Portland gave the keys to General Manager/Executive Neil Olshey in 2012 to help build a team around centerpiece Damian Lillard. If you don't know who Olshey is, he's the guy in the suit and tie--reserved next to Paul Allen's seat. No, he doesn't look like, nor is he an athlete we tend to criticize.
One fan of the team in a facebook post questioned his basketball resume by stating "He looks like a California nuero-seurgon." He is, however, the one pulling the strings making roster changes.
Outside of the players and coaches, he's next in line to be scrutinized and it's interesting to know why so, for that purpose, I looked to the social media craziness.
Before we get to the jury, let's run a quick background check on Olshey. He graduated from LeMoyne College in New York and played on the D3 Lacrosse team. Until he had hoop dreams, the future GM wanted to be an actor.
The experience didn't come until he became director of player development for SFX Sports Group Inc. which developed NBA draft prospects such as 57 current NBA players. He later became the Los Angeles Clippers' GM in 2010 and eventually Portland’s GM in 2012. His first order of business was drafting Lillard, no. 6 overall in that year's NBA draft. Lillard birthed "Dame time" and the rest is history.
Olshey had his losses like LaMarcus Aldridge, but he would revamp a roster that eventually included complimentary role players like CJ Mccollum and Jusuf Nurkić. This group eventually helped the team get to the West finals last year. Most of that roster ended up moving on last summer, to much fan dismay, and, so, here we are.
To summarize this season, there's a current polarization from fans towards Olshey. I spent much of my time observing fans' attitude of Neil in a couple online group pages.
The overarching fan discussion: performances, roster depth, and contracts--and to backtrack, huge 3-5 year contracts involving guys like Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard. After someone brought up Olshey stating "let Olshey keep working his magic," another person went the other direction saying "exactly, he's a magician… look at Turner's contract, Leonard's contract."
Additionally, there was an argument over depth as some fans were disappointed that last year's team split. For instance, and this after the controversial Utah Jazz game on February 7th, one wrote "this loss is on our GM… they take the loss because of no team depth and a cheap GM." The injuries don't help matters here, or the goaltend.
Others have understood how difficult it is to be flexible. "CJ just signed a huge extension. Do you realize how hard it's been to attract free agents," a fan said. There have been ways to stretch the team like Carmelo Anthony's non-guaranteed deal. Plus, there's the 14 million saved in luxury tax. One fan responded to this move saying "it changes nothing from a fan perspective." Another fired back, "Money they can use to resign players."
Meanwhile, there's the actual team performance and it got crowded here. After a December 30th loss to Phoenix, a fan led a back and forth banter which went from "FIRE OLSHEY" and "injuries are an excuse" to a rebuttal like "that doesn't make the injured players heal any faster." At this time, the Blazers had lost four consecutive games and three in a row at home. Two sides began to form. One side saying it's too early to fret, the other demanding a change.
Perhaps December 30th was too soon to draw conclusions. Absolutely, whenever there's struggle, there's plenty of potential trade chatter. The trade deadline lead up would intensify things much further. The team was 23-27 entering February. It was the closest they'd been to .500 since December 21st.
Losing to Denver, 127-99 didn't alleviate pains, and being this was played on the week of the deadline, fans got ancy and that's natural. 1080 The Fan took to Facebook to pose: "Do you think there's anything (Olshey) can do before today's 12:00pm trade deadline?" and one responded with "No. Position yourself as best you can for next year when we can put all this bad luck behind us."
Hassan Whiteside played innocent bystander in all this pandemonium, perhaps because of him being in the final year of his contract. There was a theory that if he played well enough under his final year of 27 million, but the team was struggling, there'd be other buyers. Scores of rumors led to a belief that Olshey would make a move.
Olshey dispelled those rumors. Olshey said about Whiteside, "(Whiteside) performed beyond expectations, so I don’t know why there was an expectation that we were supposed to flip him for something else." He followed saying the marketplace was scarce for such a move. Fans shared their opinion of his statement with one saying "Who is he trying to fool," and "this is purely Olshey trying to make good with Hassan." While many were disgruntled Portland didn’t make a drastic change, some gave him credit for his poise. Ironically, Gary Trent Jr. stepped up his performance recently and a fan was thankful to Olshey for it. “We got a steal in (Gary). All of you hating on Olshey, hate him because of the lack of trades, but he builds well through the draft.” This fan went on to cite Olshey's approach in drafting under the radar guys like Dame and CJ as well.
I went ahead and pressed a few people on Olshey. Some appreciate the winning culture he's brought here. This was one fans sentiment, but he followed saying "Olshey has one more year to make it right." I then brought up a scenario in which Olshey has the playoffs button on one hand and reset button the other and if fans were prepared for either. One fan went against resetting, "Playoffs or bust after not moving Whiteside. If they miss the playoffs, lose Whiteside, or both, you could very well see Olshey fired."
Rip City is in a peculiar situation and so is Olshey. He looks to be safe as there's still plenty of time to turn things around given just last summer he signed an extension to remain the lead basketball executive through 2024. But if there were a graph on Olshey and how he's done, it would be very shady, according to Rip City.
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