Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen met with reporters this evening before the team's final game, expressing his disappointment about the Blazers' failure to make the playoffs as well as his belief that the team is nonetheless headed in a positive direction. Allen had plenty more to say, and Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge provides a full transcript. We'll pass along a few highlights here:
On GM Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts, both in their first year with the team:
I think they are both doing a very good job. Obviously the end of the season, injuries can really get you. Wes (Matthews), Nic (Batum) and (LaMarcus Aldridge) having some issues. That can always -- especially when you don' t have as much depth as you would like. I think you saw Terry institute that new brand of basketball to start out the season and I think compared to styles we've had in previous seasons, I think it's refreshing, unselfish style. In terms of what Neil did, we did very well in the draft, there's no question about that. I think getting Eric Maynor at the trade deadline that was a nice move. We're positioning ourselves for the future with cap room, draft picks, flexibility. It's going to be a very interesting offseason.
On his approach to the luxury tax:
Well, I'm not going to be a repeat offender with the multiplicative tax. That's something we'll try to stay, we'll be moderate, we're not going to be like the big-market teams that are paying the tax when they're in a championship window. People should understand, big markets have a huge local cable deal and can afford it when you're in a championship window, otherwise those taxes are so punitive they'll have their desired effect.
On the fight over the Kings between Sacramento and Seattle:
I think the league announced that there wasn't going to be a decision at this owners meeting. If there was, I'd be back in New York talking to people, forming my opinion. I think it's a tough call. While I supported the Sonics staying in Seattle when they ended up leaving, I think in general there's some feeling that if there's good fan support and there's good political support sufficient to have a state of the art facility, that's more than enough reason to keep a franchise in the same place. Then you can get into all the parameters of who has made the best offer, who hasn't made the best offer. It's a very difficult thing. Steve Ballmer is a very good friend of mine and I think he would be a great owner. I reserve my final decision.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey dished about his team with Justin Termine and Mateen Cleaves on the "Off The Dribble" show on SiriusXM Sports, revealing details about his plans and some of the moves he's made since taking over the Portland front office in June. Part of the agenda for the team is to address its rebounding deficiencies at the trade deadline and in the offseason, Olshey revealed. Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com put together a transcript of the full interview (hat tip to Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge), and we'll run down some of the juicier material here.
On whether the team will make moves to try to salvage this season:
"We need to see what we have, we need to develop our assets, we need to continue to groom Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge and get them to get to the next level, but look, next summer we're going to have $13MM in cap room, we're going to have a first (round pick), three seconds, we have an aggressive owner who's willing to spend whatever it takes to win. So the only thing we want to do is we don't want to race to the middle. We want to make moves that put us up at the upper echelon of the Western Conference when this thing comes together for a sustainable period of time, not make a bunch of incremental moves that maybe let us slide into eighth to go get swept in the first round and then be back to the drawing board again."
On the drafting of Damian Lillard:
"I just really felt when I met the kid and spent time with him and watched him interact with my staff, my owner and our coaches at the time, that he was the kind of guy you could hand the ball to day one, just like a Kyrie Irving or a (Russell) Westbrook, a (Derrick) D. Rose. I'm not comparing him to those players, but that's what those organizations did as well, and I really felt like he had the kind of gravitas and composure where opening night he could take the ball. And there were going to be some bumps in the road, but once we lived through them, he was a franchise-caliber point guard."
On the decision to match the Wolves' offer sheet for Nicolas Batum:
"Well look, he's a dynamic wing player. He's clearly far better than anybody we thought would be available on the free agent market had we not matched the offer sheet. We have an owner that,. he wants to build. He doesn't want to rebuild; he wants to build and he doesn't want to take a step backwards basketball-wise. We just felt like Nicolas was just coming into his prime; it's the first year he's going to be a full-time starter. He makes a huge impact on the defensive end of the floor, he can go for big numbers, and I really felt like the kind of system that Terry Stotts was going to run was absolutely suited for his skill set. He's off to a career year as well. Nicolas is a part of the core."
On the hiring of coach Terry Stotts:
"I think we took a little bit of a different approach. We put the roster together first and then hired the best coach we thought would fit it. I thought Terry would be a great partner; he and I had a relationship prior to this. We'd been on the floor together working with players. I think he has a great … he gets great respect from his players. I thought he would know how to utilize LaMarcus (Aldridge) to the best of his ability, and I think I felt like we have a lot of pieces very similar to the Dallas team that won the championship in terms of skill set and style of play. And we really felt like when he implemented that offense, it was going to heighten the value and production of guys like Wes Matthews and Nic Batum, which was really important to us, to make sure those guys took the next step in their development as players. I also knew he'd be open to playing younger players. That had been his history."
Now that Damian Lillard has gotten a taste of what the NBA is like, the Trail Blazers' rookie point guard told CSNNW.com about his experiences so far and what he's learned after a few preseason games. Here are a few more links out of Portland tonight:
The Blazers caught a tough break today, as guard Elliot Williams tore his left ACL during a voluntary workout, The Oregonian's Joe Freeman reports. He'll have surgery, but there's no date set for that and no timetable for his recovery (Twitter links). Williams missed his entire rookie year because of surgery on both knees, and this past season ended prematurely for him because of a dislocated left shoulder. He's played in only 24 games since the team drafted him 22nd overall in 2010, and though the $1.443MM he'll receive on his rookie scale contract this year is guaranteed, the Blazers have until October 31st to decide whether to pick up their option on his $2.374MM for 2013/14. There's more out of Portland tonight, along with news on other Northwest Division clubs:
Earlier today, the Trail Blazers held a press conference to introduce newly-minted head coach Terry Stotts to the public. The latest out of Portland..
8:07pm: Neil Olshey announced that Kaleb Canales will remain on the team as an assistant coach, according to a tweet by Quick.
6:01pm: Jason Quick of The Oregonian tweets that the Trail Blazers have hired Terry Stotts as their new head coach. Stotts had been an assistant on the Mavericks' coaching staff since 2008 after holding head coaching positions with the Bucks from 2005 to 2007 and the Hawks from 2002 to 2004. His best season to date occurred during 2005-06, when he led Milwaukee to 40 wins and the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Overall, Stott's record as a head coach stands at 115 wins and 168 losses.
Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge.com relayed an official statement released by GM Neil Olshey (Sulia link):
“Terry is one of the elite offensive minds in the NBA, has extensive experience with multiple organizations and was instrumental in the Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA Championship...He understands the vision for the future of the franchise, appreciates the process involved and will create an environment on the court that will produce championship habits."
Golliver also noted a statement from Stotts (Sulia link):
"I’m very pleased to be a part of a great franchise in a beautiful city with such a proud history. I look forward to working hard with Neil and our players toward the ultimate goal of bringing another championship to Portland.”
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Kaleb Canales, the other finalist for the Portland's coaching search, will be retained by the franchise in some capacity (Twitter link). Canales had served as the team's interim head coach last season and was reportedly well-liked by members of the organization.
2:50pm: According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Allen's interviews with Stotts and Canales in London have already been completed (Twitter link).
2:29pm: The final two candidates for the Trail Blazers head coach job, Mavericks assistant Terry Stotts and Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales, are traveling to London this weekend to meet with team owner Paul Allen, says Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. According to Haynes, the London meetings will represent the final phase of the interview process, with a decision on the new Portland coach expected shortly thereafter.
Stotts and Canales were joined by Suns assistant Elston Turner and Magic assistant Steve Clifford as finalists for the Blazers job, but Turner and Clifford were informed earlier this week that they were no longer in the running, says Haynes.
Canales' stint as Nate McMillan's replacement in 2011/12 was his first NBA head coaching gig. Stotts, meanwhile, coached the Hawks from 2002 to 2004, and the Bucks from '05 to '07.
AUGUST 1, 7:29pm: The field of finalists has been trimmed to two, with Steve Clifford and Elston Turner out of the running, Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports. That leaves Terry Stotts and Kaleb Canales as the two remaining candidates.
JULY 26, 12:25pm: The second round of interviews will include owner Paul Allen and will begin on Tuesday, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Haynes also hasn't heard anything about a fifth candidate being in the mix.
JULY 25, 5:34pm: There could be a fifth "mystery" candidate involved, according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian. While his identity is unknown, the fifth candidate is not represented by Warren LeGarie, the agent for GM Neil Olshey, or Steve Kauffman, another prominent agent in coaching circles. If the Blazers go with the fifth candidate, it would be late in the process, Quick hears, so it appears he's regarded as a fallback option (All Twitter links).
3:14pm: The final four candidates for the Blazers' opening are Terry Stotts, Elston Turner, Steve Clifford, and Kaleb Canales, reports Jason Quick of the Oregonian (via Twitter). The team will conduct a second round of interviews next week with the remaining contenders, according to Quick (Twitter link).
3:07pm: After an offseason in which he interviewed for a number of head coach positions, Brian Shaw will be returning to Indiana as an assistant. According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian (via Twitter), Shaw and Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey spoke today and decided that the Portland coaching job wasn't a fit for the Pacers assistant, who also interviewed with the Magic and Bobcats.
As for the Blazers, even with Shaw out of the running, there are still plenty of candidates for the club's head coach position. Quick confirms that the team has interviewed at least the following candidates so far: Warriors assistant Michael Malone, Mavericks assistant Terry Stotts; Grizzlies assistant David Joerger; former Magic assistant Steve Clifford, Suns assistant Elston Turner, Hawks assistant Lester Conner; Heat assistant David Fizdale, Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, and former Knicks and Suns assistant Phil Weber.
Fizdale has withdrawn from consideration, while Clifford is nearing a deal to join the Bulls as an assistant, says Quick.
Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson appeared on fishbowlnetworkradio.com on Monday, speaking about a number of topics related to his team's offseason. As Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star Telegram writes, Nelson says Deron Williams was the key to the Mavericks' summer -- Nelson believes the Mavs would have re-signed Jason Terry and Jason Kidd if Williams had chosen Dallas. Those are interest comments, since Terry and Kidd both had huge cap holds on the Mavs' books. If Dallas hoped to re-sign both players at reasonable rates, the team couldn't have renounced its rights to either player, which means there would have been no cap room for Williams. Perhaps a sign-and-trade could have been worked out with the Nets if D-Will had chosen the Mavs.
In any case, Nelson also weighed in a few more issues, so let's round up the highlights....