Updated: Oct 13, 2018
Every year, NBA Media Day ushers in a new season. This year was no different. On Monday, we got our first formal opportunity to hear from members of the Trail Blazers organization. If you missed the interviews, no need to worry. We will recap everything covered, focusing on the Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts interviews.
Photo via AP
The Blazers General Manager opened up the team interviews on Monday morning, and one thing was made extremely clear: Olshey continues to be pleased with the development that the team has made. Olshey referenced multiple times to last season’s regular season success, and didn’t seem to put too much stock in the playoff sweep that knocked the Trail Blazers out of the playoffs. Olshey did recognize the competition of the Western Conference, and said that there is almost no margin for error. While he did say that there were things that the organization learned from the loss, when asked about factors that led to the upset, he seemed to believe that it was mostly due to a combination of the Moe Harkless injury, and a bad matchup against a New Orleans team that was better than their seeding. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the team’s slide in the last two weeks of the regular season, and alluded to making sure the team doesn’t lose focus.
As for the team’s offseason acquisitions, Olshey said that he tried to add impact veterans, but all of his targets ended up being too expensive for the team. The idea in adding Simons, Trent, Curry, and Stauskas was give the team more shooting and ball-handling. Olshey commented that previous off-seasons were dedicated to shoring up their defense, but it had come to a point where the team had capable defenders, but not many players take pressure off of Lillard and McCollum.
Finally, Olshey addressed narratives that have been trending, both within the team as well as league wide. First, he talked about the recent development of stars demanding trades and the continued development of superteams. As expected from an executive, he did not seem too happy about the constant dealings. The team felt as if it does not help the smaller and mid-market, who are already at a disadvantage. This transitioned into the narrative of winning vs. tanking. After Aldridge left, he felt it would be a disservice to Lillard, McCollum, and others not to give a concerted effort to win. He proudly stated that the team had been to the playoffs the past 5 years, and that many fans overlook that success purely because the team has not won a championship. Olshey reminded the media that Blazers still have one of the youngest teams in the NBA, so patience is necessary. To end the interview, he addressed what the strategy would be for the organization going forward. He gave an answer very similar to what the team has done in the past: building through the draft, player development, and finding players that can have their potential fulfilled within Terry Stotts’ system. Speaking of Stotts...
Photo via Don Ryan from AP
Coach Stotts addressed many of the same things as Olshey, and gave (surprise) very similar answers with those questions. However, Stotts dealt a little deeper into the strategy of the team this season, and gave his take on some of the new players on the team.
Stotts talked about changes that would be made to his system. The defense would stay relatively similar, but he plans to switch a little bit more. His bigger concern is maintaining the level of defense the team has had over the past season and a half. Offensively, Stotts took out some sets that he has had in place since his first year with the team, and threw in new situations that created more movement. Stotts stated that the staff was not happy with the fact that the team finished 30th in assists, so he is throwing in some new looks to get the offense flowing better.
As for the roster itself, Stotts echoed similar views as Olshey when it came to the additions over the offseason. A big takeaway was that these additions are in place partially to take CJ away from distributor responsibilities, meaning that there will be a battle for the backup point guard role, whether it be Seth Curry, Wade Baldwin, or Evan Turner. When asked about the rookies, he did not give any expectations to when or how much playing time they would receive, similar to last year with Collins and Swanigan.
Stotts also commented on a few of the player’s developments. Zach Collins will unsurprisingly get a much bigger role. The uncertainty is who his frontcourt partner will be. Stotts says this will be in flux early in the year, and will get chances to play in tandem with Aminu, Harkless, Nurkic, Leonard, and Swanigan until something figures itself out. His role will also change based on who he is playing with at the time. Finally, Stotts gave praise to how much Wade Baldwin and Jake Layman have improved over the summer. Both Olshey and Stotts seem high on Layman coming into the season, so expect him to get some early opportunities.
Moe Harkless said that he still is not 100% healthy and has not been cleared for 5 on 5 activity. Harkless is still recovering from an arthroscopic left knee surgery that was performed at the tail end of the regular season. There is no timetable on when he will be fully cleared medically.
No questions were asked about a potential Jimmy Butler trade, a popular topic among Blazer fans over the past week.
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