Neil Olshey

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Sixers, VanVleet, Anunoby

New Nets coach Steve Nash envisions a versatile role for Kevin Durant that would have him see time at all five positions, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash discussed Durant during an appearance this week on J.J. Redick‘s podcast, saying Durant has the skills to succeed anywhere on the court.

“Kevin, with his length, is a matchup problem for everyone,” Nash said. “(Kyrie Irving’s) excellent off the ball. Kevin can play all five positions, and I plan to use him in all five positions. I get excited to use some of the guys on the roster: Caris (LeVert), (DeAndre Jordan), Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris.”

Scouts and other league personnel who spoke to Lewis believe Brooklyn could have some devastating lineups with Durant at center, especially in a conference where the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam have succeeded in that role.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers are considering a front office shakeup that would include the addition of a president of basketball operations, sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. One source indicated that Trail Blazers executive Neil Olshey may be interested, but only if he has complete control over basketball decisions as both president and general manager. Rumors have surrounded former Hawks executive Danny Ferry, but the Sixers are denying that he’s a potential candidate. A source says the team plans to ask about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Pacers president Kevin Pritchard, but the source doesn’t expect either to wind up in Philadelphia.
  • Fred VanVleet will be the Raptors‘ priority in free agency and they’ll find it expensive to keep him, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith estimates that Toronto could could give VanVleet a new deal starting at around $20MM per season while still retaining a maximum salary slot for the summer of 2021. He adds that the team may have to sacrifice Norman Powell or convince him to rework his contract to make that happen.
  • Raptors small forward OG Anunoby has signed with Klutch Sports Group, the agency announced on Twitter.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Blazers, Nuggets, Conley

For Michael Porter Jr., focusing on the postseason is significantly more important than being snubbed from the Rising Stars Challenge this past week, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes.

“He knows I deserve to be a Rising Star, be in that game, but I’m gonna be playing in the playoffs, and that’s worth a lot more to me than playing in that game,” Porter said, mentioning that he sent coach Mike Malone a lengthy text after the Rising Stars rosters were announced. “So I’m just gonna keep working, get my rest during that All-Star break and be ready for that second half of the season.”

As noted by Singer, six of the 10 players selected to the annual game for the United States are currently out of the playoffs. Porter has given consistent production in his first NBA season, averaging eight points, 4.4 rebounds and 14.3 minutes through 39 contests.

“I’ll use it as motivation, but I don’t really try to play the game out of anger,” Porter said. “Like I’m not going to go out there and be mad I didn’t make it, so try to go score a bunch of points. Like I just go out there and try to play the game that I love. To not get picked, it definitely adds some fuel to the fire. It is what it is. Man, that’s other people’s decision.”

The Nuggets currently have a 34-16 record through the season’s first 50 games, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference. Porter missed the team’s game against Detroit on Sunday due to an ankle injury, with Denver losing in overtime 128-123.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey should take the week off and not make any monumental changes to his team, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Portland has been red hot over the past 1-to-2 weeks, led by Damian Lillard‘s incredible production (48.8 points per game in his last six contests). The team has won four straight games and is 7-3 in it’s last 10 outings. “I think it’s definitely a conversation,” Lillard said when asked if this group needs to be kept together to continue its momentum, according to Quick. “We are moving, and it’s against good teams. Golden State, Indiana, Houston, Lakers, Utah … I mean, good wins, so there’s something to be said about it.”
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores various trades the Nuggets could consider ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, labeling Jrue Holiday, Robert Covington and others as potential targets. Denver is 34-16 and sports one of the league’s best offenses.
  • The Jazz shuffled their lineup against Portland on Saturday, choosing to start Mike Conley at point guard and bring Royce O’Neale off the bench, ESPN’s Tim McMahon writes. Utah thrived off a Mitchell-O’Neale-Ingles-Bogdanovic-Gobert starting lineup without Conley, who missed several games due to a hamstring strain. “I know how frustrated he’s been because he’s wanted to play,” coach Quin Snyder said. “You hear about someone’s character, and until you go through things with them and you see how they react to that adversity … that’s what he’s demonstrated in my mind.”

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Nuggets, Towns, Wiggins, Dort

The Trail Blazers will entertain offers for center Hassan Whiteside, a free agent after the season, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick estimates the chances of him being traded at 50/50. Quick also dealt with a few other Blazers-related topics.

Their recent trade with the Kings which involved five players and two second-round picks was a solid one, according to Quick, because the Trail Blazers saved approximately $12MM and upgraded at the wing with Trevor Ariza replacing Kent Bazemore. Portland is unlikely to deal its first-round pick because president of basketball operations Neil Olshey covets draft choices, even if the draft class is considered weak, Quick adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will continue to be without three rotation players when they face the Grizzlies on Tuesday, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Starting point guard Jamal Murray will miss his sixth straight game due to an ankle sprain while power forward Paul Millsap will sit out for the 11th consecutive game due to a knee injury. Backup big man Mason Plumlee will miss his fourth straight game due to a foot ailment.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins get the blame when things aren’t going well with the Timberwolves but the players around them need to do more, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Guard Shabazz Napier told Youngblood that the role players need to do their jobs better. “This team is so used to KAT and Wigs doing all the work that when it doesn’t happen, we just stand around,’’ Napier said. “That’s how it is. We just gotta find ways to help them guys out. … We all, the role players, have to figure out, how do we help them out better?’’
  • Undrafted rookie guard Luguentz Dort has earned playing time with the Thunder for his defense while showing more of an offensive game, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. Over the last five games, Dort is averaging 7.2 PPG and 1.8 APG while shooting 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and making seven steals. “You can’t tell me he’s a rookie,” guard Chris Paul said of the two-way player.

Lillard Remains Loyal Despite Rough Blazers Season

Damian Lillard remains committed to the Trail Blazers regardless of what they do before the trade deadline, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM super-max extension last summer and isn’t having second thoughts about it despite Portland’s tough season. The Blazers have been hit hard by injuries and Lillard doesn’t see a big trade changing the team’s fortunes this season.

“That don’t have nothing to do with my commitment to the team,” Lillard told Quick. “I mean, it’s not like we are going to do something that is going to take us to the championship at this point. I think it’s more important for us to protect the assets we have, the guys who are going to be here and who are going to help us going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to sacrifice that just to make a desperate play.”

Lillard says he has a good relationship with GM Neil Olshey but doesn’t interfere with the front office’s business.

“I don’t like to be involved with (teammates’) futures and all that,” he said. “If it’s free agency, and (Olshey) wants to ask me about somebody — if I think they can help the team or what players I like or whatever? I’m more than happy. But you know, I stay out of Neil’s way. I let him do his job and I do mine. I will lose every game before I go in there and be like, ‘Trade this guy for that guy’ or anything like that.”

Lillard has been on fire lately, scoring a combined 108 points over the past two games. But the team is mired in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 19-27 record, a huge letdown after reaching the conference finals last season.

Lillard is hopeful the Blazers can still reach the playoffs but doesn’t see the need to sacrifice the future to make that happen.

“It’s been a tough season, but the season is not over,” he said. “We can make something of this season as we are, but it’s not worth, you know, saying ‘OK, let’s force something and go do something that at the end of the day doesn’t make sense.’ But that has nothing to do with my commitment. I said it after last game (vs. Golden State): I feel like I can find a way. I can weather the storm. I can go through hard times.”

Knicks Rumors: Mills, Perry, Olshey, Coaches

Several members of the Knicks organization said this week that they expect president Steve Mills to be replaced at season’s end, or even earlier, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

The report is similar to one issued by Frank Isola of The Athletic last week. Isola suggested that Mills will be reassigned within the organization or let go altogether, but Begley hears from sources that the situation remains fluid. If the Knicks can turn things around this season, it may improve the odds that Mills sticks around, particularly since he still has years left on his contract beyond 2019/20, Begley writes.

The future of general manager Scott Perry is thought to be tied to Mills’ future to some degree, but not entirely. If Mills is dismissed during the season, the belief is that Perry would take over as the head of basketball operations on an interim basis, per Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks’ vision for their next head coach is someone who has the “stature and ability” to have success in the New York market, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Team officials want someone who can lean on prior success and experience, which explains why high-profile executives like Masai Ujiri and Sam Presti have been cited as potential targets.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post examines whether Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey might be another target for the Knicks, noting that the Blazers’ exec has strong New York roots. Olshey is happy in Portland, but a person close to him tells Berman that it may not be his last stop. “He’s got full autonomy here to run things as he sees fit and he’s pretty happy with his salary, I think,” that NBA official said. “He’s never going to be a huge fan of retiring in Portland as a city, so maybe this isn’t his final destination. But he’s not a big media guy even if he’s a big-city guy in some ways.”
  • According to Shams Charania, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, and Tom Thibodeau are among the names on the Knicks’ current head coaching wish list. Ian Begley agrees that Jackson has support within the franchise, adding that Jason Kidd is someone else who has organizational support.
  • Carmelo Anthony, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons with the Knicks, is holding out hope that the team will retire his number, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think anybody would want that, if you have the opportunity to get that,” Anthony said. “We’ll see what happens when that time comes. Hopefully, they hang No. 7 up there somewhere. We’ll see what happens.”

Blazers’ Olshey Discusses Trade Market Plan

Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey informed The Athletic’s Jason Quick that he intends to take a measured approach in the trade market come December 15, when most players signed over the summer become trade-eligible.

“We are going to stay disciplined,” Olshey said. “That doesn’t mean we are not going to stay opportunistic, OK? But the bar for how big of an impact somebody has to make to really make an outcome-related impact is higher.”

Olshey seemed to indicate to Quick that he was comfortable maintaining the Blazers’ healthy starting lineup in the 2020/21 season.

“The discipline comes in that the starting lineup next year is Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic,” Olshey continued. “… What we are not going to do is give away long-term assets that can help get this team to where we really want to be — and where we thought we were back in September — for some incremental upgrade today.”

Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, Thunder power forward Danilo Gallinari, and Celtics forward Gordon Hayward number among the most attainable positional upgrades for Portland this season. Hayward and Gallinari are on expiring contracts (though Hayward has a player option for 2020/21). 35 year-old Carmelo Anthony has been an adequate offensive fill-on as the team’s starting power forward.

Collins, the Trail Blazers’ incumbent starting power forward, remains sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder. Starting center Nurkic underwent surgery to treat compound fractures in his left leg in March.

Hood underwent surgery earlier today for a ruptured left Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the 2019/20 season.

Portland currently sits at No. 11 in the crowded Western Conference, though the Blazers are just two games behind the seventh-seeded Thunder.

Despite – or perhaps because – of all their injuries, NBC Sports Northwest’s Dwight Jaynes doesn’t expect the Blazers to pursue anyone on an expiring contract this trade season. This would seem to eliminate the prospect someone like Gallinari as a mid-season addition.

Instead, Jaynes anticipates the team prioritizing moves for players with contracts that will last beyond 2019/20, since Portland will be better positioned to compete in future seasons. In addition to Love, he mentions Pistons power forward Blake Griffin and Spurs power forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge as names to watch.

Blazers Notes: Hood, Kanter, McCollum, Aldridge

Shooting guard Rodney Hood surprised the Trail Blazers by accepting the $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Portland was hoping to bring back center Enes Kanter at that number, but he balked. Blazers GM Neil Olshey thought Hood wanted more in free agency but was pleasantly surprised by Hood’s decision.

Olshey then shifted gears to finding a starting-quality center and got involved in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to Miami, winding up with Hassan Whiteside by dealing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.

We have more on the Blazers:

  • Backcourt partners CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are now locked up long-term after McCollum signed a three-year, $100MM extension and they’re excited about that prospect, as he told Quick in a separate story. “It’s a special time,” McCollum said. “(Lillard and I) talked about being in Portland, making a staple here and winning a championship here, and all those things. We’ve crossed off a lot of goals individually and collectively, but I think that both of us being here for the long haul, and both of us being able to grow together and win together is something that people will remember for a long time.”
  • Pau Gasol, who recently signed with the Blazers, said former Spurs teammate LaMarcus Aldridge has spoken highly of Portland and may want to play there again, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets. Aldridge said last season he and Lillard had spoken about the prospect of becoming teammates again. Aldridge’s $24MM contract for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed, so it’s conceivable that could occur as soon as next summer.
  • If you missed the details on McCollum’s extension, you can find it all here.

Heat Acquire Jimmy Butler In Sign-And-Trade

The Heat have officially acquired Jimmy Butler from the Sixers in a sign-and-trade deal that also includes the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, according to press releases from Miami and Philadelphia.

The Heat also acquired big man Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Clippers. Miami sent shooting guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers and a conditional first-round pick to the Clippers. The Clippers also received forward Maurice Harkless from Portland and the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Mathias Lessort from the Sixers.

The Clippers and Blazers have also confirmed the swap.

The 2023 first-rounder that the Heat forwarded to the Clippers, which is lottery-protected through 2025 and unprotected in 2026, was subsequently moved to the Thunder as part of the agreed-upon Paul George blockbuster.

Butler inked a four-year, $141MM contract with the Heat. Miami waived forward Ryan Anderson and stretched his contract in order to stay below the hard cap and complete the sign-and-trade.

“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Miami president Pat Riley said in the press release. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move. Meyers is a versatile big, a great shooter, can play inside and block shots. The addition of both men puts us in a great position to win.”

The disgruntled Butler was dealt by Minnesota to Philadelphia last season. The Sixers wanted to retain Butler but couldn’t convince him to stay and got something for him via the sign-and-trade mechanism. In 65 total games for the Wolves and Sixers last season, Butler averaged 18.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.9 SPG with a .462/.347/.855 shooting line. Richardson averaged a career-high 16.6 PPG and 4.1 APG last season.

Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey called the acquisition of Whiteside an “impact move for our roster.” The Blazers were looking for a starting center with Jusuf Nurkic on the mend from a serious leg injury.

Trail Blazers Sign Neil Olshey To Extension

1:46pm: Olshey has officially signed his extension, the Blazers announced today in a press release.

“Neil has done an exceptional job finding and keeping the talent that has made the Trail Blazers a perennial playoff team, culminating in this season’s magical run to the Western Conference Finals,” owner Jody Allen said in a statement. “I have great confidence in the culture he has created in Portland, and I look forward to seeing it thrive and grow for years to come.”

12:27pm: The Trail Blazers have agreed to a contract extension with president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, the new deal will keep Olshey under contract through 2024.

The news comes on the heels of a report that Olshey was receiving some interest from the Wizards for their own head of basketball operations position. That report indicated that Olshey was locked up through 2021 and may be open to other opportunities. However, with a new deal in hand, the veteran executive is now set to remain in Portland for the next several years.

Olshey, who previously worked in the Clippers’ front office, serving as the club’s general manager for two years, took over as the Trail Blazers’ head of basketball operations in June of 2012. His first move with the club saw him use the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft on Damian Lillard, who has since become the Blazers’ franchise player.

While Portland had a 33-49 record in Olshey’s first year in the front office, the team has been one of the Western Conference’s most successful organizations since then, making six consecutive playoff appearances and averaging nearly 49 wins per season since the start of the 2013/14 campaign. The Blazers won four playoff series during that stretch, making the Western Conference Finals this spring for the first time since 2000.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts agreed to an extension with the club earlier this week.

Latest On Wizards’ GM Search

It has now been a week since Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly met with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis at Leonsis’ residence to discuss Washington’s top basketball operations position. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post details, the Wizards didn’t make Connelly a job offer at that meeting, but did so two days later. Connelly passed, opting to remain in Denver and sending the Wizards’ search back to square one.

Since then, there have been no concrete updates on Washington’s search for Ernie Grunfeld‘s replacement, prompting Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post to write that the clock is ticking on the team’s “driftless” search.

David Aldridge of The Athletic makes a similar point, suggesting that the Wizards’ lack of action on Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry, and Tommy Sheppard – all of whom have interviewed twice for the job – signals that the club isn’t in love with any of those candidates. Still, with big offseason decisions looming, including one on Bradley Beal‘s future, it’s time for Leonsis to be decisive and either choose one of the Wizards’ existing candidates or go after a new one, Aldridge contends.

If the Wizards do add a new name or two to their list of potential targets, who might those new candidates to be? Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington observes that Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris and Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, whose teams are still alive in the playoffs, could be on the Wizards’ radar.

Harris interviewed for the Pelicans’ top front office job before David Griffin landed it, and the outside consultant who worked with New Orleans, Mike Forde, has also assisted the Wizards in their search, so he could recommend Harris to Washington too, Standig notes. As for Ujiri, while the Wizards were rumored to have interest, a source tells Standig that expectations of high salary demands have thus far discouraged Washington from seriously pursuing that possibility.

Standig identifies one more potential target for the Wizards, writing that multiple sources have said the team has interest in Trail Blazers head of basketball operations Neil Olshey. Washington’s interest in Olshey dates back several weeks, but as of Wednesday the club had yet to ask Portland permission to talk to him, according to Standig.

While Olshey is under contract for two more years, sources believe he’d be open to considering other options, per Standig. Damian Lillard‘s super-max eligibility and Portland’s uncertain ownership situation could be factors working in the Wizards’ favor if they do make a run at Olshey.

[UPDATE: Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers]