Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard addressed reporters for the final time this season at the Practice Facility this afternoon. Pritchard appeared calm and light-hearted and he sounded reasonably confident that he would remain in his position through the draft process. Pritchard did hedge a little bit on his long-term prospects but repeated his desire to remain with the organization.
Over the course of 15 minutes, Pritchard was asked about a number of topics, including his end-of-season thoughts, whether Rudy Fernandez has requested a trade, Nate McMillan's future, Nicolas Batum playing in the Worlds, Victor Claver, this year's draft class, this year's free agent crop, Jerryd Bayless's positional fit and, of course, his role with the organization going forward.
Click through for the full transcript.
Nate McMillan also addressed reporters today. His comments coming later today.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
I'd like to announce 3 trades. I'm kidding. Don't even put that on any blog or anything like that.
Thanks for coming, guys.
You know as I look back at the season, I was trying to figure out one word that sort of captures what we went through and the season and I would say: resilient. I felt like this team was very resilient and every time you thought the team was knocked out or we had a couple of losses, or a loss, we came back. As a manager you always want two things out of your team. Number one is to fulfill whatever potential that they have. And I think we did that. And then to continually grow. And I thought a lot of players got better. We know we've got a lot of work to do but overall I thought we were very resilient. I think that's a credit to our players, a credit to Nate and a credit to the organization but it was a fun year, it was a challenging year. But we were very resilient and I'm proud of that. I'm really proud of that.
You talked with the players?
We had exit meetings yesterday. I feel like you treat each player differently but somewhat fairly. You have to sort of customize. Some went a little longer than others. But overall they were really good, they were very good. I think we grew more than we knew and hopefully that will take hold and we'll continue to get better. That will be our challenge, to come back better next year. I think we all have said this. We all have to look in the mirror. Specifically me. And figure out how we all can get better individually and as a collective group because we know we are playing at a different level. We're not judged by making the playoffs, we're judged by how we do in the playoffs.
What specific areas do you think you need to improve on?
The thing I would tell you is this: our nerves are still a little raw. We are still reeling from the loss. I want to get away for a little bit and then get everybody together. I think we've made our best decisions when we sit in a room and debate. Sometimes it's pretty heated but that's the way we like it because we all have so much respect that we can speak freely. I want to give it some time, I feel like we need some time, but we're not afraid to make changes, that's for sure.
Do you have confidence that you'll be the one making the decisions?
I certainly hope so. I have not been given any other indication. I can only control what I can control. And right now personally I'm working on getting ready for the draft, I love the draft, it's one of the things I think we've done pretty good. Mike [Born] and Chad [Buchanan] are preparing and now we're getting our arms around the draft.
I hope so. That's the way I'm approaching every day.
Did Rudy Fernandez ask for a trade?
No, he didn't ask for a trade. I could tel though that he was upset, he wants a bigger role. I've said this all along. We like players that want to expand their role. We don't want players that settle. There's a right way and a wrong way of doing it and I believe Rudy will do the right way.
Rudy was upset by losing. He wanted to play better in the end of the season. I know that he can play better. For us to go to the next level we need that. We need him to play well and be that spark that he's been. He's a heck of a player when he's right. And we need to get him right.
He would definitely be ready for training camp. He's coming along just fine. There's normal up and downs with every recovery. But he was in there today, he worked really hard and he's done anything we've ever asked him. I know he'll continue to do that.
Have you spoken to Mr. Allen about your status?
Uh, not specifically about that. But we communicate all the time.
Have you had your review?
For me personally? No. I haven't.
Can you imagine a scenario that you wouldn't be here and how the fans would react?
It sounds like baloney but it is the truth. We have the most amazing fans and I think the proof is this. At the end of the game against Phoenix when we were going down, our fans stayed. They stayed till the very end. That's a special relationship that this community and this organization has and I understand how important that is. I relish it every single day. It's something we're very lucky to be apart of.
Can you imagine a scenario where you wouldn't be here?
I hope not. I hope not. I don't control that.
Is it your goal to be business as usual this summer?
Well, I'm getting prepared for the draft. I'm going to do that just like I've attacked every other draft. Soon after that, be prepared for free agency. And I'm going to do that. I'm not going to do anything different than I have in the past.
Do you expect Nate back as the coach next year?
No doubt. There is no doubt. Nate is a great coach. He has a command of the game. He's an unbelievable worker. Just like everybody in this organization, we have to look at ourselves and get better. We all have to get better. We're not judged by making the playoffs anymore. Expectations are higher. We have to improve ourselves. Nate is amazing at that. He's willing to look in the mirror and say I need to improve in this way. And he sets the tone. I hope I'm a part of that tone and realize we all have to get better.
Reaction to the "Don't Ditch Pritch" fan movement
Humbled. Again this is an amazing place and I'm honored to be a part of this organization. I know I wouldn't have this opportunity if it was't for Mr. Allen and specifically Nate and Tod and Larry. This is amazing organization. Don't lose sight of that. There's amazing people that are dedicated and humbled to work here and do everything we can to make the community proud. At the end of the day that's what we want. We want to win at the highest level and we also want to make this community proud, make our owner proud. I think we've done a pretty good job. We need to improve though. I need to look in the mirror and I have to get better. And I'm willing to do that. I've made some mistakes but I want to do better.
Concerned about Brandon's durability?
Concerned but no more than any other player. Brandon is as healthy right now as he's been. Knees look great. His body looks good. We'll always have to monitor that but I'm not anymore worried than otherwise I would be.
How sick are you of having to answer questions about your job status?
I guess it's part of the job. I'm not sure how much part of the job. I'd rather be focused on other things. To be honest with you guys, I've sort of put that to the side. I'm going to do the best I can for this organization until they tell me I can't.
Describe the draft class
I think it's pretty strong. I think there is going to be a lot of maneuvering. I think a lot of teams will be looking at free agency first before the draft. Which may throw a new loop. You guys know me, I'm a little bit of a contrarian, I try to go where others aren't. Maybe the draft will be a good place to be.
Free agent class is stacked.
It really is.
Is there anything in there that you have your eye on?
Not without tipping the other teams off. I'm sure you can appreciate that. It is a good class. Can we get involved I think is the question. We might be able to. But you have to have a lot of things happen. We're open to any possibility. I think that's one of the big things this year. I've told the managers -- Chad and Mike -- let's keep an open mind to everything.
You said you have made some mistakes. Can you elaborate?
Batum playing in the Worlds
First of all, we don't have the authority. Because of the NBA and FIBA rules he can play. I know he expressed that he wanted to and the one thing I would tell you is that I thought he got better last year. I thought he came back unbelievably confident. I think there's this balance where you don't want him to get hurt but you also as a young player want him to get better. I salute him and his efforts to play with that French team. The one thing he said was, "I think we're gonna be pretty good."
Your understanding is that he will play
I think so. I don't think it's final but I think he's leaning towards that.
Victor Claver to stay overseas for another year
Ultimately it's his decision. He can come over any time. I think he's getting very close to being prepared. Him winning the Cup newcomer of the year is basically like the Rookie of the Year over there. I know he's a talent. I like him as a player. I think he is growing with his team but we're open to either possibility, him staying over or coming over.
Do you see Bayless as a point guard?
Um... well you know a lot of people will say Brandon is not a point guard. But I think... I think the guy in this league is that you have playmakers. I don't box guys in to any one position. I think Jerryd is a playmaker. He showed in the playoffs that he can handle the ball, get to the rim, he can get fouled. If I'm not mistaken I think he had close to 3 to 1 or 2.5 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. Not a pure point guard but he's sliding more that way than ever.
Do you foresee small changes or big changes?
Again, I want to be open to all the possibilities. I think it's still a little too early. I want to talk to the coaches. I want to talk to our players again. Be open to everything.
Is this offseason more important given the rise of Oklahoma City and coming off the injuries?
It always like that. I can tell you when we won 21 games it felt even more important. Are the stakes higher? They always are. Every single year it seems like that they get higher. I feel like this: if we would have been healthy this year I think we would have been a 55+ win team. I think we would have been a dangerous out. I thought we were. I think our guys were resilient. And we're going to have to improve and we're going to have to find ways to improve on the court, off the court, everywhere throughout the organization.
Sense of unfinished business?
Look we're not happy about losing in the first round. It's frustrating but it's also tough because I'm watching the playoffs now and I think we can compete with those teams. Given a full slate of players, everybody healthy, we're not afraid of other teams. We respect the heck out of everybody in this league but we're not afraid.
Any specific focus on offseason improvement
If I was going to say anything it would be, first of all, we need to get away from it. Things are still a little raw. We're going to need to get away. You have to be mentally tough to win a 7 game series in anything. First round, second round, or in the Finals. I feel like our guys are moving towards that but we need to make the next jump. I still stick with: we need to be tough. We need to have a tough team mentally.
Have you spoken with Nate one on one?
I have. I talk to Nate everyday.
No we haven't done that. Last year it was over at my house over a bottle of wine and I'm sure it will be like that this year.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter