Here's a rundown of the top quotes from the Portland Trail Blazers' 2014 exit interviews, which were conducted at the team's practice facility on Friday.
Of note: Blazers coach Terry Stotts said the following players would play in the Las Vegas Summer League: Will Barton, Allen Crabbe, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard, CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson.
LaMarcus Aldridge sidestepped questions about the possibility of a contract extension. Both Aldridge and Damian Lillard said they remain committed to USA Basketball for this summer.
The biggest news-maker was Mo Williams, who campaigned for a new three-year contract for himself.
Earl Watson also discussed the possibility of making a transition to coaching, and Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has more on that right here.
Comments from Blazers GM Neil Olshey and Stotts are now up right here thanks to Sagar Trika.
Areas of improvement: "Overall game, the two biggest things I want to work on are my defense, becoming more of a lockdown defender, and becoming more consistent with my jump shot."
Summer League: "You're going to have to wait and see."
Contract: "Right now I don't have any idea. I'm just hoping for the best, staying positive and I feel like something good will happen. We haven't talked about that [team option]. There was a lot of positive feedback. Growing on and off the court. ... We didn't even talk about [the team option]."
Summer plans: "It's time to live in the gym. I'll be in Portland for most of it."
Relationship/tandem with Thomas Robinson: "That's my brother. I've known T. Rob since we were teenagers. He's from D.C., I'm from Baltimore. We played AAU for a little while together. Went to the same prep school. We've got a lot o ties to each other, came into the draft together, similar backgrounds and upbringings. We can really relate to each other. That's my guy right there.
Goal for next year: "Attack my offseason with vengeance to become the player I know I can be. Come back and do whatever the coaches need me to do. Growth. I really, really want to get better in every aspect of the game."
Season: "This year definitely had its ups and downs. Most people from the outside looking in, I didn't get a lot of time on the court. The time I did was limited. Not substantial. I think I did a fairly good job staying locked in, working hard in my individual workouts, keeping my body in good shape, building strength and keeping my cardio where it needs to be. It's just not the year I wanted to have. I think that's going to fuel me for this summer and next year."
Summer: "This summer is going to be a lot of training and hard work. I have to be in the gym and playing. ... I can come out here, make 25 jumpshots in a row, dunk from the free throw line, look athletic, be athletic, until I learn to use it in a game, it's not really relevant."
Summer plans: "I'm going to go home for 2-3 weeks. That will be individual workouts. ... Come back to Portland, do individual workouts for a couple of weeks. It will be into Summer League training camp. ... Summer League will be a good test of where I'm at. I will prepare myself in every way I can for that. ... After Summer League I will more than likely stay in Vegas and go to [Tim Grgurich's] camp. I've enjoyed it. .. After that I plan on being in L.A. all of August, go to the Clippers facility every day, play from 11 to 1, last year a lot of guys were there. ... James Harden, Carmelo [Anthony], Kris Humphries, the Clippers guys, [Robin Lopez]. ... Then I'll be back for a month of pre-training camp workouts here."
Why play Summer League: "I've got something to prove. ... If I don't play [5-on-5], it becomes difficult to get into the flow of the game."
Patience level: "All throughout my life I've been extremely competitive. I've always been a big part of a successful team. Not having that this year was tough. I'm young, but from a competitive aspect, you want to be out there and be a part of a team's success. That wasn't there for me this year. I have all the confidence in the world in myself. I'll work hard and get better. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be a relevant factor in a team's success in the future."
Future: "I have decisions to make this summer as far as playing or pursuing coaching. I'm taking a week to sit down with my agent, my family, take a couple of meetings with people to determine that. The most important person is my real agent, my daughter, I'm going to talk with her. She's four, who knows what she's going to say."
Have you talked to Blazers about assistant coach role: "I don't try to leverage any relationship. Everything I do I try to earn it. I never want anybody to feel indebted to anything. ... I want to earn it instead of someone just giving me an opportunity."
NBA is changing: "It started with younger players, then younger front offices and now it's younger coaches getting extreme opportunities. This is the first time in my life, I watched basketball and I saw the other side more clearly. UConn won the championship with a young coach [Kevin Ollie]. I remember just playing against him. The telling point is when I'm in the locker room and I don't even know the music. For me, It's like a flag that this could be the end soon, now, maybe, ASAP. When the music starts to change, you figure it out. It's time to make a decision."
Blazers coaches: "This is the only coaching staff that actually prepared me to coach. Every day they would quiz me, every day they would push me, every day they would teach me. They kind of held me accountable for that next step in life."
First season in Portland: "I had a great time. ... That season was a lot of fun. ... I think we blew a lot of projections out of the water. ... I made a lot of great memories this year. ... The last two seasons I've felt more like a veteran."
Travel plans: "Seattle a few times, Caribbean cruise, Tokyo, Israel."
What pieces do Blazers need to add: "This playoff series, the loss to the Spurs, that was a good experience for us. I think a lot of what we need to add is just pieces to people's games. Add more mental prowess to people's games. I don't know if we need to add players. If people develop, we'll be OK."
Entering a contract year: "My job is to play basketball and occasionally make TV appearances. ... As far as movies go, I'll take anything. The new Star Wars is coming up, if they need Wookies or Wampas, I'd like to throw my name in the hat. ... [To work on my singing], I've been calling Justin Timberlake, he hasn't responded."
Photos of starting lineup together at end of Game 5: "The fight that we had to start, we carried that all the way to the end. People were talking about chemistry and if our chemistry was as good as it looked. We were getting our asses kicked, our [defeat] is imminent. The five of us are lined up next to each other. That wasn't planned or staged or anything. We came into this fight, this season together, and that's how we went out. It's abrupt, it's almost surreal but it was good. 54 wins is something you can hang your hat on."
What should team add: "I think we've got it. We saw what it takes."
Key for Meyers Leonard's improvement: "Stop listening to you [media] guys and the outside world. He just needs to play basketball."
Underdogs again next year: "We're not going to be picked ahead of Houston or Golden State or Dallas. We're still going to be where we were when we started the season last year. Regardless of where people peg us, we're still a group of underdogs. That's our mentality."
This season: "It's been a tough season for me, being inactive for most of the games."
Summer League: "No. If everything goes well I'm going to be with the [Spanish] National Team. The best thing for me is to rest. Last summer was too long, Summer League and playing for the National Team."
Future in NBA: "I have one more year on my contract and I want to play one more year. I don't know what's going to happen after that. I don't know what's going to happen next season."
Want a trade: "I need to play. I don't know where. I don't know if they're going to give me the opportunity here or if I'll have to go to another team. I have to play because it's my last year. It's very important for me. I can't be another year with no playing time."
Did you talk about a trade in the exit interview: "No. We talked about this season. They're happy to have me here. They appreciated my work. I appreciate that they are able to talk every time that I needed during the season."
Season: "I tried to bring my game up to another level. What I'm most proud of is my consistency. I didn't have as many bad games as I used to. I did more things in the game -- if I didn't score, I could rebound and assist, play defense. Try to affect the game in many ways."
What to add to team: "We're pretty good right now. We just need to add some experience maybe."
Plans to rest this summer: "Two to three weeks, max."
Raised expectations next year: "It's going to be good next year but it can be good. Good pressure from it. We've got to be in the top four next year. ... We messed up so many games in February and March, we should be in the top four. At least one round of homecourt advantage. That's minimum for us."
Areas for improvement: "Left hand. Post-up game."
What will it take for you to come back: "A good contract, for one. I don't know what that is. Last summer was tough for me. I look back at last summer, it came down to three teams. Out of those three teams, Portland was the team that was kind of the risk. Are you going to make the playoffs or not? It could be good. ... Those other two teams I turned down were quote unquote Finals type teams. To turn down those teams and come here for basically the same amount of money was a gamble, but with the talent they had, the role I would be put in, we could succeed and we could be good."
Are you looking for more years on your contract: "Absolutely more years. They know that. For me, it's all about years. I'm going into my 12th year. I would love to get a contract. This is in my opinion my last one. After that, I'll be a guy hanging on by the last string, getting a one-year deal in, getting as many dollars as I can. This is my last time to get a three-year deal, I have three good years left in me, I just want to play it comfortably knowing that I have a home. ... My last three years, I've been on one-year deals."
Plan to opt out: "Yeah. I've stated that earlier in the year. That was the whole purpose to opt out and get a long-term deal."
Summer: "I'm going to play Summer League. It's going to help me out, mainly because I missed so many games last season. Just to try to get back into a rhythm."
Knee injury: "I'm really comfortable in what I did and how I improved. I don't think it took anything away from me. I'm still exactly the same player."
Season: "It's been a big change for me. From the past, playing a lot, to coming here and not playing at all my first year. I've learned a lot just from watching. We've got a lot of vets on the team. I talked to them during the season during my little frustration periods, going through the rookie wall. ... There wasn't too much opportunity for me, the only thing I could do is work on my game and try to get better."
Summer League: "Yes. They want us to stay up here, I'll be out here the whole summer working out with the coaches. ... It's going to be a big offseason for me. I know the NBA can be here and be gone really fast too."
Coach Terry Stotts' extension: "I am [happy]. I think I have a great relationship with coach Stotts over these past two years. Being a young player in this league you don't want to play for all these different coaches, making adjustments, different offenses, different personalities. I think it's good for our team, our group, to grow under the same coach. Have the same guy there."
What does team need to add: "That's not really my job to say what the team needs. I have a lot of confidence in the guys I play with. I love our team, what we have. ... I've leave that to [Blazers GM] Neil [Olshey], [owner] Paul Allen and coach [Terry] Stotts."
Expectations for next year: "Just to grow. I don't think it should be, 'We want to win a championship.' I think we need to just take the summer to let our bodies get back. Everybody should take pride in going home and improving."
USA Basketball camp: "The opportunity to represent your country is not an opportunity that a lot of guys get. I'm thankful for that opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it. For a long time now I've been watching the Olympics and World Championships, a lot of those players come back as better players and better leaders for their team."
Summer plans: "I'll be in Portland, I'll go home and work out with my trainers in Oakland, I'll be in Utah for a couple weeks to train in the altitude."
Meyers Leonard: "He's really smart. He's like a computer. Every team we play against, he knows every play and every guy's tendencies."
Coach Terry Stotts' contract: "He was great this year. He did a really good job of making every guy better, putting every guy in the right position to excel. He's done something that hadn't been done in 10 or 14 years, we made it to the second round. Every guy responded for him and played well. Every guy on the team enjoys playing for him. He's not too strict on the court."
Contract status: "I'm not even talking about it yet. We just finished the season. I'm still focused on watching film and seeing what happened last series and relaxing for a little bit."
Plan to play USA Basketball: "I am. ... I've always heard great things about it."
Who are you excited to see come back improved next year: "I'd like to see [Thomas Robinson] come back. This was his first year having a veteran big to talk to him and give him some guidance. I could tell he's never been guided by a veteran big. He got better from the beginning of the season to the end of hte season, playing in a system and being on a winning team. He went from dribbling coast to coast and turning it over to giving the ball to the guard and crashing the boards, doing extra things for us."
What does team need to add: "That's not my decision. That's Neil's decision."
This year compared to last year: "The feeling in this city and this organization as a whole has been night and day. Everybody in this city is excited about our growth, where we've grown to this year. ... Every person in the organization is excited to go to work again. Thinking about playoffs and how good everyone played this year. It's not just me, the whole city has a different vibe about us."
How are you feeling: "I'm fine. This was my healthiest season in awhile. I'm like wine, getting better as I get older."
USA Basketball would cut into your rest: "I've talked to previous players, you really don't play 30 minutes. Most guys play like 15 minutes or so and the practices aren't overly hard. The worst thing might be traveling so much. For the most part, guys say you are pretty fresh."
Season: "It was different. I went through some unusual circumstances getting hurt. ... It's a season I'm grateful for and I've learned a lot. ... I'm looking forward to a clean slate, going through a healthy training camp and bouncing back next year."
Summer: "I'll be around here. ... Working with the coaching staff. One of the main points of emphasis will be core strength and lateral quickness. Decision-making, so I can earn the coaches' trust."
Playing point guard or shooting guard: "I'll be prepared to do whatever is necessary. Hopefully my role will continue to grow. ... I think it's more of a thing you guys make a big deal about. There are a lot of guys in the league who are labeled a 'combo guard.' ... It's more about getting the job done, it doesn't necessarily matter what your title is."
Goal for next year: "Hopefully my role will continue to grow. ... I definitely look forward to an increased role as I continue to play."
Season: "I think I have a better understanding of who I am as a player, it's just about making it known. ... What I brought was energy, being a rebounder, defender, I'd like to explain on making it known that I am a good defender. I'd like to add scoring at times when I have to or in the flow of the game."
Turning it around after tough rookie year: "At the end of last year, right after I got traded, I was talking to my cousin, and I was explaining to him how disappointed how people gave me the bust [label], the flop [label], that I don't belong in the league. Everything you can say I heard it. My whole goal personally last summer was to come back and have those people have those thoughts out of their heads. To have them saying he had a better year and that he would be a player in this league. ... Individually, I accomplished getting the thought of me being a player [into people's minds] was fixed this year."
Improvement: "I turned the corner on making better basketball plays this year. Instead of thinking that I needed to score to stay on the floor."
Next year: "We know the help has to come from within in this organization. We know the bench has to come back bigger next year. [I want to improve] consistency. I'll have games where people see me and know for sure that they shouldn't have questioned this guy. Then there will be nights where I don't play the same amount of minutes and it messes with me mentally, so I don't go out and give the same effort. Or, it's hard to give the same effort. Next year I think I'll be a lot more consistent, hitting my jump shot, my free throw percentage for sure will go up, finishing those plays where I get the ball in the middle."
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter