At some point in the near future, the Portland Trail Blazers will decide the course of the Los Angeles Clippers' future. Not through a trade or free-agent acquisition. Not through a change on the coaching staff. Not even through anything having to do with basketball.
No, the Trail Blazers will decide the Clippers' future whenever they get around to choosing their next general manager. You see, Clippers general manager Neil Olshey is among the finalists for the Blazers' job, and all indications seem to be that the Clippers will simply let him go if the Blazers decide to offer him the job, as there have been no new contract discussions between the Clippers and Olshey, according to sources close to the situation.
Olshey, who finished third in this season's Executive of the Year balloting, essentially has been an at-will employee since this past fall when his contract expired. He has worked for the same sub-$500,000 yearly salary he earned as assistant GM (before succeeding Mike Dunleavy in March 2010), too.
Although there were some initial discussions this past fall about putting him on a short-term contract, that option didn't make much sense for either side and Olshey simply continued on -- in the same fashion most Clippers employees do -- as a month-to-month employee free to leave whenever he chose. (Other teams need not even ask permission to speak with him.)
That was all fine, in a way, until Olshey helped engineer the Chris Paul trade by forming a tight enough bond with the star point guard to convince him to commit to the Clippers for two seasons and start thinking very seriously about making this his permanent home.
Paul might very well choose to stay with the Clippers even if Olshey is hired away by the Blazers. Olshey is, after all, just a front-office executive and not, you know, Blake Griffin -- who will be mulling a contract extension this summer. But if you're the Clippers, why find out? Why take the risk?
This has been out there for a while now. Olshey interviewed with Portland last offseason, too, so the Blazers' interest is obviously genuine.
The answer to the question is pretty much what you'd expect. After being forced by an arbitrator to pay Dunleavy more than $13 million in their salary dispute following his dismissal in 2010, Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a little gun shy about committing a long-term contract to anyone these days. Plus, he simply prefers it that way. (Former GM Elgin Baylor worked month to month for years.)
Sterling genuinely likes both Olshey and coach Vinny Del Negro -- whose third-year option was picked up earlier this week, but who also hasn't engaged in any extension negotiations -- and wants them to stay with the franchise. But while the previously stingy owner has opened up his wallet for players in recent years, he hasn't been as forthcoming with coaches or front-office executives since awarding Dunleavy a four-year, $22 million contract in 2006.
That's all fine when you have the leverage to do so. But the Clippers might soon become a victim of their own success.