Neil Olshey

Trail Blazers trade Vonleh to Bulls for the rights to Milovan Rakovic

USA Today

Trail Blazers trade Vonleh to Bulls for the rights to Milovan Rakovic

PORTLAND, Ore. (February 8, 2018)The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired the NBA rights to center Milovan Rakovic from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Noah Vonleh and cash considerations, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

Rakovic, 32, was selected with the 60th overall pick in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. A native of Serbia, he currently plays for Neuchatel in Switzerland.

Vonleh, 22, averaged 3.9 points (45.7% FG, 27.8% 3-PT, 68.8% FT), 4.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 15.8 minutes in 185 games (109 starts) over three seasons with the Trail Blazers.

“We’d like to thank Noah for his contributions to the team both on and off the court and wish him all the best for the future,” said Olshey.

Damian Lillard weighs in on meeting with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen

Damian Lillard weighs in on meeting with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen

Nearly three weeks ago, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard was asked whether he had much communication with owner Paul Allen about the direction of the team, and specifically about the coaching staff and personnel.

“Me and Paul speak, but it has never been anything like that,’’ Lillard said on Jan. 5.

Last week, that changed.

Lillard on Tuesday confirmed an ESPN report that he met with Allen on Jan. 18 to discuss the future of the franchise.

The gist of the meeting?

“Very simple,’’ Lillard told NBC Sports Northwest. “What are our plans to get closer to becoming a contender?’’

Lillard on Tuesday said he would not reveal the details of his meeting with Allen, and he was vague in identifying what changed in those 13 days, when his interactions with the owner went from surface level, and then escalated to a private meeting. 

“Opening up the line of communication,’’ Lillard said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with communication.’’

At first blush, the optics of the Lillard/Allen meeting painted a franchise at a crossroads. But on Tuesday, both Lillard and Neil Olshey -- the team’s president of basketball operations – said there was much ado about nothing.

Lillard said he didn’t view the meeting as doing anything behind anybody’s back.

“I’m not a secretive person,’’ Lillard said. “And I have a good relationship with everyone, so I didn’t feel that anyone would think I was going about it that way.’’

Olshey said he always encourages players to visit with Allen, and said the owner briefed him immediately after the meeting. The subject matter of the meeting, Olshey said, mirrored previous conversations he had with Lillard this season.

The ESPN report says Lillard questioned some of Olshey’s moves in the meeting, including the 2015 trade of Will Barton to Denver. But Lillard on Tuesday said that is not entirely accurate.

“The only thing I said about Will Barton is that he could be good on our current roster,’’ Lillard said. “Never once mentioned having an issue with the trade. That was three years ago.’’

It’s not the first time a Blazers star has met with Allen. LaMarcus Aldridge often expressed his view with the owner and Brandon Roy also gave input on occasion. Allen on Tuesday declined an interview request.

And now, with a Blazers team flirting with a .500 record for the third consecutive season, Lillard for the first time reached out to establish a line of communication with the longtime owner.

Allen on Monday was in Denver to watch the Blazers’ 104-101 loss to the Nuggets, which included the Blazers losing a late-game lead. Wearing a grey Blazers baseball cap and a blue Seahawks jacket, Allen after the game shuffled out of the arena with his head down, knowing that 1.5 games separated the Blazers from 5th place in the West, and from 9th place, and out of the playoffs.

How much of his conversation with Lillard was on the mind of Allen as he walked into the chilly mile-high air is unknown, but this much is certain: With the Feb. 8 trading deadline nearing, perhaps never before has there been more focus on Olshey, Allen, and the direction of this iteration of the Blazers.

Time for Stotts to go? No chance if you ask the Trail Blazers players

Time for Stotts to go? No chance if you ask the Trail Blazers players

A Trail Blazers team unable to gain traction this season while playing below their own expectations has found something to fight for: their coach.

Amid chatter that Terry Stotts is on the coaching hot seat and in jeopardy of losing his job, several Trail Blazers players said their coach not only has the team’s attention and respect, but has become a rallying point for the players.

“We all know what’s going on,’’ veteran Ed Davis said. “The guys on the team, we read about it, and I know Coach does … that ‘Hot Seat’ stuff and things like that. Everybody sees it, and I know while I’m here, (along with) a bunch of the rest of the guys in the locker room, we are going to fight for Coach. Every night. There is no quit in us. He’s our leader.’’

The Blazers (20-18) are seventh in the Western Conference, but have a losing record at home (9-10), and have scuffled for much of the season with inconsistent, disjointed play that several times has led disgruntled Moda Center crowds to leave games early, and in exodus.

[Quick: Trail Blazers need a more consistent Nurkic]

Stotts, who is under contract through next season, has become a lightening rod for fan discontent as the team has struggled offensively and at times looked unmotivated as it dropped games to bottom-tier teams like Atlanta, Brooklyn and Sacramento.

In November, after a loss to the Kings, team captain Damian Lillard took to social media to defend an Instagram post criticizing Stotts, noting that it wasn’t Stotts who was missing late-game free throws, making crucial turnovers, or forgetting plays.

[NBC Sports Gold "Blazers Pass" premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest - $34.99 - click to learn more and buy]

On Friday, after the Blazers’ victory over the Hawks, Lillard said the players all hear criticism of Stotts, and just like in November, he says it is unwarranted. The players, he says, are 100 percent behind Stotts.

“And I think it’s unanimous for a reason,’’ Lillard said. “Like I always say: we play for a great person, and whatever struggles that we have, it’s not his fault. I will tell you that: it’s not his fault.’’

The support from the locker room is not a surprise. In his sixth season in Portland, Stotts has always been well liked by players for his communication skills and his philosophy of teaching through positive reinforcement rather than pointed criticism. His style of play also empowers players to make their own decisions and play with freedom.

Those traits have painted Stotts as a “players’ coach,” a label that can often be interpreted as soft, or unwilling to discipline, which could be a reason why the players want to keep him around.

Lillard tensed up when offered that reasoning.

“I don’t work well with soft people,’’ Lillard said. “So, if he was soft , I would be like, he soft. I would tell you, he soft. I mean, he will call guys out … and he will … he does his job. He’s not a guy trying to be a hard ass, but when he needs to harden up he will harden up.’’

Case in point: A recent practice, when Stotts said three words that are seldom uttered in an NBA gym.


During a December practice in Portland, when the Blazers were in the midst of a six-game home losing streak that included several blowouts, the players heard what is largely an unspoken phrase in the NBA.

“On the line.’’

The stern command was from Stotts, and it was prompted after yet another mishap during the practice. The order was for the players to toe the baseline for a running drill – a common punishment tactic for high school and college coaches – but virtually taboo at the professional level.

“You don’t do that in the NBA,’’ Lillard said.

If there was a fracture in the ranks, making an NBA team run would surely reveal it.

[Quick: Trail Blazers need CJ to elevate his play to All-Star level]

As the players squeezed between each other along the baseline, Stotts barked another command. They had to run the length of the court, and back, in less than 10 seconds.

“I’ve played with players who would have looked at him and been like (sucks teeth) ‘Man, this dude trippin’ … whatever,’’ Lillard said. “And they would have missed (the 10 second cutoff) on purpose.’’

Without a word uttered, each Blazer toed the line and took off.

“Everybody made it,’’ Lillard said. “Down and back. Ten seconds. Sprinted hard. To me, that is a sign of respect.’’

It was vintage Stotts: pointed, yet not abusive or disrespectful.

“In an NBA sense, most coaches don’t do that,’’ Davis said. “But the point wasn’t that we have to run, the point was him making a statement that ‘You (expletive) up, let’s go.’ It was him saying ‘I’m going to grab your attention … without having to yell.’ ’’

Stotts, who earlier this week declined an invitation to talk about coaching this season amid growing criticism, did say that a common misconception is that he is easy on the players. He pointed to the film session last week after the Blazers lost at Atlanta, the team with the NBA’s worst record,.

“It wasn’t pretty,’’ Stotts said of the film session.

The players agreed, noting that Stotts this season has become more direct and more forceful in calling out mistakes during film sessions.

“He’s turned up the dial,’’ Meyers Leonard said. “And to be honest, I like it.’’


A telltale sign of a coach in trouble is when players stop listening, stop responding and stop playing for a coach.

It has happened in Portland, when the 2011-2012 Blazers rebelled against coach Nate McMillan and what they felt was an outdated offense, and it happened to Mike Dunleavy in 2000-2001 when he could no longer reach or control Rasheed Wallace.

This season, the Blazers players say Stotts still has their full attention, and full respect, and that he has not lost the locker room.

[Quick: Trail Blazers need a more aggressive Evan Turner]

“I see everybody in this locker room,’’ CJ McCollum said. “We go to dinner. Some come to the house. I see them on the plane. We are around each other more than we are around our families. If he has lost the locker room, I would know. But we believe in him.’’

During the final months of McMillan’s tenure, the locker room became toxic. Players like Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby could be seen huddling and whispering after games, a scene Davis said can become common when a coach has lost a team.

“Usually when a coach is starting to lose the locker room you have guys who are like, ‘Ah, coach doesn’t know what he is doing.’ We don’t have that right now,’’ Davis said. “Obviously we have guys who are going to be upset if they aren’t playing; I’m upset if I only play 12 minutes. But we don’t have a cancer or bad energy. We are in this together. And it starts with Coach and it starts with Dame.’’

Lillard in 2015 said as long as he is in Portland, he wants Stotts to be his coach. On Friday, he said one of the main reasons he chose to re-sign with Portland was because of Stotts.

 “How he is as a coach, and how he is as a person, is what I want to play for,’’ Lillard said. “When I signed up to be here and go through the rebuild and to move forward, he was a huge part of that. It’s because of our relationship and what I think of him and what I know of him to be to a team.’’


As the Trail Blazers near the season’s midpoint, several questions abound:

Why is the offense, ranked 25th out of 30 teams, so bad?

Why can’t a roster with 13 returning players, including all five starters, seem to gel?

Is the roster adequately constructed? Or are there too many bigs and not enough shooters?

And what happened to the fun, fluid Blazers who used to outwork opponents on a nightly basis?

The players say they only have one answer to the many questions: The problem is not Stotts.

“Everybody wants everything to happen right away,’’ McCollum said. “But it takes time. It takes time.’’

The question is how much time is owner Paul Allen willing to give? With the NBA’s sixth highest payroll, and a group that has largely been together for three seasons, this was supposed to be a season of progress.

The Blazers have improved in two key areas – defense and their record on the road – but have dramatically slipped in two areas that are usually a hallmark of Stotts and Portland teams – offense and homecourt advantage.

Along the way, there has been key injuries to Lillard (five missed games), Al-Farouq Aminu (13 games), and Jusuf Nurkic (three games) – and subpar play from much of the roster, which has prompted Stotts to use nine different starting lineups and several iterations of a playing rotation. No starting lineup has played more than eight games together, and only within the past 10 days has Stotts settled on a nine-man playing rotation.

Lillard said he has a relationship with Allen, but the owner has never asked him his thoughts on Stotts or personnel. Lillard also has an open relationship with Neil Olshey, the architect of this roster, that involves input and conversations about the team.

If Olshey approached Lillard and indicated the team was making a coaching change?

“I would want to know why,’’ Lillard said. “Because I honestly don’t feel like he is the issue. As players we have to do things a lot better. I honestly feel like he is one of the better coaches in the league as far as being an offensive coach, but also in giving players an opportunity, and connecting with the players, too. And then we have a great coaching staff. That is not the issue.’’

The issue is whether the team can turn it around. The next five games are against teams with winning records, four of them on the road.

“There’s a sense of urgency because we should be better, but we are not,’’ McCollum said. “That’s the reality of where we are. We have to build on it, win games at home and … I think it’s coming.’’

So they will forge ahead, pointed toward improvement, aiming for the playoffs. And playing, in part, for their coach.

“That’s our guy,’’ Davis said.

What can Blazers do to fix their season? They better do something!

What can Blazers do to fix their season? They better do something!

OK, as we finish up a healthy post-Christmas break and near the end of the calendar year, it's probably a good time to assess the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland sits in a tie for the seventh spot in the Western Conference, with a 17-16 record. So far, the Blazers have been the definition of a .500 team -- win a few, lose a few, neither sinking nor swimming but just treading water.

It's really not much different than the past two or three seasons. But I sense the natives are getting restless. It feels as if Trail Blazer fans are tiring of it all. Where is the excitement? Where  is the buzz? There hasn't been much so far.

So what must a franchise do? Just stay the course and hope that the anticipated roster improvement expected this season finally kicks in? Or is time to make a move?

I think it's time for a change.

And I mean something that changes the nature of this team. Something that changes the course of the franchise.

NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest – $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

What are we talking about here? Well, there's only so much that can be done. But the first order of business would be to figure out the nature of the problem. Is it the roster or is it the coach? When you examine that question you could find answers on both sides of the issue.

This team's roster isn't balanced. It isn't complete. But it's a very high payroll for a .500 team seemingly headed nowhere.

Or is the problem on the sidelines with the coaching staff? Is Terry Stotts getting the most out of his team? Are they playing hard for him? Is the team fully prepared for each game?

If you believe the answers to the questions above are "yes" then you must look to the front office. Has Neil Olshey done a good job of putting a winning roster together? Has he drafted and traded well? Is he doing a better job than could be done by somebody else? And you ask the same question you'd ask with a coach -- is there someone out there available who could do a better job?

I often look at the Portland roster and think it's not ideal for the kind of offense Stotts favors. There aren't enough outside shooters, for sure. But then the question becomes this: Is this Olshey's fault for not getting his coach the pieces he needs to do his job or is it the coach's responsibility to take the talent given him and tailor his offense to their talents, rather than stick with his own system?

Of course, we haven't even talked about the players yet. Changes can come there, too.

Is it finally time to give up on the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? I ask that question because it seems to me the only trade piece of real value would be one of those guards. Most likely that would mean McCollum. What could you get for him? Do you really want to give up on a player on the verge of all-star status?

And what about Jusuf Nurkic? Once thought to be the team's franchise center of the future and a reason to be excited about the team's potential, Nurkic is shooting just .458 from the field and acting sa if he doesn't have a care in the world. Nurkic Fever? So far this season he seems to be infected with a bad case of Nurkic Disinterest.

But would any team be willing to take Nurkic in a deal? Maybe -- but not with a lot of value in return. And that's the case with a good many Trail Blazers. Highly paid doesn't necessarily mean highly valued.

So where do you go with the Trail Blazers? What do you do? How do you fix this?

All I can say is that this point you better do SOMETHING before it's too late to salvage the season. This franchise is begging for a change of direction, a momentum-changing event. The fans are, too.

And it's time.

What to make of the Trail Blazers: Good team waiting to blossom, or average team revealing who they are?

What to make of the Trail Blazers: Good team waiting to blossom, or average team revealing who they are?

If you can’t figure out after 30 games who the Trail Blazers are, you are not alone.

The Blazers, themselves, are wondering as well.

“We are a team trying to find our way,’’ Damian Lillard said.

Their path has included struggles at home, while finding ways to win on the road, none of it easy, none of it smoothly, as they seem to take one step forward, two steps back, then another step forward.

[NBC Sports Gold "Blazers Pass" premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest - $34.99 - click to learn more and buy]

It has left them with a 16-14 record and in a tie with Denver for fifth in the Western Conference, a team whose direction seems to change by the week. One week, they are surging, coming back from 17 down in the fourth to win at Washington, offering a signature moment on a 4-1 trip. The next week, they are losing all four home games, three of them with massive deficits and the other after losing a 14-point fourth quarter lead to the NBA’s top team.

And now, they return home after a murky 3-2 trip, which included three less-than-impressive wins over struggling teams, and a heartbreak loss at Minnesota after losing a 10-point fourth quarter lead, which ironically was their best performance of the trip.

It has been the most undefined of starts – neither good, nor bad -- which has created a rather confounding question: Who exactly are the Blazers?

It is a question that will become increasingly relevant for top executive Neil Olshey over the next seven weeks as the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches.


During their latest trip, I struggled with which lens to examine the Blazers. and shared my conundrum with three of the Blazers’ leaders – Lillard, McCollum and Ed Davis.

Should they be viewed as an upper-echelon team in the West, capable of securing homecourt advantage in the first round? Or are they what they have been for the past three years – an average, middle-of-the-road team that struggles with consistency?

None of them really endorsed the team as upper echelon, perhaps knowing the body of work the last two-plus seasons has shown otherwise, but they all said they were banking on things turning, and viewed the Blazers’ situation with glass-half-full optimism.

After a nine-minute back-and-forth with McCollum, he patted me on the shoulder and walked away, knowing he offered little help in answering those questions.

“You don’t know whether to write us off or give people hope,’’ he said smiling. “That’s your job.’’

A curious rallying point for all of them is taking solace in the scuffling of other Western Conference teams like Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Denver and Utah.

“Obviously, we would like to be better, but considering how we have played … we have to count it as a blessing,’’ McCollum said. “I mean, look at OKC. It could be worse.’’

Lillard predictably said no matter which team he is on, he always views it as a contender, a feeling that existed even when he was at Weber State, and he viewed his team as a candidate for the NCAA title.

He said he hopes one day this season it will click for these Blazers, much like it did years ago for Golden State.

“I think it’s important for us to view ourselves highly, and have that belief, but you have to earn it,’’ Lillard said. “Ups and downs, winning some, losing some … looking like we turned the corner, then it looking like it was just a few games that we were turning the corner … I think it’s one of those thing you will never know until it happens.

“Like, we could have this type of stretch, then have a strong rest of the season and say we do get a top four seed and get to playoffs and get to Western Conference Finals? I understand your view of it, like should we just accept we are mediocre? But I think with a lot of teams, it just ends up clicking.’’

Davis, meanwhile, was curious before the trip, when the Blazers were mired in a lethargic slump at home.  He said I should come talk to him after the final game, in Minnesota. He was confident then, he said, the Blazers could right the ship. But he added, if the Blazers were 1-4, it would be a team in trouble.

The Blazers went 3-2, but didn’t play well until the final game, a loss in Minnesota. Two of the wins – at Orlando and at Charlotte – were sloppy and generally bad basketball, wins because of the opponent, not because of how well the Blazers played.

In Minnesota, at the morning shootaround, Davis said he wasn’t concerned with style points in December.

“At the end of the day, all that matters is wins and losses,’’ Davis said. “When I check the scores, I don’t look at – oh, they played well, they should have won – I say, oh, they won. They lost.  That’s how I look at things. And if you look around league, there are so many teams in same position as we are. It’s not like we are a mystery team – we obviously want to focus on us - but you have to look around the league and there is a lot of teams – OKC, the Pelicans, everyone in that 5-to-9 range … you just don’t know.’’

By the end of the Minnesota game, Davis said he emerged from the trip encouraged by where the team is headed, but agreed it was difficult to determine the type of team Blazers were.

“We know are a playoff team,’’ Davis said. “But you know, are we home court advantage in the first round team? Or are we going against Golden State in the first round? That’s a big difference.’’


Few thought the Blazers would find themselves in this undistinguishable middle ground.

This is the third year since the dismantling of one of the franchises more popular and successful cores (Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez), and perhaps never has the roster felt more stale and more distant from returning to a 50-win team.

There was hope the Blazers would build off the lightening-in-a-bottle magic from late last season, sparked mostly by Jusuf Nurkic’s February arrival. In addition, the Blazers figured the continued emergence of McCollum and the comfort of Turner in his second season would translate to measurable progress.

But we have discovered Nurkic is not so much a savior as much as he is a 23-year-old project with suspect ball security and raw touch around the basket.

And while McCollum has been good, his All-Star destiny is probably another year away, his bouts of turnovers, shooting slumps and erratic late-game play still keeping him from being elite.

And Turner, for all his intangibles on defense, still can’t shoot and still has a knack for wild, head-slapping turnovers, appearing more and more like an odd fit in this Blazers’ system.

Meanwhile, Maurice Harkless has become invisible. A key starter last season, Harkless is now a mental pretzel, his mind so twisted amid his own frustrations of where he fits that he can’t remember that he is best when he plays hard and aggressively to create his own opportunities.

And the players showing promise –Davis, Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, Meyers Leonard – have had trouble carving a niche in what is a confusing and undefined rotation.

On the bright side, Aminu is having the best shooting season of his career and ranks second in the NBA three-point percentage, Lillard continues to be a stellar player and leader, and the team has done an about-face on the defensive end, ranking fifth.

Yet, the Blazers are roughly in the same position as last season's disappointing campaign – approaching Christmas with a so-so record, with bloated salaries and limited upside on the horizon outside of rookie Zach Collins.

To be fair, three years isn’t enough time to expect a team to rise from the ashes and contend with the Golden State’s and Cleveland’s of the NBA. But it is not unreasonable to expect some signs of measurable progress, or at least reasons for hope.

Olshey often trumpets the team’s average age (at just more than 24 years it ranks fourth youngest in the league) but those notes are becoming out of tune.

This is an experienced core that has played the greater part of three seasons together, which should translate to upside and cohesion. I don’t think any fans are considering Damian Lillard young. Same with CJ McCollum. And Ed Davis. And Al-Farouq Aminu … Evan Turner … Meyers Leonard … Maurice Harkless. They are all on their second contracts.

The Blazers’ youth is largely weighted in the back of the roster. Of the Blazers’ main rotation players, only 23-year-old starting center Jusuf Nurkic and 22-year-old reserve Noah Vonleh can be considered young.

It’s why questions about this era are becoming increasingly valid as the Feb. 8 trade deadline begins to come into focus.

For the past two seasons, postgame interviews and offday media scrums have been dominated by fruitless question-and-answer sessions trying to uncover why this team is struggling with this, or failing at that. Last season it was defense and closing out games. This season it’s the offense and the inability to fast break.

Some players have their theories, but don’t want to become a headline by voicing them publicly. Others are either speechless or have become defensive why their games are always being nitpicked.

Maybe it’s time to stop prying and prodding the players and accept the roster for what it is: an average team that lacks shooting and role players who can consistently produce.

Or maybe it’s time for that day to arrive, the one Lillard has been waiting on, when the Blazers show they are ready to take the step from middling low-tier playoff team, to one that is relevant and hosting a playoff series.

In the meantime, the fans, the players, and probably Olshey wait with a curious eye.

 “We could be a mediocre team. We could be an above average team. Or we could be a great team,’’ McCollum said. “ It’s hard to tell, because we have to be healthy and when we are healthy we have to play well.’’

The Blazers today are healthy. Will they now play well?

Breakfast with the Blazers: Olshey may not be done with roster

Breakfast with the Blazers: Olshey may not be done with roster

Good morning, and welcome to Breakfast with the Blazers, which will hopefully become a daily item on the Trail Blazers as you ease into your day with a cup of coffee and/or your first meal. This spot will allow you to catch up on what happened last night, or look ahead to what is pertinent today with the Blazers.

This morning, we look at one item from yesterday’s Media Day interviews that flew under the radar: Blazers’ president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said he is still actively trying to improve the roster by using the team’s $12.9 million trade exception acquired in the trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn.

Olshey said that over the summer the Blazers “tried to keep up in the arms race as best we could” – presumably referring to pursuits of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony – but in the end they didn’t want to part ways with “pieces of our roster we felt were irreplaceable.’’

As a result, Olshey admitted the Blazers did not accelerate their ascension in the West as quickly as hoped.

“But things are not over yet,’’ Olshey said. “We have the biggest trade exception in the league; we are still aggressive.’’

A trade exception is valuable in acquiring a player from a team that is looking to dump salary by absorbing the contract without having to give anything back in return. In other words, the Blazers can acquire a player making $12.9 million without having to give up anyone. The Blazers get a good player, the other team gets cap relief.

The $12.9 million trade exception was acquired because the Blazers sent out more money with Crabbe’s contract (about $19 million) than they got in return from Brooklyn in the form of Andrew Nicholson’s contract (about $6 million). Nicholson was later waived.

The Blazers have until July 2018 to use the exception, and it could be something that it utilized quickly, such as if Cleveland needs to move salary to sign Dwyane Wade, the Blazers could facilitate by absorbing Iman Shumpert and his $10.3 million contract.

Or it could be used later in the season, perhaps after a team that thought it would be a contender falls out of a race, or decides to go in a different direction. The point is, Olshey still has a chip he can play in improving the roster.

For reference, here are examples of some players who could be absorbed using the $12.9 million: Denver’s Kenneth Faried ($12.9 million); Washington’s Marcin Gortat ($12.8 million), Sacramento’s Zach Randolph ($12.3 million), Charlotte’s Kemba Walker ($12.0 million), Orlando’s Terrence Ross ($10.5 million), Detroit’s Jon Leuer ($10.4 million).

Certainly, none of those names are as impactful as a Paul George or Carmelo Anthony, but they could be pieces that improve the roster, even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold, which owner Paul Allen has made clear he does not fear.

“I think back in February,’’ Olshey said. “Who would have thought the impact Jusuf Nurkic would have had?’’

In other words, stay tuned. Olshey is still at work.

Some Blazers links:

I wrote about how belief is the key word as Blazers start practices.

I also wrote about some of the top stories from media day, including the maturation of Lillard and McCollum and the emergence of Caleb Swanigan.

Joe Freeman from The Oregonian touched on the top stories from media day, including Lillard becoming a vegan.

Mike RIchman from The Oregonain wrote about  Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss and Bad Boy aspirations for Blazers.

David MacKay at Blazer's Edge revisits Meyers Leonard path to working out with trainer Drew Hanlen.

Trail Blazers media day: In upgraded West, belief will be the key word for Blazers

Trail Blazers media day: In upgraded West, belief will be the key word for Blazers

The Trail Blazers enter the 2017-2018 season in familiar territory: a massive underdog, almost forgotten among the seismic changes in the Western Conference, which might be a good thing for this group.

After last season, when the Blazers sputtered to a 41-41 record -- during which top executive Neil Olshey said “I think guys went in thinking things could be given and not earned, to a certain degree,’’ -- these Blazers seem to have found a familiar preseason stance: Discount the Blazers at your caution.

 “I think we are flying under the radar, like a couple of seasons ago,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We are back to being the underdog, and all of us embrace that mentality. And I think that gives us a different type of edge, a chip on our shoulders.’’

With 12 returners, and a rookie bigman in Caleb Swanigan whom the veterans raved will come in an make an impact, the Blazers know things won’t be easy in a Western Conference that has the defending champion Golden State Warriors and dramatically enhanced rosters in Oklahoma City (Paul George, Carmelo Anthony), Houston (Chris Paul), Minnesota (Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague), Denver (Paul Millsap) to name a few.

It’s why the team’s pulse, captain Damian Lillard, says it’s important for the Blazers to adopt a simple, one-word concept: Belief.

“I think we just have to truly believe,’’ Lillard said. “It’s one thing to get up here and say I believe we can be a good team, and I believe we worked hard, and I believe we got better. But when it’s really in you .., that drive inside you, and you look to your left and right and say I believe in this guy and he can bring something to the table that can make us a good enough team? I know that I really have that.’’

Instilling that belief will be one of the subplots to a training camp that will feature competition for starting roles at small forward and power forward, and questions about the team’s big-man depth now that power forward Noah Vonleh is out for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

“I think I see more in my teammates sometimes than they see in themselves,’’ Lillard said. “I think that’s what it comes down to: We are all talented, have ability and are happy to be teammates, but when you have that belief, you can go further.’’

Among the Las Vegas oddsmakers, the Blazers are projected to be a borderline playoff team, better than Memphis and Utah, but behind Minnesota, Denver and the Clippers.

Last season, the Blazers found that talk is cheap. They thought they were ready to take the next step after finishing fifth in the West, but instead struggled to make the playoffs while playing with a losing record from Dec. 10 through April 1.

Now, as three All-Stars (George, Butler, Anthony) have moved from the East to the West, the margin for error has become even smaller.

“One of positives of such great players moving to the West is it’s obvious to everyone on our roster that we need to step up our games from day one,’’ Olshey said. “So guys have been dialed in more.’’

Odds and ends: One player Olshey went out of his way to praise: point guard Shabazz Napier.  “He’s had a really nice off season.’’ …  Olshey said he was “incredibly aggressive” in trying to upgrade the roster this offseason, presumably referring to his attempts to acquire Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in trades. “Look, we tried to keep up in the arms race as best we could,’’ Olshey said. “We made every effort  … most of the movement was by trade and you need willing partners when it comes to trades. I can tell you we were incredibly aggressive. We protected certain pieces of our roster that we felt were irreplaceable … we did everything in our power to try an accelerate where we are trying to get to as a team.’’

Coach Terry Stotts said three starters are locked in cement: Lillard at point guard, CJ McCollum at shooting guard and Jusuf Nurkic at center … Blazers’ team president Chris McGowan said the Blazers have been notified by the NBA they will not be under consideration for the 2020 or 2021 All-Star Game … After nearly coming to a deal with one client, McGowan said he has renewed pursuit of a partner to advertise on the Blazers’ jersey. He said a deal likely won’t happen until mid-season or next season.

Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension


Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 29, 2017) –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.”

“I appreciate the confidence Paul Allen has in myself and the entire Basketball Operations staff,” said Olshey.  “I look forward to building on the foundation we have developed and the continued partnership with Bert Kolde, Chris McGowan, Terry Stotts and the entire Trail Blazers organization.  On a personal note, I’m very happy for my family as we’ve really embraced Oregon and the incredible spirit of Rip City.”

Promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2015, Olshey was named the 10th General Manager in franchise history on June 4, 2012, and finished his fifth season at the helm in 2016-17. In his role, Olshey leads the organization’s Basketball Operations, overseeing talent evaluation, player personnel decisions, contract negotiations and salary cap management.

Less than a month after joining the Trail Blazers, Olshey drafted Damian Lillard (sixth overall), the fourth unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year in league history, and Meyers Leonard (11th overall). He then named veteran coach Terry Stotts head coach of the Trail Blazers on August 7, 2012.  Olshey also drafted and developed guard CJ McCollum (10th overall in 2013), winner of the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player award.

Last season, Olshey made a trade-deadline move to acquire center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round draft pick from Denver in exchange for Mason Plumlee and cash considerations on February 13. That move ignited the Trail Blazers’ climb into the NBA Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season – even with the youngest roster in the NBA.

“Knowing Neil will continue to lead Basketball Operations well into the foreseeable future is a great thing for our franchise,” said Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. “I am excited to continue our partnership in running this organization on and off the court with the goal of delivering a world-class experience for our fans.”

The Trail Blazers will tip-off the 2017-18 regular season beginning October 18 with road games at Phoenix, Indiana and Milwaukee, before returning to Portland for their home opener versus New Orleans on October 24. 


Members of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Portland Trail Blazers were founded in 1970 and purchased by Paul G. Allen in 1988. The team's rich heritage includes 33 playoff appearances, three trips to the NBA Finals, an NBA championship in 1977 and a commitment to community service and sustainability. The Trail Blazers are dedicated to positively impacting underserved kids and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington where they live, learn and play. Portland is the first and only professional sports franchise to receive the prestigious National Points of Light Award for excellence in corporate and community service. The Trail Blazers home arena, the Moda Center, earned LEED Gold Recertification in 2015 after becoming the first existing professional sports venue in the world to receive LEED Gold status in 2010. The team is also one of the founding members of the Green Sports Alliance. For more information, visit

REPORT: Neil Olshey agrees to contract extension with the Trail Blazers


REPORT: Neil Olshey agrees to contract extension with the Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey have agreed to a contract extension that will keep Olshey with the Blazers through 2021.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported the news.

Olshey joined the Trail Blazers on June 4, 2012, when he was hired as the team’s new general manager. He made an immediate impact when later that month he drafted the face of the franchise, Damian Lillard, and just over a month later hired head coach Terry Stotts. Since Olshey took over the Blazers have gone from bottom of the West, to a perennial playoff team. In 2014 they ended a two-year streak of missing the playoffs, and their first round defeat of the Houston Rockets was the team’s first playoff series victory in 14 seasons.

All this success paid off for Olshey, resulting in his promotion to President of Basketball Operations in 2015.

Follow us on Twitter @CSNNW, and stayed tuned to for more information.





Yes, the Blazers made a Paul George run and I'm happy they didn't get him

Yes, the Blazers made a Paul George run and I'm happy they didn't get him

As I sit back and watch another free-agent frenzy unfold in the NBA, I wish I could tell you where this is all going.

It seems to me there's a pretty good chance that in just a few seasons, nearly every team in the league that matters is going to be capped out. If there's money available under the cap, teams spend like a lottery's instant millionaires. It appeared the Trail Blazers dished out some pretty spendy deals last summer, but -- just as Neil Olshey said -- those deals look commonplace or even cheap compared to what's going on this year.

Yes, Allen Crabbe is going to be making about $18.5 million a season for the next three seasons. Maurice Harkless a little over $10 million for each of the next three, Evan Turner about $18 million a season and Meyers Leonard a little over $10 million per year.

Well, if you haven't noticed, Taj Gibson is going to be getting about $14 million a year over the next two years, Serge Ibaka about $21 million per season over the next three, Amir Johnson has a one-year deal for $11 million, Joe Ingles is going to earn $13 million a year over the next four, J.J. Redick has a one-year deal for $23 million and how about Jrue Holiday getting $25 million a year for the next five seasons?

And yes, Portland tied up Damian Lillard at an average of about $28 million a year over the next four seasons and CJ McCollum for a little more than $25 million a season over the next four years. Those deals are already looking like a bargain.

Paul Millsap just signed for three years at $90 million with Denver. Good player, but wow. Blake Griffin is going to get $173 million over the next five (probably injury-riddled) seasons with the Clippers. Kyle Lowry is going to be getting a total of $100 million over the next three seasons and Steph Curry is reported to be getting $201 million over the next five years.


The NBA has become Escalation Station as far as salaries are concerned. It has always been that way, too. I can recall back in the 1980s when I was covering the team for The Oregonian, a young player actually called me when he signed his second contract, so excited he just couldn't keep the dollar figure a secret. "I'm getting two million over four years," he said. "I'm a millionaire."

About a year later, after inflation did its usual thing, that deal didn't look very sweet after all.

"I'm playing for chump change," he told me. "I'm getting screwed."

True story.

And as the numbers go up, the ability to shed salaries and clear cap space becomes more important. The Trail Blazers have work to do in that area but remember, when you do that, you usually lose players with some degree of talent -- which has an impact on team performance.

"Cap Space" doesn't look any better running up and down the court than "Cash Considerations."

Everyone was excited for Portland to go all-in on the Paul George Sweepstakes -- which it did. Olshey's offer of all three first-round picks in the recent draft PLUS a player of Indiana's choosing outside the Big Three was probably the real deal, although I did hear that it could have ended up with the Pacers choosing two players rather than one.

That would clear cap space when George departed a year from now. I know a lot of fans would have been overjoyed with a George deal -- a lot of them seemed ecstatic at the prospect of a season of futility chasing Golden State at the cost of long-range goals. For me, I'm fine with the two draft picks. I think there's a real chance at least one of them will pop. At some point, salaries will be dumped and that will mean their talent will go out the door with them.

As I said, I can only guess where this is going -- in Portland or the rest of the league. But I'm more convinced than ever that the great baseball general manager Bill Veeck was so prescient when he said many decades ago, "It isn't the high price of stars that is expensive, it's the high price of mediocrity."