The Blazers offseason may be less than a week old, but the team is already establishing a long-term foundation.
First news broke that the team and superstar Damian Lillard would come to terms on a 4-year supermax contract extension that would lock him until 2024. Then coach Terry Stotts signed an extension through 2022 before he headed into the last year of his deal. And now President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been extended through 2024.
Olshey, Stotts, and Lillard all came in together in 2012, and now they’re looking to build their individual legacies, together. On sports talk airwaves and NBA blogs, it’s popular to discuss how close Lillard is to becoming the greatest Trail Blazer of all time. But Stotts and Olshey are working on their own respective cases as well.
Stotts has now coached 609 regular season games for the Blazers, 211 behind Jack Ramsay for most in franchise history. He also only needs 89 wins to pass Ramsay atop the all-time leaderboard. Barring a drastic drop off, that should happen in 2021. We’re talking all-time franchise stuff here.
He’s done it in a myriad of ways; creative offensive sets, putting role players in a position to thrive, and, most of all, having the unwavering support of his team’ star player. Lillard has been on record going to bat for Stotts multiple times. After last season’s embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Pelicans, the team was rumored to be contemplating a coaching change. But Stotts is Lillard’s guy, and vice versa.
Olshey deserves credit for not making a rash decision. Of course, he’s not known for wild decision making. The only time he’s been exceedingly bold, in the summer of 2016, he was burned badly. Olshey takes flak from much of the fanbase, some of it deserved, but the bottom line is that his roster made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years. Free agent whiffs? Scoreboard. Not willing to give frequent interviews? Scoreboard. Forcing everyone to look up the definition of bifurcate? Scoreboard.
Should Olshey fulfill his contract, he’ll be the longest tenured basketball operations executive in team history. Longer than Whitsitt. Longer than Inman. Longer than Buckwalter.
And that’s really what this is all about. Over the last half-decade, this has been a team that’s been good, but not great, until last season. There are questions about how to keep the roster competitive next season. But through all the changes -LaMarcus Aldridge bolting and owner Paul Allen passing away not the least of them – the Olshey/Stotts/Lillard trio has established consistency across the board.
Are they perfect? Well, no, but the real question is “who would you replace these guys with?” LeBron James, Gregg Popovich and Jerry West aren’t exactly beating a path to the Moda Center. But the Blazers have found three faces of the franchise that work well together, understand the established process, and are all on the same page.
There are a lot of franchises that give anything for that.