Report: NBA GMs forming association to support each other in crisis

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Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey is being investigated for creating a hostile workplace environment. Olshey is seen as fighting for his job as the scope of that investigation grew — more than 60 people were interviewed — and the signs seemed ominous.

A cynical way of viewing that investigation, something a couple of people around the league suggested to NBC Sports: Portland ownership wanted to fire Olshey for basketball reasons but didn’t want to pay off the rest of his contract, so they went looking for a “cause” that could get his contract voided.

In the wake of all this, NBA general managers are looking to form a professional organization that can help with legal fees, referrals to lawyers and PR experts, and generally watch out for each other, reports Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Over the past several months, the league’s GMs have formed a steering committee to create a constitution, opened an LLC and informed the league office of their intentions to form a group similar in purpose and structure to the National Basketball Coaches Association, sources said.

While these steps originated in March and predate the organizational investigation into Portland Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, that situation has further convinced front-office executives of the need for such an association, sources said…

With declining revenue and dwindling attendance across the league coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many top team basketball executives are fearful Portland is creating a blueprint for other ownership groups to invoke firing for cause and sidestep payment on contracts.

The Olshey case has struck some fear in the hearts of other GMs because of how the issue has unfolded — Olshey had no workplace complaints made to the league office, and Trail Blazers HR only started to get those kinds of complaints a few weeks ago, according to the report.

We also know sometimes people are afraid to come forward and report their boss’s bad behavior for fear of retribution. People need their jobs, and NBA basketball operations jobs are coveted — plenty of people are lined up to take any spot that opens up for any reason. That can put a lid on the complaint process.

Whatever happens in Portland, GMs around the league want to band together to help each other if this style of ousting an executive becomes a trend, and there are undoubtedly other issues they share concerns about.