clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Olshey: Blazers Gave Away Winnable Games Last Season

Portland basketball boss Neil Olshey joined ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi on his podcast to talk the state of the Blazers.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey hopped on the Woj Pod with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski to discuss the team’s offseason and the upcoming season.

The pair discussed a range of topics from the Blazers’ recent offseason moves, Carmelo Anthony, the cloud of COVID-19 next season and the letdown of the team’s 2018-19 performance.

When asked about the Blazer’s 2019-20 season 27 minutes into the podcast, Olshey described Portland's approach to every Bubble contest as a playoff game. But said, ultimately, the team didn't help its chances by giving away winnable games during the regular season.

“We put ourselves in that position, we were kind of cavalier about some games last year in our conference that we thought we could just maybe roll the ball out and go get a win and it backfired.”

“And those four or five losses that we absorbed in games that should have been wins is why we went into the bubble three and half games back with no chance at avoiding the Laker part of the bracket.”

“We ended up as an eight seed and if we were to take care of business with games that we thought were winnable games, instead of maybe losing focus a little bit and giving them away, we wouldn’t have been in that situation.”

On the return of Carmelo Anthony, 13 minutes in, Olshey discussed the “gravitas” that the 17-year veteran brought to the team, both on and off the court. He said he believed Anthony was keen to come back as he was being included in basketball decisions.

“Dame, CJ and Nurk they know the respect that Carmelo still commands from opposing defenses, the presence that he has on the court, the gravity that shifts when guys know they have to stay on him as a shooter, because they can’t cheat off of him, he’s still Carmelo Anthony.”

“But the other value that he provides is, for guys like Anfernee Simons, Zach Collins, Nassir Little, CJ Elleby, Gary Trent, he’s just a different aura.”

“They all respect Dame, he’s a Hall of Fame player, but he’s their contemporary more than Carmelo is. They grew up with his poster on the wall and that’s not being facetious.”

“One of the reasons Melo was willing to come back was because he is still treated like the Carmelo Anthony in his prime when it comes to accommodations, when it comes to being involved in organizational decisions and conversations that impact what we’re doing and our direction.”

Olshey said the team's newest additions would create a myriad of headaches for opposing teams on both sides of the ball. He said it was essential the team was able to maintain it’s offensive status, while improving defensive flexibility, 18 minutes in.

He added that while the Western Conference would again be extremely competitive, it kept team executives on their toes, pushing them to never “rest on their laurels”.

“It was my job and I take responsibility for the fact that I needed to make personnel additions that were going to be high-level impactful defenders.

“Prioritizing, flexibility on the wing, guys that could guard multiple positions, guys that could switch, guys with length, guys with toughness.”

“We went into this offseason we were a top three offense but we were a bottom three defense. My challenge was how do we balance that out, how do we gravitate closer to league average as a defensive team without sacrificing the elite offence we’ve become accustomed to.”

“We did get multiple two-way players, we’re going to be much better defensively, we’re going to be harder to play against.”

“Strategically we’ll be more disruptive, we’ll be able to get more deflections, turn people over, resulting in easier points.”

He also said it was important that in the case of Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Enes Kanter, that they had come from extremely well-run organizations in the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

“The three main additions in Robert, Derrick and Enes, all come from incredibly well-coached, well-run programs.”

“Their transitions into our culture is going to be fairly seamless because they’re the kind of model franchises that we like to judge ourselves against.”

Finally, he talked about how the coronavirus had impacted the draft process and the inability for teams to properly evaluate and develop rookies and sophomores over a shortened offseason, 29 minutes in.

“We weren’t playing the uncertainty game and the upside of younger players, that’s why we moved out of the draft.

“I do think you’re going to find a lot of minimum guys that are veteran guys getting more minutes than they would normally expect. Because they get a coverage, they’re going to run a play correctly out of a time out. They’re going to know how to take care of the bodies on the road, they’re not going to be as vulnerable to the fatigue.”

He added that this was a challenge in evaluating the team’s second round draft pick CJ Elleby, 32 minutes in.

“The first time Terry, other than film, laid eyes on CJ Elleby was when he walked into the gym for his first day of workouts. He doesn’t really have any context of whether he can play or can’t play or even what his game is at this level.”

You can listen to the podcast here.