Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Online Chat With Director of Player Personnel Neil Olshey

Neil Olshey enters his second campaign in his current role as Director of Player Personnel and his fourth overall season with the team. Olshey joined the Clippers as Director of Player Development prior to the start of the 2003-04 season and served as an assistant coach during the 2004-05 campaign.

Prior to joining the Clippers Olshey served as Director of Player Development for SFX Sports Group, Inc. where he created, organized and conducted Pre Draft and Off Season Training Camps for future and current NBA players. The Pre Draft Camps produced 15 Lottery picks, 25 First Round selections and 57 NBA players.

Participants in Olshey's Off Season skill development clinics include more than 85 current NBA players including numerous All Stars and All-NBA selections.

Olshey chatted online with Clippers fans on Wednesday, July 19 at 11:00 a.m.

Neil Olshey: Thanks for coming! We think we've had a really successful draft, and we're off to a great start in free agency. We can't wait for training camp in Moscow.

Jason (Los Angeles): How is the "Big Z"? Will he be able to play this year?

Neil Olshey: "Z" is back in Los Angeles and is working out every day with assistant coach Kim Hughes. He's shooting the ball well and looks to be in excellent physical condition.

Edgar: Do you think Shaun Livingston could become a superstar in the near future?

Neil Olshey: We feel the same way today as we did when we drafted Shaun - that he has the potential to be an All-Star in our league. The progress he has made and the production he gave us during both the Denver and Phoenix series show us he's only scratching the surface of his potential.

Gary (Los Angeles): Hey Neil. How does it feel to be a part of this great organization? Also what do you think of Clippers signing Tim Thomas and re-signing Sam Cassell?

Neil Olshey: For anyone involved in the game of basketball, to be a part of the NBA is a special experience. To do it here, in my adopted home of Los Angeles, makes it even more exciting.

The re-signing of Sam was a major priority for us in the free agent process. He was a major factor in taking us as deep as we went in the playoffs last season, and we look forward to a deeper run this season.

As the NBA becomes more about mobility and versatility in terms of big men, we feel we got a steal in Tim Thomas. He brings a multi-faceted game to our team. He is able to shoot the ball with range, he's got a low-post game, and he can defend multiple positions.

Hawthorne: I play high school basketball and I wanted to know what the main thing is that big men should continue to work on? Also can I expect Elton brand to be with the Clippers until he retires? (I would hope so)

Neil Olshey: Whether you're a big man or a perimeter player, the most important thing is to have a versatility in terms of your skill package. Develop your low-post game first, then slowly move away from the basket and be a threat to face the hoop.

Elton Brand is our franchise player. It's a goal for everyone in the organization that he remains a Clipper for the rest of his career.

Brian (Ontario): Generally speaking, what fundamental part of the game do you think is lacking most with young players in the NBA?

Neil Olshey: What I think is lacking most in young players is the ability to play without the basketball. Players have fallen in love with the dribble and have forgotten how to pass, cut and move without the basketball.

Tim (Whittier): Hey Neil. I was wondering how the team is preparing for the preseason trip to Russia?

Neil Olshey: We're asking a lot of questions of Yaroslav Korolev and shopping for winter clothing. On the basketball side, our players are in the gym every day working out with our assistant coaches and are preparing to take our team to the next level - a process that begins the first day of training camp.

Jomo (Denver, CO): Will coach Dunleavy use Korolev, at point guard this upcoming season? I believe that Korolev is the key player in our quest to be NBA Champions.

Neil Olshey: The primary reason for drafting Yaroslav was his versatility. We feel like he has the vision and passing ability to give us minutes as a point forward, as well as make plays with the ball from both the shooting guard and small forward positions.

Brian (Camarillo): It's easy to see on TV or in the arena how much fun Sam Cassell has on the court. Which player is a prankster off the court?

Neil Olshey: Walter McCarty and Sam both had a good time indoctrinating our rookies into life in the NBA. However, those pranks need to stay within the walls of the locker room.

Courtney (Augusta): It really looks like the Clippers have bonded together this past season more than ever before. How vital was re-signing Sam Cassell to maintaining the team's high level of chemistry?

Neil Olshey: Sam was our leader on the floor and in the locker room, so it was essential that we continue to make him a part of our team. Never underestimate the impact of good chemistry on the court and in the locker room in terms of success in wins and losses. When players want to play together, and are willing to do the things the coaches ask of them, it translates into wins.

James (Santa Monica): Congrats on a great season. Can you update us on the new practice facility near Playa Vista?

Neil Olshey: The current plan is for the practice facility to be up and running by the start of the 2007 season.

COLIN (VENTURA, CA): If you are the genius behind Elton Brand's extended range, we are eternally grateful to you. Can we expect a new move from our big, ambidextrous center? I was also wondering if we will see more of Quinton Ross and Jumping James Singleton this season and how they are developing. Thanks for your time, Clipper time.

Neil Olshey: The genius behind Elton's extended range is Elton Brand. Nobody spent more time in our practice facility getting shots up last summer than Elton Brand. Like all great players, guys look to add one element to their game each off-season. I can't tell you what it will be this season for Elton, but you'll see it on opening night.

Quinton Ross' ability to develop his perimeter shooting, along with being our best perimeter defender, will continue to provide him with major minutes in our rotation.

James had a big week in Vegas at Summer League, and as he becomes more consistent with his jump shot, his minutes will undoubtedly increase.

Steve O. (Whittier): Hey Neil, I'm a seven year season ticket holder and a life long fan. How exciting was last season for you?

Neil Olshey: After two years as an assistant coach and pretty much being out of the playoff race by the All-Star break, to be playing significant games through the spring, and then in the playoffs in the summer was an incredible experience for the players, the coaches and everyone in the Clippers organization. It is one we hope to repeat for years to come.

Jeremy (Los Angeles): Do you think Guillermo Diaz and Paul Davis can help the club right away?

Neil Olshey: In Paul Davis, we felt like we got both the best player available with the 34th pick, and one who fills an immediate need as a low-post defender and pick-and-roll threat. We like his size, his basketball IQ and his pedigree, having played for one of the best coaches in basketball in Tom Izzo.

Guillermo Diaz was a steal for us late in the second round. We feel his upside is going to allow him to be a major contributor for us as a scorer and on-ball defender down the road.

Roary Melchin (Catskills, NY): Hello. I am wondering: who are the best pure shooters you have come across over the years during your skill development clinics?

Neil Olshey: I spent every summer vacation of my life in the Catskills, so thanks for writing in.

The best pure three-point range shooters I've come across are Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kapono and Steve Kerr.

Kenneth Park (Arcadia, CA): It's apparent that last season was a big success for the Clippers. Now, with being successful this previous year, what do you think the organization must do to continue the team's success and perhaps even make the team better? What do you think the team needs to take it to the next, and I think final, level?

Neil Olshey: We've made progress every year since Coach Dunleavy's arrival. As our players mature and become more comfortable with our system, we will continue to improve. Our level of chemistry has gotten better, our depth has improved, and as our players develop more extensive skills on the court and believe that they can win, we see no reason why we can't continue to have the success we had this year for as long as we're here.

Mike (LA): Hello Neil! I'm a huge NBA enthusiast. My dream is to work as a player scout for a NBA franchise. What advice can you give me to break into the NBA workplace realm?

Neil Olshey: The important thing is to try not to skip a step. Learn the game at the grass roots level, and work your way up from high school through the college ranks, and then into the NBA. The important thing is, when you do make it to the NBA, you have the knowledge and background to do the work that's necessary to be successful at this level.

Jeremy (Green Bay, WI): Which Clippers have you seen drastically improve under your guidance? And if the Clippers win it all this year, would that make you feel like part of the team because of your role? I assume it would. Thanks for all you do and your time.

Neil Olshey: I don't know if anybody in the league has made a greater jump in terms of impact or improved more than Quinton Ross. To go from an undrafted free agent forced to play in Belgium to a starter on a team in the Western Conference Semifinals is a major accomplishment for Q and a feather in the cap for all of the assistant coaches who have worked with him.

In the three years we've been here under the tutelage of Kim Hughes and Coach Dunleavy, Chris Kaman is turning into one of the most productive centers in our league.

Everyone in the Clipper organization is a part of the team. If we win it all this year, it will result in a major celebration at 1111 S. Figueroa St.

Ricky (Ballston Spa, NY): The Clippers were one game away from making the Western Conference Finals last year. Are there any transactions that the team is looking to make that will carry the team over the hump?

Neil Olshey: The ability to get a player like Tim Thomas in free agency and the continued development of our young players, like Chris Kaman, Shaun Livingston and Yaroslav Korolev, give us the confidence that we can make the next major step in our pursuit of a championship.

Francisco (LA): As the #1 Clipper fan, it frustrating to see players, selected after the Clippers, having great rookie seasons. What are your thoughts on picking Korolev over Granger?

Neil Olshey: We picked Korolev over a lot of players. We feel like the progress he made this past year working with our coaches in the weight room and in the video room are the reasons he had such a good Summer League and will be an asset to us this season and in the future.

Andrea: How do you feel about the fans, especially the guy in the red and blue suit?

Neil Olshey: I think the fans were a major factor in the number of the fourth quarter come-from-behind victories we had this season. For anyone who feels like the value of the fan is underestimated in terms of wins and losses should talk to our players. Even when we struggled our first two years, we had an excellent home winning percentage and a lot of that credit goes to our rabid fan base.

Bryce, Santa Monica: Any free agents on our summer league roster or who we will bring in to camp have a chance of helping? Like Bobby Simmons, Quinton Ross or James Singleton?

Neil Olshey: As of today, we have 13 guaranteed contracts, and are still looking at bringing in one more free agent. It'll be difficult for anyone from our summer league roster to make our team. However, I felt like Terrell Lyday and Juwad Williams had an outstanding summer league for us.

Neil Olshey: Thanks so much for talking with me today. Our next step is to bring our young players out to Coach Grgurich's camp in Las Vegas and then get back into the practice facility to prepare for training camp in Moscow. Our fans are incredibly important to our success, so please continue to come out and support our team.