Blazers Hire Neil Olshey As New GM: Reaction/Analysis Round-Up

On Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers announced the hiring of former Los Angeles Clippers executive Neil Olshey as their next general manager. Olshey takes over from Acting GM Chad Buchanan, who stepped in after the Blazers fired former GM Rich Cho in May 2011. The Blazers are holding a press conference at 4 p.m. to introduce Olshey, who "parted ways" with the Clippers unexpectedly on Monday after reaching an "agreement in principle" to stay with the team last Friday.

Here's Dave's rundown of the Olshey hire.

Here's a round-up of reaction to the hire.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the definitive Olshey profile from his time with the Clippers written by Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com back in May.

John Hollinger of ESPN.com writes...

Olshey not only had that rarest of glittering resume lines -- "made Clippers relevant" -- but all these years with the Clippers have given him the ability to work productively with meddling fools. That's his greatest qualification for the Portland gig, so it had to kill him that he couldn't really mention it in the interview.

In Portland, he'll be dealing with a shadow GM who isn't on the payroll (longtime Allen confidant Bert Kolde) and lives three hours up Interstate 5. A big part of the job is selling management on the moves that need to be made, and Olshey was able to do that in L.A. in a far more difficult environment.

lshey may not have much leeway to form a staff, as he joins a kitchen that already has several cooks. Forget bringing in his own people; Portland's front office is stocked with Kevin Pritchard's people and Rich Cho's people, and all are believed to be signed for two more years. In addition to acting GM Chad Buchanan, who may go back to being the team's director of college scouting, the lineup includes two assistant general managers (Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry), personnel expert Mike Born and capologist Joe Cronin. Portland has also had multiple analytics gurus on retainer the past few years. That will be a sea change from the skeleton crew Olshey worked with in L.A., and the resources available to him are a big reason for the move.

Tom Ziller of SBNation.com writes...

There's really no middle ground here. A survey of his moves as the Clippers' GM show some beautiful decisions ... and some completely awful ones.

...
Traded the pick that became Kyrie Irving for some nominal cap savings. This remains one of the worst trades the NBA has seen in years. Olshey gave the Cleveland Cavaliers the Clippers' unprotected 2011 first-round pick to swap Baron Davis and Mo Williams. The deal saved the Clippers $11 million in salary over two seasons. And cost them Kyrie Fricking Irving! No matter what sort of mewing Olshey applies -- and he applied plenty through friendly media types back in 2011 -- this was an awful, awful trade that violated a cardinal rule (never trade an unprotected lottery pick for anything less than a legit star).

So that's what you're getting, Portland: the only GM in the NBA who can legitimately say that he has executed both the very best and the very worst trades of the past 16 months. Given the Blazers' current issues, that erratic performance seems like it'll be a perfect fit.

John Canzano of The Oregonian writes...

Olshey ends up a surprisingly practical hire. It's not shiny. It's not shocking. As a huge positive, it appears that the guy knows how to negotiate brilliantly. Olshey reportedly had a deal with the Clippers on Friday, and then, backed out to accept the gig in Portland. The Clippers worked hard on Monday to spin that into a palatable tale.

You shouldn't care if he leveraged one to get the other, or vice versa. Whatever the case, Olshey was in demand and took his pick of GM jobs. He led the Clippers out of the lottery and he won't have to play catch-up in the NBA draft, and for that, I'm giving him a chance to steal the show.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes...

Credit executive Neil Olshey with one thing-he is no stranger to dysfunctional situations. That experience will be good for him as he makes the jump from the Clippers to the Blazers, a move that Portland announced on Monday evening.

...

Olshey joins a team that is in limbo following a tumultuous regular season in which Greg Oden was injured again, Brandon Roy retired, coach Nate McMillan was fired, and center Marcus Camby and forward Gerald Wallace were traded. Olshey does have some chips to work with, including the No. 6 and 11 picks in the draft, and potentially has an acre of cap space. Guard Jamal Crawford is expected to opt out of his contract, leaving the Blazers with only about $24 million in contract commitments, plus a tough decision on what to pay restricted free agent Nicolas Batum.

Olshey, then, has built up a decent resume, but there could be a long rebuilding process for the Blazers, and given the team's recent history with front-office personnel, there is little evidence that Olshey's resume will matter once he gets started on the job.

Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk writes...

It wasn't the money. He decided to leave an up-and-coming contender for a team that has chewed up and spit out general managers who did good work the past few years. This was Olshey's call, he wanted out. Maybe over control (he reportedly wanted to let Vinny Del Negro go during last season), maybe over something else.

Whatever his reasons, he should give Clippers fans pause.

Olshey was not perfect as a GM, but his mistakes (Brian Cook, maybe drafting Al-Farouq Aminu) were not expensive and not seriously damaging.

Dan Woike of the Orange County Register writes...

At first glance, this seems crippling.

The man who assembled the most talented Clippers' roster in history couldn't agree to a contract with the organization and will now be working in Portland, doing his best to one-up his former employers.

...

But maybe, just maybe, this isn't as bad as it seems. This won't impact whether guys want to play for the Clippers because Olshey was never the major selling point because he never jumped over a Kia or wore No. 3 on the court. As long as the Clippers higher someone competent, and why wouldn't they, the major selling points will still be Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com writes...

A great GM situation? How about this: Name your own coach, you have two lottery picks, nice cap space and an owner who will open the checkbook if it makes sense. NBA jobs don't get much better than that for a new GM.

Matt Calkins of The Columbian writes...

"As everyone knows, we've been at this for a while trying to figure out who the right guy is," [Blazers president Larry] Miller said. "We feel 100 percent confident we found the right guy. Neil is someone we targeted and been after for a while. He's done some great things and is someone with a proven record."

Mike Tokito of The Oregonian writes...

The last sentence in Allen's quote is the key one: "He's proven that he can quickly turn around a franchise, and we are confident he can do that in Portland."

Allen seems to be saying that he wants Olshey to build the Blazers around LaMarcus Aldridge, adding pieces to make them an immediate playoff team the way Olshey surrounded the Clippers' All-Star power forward, Blake Griffin, with enough talent to reach the second round of the playoffs this year.

Olshey added Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Nick Young and Kenyon Martin to the Clippers, and all made key contributions in the team's banner 40-26 season.

Mike Barrett of Blazers.com writes...

Olshey had the courage to ask for an audience with LeBron James, during that process, and got it. Even though James chose Miami, it was clear Olshey was confident enough to dream big, and wanted to flip the image of the Clippers.

Olshey later drafted Blake Griffin, started construction on the Clippers roster that helped them reach the second round of the playoffs. The acquisitions of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Kenyon Martin, are all on Olshey's resume as well. As impressive as those moves are, getting an owner like Donald Sterling to buy into in a "plan" like this trumps them all.

The ability to communicate, to believe in your own process and vision, and most importantly, to be able to effectively sell that to an owner, is a pretty good ability to possess in this business. Clearly, that's what the Blazers see in him.

The Columbian's Talking Points writes...

Oh, how the Blazers have fallen. Not only did they miss the playoffs, but now they go do this: They have reached out to the Clippers for help.

The Blazers named Neil Olshey as the team's general manager. Olshey helped turn the Clippers into a playoff team this year. While we hope this is a good hire for the Blazers, we would have preferred they hired NBA commissioner David Stern.

Mike Acker of Rip City Project writes...

Olshey has his work cut out for him right from jump in Portland. He will be responsible for managing the aforementioned Draft, in which Portland has four picks, two in the first round and two in the second. And he will also be heading any and all efforts to bring big time free agents to the Rose City.

For now, though, I think it might be a good idea for all Blazer fans to breath a sigh of relief and take a moment to really reflect on what having a General Manager means. It means that for all its faults, the Blazers are once again a real basketball team, fully staffed, and ready to pull itself out of the morass that was 2011-12. That's got to be a positive.

Now all the team needs is a coach, and to sign Nicolas Batum to a long-term deal, and to make sure LaMarcus Aldridge lives through the off season, and to find a serviceable center, and to find a league-leading Rajon Rondo-esque point guard, and to make the second round of the Playoffs... Oh well. One step at a time I guess.

Sean Highkin of Portland Roundball Society writes...

Despite the hangups that exist with Olshey, this is a step forward for the Blazers. They have a GM now, which is more than they've been able to say for a year. There's still almost a month until the draft, which will give Olshey plenty of time to put his team in place and scout players before having to actually make any decisions. It's unclear who the finalists were in the GM search, but there were strong rumors over the weekend that Chad Buchanan was in the running to stay on. And considering Buchanan a) drafted Nolan Smith over Kenneth Faried in 2011 despite the Blazers' desperate need for size and rebounding, and b) traded for Raymond Felton, if the choice came down to keeping Buchanan or hiring Olshey, this is a win. Though his record hasn't been perfect, he has made the Clippers into a playoff team on extremely short notice. Now, all that's left is to hope he doesn't get fired after 10 months like his predecessor.

Matt Wastradowski of The Columbian writes...

So what should Portland fans expect? I'm less worried about a full-scale rebuild now than I was before I heard the news. If all goes well, a retooled Portland roster could well make noise in the playoffs next season - and for several seasons to come. If Olshey hits a few speed bumps between here and Halloween, Portland might get stuck in the worst place to be: The mushy middle of the NBA. They might be just good enough to lose in the first round of the playoffs, never good enough to win a series, and never quite bad enough to land a high lottery pick.

Then again, Olshey has shown some serious resourcefulness as the Clippers' deal-maker. He may be able to quickly change course in the wake of tumultuous times - something the Blazers haven't done in several seasons.

This post will update.

Programming note: I'm still out of town so there will not be any on-scene coverage from Tuesday's press conference. Links to coverage will go up as soon as possible.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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