With the first practice of the season a day away, the Portland Trail Blazers officially kicked off the 2021 season with Media Day today. In the first interview of the day, President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey reassured fans about the organization’s commitment to star Damian Lillard, advertised newfound roster depth, and made an announcement about the team’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
It was a rocky offseason for the Blazers’ relationship with Lillard. The star openly shared his frustration with the previous season and there was much media speculation about whether he would request a trade. Despite the drama, Olshey made it clear that the team didn’t take trade talks about Lillard from other teams seriously and that the organization remains committed to Lillard so long as he’s committed to them.
Clearly, we were never going to be receptive to moving Dame. We’re never going to be receptive to moving Dame. He’s the bedrock of this organization and he’s going to be here as long as he’s happy and knows he has a chance to compete.
Neil Olshey: "Clearly, we were never going to be receptive to moving Dame. We're never going to be receptive to moving Dame. He's the bedrock of this organization and he's going to be here as long as he's happy."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) September 27, 2021
In terms of the new roster for the 2021 season, Olshey emphasized a noticeable improvement with bench depth. Olshey said the team had “success we don’t normally have” on the veteran minimum market and that they picked up “proven” players who have played “meaningful basketball.”
This is probably the best depth we’ve had since we’ve built around Dame, in terms of guys you know.
Neil Olshey: "This is probably the best depth we've had since we've built around Dame, in terms of guys you know."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) September 27, 2021
Olshey also said that new head coach Chauncey Billups played a big part in the recruitment of this year’s free agency class. He said that the new additions and returning players are excited about what Billups brings to the table.
The returning guys are really engaged and excited about the potential this coaching staff holds to make an impact in terms of wins and losses and the new guys are invested in this staff because like I said Chauncey played an integral role during the free agent period in terms of selling his vision.
The big news — or at least new news — Olshey stated during the press conference was that the entire team and basketball operations staff has received their vaccinations for COVID-19.