At a potentially crucial stage for the Trail Blazers, interim general manager Joe Cronin will be given the opportunity to earn his position on a permanent basis, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.
At a press conference Thursday, new president of business operations Dewayne Hankins said the organization is in the “first quarter” of its GM search and there’s no timeline to fill the role. Hankins said franchise chair Jody Allen and vice chair Bert Kolde will give Cronin the freedom to handle all the typical GM duties, but his primary mission will be to reform the roster to contend for a title.
“Ownership has been very upfront with me and they’ve told me that they believe in me and obviously by giving me this role, they trust me to transition this organization,” Cronin said. “So they haven’t made many declarations other than, ‘This is a nice venue for you to be able to do good work, and you’ll be evaluated,’ and I do have a chance. They told me, ‘You’ll have an opportunity. This is going to be a fair opportunity to prove yourself.'”
Cronin, who took over as interim GM after Neil Olshey was fired last week, said he has been working with coach Chauncey Billups to identify players around the league who might be available before the February 10 trade deadline. The slumping Blazers may have to shake up their roster soon after dropping four straight games and sliding to 11th place in the Western Conference.
Cronin explained to reporters that he will talk to other GMs about potential deals, but won’t finalize anything without approval from Allen and Kolde.
“The way I’ve kind of approached this is, I’m going to get the deal to the one-yard line, and then I’m going to take it to Jody and Bert, and then they make the final call,” Cronin said. “They’ll have our recommendations as to what to do. So, it’s pretty standard that way in the regard of there is a clearinghouse you have to go through. But my understanding is yes, go out, do your job, find deals, participate as if you are the GM.”
Trade rumors have surrounded the franchise for months, particularly involving star guard Damian Lillard. However, Lillard made a statement this week that he remains committed to staying in Portland and isn’t looking for a deal. Backcourt partner CJ McCollum is also seen as a potential trade candidate, along with Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts.
Billups, who also spoke at the press conference, said he wants a team that plays smart and shows competitive fire. He has criticized his players on numerous occasions for their effort following losses.
“Our roster is our roster and we’ve got some really talented players,” Billups said. “And when we’re playing well, we’re playing together, we’re pretty damn good. We’ve proven that already this year. And then we can be pretty bad too.”