Neil Olshey Rumors
At the moment, the sides are in the final throes of wait-and-see mode. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has said he will begin negotiations with Leonard’s agent, Aaron Mintz, late this month, and the sides have maintained public silence throughout training camp. When talks do start, multiple factors will resolve how determined the sides are to reach agreement. For the Blazers, it could be less expensive in the long-run to sign him now, a year before the salary cap is expected to skyrocket. But it also means the team would be betting on Leonard’s potential rather than his body of work.
Neil Olshey Statement on the Passing of Flip Saunders: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Flip Saunders. He was an outstanding coach and executive whose actions did credit to the organizations he served. He will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to consider him a colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the Minnesota Timberwolves organization.”
In the wake of Aldridge’s departure, Olshey asked his new franchise player if he was comfortable with the direction they were going to take. “This was not done without Dame’s participation,” Olshey says. “If he was at all reticent, if he said it would be great if you could get me another vet to help out, we would have gone out and found a couple of other guys to take the pressure off of him. He’s not that kind of kid. He embraces it. He thrives on it.”
Olshey had scouted Lillard for several years as GM with the Clippers before landing in Portland in 2012. He loved Lillard’s shooting ability and the way he carried himself. He had been in town barely a week when Lillard arrived for his pre-draft workout. The two went out to dinner and promptly got lost, which gave them a chance to really talk. Olshey was impressed by what he called Lillard’s “gravitas” and “composure.” He had seen the same qualities in Chauncey Billups during his final season with the Clippers, and he saw them in the 21-year-old point guard. “By the time I got to the restaurant,” Olshey says. “I knew he was our guy.”
Q: Where’s your confidence level with Neil Olshey? Paul Allen: “Great. Neil and I work hand in hand. We recruited LA. We talked to other players. We got through strategy frequently in the offseason. Now it’s exciting to start to see some basketball again. The offseason seems longer and longer, I guess, as the years go by. So I’m excited to get back into it.”
It’s ironic that Olshey fired assistant coach Kim Hughes for intimating in an interview before free agency began that Aldridge was leaving Portland, when it appeared the Trail Blazers were preparing for that possibility all along. As last season progressed, it became apparent Aldridge was leaving after nine years with the team. “We had a lot of veteran free agents, [but our offseason plan] was all based on LaMarcus’s decision,” Olshey said. “We had brought some guys in prior to July 3 when LaMarcus informed us he wasn’t coming back, that we felt could play either way — they could be really good additions to our current group or they could be guys we could move in another direction. We were preparing for this opportunity. We were kind of trying to play both ends against the middle and then LaMarcus informed us he wasn’t coming back, so we went full bore with guys in the same career arc as Damian Lillard.