Posts Tagged ‘Neil Olshey’

Protected Picks Wring Out Some Sizzle From Trade Deadline Day

Indiana decision-makers Donnie Walsh (left) and Kevin Pritchard (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Indiana decision-makers Donnie Walsh (left) and Kevin Pritchard (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Trade deadline day in the NBA isn’t what it used to be, for a variety of reasons. The 2014 Draft has loomed large over this season, making teams leery of doing anything – trading a potentially valuable pick, improving their way out of the right combination of lottery balls – that might get between them and a franchise-altering prospect. New luxury-tax penalties have made teams loathe to cross the tax threshold for what might be a couple months’ impact. And looming free agency argues against a rent-a-player move.

Well, here’s another reason: the protected first-round pick.

Time was, a traded first-round pick was just that – traded. It got packaged up immediately in the deal, designed for whatever year applied. If it was for the very next draft, great. If it was for two or three years hence, that was fine, too. Everyone, including the team’s fans, knew the trade’s price and the payoff.

Now consider the way draft picks are dealt in the NBA of 2014. When the Chicago Bulls in early January surrendered to Luol Deng‘s impending free agency, compounded by their dashed ambitions in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s second season-ending knee injury, they shipped Deng to Cleveland. The headlines billed it as “Deng to Cavs for Bynum, three future picks.”

The devil, as they say, was in the details. Two of the picks sent to the Bulls in the deal will be second-rounders from Portland (2015, 2016). And the first-rounder they acquired, which began as Sacramento’s, could shrink all the way down to nothing thanks to the qualifiers attached to it: This year, the pick belongs to Chicago only if the Kings are poised to draft at No. 13 or later (they’re 18-36 at the moment, tied for the league’s fourth-worst record).

It is protected in 2015, 2016 and 2017 through No. 10, which is to say, if Sacramento isn’t at least vying for a playoff berth over the next three years, it still won’t have to cough up the pick. And if that’s the case, it becomes a 2017 second-round pick – but with protection for Nos. 56-60. If that kicks in, then the obligation is extinguished entirely.

Even the right to swap draft slots with the Cavs in 2015, a sweetener in the Deng deal, is protected through the lottery. As for center Andrew Bynum, he was involved merely to shed his $6 million salary off both teams’ caps; Chicago cut him the next day before a contract guarantee kicked in.

A half-season of Deng, in other words, potentially was traded for two second-round picks. That’s a lot less sexy and headline-grabbing than the deal originally appeared. And that has sapped some of the excitement from NBA trades, period, including deadline day.

What happened to cause this? Three little letters: C. Y. A.

“We all did it, I think, the minute the lottery came in,” said Indiana’s Donnie Walsh, a consultant to Larry Bird after a long career running the Pacers’ and Knicks’ front offices. “With the lottery, you could end up [losing] the first pick in the draft. Nobody wants to have that happen. You’d look like a fool.”

Or you’d look like the Clippers, who as recently as 2011 sent an unprotected first-round to Cleveland in a multi-player deal designed primarily to shed guard Baron Davis‘ $28 million contract obligations. Two months later, that pick bounced up to No. 1 in the lottery and became All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving. Neil Olshey, the Clippers’ GM at the time, works in Portland these days.

“So the lottery started it,” Walsh said, “and then it got more regimented from there. Because there were, what, seven teams in the lottery at first, then 11 in the lottery. Every time it got bigger, more teams tried to protect whatever it was, on that one chance they could lose something really good.”

For the folks who run NBA teams, it is a form of buying on credit. It is insurance for those who cut the dramatic deals that can dictate a team’s success or failure for a decade.

Sometimes protecting a pick and having its eventual payout hang over the franchise for several years – during which local media can remind fans of a bad trade again and again – can be worse than taking one’s medicine quickly and moving on. Voila!

“Sometimes you put that in the deal,” Walsh said. “Teams will put something in there where, you don’t have to give it but you can make them take it.”

Having what starts out as a glamorous first-round pick shrivel down to drab second-rounds or even vanish entirely might seem like bad business. But Walsh saw the pragmatic side of that. “If you’re looking to get rid of money and you have to wait three years to find out you got some seconds, so be it,” he said. “You’ve got time to make up for it.”

Protecting first-round picks rivals Congress for the way it kicks a potentially unpleasant can down the road.  Why give up a pick sooner when it can be conveyed later, presumably on someone else’s watch?

“I don’t think you think it out like that, because I don’t think you think you’re ever gonna get fired,” Walsh said, laughing before a recent Pacers home game. “But you want to push it down the road, yeah.

“You hope that you’ll be good by then and it won’t really hurt you. You figure, if it doesn’t work, I won’t be here. But if I am here, I don’t want to have to pay this off.”

Aldridge, Trail Blazers Set For A Split?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Making a graceful exit, whenever and however it happens, is probably out of the question for LaMarcus Aldridge. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

Aldridge might not have said the words himself, but a public demand for a trade isn’t necessary when his “camp” spends time in Las Vegas suggesting possible trade scenarios to Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, according to my main man Chris Haynes of

This marriage seems headed for divorce at some point over the next year and a half. And it’s hard to fault Aldridge for seeking a fresh start at this stage of his career. When your contemporaries around the league are joining forces left and right and lining up for championship runs, being in the midst of continuous rebuilding situations in Portland does nothing for an All-Star’s title hopes.

There was a time, as recently as three years ago (before all of the injuries, tumult and roster and front office upheaval), when it looked like Aldridge might realize those dreams in Portland. But he’s the last man standing from that pre-Olshey era. Now he’s looking for a fresh start somewhere he can be a key piece on a playoff team, a contender even, albeit with two years and some $30 million remaining on his current deal.

But if Aldridge and the Trail Blazers are set for a split, amicable or not, snagging equal value for a 7-foot, 240-pound power forward that can play center in this small-ball phase the league is going through will be tough. At 27, Aldridge is still young enough to be slotted as one of a team’s frontcourt anchors for the next six or seven seasons.

Still, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding these reported trade suggestions. The names being thrown around, by one side or the other, will raise plenty of eyebrows:

Trading Aldridge for a collection of draft picks will not be an option.

Prospective teams holding the rights to Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Anthony Davis, as of now, have declined to involve their franchise players in any potential deals for Aldridge, a league source told

Unless something changes after Summer League, the likely development is Aldridge returning to Portland next season and having a strong year to increase the likelihood of Olshey pulling the trigger on a deal.

When Aldridge is a year removed from becoming a free agent, his camp will have more leverage than at the current time.

Aldridge could return for another season and pair up with Rookie of the Year-winning guard Damian Lillard and find himself in a situation that might be to his liking. Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson have been added to the mix, guys Olshey expects to do the “grit-and-grind” work to while preserving Aldridge from shouldering as much of the load as he’s had to the past three seasons. A run at a playoff spot could change Aldridge’s outlook on this team, which is why Olshey would be wise to hold off on serious trade talks for as long as he can.

But in a day and age when star players bolt from their incumbent franchises for all sorts of reasons, the Trail Blazers would have to listen if one of those aforementioned players were actually to become available.

Love grew up in suburban Portland and Griffin has connections to Olshey from their shared time with the Clippers. Both Noah and Horford are the kind of no-nonsense, hard-working players that could fit in anywhere. And Davis is a young talent with perhaps the highest ceiling of all.

With a huge free-agent summer of 2014 on the horizon already and a potentially monster 2014 Draft class in play as well, teams with proven commodities in the fold have to keep all of their options open these days.

And again, if these are the sorts of talents that could come into play at some point, Olshey would be obligated to at least explore the possibilities.

It’s only right, considering Aldridge’s camp is doing the same thing … exploring the possibilities.

Two Coaches With Everything To Lose

LOS ANGELES — Opposing playoff coaches Vinny Del Negro and Lionel Hollins have a lot in common. Both men have improved their clubs’ winning percentage each season as coach. The last two soared over .600 for consecutive top-five finishes in the rugged Western Conference.

Both won 56 games this season to set each franchise’s record for most wins.

And, finally, job security: Neither man has it.

In a rare, but not unprecedented occurrence, the first-round playoff series between Del Negro’s Los Angeles Clippers and Hollins’ Memphis Grizzlies, a rematch of last season’s seven-game, first-round thriller won by L.A., features two lame-duck coaches.

While both have produced excellent seasons by any measure, one will be going home earlier than hoped. And despite public stamps of approval this week from their superiors, neither coach’s future is certain, and prior to Monday’s Game 2, neither was pretending otherwise.

“Would I liked to have had a contract before this? Of course,” said Hollins, now in his fifth consecutive season and third stint as the Grizzlies coach, a relationship that dates back to the franchise’s roots in Vancouver. “But that’s a decision that’s made and you go and do the best job you can, and it’s not like it had to be done before the season is over. It’s just like players, you can extend players early or you can wait till later. Guys become free agents and they go out in free agency and sometimes it gives you leverage and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Del Negro, who guided the Clippers to the franchise’s first Pacific Division title and first 50-win campaign in his third season and second with All-Star point guard Chris Paul, has been one of the most scrutinized coaches since Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf hired him without any coaching experience five years ago. Del Negro lasted two .500 seasons there before being fired and then hired by the Clippers.

L.A. advanced to the West semifinals last season, but with Paul and Blake Griffin banged up, was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Del Negro said this season’s goal is to go deeper, which implies a goal of achieving another franchise milestone, a first conference final. It would take finishing off Memphis and then likely ousting the reigning West-champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I believe in what we’ve done here,” Del Negro said. “I think my assistant coaches have done a phenomenal job and I’ve had great support from ownership and the front office … and everybody to try and put the best team out there possible.

“Right now the focus should be on the playoffs, should be on the players and the commitment that they’re putting in to help us be successful. And all those things (contract situation) will get answered at the end.” (more…)

Del Negro Playing It Cool While Seat Remains Hot In Clipperland


DALLAS — Jerry Reinsdorf hired Vinny Del Negro to lead the Chicago Bulls despite not a single coaching gig on his resume. Five years later, the lame-duck coach of the Los Angeles Clippers still can’t escape the stigma of being a cheap hire for a bad team.

Only the Clippers aren’t a bad team any longer, not since Chris Paul arrived a season ago. Despite a mini-slump of late, 5-5 in their last 10, L.A. is 48-23 and closing in on franchise firsts of 50 wins and a division title.

Still, there’s little love for Del Negro. No Coach of the Year mentions as the season winds down to its final month. No contract extension forthcoming. Only one hot seat.

Worry about his future? Del Negro said it’s not something he does.

“No, my future is great. I’ve got a great future no matter what,” Del Negro said Tuesday before the Clippers lost in overtime at Dallas, 109-102. “I’ve been pretty fortunate, so I don’t really worry about that stuff so much. All those things take care of themselves. Where we finish, we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be organized, we’ll play hard and at the end of the day, you got to try to win some basketball games and finish as high as you can and have a great playoff run. But a lot of playoff teams are saying that right now and it doesn’t always work out like that.

“But you have to put yourself in this position on a consistent basis year-in and year-out and learn and keep the core of your team together. And if  you do that, with stability, usually at the end of it you get it figured out as you move forward with a young team that’s trying to develop.”

The Clippers won 32 games in Del Negro’s first season. Over the last two seasons — the last being a lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule — they’ve won 88 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Expectations have been boosted this season and there’s speculation that Del Negro, hired by Neil Olshey, now Portland’s general manager, won’t be back if L.A. makes a quick postseason exit.

“I enjoy the pressure. I love the competition,” Del Negro said. “Could things be a little bit better in certain areas? Of course. But, all those things get answered at the end of the year. Our focus is on tonight’s game and on this season and all those things get answered at the end one way or the other.”

The Clippers are locked in a three-way battle for the No. 3-5 seeds with Denver and Memphis. Tuesday’s loss at Dallas slipped L.A. into fourth place with a game tonight at New Orleans, followed by road tests at Houston on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday.

“I want the highest seed possible, but we just want to make sure we’re playing the right way into the playoffs,” Paul said. “We have the capability, regardless if we have homecourt [advantage] or not. You got to be able to win on the road so either way it doesn’t matter.”

Clippers players have applauded Del Negro’s ability to manage one of the deepest rosters in the league and keep harmony among players who might not get the minutes they feel they deserve. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Del Negro for two seasons in San Antonio, has lauded Del Negro’s strategic incisiveness.

At some point doesn’t Del Negro deserve credit for the Clippers’ massive turnaround? Not that it matters now. The pressure is on and expectations heightened.

“Like I tell the guys, we should thrive on the pressure because you’re in a situation where these games matter where we’re in a playoff run instead of being out of the playoffs.” Del Negro said. “So take advantage of the situation and handle the pressure in terms of be excited about it. And everyone’s vying for certain things, but we can only control what we can, and that’s our preparation and the intensity we play with.”

Blazers Face The Aldridge Question

It’s getting late early in Portland.

Of course, the shadows can’t get much longer and the outlook much bleaker than when you’ve become the first team all season to lose to the Wizards.

Still, these things happen. If it were a one-game pratfall, it would be easier for the Trail Blazers to move on up the road and try to work out their frustrations on the soon-to-be-Rondo-less Celtics.

But the trouble is that 15 games into this season, it is already beginning to look a lot like last season. And the one before. And the one before.

“Inexcusable,” is the way guard Wesley Matthews described the loss at Washington and nobody was really sure if he was talking about the way the Blazers shot the ball, rebounded, defended or got off the bus.

Intolerable for their fans is the knowledge that over the past decade, the Blazers have done more rebuilding than FEMA and still have little to show for it. They have the longest current Western Conference drought without winning a playoff series (13 seasons and counting) and are giving little indication that it’s about to end. Enthusiasm for new coach Terry Stotts’ up-tempo, move-the-ball offense is leaking like air from a flat tire.

All of which quickly brings up the question of what to do with LaMarcus Aldridge?

The Blazers official stance is: nothing. That’s what general manager Neil Olshey told Aldridge in an October meeting, asking for patience and promising that the power forward would not be traded.

But how wise is that from both sides?

Aldridge is 27 going on who knows what. He’s previously had a heart condition, was sidelined last season by a hip injury and is now bothered an achy back, probably from having to carry so much of the load. He’s averaging a team-high 38.2 minutes per game and a career-low shooting percentage of 43.9.

On one hand the Blazers need their best player on the floor for his lion’s share of time in order to even dream of competing for one of the lower rung spots on the playoff ladder. But if this is a team that isn’t really going anywhere until rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard develop, Nicolas Batum gets a real clue and then significant free agent additions are made next summer, does it make sense to wear Aldridge out?

The Blazers, with Greg Oden and Brandon Roy as cautionary tales in their recent past, are quite familiar with players that simply break down physically. If it’s going to take Olshey’s two-year window to get Aldridge the help he needs, what state will he be in physically, not to mention mentally? Might there come a time, even this season, when L.A. is ready to flee to L.A. or OKC or any other playoff contender with a need for the kind of firepower he brings? In this NBA era that we live, players are far less likely to commit themselves to a franchise for an entire career. How much longer before those around him, or Aldridge himself, conclude it’s time to start inching him toward the door?

If you’re the Blazers and have seen Aldridge’s game deteriorate into mostly jumpers and fadeaways this season, it could be easy to conclude that he’s past the point — if he ever was — of being a No. 1 option on a championship contender. If you’re already thinking about the next remodeling of the roster, wouldn’t it make sense to move the process along with a deal that could bring in young talent to grow at the same pace with Lillard, Leonard and Batum?

Of course, the trade deadline isn’t till February. But it’s already gotten late early in Portland.

Long-Awaited Picks Claver, Freeland Finally (Set To Be) Blazers

HANG TIME WEST – They are coming, finally. Eventually.

The Olympics are the last step. Victor Claver will play for Spain as a heavy favorite to medal and Joel Freeland for host Britain as a heavy favorite to not medal. They then become Trail Blazers teammates with enough recovery time on their hands before training camp opens.

That they will become Blazers at all is a development more significant than most international arrivals. Two at the same time is noteworthy. Two at the same time for the frontline, with the chance to immediately join the rotation, is important for a team trying to push back into the playoffs and can use their help.

Claver, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound small forward who can play some power forward, was the No. 22 pick in 2009. Freeland, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward who can play some center, was No. 30 in 2006. That’s a lot of waiting that, at last, faces a payoff.

“I think the time was absolutely right for both of them to come,” said Neil Olshey, the new general manager who joined the organization years after both were drafted. “We’ve got a young roster and they’ve both got a chance to contribute immediately if their game translates from what they’ve done in international basketball. They both play positions where we’re going to need some depth. And they’ve both got transferrable skills. Joel’s ability to rebound, score around the basket, defend multiple positions. And Victor’s length, his ability to stretch the floor, he’s a nice complement to Nic.”


Clipper Nation Grows With Turiaf

HANG TIME, TEXAS — Remember how things used to be with the Clippers? They were the NBA’s version of the groundhog, coming out on rare occasion only long enough to see their shadow and then going back into hibernation.

Not anymore, Punxsutawney Phil-breath.

After a thoroughly enjoyable 40-26 season that earned them the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and then a stirring seven-game first-round playoff series win over Memphis, the Clips have hardly spent the summer relaxing on the beach.

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times says they have boosted their bench with another addition:

The Clippers and free-agent Ronny Turiaf have agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract worth $1.146 million, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Turiaf, a 6-10, 245-pounder, will be a backup power forward and center for the Clippers.

He becomes the fifth big man for the Clippers – behind starters DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and reserves Lamar Odom and Ryan Hollins – the 13th player on the roster.

Turiaf played his first three NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He played for the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat last season. (more…)

Blazers Swing For The Fences In Coaching Search

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Portland Trail Blazers need a head coach. And apparently, their search starts at the top.

Chris B. Haynes of reports that new Blazers GM Neil Olshey has been swinging for the fences in his search for a new coach.

The Portland Trail Blazers attempted to snag former Utah Jazz coach, Jerry Sloan, out of retirement this week by formally offering him their head coach position in Salt Lake City.

Sloan later turned down the offer, but that wasn’t the Trail Blazers first big swing.

For the last few months, the Trail Blazers have been in back-and-forth discussions with Phil Jackson in an attempt to persuade him to take their head coaching vacancy, a close source said.

Hey, there’s no harm in asking, right? The worst thing that can happen is they say “No.” And it’s not like other coaching candidates are going to be offended that you went after a pair of Hall of Famers first.

The Oregonian reports that Olshey will now conduct interviews with several candidates at the Las Vegas Summer League. Kaleb Canales, who took over for the fired Nate McMillan in March, is still a candidate to be given the job full-time.


Despite high cost, Blazers likely to match Batum’s offer from Wolves

HANG TIME WEST – The plan from the beginning was the right plan: The Trail Blazers would match any offer sheet Nicolas Batum signed and keep an important part of the lineup in place while they made significant additions through the draft and free agency.

Grow the team with Batum at 23 years old and set at small forward. Protect an asset. It made perfect sense.

But then came Thursday and news that restricted free agent Batum and the Timberwolves had agreed to a four-year, $45-million deal that can top $50 million with incentive bonuses. It came with the kicker that Batum and his agent urged Portland officials not to match.

And suddenly the end result was not so simple. Not the part about the request to let Batum go Minnesota. That is common in these situations, is usually rightly ignored by the original team, and in time becomes a forgotten part of a tangled negotiating process. Same thing with Eric Gordon and the Hornets – he has an agreement with the Suns, he said his heart is in Phoenix, and every indication is that New Orleans will match anyway.

It’s the other part. The one about Nicolas Batum averaging $11.25 million annually.


Hibbert Favoring Portland’s Max Offer

Free agent center Roy Hibbert is now leaning toward wanting to play with the Portland Trail Blazers next season, a day after the restricted free agent got a verbal commitment from the Blazers that they would tender a four-year, $58 million offer sheet to him, the maximum he can receive under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources confirmed Sunday.

Hibbert, acquired by the Indiana Pacers (from the Toronto Raptors) on Draft day in 2008, had long expressed his desire to remain with the team that traded for him and helped him develop into an All-Star last season. But the 25-year-old was apparently blown away by the presentation made Saturday in Washington, D.C., by the Blazers’ contingent, which included Portland’s new general manager, Neil Olshey.

The Pacers would still be able to match any offer for Hibbbert when the July moratorium expires, but teams generally work out deals for players who express a specific desire to be elsewhere once they become free agents.

The Pacers are still likely to match the offer, because Hibbert has become one of the league’s top centers and his skills as a passing big man are a rare commodity in the NBA these days. But a source indicated Sunday that the organization would have to take a look at the offer before making a definitive commitment.