Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey introduced point guard Mo Williams at a Rose Garden press conference on Thursday. The Blazers announced Williams' signing Thursday morning after reports Wednesday indicated that he agreed to sign a two-year contract for $5.4 million.
The condensed version...
- Williams said that picking jersey No. 7 had "nothing to do with Brandon" Roy and that his top-three jersey number choices -- 25 (Earl Watson), 2 (Wesley Matthews) and 5 (Will Barton) -- were already taken. Williams' son suggested No. 7 because there are seven people in Williams' family (Williams, his wife, and five kids).
- Williams is looking forward to filling a familiar sixth man role and said that he chose the Blazers even though he had the opportunity to start elsewhere, in part because of his established relationships with Olshey (who was his GM with the Los Angeles Clippers) and coach Terry Stotts (his coach with the Milwaukee Bucks). Both Williams and Olshey referred to Williams as a "sixth starter."
- Williams, who has a player option for 2014-15, expressed hope that Portland might be a place where he could play for an extended period of time as he progresses through the rest of his career.
- Olshey said that All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge was "really excited" by the addition of Williams.
- Olshey said that "guards win games" and that Portland's perimeter-heavy roster somewhat mimics his former team, the Clippers, and aligns with league-wide trends.
- Olshey praised Joe Cronin, the organization's salary cap guru, for helping construct the summer's order of operations that added Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez and Dorell Wright while still preserving the cap room mid-level exception for use on Williams.
- Olshey said that the roster is now "set" with 15 guaranteed contracts in place and that his summer is "done."
- Olshey said that he believes Portland's improved depth should translate to better team defense as well.
- Following the press conference, Olshey addressed trade rumors surrounding Aldridge.
Here's a full transcript of the press conference.
Neil Olshey: "Thank you guys for coming. I know it's summertime and everyone should be out enjoying the weather. It's a really big day for us. The signing of Mo concludes what we think was a very productive and effective offseason in terms of building what we're trying to build here.
"I want to thank Mo's agent, Mark Bartelstein, the diligence and committment to Mo, to make sure that he put him in a good situation. The number of hours he and I spent on the phones, going over roster compositions and rotations and fit for Mo just showed how much he cares about Mo and his clients, and making sure they're in the right situations.
"As some of you guys reported, Mo and I go way back. Our relationship actually predates either of us being in the NBA. We're clearly very comfortable with each other and there's definitely a level of trust. I think he's happy to be here and we're thrilled to have him.
"He brings a skillset that I think takes us to the next level, pushes us into another threshold. His ability to score, his ability to facilitate and his ability to lead are key elements in what we're trying to build here. He's going to be an integral part of that going forward."
How excited are you to be here in Portland?
Mo Williams: "I'm very excited. You go into this free agency, in the perfect world, July 1, you want to be done. You want to have a team, you want to be done. But you really respect everything a GM and an agent has to go through to get players where they should be and where they can perform their best. That's one thing I want to say for my agent and also Neil and Terry [Stotts], those guys played integral parts in bringing this thing to life. It's been since July 1, since opening day, it was a long road to get here, there were a lot of things that happened, but at the end of the day, we sit here today, from July 1, our goal was to come together, and it happened. I'm glad it happened.
"I like everything Neil is doing here. I saw it from afar from last year. When we talked, he was really, really passionate about making the playoffs and he knows the type of player and person, first and foremost, that I am. That winning is really important to me. That's why my decision took a long time, I wanted to make sure I was in a position to win.
"That's what I see here. That's why I came here. I feel like I can be a piece of the puzzle for this organization, for these young guys. Looking at [LaMarcus Aldridge], I know he's not a young guy, he wants to win and I know these other guys on the team want to win. There's nothing like winning. If I can come into an organization like this, the fan support they get every night. When I come in as an opponent, an away opponent, and I see a non-playoff team is sold out, or damn near sold out, that's impressive in my eyes. All those thoughts came to mind when I had to decide where I wanted to go.
"What took the cake was the trust I have in who Mr. [Paul] Allen put in this front office, and that's Neil, and the head coach in Terry. Me and Terry go back also, the Milwaukee days. I'm very comfortable in my position here, I know that I'll be the sixth man, I'll be very comfortable in my role. I know that I'll provide everything that Neil and Terry will tell you guys that I bring. And that's what I'll bring, and more, to be honest with you."
Any hesitation in wearing jersey No. 7 knowing that Brandon Roy wore No. 7?
Mo Williams: "To be honest with you, that question kind of caught me off guard. Me picking my number had nothing to do with Brandon. I've been number 25 all my life if you guys didn't know. My email has 25 on it, to this day."
Neil Olshey: "Don't give them your email."
Mo Williams: "But to say this, it has nothing to do with Brandon. I've been 25 all my life. When they called me and said what number do you want, I said 25. They said 25 is taken. Alright, I was 5 last year, let me take 5. But 5 was taken. I was 2 in Cleveland. I'll take 2. But 2 is taken. Alright, put 2 and 5 together -- then I asked my son.
"I have an 8-year-old son, I asked him, 'What number you want me to be, son?' He said, 'You know what, Dad, I like 7.' I said, 'Why do you like 7?' He said, 'Well, there's 7 of us. It's you, mama and there's five of us [kids].' I said you know what, 'We'll take 7.' That's why the 7 happened, that's why 7 is going to be the number this year."
Your relationship wtih coach Terry Stotts
Mo Williams: "Me and Terry, it's funny, how we sit today and that I am a member of the Portland Trail Blazers and I'm here again working for Neil and playing for Terry. This situation and relationship goes back far.
"I remember me and Neil having a conversation. He knew that I had played for Terry. Just like any GM, they've got to call around and check, just like any player. He called around and checked, just to see how our relationship was with Terry. Something as simple, something so minute that you wouldn't think it was a big deal. That was a conversation we had.
"To be in a position to full circle around, to play for Terry, which I had tremendous success for playing at a young age, it's only going to be better with experience and I don't think the way I played with him in Milwaukee will be different. When I played for him in Milwaukee, I was in a sixth man role. The season I played for Terry was the season that T.J. Ford came back and was the starting point guard so this is familiar territory for me and Terry.
"To be honest with you, it's familiar territory for me and Neil. When he brought me to the Clippers, I was in this role. That's one of the reasons I was comfortable coming here, because we all know how this situation would pan out."
At what point are you in your career?
Mo Williams: "I just want to win. I want to win. I had opportunities to go start. That's the funny thing about the situation I'm in. I had a situation to go start but I felt like this organization is on the rise. I felt like I'm in a position in my career where I still can be a major piece to a puzzle for a team. I didn't want to wait until I was 36 or 37 years old and start a reserve role and just kind of give leadership at that time.
"At this point, I still can be very, very valuable to a team. You can look at me as a sixth starter of sorts. This league, you play a lot of games, you play a lot of games. Some nights, guys aren't going to have it. Some nights, guys are going to be sick. Knock on wood, the worst thing could happen.
"Depth is very important in this league as we've seen with the teams that have won it the last few years. Depth is very important. You've heard Neil talk about it all last year and I'm a guy that reads you guys' writing a lot. One thing he wanted to do is bolster the bench and I'm here to fill that void."
How will you fit into this team?
Mo Williams: "I mean, I'm going into my 11th year of my career, I am who I am. The player you saw last year, the year before, I'm not going to diminish. I'm only going to get better. The player you know I am, or think I am, or have seen, that's who I am. I'm not coming here to be nobody different. I'm not coming here to say I'm going to turn into LeBron James overnight. I'm going to be Mo Williams and I'm going to give this team what I can. Because I'm here, I'm not going to be the savior, I'm not saying that by any stretch of the imagination.
"I'm a piece and I'm a valuable piece, and that's what I'm going to bring to this team each and every day. I'll bring leadership, that's one trait that I have, and I feel like I would be doing these young players a disservice if I don't use this veteran leadership that I do have. That's one thing I'll be focused on more so than anything. Showing, especially young kids, like a Damian Lillard, showing them the tricks of the trade. He's still young.
One thing about it, when I was a young player, I'll say my second and third year when I was in Milwaukee and I was playing a lot of minutes, one thing I wish I had was a veteran point guard that I played with that was 10 or 11 years [of experience], that's been good, that could teach me the ropes. That's one thing I told myself, if I ever get in that position, and I'd do that anyway, but if I ever got in that position, I would definitely help, unselfishly help, the young kids and help them grow and get to the next level. The more we can grow our game, the more we can get young kids to grow in the right direction, I think they can do the same to the next young group that comes up.
"That's more important in a situation like we're in right now. We're on the edge of making some noise. We can get these young kids to learn how to win, learn how to compete, learn how to come to work every day. That's more important than anything."
You've had some big games at the Rose Garden as a visitor. What do you think it will be like to play in the building with the crowd behind you?
Mo Williams: "Well it's always fun to have the crowd behind you. I relish playing on the road. I love adversity, and the road gives you that. To be a good team in this league and to be a playoff team, you've got to win road games, you've got to be comfortable on the road. That shows what type of team you are. That gives a lot of credit to how you prepare and the things you do to get those wins.
"The road is important. I think that's why I get up so much for road games. I do pretty well in road games, Portland's not the only place, I've got good statistics on the road. I was joking about it, but Portland was one."
Did getting traded twice in the last four years change the way you viewed the league?
Mo Williams: "It didn't change the way I viewed the league. I'm not the only person who has been traded twice in four years. You look for stability and you look for a home, first and foremost. That's any player. The more you play in this league and the more you understand the business side of it, and you kind of roll with it. You can't hold your head and wish this and wish that. You look forward to the situation that you're in and I look forward to this situation.
"This is a great situation, and this is a situation that could be something for the long run. I think that if both sides come together and are excited about where we're at, this thing could be as long as I can run and dribble a basketball. That's the goal wherever you go. Obviously, the business side of it comes in, but you just continue to go to work. Just like you go to work every day, I do too. No matter what happens, if you have a job the next day, you continue your normal routine. If something throws you a fork in the road, you kind of try to maneuver around it and stay on track."
Is the roster set?
Neil Olshey: "You guys know Paul, if we could get to 16 [players], he'd want to do that. Look, I think we're set right now. We had kept one roster spot open. We've talked about my relationship and Terry and Mo, Joe Cronin deserves a lot of credit today too. We had a very complicated July 1 and June 30. His ability to manage our cap and navigate the sequencing that was necessary to basically do all of the deals we needed to do and preserve our room mid-level is why we have the opportunity to have Mo. I think we did that.
"We had gone in anticipating having 14 [players], I like that flexibility. When opportunities arise like this or uneven trades prior to something like this -- I think right now, we've got 15 guys, everybody was brought here for a purpose, we built our roster without jeopardizing any long-term flexibility, we can compete today.
"We've done a pretty good job of building our asset pool with younger players that have value around the league and have a chance to grow with the organization and we also have a nice mix of veterans, guys like Dorell [Wright] and Mo, and guys like Earl Watson who are natural leaders. I think LaMarcus [Aldridge] is going to take a big step forward in terms of leadership. He's really excited about this signing as well. I think we're done and I think now we get to the fun part, guys coming back, getting into Portland, getting into the gym, working out. Kind of seeing how it's all going to work.
"Thomas [Robinson], CJ [McCollum] and Meyers [Leonard] are heading to coach [Tim Grgurich's] camp on Sunday. They'll be out there for four days. We have coaches heading out to see all of our players next week that aren't involved in Grgurich's camp, wherever they might be. Now we get down to the fun part, which is basketball. That's a very long, circuitous way of answering your question, but yeah, we're done."
Does Mo Williams' addition make life easier for Damian Lillard?
Neil Olshey: "I think we had it taken care of prior to Mo and now it's even better. By the way, Damian didn't seem to be hurt too badly by leading the league in minutes played if anybody's wondering. Mo and I have been through this model before. Guards win games. At the end of the day, you need depth, not everybody survives 82 games and not everybody can play every night.
"We had a model like this in L.A. Everybody thought it was too much when we had Chris Paul, and Chauncey [Billups], and Eric Bledsoe, and Randy Foye, and we were in the second round of the playoffs. We just came at people, we had a lot of fire power, we were hard to guard. Everybody on our perimeter could dribble, pass and shoot. We could open the floor up and I think that's the way the game is going. I think Mo's ability and versatility to play multiple positions, I think that's a unique thing right now. Mo can play on or off the ball, so can Dame, so can CJ. We've got a veteran like Earl [Watson] who can come in and is a lockdown defender.
"We are really a threat on the perimeter to run multiple pick-and-rolls and play in a way that's much more conducive to Terry's style, which is playing in flow, taking early shots, running random pick-and-rolls and not having to rely on structure and sets every time down the floor. I do think that this is not a reaction to Dame leading the league in minutes played. Dame led the league in minutes played because we were really good when he was on the floor. It's no different than if LaMarcus led the league in minutes played or other great players around our league.
"What it's really going to impact is the defensive end of the floor as far as I'm concerned. When guys aren't required to play 36-40 minutes every single night, four games in five nights, back-to-backs, and they can really give maximum effort on both sides of the court because there isn't a drop-off when we go to our bench, it gives the coaching staff confidence and it gives the starters confidence. We look at Mo like we looked at Mo in L.A. We have six starters. Terry is going to manage it. Terry has a lot of options right now in terms of how we can go attack opposing defenses."
Thanks to Mike Acker of the Willamette Week for the photo at top.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter