The Portland Trail Blazers have removed the interim title for general manager Joe Cronin, officially handing him the reins as the team’s GM. Cronin had served as interim GM of the team since Dec. 3, 2021, after the team fired then-GM Neil Olshey for a violation of the team’s Code of Conduct.
“Joe has shown in his short time as interim GM that he is more than ready to continue leading the front office,” Trail Blazers chair Jody Allen said in a statement Tuesday. “We remain excited for the future of Trail Blazers basketball with Joe and Chauncey driving a cohesive plan to build an even more competitive and winning roster.”
We have named Joe Cronin as general manager.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 10, 2022
Cronin is in his 16th season with the Blazers. He had spent the previous 15 years in the organization, serving as the team’s basketball operations intern (2006), pro scout/salary cap analyst (2010) and director of player personnel (2014).
He takes the helm of the Blazers after a difficult season marred by injuries, losing streaks and failed expectations. Portland went 27-55, its worst finish since 2005-06, and never won more than four games in a row in 2021-22. The Blazers ended the season on an 11-game losing streak and saw star guard Damian Lillard ruled out for the season by late March.
Portland heads into the offseason with at least one lottery pick and cap space, armed with a plan to build around six-time All-Star Lillard. He made a promise to fans at the Moda Center for the team’s final game.
“This year a lot of things came up that we didn’t expect. A lot of hard times. But you guys continue to show up. Continue to show us love. Continue to be the fans that I’ve always known,” he said. “And I just need y’all to know one thing: This will not continue. Next year we’re gonna come back better than we’ve been.”
Over the course of the season the Blazers used 34 different starting lineups, winding up at 13th in the Western Conference.
“It’s not been a season that any of us expected, but the way that I kind of see it in all honesty, this year has kind of been like a real microcosm of life. You have these great ideas and plans and thoughts, and then things happen and you have to pivot,” said first-year Portland coach Chauncey Billups. “And then it becomes about how you pivot, and what you do.”
Lillard was the most significant of the Blazers’ injuries this season. He played in just 29 games, the result of a nagging abdominal injury that required surgery in January.
Backcourt partner CJ McCollum missed 17 games with a collapsed lung. Others who missed significant time included Nassir Little, who sustained a labral tear in his left shoulder in late January and missed the rest of the season; Jusuf Nurkic, shut down for the final 22 games of the season with plantar fasciitis; and Larry Nance Jr., who missed 17 games with right knee inflammation before he was traded.
One of the bright spots for Portland, though, was found in swingman Anfernee Simons. He took advantage of Lillard’s absence and, as a starter, averaged 23.4 points and 5.8 assists and logged a 43-point game on Jan. 3 vs. Atlanta.
In a Q&A with NBA.com in early February, Cronin said he is taking a long-term approach to building the Blazers and spurned talk about rebuilding the team.
“I think we all take a big-picture approach knowing that one season is a small vacuum of a larger picture. It’s hard. We’re all so competitive that we want to win consistently,” Cronin said then. “Sometimes to do that, you have to take a step back at times. Sometimes you just have to be patient. So, you’re trying to balance deal by deal what accomplishes the overall big-picture goals.
“No, I don’t think we have the appetite to tear it all the way down. We have too many good players and too many ways to get better without taking too big of a step back.”
Information from NBA.com’s Michael Wright and The Associated Press was used in this report.