Today we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday by running down the Top 5 stories in the Blazers season so far. You may think that a .500-esque record wouldn’t leave many distinct points to talk about. You’d be wrong. Check throughout the day as we unveil (and invite you to examine) the trends typifying Portland’s year to this point.
The #2 story is a grim one: the investigation into President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey for creating and fostering a toxic work environment, bullying franchise employees.
We’ve already spoken on this issue in a column that detailed the history of Olshey’s behavior, along with potential cost to franchise culture and community morale.
The investigation also raises tangible questions. The Blazers are at the apex of Olshey’s nine-year plan. This is the peak of the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum roster. But even though both guards have multiple years left on their deals, many of their teammates do not. Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington are playing on expiring contracts. Anfernee Simons is headed to restricted free agency. Nassir Little will be eligible for an extension following the season. Larry Nance, Jr. has only one year remaining on his contract after this. Of all the players surrounding Lillard and McCollum, only Norman Powell has any claim to stability.
The Blazers are also in a precarious financial position. If they don’t move salary mid-season, they’ll exceed the luxury tax threshold and incur the repeater tax next year. They’ll either need to win quickly or face serious decisions about the future of the roster. And they don’t appear to be winning quickly.
Trade and contract negotiations are going to come thick and fast as the season progresses. Who, exactly, will be in charge of those decisions? Will Olshey be dismissed, with the ship captained by an incoming GM? Will Olshey remain, but come under greater scrutiny? Or will Olshey continue unabated and unfettered, made even more secure from having survived the investigation into what is surely the most unconscionable part of his administration?
The answer to that question will have great bearing on Portland’s future, especially with an owner who appears to be relatively detached from basketball operations. The cloud of this story is hovering over the franchise for public relations reasons, but the tangible impact on pressing decisions could prove just as important.
Stay tuned for the top story of the season so far, coming up next!