Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard ‘focused on leading’ amid Neil Olshey investigation

PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been speculating in recent months about his desire to be traded and has resisted hiring his franchise’s new head coach. Neil Olshey.

“The games go on. Our jobs go on. And that’s all we can do,” Lillard said on Saturday after scoring 25 points in a 105-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “That’s what we can control is doing our job and being prepared, and I’ve been here for 10 years now and I’m a big part of this organization and this team, my job is to continue to do that the way I And that’s what I can control and that’s what I will do.”

The Blazers announced earlier in the day that they have hired an outside law firm, O’Melveny & Myers, to conduct “a full, fair and independent review” of alleged “concerns about [the] work environment” caused by Olshey.

Olshey was hired by the Blazers to run their front office in June 2012, after serving as GM of the LA Clippers for two seasons. A few weeks after he got the job, Olshey oversaw Portland’s roster of Lillard with the No. 6 from Weber State, a little-known mid-major program in Ogden, Utah.

“I think the best way to lead is to focus on leading the team,” said Lillard. “We play basketball and my job is to be the point guard and captain of this team. And to keep doing that.”

Lillard, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups and teammate Jusuf Nurkic all similarly answered questions about the investigation on Saturday and disclosed no prior knowledge of the allegations against Olshey.

“It was news to me,” Lillard said. “I came across it just like everyone else. But that’s all I know, it’s an investigation.’

Said Nurkic: “All I know is what everyone knows from the team statement. And I have” [nothing] specifically add.”

Billups, who was hired by the Blazers in June and was defended by Olshey when he was pressed by reporters about a past rape allegation against Billups, said he had not spoken to the GM “about the current situation,” adding that they have had strictly game-related conversations.

“I mean, of course it’s a shame,” Billups said. ‘An unfortunate moment. Of course, I only know what everyone has read, what everyone knows from what they’ve read about the report and the investigation. That’s all I know. I can’t say anything more about that.’

Nurkic, who was acquired by Portland in February 2017 in a transaction with the Denver Nuggets and saw his career blossom under Olshey’s watch, was asked to characterize his relationship with the executive.

“As for our relationship, I don’t think we’re in a relationship,” Nurkic said. “We’re pros, and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony, whose career was revived by Olshey and the Blazers signing him after being out of the league for more than a year, said he hadn’t heard of the investigation until a reporter asked him about it after the Lakers lost on Saturday.

“You just told me that news,” Anthony said. ‘I have no idea. Yeah, you really broke me down, honestly. I have no idea what’s going on with that.’

Portland improved to 5-5 with the win on Saturday, past the Lakers for No. 8 in the Western Conference standings.

“You know, it’s a distraction because of course there’s so much talk about it,” Billups said. “But I can honestly say that when I’m in that office and with the guys, I don’t think about that at all. Not even for a little bit. I’m focused on the game.”


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