Jody Allen

Blazers Launch Investigation Into Neil Olshey’s Conduct

1:50pm: Portland has released a statement about the investigation into Olshey, acknowledging that law firm O’Melveny & Myers is working with the organization.

“We are committed to continuing to build an organization that positively impacts our colleagues, communities and the world in which we live in play,” the statement reads, in part (Twitter link).

6:21am: The Trail Blazers and team owner Jody Allen are opening an investigation into the behavior of president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and the work environment under him, according to Shams Charania and Jason Quick of The Athletic.

The Blazers, Allen, and Olshey all declined to comment to The Athletic on the matter, but Charania and Quick hear that at least one team employee reported potential misconduct.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports has more details, reporting that team employees are alleging staffers have been subjected to “intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics” under Olshey. The organization has hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to conduct an independent investigation.

According to Haynes, the firm started to interview Blazers front office employees this week. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that multiple staffers have expressed relief about getting an investigation into what they describe as a toxic and hostile work environment that has resulted in mental and physical stress.

One of the issues staff members expressed concerns about was the team’s “mishandling” of the aftermath of the death of former video coordinator Zach Cooper in April of 2020, per Haynes.

Olshey, who previously worked in the Clippers’ front office, joined the Blazers in 2010 and has been the club’s head of basketball operations since 2012. He has faced increased pressure to get Portland over the hump in recent years as the club was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

Olshey also faced criticism this offseason when he declined to provide any specific details about the Blazers’ investigation into sexual assault allegations levied in 1997 against new head coach Chauncey Billups, calling into question how exhaustively the team actually looked into that incident before hiring Billups.

Once O’Melveny & Myers has completed its probe, the firm will submit its findings to Blazers ownership, with a decision on Olshey’s future made shortly thereafter, sources tell Haynes.

Damian Lillard To Address Report About His Future

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard plans to discuss rumors about his future with the organization after today’s practice with Team USA, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

A report this morning by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop states that Lillard plans to ask for a trade within the next few days, citing a source close to the player. Lillard will presumably address that report at his session with the media. He risks a fine from the league for making a public trade request, so anything less than a full denial would set off alarms in Portland.

This isn’t the first time that rumors have emerged that Lillard might want to move on. He has been with the Trail Blazers throughout his nine years in the NBA and has talked in the past about wanting to spend his entire career with one organization. But Portland has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, including a loss to an undermanned Nuggets team this years, and recently underwent a coaching change, with Chauncey Billups replacing Terry Stotts.

Lillard, who has called the 2020/21 season the most frustrating year of his career, discussed why this is such an important time in his career during an interview with Haynes.

“There are few reasons: One being I’m not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great,” Lillard said. “We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work.’ We’re not winning the championship, but we’ve got a successful organization. We’re not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided. We have positive seasons; we just don’t end up with a championship.

“So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been. Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my ass off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it’s not popular. And that just comes with age. When I was younger, I felt like maybe I’ll be out of place, but I feel like I’ve earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level.”

Besides suggesting that Lillard intends to request a trade, Abbott also says within his report that Blazers owner Jody Allen may be looking to sell the franchise. If one or both of those claims are true, an already-eventful offseason in Portland will get even more interesting.

Lillard is expected to be available to reporters at about 2:30 pm CT this afternoon, as Chris Mannix of tweets.

Trail Blazers Expected To Finalize Deal With Billups Despite Criticism

The Trail Blazers are receiving public backlash about their choice to hire Chauncey Billups as their next head coach, but the criticism won’t affect their decision, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link from “NBA Countdown).

The outcry is related to a sexual assault case involving Billups and some of his teammates in 1997. No criminal charges were brought against Billups, and the case was ultimately settled in civil court.

Wojnarowski says that after talking to Billups on Wednesday, Blazers management conducted an investigation of the charges. Billups’ version of the events in subsequent interviews with general manager Neil Olshey and owner Jody Allen were consistent with what the investigation found and he was offered the job Friday night, Wojnarowski adds.

Portland continues to work out contract details with Billups and is expected to announce his hiring sometime in the next few days, according to Wojnarowski.

The choice of Billups has been unpopular in the Portland media, with John Canzano of The Oregonian calling it “the most pathetic hiring charade in state history.” He points out that the Trail Blazers had a chance to make history by hiring Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, who was a finalist for the job, or they could have brought back Ime Udoka, a former assistant with the team, who was hired by the Celtics instead.

Canzano says the decision on Billups is the work of Olshey, who settled on him early as the primary candidate. Canzano suggests that Olshey has too much power in the organization and is ignoring the team’s history of alienating fans by having too many players accused of serious crimes.

The negative response has even reached Blazers star Damian Lillard, who identified Billups as one of his preferred choices shortly after the team parted ways with Terry Stotts, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

After being accused by a fan of being responsible for Billups’ hiring, Lillard tweeted, “Really? I was asked what coaches I like of the names I ‘heard’ and I named them. Sorry I wasn’t aware of their history I didn’t read the news when I was 7/8yrs old. I don’t support Those things … but if this the route y’all wana come at me… say less.”

Northwest Notes: Hammon, Billups, McCollum, Wolves’ Offseason

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen is pushing for Spurs assistant Becky Hammon while president of basketball operations Neil Olshey prefers Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups to be the team’s next head coach, Marc Stein of the New York Times hears. The team is conducting second interviews with both candidates with Mike D’Antoni reportedly also in the running.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • There’s a strong possibility CJ McCollum will be traded this offseason, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Dealing McCollum is the most logical way for the Blazers to improve, or at least shake up their roster. Olshey seems more open to breaking up his star backcourt, which has posted a 15-30 record in the playoffs. However, with three big years left on McCollum’s contract, it’s tough to know what the Blazers could get in return.
  • There were a number of reasons why the Timberwolves didn’t tank, most notably to find out how D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would mesh down the stretch, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. They also wanted to establish a culture of expectations for their youngest players. Minnesota had to convey its pick at No. 7 to Golden State after failing to move into the top three in the lottery.
  • Without a first-rounder, the Timberwolves will look to free agency and the trade market to shore up their roster, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. They’re particularly intent on upgrading the power forward spot to become a better rebounding team.

Hiatus Notes: Dudley, Blazers, Ballmer, Booker, Mavs

Veteran forward Jared Dudley is pessimistic that the NBA will resume its season after this indefinite hiatus, he explained on FOX Sports Radio this week.

Dudley joins a growing list of NBA players and officials who are skeptical about whether the league can resume its regular season. The overall concern, he explains, is focused around limiting injuries.

“Once I heard the news of no more practice facilities, if that goes for a month or month-and-a-half to two months, I find it almost impossible to then have a season because now you’re telling a professional athlete, ‘For 60-to-80 days you’ve done no training,'” Dudley said.

League officials know that resuming the regular season after several weeks of limited training would be risky unless each team is awarded ample time of preparation, much like what’s already being offered in the fall with training camps. Dudley estimates that 70% of athletes don’t have a personal gym inside their home to utilize during this break.

“I’m not optimistic right now at all for a season to be honest with you,” Dudley said. “Unless something happens here in the next 30 days where they open back up the facilities. But how do they do that? Once everyone starts getting tested you’re going to hear more and more cases because it’s a very common thing to get.”

The NBA is discussing a plethora of different avenues to take as this unprecedented hiatus continues, with commissioner Adam Silver open to receiving suggestions from the league’s players, coaches, agents, executives and fans for the time being.

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • The Trail Blazers and owner Jody Allen have committed more than $4MM towards COVID-19 relief efforts, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). The money will assist game night employees impacted by the league’s postponement.
  • The Ballmer Group, founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated $1MM to community groups in Los Angeles to help during the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.
  • Suns guard Devin Booker is pledging $100L through Twitch livestreaming to support non-profits that best serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix Suns Charities will match Booker’s initial donation, the release adds.
  • Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic and Dwight Powell have teamed up with the Mavericks Foundation to donate $500,000 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital, the team announced (Twitter link). The funds will support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Blazers Notes: Ownership, Nurkic, Hood, Kanter

While there’s a perception in NBA circles that the Trail Blazers‘ ownership situation is unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death last fall, the team’s head of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, doesn’t subscribe to that notion, as Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.

“Nothing is unsettled. Jody is our owner,” Olshey said during the Blazers’ exit interviews, referring to Paul’s sister Jody Allen. “She has been fantastic in terms of engagement. She has addressed the team when we’ve asked her to. She was really emotional after the OKC series, that was the validation, knowing how much Paul believed in the core of this group and to see it come to fruition.

“Jody stepped up and spoke to the team in a way that resonated with everybody and struck a chord with the players and staff and everyone there that she has our back, she has a vision for the franchise, she believes in the group, she cares about the players, and the magnitude of what she has had to take on,” Olshey continued, per Quick. “At a time when we needed ownership to show solidarity with the front office, the coaching staff, the business division, she was there for us.”

Allen has exhibited that commitment to the franchise since Portland’s season ended earlier this month, having locked up Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts to contract extensions.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • According to Olshey (via Quick), injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is making “great progress” from his broken left leg. While the team hasn’t offered a specific recovery timetable for Nurkic, Quick speculates that the big man could be ready to return to action sometime just before next season’s All-Star break. “Guys can’t believe where he is relative to what they saw only four weeks ago,” Olshey said of Nurkic. “He is a core piece to this roster, a foundational piece going forward, and we are going to drive him. But also knowing we are going to do what’s best for Nurk on a long-term basis in terms of his recovery and his timeline.”
  • The Blazers aren’t expecting to be able to retain Rodney Hood or Enes Kanter using the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be worth about $5.7MM), writes Quick. If the club can shed enough salary to gain access to the full mid-level exception – or Hood and Kanter don’t receive as much interest as anticipated – Hood would likely be the priority over Kanter, in Quick’s view.
  • Quick doesn’t expect the Blazers’ three big expiring contracts for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Maurice Harkless to garner a ton of interest on the trade market this offseason, contending that they could become more intriguing trade chips during the season.
  • Former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds is set to work out for the Trail Blazers on Friday, tweets Adam Zagoria of According to Quick, Portland will likely only hold “three or four” pre-draft workouts since the club has just one pick (No. 25) in this year’s draft.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Stotts, Offseason

Earlier today, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Trail Blazers are expected to sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension that would lock him up for four additional seasons beyond the end of his current contract.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst covered the same subject in his own article this morning, pointing out that the uncertain ownership situation in Portland is a potential wild card for Lillard and the Blazers. However, even though the star point guard would remain eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2020, he’s “at ease” with the ownership situation and is open to signing that new deal this offseason, sources tell Windhorst.

While Trail Blazers ownership – headed by Jody Allen, the sister of late owner Paul Allen – appears set to commit big money to Lillard, it’s unclear whether the team will continue to authorize future luxury-tax spending, Windhorst writes. For now, those in the organization have been informed that no short-term changes to spending are anticipated.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Terry Stotts‘ contract situation will be worth watching closely this offseason, as 2019/20 is the final year of his current deal. Sources tell Chris Haynes that Stotts wasn’t pleased about not being extended a year ago, so the team will likely have to put an extension on the table now in order to get him back for next season. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey, who has two years left on his contract, may have earned an extension as well, Windhorst writes.
  • In his preview of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explains why it will be tricky for the team to retain role players like Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, and Seth Curry, and points out that CJ McCollum will be extension-eligible too.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News previews Portland’s upcoming summer as well, exploring whether the club can find a way to take another leap forward in 2019/20.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic rounded up some post-game reactions from Blazers players on Monday, and took a look back at what was a memorable 2018/19 season for the franchise. “In the past few years, I’ve been much more like … hurt,” Lillard said, following Portland’s elimination. “Right now, a lot of the things that happened … like, I know how we lost. And not dominating how I would have liked to is disappointing. But to be where we are now — one of the final four teams — it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

No Plans To Put Trail Blazers Up For Sale

Longtime Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen passed away in October, but his sister Jody Allen has no plans to sell the franchise anytime soon, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“Nothing is for sale right now,” said Chris McGowan, the Blazers’ president and CEO. “We are operating business as usual and [Blazers president of basketball operations] Neil [Olshey] and I are collaborating regularly with her on all major organizational decisions.”

As Quick details, Jody Allen has decisively ruled on a handful of major decisions facing the team within the last couple months, including giving the front office the go-ahead to make a potential trade. Although that deal had ownership approval, it ultimately didn’t materialize.

According to McGowan, any rumors that Allen – who was named the executor and trustee of her brother’s estate after his death – is not in favor of keeping the Trail Blazers are “crazy talk and speculation.” McGowan also noted that he shared a three-year business plan for the Blazers with Allen and that the business side of the franchise is flourishing.

“Jody has empowered me and Neil to do our jobs,” McGowan said. “She makes the final decisions, but there has been no handcuffs … she has been a quick decision maker.”