NBA AM: Blazers Are Open To Trades
The Blazers Are Open To Moves: The Portland Trail Blazers have a lot to be positive about, but at 19-15 on the season, Blazers general manager Neil Olshey says his team isn’t afraid to make a deal around the February 21st trade deadline, especially if the move fits into the team’s long-term plan.
“We’ve said from the beginning it’s going to be a process,” Olshey told HOOPSWORLD at this week’s D-League Showcase in Reno. “I think right now from a record stand point, we’re a little bit ahead of where we thought we were going to be. A lot of that is due to Terry [Stotts] and the development of some of our younger guy. But look, we’re going to stay with our philosophy which is if we can find a deal that moves the needle on a long-term basis, we’re going to be as active as anybody, but we’re not going to take incremental moves that take away our long-term flexibility.”
Olshey, like most of the league, is looking at all of his options, which includes players not in the NBA and part of the D-League.
“There aren’t that many generalists in our league,” explained Olshey. “You have 25 or 30 guys who are gifted enough to do everything, and you look at guys who bring something to the table whether it’s rebounding, blocking shots, handling the ball, defensive pressure, whatever it happens to be. I think when you come down to an event like this you’re really looking for if you have a hole on your roster, is there someone here with a skill that can fill it?”
“A lot of guys get caught up in numbers thinking, if they go get 28 or 30 [points], it’s going to change people’s minds. Really what we’re looking for, or at least what I am, is translatable skills. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to bring a guy in that isn’t a range shooter and he happens to make three’s that day. I want to see guys that I know if we bring them in on a 10-day [contract] they can provide something to our roster that’s missing, and guys just need to be who they are and be the best player they can be within their skill set.”
The Blazers have solved a number of issues this year with the drafting of Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard and the re-signing of Nicolas Batum to a long-term contract. Both players have really exceeded expectations.
“I think that’s what we were hoping for when we drafted Damian,” Olshey said of Lillard’s dominating success. “We knew we were going to hand him the ball on day one, and that’s why we didn’t bring any good point guards that would compete for minutes with him. It’s a lot of what we saw, and again we get back to translatable skills. Things you saw at Weber State he’s translating easier probably than we thought to the NBA at this point.”
The Blazers’ matched the four-year, $46 million offer sheet Minnesota gave to then restricted free agent Nicolas Batum and are seeing the kind of results they had hoped for.
“I think Nicolas has a lot of his best basketball ahead of him,” Olshey explained of Batum’s recent surge. “I think Terry is the right coach for him. I think Terry gives him the opportunity to be more versatile. For awhile he was kind of a spot up three-point shooter and defensive lock-down guy, and you see his assists are going through the roof. He’s second only to LeBron [James] among forwards in the league. He’s rebounding at a higher rate and he’s making plays for other people, which we’re pleased about.”
The Blazers are also pleased with their first-year head coach Terry Stotts. Stotts was an improbable hire at the time, but the Blazers like the direction the team is going under him.
“Terry has been terrific,” Olshey said. “I think we took a unique approach. We filled out the roster first and then found a coach we thought best suited our roster. And look, from the development of Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard at this point. Our veterans that have excelled; Wesley Matthews and Batum are having career years. LaMarcus [Aldridge] is at or above his career numbers. We’re getting great performances out of J.J. Hickson, who was a guy on the waiver wire 12 months ago, and now he’s averaging a double-double. I think he’s fourth or fifth in the League in rebounding. Terry has a unique ability to bring out the best out in his team by empowering them and giving them the flexibility to do what they do well and he’s a coach that supports their strengths and then works with them on their weaknesses. He coaches from a positive, and he embraces what they do and he gives them the freedom to do it.”
If the season ended today the Trail Blazers would be the seventh seed in the West. Olshey and the Blazers are not looking for superficial changes, but made it clear that if the right kind of deal surfaces between now and the trade deadline that can move the franchise forward, he is ready to make a move.
The problem facing Portland is that the guys that have been powering their success are the players they’d want to hang on to, meaning any trades or changes to the roster are likely coming from the role players at the end of the bench and those personalities may not return nearly as much as Olshey would like to add.
Scott Skiles Is Out In Milwaukee?: USA Today’s Sam Amick is reporting that the Milwaukee Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles have mutually agreed to part ways.
Word had leaked over the weekend that Skiles informed the team he would not be looking to stay on beyond his current contract, which ends in July, although the spin coming out of Milwaukee was they wanted Skiles to stay open minded about a possible return this summer.
It seems that things changed pretty aggressively over the last few days. Skiles will be replaced by assistant coach Jim Boylan and Skiles will be leaving the team immediately.
Skiles and General Manager John Hammond are both in the final years of their contracts and it’s been suggested more than a few times that failing to make the playoffs this year would result in a major house cleaning by ownership.
Skiles had put his Milwaukee home on the market last February as most expected him to be fired during this past offseason. The Bucks opted to keep Skiles and he was having some level of success this season. Milwaukee is 16-16 on the year but has lost four straight games. However, they still remain in eighth place in the East.
Skiles has drawn criticism from his veteran players, mainly because he’s opted to play his younger guys and not the veterans.
The Bucks traded for Samuel Dalembert during the offseason and he has logged time in 16 of Milwaukee’s 32 games. Veteran big man Drew Gooden has seen action in just nine games. The most glaring issue is that last year’s standout Ersan Ilyasova, who signed a new five-year, $40 million contract this summer, has seen his numbers drop off tremendously and has openly questioned his fit in Milwaukee.
The Bucks are expected to formally announce the move today.
There were ten winners in last week’s HOOPSWORLD Pickem game, but the season-long contest is still wide open. Week 11 of the Pickem game is ready for your picks. It’s completely free to play and takes just a few seconds to sign up. We present you roughly 12 NBA games, and you simply pick the winner. Pick the most games and you’ll win the week and a free adidas HOOPSWORLD t-shirt. Log in and play.
Derrick Rose Is Progressing: The Chicago Bulls have a plan for injured guard Derrick Rose’s recovery and they are not going to deviate from it because of a perceived timetable. Bulls’ General Manager Gar Forman says there are certain things they want to see from Rose in practice before they’ll even consider clearing him for game action.
“We’re not trying to be evasive,” Forman said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “We just have stayed true to the process of taking things step by step, knowing we have to get him back to 100 percent. Once he’s at 100 percent and cleared medically, he’ll be ready to play. We’re optimistic that he’ll be back at some point this season.”
With Wolves’ guard Ricky Rubio back from his ACL injury, most are wondering when Rose will make his return. The Bulls have been clear that while both players had torn ACL’s some 50 days apart from each other, Rose’s recovery is unrelated to Rubio’s timeline.
“He’s right on schedule with where we thought he would be,” Forman said. “This next step is what he’s doing on the floor. As soon as he has completed that step satisfactorily we’ll move on to the next step, which will be full practices with full contact for a length of time.”
Sources close to the situation have said that the Bulls want to get Rose 100 back to 100 percent before he plays, and that they are more concerned with the long-term of Rose’s knee and body than trying to get him back for some kind of short-term, limited minute stop gap.
The Bulls have held their own this season without Rose, giving them the confidence to be patient with Rose’s recovery. If the season ended today the Bulls are holding the fourth seed in the East.
While the Bulls refuse to allow any discussion of a timeline, the general belief is that Rose won’t make his Bulls season debut until sometime in late February or early March and that the Bulls remain committed to taking things slowly with Rose.
That’s Two Straight: When you have won just nine games on the season, a two-game winning streak means something, especially when it comes at the expense of the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs.
The New Orleans Hornets won’t be challenging for a playoff spot in the West, at least not without ten more consecutive wins, but they have gotten guard Eric Gordon back from injury and while Gordon is far from mid-season form, his impact on the Hornets has been extreme.
“I’m just now getting back into the swing of things,” Gordon said to John Reid of The Times Picayune.
Gordon confessed after the game that he’s sore, and sore everywhere, but that his problematic knee is holding up fine and that he is gaining more confidence in his knee and his game.
Gordon put that confidence on display last night, kicking in two clutch three-point shots that helped seal the win versus the Spurs.
“Probably one of the key things that I do best is when it comes to late-game situations, I’m able to get up a good shot; create my own shot. I love those situations,” said a beaming Gordon.
The Hornets have a long way to go before they can say they have righted the ship, but the difference Gordon makes on such a young team is immediately noticeable and radically changes the dynamic of the team.
The Hornets have 48 games left on the season and with Gordon getting more confident with each passing day, the odds that the Hornets can compete in those remaining games increased exponentially with Gordon’s return.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.