Los Angeles Clippers: Neil Olshey

Gary Sacks' unlikely rise to top

September, 29, 2013
It was industrious, not glamorous. The kind of story you hear in Hollywood, about a studio head who started out in the mailroom and worked his way up, but rarely in the NBA where most coaches and front office executives begin by playing the game, then maneuvering their way up the food chain by any means necessary.

Guys who run teams with aspirations of winning an NBA title like the Los Angeles Clippers don’t start off as baseball players who get their first break in basketball by answering an ad for a marketing job in the newspaper.

Gary Sacks and Doc Rivers
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesGary Sacks and Doc Rivers are working together to help the Clippers continue to improve.
And they certainly don’t work two decades all with the same team, focused on what’s in front of them, and not the backs they should be slapping elsewhere.

But that really is Clippers executive vice president of player personnel Gary Sacks’ story. The guy new coach and senior VP of player personnel Doc Rivers is leaning on to do the heavy lifting in the front office, the guy who very quietly finished second in the NBA’s executive of the year voting last season, really did start out working in a glorified closet at the Sports Arena, doing whatever he could to gain a foothold and stick around a while.

“From Day 1, I realized how fortunate I was to work for the Clippers and I didn’t want to lose it,” Sacks said over a long dinner this summer. “So I was going to do whatever it took to show everyone that I’m loyal, and that I would earn my keep.”

At the time Sacks was hired, the NBA was just starting to use computers. Sacks was no expert, but he’d learned a little about computers at UCLA, and was smart enough to teach himself the rest. So he took one of them home, fiddled around with it instead of sleeping, and created a database for their scouting, a Compuserve email account all the scouts could use to send in their reports after games, and flat out blew people away.

“Gary was like our original IT guy,” said Toronto Raptors executive Jeff Weltman, who was the Clippers director of player personnel at the time. “He was just so helpful with us automating everything, getting our scouting reports online and in a database. He was beyond helpful. He was the reason we were able to do it.”

At nights he’d stay at the office until all hours, watching tape and waiting for the scouts to file their reports, assembling them into a readable, usable form for the coaching and front office staffs to process in the morning. Bobby Oceipka, an assistant coach and advanced scout liked his work ethic and started teaching him what to look for on all the tape he was watching.

Weltman started to trust his opinions enough to send him out to scout on his own. Elgin Baylor, the team’s general manager at the time, always had an open door and advice to give. Bill Fitch, the Clippers coach, loved the clean, comprehensive scouting reports he always filed and officially gave him a full-time job.

“Whenever I talk about Gary, and there are a few other guys in this industry, without naming names, who’ve kind of carved their own niche in this business but by conventional standards have like no means to have done so,” Weltman said. “But they’ve carved themselves a really important niche in this league where people rely on them and care what they think, and they’ve done it because they have supreme intelligence and supreme passion for the game. That’s Gary. He’d loved the game and been a fan and all of a sudden lucked out with this internship and finds himself with his foot in the door.

“I loved having him around because he was such a sponge. He was so smart and insightful. He just had so much potential and ability and he worked his butt off.”

Weltman eventually moved on from the Clippers to work with the Nuggets, Pistons, Bucks and Raptors. Sacks stayed with the Clippers and continued his steady climb in the front office, serving as director of player personnel for many years, before landing the big job when Neil Olshey left after the 2012 season to become the Portland Trail Blazers general manager.

The Clippers conducted a search to replace Olshey, but Sacks was always the front-runner because of his reputation within the organization and strong relationships with players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

“You become more of a decision maker,” Sacks said of his promotion last summer. “There’s more responsibility with that. But I felt like I was ready, and that [responsibility] was something I knew I had to embrace.

“The most difficult part was wanting to continue to build what we’d already gotten to and not wanting to take a step backwards. That fear really motivated me to work as hard as I could with [former coach] Vinny [Del Negro] and [team president] Andy [Roeser] and on my own to do everything I could to keep the momentum going.”

Together, Sacks, Roeser and Del Negro put together a team that won a franchise-record 56 games in the regular season. But when the Clippers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies, it was obvious they were missing something.

Hence the bold push for Rivers, associate head coach Alvin Gentry, the impact trade for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and by-any-means-necessary effort to re-sign Paul to a five-year extension.

In order to land Rivers, Sacks had to swallow his ego and give Rivers the title of senior vice president of player personnel, one rung up the ladder from Sacks’ title.

“My thing is, if we win, and it helps us win, I’m all for it,” Sacks said. “There’s always going to be a thought of what it’s going to be like, but it’s been great because Doc’s made it easy. He’s great to work with. I’m not just saying that. He’s been very, very, very supportive of me. Willing to listen and work with me. What more can I ask for? The guy’s been there, he knows how to win. For me, it’s like I’m getting the benefit of getting his expertise. Why wouldn’t I embrace that?”

I know, I know. Your earnestness-meter is going haywire. A guy who has risen to a position with as much power as Sacks has with the Clippers couldn’t possibly be this sincere, right?

There are 30 of these jobs in the world and 3,000 basketball men who think they deserve them.

But maybe everybody doesn’t have to be a shark. Maybe the best organizations, like the best teams, work because they’ve got guys who don’t care how many shots they get or minutes they play.

Sacks didn’t just accept the situation with Rivers, he worked day and night for weeks to make it happen.

“I like the direction we’re going. I like what we’ve done. I like our team,” Sacks said. “Doc and I have seen eye to eye on this. But we can’t get complacent with what we’ve done, because we haven’t done much yet. The only thing that’s going to count is if we win in the regular season and the playoffs.”

If they do, it’ll likely be Rivers taking the public bows. He’ll be hailed as the difference-maker. The missing piece who got through to Griffin and Paul and got the entire organization over the hump.

Sacks will be in the background smiling, though. All these years later, having finally earned his keep.

Support for Sacks coalescing

June, 30, 2012
While the Clippers will begin the free agent signing period Saturday at 9 p.m. with the three-man ad hoc front office by-committee that's been in place for the past month, support within the organization has coalesced around director of player personnel Gary Sacks, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sacks, 44, has been with the organization for 17 years and is well-regarded among players and throughout the organization. He's primarily handled college scouting but has increased his responsibilities over time.

Sacks, team president Andy Roeser and head coach Vinny Del Negro have been running the Clippers' front office since former general manager Neil Olshey left to become Portland's GM in early June.

Roeser is primarily handling the search for a new GM and has had had preliminary conversations with Jim Paxson, Larry Harris, Jeff Weltman, David Griffin and Tony DiLeo, according to sources, but has only formally interviewed former Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe. Griffin withdrew from consideration on Monday.

Roeser has been methodical in his approach to the search. When Olshey left so close to the draft, he determined it was best to proceed slowly and thoughtfully rather than rush to get someone in place before the June 28 draft, where the Clippers only had the 53rd overall pick.

Sacks has always been a strong in-house candidate for the job because of his strong relationships with Clippers players, staff and around the league. Support for him within the organization has ratcheted up in the last week as the team opens free agency. It's not clear whether, if hired, he would be seen as the long-term solution, or, like Olshey did in the past, would have to work on a short-term basis and prove himself.

Lamar Odom coming home

June, 29, 2012
Lamar Odom is coming home.

We like to think that shouldn't matter when a professional athlete is being paid close to $9 million a year to play a game most of us would play for free.

But we also like to think a place and a city mean something to a professional athlete even though he's being paid close to $9 million a year to play a game most of us would play for free.

We want pro athletes to care about fans but block out everything else once they step on the court. We want, we want, we want.

There are a lot of fans in Dallas who will read this post and cringe at the idea that anyone would feel sorry for Odom after the way he bailed on the Mavericks last season, despite the organization doing everything it could to make him feel wanted.

I get all that. But I also get Odom, having been around him in Los Angeles for most of his professional career.

The man cares. He's sensitive. He gets attached and he gets hurt. Then he disappears and withdraws. It was unprofessional to behave that way toward the Mavericks and their fans, and they have every right to be upset with him.

But you cannot ignore the personal issues he dealt with last year, losing a close cousin over the summer, then being a passenger in a car that was involved in a crash that killed a teenage pedestrian while in New York for his cousin's funeral.

And you can't have it both ways in wanting a guy to connect to a city and a franchise, and then being upset when he does and has a hard time dealing with the rejection inherent in being traded.

Odom's heart never really left Los Angeles. Now he'll be back, albeit with the Clippers instead of his beloved Lakers.

He has some amends to make with the Clippers, too. His exit to Miami in 2003-04 was ugly as he publicly implored the Clippers not to match the offer sheet he signed with the Heat and insulted the Clippers' franchise in doing so.

Agreeing to bring him back says a lot about the Clippers' commitment to winning. And yes, it says something about much-maligned owner Donald Sterling.

The Clippers need a versatile, offensively talented forward such as Odom to complement Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and they didn't let bad blood from nearly a decade ago get in the way of it.

For a franchise currently operating with an ad hoc front office after the abrupt departure of former GM Neil Olshey, it was a nice statement to make.

But in the end, what matters is that Lamar Odom is coming home. Where his heart never left.

GM Olshey finalist for Portland job

May, 31, 2012
At some point in the near future, the Portland Trail Blazers will decide the course of the Los Angeles Clippers' future. Not through a trade or free-agent acquisition. Not through a change on the coaching staff. Not even through anything having to do with basketball.

No, the Trail Blazers will decide the Clippers' future whenever they get around to choosing their next general manager. You see, Clippers general manager Neil Olshey is among the finalists for the Blazers' job, and all indications seem to be that the Clippers will simply let him go if the Blazers decide to offer him the job, as there have been no new contract discussions between the Clippers and Olshey, according to sources close to the situation.

Olshey, who finished third in this season's Executive of the Year balloting, essentially has been an at-will employee since this past fall when his contract expired. He has worked for the same sub-$500,000 yearly salary he earned as assistant GM (before succeeding Mike Dunleavy in March 2010), too.

Although there were some initial discussions this past fall about putting him on a short-term contract, that option didn't make much sense for either side and Olshey simply continued on -- in the same fashion most Clippers employees do -- as a month-to-month employee free to leave whenever he chose. (Other teams need not even ask permission to speak with him.)

That was all fine, in a way, until Olshey helped engineer the Chris Paul trade by forming a tight enough bond with the star point guard to convince him to commit to the Clippers for two seasons and start thinking very seriously about making this his permanent home.

Paul might very well choose to stay with the Clippers even if Olshey is hired away by the Blazers. Olshey is, after all, just a front-office executive and not, you know, Blake Griffin -- who will be mulling a contract extension this summer. But if you're the Clippers, why find out? Why take the risk?

(Read full post)

Clippers play familiar tune with Del Negro

May, 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- There was no doubt Vinny Del Negro would be back to coach the Los Angeles Clippers next season.

That was perhaps the biggest takeaway from a 40-minute conference call Tuesday to announce that the Clippers had picked up their option on Del Negro. It was a point that was driven home time and time again by Clippers general manager Neil Olshey.

"Clearly there was never an issue of whether or not Vinny was going to come back," Olshey said. "[Clippers owner] Mr. [Donald] Sterling, [Clippers president] Andy [Roeser] and I knew this was a fait accompli right after the season."

It was a company line no doubt meant to instill confidence that Del Negro is their guy and that no other guy was even considered.

The only thing it did was prove to the Clippers' fan base that this team may not be all that different than we thought it was last season.

Over the past six months, the Clippers have made one move after another to prove that this organization was different. Each move, from signing Caron Butler to trading for Chris Paul to picking up Chauncey Billups, represented giant swings of the sledgehammer to the Clippers' former image.

On Tuesday, they began putting together some of the pieces of that past with crazy glue and duct tape.

This isn't about Del Negro. It's never been about Del Negro.

When you're thinking of changing the face of a franchise and reinvigorating a fan base, coaches like Del Negro are more stopgaps than anything else.

If a team's master plan works out and ends with a championship parade in June, coaches like Del Negro become nothing more than footnotes in a franchise's history, like Doug Collins and Del Harris were before they gave way to Phil Jackson when he took over the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The announcement of the Clippers' next coach should have been a celebrated occasion this summer with a guest of honor to match the hype currently attached to the team. There was no shortage of available candidates this offseason, ranging from Jackson, Jerry Sloan and Jeff Van Gundy to Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Stan Van Gundy.

Instead, the announcement came in the form of a 34-word news release, followed by an awkward conference call filled with more clichés and non-answers than a political debate.

The awkwardness came from Olshey, who cited stability and continuity as reasons Del Negro was kept, though he may himself be looking to leave the Clippers. He currently does not have a contract and has reportedly interviewed for the Portland Trailblazers' general manager position.

When Olshey was asked about the reports, he said, "I don't have any comment on my situation right now. We're here to talk about Vinny." Subsequent attempts to ask Olshey about the move were cut off at the pass by the moderator.

Even though Del Negro was accepting congratulations from reporters during the conference call, he actually has about as much stability as Olshey does. Does anyone really think Del Negro is the long-term solution for the Clippers? Does anyone think Del Negro won't once again be on the hot seat if the Clippers lose three straight games again in March? If the Clippers felt that strongly that Del Negro was their guy, they would probably have signed him to a long-term deal and removed the lame duck status he will once again work under this season.

Del Negro is in an unwinnable position, which used to be the old joke about the Clippers' job but now merely highlights the impossible expectations Del Negro will be faced with next season. Nothing short of a trip to the Western Conference finals will be accepted, and perhaps even that might not be enough.

Why do you think Chris Paul wanted to be traded to the Lakers? So he could make it to the second round of the playoffs? So he could make a good showing in the conference finals? Of course not; he wanted to win a championship.

If the Clippers win 50 games next season and get swept out of the conference finals, it would be viewed as the greatest season in team history. Paul would view it as a failure. Therein lies the biggest obstacle for the most unsuccessful franchise in NBA history trying to please one of the most competitive players in NBA history. Clippers franchise records mean nothing to him.

That's why it was so important for the Clippers to be proactive in choosing their next coach and approaching this season. This idea that the Clippers merely wanted to give Del Negro another chance and if it doesn't work out they can huddle up with Paul in the offseason to discuss Plan B is nonsense.

What makes anyone think if the Clippers once again flame out in the playoffs, that Paul will want to stay with the Clippers? He's under contract for only this upcoming season with the team. That's it. This was their one and only chance to show him how serious they were about winning a championship this season and not waiting around.

Instead the Clippers showed us all they might not have changed as much as we all thought they had.

Report cards: Martin

May, 28, 2012
Here is the fifth player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until Tuesday, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with rookies Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to small forwards Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and then did guard Chauncey Billups. Now, we grade forward Kenyon Martin.

Kenyon Martin

2011-2012 contributions: Martin was a late addition to the mix as a February signee because he signed a deal in China during the lockout, but he ended up playing a fairly large role in the Clippers' end of-year rotation. He finished the year averaging 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and kept producing at a similar rate in the postseason -- albeit in fewer minutes. Martin wasn't really a perfect fit with the rest of the Clippers' roster: They needed a 7-foot big man with offensive skills and they got an undersized four-man with a declining offensive game but nice defensive and rebounding acumen. Still, he was at times effective, and he did produce two big-time performances in the final two games of the Memphis series and just played well overall in the playoffs.

2012-2013 prediction: Where does Martin fit in with the Clippers' roster of the future? He doesn't, really. But he does make some sense for next season, simply because he's a better option than anybody else the team could get for the veteran's minimum. They can use the non-Bird exception on him and pay him around $3 million, without having to worry about the cap at all. For that reason, he's probably the second most likely of the Clippers free agents to come back next season, after Nick Young. As long as Neil Olshey pairs Martin with a capable backup center and not someone like Reggie Evans, then bringing him back will probably be applauded.

Grade: B

Video: Olshey, Del Negro discuss season

May, 21, 2012
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Here are video interviews with general manager Neil Olshey and head coach Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday at the Clippers' practice facility.

Olshey at first joked that he planned to be like a politician and say a lot of words but nothing of substance. Then he refused to get into Del Negro's job status going forward and revealed only some of his plans to fill out the Clippers' roster this offseason.

Del Negro also declined to discuss his future with the franchise but expressed a lot of hope for the team as a whole, saying the pieces were there to add to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and build the team further.

Will Neil Olshey win exec of the year?

April, 24, 2012
So you want to trade for a superstar? Sounds easy enough, right? Cultivate some young talent, acquire a few draft picks, hang on to valuable expiring contracts and wait for a small-market team to get realistic about their chances of keeping a superstar like Chris Paul, then pounce at the right moment.

After the impact Paul has had on the team It feels kind of like a million years ago that Clippers GM Neil Olshey choreographed the team's blockbuster trade back in December. Actually, it feels long enough ago that many have forgotten just how hard it was to pull that trade off.

But as we approach awards season in the NBA, it's time to revisit that trade and the other moves Olshey made this year that have completely revamped the team's roster and culture.

"Most people don't realize just how difficult it is to acquire a franchise player through a trade," Clippers president Andy Roeser told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Neil was able to do that and set us on our way to where we are now.

"There's several guys who stand out this year. David Morway in Indiana has done a nice job putting that team together. But I think we did a nice job upgrading our team. And it goes beyond just the Chris Paul trade. Neil put together an entire roster virtually overnight. I can't think of anyone more deserving."

Whether Olshey's body of work will beat out Morway in Indiana, Spurs president RC Buford, Memphis GM Chris Wallace, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald or any of the other leading contenders for the award is debatable. There are some voters who will probably dismiss Olshey because the Clippers virtually became the Hornets only trading partner after NBA commissioner David Stern, acting as owner of the Hornets, vetoed a trade with the Lakers.

(Read full post)

Business as usual for Del Negro

March, 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES – Vinny Del Negro’s office at Staples Center looks more like a vacated apartment.

Outside of a portrait of him in the middle of a huddle during a timeout that the Clippers hung up last year, Del Negro hasn’t put up a single thing in the room since being hired two years ago.

To be fair, Del Negro’s other office at the team’s training facility is more decorated. But by contrast, when Mike Dunleavy was the Clippers’ coach, his Staples Center office next to the Clippers locker room was a mini man cave, decorated with more pictures, basketballs and trinkets than a museum.

Vinny Del Negro
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireClippers coach Vinny Del Negro.
When Dunleavy stepped down as the Clippers’ coach two years ago, he needed a couple of boxes to clear out his belongings from the room. Del Negro could probably fit all of his into the computer bag holding the laptop he opens up on his desk before every game.

Del Negro doesn’t anticipate he’ll have to clean out his office anytime soon, but he didn’t know what the future held for him on Saturday after the Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 101-85. No one ever does in this business.

As he stared at his laptop in his office Saturday morning before the game, his focus was solely on the Grizzlies. After all, the only thing that will save his job and his team’s season at this point is wins. Everything else is secondary.

“It’s aggravating,” Del Negro said of the rumors about his job status. “It is, but that’s part of the job. We’re not playing well and I’m the head coach. There are responsibilities that go everywhere, but that’s part of the deal. We need to play better. We’ve lost some games I thought we should have won and maybe we won some games we shouldn’t have. At the end of the day we have to play better.”

Del Negro said he spoke to Clippers general manager Neil Olshey when the team returned from their winless three-game road trip and rumors began to circulate about his job status but he wouldn’t comment on what was said in the meeting.

“I’m not going to tell you about that,” Del Negro said. “We talk every day.”

(Read full post)

Clippers re-sign Bobby Simmons

March, 24, 2012
The Los Angeles Clippers re-signed free agent forward Bobby Simmons, whose second 10-day contract with the Clippers expired on March 18, the team announced Saturday.

In 13 games played for the Clippers this season, Simmons has tallied 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.1 percent from behind the three-point line.

Simmons, who was signed to his original 10-day contract on Feb. 27, averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 21 games with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League this season. Simmons also played ten games for the Bighorns during the 2010-11 season after playing two games with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Clippers left open the door to re-signing Simmons after failing to commit to him for the rest of the season on Monday. They decided to make the commitment after an MRI on Mo Williams' injured left big toe revealed no significant damage, but ruled him out for Saturday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Williams is listed as day-to-day.

“Bobby’s done a really good job on team defense and gets his hand on a lot of balls,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said last week. “He’s a really good guy. He’s a pro. I’ve really liked him. I know [Clippers general manager] Neil [Olshey] has liked him.”

This is Simmons’ second stint with the Clippers, having last played in Los Angeles during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. Simmons was called up by the Clippers after averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 21 games for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League this season.

Simmons scored 13 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and dished out 1 assist in 24 minutes in the Clippers’ 108-100 win over the Sacramento Kings on March 1. Those were the first points Simmons had scored in an NBA game since 2009.

“I’m just trying to win games and play well,” Simmons said. “I’ve just tried to approach this in a professional way and come in and do what you need to do get better. I just want to be a good piece of the puzzle and go out there and do whatever coach asks me to do.”

A nine-year NBA veteran, Simmons had his most productive NBA season while with the Clippers in 2004, posting career-highs of 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists, en route to winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award that season.

Simmons could still be in Clippers’ plans

March, 18, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers will likely take the rest of the week to decide whether to commit to forward Bobby Simmons for the rest of the season, according to a team source.

Simmons' second 10-day contract ends on Monday. Before the Clippers’ game against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said the team planned to sign Simmons for the rest of the season.

However after the game it became clear the team needed more time to decide whether to commit its final roster spot to Simmons for the rest of the season. The Clippers currently have 15 players on their roster after trading for swingman Nick Young on Thursday. Simmons is their only un-guaranteed contract.

The Clippers leave Los Angeles Monday for their last back-to-back-to-back of the season at Indiana, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. If he does not sign elsewhere in the meantime, the Clippers could conceivably re-sign Simmons when they return on Friday.

As much as Del Negro would like to re-sign Simmons for the rest of the season, they need to see how Young affects their rotation before giving up flexibility with their final roster spot.

Simmons, who was signed to a second 10-day contract on Mar. 9, has played in 12 games for the Clippers and averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 32.7 percent from the field.

“Bobby’s done a really good job on team defense and gets his hand on a lot of balls,” Del Negro said. “He’s a really good guy. He’s a pro. I’ve really liked him. I know [Clippers general manager] Neil [Olshey] has liked him.”

This is Simmons’ second stint with the Clippers, having last played in Los Angeles during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. Simmons was called up by the Clippers after averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 21 games for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League this season.

Simmons scored 13 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and dished out 1 assist in 24 minutes in the Clippers’ 108-100 win over the Sacramento Kings on March 1. Those were the first points Simmons had scored in an NBA game since 2009.

“I’m just trying to win games and play well,” Simmons said. “I’ve just tried to approach this in a professional way and come in and do what you need to do get better. I just want to be a good piece of the puzzle and go out there and do whatever coach asks me to do.”

A nine-year NBA veteran, Simmons had his most productive NBA season while with the Clippers in 2004, posting career-highs of 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists, en route to winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award that season.

Clippers push chips in with Young deal

March, 15, 2012
Nick Young, Tyson ChandlerNed Dishman/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Clippers hope Nick Young can help stabilize their guard play with his outside shooting.

LOS ANGELES -- Even though Chauncey Billups was lost for the season 39 days ago, the thought of the Los Angeles Clippers possibly trading for a replacement in Nick Young wasn’t hatched until 10 days ago.

It was a deal the Clippers, in need of a big shooting guard, wanted to make. And it was a trade Young, a Los Angeles native who played at Cleveland High (in nearby Reseda) and USC, wanted the Clippers to make.

In the end, however, it seemed as though it wasn’t going to happen. As much as Clippers general manager Neil Olshey coveted Young and thought he could help the team, he wasn’t prepared to part with any of the assets he wanted to protect currently and in the future. Those assets included second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, future first-round picks and players currently ingrained in the rotation, such as guards Mo Williams and Randy Foye.

As of 11:15 a.m. in Los Angeles, Olshey was ready to move forward with the Clippers’ roster before he got a phone call from Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld. The Clippers were back in the mix if they wanted Young, and the price tag was more than reasonable. They could get their talented 26-year-old starting shooting guard, and all the Clippers had to give up was a future second-round pick, which they got from the New Orleans Hornets in the Chris Paul trade, and Brian Cook, who has played all of 16 games this season, averaging 1.9 points and 1.4 rebounds.

Basically the Clippers were getting Young, who is averaging 16.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 32 starts this season, for nothing to complete a larger three-team deal between the Wizards and Denver Nuggets that sent Nene Hilario to the Wizards and JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to the Nuggets.

“I was actually surprised, I didn’t think there was any way we were going to be able to acquire a player like Nick Young for a future second-round pick,” Olshey said. “Nick has wanted to be here for a long time. He was motivated to come here. Clearly, it was part of a bigger deal and we needed to make the math work for Washington and Denver to complete their transitions.”

Olshey said he thought the deal was dead last night when he went to bed and anticipated the Clippers would not make any deals. That is, until 45 minutes before the NBA trade deadline, when Grunfeld called him. Olshey had already informed Clippers owner Donald Sterling about the prospect of the deal Wednesday night and Sterling had signed off on it.

(Read full post)

Olshey, Del Negro talk Nick Young trade

March, 15, 2012

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro and general manager Neil Olshey addressed the media about the team's deadline-day trade for Nick Young prior to Thursday's game against Phoenix. We posted video from Del Negro's press conference earlier; here is video from Olshey's, followed by selected quotes from both men's meeting with the media, with Del Negro's comments up first and Olshey's second.

(Del Negro, on how the deal came together in a last-second fashion) I wouldn't say it's last-second. It's something that Neil's been working on and we've been discussing, but it just kind of came together yesterday a little bit and moreso this morning, when the whole deal came together. Neil worked hard and got it organized and it was something that I supported and (team president) Andy (Roeser) supported and Mr. (Donald) Sterling supported. We just felt like it was the right thing to do right now. We gave up a second-round pick...It gets us a big two-guard.

(On his impressions of Young) He just gives us more size in the backcourt. He's a proven scorer in the league and he's explosive. He can take you inside or outside. How it's all going to come together with the chemistry of the team and everything, time will tell. But just to get a player of his caliber on the roster, is very positive and I'm looking forward to working with him. I think he will give us some help.

(On whether he'll start) Yeah. I don't know how it's all going to come together, the timing of it in terms of when and how. He's gotta learn the plays and that takes time, and there's not much practice time. We'll have to do that between games and just make it work as quick as possible. The chemistry of a team and rhythm of a team is very important, and I have a lot of confidence in all our guys. Randy (Foye)'s done a great job for us and Eric Bledsoe's coming into his own a little bit -- he's feeling better health-wise -- and he's getting more of an opportunity. Obviously we lost Chauncey (Billups), so we'll probably go back to more of that rotation with Nick.

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Kenyon Martin: How he fits

February, 3, 2012
When the Chris Paul trade was first announced, there was a small contingency of critics who felt the Clippers had sacrificed too much in the deal. A lack of depth was given as the primary reason they would be unable to contend for a title in a brutally condensed 66-game season.

Kenyon Martin
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesKenyon Martin figures to bring a new element to the Clippers' bench as a threat in pick-and-roll situations.
Early on, despite the Clippers' current place atop the Pacific Division standings, there has been some legitimacy laid to those claims. The Clippers' second unit has been outperformed on a consistent basis, and coach Vinny Del Negro has struggled to find a way to rest his star players without losing leads. Without any real depth in the frontcourt, the Clippers looked more vulnerable than deeper contenders in the Western Conference such as Denver or Portland.

Despite facing some pressure to do so, Neil Olshey, Clippers vice president of basketball operations, never put the cart in front of the horse. Instead of panicking and trading a red-hot Mo Williams for multiple role players, or moving the last young asset on the team in Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers remained patient for a solution to shore up their depth.

The Clippers have found that solution in veteran forward Kenyon Martin, who agreed to terms on a contract Friday for the mini-mid-level exception of $2.5 million.

Even if Martin, an All-Star in 2004, isn’t the player he once was after multiple injuries, he still represents a huge upgrade to the frontcourt. The Clippers have given combo-forward Ryan Gomes 16.3 minutes a game and backup center Solomon Jones 9.7 minutes a game only to watch them combine for a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of less than 5.0. For comparison sake, the league average PER rating is 12.7 this season. Martin, meanwhile, has a career PER of 15.4. Just by simply absorbing the minutes given to Gomes and Jones, Martin represents an upgrade.

Like his former teammate Chauncey Billups, Martin has found a way to cheat Father Time a bit and delay his decline. Defensively he remains a solid weakside defender who is capable of getting up and challenging shots at the rim. For a team lacking any shotblocking threat outside of DeAndre Jordan, Martin’s presence in the paint will be well received.

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Blake Griffin
22.5 5.1 0.9 35.3
ReboundsD. Jordan 14.2
AssistsC. Paul 9.9
StealsC. Paul 1.8
BlocksD. Jordan 2.3