Neil Olshey

Official: Trail Blazers sign CJ McCollum to multi-year contract extension

Official: Trail Blazers sign CJ McCollum to multi-year contract extension

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard CJ McCollum to a multi-year contract extension, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

The three-year extension keeps McCollum under contract through the 2023-24 season.  

“CJ McCollum is a franchise cornerstone and a critical part of our future,” said Olshey. “This extension represents a strong level of commitment between CJ, the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland.”

McCollum, 27, holds averages of 17.8 points (45.5% FG, 40.1% 3-PT, 83.9% FT), 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.87 steals in 411 games (314 starts) over six seasons with the Trail Blazers. The 12th leading scorer in franchise history (7,328 points), McCollum ranks seventh among franchise leaders in three-point shooting percentage, eighth in free throw percentage and third in three-pointers made (823).

Selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Lehigh, McCollum is one of just six Trail Blazers to average at least 20.0 points in four NBA seasons. Winner of the NBA Most Improved Player Award in 2015-16, McCollum scored a career-high 50 points vs. Chicago on Jan. 31, 2018, making him one of seven Trail Blazers to reach the 50-point mark in franchise history.

In six consecutive trips to the playoffs that culminated in last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals, McCollum has averaged 19.6 points (43.9% FG, 39.4% 3-PT, 78.8% FT), 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.83 steals in 46 games (36 starts).

Jusuf Nurkic & Pau Gasol looking to 'stay strong and come back even stronger' after rehab

Jusuf Nurkic & Pau Gasol looking to 'stay strong and come back even stronger' after rehab

Two extremely well known international basketball players are now united on the Portland Trail Blazers.

At Pau Gasol’s introductory press conference on Monday afternoon, which included Gasol, Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts, Olshey noted that the Trail Blazers ‘Health and Performance’ coaches have already or will be spending time with both Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic overseas.  

On Monday’s conference call, Olshey gave an update on the Bosnian Beast.

“Nurk’s doing well. Jess Ellis, our head of H & P, was in Bosnia working with him, as a matter of fact, then he stopped off and spent a couple of days with Pau in Madrid,” Olshey said.

“Logan Sullivan, who also works with us in H & P will be heading over [to Bosnia] in two weeks, to spend a couple of weeks with Nurk again. He’ll stop over and see Pau as well,” Olshey added.

It was on March 26th of this year that the Trail Blazers center sustained compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula with just over two minutes remaining in the second overtime of Portland’s win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Nurkic underwent “successful surgery” the following day to repair the lower left leg injury.

The last official word from the team on Nurk’s status was as follows:

There is no timetable for his return to basketball activity. His status will be updated as appropriate.

That statement came from a Trail Blazers press release the night of Nurkic’s injury.

There is still no official timeline at this point, but the 24-year-old’s progression is apparent to the Blazers organization.

“He’s progressing,” Olshey said. “He’s doing well. His timeline is still the same. I mean, we’re not gonna put a return date on it cause we’re still too far out, but I will say that he is absolutely on or ahead of schedule at this point.”

Earlier this summer Trail Blazers performance coach Ben Kenyon shared a video to his Instagram page so fans could get a glimpe at Nurkic’s recovery. The video, which was posted in early June, showed Nurk doing some light agility ladder work and him using a rowing machine.

The assumption now is that Gasol will be the backup center for the Trail Blazers, while Hassan Whiteside gets the starting nod at the five until Nurkic is healthy enough to play.

This tweet from Gasol on March 25th, the night that all of Rip City held its breath after learning of Nurkic’s injury, may just sum up how perfect it is that the two are uniting as teammates.

Gasol at 39 years old is coming off foot surgery and is hoping to come back stronger this season, but he had also wished the same for Nurkic.

Now Rip City will look to witness these two big men ‘stay strong and come back even stronger.’ 

Pau Gasol eager to help out Blazers: “I love mentoring, I look forward to it”

Pau Gasol eager to help out Blazers: “I love mentoring, I look forward to it”

The Portland Trail Blazers roster is set.

Fourteen players are under contract, one below the league’s maximum.

At 39 years old, Pau Gasol is the newest member of the team.

Monday afternoon marked the first chance for reporters from all around the world to hear from Gasol since his signing in Portland was made official.  

The introductory press conference took place on a conference call that included Gasol, Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts.

“This is the roster we’re going to start the regular season with… We think we did really well the offseason. We think we filled some holes. We looked at areas where we were vulnerable last year in the postseason. We were really successful, but there were things we clearly could have had more solutions to some of the challenges we faced in the Conference Finals [vs. the Golden State Warriors], and we think we’ve addressed those,” Olshey said. 

Gasol had high praise of the Trail Blazers organization during his introductory press conferen

"The Portland Trail Blazers are a special franchise with incredible history," Gasol said. "I’m just happy and thankful for the opportunity." 

[RELATED]: Pau Gasol: just about as close as you can get to perfect for this team at this time

But perhaps what was the most talked about topic on the thirty-minute call, which featured local Portland reporters and reporters from all over the world, was Gasol’s eagerness to play a big role as a mentor to the young Blazers squad.

“I'll do as much as I can, and as much as asked by the coaching staff, by Terry and the staff and try to contribute as much as on the floor and off the floor,” Gasol said. “Obviously at this point in my career I have a lot of experience and I can help the younger guys understand what it takes, how to get better, how to be a better player, what it takes to win.”

Gasol continued by saying, “We have great players, young players that can continue to grow and continue to perform at a higher level which also, I think, is exciting for me to be around them and to push them to be better everyday, every game.”

For Coach Stotts, he feels there is no question that Gasol will fit on and off the court, and that his leadership will be instrumental in Portland’s success this season.

“He’s a winning player. His game, I think really fits with what we want to do and how we want to play. His versatility as far as playing four and five, he can play with Hassan [Whiteside], he can play with Zach [Collins], he can play the five by himself,” Stotts said.

[RELATED]: Pau Gasol to Trail Blazers a great fit in the locker room, likely means more small ball

Olshey echoed those sentiments.

“Obviously, we all know he has an incredible IQ for the game, but he’s also been in the league for 19 years. He knows what he wants and where he can be successful,” Olshey said.

Coach Stotts is especially looking forward to having a mentor for the current big men on the roster:

“The bonus is that because he’s a winning player and he’s won where he has been, and what he can give not only basketball wise, but just what it takes to be a Hall of Fame type of player to Hassan and Zach in particular at that position, that’s a bonus for us.”

That added bonus of the Gasol singing is what Gasol himself is most looking forward to.

“I’m going to teach them the things that I’ve learned… I am excited about it because once you get to this stage of your career it becomes a very fulfilling aspect of the game, to share knowledge… and help the younger guys just like other veterans have helped me along in my younger years… I love mentoring, I look forward to it,” Gasol said.

Trail Blazers fans have been showing their excitement and love for the signing of Gasol all over social media.

On Monday, Gasol returned the favor. 

“It's a city that loves basketball and all their fans are incredibly devoted and loyal to their team," Gasol said.

“What made me accept the offer from the Blazers is they’re a great team, one of the best in the league. They're trending up, they're very hungry, their culture is great,” Gasol added.

As the two-time NBA champion continues to work with his trainer in Madrid while rehabbing his left foot, which he had surgery on in April, he is eager to come back this season and get back on the floor.

 "I think my expectations are to be completely cleared and free to compete during training camp. Those are my expectations," Gasol said. “I had a rough season last year with the injury. I decided to take the surgery when I did because it would give me a chance to be back and ready for training camp…  If I'm cleared to play, I'm the first one that cannot wait to play competitive basketball and get to it.”

It’s clear Gasol is not worrying about what’s next beyond this season. The six-time NBA All-Star is not getting ahead of himself.

“All my focus will be on the season, and the Portland Trail Blazers, and me giving my best every single day. That’s my approach. What’s going to come after the season I don’t know,” Gasol said.

Even at 39, Gasol admitted he was not ready to hang it up because of his “love for the game.”

Gasol still really has “a huge passion and fire” for what he does.

Get ready Rip City, that 19-years of fire and passion is heading to Portland.

Hassan Whiteside shows love for Portland and is excited about his 'fresh start'

Hassan Whiteside shows love for Portland and is excited about his 'fresh start'

LAS VEGAS – ‘There’s no place like home,’ – a prominent quote from the movie Wizard of Oz that automatically makes you think of Dorothy wearing her ruby red slippers. 

For the newest Trail Blazer Hassan Whiteside there’s no place like his new home, Portland, OR.

Whiteside was either channeling his inner Wizard of Oz or he was just showcasing his style on Thursday evening in Las Vegas while wearing sparkly ruby red shoes.  

The Trail Blazers held Thursday’s introductory news conference at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV before Portland tipped off its fourth Summer League game. Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts were in attendance.

The Blazers are excited to finally have their guy they wanted three years ago after the four-team trade for Whiteside with the Miami Heat became official on Thursday.

“Hassan’s a player we’ve pursued multiple times in free agency. We’ve chased him through trades with the Heat. We finally find some traction… We’re thrilled to have him,” Olshey said to start off the new conference.

Maybe it was Whiteside’s Blazer red shoes and shirt or maybe it was his infectious smile that gave it away, but there is no doubt Whiteside is very much looking forward to this new chapter with Portland.

“What makes me excited about joining, is just the movement and how much they did in these last couple of years, going to the Western Conference Finals… And they have two guards, guys that you have to guard once they get out of their car in the parking lot… Those guys are big time shooters,” Whiteside said.

“I think I describe it as a perfect situation. You ever been on the beach, just chilling and drinking a nice water looking out at the sunset? That’s how I feel,” Whiteside continued.

Whiteside joked ‘yes, a water,” after saying the beach comment.

The 30-year-old is already bringing the laughs.

With Trail Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic sidelined for the foreseeable future, both Stotts and Olshey acknowledged how important the trade to acquire Whiteside was to this year’s team.

Stotts also said he plans to “put [Whiteside] in a lot the same situations that we put Nurk.”

For his career, Whiteside holds averages of 13.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.

Before Whiteside was formally introduced in Vegas, he spent a couple of days in Portland.

Whiteside said he is already feeling the Rip City love.

“It’s so nice. People are so nice in Portland,” Whiteside said. “I heard so many welcome to Portlands… They really embrace me. It feels like a close-knit town that really loves the Blazers. I tell people all the time this is the only arena where you can come out in the lay-up line and when you go through warm-ups, you look into the stands and it’s like 60 percent of the fans are already waiting on you.”

There has been a lot of chatter about how Whiteside’s situation with Miami went south over the last couple of seasons and that maybe he has been a bad locker room guy.

To that, there is one thing Whitside would like his new fan base to know:

“Just how much I care…”

“I think a lot of stuff, if we did have a problem, it’s because we were losing and as a competitor you always want to win,” Whiteside said. “You know, I feel like it was a down year since we didn’t make the playoffs and that does something to you in the offseason.”

“You at home watching other teams play, you want to be out there. I think that’s what I really want them to know that how much I care about working and getting better. This a fresh start and realistically I really think that this team is on the verge of doing something really special,” Whiteside added.

Trail Blazers fans in attendance of Summer League showed their love to Whiteside by asking to take pictures with the Blazers big man and telling him how excited they are to have him in Portland.

Whiteside can now rock those red shoes while saying, there’s no place like home in Portland, OR.

Official: Trail Blazers acquire Hassan Whiteside from Miami in multi-team deal

Official: Trail Blazers acquire Hassan Whiteside from Miami in multi-team deal

The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired center Hassan Whiteside from the Miami Heat in a four-team deal that will send forward Maurice Harkless to the LA Clippers and center Meyers Leonardto the Heat, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

"Acquiring Hassan is an impact move for our roster,” said Olshey. “He is an elite shot blocker, rebounder and paint presence on both ends of the floor. We have pursued Hassan through multiple avenues at various times in his career and are ecstatic to be adding him to our organization”.

Whiteside, 30, averaged 12.3 points (57.1% FG, 44.9% FT), 11.3 rebounds, 1.89 blocks and 23.3 minutes in 72 games (53 starts) for Miami during the 2018-19 season.  

A seven-year NBA veteran, Whiteside (7-0, 265) holds career averages of 13.4 points (57.4% FG, 59.3% FT), 11.4 rebounds, 2.33 blocks and 26.0 minutes in 343 games (259 starts) with Miami and Sacramento. Originally selected by Sacramento with the 33rd overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, Whiteside played two seasons for the Kings and has spent the last five seasons with the Heat. He led the NBA in blocks per game during the 2015-16 season (3.68) and rebounds per game during the 2016-17 season (14.1).

The trade also sends Jimmy Butler from Philadelphia to Miami, Josh Richardson from Miami to Philadelphia and a future first round draft pick goes from Miami to the Clippers.

In four seasons with the Trail Blazers, Harkless averaged 7.7 points (49.1% FG, 33.0% 3-PT, 64.6% FT), 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.91 steal and 23.2 minutes in 274 games (172 starts). He was acquired by Portland in a trade with Orlando on July 14, 2015.

Leonard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He appeared in 393 games (42 starts) over seven seasons in Portland, posting averages of 5.6 points (47.9% FG, 38.5% 3-PT, 82.8% FT), 3.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 15.5 minutes.

Trail Blazers officially sign Damian Lillard to multi-year contract extension

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Trail Blazers officially sign Damian Lillard to multi-year contract extension

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard Damian Lillard to a multi-year contract extension, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

The four-year extension keeps Lillard under contract through the 2023-24 season with a player option for 2024-25.

“Since the day we drafted Damian he has exemplified every quality an organization could hope for in a franchise player,” said Olshey. “His perpetual leadership, willingness to embrace responsibility for outcome on the floor and ability to set a cultural standard illustrates what it means to be a Portland Trail Blazer and makes us ecstatic he has chosen to extend his contract at the first opportunity”.

An All-NBA Second Team member last season, Lillard, 28, joins Clyde Drexler as one of two Trail Blazers to receive All-NBA honors four times. He is one of three players in NBA history to record at least 1,500 points and 400 assists in each of his first seven NBA seasons (Oscar Robertson, LeBron James), and in 2018-19 he became the first player in Trail Blazers history to tally at least 2,000 points and 500 assists in a season. When he was named All-NBA First Team in 2017-18, he joined Drexler and Bill Walton as the only Trail Blazers to achieve the honor.

Winner of the 2018-19 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, Lillard (6-3, 195) holds career averages of 23.5 points (43.4% FG, 36.8% 3-PT, 88.9% FT), 4.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 0.97 steals in 549 games (all starts) over seven seasons with the Trail Blazers.

Selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Weber State, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year and four-time NBA All-Star has led the Trail Blazers to six consecutive playoff appearances, including last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals. He holds career playoff averages of 24.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists, and has hit two series-clinching shots in his postseason career.

Among all-time franchise leaders, Lillard ranks second in scoring (12,909), first in three-pointers (1,506), third in assists (3,479), third in field goals made (4,277), second in free throws made (2,849), fifth in minutes (19,907), ninth in steals (533) and 10th in games played (549). 

Official: Trail Blazers re-sign guard/forward Rodney Hood

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Official: Trail Blazers re-sign guard/forward Rodney Hood

The Portland Trail Blazers have re-signed guard/forward Rodney Hood, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

“Rodney became an impact player for us as soon as he joined the team and played a critical role in our regular and post season success,” said Olshey. “We are fortunate he chose to return to Portland”.

Hood, 26, averaged 9.6 points (45.2% FG, 34.5% 3-PT, 80.5% FT), 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 24.4 minutes in 27 games (four starts) after being acquired by the Trail Blazers in a trade with Cleveland on February 4, 2019.

During Portland’s run to the 2019 Western Conference Finals, Hood (6-8, 205) averaged 9.9 points (46.8% FG, 35.3% 3-PT, 81.8% FT), 2.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 23.3 minutes in 16 games. He was Portland’s third-leading scorer against Denver in the Western Conference Semifinals, averaging 14.7 points per game while shooting 57.6% from the field and 50.0% from the three-point line during the seven-game series.

In five NBA seasons with Utah, Cleveland and Portland, Hood holds career averages of 12.6 points (42.2% FG, 36.7% 3-PT, 84.1%FT), 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 27.2 minutes.

Hood was originally selected by Utah with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft out of Duke. He was traded from Utah to Cleveland on February 8, 2018.

The Jake Layman Era ends in Portland with a trade to Minnesota

The Jake Layman Era ends in Portland with a trade to Minnesota

The Jake Layman Era in Portland has come to an end.

The popular 6-9 forward out of Maryland has agreed to a three-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves that is said to pay the 25-year-old, three-year veteran $11.5 million. To facilitate that move, Neil Olshey, Portland’s president of basketball operations, engineered a trade with the Timberwolves that sent Layman away in return for a $1.8 million trade exception and the rights to 27-year-old, 6-9 European player Bojan Dubljevic. That spared the two teams from having to go through an offer-sheet process, which can be lengthy during a free-agent signing period.

Layman appeared in 141 games during his three seasons as a Blazer and averaged 4.6 points. He had some outstanding moments last season, with three games of more than 20 points and some crowd-pleasing dunks, but played sparingly in the playoffs and shot just 30.2 percent from three-point range during his career.

"We're extremely appreciative of how hard Neil Olshey worked with us to accommodate what we were trying to accomplish in sign and trade," Layman’s agent, Mark Bartelstein told ESPN. "The deal couldn't have happened without the Blazers looking out for Jake's best interests."

Facilitating a deal of this nature is something Olshey has done in the past and it shows his organization to be player- and agent-friendly, which can pay off later.

The Trail Blazers are not allowed to comment on the deal until July 6, but one would assume they felt the price of the Layman contract to be too high to match, given the circumstances. Portland is in the luxury tax and also has agreed to terms with free agent small forwards Kent Bazemore and Mario Hezenja and has agreed to re-sign Rodney Hood, as well as picking another small forward, Nassir Little, in the draft.

The team is still looking for a free-agent center but that market will become more clear once the Lakers – still holding a lot of cap space – find out if they are getting Kawhi Leonard.

Mario Hezonja has plenty to prove after signing with the Trail Blazers

Mario Hezonja has plenty to prove after signing with the Trail Blazers

Mario Hezonja had a lot of reasons for choosing to sign with the Portland Trail Blazers. But most of all, he’s here to prove he can play in the NBA and wants to carry on the legacy of one of his country’s greatest sports heroes.

Hezonja, from Croatia by way of the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks, met the media Wednesday morning at the team’s practice facility.

Taken as the fifth pick in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft, Hezonja’s career so far has been a disappointment. He’s played in 277 games through his four-year career, but started only 65 of them, averaging 7.3 points per game while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range.

“I haven’t put up anything yet,” he said. “But it’s fine, because I will. It’s kind of sad to say I couldn’t do what I (wanted to) do in Orlando and New York … For Orlando I couldn’t be myself because it was one season this and one season that. We were a young group not ready to win yet and then we had a lot of veterans. It was messy a little bit. But it is what it is – it’s the NBA.

“I just go out there to kill. It’s pretty simple. In this situation it will be manifested even more. It’s a Western Conference finals team. I think I’ve gotten better every year.”

He cited his relationship with Neil Olshey as a reason for coming to Portland, a team that chased him in free agency last year before he signed with the Knicks.

“I’ve known Neil since a long time ago,” he said. “He’s connected to my agent’s family. I was talking to them last year. Very familiar to the situation, very familiar with Dame and CJ and the coach.”

And he also has a very close relationship with Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, who lived in the building next to his in Zagreb.

“We lived door-to-door back home,” Hezonja said. “My building is right next to his. I can yell at him every day. He is probably closer to my father than I am because when I left he still played in Zagreb. My brother – there’s nothing more to say. He’s super, super close to me. He always told me about this city, about this team and we’re super close.”

Hezonja is going to wear No. 44 this season, a tribute to Croatian great and former Trail Blazer and Hall of Famer Drazen Petrovic, who wore that number in Portland. Drazen's brother, Aleksandar, coached Herzonja on their country’s national team.

“Obviously the greatest European player of all time,” Hezonja said. “It’s out of respect to him. The journey continues in his name right now. I’m glad I’m the leader of the journey right now. Carrying my entire country with it.”

Hezonja grew up playing point guard and still has a lot of those skills, even though coaches have shuffled him between the forward spots in the NBA.

“It’s weird even for me,” he said. “I was drafted at 6-6, 195 and now I’m 6-9, 240.”

But he still has passing skills that were modeled after Petrovic.

Petrovic came to the Trail Blazers in 1989 as a highly acclaimed star in Europe. And although he played 77 games for Portland that season, he did not start a single game and played only 12 and a half minutes a game. That wasn’t enough for Petrovic, who asked for a trade the following season and was shipped to New Jersey, where he became a star.

There was more to the story, of course. Portland was in the hunt for a championship, had Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler firmly installed as the starting guards and Danny Young as their backup. Petrovic, in his first season adjusting to the NBA, had some turnover trouble, too, and wasn’t going to get big minutes. The Blazers were well aware of Petrovic’s potential but couldn’t invest the playing time in him at that moment.

But in Croatia, the Blazers and Coach Rick Adelman were vilified for not giving Petrovic a chance. And that feeling lasted a long time. Is Hezonja aware of that?

“Yes, that’s the story back home,” said Hezonja, who wants to change that narrative. “I chose his number so I can have success.”

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Neil Olshey should just go take a nap. He’s earned it.

Olshey’s Trail Blazers engineered a blockbuster trade Monday morning, finishing off – unless he’s got something else up his sleeve – the team’s major off-season work with a flourish.

Already this summer, Olshey has upgraded the team’s shooting from the wing, drafted a promising rookie with just the No. 25 pick, signed Damian Lillard to a supermax contract and Monday, brought in a starting center, Hassan Whiteside, on an expiring contract to stand in for Jusuf Nurkic.

And Whiteside isn’t just another center. He has led the league in blocked shots and rebounds per game and has a career true shooting percentage of .589. Last season he averaged only 23.3 minutes per game but chalked up a double-double, 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds along with 1.9 blocked shots per game.

Portland made the trade without touching its core players, sending Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless to Miami in return for Whiteside. All three are embarking on the final season of their deals. The Heat are trying to clear cap space in order to complete a complicated deal for free agent Jimmy Butler and they will gain about $4 million with this trade.

Sunday, Portland added free agents Rodney Hood and Mario Herzonja, bolstering the small-forward position already strengthened by the addition of Kent Bazemore in an earlier deal for Evan Turner.

Whiteside does not come without some baggage. The 7-foot, 265-pounder has complained about playing time in Miami, where he became another big man who was a casualty of small-ball lineups and eventually lost his starting job to Bam Adebayo. Famously, he came under fire from Miami President Pat Riley after the 2018 playoffs:

“There's no doubt he was in a bad state in the playoffs,” Riley said of Whiteside. “Whatever the reasons why, I have not really sat down with Spo and really talked about all of these things. Hassan was less than without a doubt in the playoffs. I'm not going to give him any kind of excuse. But the season started with an injury and all year long there was a dilemma of some kind. By the time we got to the playoffs I don't think he was ready. He wasn't in great shape. He wasn't fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.

“The disconnect between he and Spo (Coach Erik Spoelstra) that's going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of Coach and also Hassan. How will Hassan transform his thinking – 99 percent of it – to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense or minutes or whatever? However he uses him, that's what you do. I have the same problem with Hassan. That problem is that he's going to have to do something to change because he's a helluva player.”

In Portland, where the Trail Blazers are accustomed to using Nurkic (and then Enes Kanter) in the post, Whiteside should be a much happier player. And if he isn’t, he’s a $27 million expiring contract at the trade deadline.

Leonard was a polarizing player in Portland for fans who wanted seven-footers playing inside instead of shooting three-pointers. He did not get consistent playing time in Terry Stotts’ system. But he made a big splash in the playoffs last season in the final two games against Golden State and has a career 47.9 field-goal percentage and a 38.5 percentage from three-point range. Harkless, a starter for most of the last three seasons, has averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for his career. He was a solid defender, especially when used in concert with Al-Farouq Aminu, for the Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season without Nurkic, who sustained a broken leg late in the season. It would be hard to argue that they aren't a better team now, after the flurry of activity the past few days.