Quick calls out Olshey

Discussion in 'Portland Trail Blazers' started by Scalma, Dec 3, 2021.

  1. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    https://theathletic.com/2995322/2021/12/03/a-bad-mix-in-portland-chauncey-billups-a-flawed-roster-and-uncertain-leadership/


    Long before Thursday, when the Trail Blazers were embarrassed 114-83 on their homecourt by San Antonio, it had become apparent — if not obvious — that Neil Olshey was off base in September, when he trumpeted this roster as the deepest and most talented he’s built around Damian Lillard.

    Now 23 games into what looks like it will be a looooong season, another layer is becoming just as obvious: the roster and new coach Chauncey Billups are not a good mix.

    This group does not have enough size, enough length and enough athleticism to play the way Billups wants to play. And, as was driven home Thursday for at least the fifth time this season, the roster doesn’t have enough true grit.

    It has all led to an 11-12 record and some rather boring, if not unsightly basketball. In addition to Thursday’s 31-point home loss to the rebuilding Spurs, there has been a 30-point loss at the Clippers, a 29-point loss at Denver, a late-game collapse at Sacramento and a 22-point thumping at Utah.

    Olshey’s case that this is the deepest and most talented roster might have been true if Terry Stotts was still the coach. But not Billups. This is a fit issue more than it is a talent issue.

    What worked under Stotts doesn’t work for Billups, and it’s creating some uncomfortable moments for the holdovers. Stotts let guys play with freedom and rely on instinct. Billups demands more structure, and requires more discipline and thought. Under Billups, mistakes are no longer allowed to slide because of your salary, your tenure or your contract status. Billups has won a title as a player, and he says he knows the Blazers have to become more aggressive defensively than under Stotts, and they need to share the ball more than they did under Stotts. When the players stray from that vision, they are being called out. During play, during timeouts, in halftime speeches and in film sessions. And from the looks of it, the exchanges are not going well.

    You can see it in this team’s body language. When was the last time you saw this team smile? Chest bump? Dance on the sidelines? Flex in jubilation? The Blazers won by 18 on Tuesday against a woeful Detroit team and it was the most dispirited blowout win I can remember.

    Before that Detroit game, I asked Billups how he thought his efforts at holding players accountable were being received, and it shed some light on the struggle behind the scenes.

    “I think pretty good, but at the end of the day, it’s not easy,” Billups said. “It’s not easy all the time to hear when you are not doing what you are supposed to do, especially from the coach. All I care about is I believe we should play one way. I know what wins, I know what’s important. When we don’t do it, obviously I’m going to always bring it to the table, to those players, to those people. And I know it’s not always going to be well received.

    “But I know it’s the best thing for the team, it’s the best thing for the player and at the end of the day, if you are mad or upset, if you actually really want to win and be a good teammate, you go home and think about that, look yourself in the mirror, and you are going to realize what I was saying was right, you know? With no agenda at all other than for us to try and get better. So, I can ride with that. That’s just kind of who I was as a player, who I am as a person, and I will be consistent there.”

    Coming into the season, Billups had braced for the growing pains of teaching a new style of defense, and breaking the isolation, one-on-one habits on offense. What he didn’t foresee was having to coach guts. Too many times this season, this team has shown little pride to fight back, no better example than Thursday when the now 7-13 Spurs outclassed them.

    After the loss, I asked Billups what his biggest concern was after the first 23 games of the season.

    “My biggest concern at the moment is I want us to compete harder,” Billups said. “I want us to be more competitive in every game. And I don’t feel like every night we do that. And that concerns me.”

    I told him that was a brutal thing to hear.

    “It’s a brutal thing to say,” Billups said. “It really is. A brutal thing to say. And I felt that way in a lot of our wins. This is not just after a loss, me saying that. You can have games where you win where you actually get worse. Because you do things so poorly throughout a stretch or two, and you end up winning and then guys don’t end up understanding the lesson in the end. And that hurts you.”

    So all of this leads to the question … what now?

    If you thought this season has been difficult, try finding a starting point to answer that question. I figured the best place to start was by going to the top. The very top.

    The people who are best equipped to handle the “What now?” question with the Blazers entered the Moda Center on Thursday at 6:57 p.m., and it was quite a sight.

    There was Jody Allen, the sister of the late Paul Allen, and the person who now signs the checks and makes the final decision on all the franchise’s major transactions. As she strode through the loading dock entrance flanked by a security detail, about 15 feet behind her was Bert Kolde, who was rapt in conversation as he walked. Kolde is the former college roommate of Paul Allen at Washington State who turned into his right-hand man/confidant. Since 1988 he has been the “vice chair” of the Blazers, the one often tasked to do Paul Allen’s dirty work, such as firings and negotiations.

    The person Kolde was in deep conversation with while walking side-by-side? Olshey, the Blazers’ embattled president of basketball operations. It has been a month since Allen and Kolde hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to investigate Olshey, which has included interviews with current and former employees on the business and basketball side of the franchise, as well as Olshey.

    No findings or resolution have been announced and Olshey has continued to ostensibly conduct business as usual. He has been at every home game, although he has not appeared on the court, and he has been at the team’s practice facility regularly. Last week, he held a 15-minute conversation with Billups on the practice court following the team’s workout.

    By 7:03, Allen emerged from the tunnel and took her courtside seat, which she has done for every home game this season. Kolde, who usually enters the court with her, did not appear until 7:05. After the game, I tried to approach Allen as she left the arena, but security asked me to step back, so I was able to ask one question from 15 feet away: “Has the investigation into Neil Olshey concluded?”

    “I don’t have any comment right now,” Allen said, not breaking stride.

    The growing theory is that if the investigation had turned up anything substantial, Olshey would have been fired weeks ago. Two agents who have dealt with Olshey said they believe Olshey is going to survive the ordeal, and are stunned that the organization has allowed his name to be sullied and dragged through the mud.

    So as week five begins on the Olshey probation, if you will, it is unclear if he is empowered to make moves, explore moves, or even has the emotional wherewithal to think about moves.

    The only thing that’s certain? This team needs to make a move. Badly.

    It was in September, at Trail Blazers’ media day, when I asked Olshey about entering another season with Lillard and CJ McCollum as his starting backcourt. The question: How did he balance his decision to value continuity with Einstein’s clichéd definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).

    Lillard and McCollum had been the starting backcourt for the last six seasons, during which they made the playoffs each season. But that regular-season success — Portland owns a .557 winning percentage in that span — has not been replicated in the playoffs, where the Blazers went a combined 16-30 with first-round exits in four of those six seasons.

    It was a similar crossroad that Toronto reached in 2018 with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, a successful and popular duo that could never replicate their regular-season success in the postseason. Toronto traded DeRozan, landing Kawhi Leonard, which resulted in a 2019 title.

    Olshey’s answer to the insanity question was revealing, in that it activated two of his triggers: He doesn’t feel like he gets enough credit for building a consistent winner, and what could be seen as perhaps his biggest blind spot: his infatuation with McCollum, whom he drafted 10th in 2013.

    “I guess everybody’s definition of insanity is different, because there are a lot of places around the league looking at a team with a team with the longest playoff streak in the NBA, and trips to the Conference finals, division championships and three-seeds in the Western Conference as a benchmark they would actually like to reach,” Olshey said. “For us, that becomes the floor. I mean, I get it. When you have sustained success the way we have … we walk into every season accepting that the bar is we are expected to make the playoffs and then what do we do after we get there.”

    “Around the league, there are a lot of models where there are two guards, I just think the one with Dame and CJ probably draws the most attention because it has been the most successful … there have been other models around the league, they just haven’t worked. We’ve built around it. We’ve been successful with it, and I think bringing Chauncey in — a future Hall of Famer at their position — will elevate and take it up to the next level in terms of what they can do. In terms of elements of their games that have yet to be explored that can make them even more productive. So we believe in both of those guys, we are excited about the pieces we put around them coming into the season.”

    I think part of his reluctance to trade McCollum is a stubborn desire to prove he was right. Right to draft him 10th. Right to give him a $106 million extension. I think Olshey has done a solid job drafting and building the team around the edges, but his most costly decision is proving to be awarding that extension in 2019. He is paying McCollum like a max player but not getting max production, which has made it difficult to trade him.

    In that same press conference, Olshey said this was the deepest and most talented roster he had assembled since he began building around Lillard as the centerpiece in the summer of 2015. It’s a comment his detractors won’t let him forget.

    To be fair, Olshey’s case of this being his best roster was based on Lillard and McCollum playing at a level commensurate to their salaries, and neither guard has come close. Even before Lillard first aggravated his abdomen in the season’s eighth game, he hasn’t excelled at much beyond running the team and making the right pass. His shooting percentages (39.7 from the field and 30.2 from 3) are woeful enough that he will likely need a scorching month of shooting to be considered for the All-Star game. And he still has a devil of a time staying in front of ball handlers.

    And McCollum’s season, outside of opening with two sensational games, has been peppered with a bunch of 7-for-17 and 6-for-17 nights. Meanwhile, players are repeatedly driving right at him, knowing he won’t put up much of a fight. It’s almost a certainty that for the ninth time in his nine seasons, McCollum won’t be an All-Star. And for the ninth time in nine seasons, he won’t even be in the conversation.

    Now add to the equation Norman Powell, another high-priced guard — and another 6-foot-3 guard — and it becomes difficult to execute the type of defense Billups wants to run.

    When Toronto came to town last month their reporters were curious about Powell, the former Raptors guard, starting at small forward. Before the game, a Toronto reporter asked Billups if he was concerned about the four inches Powell would concede to Raptors forward OG Anunoby.

    “We give up size every night, man,” Billups said. “We are a small group, especially at 1, 2 and 3. They are all pretty much 6-3. But you have to find a way to just make multiple efforts defensively.”

    I asked, then, if Billups thought giving up that kind of size every night was a sustainable model for success. He tried his best rope-a-dope answer, talking about how he was trying to figure out how to best use all three guys at the same time, how he needed to do a better job of putting them in better positions to succeed … but eventually he tired of coming up with an excuse.

    “We’ll see,” Billups concluded.

    As Billups left the interview room, some of us reporters chuckled as we remarked that his “we’ll see” sounded an awful lot like a diplomatic way of saying “hell, no.”

    Two weeks later, nobody is laughing and there is no more we’ll see. The three-guard lineup has been seen, warts and all.

    Typically, Olshey likes to wait until the February trade deadline to make a move. He likes to say that in early December there are 20 teams thinking they have a chance to make a playoff run. By February, that number is usually cut in half, increasing the number of teams willing to shift gears and begin rebuilds.

    Whether Portland has the patience to wait that long, or whether Olshey has the juice to make a franchise-changing move now or down the road, are the questions that keep this season interesting. Because right now their three most watchable players are sidelined — Lillard (abdomen) until mid-December, Nassir Little (ankle) until next week, and now Anfernee Simons who played 11 minutes before twisting his ankle Thursday and did not return.

    In the meantime, a new coach and a stale roster will try to find common ground. Powell, who is among the harder-playing Blazers, said he doesn’t think he and his teammates are lacking effort, but rather focus. Whatever the term is — effort, focus, competitiveness — the Blazers need more of it. On Thursday, for the second time in three weeks, Billups hinted that he isn’t afraid to use his ultimate power card: playing time.

    “I just want to find guys to play hard, and I’m willing to lose games that way,” Billups said. “I’ve ended games with lineups that people probably scratch their heads at. I will find guys who compete and have this winning spirit about them.”

    If he can’t find them here, it’s time to find them elsewhere.
     
  2. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    My personal thoughts

    I know Billups will speak his mind with Olshey. The lack of size is obvious to anyone. Quick doesn’t mention it, but so are the lack of more playmakers, or guys that can or are willing to pass the ball. It’s a miracle we’re even middle of the pack in assists.

    Having McCollum, Roco, and Powell in the same lineup is NOT a recipe for success. They aren’t good/willing passers and they also make us undersized as a group which leads to getting killed on the boards pretty much every night. Not gonna win consistently like that and Billups knows it.

    Billups is very clear with the way he wants to play. It’s up to the GM to give him what he needs. Like Quick, I’m also afraid Olsheys ego is gonna stay in the way of trading McCollum, but it’s something that HAS to be done. If he won’t trade McCollum, he at least has to trade Powell. No way around it.
     
  3. MickZagger

    MickZagger Well-Known Member

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    Start Nance, move Powell to the 2. Have CJ come off the bench to fill it up
     
  4. SlyPokerCat

    SlyPokerCat cats rool dogs drool

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    CJ already has said no way he comes off the bench.

    Just trade him already.
     
  5. andalusian

    andalusian Season - Restarted

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    If Billups survives this (and I suspect he will) - I believe he will become a good coach - but it is clear that coaching at the NBA level which is a players league includes a lot of personal stuff and getting players to buy in and be motivated - this team seems disinterested. There is always a thin line between accountability and motivation - and I am not sure Billups is nailing it at this moment. It is probably a good thing to set boundaries early in a term of a leader to set expectations - unfortunately, it might be a better approach for a young team than a veteran team that is used to relative success - and you are working against the clock on the prime of your super-star.

    I hope it works, but there is a good chance that it will just be the wrong move for the prime of Dame's career. It might have been better if the front-office was united with the coach on the needs of the roster, not sure this is the case in Portland's case.
     
  6. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    CJ is still a 20 point scorer with efficient shooting his whole career. Those guys aren’t usually available. He has value, despite being overpaid. His best use to the Blazers is in a trade. We have Simons to fill that sixth man “fill it up” role. Olshey is arrogant, not stupid. I know deep down he knows this. Just swallow the pride and move on.
     
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  7. julius

    julius Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator

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    This just screams "status quo", doesn't it?

    I've just about given up on the season, now I'm concentrating on hoping they get a lotto pick this upcoming draft.
     
  8. Rastapopoulos

    Rastapopoulos Crucifix-over

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    Everybody says "trade CJ" and nobody can say where.
     
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  9. Hoopguru

    Hoopguru spent money on booze broads boats wasted rest

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    I did yesterday.....CJ for Porzingis, improves both teams
     
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  10. Fez Forthright

    Fez Forthright スーパーバッド Zero Cool

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    Neil’s inability has setup Billups to fail.

    The worst GM in Blazer history - at least guys like Nash/Patterson/Etc weren’t allowed to linger around for TEN YEARS like Purgatory Neil has.
     
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  11. Orion Bailey

    Orion Bailey Forum Troll

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    when did he say that? If he doesn't want to do whats best for the team then fuck him and the cart he can ride out on.
     
  12. MickZagger

    MickZagger Well-Known Member

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    Me too. Until our next 3 game win streak and then it will be forgotten
     
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  13. Orion Bailey

    Orion Bailey Forum Troll

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    pick is traded if we dont hit the lottery right?
     
  14. julius

    julius Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator

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    I won't get interested again until they start winning on the road. That and they show some kind of life.
     
  15. Strenuus

    Strenuus Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator

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    Love Billups.

    Hate Olshey.

    Fucking do something.
     
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  16. Chris Craig

    Chris Craig (Blazersland) I'm Your Huckleberry Staff Member Global Moderator Moderator

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    Any trading partner would have the leverage. They know the Blazers need to trade him. I don't see the Blazers getting good offers in return. He has some value, but not much. No one is rushing in excitement to trade for a heavy iso selfish player who is as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
     
  17. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    you want a list of teams that I think should be interested in him? (I don’t think all of them necessarily line up on a trade but they all could use McCollum)

    Philly
    New Orleans
    Indiana
    Dallas
    Milwaukee
    Clippers
    Lakers
    Knicks
    Orlando
    Sacramento
    Toronto
     
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  18. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    name all the 20 point scorers that are currently available in a trade. You are mistaken if you don’t think he has pretty significant value.
     
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  19. bigbailes

    bigbailes Well-Known Member

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    Yes ... it would go to the Bulls as part of the 3 team trade to bring Nance in.
     
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  20. GDiama

    GDiama Well-Known Member

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    I think there is plenty more better value for money scorers. Hield is available for example and while he is not as good as CJ he costs half the amount so teams will prefer that. No contender has room for a 30M contract really except for Philly that wants to trade Simmons
     
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