NBA GMs are forming an association
As the NBA investigation into the workplace environment of the Portland Trail Blazers continues it seems that managers of other teams have been spurred into action.
General managers of the NBA unite
According to ESPN, NBA general managers are combining forces in an effort to finalize the formation of a professional association that would collectively support executives with access to legal defense funds, lawyer referrals and public relations professionals. Across the last months, league GMs created a 'steering committee' which in turn has been tasked with creating a constitution. They have also opened an LLC. and officially informed the league of their intentions to form a group which will have a similar purpose, function and structure to that of the NBA's coaches association.
The steps of course were initiated as far back as March of this year, however, it is widely understood that the organizational investigation into Portland Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, has further driven home the point to managers and executives alike that such an association is in fact a necessity here and now. In keeping with this, a number of executives have reportedly voiced their fears about the idea that Portland's internal probe is a stepping stone towards a scenario where top basketball executives can be dismissed for any number of traditional reasons such as team performance, personality conflicts, differing philosophies etc. There is also the belief that such steps could lead to establishment of "cause" violations in contracts.
The covid 19 toll and the Blazers blueprint
In the wake of the pandemic it is quite understandable that revenue has declined dramatically along with attendance across the league. As such there is a growing number of top team basketball executives who are concerned that the Portland probe is nothing more than a roadmap for competing ownership to move towards the removal of executives for 'cause' while avoiding the payment on contracts.
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As for the Blazers themselves, on November 6th franchise announced that they had taken on the legal services of an independent law firm to "conduct a fair and independent review," having received a complaint through their human resources department about "concerns around workplace environment by non-player personnel at the practice facility." Since that time, it is understood that a number of interviews have taken place with former and current employees.
What has been said about Neil Oshley?
Where Oshley himself is concerned,it is understood that prior to recent events, the NBA had received no calls or complaints about his conduct in the work place environment. He has been with the Blazers for 9 years. In fact it was as recently as 2019 when Olshey signed a three-year contract extension on the back of the Blazers making it to the Western Conference finals.
When the Blazers announced the extension in May 2019, owner Jody Allen made specific reference to the franchise's culture under Olshey saying, "...I have great confidence in the culture he has created in Portland, and I look forward to seeing it thrive and grow for years to come."
It must be said that news of the probe is to an extent a surprise. The Blazers for their part have seen almost no employee turnover in the front office or coaching staff and have reached the playoffs in eight straight seasons - the longest active streak in the NBA to date. The organization and Olshey. There was of course wide spread criticism following the appointment of coach Chauncey Billups in his first year, with a lack of transparency on appointment cited. To add further reason for complaint, Billups himself was the subject of a civil suit in which he was accused of rape in 1997.
Where do things stand for the Blazers and Oshley now?
To date Olshey has made no public comment on the probe into Portland's workplace environment nor have the Blazers moved to suspend him while the investigation takes place. For the moment he continues to fulfill the requirements of his post. There is, however, the fact that the Blazers have passed on the the previously mentioned HR complaint to an independent firm which would seem to suggest that Oshley's job could in fact be in danger.
As for the court and state of play, Portland currently sit on an 8-8 record with their star point guard Damian Lillard shooting a career-low of 38.4% from the field. Lillard has averaged his fewest points per game since his rookie year. The All-Star was the subject of a great deal of speculation across the summer having voiced his frustration over the team's lack of success, but in recent times he has reaffirmed his commitment to the team.
If there is one thing that is certain in the end, it's the fact that terms such as "toxic environment" and "hostile workplace" have been viewed by rival GMs as a rallying cry for the effort to initiate a campaign of firing managers for "cause." It is this notion that is at the center of the worry felt by rival executives across the league, who fear that without an association they could soon all be subject to inquests like the one facing Oshley in Portland.