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Olshey forecasts 'success for a long period of time'

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts discusses the upcoming season.In the beginning, there was a word.

And the word that Trail Blazers first-year general manager Neil Olshey used to describe the team was: “Emerging.”

As he spoke at media day Monday at the Rose Garden, Olshey explained that the word “emerging” fits the Blazers because of their youth, but also because of the quality pieces that Portland already has in place with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.

“We’re further ahead than a lot of teams who you would consider to be in a youth movement,” Olshey said. “The irony is that probably our three or four best players are guys who, on other rosters, would be considered young guys.

"I look at it as a luxury more than an issue. When you have young talent and you can surround them with the kind of young pieces that can grow with them on the same arc, we’re going to be sustainable. We’re going to have success for a long period of time with this group.”

•Â Under former coach Nate McMillan, the Blazers were one of the slowest-paced teams in the NBA.

When new coach Terry Stotts was hired, he promised to make Portland a faster team.

On Monday, Stotts said Portland’s pace won't necessarily mean that the Blazers will have a run-and-gun offense. Rather, he wants the players to move quickly up the court so that the team has more time to run the offense.

“When I say I want to pick up the tempo, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to lead the league in pace of game or number of possessions per game,” Stotts said. “What I want is to get the ball across halfcourt in two or three seconds. That gives us a few more seconds to play in the halfcourt.

"Our pace of play, it may be three or four passes. It’s not going to be one pass, one shot. It’s everybody getting involved in the offense early, and if a shot is there, great, and if not, we trust each other that we’re going to find a great shot.”

Playing at a quick tempo night in and night out is difficul.

“A lot of players say they want to run, but it’s a challenge to run,” Stotts said. “It’s a challenge to run and play defense. I expect both from all the players.”

Stotts said he believes Portland has the horses to play that way.

“Without question,” Stotts said. “We have three point guards who can push the ball. One thing about playing fast is you don’t need a point guard that’s fast, but you need a point guard who can push it off the dribble and pass ahead. We have active big men who can run the middle of the floor. I’m going to challenge our team to run.”

•Â The Blazers enter the season with some cap space.

“My job is to generate deal flow,” Olshey said. “We’ve got a directive from ownership that we’re going to accelerate this curve as quickly as possible. (Owner) Paul (Allen) and I have discussed that at length. But, you’ve got to grow your asset pool.

"We have a lot of guys on our roster who aren’t proven in this league and don’t have market value. In an ideal world, we would grow all these players and they would be part of our organization for the long term.

“But you reach a crossroads where you’ve got to make a decision whether you put your assets in play and accelerate your success curve and bring back a more established player. The only way to do that is if these guys have value around the league.”

Portland’s starting lineup is more or less penciled in heading into training camp, which starts Tuesday. While both Olshey and Stotts said they are confident in the players who will take the floor for the opening whistle, the coach and general manager have opposite views of the talent on the Portland bench.

“The question marks that we do have — which are absolutely legitimate — is depth,” Olshey said. “That is a victim, or a casualty, of the fact that instead of going and getting the $5 million to $7 million backup players to solidify the bench, we want to make sure we’ve got a starting lineup first.”

Stotts described the Blazers this way: “Deep, deep. We have a lot of players who can play. The bench is deep. I’m going to have a lot of possibilities.”

•Â Kaleb Canales was a finalist for the head coaching job. After coaching the team on an interim basis last season after McMillan was fired, Canales admittedly was disappointed not to get the nod. However, Canales said he never considered not remaining on the coaching staff.

"I’m excited to learn from Coach Stotts and this coaching staff," Canales said, "and I’m very grateful to be a part of this coaching staff moving forward. I had great conversations with Coach Stotts in terms of the vision of our coaching staff moving forward and in terms of our team moving forward.

"I was born a Portland Trail Blazer, and I’m very grateful to still be a Portland Trail Blazer.”

Canales said he is still holding on to his dream of being a head coach in the NBA.

“My ultimate goal," he said. “This summer, there were so many teachable moments for my growth and my development. I’m just going to try to continue to get better as a person and as a coach. Every experience is going to help me grow and improve, and that’s how I’m looking at it long-term. But, short-term, which is this season, my sole focus is on helping us become a better team.”

• When the 2012-13 season kicks off, players, coaches and the people in the front office expect the Blazers to battle for a spot in the playoffs.

“Everyone on the roster, our coaching staff, this is day one and we’re looking to compete for a playoff spot,” Stotts said. “I don’t know why anyone would think otherwise. Coming in 0-0, we’re going to compete.”

Taking everything about the roster into account, though, how the Blazers play is more important to Stotts than the final result.

“I’m going to judge this team by the way it competes,” Stotts said. “The team is going to compete every night, and if you’re showing improvement, if the team is playing a style of play that the fans enjoy, that the players enjoy, it takes care of itself.

"The wins and losses — at the end of the season, we’ll evaluate. But my number one concern is how the team competes every night.”