Neil Olshey

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a known commodity, one of the best backcourts in basketball. Even Jusuf Nurkic, an underrated player for sure, has a following.

But Gary Trent Jr.? Where has he come from?

And why was the most Bubblicious player during the NBA restart so far, not taken until the second round of the 2019 NBA draft?

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, the man who engineered a trade to grab Trent with the seventh pick in the second round of that draft, tried to explain it Friday.

“People forget, he was one of the top 10 players in America in his class coming out of high school, which was an elite class,” Olshey said. “He’s a guy that for systemic reasons, where people catch inertia -- either positive or negative -- around the draft, slipped way beyond what people would have thought his draft status would have been, given the hype and reputation and body of work that he entered Duke with.

“If you look at the Duke team, they were loaded. They came into the season with five guys projected to go in the first round. I think Gary had been on the radar for so long and such a high profile guy, that even though he was only a freshman, so much was expected of him, and I think he had a really good year -- i think he averaged 15 a game and shot 40 from three -- but i think he underwhelmed relative to expectations.”

It happens frequently. And it’s because there are so many metrics out there now with which to judge players. So many ways to judge them, that it's almost easier to find reasons not to draft someone as to draft him.

“So many things that factor in,” Olshey said. “Height, weight, measurements that have nothing to do with playing basketball. The combine isn’t reflective of NBA basketball.  Workouts down to 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. Guys lose sight of what they liked about a player when they were actually watching him play five-on-five, real competitive basketball. And they start using inconsequential data points. It’s paralysis by analysis.”

Olshey wanted to take Anfernee Simons in the first round because he knew there were several teams behind the Blazers who would snatch him up. But then there was a chance Trent would last into the second round.

“With Gary there was this kind of reverse heat, Olshey said. “There was an overcorrection accruing on Gary.  We felt if we could get back into the 30s, we would have a chance to get him.

“And with the exception of Will Barton, a lot of our second-round picks have been guys we bought into or traded to get. Allen Crabbe, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman.

“We weren’t looking to get into the second round, but once he started falling, we got very aggressive. And you know (late owner) Paul Allen on draft night -- more is always better. Two future seconds and cash to get him (from Sacramento). We valued him as a first-round pick. We signed him to a full, three-year contract right out of the gate. We immediately gave him what we thought the value of a first-round pick would be.”

So Trent arrived in Portland as the guy who was selected after Anfernee Simons, who got most of the attention from the media as a kid who didn’t even attend college. Trent had a ways to go, just to get on the floor.

“What he needed to do is find his identity,” Olshey said. “He was a lot stronger than guys in high school and he was able to bully his way to the rim. What it resulted in for us was a lot of inefficiency. He was taking a lot of long twos. He was getting himself in trouble with a lot of over-penetrating into the lane and i think what he’s done is listen to all of us and he’s simplified his style of play to fit into what we need out on the court. Which is defensive energy, toughness, three-point shooting, moving without the ball, getting to the rim with opportunity for free throws.

“The scope of his game has narrowed and it has simplified things for him to where he can really just excel at what we need him to do to balance the floor when he’s out there with either Dame and CJ or in place of one of them.”

But did the Trail Blazers envision Trent turning into a shooter of this magnitude? Especially this quickly?

“You know what I saw,” Olshey said. “Right now, he’s on fire and I hope it continues. But I knew he was a really good shooter. What I had confidence in, was that he was a really good game shooter.

“You put him in a gym and there are four or five guys on our team who will outshoot him on the shooting gun. He’s a gamer. That’s the one thing Gary always did when we tracked him from high school. I saw him play seven times at Duke, he played great in the combine had a great workout with us and the one thing about Gary is, when the lights come on, he’s fearless.

“A lot of it has to do with his pedigree and the success he’s had at those different levels. But what I knew he could do is make game shots.

“So what’s interesting with him is, he needed an opportunity to get on the court. Because when you watch him just in drills and at practice, he’s not as dynamic a shooter as he is, once he gets into the flow of the game. All those psychological intangibles start coming into play when you get into that make-or-miss kind of format.”

And defense, which a general manager from a team that passed on Trent told me is what made teams hesitate about drafting him. "We didn't see a commitment there," the GM said,

Trent said this week that "100 percent" his defense is what got him on the floor for this team.

"First and foremost, it was his commitment to getting better defensively," Coach Terry Stotts said. "He didn't get to play much his rookie season but he really committed to being a better defender and getting a few minutes on the court that way. He's always been a scorer, but defensively, finding out what you can get away with, learning NBA defense, learning NBA personnel, locking in on game plans, learning from the guys who are playing, in a year that you don't play, you really have to utilize that time to get better, knowing the NBA game. I think he's improved in all those areas."

And up above, you have to believe Paul Allen is smiling.

“It was very hard for Paul to get excited about the obvious,” Olshey said. “He literally created the tech sector. He was always about discovering something nobody else saw. He loved the narrative around Nurk. He loved the surprises. He loved the unknowns. He loved young players and seeing them grow.”

And he would have loved the Gary Trent Jr. Story.

Signing guard Jaylen Adams means load management for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum

Signing guard Jaylen Adams means load management for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum

There’s a phrase thrown around in the NBA a lot that some people frown upon.

That phrase is load management.

But, there’s not just one way of going about managing a player’s minutes and allowing star players to get rest well into the season.

When big name players sit out a game or two due to ‘load management’ fans usually aren’t happy about it.

That makes sense.

The Trail Blazers; however, have not been a team to sit Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum out of a game for resting purposes.

The Blazers as an organization allow their players ‘load management’ in a different way.

Over the past couple of seasons, Lillard has talked about how he will sit out of certain drills or scrimmages in a practice in order to save his legs for the games.

So the Blazers don't mess with load management during games, but rather practices. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

And now with the Trail Blazers heading to Orlando to embark on the eight-game regular season restart, which includes a three-week training camp before games tip-off, Lillard and McCollum will need to try and stay fresh, and ready for the grind as the Blazers hope to make the postseason.

And that’s where signing backup point guard Jaylen Adams comes in.

Days after it was reported that starting small forward Trevor Ariza is opting out of returning with the Blazers and instead committing to a one-month visitation window to see his 12-year-old son, the Trail Blazers signed G-League star guard Jaylen Adams.

No, the Blazers didn’t pick up Adams to fill in for Ariza.

Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey explains it best:

“You have to send out the message to the league that he’s replacing Trevor Ariza, [but] he’s clearly not ‘replacing’ Trevor Ariza,” Olshey told our Dwight Jaynes while using air quotes around the word ‘replacing.’

[RELATED]: Some reasons the Trail Blazers signed a point guard rather than a small forward

And yes, that’s been the hang up for fans.

That’s where there was some confusion -- Why would you add a guard when your starting small forward has opted out of returning to play?  

Again, we need to go back to load management.

“When you look at it, Damian and CJ, play over 40 minutes a game in the playoffs,” Olshey said. “We’ve got a three-week training period down in Orlando including three scrimmages, clearly we’re going to be managing the load on Dame and CJ before they have to go play eight games in the 13 days including a back-to-back, and hopefully a play-in game or two and then hopefully into the playoffs. So a point guard was more critical in terms of load management for our two best players than it was us thinking that we were going to find a player who hadn’t been traded at the trade deadline, who hadn’t been bought out, who wasn’t eligible on Mar. 1, who was going to be capable of replacing our best wing defender and a guy who was shooting 40 percent from three with us.”

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts echoed the same sentiments.

“With Trevor being out, obviously, the guys that we have we felt comfortable with filling some of those minutes,” Stotts said. “And really the thinking was we’re going to have three weeks of practice and we have low numbers, we’ve got plenty of wings, we’ve got plenty of bigs, and to be able to have good practice without overusing Dame and CJ was important. That was the primary concern.”

Anfernee Simons is the only other Trail Blazer besides Lillard and McCollum who saw meaningful time at point guard this season.

“When you look at our roster right now we have a hole at backup point guard,” Stotts added. “If something were to happen with Dame or CJ there’s a hole there and we need to be able to fill that in the event that that happens as well.”   

Thus, Adams will undoubtedly be helpful at the one position for practices and scrimmages.

The 24-year-old went undrafted in 2018 after playing college ball for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. He earned co-Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2018.

In August of 2019, Adams signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. During training camp with Milwaukee, he was cut and assigned to the Bucks’ G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd.

Adams averaged 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the Herd during the 2019-20 season, while earning All-NBA G-League First Team honors and was also the G-League MVP runner up to Wisconsin Herd's Frank Mason III.

And now he will be the primary candidate to assist in load management for Portland's two star guards. 

Carmelo Anthony fishing in Bend or boating on Lake Oswego, is comfortable here

Carmelo Anthony fishing in Bend or boating on Lake Oswego, is comfortable here

It has not been a banner 50th anniversary season for the Portland Trail Blazers. In fact, given all that has happened with injuries, games lost that could have been won and, of course, the pandemic, it’s been a disappointment wrapped in a catastrophe.

But one thing, for sure, stands out as a positive:

The signing of Carmelo Anthony.

The Hall of Famer-to-be has averaged 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range. He has made clutch shots and, most of all, been a positive influence on the locker room.

This from a player who was without a team until Nov. 19. And someone a lot of people did not think was a good chemistry guy.

“The perception of Carmelo is so … off,” said Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ president of basketball operations. “I mean, he’s a hooper.

“When we talked back in the fall and we were struggling -- we had lost Zach, Nurk’s timeline had been extended -- we realized we needed to do something and Carmelo just wanted to play.

“But he wanted an organization that was going to be honest with him about his role. What could he expect? What’s expected of him?”

The Blazers told him that right from the start, Olshey said.

Then they stuck by it.

“When you have spent seven or eight months living up to what you said -- his role was what we said it was going to be, our style of basketball, how he was treated -- we have lived up to what we told him the environment was going to be like.”

And Anthony has thrived, on and off the court.

“I have to say, he has not only totally bought into the team and the Trail Blazers,” Olshey said, “he’s out in Bend with his son, Kiyan -- a father and son trip -- they were out fishing. He loves the environment, he lives by the lake (Oswego) and I see him out on the water, he and Kiyan and La La (his wife). They really bought in and they love it up here.”

Coach Terry Stotts did not know Anthony prior to his arrival, but he’s said all season how important it was to bring him to Portland.

“I keep saying how fortunate we were that Carmelo came to Portland to begin with,” Stotts said Wednesday. “This has been a tough season, but Melo has been terrific. One more example of who he is as a person.

“When the pandemic broke out, nobody wanted to be in New York, obviously. He and his family are doing well here, he seems very comfortable with where he’s living and the routine that he has -- as much as you can in a pandemic.

“But his leadership, his voice of reason, his demeanor, I think has been very beneficial for everyone.”

Olshey is in the business of trying to recruit free agents to play in Portland and he knows his players, in this strange season, have seen a side to the city and state they don’t normally witness.

“We always talk about, we need to sell guys on basketball -- make sure the basketball is good,” Olshey said. “And then the longer they are a part of this community and this lifestyle, the more they buy into it.

“It’s very hard from the outside. They don’t spend a lot of time here. They come in and play a game and then they leave. 

“One of the hidden blessings of this for the guys on our roster, is they finally got the summer here. It’s one of the things we talk about here, no matter how late we go into the season, it’s still 58 degrees and raining, except the odd day.

“Then it breaks and all of a sudden, it’s glorious. But those guys have moved on at that point.

“It’s been terrific now that Carmelo and Hassan (Whiteside) and Rodney Hood have gotten the opportunity to see what it’s like here in the offseason. The irony is that guys were running all over to spend their offseason and you couldn’t find a more beautiful place than Oregon in the summer.”

And really, a year ago, who would have expected to see Carmelo Anthony and his family cavorting on Lake Oswego in the summer?

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been tasked with getting his team’s roster ready for its return to play in Orlando. And he’s been, as a member of the league’s competition committee, a part of the NBA preparations to go there.

So now, as teams grow closer to embarking on this unprecedented journey to a bubbled-up end of a season, how does he feel about going there himself, amid social unrest and global pandemic?

“It’s two-fold,” he said Wednesday. “On one hand, I’m excited to see our guys play again. You know, the season ended so abruptly, we were just getting healthy. We were three days from getting ‘Nurk’ (Jusuf Nurkic) back and Zach (Collins) was on the horizon -- he was about three weeks out from returning. At that point, Trevor (Ariza) was in the starting lineup, so the exciting thing is to see the guys out playing basketball again.

“I missed basketball.”

But at the same time...

“I don’t think anyone can be cavalier about the health risks,” he said. “Our players and our traveling staff have tested negative over the course of our two weeks of mandatory testing. But, it’s a concern, and we have family members concerned about us going into the environment. I do think there will be diligence down there.

“I do think Adam’s (Commissioner Adam Silver) model of trying to make it the safest place in the country, i think the league will do everything in its power to do that. But I can’t tell you that people aren’t concerned about their health.

“And, more than anything, we are used to being away from our families for intermittent periods of time, but certainly not for weeks and months at a time. And certainly not during a major pandemic and a climate of social unrest in our country.”

How does Olshey feel at this point about the league’s chances of pulling this off? Does he think the NBA will manage to crown a champion in Orlando?

“I do,” Olshey said. “I think the league, the players and the players association are resolute. That’s where they’re going.”

And what about his team’s chances of making some noise down there?

“I think one of the things that’s understated is that guys aren’t going to give up,” he said. “We’ve had guys back in this gym since May 8. They’ve stayed in market and they’ve continued to work out with no end in sight for part of that.

“And then they’re going to go to work out for three weeks in Orlando and live in a hotel without the freedom and independence that they’re used to. They’re not doing that to go through the motions and get a paycheck. We’ve had between 90 and 95 percent participation at our practice facility since May 8.

“Guys have stayed. They are dialed in. They are locked in. They’re ignoring whatever the strength of schedule we’re going to face down there. And they’re going down with the mindset that Day One, this is playoff basketball for us.

“We’re training and preparing and we’re going to give it our best shot. One of the things that has been consistent with this group is that this is a group of closers. We’ve always been better the second half of the year. It’s a testament to the character of the guys we have and our coaching staff not burning guys out and keeping them engaged and I think you will see that when we get to Orlando.”

But it won’t be easy. They’re going to have to be ready to handle tough, must-win games immediately.

“We’re going to have to get off to a fast start,” Olshey said. “It’s baptism by fire. We’re three and a half games behind Memphis and we get them on opening day.”

And there is a very small margin for error -- with the virus and the games.

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.