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The lieutenants who work at owner Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. mothership have been analyzing data and asking important questions. Two NBA front-office sources said they were contacted in the last 10 days by the Vulcans and asked whether they thought Trail Blazers struggles were due to a broken roster or poor coaching. “Paul is getting antsy,” one of the league sources said, “he thinks they should be winning more.
Stotts’ contract runs through the end of the 2020 season at $5 million a year. General manager Neil Olshey has a contract that runs through 2021. Blowing up either the coach or the GM isn’t something Allen, net worth $20.7 billion, would flinch at if he thought that would change a thing. And for some added urgency here consider that the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline is Feb. 8.
The Portland Trail Blazers have announced a contract extension for President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, taking him through the 2020-21 season. In keeping with team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.
“Neil has done an excellent job improving our team and getting us into the playoffs. With our young and improving roster, I expect our franchise to keep improving,” said Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. “Continuity in the front office is important as we continue to grow, and this extension shows the confidence we have in Neil’s leadership.”
Jay Allen: Olshey says they’re still working to improve the roster. “It’s always in a state of flux.” @Portland Trail Blazers
Portland owns the No. 15, 20 and 26 picks in this draft, and several teams are eager to get into that mix. The Knicks have inquired about some combination of the Blazers’ picks, a source said, and those talks are ongoing. New York has the eighth pick and could trade down for a combination of picks, though the preference for the Knicks is to keep their pick and add one of Portland’s.
The Nets have inquired, too, and that could be interesting because of the Nets’ ability to absorb salary. Brooklyn stands to have about $40 million in cap space next summer, and without much to offer big-time free agents, leveraging that space to accumulate picks with bad contracts would make sense for the Nets, who will see the No. 1 pick swapped to Boston this year, and have next year’s pick sent to the Celtics, too.
Ian Begley: The Knicks have talked to the Portland Trailblazers about acquiring one of Portland’s first-round picks, a source confirms to ESPN. The Knicks have workouts scheduled with at least one player pegged for a mid to late first-round pick in UNC’s Justin Jackson and are looking to acquire a second first-rounder to add to the pick they currently own – the No. 8 overall pick. Portland owns the 15th, 20th and 26th overall picks. The Knicks and Blazers discussions were first reported by the Sporting News.
If you’re a team looking to add first-round picks in this year’s NBA Draft, the team to see may be the Trail Blazers, who own three first-rounders. According to multiple league sources, the Trail Blazers have been open to deals for some combination of the picks. Portland has contract commitments to 12 players next season already, and a projected salary of $133 million, which is $12 million over the league’s luxury-tax threshold. That puts the Blazers in line for $21 million in luxury tax payments.
The pursuit of Olshey signals a possible willingness within ownership to make a significant financial commitment to hire an elite league executive. To pry Olshey, or any sitting top basketball decision-maker, Atlanta would undoubtedly have to offer draft or financial compensation to a team. Those conversations never started with the Blazers, sources said. It is unclear if Olshey would’ve had interest in discussing Atlanta’s opening with team owners. He joined the Blazers as the franchise’s top basketball executive in 2012, after leaving the Clippers.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Atlanta tried to take a big swing for Olshey, Portland’s President of Basketball Operations. Blazers ownership didn’t budge.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Hawks search is ongoing, but probing on Olshey shows a possible willingness to spend significant money for elite executives.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Atlanta requested the opportunity to talk with Portland GM Neil Olshey about its vacant GM job, but was denied permission.
Do you envision talking to Jusuf about a contract extension? Neil Olshey: I haven’t even thought about it, honestly. Everybody’s a little raw. It was a weird ride, right? He kinda came in out of nowhere. He blew up and then got hurt. We gotta get guys healthy first and then get them all back in the gym and again see what we have. But I don’t talk about contract negotiations. Even when you saw some of the guys last year whether it was Moe or Meyers, when we had deals done, we had deals done. But it didn’t play out in the media and it really wasn’t public.
Former GM Kevin Pritchard commented after he was unceremoniously fired in 2010 that when you’re hired by Allen you have a ticking clock dangling from your neck, counting down the minutes. Olshey must hear the tick. He knows the salary and title came with an expiration date, one that feels a couple of cycles away. Olshey’s hair isn’t built for rain. Also, he knows how this ends. So the hunch here is that Portland isn’t his forever place. And you just can’t built winning culture while simultaneously posturing for the rest of the league’s owners.
Within the Lakers’ new top circle of power, another sitting general manager who has been a significant source of intrigue for the freshly vacant L.A. general manager job: Portland’s Neil Olshey, league sources said. Olshey is a two-time runner-up for NBA Executive of the Year, including 2016 with the Blazers and 2011 as Clippers general manager after beating out the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul.
The Feb. 23 trade deadline is fast approaching and, naturally, fans are curious if there will be more movies. Can you speak to that? Olshey: Well, we’re active. You know I think this roster was always going to be a work in progress. We have the benefit of having Paul Allen as an owner. He let us retain all of our players. It wasn’t realistic to think we could manage that cap going forward. But what it did do is it put us in a position to keep as much as possible, put us in a position to compete, but knowing at some point we’re going to have to make some moves. I think Mason is an example of that. It’s not a player we wanted to lose. But the reality is from a cap standpoint we needed to go average down the salary but maintain our ability to compete, you know, now and in the future with not losing someone at that position. I can’t speak to any specifics, but what I can tell you is the league is very active right now.
Why trade Mason Plumlee and why right now? Olshey: Well, you know, look Mason’s impending free agency was certainly a factor. We love Mason. We’re going to miss him around here. We wouldn’t have been in the second round of the playoffs last year without him. But there’s certain realities to managing our (salary) cap. We felt like we needed to get younger at the center position. We wanted more of a low post player, someone that could defend size, strength. We found that with Jusuf. And, look, this is the hard part of the business is you have guys that you get attached … but you’ve got to make business decisions. We felt like in the long run this will pay longer dividends, having a young guy on a rookie scale (contract). We manage our cap with it. He gives us a different look defensively. He’s a big time rebounder. And I think he’ll make the game easier for guys like Dame (Lillard) and CJ (McCollum) because we’ve got more presence in the paint now defensively.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been a part of the always-churning rumor mill for weeks, as a swath of Rip City has been pining for an upgrade as the team has underachieved over the first 27 games of the season. But it would be unwise to expect a deal anytime soon. The Blazers, according to rival front office executives, are right to be included in the rumors — they are expected to be active in trade talks leading up to the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline. But activity doesn’t always translate to action and swinging a deal for a quality frontcourt player, arguably the Blazers’ biggest need, is complicated.
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February 21, 2018 | 8:43 pm EST Update
After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.
Away from the Spurs to pursue second opinions in New York, Kawhi Leonard recently utilized the gymnasium inside the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in Manhattan for workouts, league sources told ESPN. The Spurs had team personnel accompanying Leonard in New York, sources said.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has complicated the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship, causing tension and fraying the fabric of what was once a strong partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.