Neil Olshey: Did You Get Your Guys?
Now that the NBA free agency moratorium has concluded, the Portland Trail Blazers were finally able to introduce its four newest members in wing Dorell Wright, center Robin Lopez, guard Earl Watson and forward Thomas Robinson.
Just to refresh your memory, Wright and Watson were acquired through free agency while Lopez and Robinson were picked up via trade.
“We've had a busy and productive couple of weeks,” General Manager Neil Olshey said in his opening remarks. “These guy are a result of it. They're going to make for a much stronger, more competitive team this year.”
Gone are the days of having no bench production. Gone are the days of opponents driving to the lane for uncontested layups and dunks.
These four players, along with rookie CJ McCollum, will provide head coach Terry Stotts with the necessary tools to play around with different rotations and offensive sets while being competitive at the same time.
Lopez will anchor the defense as the team's starting center, Wright will stretch the floor and provide offense off the bench, Robinson will look to turn things around after what has been a slow professional start and Watson will fill the role of mentor to young point guards Damian Lillard and McCollum.
These new additions aren't household names, but they are names that are respected throughout the league and Olshey was very aggressive in making sure he obtained their services.
“We were identifying skills as much as we were identifying players,” Olshey said. “I know everybody on the other side of the computer wants to look at names, and you know what, names don't always get it done. Teams get it done. Guys that fulfill their roles get it done. Guys that play the right way get it done. Terry, myself, front office staff, coaches, we all sat down and we knew how we wanted to construct this roster in terms of ability.
“And it may not be in terms of name awareness, but it has to do with what they bring to the table as we analyzed where we were lacking last year, that these guys filled voids that were clearly there. We think we did it as efficiently as we possibly could.”
Watson, open and honestly, talked about how he would mentor the Trail Blazers' two young point guards in a similar manner that Gary Payton did for him earlier in his career.
Olshey and Stotts raved about the reputation of Watson. Stotts went on to add that while Watson's first priority is to get the youngsters up to speed, if there's a situation where he is needed on the court, Stotts made it known that he has the utmost confidence in him as a player.
“He can still play, although he's coming in probably as a mentor to CJ and Damian in the locker room, as he showed last year when he beat us in Utah, he's still capable of winning games in this league,” Stotts said.
Last season, Wright had an off year in his only season with Philadelphia, as did other players. He's not far removed from leading the league in three-pointers made in a season.
In Coach Stotts' offense, he's hoping to reunite with that level of play. Stotts said Wright could see some time at the four in small-ball lineups. That's okay with Wright, he just wants to be out on the court.
“The only way you can be productive in this league is being on the floor,” Wright said. “Doing what I have to do to get out there, working hard, making shots, and defending. Just all the small things.”
This is Robinson's third team in a year. He has all the physical tools one needs to be a successful player in this league. For whatever reason, the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft hasn't been able to put it all together.
However, you must keep in mind that most players coming out of college struggle during their first year in the league. That's why the organization feels pretty good about acquiring the former lottery pick.
He's at a place and situation where they're going to nurture his development and give him every opportunity to prove that he belongs in this league. But most importantly, he's at a place that wants him.
“It's a great feeling to be wanted,” Robinson said. “I've been in this league a year and being tossed around could mess with your confidence, it could mess with everything, so to hear somebody say they're glad to have me on the team is a great feeling.”
And then there's the seven-foot center.
According to Stotts, “Robin is going to anchor our defense which is our biggest area of need.” Following the presser, Stotts wanted to make it clear that Lopez is not the savior.
“He's an integral part of what we're going to do,” he said. “Defense is team defense. We're going to change some of our defensive philosophies and emphasis that will be more tailored for him and Meyers [Leonard]. It's going to take a team for us to be a better defensive team.”
The sky is the limit for the Trail Blazers during the 2013-14 season. The team has improved in multiple areas and Olshey did so without breaking the bank.
How much better are they? No one knows the answer to that right now, but Summer League play will definitely set a bench mark.
Adding interior help, another creator and shooters was clearly the goal. And it appears that was accomplished.
“We've increased our talent base,” Olshey said. “We've added assets. We got guys who are still in the prime of their career that can continue to grow with this roster. And we're setting ourselves up for a long run while not giving up any long term flexibility.”
-- CSNNW.com has learned that the Blazers and restricted free agent at the time, Tiago Splitter, reached an agreement on a four-year, $36 million offer sheet. However, when it became apparent that San Antonio would match, both sides agreed to not go through the three-day restricted free agency process.
-- Terell Harris, whose contract becomes guaranteed October 31, is expected to join the team Friday for practice and he will be a participating in Summer League.
-- Olshey said he likes the flexibility of having 14 players on the roster oppose to the 15 he has now, which allows them to partake in lopsided trade. Waiving Harris is the likely scenario, though no decision has been made on that front yet.
-- Although it may be Summer League practice, the word is CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson are impressing out there. Look for them to have an overall, solid Summer League.