Clippers Assistant General Manager Neil Olshey on the #1 pick

Olshey met with the media on Wednesday and said this about his teams’ lottery win.

What are the team’s overall thoughts on Blake Griffin?
“We see the same thing that all 29 other teams in the league see. He’s a dominant, physical athlete with improving skill level. He made a great decision to go back to school. He worked on his game and multiplied his numbers – points, rebounds, assists, blocks -his field goal percentage went through the roof. We think he’s ready to play right away.”

How will minutes be distributed in the front court?
“I’m sure Mike is sitting on his flight from Spain right now going over those scenarios. We strengthened a strength last night by getting Blake. There are some adjustments we’re going to have to make, but right now we want to catch our breath and get to know Blake a little bit. Mike will play around (with the lineup) and we’re going to do what everybody has to do to improve the roster, but I don’t think there’s anything specific we have to do today. We have to evaluate the roster. There are positions we have to solidify on the perimeter, we need somebody to play behind Baron and we’ll look into those options. If it’s a trade, if it’s free agency, or if we can keep them all together and figure out a way to play them all we’ll do that too.”

Where did the organization watch the Draft Lottery?
“I was here (at the Training Center). Everybody was scattered about, and of course the feed on my television was about three seconds behind so I heard the shrieks and figured they were good shrieks. Part of the lack of commitment right away (to drafting Griffin) was out of respect to Mr. (Donald) Sterling. We didn’t want to jinx anything by talking about what ifs prior to getting to New York, and we were all hoping for the result to be Blake. Look, Mike (Dunleavy) was in Spain, Andy Roeser was in New York and the owner and myself were in Los Angeles. We just felt it was appropriate to make sure Mr. Sterling was the first to know our plans prior to everybody that has access to the internet.”

What are your thoughts on Ricky Rubio?
“We just really felt that with the direction of our team, Baron Davis is our franchise player and plays the same position (as Rubio). We’re committed to him long term. I think it was more important to give clarity to our fans to understand that we’ve spent the last month licking out wounds and finding out all we did wrong for the past 82 games. Now it’s about the future and today is the first step towards making sure we’re not back in the lottery for any reason other than picking up Minnesota’s pick that we’re still owed.”

Does getting the No. 1 pick ease the pain from last season?
“It’s a dubious distinction. I don’t think anybody wants to sit up on that dais unless it’s via trade, and I don’t think any of us are pleased with the reason we were there; but like some of the other organizations have had this opportunity where, whatever the reason – injury or trade or they’re just not playing well – they end up with the number one pick and the chance to get a franchise player. I think down the road nobody’s going to remember what the 2008-09 season was about, and just that Blake Griffin is a part of our team.”

Do you think Griffin can impact the team immediately?
“I do. I think that if you look at this past season, at guys like Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, both played for Playoff teams. Eric Gordon, who should have been a First Team All-Rookie selection for us, led all rookies in scoring for the last three and a half months and averaged 20 a game while he was doing it, which few players in the league do anyway. I think these kids are more ready. I think Blake’s decision to go back to school; I think this was his rookie year. He’s going to have a little bit of a learning curve in terms of learning the league, but he’s got the physicality of a player who can play right away, he’s got expanding skill level and he can make an impact on both ends of the floor. The good thing for Blake is he’s walking into a team where the roster composition is playoff caliber. I don’t think anybody’s expecting him to have to play forty minutes a night and take twenty shots. He’s playing with All-Stars and he’s playing with back-to-back All-Rookie selections in Al (Thornton) and Eric (Gordon). He can kind of find his way and find ways to contribute, and I know Mike probably didn’t sleep last night because he was thinking about different ways to use him on the court.”

Is Griffin quick enough to play some three?

“I absolutely think so. Offensively I think Blake is a lot more versatile than people give him credit for. Part of the college game is using guys to the advantage of the team. Jeff (Capel) is a phenomenal college coach and Blake was very one-dimensional there because he was so good at that one dimension, they didn’t need to expand it. They had perimeter guys like Willie Warren and Taylor (Griffin) and they kept him kind of in a box. He averaged 23 and 14 doing it. He has phenomenal lateral movement, he’s quick and he’s a high level athlete. I think some teams will play some small fives and he’d have the physicality to play against them, he’s well suited at the four, but I also think at the three… this (Lakers-Nuggets) series is indicative of this. You’ve got a big three in Lamar Odom out there; I think Blake’s got the quickness to play in the lane from the hoop and the physicality to bang with him on the block. There are going to be a lot of ways, and the ability to play with a guy like Baron (Davis) who can set the table for him, it’s not just going to be about getting him to the ball in the low post and letting him go to work. Whether he fills the wing in transition and goes upstairs and catches lobs because he can catch and finish on the move, or whether you send him rim running and pin and seal him in the post against a small, he can play the style we want to play, which is up-tempo.”

Will he play in Summer League?
“Absolutely. We’ll have Mike Taylor, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and we’re hoping to bring Sofoklis Schortsanitis over who we still have the rights to. We have some good free agents as well. The presence of Blake and the ability for Eric and Blake to get to know each other and play together, two guys that will play significant minutes, can’t be underestimated.”

Is the long-term plan figuring out how to distribute the minutes?
“I think Mike’s excited about it and we are too. It’s a good problem to have, as Andy Roeser said last night. My feeling on that is we went for a period when we didn’t really have a first round pick, and one of those picks didn’t really work out, and we had injuries to our franchise point guard at the time with Shaun Livingston. What we’ve done in the last couple of drafts with Eric, Al and DeAndre, is kind of rebuild a youth core, not unlike some of the other teams in the league. The luxury we have is the owner made a commitment to spending money and taking on long-term contracts via trade and free agency, so now what we’ve got to do is get Baron (Davis), Marcus (Camby), Chris (Kaman) and Zach (Randolph) in a leadership role to bring these younger guys along. I think it’s a good mix, I really do. The veterans help us win now and the young guys secure our future.

Will the state of the economy affect the Clippers’ ability to sustain bigger contracts?
“I think so. I think the fan base had to be rejuvenated last night at about 5:45 west coast time. I’m not sure we would have gotten the same reaction had we ended up at three or four. I think we would have gotten a good player as we have the last few years. Mr. Sterling has been phenomenal for us. Since we’ve been here, he has not once told us we couldn’t do something based on money. At the trade deadline I think a lot of teams around the league thought we were going to try and dump salaries and that they were going to be able to steal a player to help them in a playoff run when we were no longer a viable option. Mr. Sterling had one comment for Mike, myself and Andy Roeser, ‘Any decision you make I want you to make the best basketball decision for our organization.’ He has never brought up money, he’s never brought up (season ticket) renewals and he’s never brought up contracts as long as he believes the players we’re adding will help us win games

Has Andy Roeser come down from the ceiling yet?
“I have to wonder what he was doing sitting in his office the last twenty-four years; he should have been in New York. I think the Clevelands and the San Antonios would have been really disappointed because there would be no LeBron (James) or Tim Duncan. They would have been in Los Angeles.

Was it the jacket?
“Maybe what he’ll do is write ‘Playoffs’ on the inside of the jacket and it will be another self fulfilling prophecy. Andy’s committed 25 years to the organization and he’s been through some highs and lows. No organization was higher than we were three years ago from where we had come, and no organization was lower this past year with the moves we made and the projections we had for our roster and as disappointing as it was. Mike is on his way back from Spain, Andy’s on his way back from New York, Blake will be in sometime hopefully later this week. I can’t tell how excited I am, I got text messages from Baron and Marcus and Zach, Baron was twittering away about Clipper Nation. The exciting thing is it’s not just another organizational decision and we got a hall pass and no longer have to do any work on the draft and just take Blake, but the players know how good this kid is. I think Baron is going to love running the floor like this – a guy that can finish, a guy that can play with Marcus, Chris and Zach. I think there are lineups where he can be a small five or a big three and be out there with Zach. The players are as excited as we are, and the message really is the past is the past. I don’t think anybody remembers why San Antonio ended up with (Tim) Duncan or why Cleveland ended up with LeBron, but that’s the message. From now on it’s about the 2009-10 season, Blake’s a part of it with the help of God. Like I said, today is the first step. Between now, the draft and July first we’ll make some other moves as well.”

On bringing back Sofoklis Schortsanitis…
“I think his contract is up with Olympiacos, he’s a little bit older now. I think he wants to at least come over, work out for a while, go through the Summer League experience and get a feel for what it would be like to be in the NBA. Whether it works out now or in the future based on our roster composition, I don’t know if that’s even an issue for him, but I think he just wants to know what it’s like. I think he’s intrigued by it. Coach Dunleavy was over there seeing him and I saw him this year. He’s working on his body and getting his weight under control, I think he’s really suited for the NBA game. I think he’d be another asset as well, and if it’s not this year it will be next year when our roster cleans up a little bit.”

Clippers President Andy Roeser about the draft lottery.

Can you talk about Blake Griffin and the expectation that he’s probably going to be your guy?
Roeser: We’re going to do our due diligence and then we’re going to pick the best player in the Draft. A lot of people do think that’s Blake Griffin. I would like to sit with Mike [Dunleavy] before we make that decision. He’s a terrific athlete. He’s strong. He’s a terrific person and I think any franchise would be happy to have a player like Blake Griffin for a long time. I also think a lot of people are going to be happy with some of the other players in the Draft, like Ricky Rubio and Hasheem Thabeet. I happen to think this is a draft where the top teams are going to be pretty happy in the long run.

Is it a great problem that you already have so many bigs?
Roeser: It’s a great problem. Any problem we have today is a great problem. We had a little bit of a rocky season. I think the Lottery is always the first step in the next season so today is a great day for us. We’re starting next season today. We got off in the position we want to be in, controlling the draft and we will take the best player and we’ll figure out how that impacts the rest of our team as we go forward.

If healthy, with the best player, how good can you all be?
Roeser: I think we can be a very good team next year. I think we need to do some things differently. Baron Davis did not have a particularly good season. He knows that and we know that. I talked to him the other day and he’s determined to make sure he comes back and have a better season and I think that’s going to help our team. Mike’s talking about doing some things differently that will help make us a better team, and we add to it the best player in the draft.

Did you bring anything in there with you for luck?
Roeser: “I’m not really a superstitious person. I just had a really good feeling. I had a chance to talk to Donald Sterling and Shelly before I left and they both said they had a good feeling, so we all shared a good feeling. My wife did give me my coat with the Clippers lining and the number one in there. So, she had a feeling that we should be getting the number one pick, too.

What are the chances that you’ll have Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman on your team when next season starts?
Roeser: I haven’t even had a chance to think about those kinds of things yet. We like the nucleus of our team and that’s something we as a basketball staff has to sit down with. Coach Dunleavy is over in Europe. He’s on his way home in the next day or two, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him tonight about those implications, but that’s something that we’re going to figure out and answer pretty quickly.