Sources: Blazers deny Hawks permission to interview Neil Olshey for job

The Blazers hired Neil Olshey in 2012. (AP)
The Blazers hired Neil Olshey in 2012. (AP)

The Atlanta Hawks were denied permission to speak with Portland Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey about possibly filling the franchise’s top basketball executive opening, league sources told The Vertical.

Atlanta had targeted Olshey, who has East Coast roots, as a primary candidate, but Portland ownership rejected the Hawks’ overtures this week, league sources told The Vertical.

Olshey, who has twice been voted in the top three for the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award, has constructed nucleuses of contenders with the Los Angeles Clippers and Blazers. His successes in the NBA draft – including the selections of DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe in L.A., and Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe in Portland – were of particular intrigue to Hawks officials, league sources said.

Olshey signed a contract extension in the spring of 2015, and the franchise recently completed its fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, a run that’s included two trips to the Western Conference semifinals.

The pursuit of Olshey signals a possible willingness within ownership to make a significant financial commitment to hire an elite league executive. To pry Olshey, or any sitting top basketball decision-maker, Atlanta would undoubtedly have to offer draft or financial compensation to a team. Those conversations never started with the Blazers, sources said. It is unclear if Olshey would’ve had interest in discussing Atlanta’s opening with team owners. He joined the Blazers as the franchise’s top basketball executive in 2012, after leaving the Clippers.

Atlanta has been meeting with candidates this week, with majority owner Tony Ressler and minority owner Grant Hill conducting meetings with candidates, league sources told The Vertical. Hawks officials spent several hours interviewing Washington Wizards VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard mid-week, league sources told The Vertical.

The Hawks have conducted several preliminary telephone interviews, including with Chauncey Billups, a six-time NBA All-Star guard and a current television studio analyst, league sources said.

Other candidates, who’ve been given permission by their teams to talk with Atlanta, include Houston VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and New York director of player personnel Mark Hughes, league sources said. Atlanta has also made contact with ex-player and television analyst Brent Barry, league sources said.

Atlanta restructured its front office to create the opening, moving president Mike Budenholzer into strictly a head-coaching role, and general manager Wes Wilcox to special adviser to ownership. Longtime NBA GM Rick Sund, a Hawks adviser, and assistant GM Jeff Peterson, are handling the Hawks’ predraft process now.

Atlanta has gathered 11 draft picks over the next three years, but has serious roster decisions to make, including the re-signing of free-agent forward Paul Millsap and the uncertainty surrounding the two-years, $40 million left on center Dwight Howard’s contract.