The Portland Trail Blazers conducted 2013 exit interviews at the practice facility on Thursday.
There was a lot of ground covered, including updates on the futures of Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt and Elliot Williams, as well as comments from LaMarcus Aldridge that indicated he thinks it could be the 2014-15 season before the Blazers are ready to "really be serious" about postseason success.
Here's a digest version of the notes and quotes you need to know from what was a nearly five-hour long marathon of interviews with 14 players, coach Terry Stotts and GM Neil Olshey. Jared Jeffries did not meet with reporters because he was released on Thursday afternoon (explanation of Jeffries' contract terms is now included at that link).
This post has comments from the players. I know this is long but it has everything in one place. Interviews are listed in order of appearance.
A transcript of Olshey and Stotts' comments will be up on Friday. Thanks for your patience.
Areas for offseason improvement: "My outside shooting, continue to get stronger, always got to improve your overall game."
Summer plans: "I'll be here most of the summer, working out. ... I'll work out with the coaches here, work out with John Lucas in Houston, who I worked out with in the pre-draft."
Summer League: "I expect to play Summer League."
Grade for rookie season: "Probably a C. I feel like I've got a lot of work to do. I have to get better. I still have so much to do that hasn't been seen yet."
Weight: "I try to put on more weight but I feel like I can play at the weight I'm at now. I just did it. Keep getting stronger. [I weigh] 185. Next year, I want to come in at 190, 195, I don't want to come in too heavy. I'm a guy who likes to float around and get up and down in transition. Jump high, stuff like that."
Season: "I think it was good. We had a really young team with a lot of talent and I tried to be professional, play as hard as I can."
Health: "I'm 100 percent right now."
Future with Blazers: "I don't know anything. It's too early. The only thing I know is that I'm going to try to stay healthy this summer, get in great shape, I still have a few years left."
What type of team do you want to play for next year: "I don't really think about that. The only thing I know is that I'm going to keep working hard, wherever it is."
Summer plans: "I'm going to go back home, take a month or a month and a half off, then I'm going to start getting ready, get in shape."
Thoughts on season: "It's definitely tough to have a season like this. Overall, we've got some good pieces out of it. Damian is a big-time point guard, that's always good for us. These young guys should be better next year."
Whether he would recruit free agents: "If he needs it. I think offering Roy [Hibbert] the max really did it more than me calling him. I think us having the cap room should do it."
Rebuilding process: "I'm excited that it should go faster than everyone thought. I'm happy Damian is the player they thought he was going to be and even better. That makes the process go faster. Now if you add one or two pieces, we're good, and we can go back to the playoffs."
What he wants to add in free agency: "A big that clogs the paint, blocks shots, that's a real paint player. A guy that lives in the paint and eats rebounds for breakfast and dinner. Just plays hard."
Improvements to game: "I feel like I have more to offer. I feel like I can still get better. The elbow game got better as the season went on. That's going to be something that we work on this summer. Terry and I talked about it, next year I'm going to do that more. When teams double me on the block is better for us. Me getting better at the elbow isolations, me being better on the other block. I'm definitely a one-block player right now. ... Work on elbow isolations, work on the three-ball, work on being on the opposite block. I want to become an all-around scorer."
Where this team is headed: "This year was a down year. I think it was better than what people thought it would be, it ended bad. I think if we add one or two pieces this summer and we have one OK season, I feel like that following season we should be good, really good."
Different season with younger roster: "I've been through so many phases. I think it felt more like my rookie year, with Brandon [Roy] and myself, all the young guys. I had gotten used to playing with vets and you really take that for granted. Guys who understand the game, guys who know where to be and how to do this. I think this year was kind of an eye-opener for me. Trying to teach young guys be here, do this, do that. Just one of those transition years."
Timeline for improvement: "I think just getting into the playoffs isn't good. I've done that. I think one year of maybe, barely getting in or not getting in, and that next year we should be able to really be serious about it."
Future with Blazers: "That's to be determined. All I can do is control what I can control. That's play basketball. Let the front office and my agent handle that part of it. ... It's still to be determined. You never know what happens in the offseason with different trades and things like that. Right now I'm just sitting back, getting ready for the summer and let the cookies crumble where they may."
Want to return? "I definitely want to come back. This is the best season of my career. I think I've thrived in this system and playing under coach Stotts. Why not come back?"
Playing power forward compared to center: "I think anyone who knows basketball knows that's my natural position, power forward. This season I think I sacrificed a lot by playing the five. I have to thank coach for giving me the opportunity to thrive in his system and start."
Why did team defense struggle: "Lack of communication as a team. I don't think it was anything individually. Times where we had breakdowns, it was a communication-type thing, it was never anything individual with one person. Defense is a team thing and I think it should be kept as a team thing."
This summer compared to last year with no free agency drama: "It's going to be great, trust me. No more pressure, no more talk. I'm going to be free, my mind free. I'll be back here in June to work on my game."
What to work on? "Shooting, ball-handling, one-on-one. Create my own shot. You look at all the best small forwards in this league, LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin Durant, even Paul George, all those guys, when I guard them, they are the best one-on-one players in the league. That's the next step for me if I want to be an All-Star."
Defense this year: "I can do better. Can do better than that. I was talking to coach, and he said, that's maybe the only weakness I had this year, my defense. I have to do a better job."
Two years away from real playoff success? "I mean, maybe. When you watch OKC a couple of years ago, my rookie year, we beat them by 30 every time. The next season they made the eighth spot in the playoffs. One or two years, maybe. We showed this year that we beat good teams, we beat New York, Miami. We lost to Sacramento, Detroit, Washington. If we focus and practice, have a good training camp, we don't do the same mistake we did this year, I may be crazy but we could look out for the top-five next year in the Western Conference. That may be our goal for next year."
Future as a free agent: "My agent will take care of that. It will probably be a long summer. ... I would like to be back here. Coming here, getting used to playing here, I liked the fans, liked the organization. At the end of the day I would like to be here. I think it's a great situation. I was able to come here, get some minutes, help the team out, it's a great fit for me."
Want to start? "I want to play, be in a position to compete, with a team that's trying to compete for a championship. Not necessarily starting, I want to be out there, compete and get good minutes."
How important is money? "Everybody wants to be comfortable. At the same time, I want to enjoy where I'm going to play at. I'm not just talking about money, I want to be somewhere where I'll be happy, taken care of."
Areas of improvement: "I would probably just want to be more of a threat from three, shoot a better percentage. I shot it at a decent clip but I want to maybe shoot it better."
How close to playoffs? "We're real close."
Change of approach to managing injuries: "Missing a game, that streak I had was great, it was fun, but I think it opened my eyes to -- I have to take care of my body. There was times during that streak, who knows if I would have sat out one game or one day, this season could have been prevented in terms of injuries. Talking to vets, talking to Kobe, CP, Chauncey Billups, they're like, 'You have to take care of your body, you have a long career ahead of you.' I think I just took it for granted. 'Whatever, I can play through it, I can do it.' ... I've got to be smarter about it, that's me learning. This was my fourth year, I have to learn and grow."
Are you safe from trades? "I have no idea. I don't think anybody is ever safe unless they have a no-trade clause. Kobe and Garnett have those. I would like to think that I'm wanted here. I'm going to continue to work, I can't think about that other stuff."
Compare this summer to last summer: "We still have a lot of free agents, a lot of [open] spots. Last season you knew it was going to be a shake-up. This year, it's not so much. That may be beneficial."
Plans for the summer: "I'll be here. I'm not going to pay for a house and not stay in it. I'll definitely be here. I'll be visiting Oakland every now and then."
Favorite moment of season: "I'll always remember making the game-winner against New Orleans. I can remember at that point in the season, we had a couple games that came down to the last shot. Every time in the huddle I told coach give me the ball. I kept telling him give me the ball. I didn't really I was telling him every time we had a chance to win the game. I had missed three I think, then I remember against New Orleans, I didn't say it, we set up a play and the first look wasn't open. Once it wasn't open, I knew I was shooting it. When I made that, it was like relief, I finally made one. I'll never forget that."
Expectations: "Coming into this season, other people's expectations didn't matter to me because I had high expectations for myself. After this season, my expectations for myself are even higher for next season. ... I want to be an All-Star next season and I want to help our team make the playoffs next season. That's pretty much it. I want our team to compete at a higher level next year."
Bringing back Eric Maynor: "I think it's really important. Hopefully itw ill be him but if not hopefully it will be someone who had the impact like he did. Everything became easier for me, our team was better."
Summer League: "I don't know yet. If they ask me then I'll probably tell them that they want me to play but if not, I probably won't be playing."
Remembering accomplishments: "My grandmother is aware of everything I do. Any time there's a record or some kind of stat, she knows it. She will call me and tell me. I don't mean to act like I don't care about it, I care about it. It's a good thing but I let it go. She will get mad at me behind stuff like that. Maybe i do need to sit back and think about what I did."
Future with Blazers: "It's always an open door. It's obviously the greatest chances in the world that I'll be back but it's not a closed door either. I haven't talked to my agent about it. We really haven't had any conversations about next year. ... There's uncertainty with free agency. Just going to take it as it comes, there's not much for me to do. See what happens. This is my first time as a free agent, just go with the flow and listen to my agent. ... I haven't even talked to my agent since the season started."
Areas for improvements: "Defense, rebounding, expand my game offensively. Develop a consistent role beyond just a three-point shooter."
Did you get the minutes this year that you felt you deserved? "Everybody wants more minutes. Of course I wanted more minutes. I had a good role in the middle part of the season, we had success, I had success, we were rolling pretty well five games over .500."
Reflections on time in Portland: "It's been good. I've grown a lot as a player. There's been some tough times, some good. I really haven't even thought about it as a whole. My minutes have gone up and down this season. ... Portland has been great, I like it here. I'll think about that more if I don't come back."
Playing stretch four: "With me at the four, J.J. or L.A. at the five and other shooters. I think that was a pretty effective lineup, showed that in plus minus and wins and losses. I think it was good. ... I still don't think I played my best basketball."
What kept you from getting consistent minutes? "Stretch fours, you're not always going to use it as a steady diet. I'm improving as a young player, you're always trying to eliminate mistakes. Defensively, I might not be a guy to guard starting power forwards all the time if they are offensive-minded or great rebounders, that might limit minutes. The other thing is that we have L.A. That will always limit minutes."
Future with Blazers: "I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a free agent. They made that pretty clear. ... I think we can say that [I won't be back here next year] but I can't see the future. I don't know what they're thinking. We'll see what happens. ... They have a path that they want to go down and it's pretty obvious I'm not on it right now."
Desired situation: "Just playing. A playing situation. In this league, I've had a chance to watch a lot of games. Playing time makes a big difference, three minutes or 20 minutes, it's a big difference."
Twitter messages about fans and negative feedback: "Down the stretch, Twitter is Twitter. Fans and all those hecklers on Twitter feel like they can say whatever they want. We see everything, I see everything. Every now and then I'll ignore some of them but this is my business. If I feel like I want to say something back to them, what I'm doing, they have a lot of things to say, and I just want to let them know, don't worry about what I'm doing. I appreciate all my fans and love my fans. For those trying to say harsh things, I might know, I might not know, it doesn't bother me. That's why I said some things on Twitter towards them."
Summer plans: "In Durham, a lot of the Carolina pros, Kyrie [Irving] is going to be living in Durham with me as well. I'll be working out with him a lot."
Exit interview: "I was telling them that I love Portland, I want to be here. I've got to talk to my agent and we'll see what happens.
Did they say they want you back? "Yeah. They said they did. We'll see what happens. ... It's a lot to go into. My agent is coming in tomorrow and talk to them. I don't know the details, I'll know later."
Summer League: "I don't know yet but I want to play here. I'm pretty comfortable with the team, I know a lot of the young guys, it would be a good chance for me to get back going."
Do you feel like you've been tested this year? "To be 23 years old, I've seen a lot and been through a lot. I've been tested, I'm a real determined guy, I know I'm going to come back strong."
How close to 100 percent healthy? "In workouts I feel pretty good, it's just the strength in my left leg. One of my main things is explosion. I'm pretty explosive right now but it's not completely there 100 percent. Probably another month I'll be back to 100 percent. ... My Achilles is probably completely healed, it's just the muscles around it, you've got to get stronger."
How did season go? "Tough. I expected a lot more of myself. I didn't realize how much I had to learn about the game coming over here. ... I've been playing a certain way for seven years and that's not something you can just erase. I feel like I've learned a lot. I took a lot of strides in my career and now I know what to expect."
Summer plans: "I'm going to get back to work, might take a week off, but then get back to work straight away. I'm going to be in Spain until Summer League, come back here about a month before Summer League. .. There is National Team duty. I haven't spoken to them about that."
Confident you'll be back with Blazers? "Who knows. It's a business. I'll be ready for anything. I'd love to be back, I love this organization, I love my teammates, had a great year with no problems."
Finger injury: "I could have surgery if I wanted to, but I don't think I'll need it. It should heal with rest."
Did you enjoy season? "Yeah, 100 percent. It opens up your eyes. I come here from the European game. Little things like traveling, staying in hotels, it's a luxury. You feel like you can't take [things for granted. I've enjoyed learning the game again. I feel like if I wasn't making any progress I'd be really frustrated with myself but I feel like I'm learning every day."
Fitness improvement: "I actually lost like six or seven percent body fat this year. I went down from 13 to around about eight. I really want to be able to maintain the shape that I'm in and put on a little bit more muscle, that would be great."
Summer plans: I'll be here to train throughout part of the summer, participate in Summer League and then I'll definitely be going to [Tim Grgurich's] camp. ... I'm sure I'll work with Kim [Hughes] a lot as well as the other coaches. It's important to get variety to change the pace of your workouts."
Areas for improvement: "Defending the paint, blocking shots, rebounding, trying to be an anchor on defense. Then improving my game offensively. A lot of is mental, anticipating, being there at the right time."
Add weight? Possibly a little more. I don't want to bulk up too much more because I don't want to lose my athleticism and ability to run. But definitely get stronger. I'm about 250. [I'd like to get to] around 260."
Neil Olshey talks about finding rim-protecting center. Can you be that guy? "I do think I can be that guy. That's his job, that's what he has to do. Right now, I'm on a five-to-six month mission to be that guy, that's my goal. I do think I can be that guy."
Toughest guy to guard this season? "Probably Marc Gasol. He's very, very skilled, he can pass, he can shoot. He's smart. Knows how to use his body well, good footwork, plays the game the right way. I would say he's the toughest to guard."
Biggest defensive adjustment: "The 3-second rule, [playing] the 2.9 rule is what we call it. You have to cleanse yourself, or get out [of the paint]. Often times this year I wouldn't find a guy to tag in the middle of the paint. I'd have to cleanse myself and look back and I have Kevin Durant coming at the rim or Russell Westbrook coming from the weakside. Those guys are super athletes. It makes it much more difficult with timing and anticipation to get there and stop them."
Expectations: "My only expectation for myself is to be a starter. I'm not going to put any stats out there, I'm not going to say I want to try to be a top defensive player in the league. Nothing like that is going to be accurate sitting here today. I definitely need to work as hard as I can, which I will."
My recorder ate the audio from Claver's interview but the highlight was easily his t-shirt.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter