Neil Olshey

When Neil Olshey knew Damian Lillard was his guy

When Neil Olshey knew Damian Lillard was his guy

Damian Lillard has taken over the NBA in the last few weeks and this week he took over the whole discussion on The Habershow.

Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey joined NBC's NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh to discuss all things Lillard where in the 40-plus minute long sit-down interview, Olshey explained how 'Logo Lillard' came to be, if he believes that Lillard’s game-winning shot over Paul George was a good shot, and how he knew Lillard had the potential to become the superstar he is today.

“Ok, look I don’t know if anyone knew he’d be a first-team All-NBA player, right, that could spend a week averaging 57 and 6?” Olshey joked.

But, Olshey did know that Lillard was a special talent. It was his perspective of previous point guards that Olshey had in scouting and drafting that helped him see the true potential in Lillard.

“I was very blessed in that I got the Portland job two weeks before the draft. But, I had left a team that had Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams and my young guy was Eric Bledsoe. So, I kinda had really good representations of what the point guard position should be. And it’s interesting, Dame had a great workout, you know I scouted him live, because with the Clippers I was thinking early-20’s [in the draft] initially for Dame when we went to go see him, he rose really late,” Olshey explained.

After Lillard’s workout with the Blazers, he and Olshey drove to Oswego Grill in Lake Oswego to meet with the entire front office as well as Blazers owner Paul Allen.

Olshey got lost on his way driving Lillard to the dinner.

Maybe that was fate stepping in?

I said, ‘you know I’ll pick you up, I’ll give you a ride to dinner,’ and we were just driving around, and we were going to meet my whole front office and Paul Allen at Oswego Grill... I had never been, and I got lost. We didn’t have Waze... We’re driving around, and we’re just talking, and I just kept going ‘oh my god, he’s Chauncey, he’s Chauncey.’ Like, Chauncey just had a gravitas to him that he walked into the room and you went ‘that’s the leader’. And I got the same vibe from Damian, he just carried himself and it wasn’t a swagger and it wasn’t an arrogance. -- Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey

In 1043 NBA games, Billups averaged 15.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds, but it was ‘Mr. Big Shot’s’ mentality and leadership qualities that Olshey really saw shine through in Lillard.

Now in his eight year in the league, Lillard has shown what Olshey discovered in him from the first workout and that pivotal car ride: ‘supreme confidence.’

 

Olshey told Haberstroh, “it was just the supreme confidence that you just knew that guys would want to go to battle with him... He was about the right things… And this kid that hadn’t gone through the steak dinners, and the stroke fest, and all this stuff through high school, and AAU guys and shoe companies; this was his first foray into this out of Oakland High School and Weber State, and for him to handle that was pretty remarkable. Like I said, it was really the way he carried himself as a person.”

For his career, Lillard is averaging 24.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds and has led the Blazers to the playoffs every year expect his rookie season.

Olshey didn’t just know Lillard’s ability to lead this team, he also knew the five-time All-Star would be a great fit in Rip City and would ‘buy in.’

“One of the things that’s unique about Portland is you gotta know people that are going to get this market, that are going to buy into this. And, I really felt like we had a chance with him, knowing how important player retention is for the small, non-destination markets.”

And the rest is history… Well, actually the history of Lillard continues, but you know what we mean.

LISTEN TO FULL PODCAST BELOW

 

Some thoughts on the Trail Blazers' trade-deadline options

Some thoughts on the Trail Blazers' trade-deadline options

The trade deadline is near (finally) and the question has been around for months:

What are the Trail Blazers going to do?

There are possibilities and probabilities -- although distinguishing between the two is impossible at this point. Neil Olshey, the Trail Blazers’ president of basketball operations, has always been known as an executive who keeps his options to himself. Not much leaks out of the Portland front office.

But there are several possible outcomes and we will attempt to lay them out:

  • The elephant in the room is the expiring contract of center Hassan Whiteside, said to be $27,093,018, which was originally believed to be an asset the team could use to acquire a very good player with several seasons left on his contract from a team looking to shed salary. The problem with that has been that the free-agent market this summer is not going to be very attractive so the cap room from the expiring contract doesn’t hold as much value. Whiteside’s play has been exceptional this season but his value as a trade piece is inhibited by the fact that he will be a free agent at the end of this season,

  • A year ago, it was believed Portland could land the likes of Kevin Love or Blake Griffin or even LaMarcus Aldridge with Whiteside’s expiring contract. But Love may not be available to them, Griffin is hurt again and the Spurs’ asking price for Aldridge is probably higher than just the expiring contract.

  • There are other players available on the market but there is competition for them and it’s not known how much more the Trail Blazers would add to a trade beyond Whiteside.

  • Put your hands in your pocket and step away from the trade machine. Just because a trade works under the cap doesn't mean a team will make the deal.

  • At this point, it would likely be a win to add a solid rotation player, perhaps not even a starter, for Whiteside. A big-time shooter would be very nice.

  • As well as the Trail Blazers have been playing, would the team stand pat? Jusuf Nurkic is still probably a few weeks away from playing and dealing Whiteside would temporarily leave the team without a center. It's possible. But if you think the team should not do anything and let this suddenly hot team go, I'd ask you -- do you think this squad, as it stands, could it win an NBA title? If not, think about putting together a roster that could, using all the tools at your disposal.

  • Actually, I am pretty sure the long-term benefit of adding another player to help in future seasons would probably outweigh concerns over this season. And it’s possible Skal Labissiere would be available to play soon, as a fill-in center until Nurkic can play.

  • Almost always, it’s better to play the long game than the short game at the trade deadline. The short-term fixes often don’t work and the price for them is usually too high.

  • Could Nurkic and Whiteside play together? I don’t see it for any long period of time, but temporarily they probably could.

  • Would Portland be tempted to bring Trevor Ariza back next season? Maybe, he’s been terrific in his role so far. But that $12.8 million salary would be a tough one for the Blazers to swallow, what with luxury tax concerns.

In summary, I still believe the Trail Blazers are trying to make a deal. This may be the last chance to add a quality player to the roster without tampering with the team’s core. There are obviously some difficult decisions ahead,

Can they get something done?

At this point, I’m not sure even the Trail Blazers know the answer to that.

Here's where to go if you're looking to place blame for Trail Blazers' rough start

Here's where to go if you're looking to place blame for Trail Blazers' rough start

PHOENIX – The Trail Blazers have struggled through the early season and a segment of the fan base is always looking to blame someone.

And rather than simply looking at the injury list and being done with it, they’re trying to blame just about everyone but Blaze the Trail Cat.

What I’m hearing a lot is the idea that the team should have held on to Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. And should not have “let go” of Enes Kanter and Seth Curry.

I’ve dealt with this before, but this seems like a good time to go over it again.

First, let’s differentiate between trades and free agency. Kanter and Curry were free agents last summer and it wasn't a matter of the team "letting them go." The Trail Blazers knew they would be priced out of the market for Curry, who had a very good season with Portland. He eventually re-signed with Dallas, where he played before he became a Trail Blazer, for $32 million over four years. That was out of Portland’s reach, since all it could offer was the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.7 million.

Kanter was given the first call by Neil Olshey last summer at the onset of free agency and he vacillated on his decision to take the TMLE. So, Portland went to its second choice, Rodney Hood, who had been off to a career year before suffering a season-ending injury. A good move, obviously … and Kanter ended up signing with Boston for about a million bucks less than he would have made in Portland.

Now, let’s get to the other three players. Harkless and Leonard went to Miami in a deal for Hassan Whiteside, who is in the final season of his contract. Whiteside was brought in to give the Trail Blazers a replacement at center for Jusuf Nurkic, who isn’t expected back until sometime in the new year. Bazemore, also on an expiring deal, came in a trade with Atlanta for Evan Turner.

Both those deals allowed Portland to preserve cap space for one more big trade – hopefully for a major star making a lot of money with multiple years left on his deal. Since the Blazers have had little luck luring free agents to town, the idea of making a deal for a big-time player who would be under their contractual control for a while, is the next best thing.

And it's also a big (and expensive) commitment to building a team that can compete for a championship.

OK, that said, those trades have turned out just fine for Portland and I’m tired of hearing how much the departed players have been missed. I’m not knocking them in any way, but the fact is, what came in return has been very good for this team.

Whiteside has averaged 16.2 points. 12.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.4 blocked shots per game this season. Leonard, Harkless and Aminu (who is now hurt) have COMBINED for 15.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season.

And oh yes, a player by the name of Carmelo Anthony was added to the mix a while back – amidst all sorts of pleas from fans begging them not to do it because of fears about the bad raps that have dogged Anthony,

But so far, Anthony has been a solid player who has blended seamlessly with his new teammates. And, of course, he’s given the team 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

So, this all leads back to the original point. If you have trouble figuring out what’s wrong with your Trail Blazers, look no further than that injury report – which features Zach Collins, Hood and Nurkic.

That’s this team’s entire starting front court. And they are most certainly missed more than the players who were traded away.

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. 

Neil Olshey: Amending Melo's contract early was a 'no brainer'

Neil Olshey: Amending Melo's contract early was a 'no brainer'

A full month early, the Trail Blazers stepped up Thursday and guaranteed Carmelo Anthony’s contract for the rest of this season. Under the terms of the deal he had signed with Portland, the team had until Jan. 7 to make that decision.

But making the call early was the right move. Melo has been all the Trail Blazers could have asked for – and more.

“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,” said Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations. “This is the kind of gesture we want players to become accustomed to when they buy into and contribute to our culture.”

In eight games for Portland, he has averaged 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point range.

In his last five, though, it’s been even better than that as he’s become more acclimated to his new teammates and their system.

In that span, Anthony has shot .514 overall from the field and .467 from three-point range. And he’s scored at a 19.2 points-per-game rate with an average 11.4 plus-minus. He’s also shot .938 from the foul line and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Guaranteeing the contract early shows good faith in his continued solid play and takes pressure off both sides. And, as Olshey pointed out, it continues Portland's commitment to making this known as a player-friendly franchise.

It also takes away any doubt about the team’s makeup and commitment to the rest of the season.

There is some chance that power forward Zach Collins could return to action prior to the end of the season from his shoulder surgery but keeping Anthony also takes away any pressure to rush Collins back. In fact, if Collins does return, it would now be more possible to ease him back on a minutes restriction while he plays off the bench behind Anthony.

It has been reported that Anthony's contract is for the veteran’s minimum of $2.16 million.

Impact or not, what do the Trail Blazers see in Mario Hezonja?

Impact or not, what do the Trail Blazers see in Mario Hezonja?

The Portland Trail Blazers don't know what they have with Mario Hezonja just yet. The former No. 5 overall pick is a reclamation project, a low risk, medium reward type of player who might just be another of Neil Olshey’s diamonds in the rough.

Last season for the New York Knicks, Hezonja saw some improvement in his game. Whether that can continue with Portland, particularly considering the bevy of wing players the team now has, is a serious question. If Hezonja can’t get ample playing time, will the team culture and coaching staff be enough to coax him along his way?

In contrast to some of his teammates, Hezonja is surprisingly not a very good 3-point shooter. What he does bring to the table is a willingness to push the pace and drive the ball. He's also a very useful passer on the wing, something Portland's bench unit might end up needing over the course of this year.

All that being said, there is no doubt that Hezonja is still a prospect. Every roster needs minimum salary players, and Olshey was smart to pick up a guy with lots of potential and who at his very worst will simply warm the bench if he doesn’t work out.

Check out the full video breakdown above to see what Hezonja brings to the table, and why Portland has sneakily been excited about bringing him to Rip City for the past couple of seasons. 

How did Anfernee Simons get the nickname 'Ant' and why is it perfect?

How did Anfernee Simons get the nickname 'Ant' and why is it perfect?

When somebody has the nickname “Ant,” you have to wonder where that came from. I mean, it’s not one of the more common names you hear for people. And in the case of Anfernee Simons, it kind of sounds like his first name but it would be a lot more like that if his first name was Anthony.

So where did that whole “Ant” thing come from?

Simons says: “My mom.”

Really?

“Yeah, a lot of people couldn’t pronounce my name," he said.  "And she just said, ‘Ant.' It’s much easier. When someone asks me for my name at a restaurant, I always use someone else’s name. I just tell them, ‘John’ or something. An easy name.”

So even though he was named after the famous NBA player, Anfernee Hardaway, people still don’t get it?

“They don't,” he said. “But a lot of people knew him as ‘Penny.’”

True. And Penny quit playing a dozen years ago, too. In fact, Simons has known Hardaway’s son, Jayden, since fifth grade. Jayden has since gone on to play for his father, now the coach at his alma mater, Memphis.

Simons is going to be called upon to accept a lot of responsibility with the Trail Blazers this season as a combo guard, expected to handle things for the second unit when Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum leave the floor.

And that’s going to be a big job for a player who played only 141 minutes last season as a rookie, over just 20 games.

“I am going to have more responsibility,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s more pressure. I just go out there and play my game and don’t talk about what I’m going to do.”

He’s a very confident player, that was obvious during his rookie season. And he has terrific explosiveness and scoring skills. The team’s president of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, has called him “The most gifted player I’ve ever drafted.”

“That was good for my confidence,” Simons said. “I just want to go out there and play hard, show what I can do and get better.”

He will have some point guard to play with the second unit, but he’s comfortable with that.

“I just go out there and play free,” he said. “I play my game and choose which shots are the right ones and when to pass. Pretty much everyone here can shoot. Everybody’s real versatile. It’s not hard to know who to pass to and when.”

And granted, he’s going to be carrying a heavy load in that new role. But that’s what ants do, right? It's perfect, but in case you didn’t know it, ants can lift 5,000 times their body weight.

Trail Blazers ready to learn from legend Pau Gasol

Trail Blazers ready to learn from legend Pau Gasol

The smiles, the handshakes, and the hugs: Trail Blazers media day is truly a back-to-school type of feeling.

Just like with every media day, it’s a chance for the media to catch up with the players, hear about their offseason, their goals, and any expectations they may have set for the year.

Over the course of about four hours of interviews there were a couple of common themes throughout.

After each player finished talking at the podium to the masses of the media, the player then made their way into the Fountain Room in the Memorial Coliseum for a special NBC Sports interview.

[RELATED]: Warm championship dreams highlight Trail Blazers' chilly media day

The rotational players were congruent on two things:

This team has the capability of winning a title. Pau Gasol is a walking legend.

With seven new faces added to the Trail Blazers roster, this media day was all about getting to know the new guys and the feeling surrounding the team.

For veteran Anthony Tolliver, who has played for 11 different NBA teams, he has a gut feeling about this roster.

“This is the first time I’ve gone into the season expecting to compete for a Championship,” Tolliver said.

It was evident that this Blazers squad has championship on the brain.

It was also apparent, they know just the guy to help them get there.

“Pau knows what it takes," as far as winning a championship goes, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said.

“He commands the respect of his teammates just because of what he’s done in his career,” Stotts added.

[RELATED]: Lillard: Strength is in the culture

But for the young Blazers, it has taken them a bit to adjust to seeing the future Hall of Famer on a daily basis.

Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons know how fortunate they are to be entering their second year with Gasol as their mentor.

Trent Jr. has a master plan to learn from Gasol while the team is on the road.

“I’m trying to go sit next to him on the plane, so I can pick his brain apart. Hear about every story about Kobe Bryant, my favorite player. So, hopefully when we get to the plane I’m gonna sit with him and that’s going to be your seat for the rest of the year,” Trent Jr. said with a big smile.

Trent Jr. was born in 1999.

Simons was born in 1999.

Gasol was drafted in 2001.

The 39-year-old would be happy to know that the 20-year-old, Trent Jr., still thinks Pau is hip and happening.

“He’s joking around with guys, he’s being cool. He’s being funny. He’s still young and hip. He’s still got it,” Trent Jr. said with a smile.

Simons is also looking to pick Gasol’s brain, but he had to get over how surreal it is to be on the same team.

“It was crazy the first time I saw him in the locker room. I was like this is Pau Gasol for real, like it’s crazy!” Simons laughed.

It’s a little different story for Hassan Whiteside.

“We were always battling on the court. So, it’s like so different. Like, seeing him in a friendly environment, where it’s not always so much competition like it was in the past,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside joked about how that friendly nature of Gasol goes away once he hits the court.

That friendly nature seems to be firmly rooted in Gasol. He is happy to be in that mentor role, in fact he prefers it.

Once Gasol is healthy again after undergoing surgery on his left foot last May, Gasol said he hopes to bring “good decisions, good basketball IQ, create a good flow, good chemistry on the floor… And leadership off the floor as well with the young guys.”

Gasol wants to be, “a guy that [players] can ask advice and look for support and guidance to a certain degree.” Gasol went on to say, “I’ve seen quite a bit, I won’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen quite a bit.”

The humble and friendly nature of Gasol was exuded at Trail Blazers media day. His teammates exuded their respect for him as the 2x time NBA champ looks to chases another ring.

This time with Portland.

Trail Blazers versatile bigs will be key to success

Trail Blazers versatile bigs will be key to success

The Portland Trail Blazers opened the 2019-20 season on Monday with the annual media day, and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey started off the festivities. 

During the offseason, Olshey fully retooled the Blazers' roster. Not a full teardown and rebuild, but more a filling of the gaps left by departed key players. 

Out went players like Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Evan Turner. In came players like Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja, and Hassan Whiteside. 

"I think it's the deepest, most talented, most experienced team we've had since we've been here," said Olshey.

He's not wrong.  

A lot of the experience Olshey was talking about comes from two of the big men he signed over the summer: Anthony Tolliver and Pau Gasol. 

Tolliver brings 11 years of NBA experience to the table, while Gasol brings championship rings to the locker room as he enters his 17th season. 

Tolliver, Gasol, and the addition of Hassan Whiteside also give the Blazers the biggest team they have ever had during Olshey's tenure. When Jusuf Nurkic gets back, it gets even bigger. 

While experts often talk about "small ball," there is still a place in the NBA for going big. 

"When people talk about going small, that's off the bench. When you look around the league, teams start big," Olshey pointed out. 

The Blazers now have the luxury of starting big and adapting to various styles of play without sacrificing size. 

Nurkic and Whiteside are both bangers, at their best when using their size in the paint to get easy looks. Gasol and Zach Collins can both play down low, but can also stretch the floor and easily hit shots from the mid-range and beyond the arc. Tolliver is a three-point marksman that can play the three in big lineups, but will give the Blazers a weapon at power forward off the bench... and we haven't even talked about Mario Hezonja, who can play 2-4, and Skal Labissiere, another big, athletic center. 

The Blazers are big, versatile, and ready to build off of last season's success. More important than any physical measurable, these guys are where they want to be. 

"We finished really strong and it's inspired the guys... all the guys that are here, want to be here...We have to have guys that buy-in to how we do things in Portland," Olshey added. 

* Our Dwight Jaynes and Jamie Hudson are live at media day talking to all the players and coaches and getting us ready for the upcoming season. You can stream all the action live on the NBC Sports My Teams App *

Another team-bonding Trail Blazers' San Diego trip is 'probably' happening in September

Another team-bonding Trail Blazers' San Diego trip is 'probably' happening in September

TUALATIN – Now that CJ McCollum has officially signed his three-year contract extension with Portland, and the Trial Blazers roster has been finalized, the anticipation for the 2019-20 season in Portland continues to grow.

What’s next for the Trail Blazers in the immediate future?

According to McCollum there will “probably” be a team-bonding trip to San Diego.

At the Trail Blazers practice facility on Wednesday afternoon, the Blazers held a press conference to officially announce McCollum’s extension.

McCollum and Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey discussed the extension and offered up their thoughts on the offseason overall.   

It sounds like team building might be in order with just half the roster returning.

[RELATED]: CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard here to stay and McCollum is all about it

The Trail Blazers have been known to take a team trip to San Diego in September with Damian Lillard heading it up.

“I’m going to call Dame later today,” McCollum said at Wednesday’s press conference. “I think he’s in Phoenix right now… I’m going to talk to him and see what he wants to do. ” McCollum said.

McCollum went on to say with a big smile, “My schedule is pretty clear except for some Brown games, and vacation with my fiancée, so September is usually where I start two-a days and stuff like that.”  

[RELATED]: CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard's special relationship has McCollum eyeing NBA Finals

McCollum also mentioned that Trail Blazers Director of Security Rick Riley has suggested another San Diego trip or some type of outing.

“I think it could be very beneficial just because this is the first time in awhile where we had half the roster change. So, being able to kind of get more acclimated with everybody could be beneficial,” McCollum said.

Portland’s roster will consist of six new faces:

-- Nassir Little

-- Kent Bazemore

-- Anthony Tolliver

-- Mario Herzonja

-- Hassan Whiteside

-- Pau Gasol

Since consistency has been a key for the Trail Blazers over the years, there might be an adjustment period to see how the team will gel to start the season.

But, McCollum is not concerned that it will take long for the team to start to figure each other out. 

“I think it’ll take some time, but based on the type of players we’re bringing in, they understand their role… I think they way we play offensively and defensively; smart basketball players are going to be able to pick it up and I think we have a bunch of heady guys,” McCollum said.

McCollum is particularly looking forward to the new bigs: Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.

“That was a big signing for us,” McCollum said of Gasol at McCollum’s kids basketball camp Tuesday. “I think he’s a big body who can help. He’s got championship pedigree, Hall of Famer, he knows how to play the game the right way. Obviously he has the skill set, he can pass, he can do those things, but I think his mentorship will be important.”

McCollum also shouted out, “we got shooter who can dribble!” doing his best Whiteside impression.

But all kidding aside, McCollum believes Whiteside will “fit in well.”

“He works hard,” McCollum said of Whiteside. “Obviously I’ve known him for some years, same agency, I’ve been to his house in Miami and we’ve talked over the course of the summer how he can fit into our offense and how he can help defensively. It’s going to be fun for him. It’s a new environment. I think it’s a fresh start for him and a different type of leadership here, a different type of chemistry and culture. He’ll be good for us, really good for us.”

McCollum is also not worried about any type of locker room concerns with Whiteside either.

“He understands what needs to be done, he’ll see when he gets here how we roll, how we do things, what’s acceptable and what’s not, and we’ll go from there,” McCollum said.

The San Diego trip could prove to be a kick-start to Portland's bonding, but it could also have a lasting bond that could help late in the season.

Which is of course is when it matters most as McCollum mentioned on Wednesday.

“The biggest thing is trying and peak towards April… And stay healthy, I like our chances.”