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GM fires back at columnist who criticized Blazers' culture

Sam Forencich / National Basketball Association / Getty

Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey didn't take kindly to a column this week by The Oregonian's John Canzano that criticized the team's culture.

"I was glad that it was written by someone who came to two games all year," Olshey said at his season-ending media conference Wednesday. He didn't stop there, slamming Canzano for bringing a relative to a recent playoff game against the Golden State Warriors.

"Clearly (Canzano's) motivation was to abuse his privileges as a media person with his pass so that he could get tickets for his relatives and pictures taken with the opposing point guard in the opposing point guard's jersey," Olshey said. "Because clearly, that's an unbiased opinion, right? That's an impartial observer talking about our roster when he has his nephew in a Steph Curry jersey taking pictures with Steph Curry. Sure."

In a Tuesday column, Canzano called the Blazers' culture "broken" in the wake of their playoff sweep by the Warriors, and suggested Olshey will soon be fired by owner Paul Allen.

"I'm very comfortable with where our culture is," Olshey added. "You guys know how close (the team) is, how they feel about the coaching staff, the support that they get from the organization. They know we have their best interest at heart."

Related: Blazers GM says Lillard, McCollum are 'untradable'

Canzano defended himself later Wednesday, specifically regarding the family member photographed with Curry.

"I bought a pair of tickets to Game 3 for my nephew and our church pastor. I had to work the game, so I needed a chaperone to sit with the kid, and the church youth pastor was all for it," he wrote on The Oregonian.

"The nephew, 11, likes Steph Curry and wore his Curry jersey to the game and the pastor snapped a photo of the kid with Curry warming up in the background. It was posted to social media. My nephew is in the foster-care system. My wife and I are his guardians. It felt like the right thing to do. Not sure why this is even a topic."

Canzano is known to be critical of the Blazers' organization, which hasn't had the best of luck over the last decade. By virtually any account, the team has overachieved since LaMarcus Aldridge departed via free agency in 2015, although it's clear they aren't an upper-echelon playoff squad.

Olshey said that no matter what, his players are loyal to the organization.

"Like with (Damian Lillard), hey, what does it tell you about an organization and an owner that, when you are in a starting lineup from the day you walked in and 80 percent of (rumors say you're) not gonna return, and on Day 1 you sign (a contract extension) long term?" he said. "And then your backcourt mate (C.J. McCollum), who is another star in this league, never once said, 'I wanna go somewhere to run my own team and signed on.'"

- With h/t to Pro Basketball Talk

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