The Trail Blazers’ current 13-game winning streak has moved the team from a Western Conference afterthought to a team that is primed to make some noise in the postseason. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey explained Portland’s turnaround by giving a considerable amount of credit to coach Terry Stotts’ ability to unearth a consistent rotation of contributing players.
Olshey said the following comments to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix about Stotts’ work with the roster:
“Not to trifle, but we made lemonade a little bit in that we weren’t playing well anyway, so there was no downside to experimenting and seeing individually who was going to outperform the other guys in the roster,” Olshey said. “Because the variance between starter and rotation player and, you know, role player to rotation guy on this team is really narrow outside of Dame, C.J. and Nurkic. So it gave Terry a window into, ‘OK, who really … who’s going to help us win?’ You know, ‘Who do we need to play?’ Like I said, now we’re seeing the results. We’ve got our 10 guys who we’re going to war with every night. We’ve been really consistent so they’ve jelled. Everybody knows where their minutes are coming from and that consistency has led to a confidence.”
Olshey went on praise the positive impact that Stotts has had on Jusuf Nurkic:
“Terry deserves a lot of credit for finding what pushes his buttons,” Olshey said. “Some guys you got to hug, some guys you got to kick in the butt a little bit and he’s found a really good balance of when Nurkic needs the support and when Nurkic needs to be held accountable and called out for the inconsistency.
“Everyone forgets, [Nurkic] is a young guy. It’s his first year as a full time starter. I think what happened is that everybody on the outside looks at Nurkic as this established veteran guy, but in here he’s a guy on a rookie scale. So you’re not going to treat him any differently than you would treat Zach Collins or Caleb Swanigan or Meyers Leonard or anybody else because he hasn’t totally earned the right to have the ebbs and flows without being called out on it yet.”
Along with complimenting Stotts, Olshey also delivered a message to teams looking to pry Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum from the Blazers’ grasp:
Everybody’s looking for a crack in the dam, right?” Olshey told Yahoo Sports. “There’s always the, ‘Hey, blah, blah, blah, checking in. We like such and such.’ They’ll pull some name, right? Then it’s, ‘If you’re ever going to do anything with Dame or C. J., we’d be really interested.’ It always comes from some team who doesn’t have anybody even close to Dame or C.J. Look, it’s not going to happen. I mean we’ve proven they can play together. You know this narrative that people come up with, ‘Well you have to do something with one of them.’ No, we don’t. Why? We’re winning, they play off of each other great, they complement one another. When one’s off the floor, the other can take on the other’s responsibilities. It doesn’t hurt us defensively. We’ve got a top 10 defense. What are people talking about?
You can read Mannix’s full article on the Blazers by visiting Yahoo Sports.