Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that the urgency of his rebuilding efforts was brought about by the city of Portland; not just the fans in the arena. Portland’s identity is inseparable from the Trail Bazers. It boasts the most devoted fan base in the NBA, and it deserves to have a winning team.
“It caught me off guard. Listen, I had been in this building as a front-office executive, a coach, and I knew how much it meant inside this building with the fans. But how much the identity of this city is wrapped up in the Blazers. It’s so important that this team performs well – and does it with the right kind of guys. It’s not just winning, but how we win, how we lose, how guys play, how guys treat the fans.”
The off-season acquisitions of Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson, and Dorell Wright were intended to give the Trail Blazers that boost, but no one could have predicted they would look down on the Western Conference with a 16-3 record to start the season. After beating the Indiana Pacers (17-2) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (13-4) in consecutive games, nobody knows just how far this Trail Blazer team can go.
At the center of all this is LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been gaining acclaim as the best power forward in the NBA. An unstoppable 38-point performance in the Moda Center last night brought the home crowd to their feet with “M-V-P” chants. Not too long ago, we were all speculating on whether or not Neil Olshey would find a home for Aldridge elsewhere as part of the Portland refurbishment, but intelligent acquisitions and a dedication to improvement made a trade unnecessary.
“And you know, that’s what accelerated it for me. It would be great to come in with a three-to-five-year plan, slowly rebuild, but about five minutes after I got here, I realized: We’re going to have to pick the pace up on this.”
It’s a good thing too. The Trail Blazers are the most surprising team in the league. Portland’s devotion to the Trail Blazers remains the same, but the basketball culture is changing. There were times when fans expected grievous injuries more than victories against tough competitors. Now, there is a winning expectation to go with a quietly sterling injury record (sans CJ McCollum). Neil Olshey’s accelerated battle plan set all this in motion, and he did it for us.