The writing had been on the wall, but now it is official:
The Portland Trail Blazers have fired general manager Neil Olshey “due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct.” The organization has promoted Joe Cronin to interim GM.
Statement from the Portland Trail Blazers pic.twitter.com/W9j4V3nNl2
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 3, 2021
Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen opened an investigation into Olshey and the working environment he created in the front office following reports of intimidation, bullying, and profanity-laced tirades, all of which turned the Trail Blazers front office into a toxic work environment. (However, some in league circles think the charges were drummed up so that Allen could fire Olshey and not pay the remainder of his contract, which ran through the 2022-23 season.)
The fact the Trail Blazers are 11-12 on the season, have had their coach call them out twice for lack of effort, and players take the court with the body language of a defeated team also played a role in this move. Then there is the big cloud over the team: Last offseason, superstar Damian Lillard considered pushing his way out of town but ultimately decided not to. However, this slow start and the front office turmoil has other teams circling like vultures, eyeing Lillard, and to a lesser degree CJ McCollum.
Last offseason, after a sixth-seed finish and a first-round playoff exit, Olshey fired Terry Stotts as the coach, hired Chauncey Billups to replace him (despite how that fell flat with much of the fan base), and then said the roster was not the cause of Portland’s problems.
A quarter of this NBA season has shown, the roster is the problem — it does not fit the aggressive, attacking defensive style Billups has instituted, particularly on defense. When healthy the Trail Blazers starting backcourt of Lillard and McCollum is undersized and not long, to have them pressuring the ball and big man Jusuf Nurkic playing high as well, rather than dropping back as Stotts had him doing, is just not a fit with the skills of the players.
The question is how much freedom will Cronin have to fix it, or is Portland waiting for its next GM (Danny Ainge’s name will get mentioned, but is he really the answer)?
It’s stormy seas in Portland, and things don’t look to be calming down anytime soon.