End of the Road
We are reaching a tipping point.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Portland Trail Blazers gave us the logical conclusion to the coaching saga that few wanted.
To say that nobody wanted this–would be to exclude Neil Olshey, Jody Allen, Bert Kolde, Chris McGowan, Damian Lillard, Klutch Sports, et. al–from whatever role–big or small–they had in the Blazers hiring of Chauncey Billups as the head coach over the weekend in another Olshey Era Newsdump.
Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence across the nation who follow the NBA were forced to relive their own traumas and feel frustration about seeing an alleged abuser get an elevated position in the NBA on the heels of Jason Kidd becoming the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. There has been a great amount of important content coming in the wake of this, the most important being this mailbag from Blazersedge for giving an outlet for Women in the Blazers community to speak out about their concerns for their safety, fears, and anger of the hiring process.
Today’s press conference, in which Olshey and Blazers corporate PR shut down Jason Quick’s question about what Billups had learned since the sexual assault allegations in 1997 only served to make it even worse.
Couldn’t they have hired Mike D’Antoni? Lillard grew intrigued by him in his interviews and a test of the temperature around Dame indicates he would have gladly accepted him. D’Antoni’s defenses have often been unfairly maligned by the public because his teams played great offense. He would have probably been Lillard’s best chance to win an MVP award: just look at James Harden and Steve Nash under D’Antoni’s direction. What about Becky Hammon? It seems the Vulcans threw her name into the mix for window dressing, allowing Jody Allen to look for a moment as if she cared about whatever goes on at One Center Court, or the Tualatin practice facility, other than how much money she will make when the team gets sold.
And that’s to not even consider great candidates that either never advanced in the process like South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, or ones who were completely overlooked like Portland native, former Blazer and experienced college coach Damon Stoudamire. Stoudamire is already connected to the bench of new Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, a Portland native as well, who ultimately got the best job on the market.
There were rumors dating back to the day Stotts was fired on June 4 that ownership, or someone near that level of influence, had bigger plans. Plans that either did not involve Olshey, or at the very least, would have lessened his seemlingly singular influence in the organization that reportedly dwarfs any basketball executive in the league. The Erik Spoelstra Homecoming arc of smoke signals and rumors lasted for about 10 days, but serious action was ultimately not taken.
Tell me where you’ve heard that before? A fine basic strategy, sure, but they failed to execute or put any tangible work into “the dream.” Trail Blazers x Vulcan Inc. 101. The dream scenario that didn’t come to pass, that could have, if only something else, other than the Blazers, had not gotten in their way. Would Spoelstra have even wanted something like a GM role to either replace or work under Olshey? Probably not, he’s married to the bench, a true heir to the throne of Jack Ramsay. Could they have come serious with a Pat Riley-type offer, including a decent ownership stake, that was worth it to leave Miami like when Riley left the Knicks for Miami in 1995? Unfortunately, it sounds like we will never know because the Vulcans never cared to find out. Again, tell me where you’ve heard that before?
The NBA has its eyes on expansion. The past few weeks have brought about fears that the Blazers will be sold and moved to Seattle. The Blazers are definitely going to get sold in the near future, but the NBA isn’t going to move them out of Portland. For as much talk in the local media about corporate sponsors leaving the Blazers, I don’t buy it, because you simply have to follow the money. And the Vulcans are basically our own version of the Roy family from HBO’s Succession, but it doesn’t look like Kendall Roy and Cousin Greg are going to have a big surprise to save the day.
When the NBA expands, the league will get an expansion fee from two teams of approximately $2 billion. That means that if they expand to 32 teams, the 30 existing teams will split $4 billion between themselves, all money that they don’t have to give to players or employees. Seattle will get their team, along with one of either Vegas, Vancouver or somewhere else like Louisville. Louisville is particularly interesting as a traditional basketball hotbed, especially if Rome (NCAA) truly is falling, as the NBA continues to pluck five-star recruits and put them in the G League Ignite program.
Speaking of employees, the last month has solidified my belief since Game 5 of the Nuggets series that Portland’s employee No. 1 is applying pressure. True to the J.Cole song from this year that quotes Lillard saying he’s “not here to waste my time,” this past weekend was the clearest sign that Lillard’s blind faith in Neil Olshey’s ability to build a real contender has either totally run out or is on its last leg.
Lillard is clearly frustrated, but the fact of the matter is also that it will be borderline impossible for him to find a trade, at least this summer. Nobody has the right combination of talented players and high draft picks, at least on a good team, to realistically get him. If he was to get traded to a team that might have a reasonable package for a player of his caliber, he would probably just end up in a similar situation in a different city that isn’t close to home. But that’s not to say he’s not reaching his breaking point with the Blazers organization and Olshey’s roster choices.
We all end up resenting where we work at one point or another and Lillard is no different. Olshey, or perhaps someone else who is an actual basketball mind, not the people who are currently in the Vulcan office, has time to fix this. But the clock on Lillard Time in Portland has officially started. And I also don’t blame you if your time is up with the Blazers either.