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Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum: ‘We’re keeping the core together’

Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 29: Damian Lillard #0 and C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrate after winning Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 29, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers won 106-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

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The Trail Blazers have won 54% of their games in Damian Lillard’s and C.J. McCollum’s three years starting together. But Portland has gotten swept in the first round the last two years. In the prior year, the Trail Blazers beat the Clippers only after Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got hurt – then got smoked by the Warriors in the second round.

Portland has done just enough to create intrigue but too little to stave off restlessness.

So, many have wondered: When will the Trail Blazers break up the Lillard-McCollum duo?

While discussing re-signing starting center Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $48 million contract, Portland president Neil Olshey explained his stance.


Long term, we have him for the next fours, which gives us a really good runway. We’re keeping the core together, knowing Dame and C.J. have at least three years left on their contracts. And we give that group the best chance to win without impeding our ability long-term in terms of being into a number that’s completely non-liquid.

Of course, that’s not binding. If Olshey wanted to trade Lillard or McCollum, he probably wouldn’t announce it in advance.

But this wasn’t a response to a question about those star guards at all, making it more likely Olshey is revealing his genuine plan. Keeping Nurkic long-term also indicates a preservation of the status quo.

Lillard and McCollum are both excellent players, and they’ve developed a nice chemistry together. But there are diminishing returns in being led by two small guards. It might be worthwhile to swap one for a forward who’d make more of a difference over Portland’s current forwards.

It all depends what Olshey could get for McCollum or, less likely, Lillard, the franchise player.

But whether it’s because he’s explored the market and found nothing appetizing or just believes in his backcourt that much, Olshey doesn’t sound ready to make that big change.