On Tuesday afternoon, Portland Trail Blazers GM Rich Cho joined Isaac Ropp and Jason Scukanek on 1080 The Fan's Primetime to discuss the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy's rehabilitation, the status of trade talks in advance of the deadline and the pile of injuries Portland has dealt with again this season.
Cho called Portland's string of injuries "uncanny" and admitted that he's been forced to adjust his initial outlook on this team's future. "There's definitely been an adjustment. One thing I mentioned at my [introductory] press conference, I got the question, I'm paraphrasing, 'How close is this team to competing at a high level?' I mentioned that this team is a couple of moves away from competing at a high level. But that was assuming Brandon was going to be healthy and Greg was going to be healthy too. So there's definitely some adjustments that need to be made. We just have to move through it."
Where has Aldridge's recent success come from?
"One: he really made a concerted effort to work hard this offseason. One thing we asked him to do is get to the free throw line more and that's one thing Coach Bayno and Coach Kaleb try to work with him on in the offseason. He's really taken it to heart and done a great job on both ends of the floor and being a leader on the court too."
Is Aldridge a new player now? Is he this guy going forward?
"Well, I think he's shown it to me. He's been great this last month and I expect it to continue. I think he's playing with a great degree of confidence."
Is Aldridge now the main building block?
"As Brandon continues to recover from his injury, I think [Aldridge] is the main building block of the team."
Roy's rehab status?
"He's going to start his rehab in a couple of days. He had surgery on both of his knees. It was basically a cleaning out of both knees. It went pretty well, it wasn't anything unexpected that came out of the surgery. There was some debris in both knees that they flushed out and cleaned. He's going to start the rehab process and go from there."
Planning for Roy's return?
"I think you have to kind of look at it both ways. If he does come back, what's the game plan? If he doesn't come back, what's the game plan? If he does come back and he's playing at this kind of level, what's the game plan? You have to look at all of those contingencies."
Roy's injury makes planning long-term more difficult?
"Well, it definitely makes it more difficult. One thing with any type of injury, you just have to plow through it. Every team in the league has injuries. We can't make excuses. One thing it does give is give other guys opportunities. Wesley Matthews has really stepped up in his place and played well, Nic has played well. Patty Mills has gotten some more playing time. And Rudy has done a good job for us."
Roy's contract makes planning long-term more difficult?
"Well, you know, it does make it more difficult because as you know there's a salary cap and a luxury tax. But you know we just have to work through it. I know Brandon is going to do everything he can to get back on the court and hopefully he will be able to get back on the court."
Praying that there's not a hard cap?
"I can't even talk about the CBA. Otherwise I can get fined. So I don't want to talk about anything in the new CBA or lockout. Like I said, every team has its challenges and this is just one we have to overcome."
Will we have a good idea what your plan is by the time the trade deadline passes?
"Yeah, I think you'll have a good idea. At the same time, it takes at least two teams to make a deal. We are looking at a lot of different ways to improve the team. I can't reveal what the plan is, or what direction we're going to go, but we do have a plan and we're looking to improve the team."
Is your phone getting hotter?
"It's getting hotter as the trade deadline nears. The trade deadline is next month, the 24th. As it is every year, it gets hotter as the deadline nears."
Are you re-evaluating training practices, treatment, your staff, etc. in light of all the injuries?
"Well, I mean we're definitely taking a look at that. Peel back all the layers on that. One thing you have to remember, too, Brandon had two surgeries before the draft and then he's had two surgeries after the draft. He's had two surgeries on both knees, they're all lateral meniscus related. I think it's sometimes easy to point fingers, say, at the training staff or medical staff, but people forget he had two surgeries before the draft. We're looking at a lot of different things, like I said, every team has injuries and I don't think it's productive to necessarily point fingers or look at different things. We're always looking to improve and we are looking at different aspects of everything."
But it's not just Roy. It's been a lot of knee injuries. Have you seen anything like this before?
"Well, no. It's uncanny, sure. There are a couple of other teams that had a lot of injuries last year, and a couple of teams that have injuries this year. I don't want to point names. But you know all the guys who are injured in the league. You can look at a lot of different teams. Again, it's just something that we have to go through, we can't feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses. And it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."
How much have you had to change your philosophy on this team since taking over?
"Well, there's definitely been an adjustment. One thing I mentioned at my [introductory] press conference, I got the question, I'm paraphrasing, 'How close is this team to competing at a high level?' I mentioned that this team is a couple of moves away from competing at a high level. But that was assuming Brandon was going to be healthy and Greg was going to be healthy too. So there's definitely some adjustments that need to be made. We just have to move through it."
It may be a couple of years before you get to where you wanted to be?
"Well, we have a great ownership group here and that's one of the things that really attracted me to the job. Mr. Allen has really shown a commitment to winning and, you know, there's not going to be any quick fix here. It's going to be a process and we're going to do everything we can to improve the team. It's not going to happen overnight."
How often do you talk to Paul Allen?
"I talk to him quite a bit. Through email and see him at the games."
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