at. We knew the type of player we wanted to bring in and we found two teams that basically had different goals where we could facilitate a transaction between them and we were able to participate in that. A lot of it, Arn Tellem was great to us because Robin really liked the Portland market. Arn liked the situation basketball wise. He also represents LaMarcus Aldridge so everybody involved wanted to make the deal work. And everybody’s goals were met. New Orleans ended up with Tyreke Evans, Sacramento ended up with assets and we ended up with the missing piece for us, which was a defensive-minded center.
How did signing Mo Williams come about?
I think guards win games. We all just watched the NCAA Tournament and you look at guard-oriented teams. This is clearly different, our league but guards are just so critical with our game, the new rules, the floor being more open. I had a great comfort level with Mo. I traded for him with L.A., when I was with the Clippers. I had worked him out for the draft before I got into the NBA. Terry [Stotts] had coached him. So much of what we do is predicated on the ability to trust the pass and make shots. And that’s what Mo brings. One of the other goals was we wanted to have somebody that could play on or off the ball. It was so important for us when we looked at what Eric Maynor brought to the table back in March of last year, how efficient our offense was. Knowing how good we can be when Damian gets to get off the ball, not have primary playmaking responsibilities every possession. And Mo does that. He’s leading the league in assists off the bench. I think if you look at it, how efficient Damian is when he gets off the ball and you have two primary ball handlers, our offensive efficiency just goes up.
What do you think about LaMarucs Aldridge and Damian Lillard saying they’ll actively recruit players to come to Portland?
Well, I think it’s a window into what type of people LaMarcus and Damian are. And I think probably even more important than whether or not they can deliver on that promise, is the fact that they are willing to try. And it’s an endorsement of our culture, it’s an endorsement of the things we’re trying to do here. It’s a belief in our mission. I do think that one of the things we tried to do when we got here was a lot of teams face different challenges in their markets in the league. Not every market is based in one of the Top 2 cities in the league on a beach; nightlife and you can’t answer all the questions. But one of things you can answer and can control is the basketball environment. The renovation of the practice facility, things going on at the Moda Center, an incredible fan base, an owner who couldn’t be more committed and passionate about winning, who has a track record of winning and just won a Super Bowl. So I think the belief there is that you want players, not only to be able to retain your own players, which I think is critical with the new collective bargaining agreement, but when you go out to recruit, the ability to say transparently, this is the best basketball environment you can be in for your career.