Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey was interviewed during Friday night's preseason game against the Golden State Warriors by Mike Barrett and Mike Rice on CSNNW.
Here's a transcript.
Improvement over the course of the preseason
I think guys are catching on to Terry [Stotts's] system, finding where their scoring areas are. It's been interesting offensively, the majority of the roster has gotten better with each preseason game. Not each preseason game has been a work of art, but from an efficiency standpoint, guys are finding out if they move without the ball and make timely scoring cuts, they're going to find shots in this offense.
Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard
I think we've kind of figured out that Damian isn't going to back down to anybody. He's a gamer. That's what we liked about him. He just takes it as a challenge. Steph is just another in a long line of great point guards that he's going to have to go up against this year.
Former Blazers guard Jarrett Jack on the Warriors now
[Blazers owner] Paul [Allen] and I were actually just discussing what a good kid he is. When he's in his comfort zone and in his role, he can be a really efficient player for a good team like Golden State.
Joel Freeland, mixing it up but not shooting his mid-range shots
He started out great right after the Olympics. He hit a little bit of a lull here recently. His jumper is not going. He's going to have to find other ways to score. He missed a couple of bunnies around the bucket the other night on putbacks. He's active on the glass. You always have to take into consideration that in the preseason he's playing with the second unit. He's not getting as many open looks as he would if he was out there with Damian [Lillard], Nic [Batum], Wes [Matthews] and LaMarcus [Aldridge].
Nolan Smith against the Denver Nuggets
I thought he had a good second half. I think he struggled a little bit in the first half, trying to figure out when to make plays, when to wait for his own offense. Nolan is getting there. He's got to get into more of a play-making mindset. Right now, he's a little more comfortable off the ball as a combo guard, not unlike a Jarrett Jack. He's going to have to figure out how to run that second group as a point guard.
Coach Terry Stotts seeing more of the defense he wants to see lately
Our first unit is going to score. I think we've got some big time scorers with that group but the second unit is going to put some numbers up, they are going to put it up getting deflections, getting steals, getting out in transition and making it more of a scramble. We don't really have a go-to guy in that second group who is going to command double teams and go to him in the low post and get a bucket. They are going to have to up their pressure defensively and make it more of a pick-up game in a sense.
When will you make roster cuts?
I think we're going to take it as long as possible. Some of it is strategic. We've got some guys in camp we like for Idaho, to develop in the D-League. If you waive them too soon, someone else can grab them like we grabbed Justin Holiday. We don't want to work with guys for 3-to-4 weeks, teach them our system, and wind up having them play somewhere else. We'll probably hold everybody until the last possible minute. Same thing with the options we've got to exercise, we'll take that right up to Oct. 31 which is the deadline we have on that.
Advantages of running your own D-League team
Just being able to tailor your development, whether it's players you allocate who came to your camp or guys you assign, we've got some young guys. We've got about five or six guys who are eligible to be assigned to the NBDL. If you have a guy who is not getting the playing time, look at Michael Peck right there, he was one of the high school coaches in the country at Findlay Prep, he developed a lot of NBA players. Scott Williams, former NBA champion is on the staff, along with Barry Rohrssen, the former head coach of Manhattan College.
We've invested a lot of time and effort down there because, for example, if Will Barton is not getting enough minutes up here, we want to be able to send him down and run a consistent system so he gets the same message, when you bring him back to the team, he hits the ground running. There isn't a learning curve whether going down or coming back up.
If I had to go to a park tonight and play pickup, Will is the guy I'm bringing with me. The guy led Conference USA in rebounding as a two-guard, he can really score. I really like his energy, he gets a lot of deflections, he gets his hands on balls. His biggest hurdle is going to be learning how to play in structure. If we went to the park later on tonight, Mark Jackson and I grew up together, if we were running over to Rucker, we'd bring Will with us, I promise you that.
He's going to have a learning curve in terms of read and react system, moving without the ball, he wants to handle it a bit. He's got some stuff you can't teach. it's going to be a nice element in our second unit. He came in the other night and gave us a nice lift with some deflections and some key rebounds.
Nicolas Batum feeling pressure from contract?
I think the contract is actually calming for him. It's off the table now, he can just go play basketball. For him, more than anybody, he did have an intense Olympics experience in a very key role for that team. He got here a little bit later than everybody because of that. He's learning now, for awhile he spent a lot of time in Nate [McMillan's] system as the corner spot-up guy and he was really good at it and it helped Portland win games, but he was the one who most wanted a coach who would pass, cut and move without the ball. When you see him do it early, he gets scoring opportunities.
Wes [Matthews] just tried to take a charge and it was a block. Joel [Freeland] tried one there. This is a point of emphasis for our team this year. stepping in, absorbing contact, being willing to sacrifice your body and pick up fouls, get the ball back, go to the other end. I think we've focused on that. We've got a little bell at the practice facility. You ring it if you hit 20 out of 25 threes and you ring it if you take a charge. We're trying to weigh our offense and defense equally.
Importance of defense
We've got a young guy in our office, Ben Falk, who is probably the top analytics guy in our league.
Did you know Ben Falk had a perfect score on his SATs?
I didn't. I think he probably got higher on the math than I did combined.
But Ben is a brilliant kid, he gives us a game review. At the end of it, it was just a general comment: It's not rocket science, if we play good defense, we win. If we don't play good defense, we lose. That's going to be the common denominator. We're going to score the ball. If we can crank up our pressure defensively, first and second unit, and really tighten that side of the floor.
Surprised Warriors big man Draymond Green slipped to second round?
Yeah, those are the kind of guys that end up slipping. DeJuan Blairs, the Draymond Greens, the Chase Budingers, the three and four year guys. There's nothing new and exciting about them they are just good basketball players. You can do really well in the second round, swinging for the fences with the DeAndre Jordan or Monta Ellis type guys or the really solid Draymond Green guys that really have a pedigree. He put in a lot of work at Michigan State. Those are the guys seven through 10 on your roster who are going to help you win games.
J.J. Hickson -- surprised he didn't get more offers in free agency?
It was a tough summer in that it's our first real summer with the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams are still feeling out what the comps are and what the level of compensation should be for certain guys. For J.J., he fell victim, by the time he started playing well and putting up numbers, it was a team that wasn't really a factor in the playoffs. You weigh that and say, 'Can he do that on a team that is playing with a purpose and playing for something?'
His agent Andy Miller and I have a really good relationship. Even though we didn't pick up his qualifying offer, we stayed in touch through the whole process and I think he felt this was the best place for him. LaMarcus as a pop guy, having that drive guy in the pick-and-rolls, even though he's undersized, that dive opens up LaMarcus and we've got spacing. Andy Miller was really interested in finding a home where he would be a starter and be a complement with the other big in the rotation.
Stephen Curry injured on play with Wesley Matthews
Somehow the other participant always ends up with the worst of it when they get into a scrum with Wesley Matthews... I'm sure Steph is fine. Their general manager Bob Myers is here tonight and I'm sure he's holding his breath, much as we all do, when your franchise player goes out for any reason.
Who will be the surprise team in the West?
I think what really happened in the West, the good teams got better. Minnesota made some really nice acquisitions, they've certainly improved. [Nikola] Pekovic is going to make a big jump for them. He's a terrific young player. But I think what happened, the top part of it, the Clippers, the Lakers, San Antonio, those teams got even better. That's going to make it just that much tougher for the bottom seeded teams in the Western Conference. But I don't know if there was a bottom tier team that made a big jump.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter