NBA general managers form an association to support leaders in the midst of the Portland Trail Blazer investigation, sources say

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The NBA’s general managers are working to complete the formation of a professional association that will collectively support executives with access to legal aid, legal advice and public relations professionals, sources told ESPN.

Over the past many months, the league’s GMs have formed a steering committee to create a constitution, opened an LLC and informed the league office of their intentions to form a group similar in purpose and structure to the National Basketball Coaches Association, sources said.

Although these steps occurred in March and precede the organizational investigation of Portland Trail Blazer’s president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, this situation has further convinced front office chiefs of the need for such an association, sources said.

Dozens of executives told ESPN that Portland’s internal investigation has raised fears that organizations may make decisions to fire top basketball executives for a variety of traditional reasons – team performance, personality conflicts, different philosophies – while looking for ways to pursue “cause”. breach of contract.

With declining revenue and dwindling attendance throughout the league coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many top-team basketball executives fear Portland is creating a plan for other ownership groups to invoke firing for cause and circumvent payment on contracts.

On November 6, the Blazers announced that they had hired the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to “conduct a fair and independent review” after a complaint was lodged with the organization’s human resources department about “concerns about the working environment of non-players on-site staff. . “

The company has since interviewed dozens of former and current employees about Olshey and their experiences around the team’s suburban exercises.

In his more than nine years leading the Blazers, the NBA has not received any calls to the league’s office or its tips hotline alleging workplace complaints against Olshey, sources told ESPN. The Blazers’ human resources department did not receive any complaints about Olshey until recent weeks, Yahoo Sports reported.

Olshey signed a three-year contract extension in 2019 after the Blazers reached the final of the Western Conference. It started with the 2021-22 season and extends through 2023-24. Olshey, who was hired in 2012 after nine seasons with the LA Clippers, has signed on to two extensions during his Portland tenure.

When the Blazers announced the extension in May 2019, owner Jody Allen specifically mentioned the culture of the franchise under Olshey: “… I have great confidence in the culture he has created in Portland and I look forward to seeing it thrive and grow. following year.”

The Blazers have had little turnover in the front office or coaching staff and have reached the playoffs in eight seasons in a row – the longest active streak in the NBA. The organization and Olshey had been widely criticized for lack of transparency in the research they did before hiring first-year coach Chauncey Billups, who was charged with rape in a civil lawsuit in 1997. The team ordered an independent investigation into the allegation, but said that the details of the study were “proprietary”.

Olshey has not publicly addressed the current study of Portland’s workplace environment. The Blazers have not suspended Olshey while the investigation is ongoing, and he continues to carry out his duties of leading the team. When the Blazers raised the HR complaint for hiring an outside firm, the league’s belief has been that Olshey’s job and contract are in jeopardy.

Portland have 8-8 to start this season as All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has shot the career-low 38.4% off the field and on average scored the fewest points per game. fight since his rookie year. Lillard had expressed frustration over the team’s lack of playoff success over the summer, but has since reaffirmed his commitment to the franchise.

Concepts reported by the media as “toxic environment” and “hostile workplace” were felt by rival GMs as a campaign to trigger a firing for “cause”, presumably a tactic to create annulment of the remaining years and pay on Olshey’s contract. That’s what worries rival leaders and has hastened the urgency of completing an association that can help support front office leaders in situations like the one unfolding in Portland.