Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was interviewed by Mike Barrett, Mike Rice and Brian Wheeler on Monday night's edition of Blazers Courtside. Blazers guard Damian Lillard was also scheduled to be on the show -- an appearance teased throughout the show -- but was unexpectedly not available. Video of the show will be available on TrailBlazers.TV.
Here's a transcript of Stotts' interview.
How does the transition feel?
It's been very positive. I got my coaching staff in here, they are working with guys. We've got 10 players already that were playing today. It's a month away, well less than a month, but you just feel like everybody is in the gym wanting to get better. It's not a practice but we're able to do a lot of things with them, talk about the things we want to implement on an individual basis and give them some things to think about. It's been very positive.
With young team -- what's tougher, offense or defense?
I think coming into it, it's the whole picture. We're going to emphasize defense. Everyone likes the offense and I'm excited about the things we are going to do offensively. I really believe the success we had in Dallas, Rick [Carlisle] did a good job of putting the stamp on defensively. They were already a good offensive team. The emphasis is going to be on defense but it takes a little more time to put in the offense. We want to establish our defensive identity. The time that it takes to get a style of play offensively that everyone is comfortable with, knowing what I'm looking for, that takes a little bit of time. It's both sides of the ball and transition on both sides of the ball. That's part of the job.
Anything you can take from your fresh starts as a coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee?
Both Atlanta and Milwaukee, i came in with a new staff as a head coach, same thing in Dallas, same thing in Golden State when Mike Montgomery was a first year head coach. This is probably about the sixth time I've come into a new situation with a new coaching staff. How much new terminology to use versus the past terminology or what they're used to. The good thing is that we have a lot of young players and it's kind of a clean palette or canvas. We're going to be able to do what we want to do and they don't know anything different. Anything we put in is going to be new to them. When you come in you have some preconceived notions about what you want to do. As the season progresses and as you get to know your team, and they get to know you, you adapt and change and go from there.
Talk about your coaching staff
We kept Kaleb [Canales] and I was really pleased with that, as I mentioned in my press conference. He's an outstanding young coach and he's going to be our defensive coordinator. One of the things I took away from Rick in Dallas, whether it was Dwane Casey or Monte Mathis, having a defensive coordinator really gives a focus on defense, it lets the players know how committed we are to defense and I think Kaleb is going to do an outstanding job with that. The people in Portland know what kind of a coach he is.
Jay Triano has coached the Canadian national team, he was the coach of the Toronto Raptors, he has an excellent offensive mind. I'm looking forward to picking his brain. Much like Rick divided up offense and defense, I like our coaches doing everything but I'm certainly going to use Jay as a sounding board offensively. Like I said, he's the Canadian national team coach and he has a great reputation. I'm looking forward to working with him.
David Vanterpool is in his first year as a coach but I came across his name during the year I was out of coaching. I took a trip to study some coaches, Moscow, Panathinaikos in Greece, and Istanbul. The coach in Moscow was Ettore Messina who helped out the Lakers last year. He told me about David. He's going to be a a really good coach some day. The following year, Ettore hired him in Moscow. Later that same year, I met him at an assistant coaches clinic, where 20 former players were interested in being an NBA coach. I met him there, he was outstanding. I didn't know when he was going to be a coach but he came in now. I've really been impressed about what he can do on the floor. He's young enough where he can still play with the guys, which is kind of nice. He has the ear of the players. He's not that far removed from playing. He's been in the front office so he's been able to view it from a distance. I'm excited about what he can do this year and his potential down the road as a coach.
Kim Hughes is a former NBA player, he's been with the Clippers, he's been instrumental in the development of Chris Kaman down with the Clippers. He worked with Elton Brand. He's 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 -- he could be taller, I don't know -- he has a great way with big guys, connecting with them. He'll spend the majority of his time with Meyers [Leonard] but he'll be touching all the players, Joel Freeland, he'll be working with him.
Dale Osbourne -- I have my roots in the CBA, the minor leagues. Dale, after spending seven years at his alma mater in South Alabama, which I really respect having a college background, because it's a different kind of coaching in connecting with young players. But he's also spent 12 years in the minor leagues. To have the stick-to-it-iveness, the patience, the perseverance to stay in the minor leagues for 12 years and to excel. He's been a great assistant coach and he was a head coach last year.
What I'm excited about with the staff is that we have a whole spectrum, a broad range of backgrounds and expertise. They all like being on the floor. Player development -- hey, our best player, LaMarcus [Aldridge] is 27 years old. So there's room for every player on our roster to grow... We're a young team, one of the prerequsites was [these coaches] were going to be on the court working with players.
How tough will the West be?
It kept us up nights when I was in Dallas.
I really like what [the Mavericks] did with their roster. I'm kind of interested to see how that's going to work out.
The West is tough, the NBA is tough. Every night. That's one of the things people forget, every night out on the NBA court, you have a chance to lose but you also have a good chance to lose. You've got to bring it every night. The West is the West. It's been tough since I was in Seattle 20 years ago. Those teams that you mentioned [Thunder, Lakers, etc.] are all very good. My priority is that we're going to be prepared, we're going to compete, we're going to play hard every night. We're going to bring it every night. Whether it's Oklahoma City or the Lakers on opening night, it's my job to have the guys ready to play and compete. The results will take care of themselves. That's the priority.
What can you do with the players during September?
It is voluntary. This was orchestrated by LaMarcus. He texted the young guys, 'Let's get in the week after Labor Day.' I thought that was really some good leadership on his part. What we're able to do -- we can work with players, we can coach them 3-on-3. Anything more than three players has to be individual. We can't do 5-on-0 offense. When they are scrimmaging 5-on-5 I have to bite my tongue, just watch, sit on my hands, there are limitations on what can be done during this time. The fact that with so many new players, they're getting to know each other, they are lifting weights, they are doing conditioning drills and then they are playing. As much as we can do with them, within a group, is limited. But it's all been very positive.
What did you see in Damian Lillard?
Probably more than anything else, what I saw in the Summer League, I thought he had tremendous poise for a scoring point guard. He wasn't out to get his. I thought he had a very good sense of timing, of when to go for his shot, when to drive, when to pass, when to get someone else involved, when to get into the lane, when to shoot a jumper. I was impressed with his decision-making. His poise. Even though he was probably out to show people what he could do, he didn't give that impression, like, 'I'm from a small school and people don't know me, I'm going to show people what I can do.' He showed people what he can do but he did it in an understated way that really was very impressive.
I'm really excited. I've been fortunate to have coached or been on a team with Gary Payton, Sam Cassell, Baron Davis and Jason Kidd. Damian's a different type of point guard but the fact that you have a scoring point guard like three of those four that I mentioned. The balance of getting your points and involving your teammates is a fine balancing act. Jason Kidd was a pass-first guy, his points came afterwards. I was really impressed that he had the patience to not go and get his [all the time] but then get it when he wanted to or when he could.
Will Damian Lillard be overwhelmed by Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook in the first two games?
You'll have to ask him. From what I've seen, and I've spoken with him, I think he's going to go in every night ready for the challenge. I know he wants to be good and he wants the challenge. Looking towards those challenges, that's why he's in the NBA. He wanted to be this good. I think he's going to go in to every night, asking, 'What do I have to do tonight?' In the NBA, every night is a different challenge. I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to be looking forward to it.
Lots of free agency movement among stars. Do you get the sense that LaMarcus Aldridge is "on board" with the rebulding movement?
My conversations I've had with LaMarcus have been reassuring. He wants to win. Everybody wants to win. The way that we're going to play is going to be reassuring to him. The wins and losses will take care of themselves. The most important thing is that whether he sees, or the players see, or the fans see that we're going in this direction and when you see that things are going in a positive direction...
Oklahoma City wasn't looking too good when Scott Brooks took over, it wasn't looking very good. They were 2-21 or whatever they were. I'm not sure. That was not looking like a positive situation but it started going into a positive direction and you could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't think anybody foresaw how quickly they were going to get that good.
My point is that when you have a player like LaMarcus who is a stud, an All-Star and one of the best players in the league, and you bring in a Damian Lillard, who by all accounts we're hoping will go to that next level, what happens in the future? Nobody knows what's going to happen in the future but I think what's important for everybody involved, for everybody who has something at stake with the Blazers, is that you want to see that it's going in a positive direction, where you say it's going to be OK. Give it some time, it's going to be OK.
When you start chipping away at it and see it sliding, that's concerning for everybody, LaMarcus, me, Neil [Olshey], Paul Allen. That's part of my job and Neil's job, keep things going in a positive direction.
Using LaMarcus Aldridge like Dirk Nowitzki
I want to try almost everything that we did with Dirk, with LaMarcus, to get a comfort level. On the left block he's as good of a block player as there is in the league. A pick-and-pop shooter for a big man, he's almost on the same level as Dirk with mid-range. Dirk can take it out a little bit further, or at least he has. I'd like to expand his game a little bit. We would isolate Dirk at the free throw line, it's very difficult for guys to double-team in that area. It creates a problem. That's one area that we can explore with LaMarcus and expand his game in that way. He's 27 years old and can improve. He's already an All-Star and he can still improve. Stretching his range, I don't know if he's a 3-point shooter, but putting him in the corner, I think he can make corner threes. I don't necessarily want to emphasize that but he's capable of that.
When we got to Dallas, Dirk was primarily a right block player. Over the course of four years, it got to the point where he was comfortable on either block and during the course of a game, we would ask him, 'Which block do you want?' We didn't know because some games he felt more comfortable on the left than the right. I'd like LaMarcus to have that versatility. If we can move him around, the way I want to play 2-man game where the ball is moving and it swings to him and he's able to go on the weakside, he pops and it's a quick drive to the basket.
I think the way we want to play as a team is going to help him individually and when we want to get him the ball, depending on the match-up, have some flexibility. Whether it's the block, the free throw line, a ball screen, having a little guy set a screen on him when he's handling. A lot of different ways to expand his game and tweak it, and not take away from what he already does really well.
Using him and Damian the same way we used Dirk and Jason Terry has some possibilities. We talk about those two guys, Nic Batum and Wes Matthews have some versatility with their game. Improving their pick-and-roll game and their post-up game and their transition game.
Nicolas Batum wants to be in more pick-and-rolls
Part of that becomes there's a responsibility on his part. I can get him in the pick-and-rolls, the other shoe [has] to drop. For a 23 year old, he has terrific upside. He's been used primarily as a slasher, coming off screens for shots. With his size, pick and roll with him, if he's trapped he's tall enough to pass over the top. Him and Wes, I want them to improve their pick and roll because that adds to the versatility of our offense and it takes pressure off the other guys. I'm excited about the different possibilities offensively because Wes and Nic are good three-point shooters, they have good size, they cut well. We've just got to build on their strengths and improve the things they can do.
Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are good in transition
I want to run. One thing I want to make clear, mostly with my players and also with the fans, I do want to run but that doesn't mean we're shooting a shot on the first pass. If we've got a shot at the rim, if Meyers gets to the basket, if we've got a paint shot, if the shot comes off the pass, that's the way to play. We want to push it up and if we don't have anything, have the trust and confidence in your teammates, if the ball swings, and the guy who didn't get it on the first side knows it will come back to him on the second side.
We are going to push the tempo, I'm going to have our point guards push it up, and our wing guys will get out and run. I think our bigs, Meyers does a good job of running and LaMarcus is a very agile four man. J.J. Hickson is an athletic five man. I want to push, I want to play quick but I want to play smart. We're going to play quick but we're not going to be in a hurry... What we did in Dallas, ultimately, where these guys are in a flow, they have a good rhythm to the game without having to call plays but they know the ball is moving and they are playing off of each other. Teaching them how to play basketball that way is going to be part of my job.
Will Meyers Leonard be brought along more slowly than Damian Lillard?
In comparison to Damian, probably. I don't want to put any limitations on Meyers. I've been very impressed with what he's done this past week. Training camp is three weeks away so I don't want to have any preconceived notions of what Meyers will be capable of doing overnight almost two months from now. Like I said, I've been very impressed with him. I think it's safe to say that Damian is going to be our starting point guard. That's pretty much a given. Now, whether it's because big men take more time or whatever, I don't want to say today that Meyers is going to come along slowly. If he's ready to start opening night, he'll start opening night. To say that he's going to be the starter opening night, I think that's too early to say too.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter