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Neil Olshey Explains Nurkic Trade and Blazers’ Approach to Trade Deadline

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Want to know why Mason Plumlee and why right now? Brooke Olzendam has you covered in an exclusive interview with Neil Olshey.

Neil Olshey sitting
Photo via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers courtside reporter Brooke Olzendam caught up with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey to discuss why Mason Plumlee was traded and whether or not the team will remain active at the upcoming trade deadline. The full video can be found here, on NBA.com, and the transcript is included below.

Olzendam: Neil, as you know, Blazers fans are very knowledgeable. They know this is a business, but they’re also very passionate about their team and loyal to their players, so for those who are wondering—Why Mason Plumlee and why right now?

Olshey: Well, you know, look, Mason’s impending free agency was certainly a factor. We love Mason. We’re going to miss him around here, we wouldn’t have been in the second round of the playoffs last year without him, but there are certain realities to managing our cap. We felt like we needed to get younger at the center position. We wanted more of a low-post player, someone who could defend size and strength. We found that with Jusuf and, look, this is the hard part of the business is you have guys you get attached to, but you’ve got to make business decisions, and we felt like, in the long run, this will pay longer dividends, having a younger guy on a rookie scale. We manage our cap with it, he gives us a different look defensively, he’s a big time rebounder, and I think he’ll make the game easier for guys like Dame and CJ because we’ve got more presence in the paint now, defensively.

Olzendam: The February 23rd trade deadline is fast approaching and, naturally, fans are curious if there will be more moves made by the Blazers. Can you speak to that?

Olshey: Well, we’re active. You know, look, I think this roster was always going to be a work in progress. We have the benefit of having Paul Allen as an owner. He let us retain all of our players. It wasn’t realistic to think we could manage that cap going forward, but what it did do is it put us in a position to keep as much as possible, give ourselves a chance to compete, but knowing at some point we’re going to have to make some moves. I think Mason is an example of that. He’s not someone we wanted to lose, but the reality is, from a cap standpoint, we needed to go average down the salary, but maintain our ability to compete, you know, now and in the future with not losing someone at that position. So I can’t speak to any specifics. I can tell you the league is very active right now, but we’re most excited about is having three picks in this draft. I think we’ve done a very nice job in the draft so far, whether it’s using draft picks to acquire players like we did with Robin Lopez or Mason Plumlee, or drafting guys like Dame and CJ and AC. So we’re excited about the prospect in that it’s a big time draft; it’s got incredible depth. We’ll be excited about it in June, but we now also have those tools for the next 10 days to put into play if a player that will impact our win total comes available.

Olzendam: How would you like to see the remainder of this season play out?

Olshey: You know, I want to see us just continue to compete. You know, we’ve—it’s ironic, and we’ve been in a lot of games. Terry and the players have done a great job making comebacks, keeping us competitive, and a lot of them some fifty-fifty balls just haven’t gone our way. Some other teams have made big time shots and ours haven’t gone down, but, you know, we’re probably a six-point swing overall from being a six or a seven seed versus where we are today. We’re right there, right on the cusp, and we miss ET obviously. It’ll take a little while for Jusuf to kind of get acclimated to our system, but we’re always going to compete. Being led by guys like Dame and CJ, we have a chance to win every night, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep rolling the ball out there, giving ourselves the best chance to win, we’re going to compete for that last playoff spot, but we’re also going to take a long-term view to building the roster.

Olzendam: Really appreciate your time, Neil.

Olshey: Yep, thanks.