Neil Olshey Rumors
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.
Sam Amick: Two more names to watch in Lakers situation, in addition to Rob Pelinka & Arn Tellem: Portland’s Neil Olshey & former Cavs GM Chris Grant
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.
On Sunday, Plumlee was curious about the previous day’s scene. “Let me ask you something,’’ Plumlee said. “Is (the trade) what you and Stotts were talking about yesterday?’’ I told him the truth – it was not part of our conversation — and told him I didn’t know whether Stotts knew something was brewing. Recently, Plumlee said he had conversations with his agent, Mark Bartlestein about his future. Plumlee is set to become a free agent this summer after he and the Blazers didn’t come to terms on a contract extension this fall.
Plumlee said his agent had talks with the Blazers, but the Blazers never made an offer before the Oct. 31 deadline, setting him up to be one of the more prized big men on the free agent market this summer. “As I talked to my agent (recently), he said he would be surprised if I was moved before trade deadline,’’ Plumlee said. But there he was Sunday morning, sitting in Olshey’s office with Stotts. “They really handled the trade in a classy manner,’’ Plumlee said. “They thanked me, and I thanked them. This organization has always been very good to me.’’
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.