Quick on the Blazers summer

Discussion in 'Portland Trail Blazers' started by Scalma, Jul 30, 2019.

  1. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    https://theathletic.com/1105064/201...urse-for-the-trail-blazers-summer-of-success/
    Free agency hasn’t always been kind to the Trail Blazers. In fact, during the Neil Olshey era in Portland, it had been nothing short of a disaster.

    So when Olshey last month made a FaceTime call to Enes Kanter in the opening minute of free agency, and the center hemmed and hawed at the Blazers’ tax midlevel offer of $5.7 million, asking for more time to consider, it was an ominous start to what had become a history of strikeouts.

    Roy Hibbert in 2012. Kanter, Greg Monroe and LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015. Hassan Whiteside, Pau Gasol and Kent Bazemore in 2016. All had shown interest in coming, or staying in Portland, but ultimately left Olshey holding only a thanks-but-no-thanks reply.

    When Olshey started the FaceTime call, he was in a park in Oakland, at a barbecue being hosted by the family of franchise star Damian Lillard. As the pitch was made to the Kanter, Lillard was next to Olshey, sharing the screen time.

    The Olshey-Lillard pitch at the break of free agency was by design — the Blazers’ top priority entering the offseason was to sign a starting-caliber center who could fill in until Jusuf Nurkic returns sometime around February.

    The Blazers also wanted to improve their perimeter, and truth be told, valued Rodney Hood more than Kanter but figured the $5.7 million tax midlevel — the most the Blazers could offer anyone — wasn’t rich enough. Plus, the Blazers didn’t figure they could land a starting wing for that price.

    “Going into it, we were probably more vulnerable at (center), and it was more reasonable to think we could get a center back at that number than a high-level wing,” Olshey said.

    When Kanter wavered, Olshey became frustrated and anxious. By the end of the call, 25 free agents had already committed to contracts. Olshey needed either a center or a wing, and the prospects were being picked off quicker than the burgers on the grill.

    “At that point,” Olshey said, “I gave Enes (30 minutes). I was not going to go 0-for-2.”

    If there was disappointment, it didn’t last long. While waiting for Kanter, Olshey learned that Hood was in on the Blazers. He was ready to commit to the $5.7 million midlevel.

    “Never in a million years did I think Rodney would entertain that number,” Olshey said.

    When Kanter was back on the phone, still vacillating and still trying to sweeten the deal, Olshey made the decision that changed the course of the Blazers’ offseason.

    Kanter was out. Hood was in.

    “It was a little bit of a happy accident,” Olshey said.

    That “accident” set in motion a chain of events that reshaped the Blazers, building anticipation in Portland for the 2019-20 season that hasn’t been felt since 2008, when the Blazers were ready to unveil Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.

    And the “accident” helped change the narrative on Olshey, whose past misses ironically played a part in this summer’s success.

    “The dominos just broke right for us,” Olshey said.


    After Olshey flew back from Oakland on June 30, he arrived early the next morning to the Blazers’ headquarters to find the office lights already on.

    In their offices were assistant general managers Steve Rosenberry and Bill Branch, as well as Joe Cronin, the team’s director of player personnel and salary cap expert.

    “We felt like we were rolling,” Olshey said. “Guys were in the office at 5 a.m., and we were like, ‘Let’s keep this rolling.’”

    The enthusiasm was spawned from the sudden shift in plans. With Hood in and Kanter out, the scope had widened. Instead of filling backup roster spots with veteran minimums, the Blazers now needed a starting-caliber center.

    “It became interesting because the offseason wasn’t myopically focused on free agency,” Olshey said. “It became, ‘What is everybody else doing now? And how can we further our goals and capitalize on other teams needing our assistance?’”

    Also, Olshey said the front office was fueled by direction from new owner Jody Allen, who had a front seat during the team’s run to the Western Conference finals, which included a spirited speech to the team after the Game 7 win in Denver in the conference semifinals. Her two mantras since then:

    I like winning; I want to win.

    What’s your plan? Go do your job.

    When Olshey arrived at the office, Rosenberry and Cronin were already getting creative. They knew Jimmy Butler was headed to Miami in a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia, but the Heat needed help getting under the tax apron.

    Rosenberry recalled the Blazers’ 2016 free-agent interest in signing center Hassan Whiteside, a pursuit that was futile as Whiteside chose more years and more money to stay in Miami. Cronin began crunching numbers and found that offering Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Whiteside would help the Heat achieve their goal of landing Butler.

    By 9:30 a.m., the Blazers had a deal and their starting center.

    By July 4, it seemed Olshey had lit off more fireworks than during his first seven seasons in Portland combined.

    In addition to Whiteside, he had acquired wing Kent Bazemore for Evan Turner. He had added former lottery pick Mario Hezonja to make up for the playmaking void created by Turner’s departure. And he had added respected veteran and shooter Anthony Tolliver.

    But he had eyes on one more fuse: veteran big man Pau Gasol.

    In 2016, he pitched Gasol on joining the Blazers, a pitch that highlighted the efficiency of coach Terry Stotts’ offense, the commitment of the organization to players and the leadership of Lillard.

    Gasol eventually chose San Antonio over the Blazers and Toronto, adding what seemed to be another whiff to Olshey’s ledger.

    But as was the case with Hezonja, who signed with the Blazers on June 30 after turning them down the year before to sign with New York, Gasol remembered the presentation of Olshey and Stotts fondly.

    “Everyone has their own style and own personality in how they do things,” Gasol said. “But for me, it’s about being honest, being direct and being trustworthy. And they were both great as far as that.”

    So on July 24, Olshey lit his final fuse: He signed Gasol to a one-year deal to be a backup to Whiteside and power forward Zach Collins, and to offer mentorship and championship experience to a roster Olshey believes is his best ever.

    “This is the right moment in time for us to be together,” Olshey said.

    This could also be the moment when the Blazers are finally starting to see a shift in how they are perceived by the league’s players and agents. Long before Oklahoma City executive Sam Presti penned an editorial lamenting the hardships of small markets, Olshey has been trumpeting his own small-market disadvantages, such as Oregon’s state income tax.

    So for seven years he has poured resources into the Blazers’ practice facility and made every decision with players in mind, from chefs to make breakfast before practice to a barber’s chair outside the locker room. Along the way, the coach and the star player have remained the same, allowing a culture and chemistry to be established.

    “While team will never beat market in most instances, it’s our job to make sure it does in player retention or in building relationships,” Olshey said. “So even though we didn’t get (free agents) the first time out, we were giving them a window into us that put us on their radar.”

    The difference now is that what the Blazers were selling to Gasol in 2016, they couldn’t necessarily prove. Now, with three more years of success and stability, they can back up what they promoted and promised.

    “It’s the only fight we can win,” Olshey said. “When you are competing against weather, nightlife and geography — all those things work against small markets — so all we can control is how we do things. How do we play? How do we treat players? What is our environment? What is our consistency? We can control that, and all you can hope is that players can see that. At the end of the day, if they are looking for the best basketball, they will value what they can really count on.”

    So after summers of sorrow, the Blazers are now celebrating the Summer of Olshey. His former runs at Gasol and Hezonja paid off. And so, too, did the flirtation with Bazemore and Whiteside, both of whom said they kept tabs on Portland after they were pursued.

    “I always try to tell players that all those superficial things you want, you can find when the season is over, but you have a short window to have the best basketball situation,” Olshey said. “Some of these guys who were intrigued by our situation but didn’t commit to the process at the time, now they are realizing that unless the basketball is good, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

    So call it perseverance, call it karma, call it luck. For once, the Blazers are celebrating what they think is a summer of success.

    “We’ll see,” Olshey said. “We think we did really well. When you look at some of the holes where we were vulnerable, we think we addressed those.”

    And to think, it all started because of a “happy accident.”
     
  2. ripcity67

    ripcity67 Active Member

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    Nice read. Cant wait to see Whiteside just beast on the boards this year. Also watching Zach and him swat shots is going to be fun.
     
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  3. noknobs

    noknobs Well-Known Member

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    Have to admit Quick has been doing good work lately.
     
  4. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    My takeaways

    - Kanter is a used car salesman.

    - Hoods actions do the talking.

    - Took the teams cap guy longer to figure out how Harkless/Meyers for Whiteside would help Miami than this message board (that’s probably not true but I’ll roll with Quicks timeline for the lolz)

    - Quick needs to decide what the teams plans are for Hezonja. One minute he’s telling us he’s going to play a lot of four, the next he’s telling us he’s replacing turner. Maybe it’s both? A playmaking four? Would be intriguing.
     
  5. julius

    julius Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator

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    When he doesn't try to be John Canzano, he's presents good articles.
     
  6. Pinwheel1

    Pinwheel1 Well-Known Member

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    4 decent ball handlers on the floor at the same time? I would love to see that on occasion.
     
  7. Scalma

    Scalma Well-Known Member

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    Feels like he’s chilled out on the melodramatic bullshit ever since he joined the athletic. He’s been consistently pumping out good content ever since tbh.
     
  8. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    I don't think that is the only (and main) reason.

    Otherwise, nice article.
     
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  9. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    Are these takeaways accurate?

    if Kanter took the TP-MLE, we would have kept Harkless and only made moves on the margin to improve wing depth? So we woulda lost Aminu for essentially nothing in return?

    also, would we have done the ET for Baze deal had we known Whiteside was available? You figure they woulda rather traded ET for HW instead.
     
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  10. handiman

    handiman Well-Known Member

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    In college recruiting circles, one of the great truths is to stay on good terms with local kids that choose to go elsewhere. There's a good chance they'll get homesick and contact you in a year or two about transferring back. It sounds like Olshey has taken a similar approach.
     
  11. THE HCP

    THE HCP NorthEastPortland'sFinest

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    Good friend of mine growing up Antoine Stoudamire, signed with Georgetown out of HS. None of us could believe he was leaving the west coast. Got super homesick and transferred to play for our Ducks. Leaving home for the first time can be tough!
     
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  12. Hey

    Hey Active Member

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    I recall Hibbert, Kanter, and Whiteside being RFA's and getting matched by their owning teams, not necessarily that they declined to come here.

    The article is good but kind of depressing as well. We end up getting all these guys after they get old or flame out elsewhere.
     
  13. Wizard Mentor

    Wizard Mentor Wizard Mentor

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    Two "Quick" takeaways:
    1) Comparing what some of the players think to what some on s2 think is rotflol:
    2) Being a great GM is more about being able to PIVOT as opposed to having a master plan that doesn't work out.
     
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  14. PtldPlatypus

    PtldPlatypus Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator Moderator

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    Don't think ET for HW would have worked cap-wise.
     
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  15. Wizard Mentor

    Wizard Mentor Wizard Mentor

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    Why? We're getting them pennies on the dollar.
     
  16. PtldPlatypus

    PtldPlatypus Global Moderator Staff Member Global Moderator Moderator

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    Correct on Hibbert and Kanter (although Hibbert never actually signed an offer sheet with us, while Kanter did). Whiteside was UFA, but simply stayed with the team that could offer more.
     
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  17. e_blazer

    e_blazer Rip City Fan

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    Me too. The thing I like about the new roster is that Stotts has lots of options to throw different looks at opponents. Hopefully, we'll see him switch things up whenever teams start to throw doubles at Dame.
     
  18. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    Good call. nvm
     
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  19. B-Roy

    B-Roy Blazer Fan

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    Yeah, the contingency plan sounds better than the master plan. But I guess part of it (which is what was mentioned in the article) is because they didn't think Hood would sign for the TP-MLE.
     
  20. illmatic99

    illmatic99 formerly yuyuza1

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    Seems to be a trend (Hibbert/Parsons/etc etc)
     

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