On the June 11 edition of Trail Blazers Courtside, General Manager Neil Olshey makes his first public comments since being hired by the team a week prior. During the interview, which you can now watch in full on Trailblazers.tv,
Olshey discusses the Chicago predraft workout, the upcoming workouts this week in Tualatin, reaching out to current players on the roster and the coaching vacancy. Questions are paraphrased, while Olshey's answers are verbatim.
What was Chicago like for you, getting over there with the management team, you guys getting a chance to sit down, compare notes. Did you guys find some clarity?
It was great. Look, clearly there's a different draft priority for the Portland Trail Blazers than there was with my previous team. We've got four picks ahead of where I was picking at 53, so there's a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of question marks that still need to be answered, but it's great to get in the room with Chad (Buchanan) and Mike Born and Billy Branch and Joe (Cronin) and Steve Rosenberry and Sean Kiely and kind of bat some ideas around and kind of see where they had gotten to in their process. I can bring a bit more of a macro vision because I haven't been as focused on those picks. But we're going to jump into it. We've got our first draft workout here Wednesday and Chicago is a great opportunity to do information gathering.
With the workouts that took place in Chicago and those coming up at the practice facility help you decide whether this draft is good enough to keep the No. 6 and No. 11 picks, or will it help you decided toward free agency or trades?
Well, we're open to anything right now. Clearly we have a lot of roster flexibility. We have two very valuable picks in what is a deep draft. There are a lot of starters in this draft. I don't know how many superstars there are but there are definitely NBA-caliber starters. We're going to exhaust every resource we have. We're going to be on the phone generating deal flow. I've received some calls and made some calls already, kind of looking at where other teams may be vulnerable or have some hot-button issues they may want to address where we could improve our roster and accelerate our success curve. But we're going to do our due diligence first. The draft is the first player acquisition vehicle that we can kind come up with at this point. Then we'll lead into trades and free agency.
It seems like point guard and center are the two positions that need to be addressed. Is there a mechanism in place allows you to look at who's available and what position you want to start looking at first, or is that dictated by what is available when you draft?
Well look, it's cliche but it is best player available. I think that the point that this organization is at right now is an asset acquisition phase 'Tone. We've got to rebuild our assets and at that point, either guys are going to make your team and contribute because they were drafted or you're going to be able to use those assets to generate a deal to bring players in from the outside from other organizations to rebuild the roster. But I think the roster is a work in progress at this point. I think we've got a lot of raw materials and we do have some building blocks with guys like Wes (Matthews) and Nic (Batum) and LaMarcus (Aldridge) and some young players who are yet to develop to their potential yet, and we're going to get in the gym and work with them. But, you know, I think everyone has to look at the draft as a player acquisition vehicle and the more assets you can acquire in this league, the more flexibility you have to build the roster and accelerate the growth to become more successful quicker. We were on one path with the Los Angeles Clippers a year ago, building through the draft, building with youth and when an opportunity came in to go after a franchise-level player, we had the assets to do it. So that's really what the draft is about. It's not about filling needs.
How do you discriminate between what you see from a player in a workout versus what you've seen prior to the workout?
Look, you're sitting next to a great player and he might not have been a great workout guy but he was a hell of a player. And I think what you have to realize is, what you need to do is construct the workout in a way that answers whatever lingering questions you may have based on answers you couldn't get out of live scouting, film work, analytics, attending practices, background research. That's where the workout comes in. You can't look at the workout in a vacuum and decide that is a tool that should supersede all others. It never made sense to me -- and I did this when I worked for the sports agency -- you put on a beauty contest in 45 minutes and somehow either nullifies or clarifies what a guy did after playing 120 games in a college career. So I think you have to keep things in perspective. It's one more tool we have at our disposal, it's more information gathering but it should not be weighted anymore than what it is, which is a chance to spend a couple hours in a gym with a guy getting to see if they compete. I think that's the buzzword for us up here guys. We know what they can do on the basketball court. We've seen it, we've analyzed it but I want to see who gets in the gym and really competes when they're fighting for a job.
Are you making more phone calls to other teams or are you getting more phone calls from other teams?
Well, you know, I think everybody went to Chicago an you really want to get a feel where other teams are in their process. There are teams looking to go younger and acquire picks, there are teams looking for veterans because they feel like they're closer. You get as much of that information as possible, you come back and meet with your staff and you use that intel to target the goal of your phone call. And like I said, right now, before you can go worry about putting your picks in play, you have to make sure you know exactly what it is you're talking about trading, and the only way to do that is to close the circle of evaluation. And like I said, the rest of that circle will be closed for us later on this week and next week with our redraft workouts.
Have you had a chance to talk with LaMarcus and Nic or Wesley Matthews and kind of get a feel for where they are, what they're up to?
Yeah, I talked to LA. He's coming into town. He'll be in town this week, I'll get a chance to visit with him. He and I spoke for quite a while when I was in Chicago about the the team. I'd like to have him involved, get his thoughts on where we are as an organization, where we need help and players on the roster that have complimented what we're trying to create culturally. Wes is actually over in China with Nike right now. I spoke with his agent. Nic started practices with the French national team today, but I visited for a long time over the weekend with his agent. Nic right now is going to do everything with the national team but contact, and I think he's going to stay away from contact until his contract situation is resolved. Nolan Smith was in the gym; I was just watching him workout this afternoon here at the facility. I think we've got a lot of good, young guys that, you know, they haven't reached their potential yet but I think we need to spend a lot more time in the gym making them better and really seeing what we have here first before we start worrying about what we're going to bring in from the outside.
You probably haven't had much time consider the coaching situation that you discussed at the introductory press conference?
No and I don't think that right on the priority list right now. I think the guys that are available are still going to be available. But I think it's important to remember, when you do a coaching search, it's very important that you know what kind of a team you're searching for the coach for. We just don't know that right now. The roster composition is in a state of flux. Depending on which way we take this team will dictate what kind of coach we're looking for in order to target the search. So different coaches are more valuable at different points in their careers and based on what roster they join, so you can't look at coaches in a vacuum and just say 'Well here's a Hall of Fame caliber coach and that's who we should have' because if we go in one direction, he may be a great fit. If we go in another direction it may be better to have somebody with a different skill set. So I think the important thing right now is to build the roster, build the culture, see what we have here, set our goals and our parameters and the coaching search, at that point, can be more targeted to what is best going to compliment the point where we are with this organization.