Neil Olshey offers insight into deals that kept Blazers alive in playoffs

Neil Olshey offers insight into deals that kept Blazers alive in playoffs

It was just a few days before the NBA trading deadline and Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey was looking to add something to a healthy team that -- with Jusuf Nurkic, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rolling -- had a chance to make a postseason run.

Little did he know, at the time, what injuries would do to his roster. And he couldn’t have known what a big role Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter would play, getting the Trail Blazers to Sunday afternoon’s one-game showdown for a berth in the Western Conference finals.

Coach Terry Stotts was asked, where would this team be without those trade-deadline acquisitions?

“At home watching television,” Stotts said. “Rodney and Enes, what they’ve given us in both the Oklahoma City series and this series, we wouldn’t be where we are without them.”

“We made a mistake last year,” Olshey said. “We had a 50-win team, but we weren’t deep enough to handle the injuries going into the playoffs.

“So what we really looked at this year was, where can we fortifying the roster where we’re not bringing in somebody that, if we remain healthy, they’re superfluous, but could be an upgrade from current guys getting rotation minutes that fit our style of play?”

First came Rodney Hood, acquired in a deal with Cleveland on Feb. 4 for Wade Baldwin, Nik Stauskas and two second-round picks.

“We had a very short list of perimeter guys and the key was, it had to be a guy who could play the two and three, in order to get enough minutes to justify the acquisition,” Olshey said. “We did not want a one-position player. We wanted somebody that we had comps of guys who had played in Terry’s system who had flourished.

“The way that Rodney scored is the way that a lot of our perimeter players have scored in the past. We were used to posting Wes Matthews and posting Aaron Afflalo and posting Evan Turner. We were trying to replicate that. Instead of trying to find a niche for something we might be missing, we decided, let’s go that way.

“The reason we were able to get Rodney for less than a first-round pick is he was willing to give up his Bird rights. So Cleveland got fair value for a guy on a one-year qualifying offer who was likely to walk at the end of the year for nothing.

“Kudos to Rodney – we had multiple conversations with Rodney and his representatives about if he was going to be giving up his Bird rights, what the opportunity was going to be, how many minutes he would get, the success of the perimeter players we’ve had who have gone on to major paydays -- either from us or other teams.

“It was a robust market for Rodney at the trade deadline and we were very lucky in that recruiting battle that he chose us.”

Hood says it was an easy call after those conversations.

“I had no idea I would end up here in Portland,” Hood said. “Portland was one of the last teams I talked with and once I talked with Neil and once my agent talked to Neil, it was kind of a no-brainer.

“There was a need for me here. It was an opportunity for me to kind of get back on track. It went both ways – I think I’ve helped the team and being here, really helped me.

“I had a good relationship with some of the guys on the team and I always liked how they played. I like the feel of the city.”

Olshey was looking for the Utah version of Hood, and that’s what his team has gotten.

“This is not an out-of-body experience,” Hood said. “I’m the same guy I’ve always been. This is just the right place. This system fits me – it fits a lot of good players. The ball moves.

Olshey said the organization is building credibility with agents and players for stability and keeping its word.

“Because we now have seven years, we are a perennial playoff team and they know that we’re an honest organization,” Olshey said. “After the time we’ve been together, I can speak for Terry. If you come, I can assure you this is your role, this is how we play.

“We trust our culture and we trust in guys like Dame,” Olshey said. “It’s a nurturing environment. Obviously, Rodney’s confidence was affected by what happened in Cleveland last year.

“But look at some of the reclamation projects we’ve had here. Guys with high-end talent like Moe Harkless, Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, a guy like Seth Curry who had been out for a year with an injury, the success we’ve had with guys who have been overlooked or undervalued by other organizations who have maximized their talent by being in our culture. That was really comforting for Rodney, also.”

Kanter arrived on Feb. 14, a free agent after being bought out of his contract with the Knicks. Olshey had to recruit Kanter away from several teams chasing him, including the Lakers, who were still in a playoff hunt.

Again, Kanter and his agent chose a role – backup center to Nurkic with guaranteed minutes and the promise of being a starter in the event of an injury. And that’s worked out extremely well, even though other teams offered starting roles.

“He’s playing against perhaps the best center in the league and he’s had two shoulder separations in the last couple of weeks,” Olshey said of Kanter. “He’s out there playing with one arm.”

Kanter is another player who fell in love with the culture in Portland after he got here. Did he expect what he’s found with the Trail Blazers. Did he even know the team was this good?

“I’ll be honest with you – no,” Kanter said. “I knew they were a very good team on the court, but I didn’t know that this group of guys were that good of a people off the court. Really good friends, real good chemistry and a real good, professional organization.

“I had no idea. But once you get here, you know, man, this is something special.”

Whether Kanter or Hood return next year is pure conjecture. Portland cannot go over the salary cap to sign either player and at this point has only the taxpayer exception of under $6 million to sign players.

Olshey won’t get into possibilities but won’t slam the door, either.

“As of today, we have limited tools at our disposal,” he said. “Maybe there are some cap gymnastics we can pull off to create some more cap flexibility. That’s an offseason conversation. But also, it’s a fair bargaining. These guys came in here, one without Bird rights and the other on a buyout for a pro-rated minimum, and these guys capitalized on it. God bless them,

“That’s how this is supposed to work. They’re giving us a chance to win and we’re giving them a platform to showcase themselves prior to their unrestricted free agency.

“Look, if we can pull something off, we will try our best to pull it off but if not, then our job is to go out and find other versions of them next summer.”

The emotions after losing Rodney Hood to a torn Achilles: "There’s no words that can help"

The emotions after losing Rodney Hood to a torn Achilles: "There’s no words that can help"

It seemed like Déjà vu:  The Trail Blazers met their injured teammate in the locker room to offer him a hug, their thoughts and prayers, and to offer support to their comrade.

First, it was Jusuf Nurkic. Then, Zach Collins.

Friday night, with the Los Angeles Lakers in town, the Blazers lost their starting small forward Rodney Hood to a season-ending Achilles injury

“I’m very sad,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said following the Blazers 136-113 loss to the Lakers. “Very disappointed for Rodney, he was having a good year for us. I hate for anybody to have an injury like that, that takes them out for the season. I feel for him.” 

Hood suffered what was initially called a lower leg injury with 3:27 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Trail Blazers announced Hood had suffered a torn left Achilles tendon, confirmed by an MRI. 

Hood said after the Blazers win over the Kings on Wednesday that his left Achilles was bothering him during the game and that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play vs. the Lakers. The 27-year-old was even subbed out in the fourth quarter because of left Achilles soreness.

Friday night, Coach Stotts said Hood cleared all of the team's protocols before the game and there was never a question that Hood wouldn’t play against the Lakers.

As one would expect, the Trail Blazers locker room was somber. They stood at their lockers trying to put into words how difficult it was to watch Hood, one of their brothers, go down the way he did with a non-contact injury.

“It’s tough, man,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “You hate to see injuries in the league period, but you hate to see one of your teammates go down to an injury like that, especially a starter and somebody that’s really a good person, having a great season, fitting in really well with our team and a big part of what we do. You feel for him personally more than anything. Just sad to see that happen to him.”

Hood was averaging 11.5 points on an efficient 50.9 percent shooting from the floor, while shooting 49.3 percent from three this season.

The Trail Blazers team captain is giving Hood space before he talks with him.

“So many emotions come with that and a lot going on in his head, I didn’t want to press him about it. I’m sure we’ll talk. I just told him to keep his head up. I saw where his spirits were – he had a smile on his face even though I know he probably hurting on the inside. I’m sure we’ll talk,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers and Lakers were exchanging baskets before Hood headed back to the locker room.

Before losing Hood, Portland already had a difficult task facing the 20-3 Lakers.

Skal Labissiere, who had to leave the game briefly in the first quarter to have four stitches, put in his upper lip, discussed how big of void it was losing Hood.

“Obviously he’s a big part of our team, we felt that when he went down. We hope and wish that he has a really good recovery,” Labissiere said.

For us it’s about the next man up. It’s been like that since the end of last year when [Jusuf] Nurkic went down and even into this season, so we just have to keep staying together. We’ve encountered a lot of adversity already this season and we just have to keep pushing. We have no other choice and perseverance I think is a big word for us… We have a great group of guys. Guys that work hard and we understand the situation, and we’re just going to have to keep having to preserve. -- Skal Labissiere 

Hood held the second-best three-point shooting percentage in the league earlier this season. He exuded confidence and became a go-to guy for the Trail Blazers.

Both CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony reflected on Hood’s season so far this year.

“It’s heartbreaking, McCollum said. "I know how hard he worked, the type of season he was having, what he means to our team, you never want to see anything like that… I saw him briefly. I mean, what do you say? I just gave him a hug… There’s no words that can help in that situation."

What he was able to bring to this team early on in the season, how he was playing, playing at a all-time high level, having a career start to the season, and just the snap of a finger his season is gone right now. -- Carmelo Anthony postgame  

Injuries like a torn Achilles always put the game of basketball in perspective.

And that’s what Melo was feeling:

“You forget all about the actual game. You realize how wins and losses really doesn’t mean anything at this particular moment. It puts a lot of things in perspective to lose a guy like that.”

Hood was not in the locker room when the media was allowed in, but right next to Hood’s locker stood young Anfernee Simons. He was one of the first players to talk about losing his teammate.

“You just don’t know what to think… We’re just going to be supporting him and praying for him. We’re going to be there for him every step of the way for his recovery,” Simons said.

Simons also mentioned that he was able to have a brief conversation with his teammate after the game:

“I just told him God always has a plan and just keep the faith, and I’m praying for him.”

As Hood and the Blazers look to keep the faith, they will continue to preserve, and lean on each other.

The first chance the Blazers will have to come together as a team will be Sunday when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town. 

Terry Stotts ejected for first time in 880 games and 'it was very necessary'

Terry Stotts ejected for first time in 880 games and 'it was very necessary'

The Los Angeles Lakers Friday night showed everything you need to have to be a championship team.

With LeBron James and Anthony Davis they have two superstars, Hall of Fame-caliber players who are tough at both ends of the floor. They’ve surrounded those players with shooters and veterans who know how to play.

Almost as important as that, they’ve got an experienced coaching staff that appears to have its team buying into defense and moving the ball. Frank Vogel and his assistants are doing an outstanding job with this team that has won 20 of its first 23 games.

And in the Lakers’ 136-113 win over the Trail Blazers in Moda Center, the Lakers got all the help they needed from a very weak officiating crew -- John Goble, Tre Maddox and Leon Wood -- that had Terry Stotts going apoplectic and his players so frustrated they didn’t know what to do.

Stotts was ejected by Tre Maddox with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter after a foul call on Kent Bazemore, who had flown past Anthony Davis without touching him. This after Skal Labissiere was in the locker room getting four stitches in his lip from an elbow by Kyle Kuzma that was not called a foul.

My only question about Stotts getting run was, “What took you so long?”

It had been a poorly officiated game all night and it was the very first time Stotts, in his 880th game as an NBA head coach, has been booted from a game.

“It was very necessary,” Damian Lillard said, then said again. “It was very necessary.”

Bazemore said, “I had four fouls. I didn’t touch him. I was just trying to get out of the way.”

Bazemore got in James’ face and exchanged some words with him a couple of times, but wouldn’t share the content.  “I didn’t get here by backing down from anyone," he said. "That’s not who I am. I’m a fiery player. Very passionate. This is what I like to show.”

It was a contentious game that left Portland players feeling they didn’t get a fair shake. CJ McCollum reacted with dismay when he thought he was fouled in the third quarter. And he got a technical foul for it.

“I was clearly fouled,” McCollum said. “He hit me in the head. They didn’t call it. So I let him know that he missed the call. He didn’t appreciate it.

“They were very inconsistent all night.”

He was asked about Stotts’ getting ejected.

“Tells you the kind of night it was -- he doesn’t freak out for no reason,” McCollum said. “He just doesn’t do that. Kent runs by a guy and doesn’t touch him. Wouldn’t you be mad?”

Is it difficult to play a team with big-name players who seem to get calls?

“That’s what it looked like tonight,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s not even about the calls they get. It’s, can we get the same calls?”

The Lakers didn’t need any help. They buried Portland early with dunks off lobs and then put the hammer down with their three-point shooting, hitting 17 of 36 from long range.

Lillard had 29 for Portland, which now has the problem of replacing starting small forward Rodney Hood, who suffered a torn left Achilles tendon.

 

Instant Analysis: Blazers lose Hood to injury, Stotts to a double-tech, & the game to Lakers

Instant Analysis: Blazers lose Hood to injury, Stotts to a double-tech, & the game to Lakers

Friday night, the Blazers lost their starting small forward Rodney Hood to a season-ending injury.

Before Hood’s injury late in the first quarter, the Blazers and Lakers were exchanging buckets. 

While the Blazers made in-game adjustments without Hood, the Lakers started to run away with the game. LA’s biggest lead on the night was 21.

The Blazers starters continued to battle in the final period even after their head coach got ejected. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: LAKERS 136, TRAIL BLAZERS 113

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s loss:

1.  Hood leaves game early

Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood left Friday night's game with torn left Achilles tendon.

The injury came at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter when Hood grabbed a defensive rebound. 

Hood planted his left foot and immediately fell to the floor. It was a non-contact injury.

Trainers rushed to Hood where he was surrounded by his teammates. He had to be helped off the floor by the team trainers. At the end of the first half, the Blazers announced that an MRI confirmed Hood had suffered a torn left Achilles tendon.

Kent Bazemore assumed the starting three spot for the night.  

2.  So many Laker dunks

Los Angeles showed off its size and length early and often against the Blazers. It was pick your poison under the basket on Friday night. LeBron James, JaVale McGee, Anthony Davis – all three Laker bigs were involved in a dunk-fest in the first quarter. Los Angeles took advantage of a smaller Blazers lineup, especially once Hood left the game.  

3.  Coach Stotts gets tossed

It has been a heated night between fans, between players, and between Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and the officials.

Coach Stotts was seen chirping at the referees and giving several looks of disgust through the first three quarters game.

After a personal foul was called on Kent Bazemore when Bazemore went up to contest Anthony Davis’ lay-in with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter that was the final straw.

Stotts was hit with two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. This is the first time in his Trail Blazers coaching career that he has been tossed from a game.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The game will tip-off on Sunday at 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gets ejected

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gets ejected

It has been a heated night between fans, between players, and between Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and the officials.

Coach Stotts was seen chirping at the referees and giving several looks of disgust through the first three quarters of the Trail Blazers-Lakers game on Friday night.

After a personal foul was called on Kent Bazemore when Bazemore went up to contest Anthony Davis’ lay-in with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter that was the final straw.

Stotts was hit with two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. This is the first time in his Trail Blazers coaching career that he has been tossed from a game.

His frustration had been brewing all night. His emotions finally got the best of him. 

It is the first time in 880 games Stotts has been ejected. 

Trail Blazers Associate Head Coach Nate Tibbetts will now take over the head coaching position for the rest of the game.

Fans and NBA players send their love to Rodney Hood.

Fans and NBA players send their love to Rodney Hood.

The Blazers and NBA fans were dealt a tough blow on Friday when Rodney Hood went down with a leg injury against the Lakers. Hood went up for a rebound, came down awkward, and fell to the floor holding his left leg. He was helped off the court by team trainers and did not return. Blazers fans prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the news they got a few minutes later was the worst news possible. Rodney Hood - Torn Achilles. Out for the season. As soon as the news broke players around the NBA tweeted their support to their brother. 

https://twitter.com/JordanClarksons

NBA players weren't the only ones taking to social media. Plenty of fans reacted to the news as well, sending Hood their love:

UPDATE: Rodney Hood has a torn left Achilles tendon

UPDATE: Rodney Hood has a torn left Achilles tendon

What was feared has become a reality.

The Trail Blazers announced starting small forward Rodney Hood suffered a torn left Achilles tendon during Friday night's game vs. the LA Lakers.

The injury came at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter when Hood grabbed a defensive rebound. Hood planted his left foot and immediately fell to the floor. It was a non-contact injury.

Trainers rushed to Hood where he was surrounded by his teammates. He had to be helped off the floor by the team trainers.

The 27-year-old was holding his left lower leg while he was on the floor in serious pain.

Hood said after the win over Sacramento on Wednesday that his left Achilles was bothering him during the game and that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play vs. the Lakers. Hood was subbed out in the fourth quarter because his left Achilles soreness.

We'll have more from players and coaches after the game.

Blazers Pregame Notebook: Which end of the floor are the Lakers more of a problem?

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USA Today Images

Blazers Pregame Notebook: Which end of the floor are the Lakers more of a problem?

You can catch all the action between the Trail Blazers and Lakers at 7:30p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App.

Before tonight’s contest, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts met with the media to give his expectations vs. the Lakers, his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony signing his fully guaranteed contract, and more.

As the Blazers look to hand the Lakers just their second road loss of the season, Coach Stotts discussed how tonight’s game is a good test for his team right now, but doesn’t ultimately mean it will show where the Blazers stack up in the West at this point of the season.

When you’re playing one of the best if not the best team in the league, I guess it’s a measuring stick, but I think we already know they’re pretty good. We’ve been playing better… I don’t know about measuring stick. It’ll be a good test. – Blazers head coach Terry Stotts pregame

As for the announcement that the Blazers guaranteed Melo’s contract for the rest of this season, Stotts said, “that doesn’t change anything.” But added, “I think it sent a good message to him, and the team, and the rest of the league that he’s here to stay.”

To warp-up Friday’s pregame interview, our Dwight Jaynes asked Coach Stotts the millionaire dollar question: Is it the Lakers offense or defense that is more of an issue when facing them.

Stotts had to think about that one, starting off by saying, “that’s a good question.”

Stotts went back and forth at which end of the court is more of a problem, but ultimately, Stotts said, “I don’t know if I can answer the question to be honest.”

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

LAKERS INJURY REPORT:

Kyle Kuzma (left ankle; mild sprain) and Anthony Davis (right shoulder; soreness) are probable vs. Blazers.

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Gary Trent Jr. (right hamstring strain) is questionable.

How will Carmelo Anthony sticking with Blazers impact the team when everyone is healthy?

How will Carmelo Anthony sticking with Blazers impact the team when everyone is healthy?

This week, the Trail Blazers made up their mind and fully guaranteed Carmelo Anthony's contract for the remainder of the season.

Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey told NBCSNW's Diwght Jaynes signing Melo for the rest of the season was “a no brainer.”

Between Melo’s production on the court and his presence in the locker room, amending the contract in advance of the Jan. 7th guarantee date was a no-brainer. This is the kind of gesture we want players to become accustomed to when they buy into and contribute to our culture.  -- Neil Olshey

Knowing Melo isn’t going anywhere also means Melo isn’t going to be forced out of the starting lineup once the Trail Blazers get Zach Collins back.

Starting was a prerequiste to Melo joining the Blazers in the first place.

Collins isn’t expected to be re-evaluated until March after he underwent successful surgery to repair his left labrum last month. 

The 7-footer said on Wednesday of this week that he “is progressing” and he’s happy to not have to wear his sling anymore.

Even though Collins played in just three games this season for the Blazers where he started at power forward, he made his bread and butter as a consistent, go-to, energy off the bench type of player.

People remember Collins was a one-and-done player at Gonzaga. But, some don’t remember he came off the bench for Mark Few.

Sure, Collins would like to be inserted back into the starting lineup when he’s healthy enough, but not only because of Melo will Collins be coming off the bench, but it’s smart to do so, too.

If and when Collins comes back this season, he is going to undoubtedly be working through a minutes restriction to work himself back in.

Plus, looking at this season the Blazers’ bench could use a spark and yes, Collins is known for his defensive prowess, but this is a kid who can stretch the floor and bring some much needed scoring when called upon. And that's what Portland’s second unit could use this season.

A lot of the talk around Rip City has been -- just make it to March when Collins and Jusuf Nurkic are back on the court.

Here’s the thing: There’s no guarantee Collins or Nurkic will be back on the court in March. Things are point that way. The only guarantee right now is Melo will remain in Portland. 

Could Nate Tibbetts be considered for Knicks head coaching vacancy?

Could Nate Tibbetts be considered for Knicks head coaching vacancy?

The New York Knicks fired David Fizdale Friday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The Knicks also cut bait with assistant Keith Smart, per Woj. 

This news isn’t shocking. Fizdale's job security came into doubt when Knicks team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held an impromptu press conference after a blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers back on Nov. 10. In that presser, they said they believed in Fizdale and his coaching staff, but that they needed to see improvement after a 2-8 start.

With the Knicks now sitting at 4-18, they pulled the plug on Fizdale.

The Knicks are one of the worst teams in the NBA, going 17-65 last season. Quick math: Fizdale went 21-83.  

The Knicks are currently last in the Eastern Conference Standings, and have the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA.

For NBA head coaches, it always seems like you’re on the hot seat. 

Nearly half of the current NBA coaches have been with their team for less than two seasons. 

The longest tenured coaches in the league are as follows: 

  1. Gregg Popovich, Spurs: December 1996
  2. Erik Spoelstra, Heat: April 2008
  3. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks: May 2008
  4. Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers: August 2012

Since Stotts took over the head coaching duties in Portland, five Knicks head coaches have come and gone in a full-time or interim capacity. The next Knicks coach will be the 6th.

The usual suspects have shown up as the next head coach: 

Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau, Jason Kidd…

But perhaps another person who could and should be considered: Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts.

Tibbetts, who was promoted to associate head coach during the offseason after David Vanterpool departed for Minnesota for the same role, has garnered attention for other head coaching vacancies. In 2016 and in 2019, Tibbetts reportedly interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Memphis. He reportedly interviewed for the Atlanta Hawks opening in 2018. He was also considered for the Cleveland Cavaliers job. 

Could the Knicks be calling?

"He's earned a shot [at a head coaching job]," said ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin.