Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen met with a handful of media members at the Rose Garden on Wednesday before the team's season finale against the Golden State Warriors.
Here's a full transcript. Note: he trailed off a few times in his thoughts. Those areas are left as "..." in the transcript.
I think I said something before the season to the effect that this was going to be an interesting year seeing the young players develop. Certainly we've seen that from Damian [Lillard] in particular and Meyers [Leonard], Victor and Will Barton. We've brought in some good young talent to this team, later on, I'm going to give Damian his [fifth] consecutive Rookie of the Month award when the game tips off.
Although the end of the season has been disappointing, we've had quite a few injuries, it's always painful to miss the playoffs but we've had some encouraging progress. You have to remember a year ago, we were in a situation, a GM situation was in transition, the coaching situation was in transition so there was a lot of change from last year to this year, and it's been positive. We'er never satisfied with a losing season, it's painful to be on the outside looking in in terms of the playoffs.
Was the early success this season surprising?
I think everybody was a little surprised. For example, Damian is a better player than even we anticipated. ... That was good. The way the team gelled and played a different style, with more flow, more movement style of basketball. That was encouraging to see. Here in the latter part of the season our defense has not been up to the standards of what we want to have in the future. We're going to have to look at different ways to explore improvement there.
What do you want to accomplish in the offseason?
I think Neil [Olshey] has talked about getting somebody to do a better job protecting the paint, our interior defense needs to improve. More shooting, more depth. Depth is something -- we had a lot of young players, especially the international players, we didn't know what they could do, we knew they would add depth. Statistically, you guys can probably rattle off the statistics better than I can, our bench scoring is one of the areas that needs to be addressed.
How would you assess first years of GM Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts?
I think they are both doing a very good job. Obviously the end of the season, injuries can really get you. Wes [Matthews], Nic [Batum] and [LaMarcus Aldridge] having some issues. That can always -- especially when you don't have as much depth as you would like. I think you saw Terry institute that new brand of basketball to start out the season and I think compared to styles we've had in previous seasons, I think it's a refreshing, unselfish style.
In terms of what Neil did, we did very well in the draft, there's no question about that. I think getting Eric Maynor at the trade deadline, that was a nice move. We're positioning ourselves for the future with cap room, draft picks, flexibility. It's going to be a very interesting offseason.
Good. Doctors seem to think less is more sometimes, you can see the results on my face. Other than that, I have a few minor issues here and there but not the major stuff.
This year's draft is weak
It's funny, some drafts are definitely deeper than others. If your basketball staff is good, where we're going to be picking, you should be able to find a pretty good player. That's the challenge for them, they relish that challenge, they love it. I haven't watched the video of the players yet myself, I saw a few guys in the NCAAs, but I can't tell you who has the best shooting stroke, yet. You guys know I always enjoy that part of the season.
When will you start preparing for the draft?
A month-ish before. They've already given me some draft material, assessments of the players. Those guys do so much work on the road, statistics, talking ot the coaches and you bring guys in to scrimmage at the practice facility, it's a fun period for the staff and the fans who are following it too.
Sellout streak ends. Thoughts on fan support in the future?
I think our fan support this year given the mode of retooling or rebuilding, whatever, has been great. Chris McGowan is the new team president, executive. I think we're doing a better job of connecting with the community, getting feedback on how we can improve, everything from concessions to game production to every part that goes into viewing the Blazers. I've been heartened by the attendance. You always have some games if you're struggling and you're playing a team that's weaker or without their key players, but I think it's been great.
Financial situation of the team and progress on Rose Garden naming rights
I haven't heard anything new yet. I talk to people from time to time, listen to presentations but I don't think there's anything new on that front.
In the past we've had financial challenges, every year, some huge financial challenges in the past. when we weren't so focused on the financial side of things. I think now with the new CBA in place, all small market teams...
Staying out of luxury tax
Well, I'm not going to be a repeat offender with the multiplicative tax. That's something we'll try to stay, we'll be moderate, we're not going to be like the big-market teams that are paying the tax when they're in a championship window. People should understand, big markets have a huge local cable deal and can afford it when you're in a championship window, otherwise those taxes are so punitive they'll have their desired effect.
Sacramento versus Seattle
I think the league announced that there wasn't going to be a decision at this owners meeting. If there was, I'd be back in New York talking to people, forming my opinion. I think it's a tough call. While I supported the Sonics staying in Seattle when they ended up leaving, I think in general there's some feeling that if there's good fan support and there's good political support sufficient to have a state of the art facility, that's more than enough reason to keep a franchise in the same place.
Then you can get into all the parameters of who has made the best offer, who hasn't made the best offer. It's a very difficult thing. Steve Ballmer is a very good friend of mine and I think he would be a great owner. I reserve my final decision.
Expect lots of roster turnover this summer?
I certainly expect there to be some. I think given some of the areas we need to improve, there's definitely going to be turnover. We have a number of unrestricted free agents, so there's certainly going to be turnover, but that's part of what's involved in rejuvenating and retooling and building back up the strength of your team. It goes with that part of the process.
Still committed to owning the team?
That is correct in spite of strange reports from unknown places. I read some of [the story about exploration of a possible sale] then I got disappointed again. Secret meetings that never happened, I read enough to say, 'Not accurate. Extremely inaccurate.' Some of these things if you feel strongly about them, call my office, we can talk about them and get back to you. You can, you can, you can.
Naming rights, why go for them now? Have a change of heart?
No. In the past we had an alternative strategy of pylons that were supposed to be sold that were going to give as much revenue as some additional naming of the facility. I came up with the name Rose Garden. Believe me I have an attachment to it. With all franchises, you want the franchise to be in a positive financial footing.
Naming rights, whether it's 'Something something at the Rose Garden,' whatever transpires, if we find someone that's excited about it, that's part of putting your franchise in a good financial position so you feel good about making player movements.
I understand people's investments in a particular name. I tried to pick a name the Rose Garden that was something like the Boston Garden or Madison Square Garden, there was something in those names that appealed to me as having some permanence. We'll see what happens.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter