Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Portland Trail Blazers forward Sasha Pavlovic says all the right things during his first training camp with the team.
Sasha Pavlovic seems to have flown under the radar more than any other member of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first week of the team's 2012-13 season.
Despite offers from team officials, there wasn't any apparent interest from reporters in interviewing him on Monday's Media Day. That's not a total shocker. He's a deep depth chart guy who is only on the squad because he was throw-in to facilitate a sign-and-trade that sent guard Courtney Lee from the Houston Rockets to the Boston Celtics.
His is a strange fit in Portland. At 28, he's clearly not part of the developing youth movement (Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Nicolas Batum, etc.) but he's also not yet ready to embrace the in-the-shadows role of helpful geezer (Jared Jeffries and Ronnie Price). He's on a minimum contract so he's dealing with the lack of job security that comes along with that.
If that wasn't enough, he's been bouncing around for most of his 9-year NBA career and he's generally played for winners. He was a relatively key rotation player on the Cleveland Cavaliers back when LeBron James hadn't yet taken his talents and he was a spot minutes guy for the Boston Celtics over the last two seasons.
But wait, there's more. The Blazers have clear starting pieces in front of him -- Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum -- plus young guys (Will Barton, maybe Luke Babbitt, maybe Victor Claver) who could use minutes. Blazers GM Neil Olshey even committed to keeping third-year guard Elliot Williams despite a season-ending Achilles injury, theoretically putting Pavlovic to the front of the chopping block line should a roster spot need to be created. Then, the Blazers' one non-guaranteed camp invite with any sort of a chance to make the team, Adam Morrison, happens to play a similar position. Pavlovic is feeling it from all sides.
Taken together, that's a whole lot of unexpected uncertainty for a guy whose former team pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. One month, you're one win away from the NBA Finals. The next, you're in a position battle with a total washout just to maintain a roster spot on a team that is likely bound for the lottery. To his credit, Pavlovic seems fully ready and willing to roll with all of those punches.
During a brief chat with Blazersedge following Thursday morning's training camp session, Pavlovic admitted that the 3-team trade that brought him to Portland in July caught him off guard.
"I didn't really think during the summer time it was going to happen," he said. "[But] I knew I was going to be in the league somewhere. I was just happy to be in Portland. I remembered every time I played in Portland it was packed. That's what I like. Packed arena, I heard we've got great fans here so I'm excited to be here."
Being jettisoned by one of the NBA's best teams wasn't going to be cause for crying over spilled milk. Asked if he would have preferred a situation that was more likely to produce a deep playoff run than a lottery visit, he shook his head.
"I didn't really think about it that way," he said. "I go one day at a time. That's all I do."
Pavlovic was born in Montenegro. He spent this summer back home, as usual, and gave himself a month off after the Heat eliminated the Celtics in June. From there, he proceeded with 2-a-day workouts before arriving in Portland recently to join his new team. He admitted that he's still not clear on what his role is for this season but said he's approaching things with an open mind.
"We didn't talk about that yet," Pavlovic said. "We just started. We've got all preseason to go. We're going to see what my role is going to be. I'm going to try to help the young guys. I'm going to play as hard as I can defensively. I'm going to try to make open shots like I do my whole career. Whatever coach [Terry Stotts] needs from me, I'm going to try to do it."
He sees himself as a player capable of playing either wing spot but he feels his more natural fit is as a small forward. A career 34.9 percent 3-point shooter, Pavlovic isn't known for much else on offense, and he hasn't averaged more than 4.6 points a game during the last four seasons as he's struggled to find real playing time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets and Celtics.
Pavlovic has found quick respect for Portland's starting wings: Matthews and Batum.
"I think they're great players," he said. "They play two and three, both good shooters, good defenders, they are going to help us a lot this year."
But the opportunity for minutes is what continues to drive him. Asked for his favorite stop during the course of a career that has seen him play for six different teams, Pavlovic responded as straightforwardly as possible.
"As long as I played I was happy," he said. "Yeah."
So will there be an opportunity for happiness here? Or will he be moving on to his next NBA home shortly?
"I'm going to fight for minutes that's for sure," Pavlovic declared. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel like I was going to play but we just started working out. We're get to meet each other [as a team] right now. Still in the process. Too early to tell."