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Trail Blazers Media Day: Neil Olshey

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Expectations for Pau Gasol and Zach Collins, roster additions, Jusuf Nurkic, Jody Allen’s ownership, and what to look for for the upcoming season.

Neil Olshey sitting
Photo via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey spoke to the media at the team’s annual media day. Hot topics covered by Olshey included expectations for Pau Gasol and Zach Collins, roster construction during the off-season, Jusuf Nurkic, and Jody Allen’s ownership, as well as expectations for the upcoming season.

  • Olshey expects Pau Gasol will be ready for the first game after going easy during training camp.
  • Asked about the lad for Damian Lillard, Olshey said that Lillard is good about maintaining his body: “He’s 28, not 40.”
  • Olshey said this is the “best team we’ve had, biggest team we’ve had.” He noted that Pau Gasol brings a championship pedigree, and that last year’s deep run functions as a “springboard” into this season. During the off-season, he feels they added guys who want to be in Portland.
  • As to what those guys bring to the table, Olshey says the team has added more handling, more shot creation, versatility, offensive rebounding, and is focused on playing inside out versus outside in.
  • Regarding expectations for Zach Collins, Olshey maintained the comparison to Rasheed Wallace, noting that he is highly mobile, with great feet, and can play the four or the five depending on need.
  • Olshey said that the team has a lot of flexibility when it comes to size, allowing the Blazers to go big or small as needed.
  • He noted that the team runs a very sustainable organization from players to coaches tot he front office, and that continuity allows them to go after guys in free agency.
  • As to Jusuf Nurkic: “Any time there is a new benchmark with Nurk, we will let you know. This isn’t going to be Nurkwatch 2019.” Nurkic had staff helping with his rehab all summer.
  • Regarding tampering, Olshey stated that “the optics were really bad this offseason.” He noted that many teams will have to re-educate front office staff.
  • On Coach Terry Stotts’ developing young players: “Terry is far more patient than I am in letting players learn from their mistakes and make progress.” He stated that Coach Stotts really empowers young players. “Terry has really fostered an environment of living up to your potential.” He added that their own relationship and comfort has grown, and that if they disagree, they do so in private so as to create a unified public front.
  • As to ownership, Olshey reports that Jody Allen was approved by the Board of Governors. Her goal is to win “a couple of Championships.” He said that she is a great leader who provides the team with the resources needed to do their job.
  • On the upcoming season in the Western Conference: “We got better, but so did a lot of people...We don’t have the margin for error other people do. We have to nail drafts and retain our best players.”
  • Regarding the team’s defense, Olshey said the team can defend as a team, while they have elite size in the frontcourt along with rim protection. He stated they also possess IQ and depth.
  • On two-way contracts and the G-League, Olshey said the the two-way contract with Jaylen Hoard allowed them to acquire a guy they had their eye on without using a draft pick. As to the G-League, it would have to make financial sense for the franchise in terms of development.
  • Olshey stated that Anfernee Simons has grown an inch while putting on 10 pounds. His handle is tighter, and according to Olshey, he is really gifted: “As gifted a player as anyone I’ve drafted in my 15 years in the league.”
  • On adding the new guys, Olshey noted that lots of guys came in early to play pickup, including Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja, and Hassan Whiteside. Olshey said that Whiteside has chemistry with both Lillard and McCollum, and that he thinks that Whiteside will benefit from having a defined role on the team, just as Jusuf Nurkic did.
  • Olshey declared that he thinks the Blazers have the “best backcourt in the NBA, [and] best young guard in Anfernee.” He said that Stotts’ system allows for floor spacing and a kind of quid pro quo between the backcourt and the front court, as setting screens well leads to more opportunities.
  • On what he expects to see this upcoming season: “Passing, plays we haven’t seen before.”

Video will be added when available.