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Trail Blazers Culture Called Into Question

Neil Olshey fires back at local sports columnist for critical stance on team culture.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers

Early Tuesday morning, The Oregonian published a column criticizing the Blazers’ organizational culture, questioning the team’s leadership behind owner Paul Allen and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.

Former long-time Oregonian Blazers beat reporter Jason Quick—now at Comcast SportsNet Northwest—went to Twitter this afternoon to add context to the column:

Near the end of Olshey’s exit interview with the media Tuesday, Quick prompted Olshey for an evaluation of his team’s culture. Olshey took the opportunity to address the critical column published by The Oregonian:

[laughing] “I want to let you know, I was completely oblivious to that until someone showed me your tweet, which I said, ‘I don’t understand what this means!’ and I had to go back and read that. I was glad that it was written by someone who came to two games all year, and clearly the motivation was to abuse his privileges as a media person with his pass so that he could get tickets for his relatives and pictures taken with the opposing point guard in the opposing point guard’s jersey, because clearly, that’s an unbiased opinion, right? That’s an impartial observer talking about our roster when he has his nephew in a Steph Curry jersey taking pictures with Steph Curry. Sure.

Olshey went on to explain what makes the Blazers’ team culture so special:

Ya know, look. I’m very comfortable with where our culture is. I mean, look: you guys are around it. You’re in that locker room more than I am, right? I mean, quite honestly, you guys know. The day I stopped coaching, I haven’t walked into an NBA locker room (sic). Not once. It’s not my place. When I talk to the guys it’s out of the locker room. That’s their sanctuary. Umm … so you guys know, how close a group that is. How they feel about the coaching staff, the support that they get from the organization. They know we have their best interest at heart.

Last summer, ya know, when we had guys that ... their markets didn’t appear—the way that I think maybe they anticipated they would—they were still taken care of. Ya know, they wanted to keep here. When you look at guys like, look at Chris Kaman. Look at Steve (Blake), guys, how they were treated when they were here relative to … maybe some other experiences they had had in the league. So, um, ya know, everybody throws the word around, um ... and, like I said, I don’t hear a lot of complaints. And believe me, we have guys that … any of you that know Chris Kaman, if he had a complaint, he would voice it [laughs].

Ya know, and again, like with Dame, hey, what does it tell you about an organization and an owner that—when you are in a starting lineup from the day you walked in and 80 percent of it is not gonna return—and on day one you sign on long-term? And then your backcourt mate—who … is another star in this league—never once said, ‘I wanna go somewhere to run my own team.’ Ya know what I mean? Like ... and signed on.

And I think that’s where you have to look at it, is—and I’ve talked about this in free agency—look, I’ve got to do a better job … selling our program, selling the organization, selling the city—when we have the free agency flexibility—but … I think what gets lost in that … is the guys that wanted to stay, and the guys that wanted to come back. I think that’s ... you have to look at that also. That we don’t have guys … ya know, we lost one player.

The Blazers finished team and staff exit interviews Tuesday afternoon, and will begin working out players for the 2017 NBA Draft the first week of June.