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Fan Forum Conference Call with Neil Olshey
May 20, 2010

The following are excerpts from Neil Olshey's conference call with season ticket holders, moderated by Clippers' play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler.

Listen to the full-length audio of the conference call here:

(0:02) Hi everybody, I’m Ralph Lawler. We welcome you to our call here today with a chance to sit and talk some basketball with you and give you an idea of why we’re so excited about the couple of weeks that lie ahead and the summer that lies ahead and the season coming up in 2010-11. We’ll get a chance to have you ask your questions with Neil Olshey, who’s back in Chicago at the Pre-Draft Camp where so much is going on…

Q: Have you been able to see Ekpe Udoh (possible first round pick) and Luke Babbitt for a second round pick? Have you been able to see them practice?

(4:08) Neil Olshey: I’ve seen both of them, multiple times. I knew Ekpe when he was at Michigan, and Luke, obviously at Nevada. I think you are being optimistic with our second round pick because there’s not a chance…that Luke Babbitt is in the second round. Would he were there, that would be wonderful for the Clippers. They’re both quality players- both totally different. Ekpe is very long, he’s bouncy, he blocks shots. I don’t know if he’s a true need for us with Blake Griffin and you don’t want to look at back-ups with the 8th pick in the draft. If it ends up he’s one of the most talented guys on the board, we’ll give him consideration. He’s scheduled to come visit us on June 7th along with Hassan Whiteside so we’ll get to see both of those guys. Long, athletic shot blockers with face-up games. And Luke Babbitt is an intriguing guy. He’s tough, he makes threes, he gets to the free-throw line. Great character kid. They are both intriguing prospects that we’ve been evaluating for some time and we’ll continue to work them out for the next five or six weeks until the draft.

Q: What’s your evaluation of this year’s draft class?

(6:33) Olshey: I like this draft. Like last year, there are probably a couple of superstars up at the very top. I think there’s more depth as you get later into the lottery. As far as safer players, I think you saw some guys that jumped out of the blue last year. The expectations weren’t as high on guys like Brandon Jennings. There were some guys in the second round: DeJuan Blair, Chase Budinger, Marcus Thornton- there’s always going to be those guys. I think everybody’s a little more confident in this draft. 82 underclassmen put their names in; 51 kept their names in. So you’re going to get guys (if they had gone back to school) who could be late first-round early second-round picks still hanging around in the forty’s and fifty’s. We’re confident we’re going to add two quality players not just at eight but at fifty-four as well.

Q: What type of coach are you looking for that can handle this team?

(9:37) Olshey: The coaching search is a major decision for us. We haven’t had to make one in a while. Instead of putting someone into a box, I think what we’re looking for is to find the right fit- whether it’s a coach with a ton of experience, an assistant- somebody we’re going to give a first shot to, a former player; we’re going to have to find a guy that we think from a chemistry standpoint is going to be in the bunker with the front office that can get this team to perform above expectation. I think one of the issues we’ve had the last few years is that based on the roster we’ve performed either at or below expectations the last few years…and at some point we’re going to have to find someone to come in and elevate that. We’re going to have to perform beyond expectation and take us to the next level. I think the first guy that blows us away in the room that we really feel can take this roster and do even more with it than it’s capable of- that’s going to be the right fit for us.

Q: How important is it for an owner to bring the team to an elite level?

(30:04) Olshey: The thing an owner can do more than anything is support the team like providing it with the most resources that they can accumulate. I think Mr. Sterling has done that. We didn’t need to step up and build a fifty-million dollar practice facility...that’s changed the culture changed the perception around the league of our commitment to the organization. He signed Baron Davis, he was willing to sign Elton Brand. We used all of the cap room to bring in a major contract with Marcus Camby. We’ve made trades that have taken on money and I think that Mr. Sterling was reluctant at one point to give up on young assets like Al Thornton, whom we had drafted and shown great potential but he looked at a bigger picture and he knew we needed to take the team to the next level and it wasn’t going to be done incrementally. I give Mr. Sterling a lot of credit. Believe me, nobody suffers through the losses more than him and I’ve been complicit in the losing as well. I’ve been here for seven years. At some point a change had to be made and it was made last season. It didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped during the transition. But basically we’ve cleared the decks and we can bring in nine new players, we can bring in a new coaching staff, a new philosophy. No matter whom it’s going to be, my bar is that whomever walks through that door- player or coach, understands that losing is not acceptable. I think at some point there’s an excuse out there where people feel like it’s okay not to get things done here. That’s not going to be the case. It wasn’t the case four years ago when Mike (Dunleavy) elevated things to a level beyond what it had ever been and we just couldn’t hold on to it. We’re going to get it back sooner rather than later. This is the summer to do it. The first step will be June 24th on draft night and the next step will be July 1st for free agency.

For more on the Clippers and the draft: | Andy Roeser and Neil Olshey's Post-Lottery Conference Call » | Video of the 2010 Draft Lottery » | Ask Eric Pincus » | Clippers Draft History »