Portland Trailblazers Having Busy Offseason
This NBA offseason has been far from quiet for the Portland Trailblazers and general manager Neil Olshey. There has been some good and there has been some bad. Either way, for Portland, it’s been interesting.
After losing guards Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, the Blazers, in this year’s draft, were able to acquire a confident young point guard in Damian Lillard with the No. 6 overall pick.
Although there are going to be the growing pains of a rookie year to come this season, Lillard seems to be the absolute truth, as of now, and most certainly the Blazers’ point guard of the future.
Lillard has terrorized the Summer League thus far in Las Vegas as he has scored at least 25 points in all three games the Blazers have played; he dropped 31 on the Atlanta Hawks in Thursday’s 84-78 win. As Lillard has emerged as a potential future star in the NBA, many have seemingly already forgotten about last year’s first round pick in Nolan Smith.
Smith, 23, is very much a part of the Blazers future especially with the offseason losses of Crawford and Felton. Smith is continuing to develop and find his game in the NBA. The Blazers have only played three games this summer but the thought was that Smith would greatly benefit from playing with Lillard in the backcourt this summer.
Tragically, in only the Blazers second game summer, Smith was struck in the head with an unintentional elbow by the Houston Rockets Zoran Dragic. After being hit, Smith staggered out of bounds and collapsed having to later be wheeled off the court on a stretcher.
“It hurts my heart to see him go down because I know how hard he works,” Lillard said. “I know how good of a guy he is. You never want to see one of your soldiers go down.”
Smith was diagnosed with a concussion but at this point, he is doing well and should be back on the court soon which is great news for the Blazers. Besides the health of Smith, though, the best news for the Blazers this summer is the resigning of the 23-year old wingman, Nicolas Batum.
Olshey made it clear he didn’t want to lose Batum, and although the Minnesota Timberwolves tried they simply couldn’t pry the Frenchman away from the Rose City.
“The decision was made a long time ago,” Olshey told reporters in Las Vegas. “We were never not going to have Nicolas back. We did investigate certain things with Minnesota as a due diligence deal. We wanted to make sure we explored every option to improve our basketball team, but there was never a situation where there was a commensurate package offered back that was attractive enough to let Nicolas go.”
The Blazers and Olshey have really set themselves up for the future with these key moves for the roster and quietly made another quality move in the recent signing of point guard Ronnie Price at the veteran’s minimum.
Price is a reliable guard that, although only 6’2”, can play both guard spots with ease. Price has played in the shadows of the NBA’s best as a backup in Utah to Deron Williams and also Steve Nash in Phoenix.
As a seasoned veteran of seven years, Price is cautious with the ball and can shoot the mid-range jumpers a point guard has to while playing very active defense. Price doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, but his knowledge of the game is exceptional and even as a role-player has a commanding presence on the court that will resonate with the Rose Garden crowd.
With Smith being alright, Batum resigned and Lillard on the rise, the anticipation for next year is high in Portland and rightfully so. Between those three and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers could very well be looking at their own version of a Big 3 in the coming years.