Neil Olshey On: Team Needs, Free Agents, Lillard

Trail Blazers executive Neil Olshey held a question and answer session with reporters earlier today, his first since the team was eliminated by the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals. Olshey addressed a number of topics regarding the team’s offseason ahead and some of the highlights are shown below. The transcription comes courtesy of Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:

On the team’s biggest needs:

I don’t want to get too specific, because then it all of a sudden it translates to we’re talking about specific players. Clearly there’s areas we need to improve. We didn’t answer all of our questions last year. When we talked … last July, nobody was under the impression that we built an entire roster for the next five years. But it was step one. I think step one just got us closer to where we want to go, but there’s still work to be done. We’ll look for upgrades, even if it’s not over guys that are here. But if we lose guys to free agency, we’ll have roster spots. We’ll find ways to continue to build the roster. We’ll have some flexibility because the cap holds for our restricted free agents are lower, probably, than their market value. So we have the opportunity to go out and use these resources this summer. Like I said, we’ll be as aggressive as we were last July.

On whether or not he considers recruiting big name free agents to Portland a hurdle:

It’s absolutely a hurdle. I think we’ve said it. Whenever we break the ice on that, when we get that first guy to come, it will be unprecedented when you look at the history. I think we’ve gotten good free agents. Brian Grant and Wesley Matthews and guys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis and players like Chris Kaman. We’ve gotten guys, but they’ve had the right sensibility that we knew they would work in this marketplace, they fit with the team.

The key for us is making sure the guys we get are about what we’re about, that basketball is their first priority. And they’ll subordinate lifestyle at times for success on the court. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. All we can control is creating the best basketball environment we can possibly control. The longer we’re at this and the more we do this; our guys that were here become ambassadors for the way they were treated. You want that to circulate around the league, that this is place you want to go. If basketball is your priority, they’ll make you the priority. You’ll work as a team and as an individual.

On if Damian Lillard will play a role in recruiting free agents:

He played a role last year, too. I’m a big believer in talking to players about player acquisitions. I did it with guys with the Clippers, I did it since I’ve been here. It’s not a matter of them signing off on guys, it’s a matter of getting feedback and how do we think a guy would fit in. Because we do protect our culture. Players know players better than we do. They’re in the locker rooms with them, they’re on the road with them, they play against them, they’re on the floor with them. So they know what guys are about. It would be obtuse not to go ask these guys, ‘Hey, what do you think? What have you heard? You played with this guy in this spot. Would he fit in with how we do things?’ I can tell you there have been decisions we’ve made — and this isn’t just Damian at the All-Star level, this is across the board — where I’ve asked guys and I’ve said, ‘You know what, based on what he’s said, we might want to kind of dig in on this guy a little bit and make sure he would fit in with what we’re doing.”

On if the team will target players who are on similar career arcs of Lillard and C.J. McCollum:

That’s a good question. It always depends on who the player is. My buddy [Kaman] is sitting up there, the gray beard. Chris got along with this group, regardless of age, as well as anybody. His leadership with Dame, the way he related to the younger guys in our locker room. I get your point about the age when we made long-term decisions. But age doesn’t factor in if culturally, chemistry … guys aren’t going to fit into our group. I think that’s really what’s important. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the roster. Clearly if you can sign a younger player longer term, if you believe in them, it’s more beneficial for the long-term health of the organization.

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One thought on “Neil Olshey On: Team Needs, Free Agents, Lillard

  1. Dionis

    They are best off just keeping The same starting lineup, Harkless And Plumlee are still getting better And Aminu just blossomed into a starting small forward with that improved 3 point game. Lillard,McCollum, Aminu, Harkless, Plumlee can be a title contender Néxt season depending on The leaps Harkless, Plumlee, And Even McCollum take, we Already know Lillard’s status.


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