Olshey Moves Ahead To Free Agency: ‘We’re not going to go for moderate upgrades’
By sarahhecht Posted in: freeagency, olshey
With the draft just hours from completion and new General Manager Neil Olshey’s first moves a success, it’s no surprise chatter has already made the jump to the upcoming free agency period.
Following the post-draft press conference Olshey fielded a few questions outside the predominant topic of the night’s draft. No surprise they were ALL regarding the next pieces in the Trail Blazers offseason puzzle.
Here are his answers to the free agent questions, as well as one about the injury history of newly drafted 7-footer Meyers Leonard. Read. Ponder. Debate.
Do you anticipate tendering JJ?
We’re still discussing it. We went big tonight in the draft, we’ve been talking to Joel Freeland’s agent, we’ve been talking to Andy Miller as well just kinda keeping him apprised of it. I think what we’ve really go to do is hone in on our free agent strategy and just see how much his cap hold and his qualifying offer impact our strategy.
Is it safe to say you’ll bring in a veteran point guard?
We’ve been talking about it, but I don’t know at what level, you know what I mean? But I do think that guys like Damian and Nolan are gonna need a guy to show them the ropes. I can tell you how invaluable it was, we had some classy big guys with DeAndre Jordan that mentored him and he was a little bit of a project. And that worked out. I’ve seen the growth. All you have to do is see the growth of Eric Bledsoe after spending four months of his life with Chris Paul and Chauncy Billups and Mo Williams, three of the classiest leaders in the league at their position. It accelerated his growth exponentially so whether it’s a guy that’s going to be on the floor ahead of him or it’s gonna be a guy as a quarterback coach to guide him through the process I do think it’s important to have somebody here for him.
It would be more as a mentoring role rather than a contingency plan?
I think that has to be an aspect of it. I don’t think were coming in to get somebody to rip some kids heart out that’s 20-years-old. I think it’s gonna have to be someone that understands there’s a duality. On of the things Eric Bledsoe, as talented as he was, his talent was a threat to some of the guys on the roster, but they never perceived it as such. And they took great effort, Mo, Chauncy, Chris, to really groom him and guide him through what it’s like to be a point guard in the NBA and you see the difference between where he is as a rookie to doing what he did in two playoff series. And a lot of the credit is owed to those guys. And I anticipate doing the same thing with Meyers Leonard.
Did you look closely at Meyers’ injury history?
Yeah, I can’t tell you how many times we discussed it. We spent an hour on the phone today with the trainer from University of Illinois, we tested him here, extra MRIs, Jay Jenson totally signed off on it. Bigs are going to have more little nagging things because of the pressure on them. But he never missed a game due to injury at Illinois, never complained about it. Our foot specialist, Dr McCrary, examined him when he came here as well. So we literally could not have done more due diligence. And if all of those people, from McCrary to Jenson to their trainer to the Chicago doctors, hadn’t signed off there probably would have been a different result at eleven.
In light of your selections is there a chance you carry over any of this cap space to the 2013-14 season?
It’s a chance. I’ll say this, if we don’t get the right guys this off-season, guys that are going to grow with this organization and fit into our vision, then we’ll have no problem deferring the cap room into 2013-14 and having that flexibility once there’s fewer teams with room. But it’s not going to stop us from being very aggressove this year. But what you’re not going to see is adding the five, six, seven million dollar moderate upgrade. We’re not going to do that. That’s not going to get us to a championship caliber organization, where you spend money just because you happen to have it. You know the kid that spends his allowance by Wednesday and then he’s got nothing to spend the rest of the time, then the weekend comes and he’s not gonna have any fun? We’re not going to do that. Like I said, we’re going to be very aggressive for guys that we think are impact players that move the needle for this organization and if we get them we’ve really accelerated our curve and if they’re not there we’re not going to go for moderate upgrades. We’ve got really good, young players at all positions and we’ll maintain the flexibility and then we’ll do what I talked about.
Cap room is a trade chip as well. Like I said, player acquisition, draft, free agency, trades. There’s a lot of ways to skin the cat so we’re not just going to go spend crazy on guys we don’t think move the needle.
Is it safe to say that you won’t use a head coach as part of the “pitch” now?
Yeah, I don’t know how imperative it is to have a “pitch.” I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to this. I don’t need powerpoint presentations. Clearly people know where our needs are, they know what the roster looks like, they know the Portland culture and there’s a history of success here. It’s a very good market with a rabid fan base and I think guys that have played here realize it’s one of those buildings like Oklahoma City, Utah, a smaller market, I mean you couldn’t walk into a better environment as a player playing a home game. So, I think that sells itself. I think I have good relations with the agents I’ll be dealing with, some of the players that we’ve targeted, and they’ll ask and it will come up and we can discuss who it might be because we’ll be going through the process simultaneously. But I don’t think it’s going to be a deal-breaker or a deal-closer either way with coaches.