Note: For contextual purposes, these comments were made prior to Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller telling Jason Quick of The Oregonian later Monday night that the Blazers had decided to announce that they will not use the Amnesty Clause on guard Brandon Roy unless he suffers an injury during preseason. At the time these comments were made, the Blazers were still refusing to say definitively that Roy would be back this year, although they used the word "hopefully" during the press conference and talked at length about how good he was feeling and how he might win back his starting spot.
Following a 20-minute long press conference with Miller and coach Nate McMillan, Acting GM Chad Buchanan took additional questions at the Rose Garden on Monday afternoon.
Here's a transcript of the remarks made that expanded on comments made during the press conference. All questions are in bold and paraphrased. Answers are word-for-word and in blockquote.
Timing of Amnesty decision: Mid-Level Exception vs. Mini Mid-Level Exception
"You have to look at the quality of the free agent class. It's not a strong free agent group. You have to look at where your needs are. Who fits that need? Who fits you if you want to commit a full Mid-Level to somebody, is that somebody you want on the two, three, four years if you go the full way out? You have to weigh that as well. We like some of the players we are speaking with in free agency, obviously they are not going to have a major impact at the number we are looking at, but we do feel like they can plug some of the holes on our roster. Having three million to work with versus five million gives you a little bit different caliber of player, but we also feel like we if we look at who is in the five million range, who is in the three million to minimum range, is there a major gap between those two? Obviously when you're in the tax, with Brandon, it's double whatever you pay for that free agent. But we don't feel like there's a significant gap in the five million dollar players at this point and the players we're looking at."
How long did meeting with Brandon Roy last?
"Probably an hour and a half. It was Brandon and his agent and Larry, Nate and I. It was a very good conversation. We both wanted to... Brandon wanted to see where we were at with him and we wanted to see where Brandon was at physically and mentally."
You interviewing him or the other way around?
"It was both of us putting it out on the table, where we see everything, where Brandon views himself, how was his offseason, how do his knees feel, where is he at mentally? Where does he view our team? Nate communicated where he views his role on the team, how he visualizes utilizing him, where we are at with our decisions with our roster, it was kind of an open forum between him and us."
Best thing you heard
"I could sense that Brandon obviously had a very challenging year. I think he's come in with a very mature mindset right now. Not that he wasn't mature in the past but he knows where he is at, he's going to learn how to maximize where he's at. He spent the offseason reflecting where he's at physically and how to maximize what he can provide for us and I think he's in a good spot where he wants to help us win. I think he's at the point now where he's financially secure and he wants to see our team make the next step and he wants to figure out how he can help us do that."
Has he crossed the mental hurdle?
"I think those elite players are always going to have a high sense of belief which is what makes them so great, which makes Brandon so great. I don't think that's ever going to go away but I think he has come to the realization that he has to find a little different niche to be productive for us and I think going through that last year was, like I said, a real challenge for him. I think he's been able to reflect during this offseason, where he's at and how to maximize what he has."
Why not just say 'we're not going to amnesty him'?
"I think we want to get all the information we can get from Brandon. We couldn't speak to him until today. We had no opportunity to even talk to people who have spoken to him. For us, we wanted to look him in the eye, see where he's at, get a sense of 'does he really feel like he can come in and produce for us.' And we came out of there with a very positive vibe coming from Brandon. We feel comfortable bringing him in and we're going to evaluate everybody coming in to training camp, where everybody is at, Nate is going to have to figure out who is ready to contribute. We've got some spots with our young players who are going to have to step up and I think that's where we are at right now."
Nate's message to Roy
"Nate just challenging him like he's going to challenge everybody. Nate has always had the philosophy to come in and earn your spot. He's going to give Brandon every opportunity to be our starting two guard. I know that Wesley Matthews is not going to just hand it over. I think that's going to be a really good competition for those two guys."
Why not announce it right now?
"You're going to evaluate everybody. In order to use your amnesty on somebody, somebody is going to have to come in there and just completely look like they can't contribute. I don't think Brandon is in that spot. We're going to evaluate everybody in camp. Our mindset right now is to not use our amnesty card at this point. If something were to change down the road, we'll consider it. But that's not in our mindset right now."
Do you realize you guys just raised expectations a lot with your comments about Brandon?
"I think, part of it is just reading on how Brandon feels about himself right now. I don't think we're expecting him to come in and be an All-Star. That's great if he is. I think Brandon understands where he is at physically better than any of us do. We know for us, Brandon, when he's right physically, he contributes for us. Even last year, maybe he's lost some of his lift and explosiveness, but Brandon is too smart of a player, he'll figure out how to contribute in other ways for us. That's what he went into this offseason trying to deal with and I think he's come out of it in a good place."
It sounds like barring a catastrophe Brandon is going to be back
"There would have to be a drastic change in where we are at right now or where Brandon feels he is at to have something be altered as to where we stand today."
Did you take reports that you had made up your mind to cut Brandon already personally?
"For us, it is [personal], because Brandon has meant so much to our organization. We know the quality of person he is, for us to not be able to defend where we are at, anybody is going to be sensitive. If Brandon hears that, obviously that's tough for him to hear. And we addressed that with him today.
"For us, we were kind of limited on what we could say publicly. We couldn't reach out to Brandon. We couldn't reach out to his agent until last week. That was the very first phone call I made to Greg Lawrence, [I] just expressed how we feel about Brandon and what he's meant to our organization and that no decision has been made on using an amnesty on anybody. So it was disappointing that you couldn't reach out and let Brandon know where you're at with things."
"Greg is in a great spot right now. His mindset. His recovery. Like I mentioned before we're not going to put a timetable on his return. We want him to feel completely comfortable, completely confident, he's getting information from the medical side... we'll let Greg determine when he's ready to come back."
Worried that Oden will bounce as an unrestricted free agent next summer if you don't make multi-year offer?
"There's a risk on his end and there's a risk on our end in all of this. That's something we realize and he realizes. At some point he does have to come back and prove he can be a productive player. I'm confident he will. I'm a big believer in Greg both as a player and as a person and his fit with our organization so I hope he's a Blazer for years to come."
Looking to fill out full 15-man roster?
"Not necessarily. I mean we're open to leaving ourselves some flexibility with 13 or 14 guys. I would anticipate us adding at least one free agent, which, if we still have Greg on the roster, that would put us at 14. There's some benefits to having that 15th spot open during the year, whether it be for an uneven trade, bringing in some 10-day contracts, saves you the [luxury tax] money. Where we're at right now, whichever free agent we sign it costs you two dollars for every dollar you spent on them. But I think right now, having that flexibility is definitely appealing to us."
Are you in the same ballpark dollars-wise when it comes to negotiation talks with Nicolas Batum?
"It's really in the infant stages right now. Obviously Nic is a priority member of our team moving forward. We view him as a priority piece of our core. I think addressing the free agency part of things is more important at this point because we have a little more time to deal with a potential extension for Nic. We'll have a chance to sit down with his agent face-to-face later this month and talk a little bit more in depth. We have expressed our interest in talking about something long-term with him."
Deadline set to extend Batum?
"We don't know for sure yet. We're assuming it may be the beginning of the regular season. But that's one of the final details that is being ironed out."
How is the free agent market shaping up compared to your projections?
"I think right now you can't put any offers out there. I think agents can give you ballparks of what they would like. But we can't talk any specifics. We try to project where guys are at in different tiers. Here's a guy who might be a max, here's a Mid-Level type player, here's a biannual. Early on, everybody is a little higher. Agents project them a little higher, agents project them a little higher than what they often end up getting. Obviously there's a few who end up getting what they project them at. As the week progresses, as we get to Friday, some of those numbers might come down a little bit. The guys who we projected in the Mid-Level range, biannual, minimum ranges are all going to fall in that general boat. There's always one or two guys who get more than you think. I think everybody would say that about Wesley last year. There's always a couple of guys who get a little less than you projected but often times they are veterans going to a team where they see they fit."
Are you targeting a five more than a four in free agency?
"I would say so. With Greg not out there, obviously we have more versatility of guys who can slide over at the four, Gerald can play some four, Nic can play some four, Luke Babbitt can play some four, Chris Johnson can play some four. I think if you can get a guy who you feel comfortable throwing out there at the five spot, that would probably be our preference. But if it's a guy who can play both the five and the four that's even better. That versatility is very valuable to us."
Sounds like there's a legit chance you bring Roy back, bring Oden back and bring back Joel Przybilla?
"We've targeted a few free agents and you can probably guess that Joel fits some of the things we're looking for. Joel is obviously... we know how he fits with us. I have a close relationship with Joel so, for me, separating friendship from business has been part of this whole free agency process, but I think Joel knows what the possibilities are out here for him and how we feel about him. At the same time, we've got other guys we feel are good fits as well, besides Joel, because you've got to be prepared for all scenarios."
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