With the Trail Blazers season tipping off today in Phoenix against the Suns, it’s time to wrap up the offseason by looking at where every player on Portland’s 15-man roster from the perspective of what they’ve accomplished during training camp and what the Trail Blazers will need from each of them in order to have a successful 2013-14 campaign.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: LaMarcus Aldridge battled a few minor injuries during training camp, which kept him out of three of Portland’s seven preseason contests, but it hardly seemed to matter. When Aldridge did play, his performances were dominant yet effortless, signaling that he’s reached the point of his career in which the run up to the regular season is more about building chemistry with his teammates than anything else.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Aldridge, who named as the team’s only captain this season, will be asked to be Portland’s dominant force in the post, both on offense and defense. The addition of Robin Lopez takes considerable pressure off of Aldridge at the defensive end, but with JJ Hickson, who averaged 12.7 points on 56 percent shooting last season, now in Denver, Aldridge will need to increase his scoring average, albeit marginally, to give his perimeter-oriented teammates room to operate.
Secret Scout: “Aldridge’s scoring versatility makes him a matchup problem. He has the ability to be a major headache in the low post, but he can fall in love with perimeter shots to the point that he’s letting the defense off the hook because he’s so big and talented. He’s a very capable shooter, but he has to be more of a physical presence, a guy who is willing to go down and battle in the post.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Remain one of the best, if not THE best, power forwards in the NBA. Aldridge is smack-dab in the prime of his career and Portland will need him at his best on a nightly basis if they’re to end their playoff drought in 2013-14.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: After a summer traveling through China with fellow adidas athletes and lining up alongside the best young players at the Team USA Mini-Camp, Damian Lillard entered training camp in Portland with all confidence you would expect from the reigning and unanimously-selected Rookie of the Year. He finished the preseason Top 5 in scoring and, like Aldridge, looked capable of doing most anything he wanted whenever he wanted while playing in all seven of Portland’s exhibition games.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: You can pencil Lillard’s name in as Portland’s starting point guard with the most permanent of inks. After playing in all 82 games as a rookie and leading the NBA in minutes played while doing it, Lillard enters his sophomore season as one of the future superstars of the NBA, which is how the Trail Blazers will need him to play in order to fight for a spot in the postseason.
Secret Scout: “Lillard was so good as a rookie that he kind of spoiled you. But there is room to get better as a playmaker and defender. He has to improve at breaking down defenses, getting to the rim and getting to the foul line. There’s also room to get better as a leader, to make sure as the quarterback of the team that guys are in right positions. But what a great way to start a career.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Build on an impressive rookie season by scoring more efficiently while improving defensively, both of which have been areas of emphasis this offseason for the Oakland native.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: After a summer of playing in Europe with the French National Team, which culminated with France winning their first European Championship, Nicolas Batum entered training camp in great shape and brimming with confidence. Suffering a concussion one game into the preseason schedule kept Batum off the court for 10 days as he went through the NBA’s mandated concussion protocol, but if there was anyone who could miss a significant portion of training camp, it’s the guy who spent a month playing against high-level international competition.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Batum has been the Trail Blazers’ designated “do a little bit of everything” player since his second season in Portland, though various nagging injuries have slowed his development since he came into the league as a lanky 19 year-old. This season, in addition to being Portland’s premier wing defender, Terry Stotts has looked to Batum to find a balance between creating opportunities for his teammates (he averaged nearly five assists per game last season) while also making plays for himself. Batum is capable of filling both roles, as well as the stat sheet, and in many ways his maturation in the second year of a five-year contract will determine Portland’s fortunes in 2013-14.
Secret Scout: “There’s a tremendous amount of room for Nicolas Batum to grow. He played very well in the first half of last season, but he had some injuries that really nagged him down the stretch and affected his performance. But I don’t think he’s even entered his prime, at age 24, because he’s still learning as he plays. He’s always been able to make three-point shots, and he’s so athletic that he can make plays in transition and finish at the rim. What he has developed lately is the ability to come off screens and shoot and also the ability to post up. And on defense, this is a 6-8 guy who’s long and makes an effort, so all the skills are there to become an impact defender.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Stay healthy while proving he is the third piece of Portland’s core that Neil Olshey has pictured him being since matching a restricted free agent offer from the Timberwolves during the 2012 offseason.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: For the first time in maybe his entire life, Wesley Matthews took some time off this summer to let his body heal. After having a PRP injection in his right ankle and arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow, Matthews was forced to dial back his legendary offseason workout regiment. And during training camp, Matthews experienced an irregular heartbeat during practice, forcing him to miss the final preseason game against the Warriors. But in true Matthews fashion, he was cleared and back on the court by time the team returned from Oakland.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: While Matthews has developed a reputation for being a “three and D” guy, as in, a player who is a rugged defender who can also shoot three-pointers at a better-than-average percentage, he’s quick to point out that he’s not going to be pigeonholed as a player only possessing two useful skills. But with the additions of Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and (when his broken foot heals) CJ McCollum, Matthews’ most valuable trait will be his defensive prowess.
Secret Scout: “Wesley Matthews is a very well-rounded, professional player. He can make shots, score off the dribble and defend shooting guards and small forwards. For a guy with only four years of experience, he has some maturity to his game. With Aldridge, Batum and Lillard, the Blazers don’t necessarily need a fourth or fifth guy who can score 20 points a night, but Matthews can do it if called upon.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Fill in the gaps in the starting lineup. As the Secret Scout notes, the Trail Blazers won’t need Matthews to be the high scorer every night, but knowing he can be is invaluable for Terry Stotts.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: After a 2012-13 season in which Portland’s interior defense was all but nonexistent, the arrival of Robin Lopez, acquire from the Hornets in a steal of a deal that required the Trail Blazers to give up rookie center Jeff Withey, a future second-round pick and cash considerations, changed the entire dynamic at training camp. Defense was almost the entire focus during the run up to the regular season, something that was made possible largely because of Lopez’s status as a defense-first, paint-clogging center.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Is it too obvious to just go with “defense” here? While Lopez’s task of being Portland’s last line of defense won’t be easy, it is all he’ll be asked to do as a Trail Blazer. He instantly improves Portland’s interior defense simply by stepping on the court, and even the threat of offensive production (he averaged 9.1 points per game during the preseason) will force opposing teams to think twice before putting their biggest defender on Aldridge, which was not the case last season.
Secret Scout: “Lopez was a solid pickup. He is by no means an upper-echelon NBA center, but he is at least a legit center. He has size and can hold his ground as a defensive presence in the low post. He will rebound, he will block shots and he complements Aldridge significantly better than J.J. Hickson did last season.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Defend the paint, stay out of foul trouble and hit every shot he takes within five feet of the basket. Anything else is pure gravy.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: The last-minute surprise addition of Mo Williams via free agency was the cherry on top of Neil Olshey’s already impressive offseason transformation of Portland’s bench. Lineups consisting of Williams playing alongside Lillard were some of Portland’s most fun to watch throughout Portland’s preseason schedule, if for no other reason than it was a medical-grade breath of fresh air having a competent ballhandler who could also score coming off the bench.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Williams will serve as Portland’s super sub, running the point with the second unit while playing off the ball at times, particularly in lineups with Lillard. He might not start, but it would not at all be surprising to see Williams on the court at the end of games. Terry Stotts’ offense has always prominently featured the three-point ball and the addition of Williams all but ensures that Portland will set a record for three-pointers taken and, hopefully, made.
Secret Scout: ” I would not be surprised if Mo Williams ends up playing off the ball alongside Lillard quite a bit and Watson ends up playing a lot of the minutes behind Lillard as point guard.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Williams is another Blazer who has fought injury issues over the last few years (he missed much of the 2012-13 season with an injured thumb), so staying healthy, especially until CJ McCollum is able to return, is paramount for Portland’s playoff hopes.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: Dorell Wright dislocated his right middle finger early in training camp, so he didn’t make his Trail Blazers debut until the fourth preseason game, which he started in place of Nicolas Batum (concussion). That didn’t keep Wright from developing camaraderie and chemistry with his new teammates, who have praised his veteran leadership and sense of humor during training camp.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Much like Mo Williams, Wright serves as a significant upgrade over anyone coming off Portland’s bench last season. He stated when he signed as a free agent that he knew he was coming in as a backup, a role he has no problem filling. Fourteen of his 22 shot attempts during preseason were three-pointers and that ratio isn’t likely to change once the regular season begins, nor should it.
Secret Scout: “Dorell Wright, like Williams, is another guy who can make shots and certainly is a significant upgrade over their backups at the wing positions last year.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Hit the corner three at an above-average clip and play solid defense while Batum is on the bench.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: Portland’s 2013 training camp served as a reset for Thomas Robinson. After a rookie season that saw him drafted fifth overall by the Kings, only to be traded four months into his career to the Houston Rockets, who then traded him to Portland during the 2013 offseason to clear cap room to sign Dwight Howard, Robinson was in need of a fresh start. He performed well during Summer League and has worked with Portland’s coaches on emphasizing his most useful skills, rebounding, while cutting out the rest.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: As long as LaMarcus Aldridge is healthy, Robinson will remain as Portland’s backup power forward, though it is possible he sees minutes in a smaller lineup featuring Aldridge playing center. While he would probably like to have more of a role on offense with the second unit, his role is that of the typical NBA “garbage man,” meaning he’ll be called upon to work the boards and get shots primarily off offensive rebounds. He finished second on the team to Robin Lopez in rebounds during the preseason, which is a great start to what the Trail Blazers are hoping is a long, prosperous and cost-effective relationship.
Secret Scout: “Thomas Robinson was a great low-risk, high-reward pickup… Robinson has some challenges to overcome: He is a little undersized for his position, he doesn’t play above the rim and he gets a lot of shots blocked. He has trouble finishing around the rim. But because of how hard he plays and his potential as a rebounder, I’d take that gamble that Portland made every day of the week.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : The player everyone thought he would be coming out of Kansas. And on the flip side, Robinson needs the Trail Blazers to be patient with him as he rebuilds his confidence.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: The team has preached patience when it comes to Meyers Leonard since he was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, so it was somewhat perplexing (at least to this reporter) that the reaction to Joel Freeland beating out Leonard for the backup center position in training camp was met with so much surprise. Terry Stotts noted that Leonard had improved, particularly on the defensive end, but that it was more about the performance of Freeland in the preseason than anything regarding Leonard’s growth as a center.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Regardless of where he’s at in the rotation, Leonard’s role is the same: improve defensively, crash the boards with reckless abandon and shoot only when absolutely necessary. While Freeland is Robin Lopez’s backup going into the regular season, there’s no guarantees that will be the case come season’s end. Whenever Leonard’s number is called upon, and it will, he has to be ready.
Secret Scout: “The Blazers are going to be banking on improvement from center Meyers Leonard, their second lottery pick from last year, after Lillard. They’re going to want him to push Lopez for playing time at center or, at the very least, not produce a big drop-off when he does play. He showed glimpses as a rookie, particularly on the offensive end, where he displayed some shooting range and finishing skills, but he has a lot to learn. He was pretty raw coming out of college.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Continue to make incremental improvements, particularly defensively, and prove that it is he who should be second in line at the center position.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: After a rookie season that couldn’t be described as anything short of dreadful, Joel Freeland rededicated himself this summer to finding his NBA niche, so much so that he sat out playing for Great Britain during EuroBasket 2013 in order to improve his chances of cracking Portland’s rotation. That decision paid off, as he’s been the most improved, let alone surprising, holdover from Portland’s 2012-13 bench unit.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Freeland won the right to backup Robin Lopez by selling out on defense at every possible opportunity during the preseason. That’s what Terry Stotts will be expecting from him in the regular season, especially since every minute Freeland plays is a minute that Meyers Leonard isn’t being developed. Any let up in effort or willingness to sacrifice his body for the good of the team could result in demotion, so Freeland will be expected to give everything he’s got every second he’s on the court.
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Prove he’s an NBA-caliber big man who is worth playing over Meyers Leonard.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: In a training camp that was overwhelmingly positive, the one truly sour note was CJ McCollum once again breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the same injury that ended his career a Lehigh in January of his year.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: McCollum’s role will depend on how fast he can get up to speed after his foot, which was treated with a non-surgical ultrasound procedure, fully heals. Challenging Wesley Matthews for the starting two-guard position wasn’t entirely likely to begin with, and after the injury, that seems like an even longer shot.
Secret Scout: “When rookie CJ McCollum returns from his broken foot, he should be a guy who can play either guard spot and make some shots. Because of Williams’ presence, McCollum won’t face as much pressure to be that guy right away. But he has the potential to help them in the near future.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Be patient while his broken foot mends. He’ll surely be anxious to get his professional career started, but his long-term health must take first priority.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: Earl Watson was signed to help teach Portland’s young guards what it takes to make it in the NBA while playing a little third-string point guard when necessary. He played just 12 minutes during the preseason, sitting out all but one game with a calf contusion, but at age 34, Watson’s value comes more by way of his presence in the locker room than from his on-court production.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Watson could conceivably be called upon to play backup point guard minutes should anything happen to Damian Lillard or Mo Williams, but his role is really more of a mentor to the likes of Lillard, CJ McCollum, Will Barton, Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson. In what could very well be the final season of his career, Watson, a 12-year veteran, will probably look to transition from playing to coaching, which seems like a logical next step for a player who Neil Olshey has described one of the best leaders he’s ever been around.
Secret Scout: “Earl Watson knows how to run a team from the point and has some savvy.”
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Act as a leader both on and (primarily) off the court, while teaching Lillard and McCollum the tricks of playing perimeter defense in the NBA.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: After starting at power forward and playing a prominent role on Spain’s National Team this summer (they finished third at EuroBasket after losing to France in the semifinal), Victor Claver has had a hard time finding minutes at either forward position during training camp. The addition of Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson almost ensure that, unless there’s an injury to either player, Clavers minutes will be extremely limited.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: Claver showed spurts of promise and confidence at the end of the 2012-13 season, but there’s only so many minutes to go around. It’s possible Claver sees situational minutes (it could be argued he’s a better defensive option against stretch four’s than Robinson) but at this point, he’s on the outside looking in.
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Work hard in practice and remain ready should his number be called.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: Before CJ McCollum broke his foot, one could have been excused for assuming Will Barton would be the odd-man out of the shooting guard rotation. But with McCollum out until at least January, Barton has the chance to prove he deserves minutes behind Wesley Matthews. The way Terry Stotts has allocated Barton’s minutes during the preseason (Stotts started Barton against the Warriors only to sit him for the entire second half) signals that Stotts is willing to give the second-year wildcard from Memphis a shot, but for a limited time.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: For whatever limitations he might have shown his rookie season, Barton was one of the few players coming off Portland’s bench in 2012-13 who played with the confidence one needs to cut it on an NBA court. That was enough to get him spot minutes last season, but it won’t be the case this season.
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Find a way to harness the energy and confidence that makes him a useful player while limiting mistakes and playing within the system.
The Takeaway From Training Camp: At the start of training camp, it looked as though Crabbe might find his way into the regular rotation. He drew praise from Terry Stotts for playing heady defense early in the preseason, something that seemed to bode well for a player primarily known as a three-point shooter coming out of Cal. But a bout of gastroenteritis that kept him out of practice for a week seemed to rob him of whatever momentum he had going into the end of the exhibition schedule.
Role For Trail Blazers In 2013-14: The Trail Blazers sent two future second-round picks to Cleveland for the rights to Crabbe, who was taken with the first pick of the second round of the 2013 Draft, so they’re likely willing to be patient as he acclimates to the NBA game. Missing much of training camp hurt Crabbe’s chances of cracking the regular-season rotation, but if he can knock down the outside shot and play passable defense, it’s possible he finds spot minutes at both the two and three.
The Trail Blazers Need Him To … : Stay patient while he waits for his opportunity.
(All secret scout information taken from Sports Illustrated’s Trail Blazers preview)
With Portland’s playoff run now over, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard now has some free time on his hands to pursue his off-court interests. He’s already hit up Oak’s Park for some late-night rollerskating, attended a Portland Thorns game at Providence Park and welcomed his old buddy Tim Frazier back to town. And today, we know he’s back in the studio making music.
In a re-launch of the “Music Monday” feature that he started last offseason on his Soundcloud page, Lillard, or to be most specific, “Dame DOLLA,” has posted a new track entitled “Talk To Em” featuring V.I.P and Bozzle (who I think are Lillard’s cousins)…
One of Dame’s verses…
They glorifying goofballs, I’m salty as Utah
When you real they uncomfortable, plotting for you to fall
Man I’m changing up the game, forget about the politics
I stick my neck out for my loved ones, I’m like an ostrich
A lot of love around me you haters keep doing opposite
I’m really incompetent to taking many compliments
That sounds about right. Previous “Music Monday” releases from last year include “Soldier In The Game,” “Full Stomach,” “Why?” “Free Bands” and “The Villains.” Then there’s non-Music Monday releases such as “I Wish I Could Tell You,” “Heatwave,” and “They Sleep,” which, like “Talk To Em” was produced by Jahlil Beats, who also produced, among other things, the Rick Ross/Meek Mill hit “Ima Boss” and that Bobby Shmurda song whose name I can’t put on this blog. And of course, there’s “Bigger Than Us,” the video for which currently has roughly 750,000 views on YouTube.
A happy Friday the 13th to all of you loyal podcast listeners. Before everyone goes their separate ways now that the offseason is here, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net and TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio one last time to record a season-ending edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we attempt recap the series versus the Warriors, which ended in five games with a 125-121 loss at Oracle Arena Wednesday night, and the season in general, discuss the lasting effects of the playoff run and the respect that they earned from around the league due to their performance and look forward to some of the questions the Blazers will have to answer in the offseason, particularly in regard to free agency. And as always, we finish up by answering your Twitter-submitted questions on topics such as the culture the Trail Blazers have developed, (more) free agency, exit interviews and favorite moments from the just-completed season. It’s been a fun one.
Less than 12 hours after being eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers returned to their practice facility in Tualatin to meet with the coaches to discuss offseason plans, clean out their lockers and take questions from the media one last time before starting their vacations.
Here’s the audio and a few quotes from Terry Stotts and the players from today’s exit interviews…
On the 2015-16 season…
“Like I said last night, this has been a special season. This group of players, what they were able to do individually and collectively, our chemistry was really good. We had good guys, they got along, players and coaches. It means a lot and it goes both ways. It was a joy. I think players enjoyed coming to work every day and I know the coaches and staff did, too.”
On whether this was his most rewarding season as a head coach…
“No question. This was an extremely rewarding season because it kind of played out the way we wanted it to. And we’re not talking about the record or the playoffs, everything was about growth, improvement, getting better throughout the season and being better at the end of the season. I think we did that individually and collectively and from a coaching standpoint, that’s as pure as it gets. That’s what coaching is about. You don’t get to experience that very much at the NBA level.”
On whether he expects anyone on his staff to be interviewed for various open head coaching positions…
“I hope so. I can’t say enough about how good my staff is. I think Jay Triano and Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool are all ready to be considering for head coaching jobs. I think they’re all prepared to do a great job as a head coach depending on whatever a team is looking for. I hope they get consideration because they’re all very deserving.
On many of his teammates deciding to stay in Portland during the offseason…
“That means a lot because I stay here every summer. I’m used to coming in here like ‘I wonder when everybody else coming back to town,’ you know what I mean? The trainers are here, the coaches are here and it’s an empty gym. And even after the game last night, on the plane, I started getting worried already. I was sitting on the plane like ‘Man, we had some success this year, it was unexpected it was no pressure. Next year people gonna expect a little bit more’ and I started to get worried about too many pats on the back. ‘They weren’t supposed to do this but they did that.’ I started getting worried, but we don’t have those kind of guys. We’ve got hungry guys, we’ve got humble guys that work hard. We had a taste this season as a young group of how well we could do and what it takes. We lost to a really experienced, championship team. That makes me happy to hear that so many guys are going to be here working out in the summer because that lets me know that they see how close we are and they see how important it’s going to be going forward.”
On free agency and having a say in the process…
“I’m pretty sure they’ll communicate what the plans are with me, but like I’ve said in the past, my job is to be a good teammate, to make sure I put in my time and become a better player and that’s what I’ll do. They ask me my opinion on something, I’ll give them my honest opinion, but I love all the guys that we have on our roster now. I think going forward, if we continue to grow together, we’ll be a good team. Obviously it’s a business and rosters change, players make decisions for themselves, so when that time comes, we’ll see what happens. But when they come to me ask for my opinion or what I think about something, I’ll tell them what I think.”
On what he’s looking for as a restricted free agent…
“Any pay raise is going to be significantly higher than what I’m making now. But like I said earlier, it’s just situation really for me. It doesn’t make sense to make a lot of money and go to a team that, if you don’t fit that system, then get paid a lot of money to be frustrated? That doesn’t make sense to me. The culture here, it’s great. I know this organization well, I know the system, know the coaches, players. It’s just real comfortable here. I wouldn’t mind being here, I really wouldn’t. It’s really just coming down to situation and how I can continue to improve as a basketball player.”
On head coach Terry Stotts…
“Definitely think he should get an extension. I feel like everybody here knows that he should get an extension. He’s done a great job with this team. It’s really hard to put into words what he did with this group because nobody expected us to do what we did. Even from Day One, even through the games where we were 11-20, seven-game losing streak, he never folded and he always told us it’s all about trusting the process and we stuck with that throughout this whole year.”
On spending time in Portland this offseason…
“I think, for one, it doesn’t rain a lot in the summer, so that helps. Just being around the facility, 24 hour access, you’re able to get a lot of things done without a distraction. You go home, you go to certain cities, you either got to pay to get in the gym or you’ve got to worry about people interrupting you while you workout. I go back to my high school but sometimes I’ve got to just like lock the door so I can just workout and not have to worry about certain interruptions because you can’t get through a full workout when people are coming in, talk to you. It’s meant to be a compliment to you, it’s hard. So I think it helps that here, you just come in, the doors are locked, you’ve got your finger scan, you workout when you want, the weather is nice. You’re paying rent here anyway, so it makes sense.”
On the camaraderie of the roster and the changes that might be in store…
“I think we had a really unique group. They did a great job of putting together like minds, young guys who are easy to talk to. Nobody is really arrogant or overly cocky. We’ve got some ignorant guys on the team that you guys guys know who’s outlandish with his statements. I won’t put him out there, he knows who he is. Besides that, we all got along well, everybody spoke their minds, nobody was afraid to say certain things. If somebody played bad, if somebody wasn’t doing things the right way, you could address it and nobody would frown or look at you the wrong way. So I like the way our team is put together, I like the work ethic everybody had. This is one of the rare teams where you could hang out with players off the court. Everybody’s got their friends, but I could hang out with any one of the 15 guys off the court and be perfectly comfortable, eat dinner, et cetera… We’ve got a really good unit and a lot of guys made themselves some money this year, a lot of guy’s prices went up. Hopefully we can rekindle the flame, but if not, we had a good run, we had a good year together collectively and wish everybody the best of luck in the free agency process.
On how he’s approaching restricted free agency…
“To be honest with you, I haven’t had a real concrete conversation with my agent about this. I wanted it to be, right now, about my rehab and about supporting the guys, being there however I could, I guess more from an emotional standpoint, for the team. I certainly wish I could have been out there. With that being said, I’m sure we’ll talk within the next couple of days about how we’re going to really approach this, the timing of things, I suppose what teams are interested, what teams would maybe like to meet in person. I don’t have a concrete plan at this point. Restricted free agency, it gets a little hairy, it takes time, teams maybe don’t want to tie their money up. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of it. Like I said before the season when I didn’t accept an extension, I’m confident in where I’m at. It’s my agent’s job to present whatever he has on his mind and what’s on my plate from that side of things. My job right now is simply to rehab my shoulder, continue to work on my leg strength, which is a huge focus of mine for this summer, and just figure out different way in the weight room or out here, even simple things as ball handling, just trying to improve as a player and as a man.”
On why he’s going to spend much of the offseason in Portland…
“I’m coming back to Portland just because went through all that rain, got to enjoy some of the sun. I like it here. I’m renting a spot, so I’m just going to stay here. I like Todd (Forcier) and BK (Ben Kenyon) and those guys, so definitely going to put a lot of work in in the weight room. It’s always good vibes here so I don’t think guys want to get away. Some teams, you want to get away just because you don’t like certain people. It’s not like that here. I enjoyed being here so that’s why I’m going to stick around and do most of my training out here.”
On the realities of keeping a roster with multiple free agents together…
“It’s going to be tricky with all the salary cap stuff going on. I think a lot of the guys who are free agents definitely raised their value. I think everyone did. You never know. I hope all those guys get paid well, I think they will. They deserve it. You just never know with free agency, who they go after and things like that, but I hope everybody comes back, but that’s not really realistic. It doesn’t really work like that in the league. I just tried to enjoy that time yesterday because I’ve been around a little bit and I know how the business side of things work.”
On his mindset going into the offseason…
“This summer is big for me, become more of a scoring threat. I think there’s a lot to be added. I look forward, if the opportunity is there, to come back to have some stability from a staff perspective. I would look forward to coming back to a similar situation from one season to the next. I’ve played for three coaches in three years, so I think that would be something I’d look forward to as well… Once you’ve been traded, you never know.”
On being a restricted free agent…
“Free agency is something I haven’t really thought about. I’ve tried not to think about it during the season and we just finished yesterday, so it hasn’t really been on my mind yet. It’s something that we’ll have to think about soon.”
On his first season in Portland…
I loved it. It was by far the most fun season I’ve had. These guys here are great, the organization is great. I really, really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing what happens this summer.”
On his first season in Portland…
“It’s the most fun year I think I’ve had as a pro. We had a great group of guys, high character guys, silly guys and it was a fun year. That’s without even being on the court. On the court, we had a special group. We came together halfway through, really made it a special year all the way until last night when we’re playing against the champions, gave them all we had. Played a tough series, obviously it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to, but it’s a year we’re all proud of.”
His thoughts on entering free agency and what he’s looking for…
This is my second time doing it and it’ll be a little different than the first time. I think getting a taste of what this year and this postseason was like and how much fun, how competitive it is, I think, number one, being on a team that’s a winning team. It’s obviously tough to get on one of the elite elite teams, but that could be a possibility. That could easily be a possibility here. Being on a team that is about winning and that’s a good fit for me.
On his first season with the Trail Blazers…
“It was an amazing journey of growth. We grew a lot throughout the season, personally and as a team. It was just fun to be a part of it.”
How he looks back on the season in terms of enjoyment…
The season was great. Any time you have guys that are the same age, it just makes it a lot easier to get along. It’s easy to have relatable points, different things like that. A lot of us are going through similar things in our careers so you get to relate on that note. When it came to comfortably in that sense, it was just unbelievable. And then I think that’s why the chemistry was there as well. Even our vets and the older guys like Chris Kaman, they were a joy to be around as well. From top to bottom, everybody was kind of in that same wavelength of what they were trying to do. It just made it easy to get along.