Neil Olshey gets to work in Portland
Portland, Ore. -- There will be no easing into the job for new Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey.
First, Portland has four picks in the NBA draft, just more than three weeks away. Then there's free agency, which heats up in July.
The Blazers also need to hire a new coach, and they'd like to re-sign French forward Nicolas Batum, a restricted free agent.
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"I like working under pressure. I like working on deadlines," Olshey said Tuesday when he was introduced as Portland's new GM. "I think we're going to put our head down and move forward, and I think when we put our heads up in July after summer league, we'll be in great position."
After a yearlong search for a permanent general manager, the Blazers announced on Monday that they had hired Olshey -- less than an hour after the Los Angeles Clippers announced that they were parting ways with him.
Olshey said he became interested in the Blazers nearly a year ago when he was first approached about the position, left open when the Blazers dismissed Rich Cho after only 10 months on the job. Chad Buchanan, the team's director of college scouting, took over the job on an interim basis.
Olshey interviewed with Blazers owner Paul Allen last week. The Clippers announced on Friday they had an agreement in principle to bring Olshey back, but Portland made its offer over the weekend and Olshey accepted.
"This is not about what the Clippers did wrong. It's about what Portland did right," he said.
As GM of the Clippers, Olshey oversaw a roster overhaul last season that included acquiring Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, and the re-signing of DeAndre Jordan. As a result, the invigorated Clippers finished 40-26 and reached the second round of the playoffs.
Olshey takes over a Blazers team that also needs some re-tooling.
I like working under pressure. ... I think we're going to put our head down and move forward, and I think when we put our heads up in July after summer league we'll be in great position.” -- Neil Olshey, new Blazers GM
In addition to operating without a permanent GM, the Blazers were hit at the start of training camp by the unexpected retirement of three-time All-Star Brandon Roy, who decided his knees could not withstand the season. And center Greg Oden, the No. 1 draft pick in 2007, suffered another setback with his surgically repaired knees.
The team scrambled, signing free agent Jamal Crawford, but the Blazers never came together in the lockout-shortened season. Coach Nate McMillan was dismissed at the trade deadline after more than six seasons with the team, and Portland traded away forward Gerald Wallace and veteran Marcus Camby.
The Blazers finished 28-38 and out of the playoffs for the first time in four years.
But the team has positioned itself well for the future.
Portland has four picks -- including Nos. 6 and 11 -- in the June draft. The team also has up to $24 million in cap space to work with on the free agent market.
"This is a seminal moment in the history of the Trail Blazers," Olshey said. "We have to handle it properly."
The 47-year-old Olshey had been with the Clippers for nine years, including stints as director of player development, assistant coach, director of player personnel and assistant GM.
Now that he's in place the Blazers can turn their attention to hiring a new coach. Kaleb Canales, who joined the Blazers as an unpaid intern in 2004, served as interim coach after McMillan was fired.
Olshey said Tuesday the team will not rush the search for a new coach. But he did say that Canales is the "in-house favorite right now."
Canales, who was the league's youngest coach at 34, is widely respected by Portland's current players.
"At the end of the day, I don't see anyone bringing more to the table than Kaleb Canales," Olshey said.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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