Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts took questions at his team's 2012-13 Media Day at the Rose Garden's Fan Shop on Monday. Blazers GM Neil Olshey's address can be found here.
Here's a transcript of his press conference. Included below are some follow-up questions and answers in small groups.
General thoughts and expectations
My expectations for camp are: I'm excited about the possibilities. It's going to be a lot of defense early. Part of the expectations is me getting to know the players. The players and coaches getting to work together. A lot of new people. It's important, building the foundation of what we want to do this month and going forward during the season.
What more can LaMarcus Aldridge do?
That's one of the things I'm really excited about. LaMarcus has already proven he's a great player, an All-Star. He's a tremendous talent. At 27 years old he has room to grow. I think he can improve in different areas offensively that will accentuate what he does well already. He's the leader of the team. We have a young roster. The leadership mantle has been passed to him and I think he's looking forward to that responsibility and challenge.
Vision for using LaMarcus?
I'm not going to take away from what LaMarcus already does well now. He's a terrific low block player. He's a fantastic mid-range shooter. He's athletic, he runs the floor. I want him to continue to do all the things that's gotten him to the position he's gotten to now. What I would like to do is have him expand his game, put him at the free throw line area a little bit more, so double teams are a little bit more difficult to get to him. I'd like to get him going to the basket a little bit more. Get him at the free throw line, that opens up driving opportunities and positions to get fouled. He's an excellent free throw shooter and we've got to get him to the line a little bit more.
Judge this team only on wins and losses?
No, not at all. Like everybody, I'm going to judge this team by the way it competes. That's one of the things that players, coaches, fans and anybody who follows the NBA, the team is going to compete every night. If you're showing improvement, if you show that the team is going in the direction, it's playing a style of play that's fan enjoy, that the players enjoy, that takes care of itself. The wins and losses at the end of the season we'll evaluate but my number one concern is how the team competes every night.
My expectation is that he'll have a very good year. I think he's opened a lot of eyes already and he hasn't even stepped on the court yet. Summer League was a great experience for him. He's a confident, poised young man. He'll have some bumps along the way but he's going to have the ball in his hands a lot. He's going to have a lot of decisions to make. He's going to grow as a player throughout the season. My expectation is that he's going to be very good opening night and he's going to continue to get better.
Big transition for Damian Lillard?
I think with his background being a scoring point guard is a difficult role at any level. I've really been impressed with his demeanor, his knowledge, his desire to be successful. He knows he needs to score the ball for us but he needs to run the team. I know two former Oakland players, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, he's looked up to them. I was fortunate to coach both of those guys. I think he understands the balance of what it takes to be a great point guard. That's what he's striving to be.
Have athletes to play fast?
Without question. We've got three point guards who can all push the ball. One thing about playing fast, you don't need a point guard that's fast, you need a point guard that can push it off the dribble and pass ahead. We've got active big men: J.J. [Hickson], LaMarcus, Meyers [Leonard], they can run the middle of the floor. Wes [Matthews] and Nic [Batum] are terrific wing runners. I'm going to challenge our team to run. A lot of players say they want to run but it's a challenge to run and it's a challenge to run and play defense. I expect both from all of the players.
When I say I want to pick up the tempo, it does't mean we're going to lead the league in pace of game or possessions per game. What I want is to get the ball across halfcourt in 2 or 3 seconds, that gives us a few more seconds to play in the halfcourt. That doesn't mean I'm calling plays but I want the ball moving. We may pass ahead to a wing, he doesn't have anything, he trusts the weakside, the ball goes to him, he makes a play and another guy gets a shot. Our pace of play may be three or four passes, it's not going to be one pass, one shot. It's everybody getting involved in the offense early. If a shot is there, great, if it's not, we trust each other that we'll find a great shot.
Areas for Nicolas Batum to improve
What I like about Nic is that he's 23 years old and he's shown a lot of growth already. That's why we wanted him back here in Portland. I want him to be more than just a catch-and-shoot player. He's a terrific shooter. I want him to run the floor like I mentioned earlier. If we can get him more easy baskets by running and filling the lane, he's a terrific cutter, but I think at his position, and he'll play some 2 and 3, being an effective pick-and-roll player is going to be important. I don't need him to be a great pick-and-roll player but I need him to be an effective pick-and-roll player because that opens up options. Now the ball is in his hands, he can find other players. He's a willing passer. I'd like for him to evolve as a play-maker. A play-maker can be in transition, in the pick-and-roll, it can be the post-up. I don't think he needs to justify the contract that he signed, he's a fantastic player, he's going to go in trying to make the team better.
Expect team to fight for playoff spot?
No question. Everyone on the roster, our coaching staff, this is Day One, and we're looking to compete for a playoff spot. I don't know why anybody would think otherwise. The season will play itself out and we'll see where we are in April. Coming in, zero-zero, we're going to compete. Like I said earlier, the wins take care of themselves. I think it would be foolhardy that, no we're not going to compete for a playoff spot. That goes against the nature of any competitor.
NBA defense, basketball defensively in general, we need to get back in transition. Limiting easy baskets in transition. Our pick-and-roll coverage -- we'll show on most pick-and-rolls, cover the paint. One of the things I've changed over the years as a coach, my last four years in Dallas we improved every year defensively. The concepts we had that we instilled in Dallas, I'm going to bring those to Portland. Our pick-and-roll coverage, protecting the paint, limiting switching, just being solid, eliminating excuses, eliminating confusion, there are going to be nights where we need to make adjustments. We're going to have our core beliefs, our core philosophy, how we want to handle situations, and then we'll make changes depending on personnel, if a team is attacking it well that night. I'm a firm believer, in the first week of training camp, that's for putting in our core foundation defensively. Pick-and-rolls, pindowns, post-ups, transition, one-on-one, where we are sending the ball, all those things, so as the season goes on we'll have that base.
Stand-out moments from September workouts
I can't say that there was any big surprises, I was glad to see Joel Freeland and Victor Claver play because I hadn't seen them play in person. It was good to see them on the floor. I was glad everybody was in pretty good shape. Other than that, more than what I saw it was the camaraderie, they were playing hard, we were able to work with them a little bit. That more than anything else was the biggest advantage of everybody coming in early in September.
Describe your bench
Deep. Deep. We've got a lot of players who can play. We talk about how young the roster is and how they can contribute but Ronnie Price has established himself as a quality point guard. Jared Jeffries has been in the league for a long time. He makes players better. He's versatile, playing 3, 4 and 5. Sasha Pavlovic is another guy who is relatively young and has been in the NBA Finals. He's versatile, he can shoot, he can pass. We have the experience of those three guys bu we obviously have the youth of the roster.
We have our starters. Contrary to your article, the starting center position has not been named. The bench is deep. I think you're going to have -- I'm going to have a lot of possibilities. I'm anxious for October because a lot of those things would sort themselves out.
What to say to people who see young roster and think this will be a struggle?
I don't think true fans expecting disappointment, I'm an optimistic guy. I don't go into any season expecting disappointment. I don't think that's a good way to go through life.
This league is a struggle. I've been on 60 win teams and we had blow-ups. There's always moments in the season that are struggling, depending on how the season goes. Like I said earlier, as long as this team competes and comes out every night, I think the fans will enjoy, whether we win or lose, everybody wants to win, I'm not taking that out of the equation, but we're going to compete. When you compete, there's always struggles. That takes care of a lot of the questions in that area.
Nolan Smith: point guard or off guard?
Nolan is a basketball player. I got to see him, he got hurt in the Summer League. I think he's a very smart young man. I can see playing him together with Ronnie or with Damian. I like when we had J.J. Barea and Jason Terry in the backcourt that can be very effective. I think he's a good defender. I think that's one of the things that as the exhibition season plays itself out... you asked me [earlier] if someone stood out. I think Nolan, the way he came in, because he got hurt in Summer League, the way he came in and played, I thought he was really able to take some of the things we were working on and translate it to the game. I think he's versatile where he can play one or two.
Meyers Leonard's tearful video reunion with brother
I was touched by that. I didn't know the story. I saw the video and I sent it to my wife, she was in tears. You have an appreciation for military people that are protecting our country but at the same time, the impact it takes on loved ones. When you see a player or anybody at an emotional time or vulnerable time and how much those things affect people, I was glad they did that so people could see the human side of what some of these players have in their lives.
**** Follow-up questions ****
You mentioned that J.J. Hickson isn't necessarily starting at center. What's your message to the guys now or how do you handicap that position heading into camp?
The message is that I don't know who is going to start at center on October 31. That's why you have training camp, that's why you compete for minutes, that's why you compete for a starting position. J.J. -- I don't want to dismiss what J.J. did for the team last year when he came in. He had an impact on the game. He complemented LaMarcus, that was important. I don't want to dismiss that but at the same time there's a competition and October 31, we're going to start whoever makes the most sense for the team.
Meyers Leonard has shown enough to get heavy minutes?
Whatever the definition of heavy minutes is -- Meyers is going to be a contributor no question. He's played very well, his offense is better than I expected. Just like any young player, he's going to have to learn the nuances of the NBA game. There's no question that he's a contributor.
Indication from management or ownership that they would prefer Leonard starts from Day One?
LaMarcus Aldridge / Dirk Nowitzki
I think the main thing as a coach, no matter who it is, you want to put your players in a position to be successful. As talented as LaMarcus is, if we're able to put him in different situations and he's able to excel in them as well, now the other parts of his game get that much better. Dirk went through a growth. When they lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first round and [Don Nelson] had a double team scheme that he hadn't seen, Dirk loved from that and got better. That's something that LaMarcus will go through as well. We're going to put him in different spots, there will be scouting reports, they will make adjustments to that, but I really don't want to limit any of my players as far as what they can do. It's up to me to find ways to put them in positions where they can succeed.
Four roster additions -- expectations and chances
Adam Morrison, everybody up here in the Northwest knows him. He has a legitimate chance to make the roster. We'll go through camp and see what happens at the end of October. The other three guys are filling out our camp. We brought them here because they are talented young guys. The likelihood of them making the team right now would be difficult. We have a certain number of guaranteed contracts but there's also the possibility, since we have the Idaho Stampede now, there's a possibility that now they are in our camp, we have their rights -- except for Coby Karl, his rights are somewhere else. For Dallas [Lauderdale] and Demonte [Harper] they have a chance to get better for this month and possibly continue their career with Idaho.
Some fans upset you guys let someone wear No. 7
I don't even know who has it.
I didn't know about that. I didn't know about that.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter