The Portland Trail Blazers introduced Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Earl Watson and Dorell Wright at a press conference at the practice facility on Thursday. All four players were present and joined by Blazers GM Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts.
The biggest items of note....
- Olshey said that he generally prefers a roster with 14 players rather than 15 but he will give Terrel Harris a shot to make the team while exploring opportunities with his unused room mid-level exception.
- Olshey on a lack of "big name" acquisitions: "I know everybody on the other side of the computer wants to look at names. You know what, names don't always get it done, teams get it done. Guys that fulfill their role get it done. Guys that play the right way get it done."
- Olshey said that he intentionally created the worst bench in the NBA last season: "It's clearly documented that our bench was the worst in the NBA last year. By design, by the way, in case anybody missed that. It was in order to give our starters minutes, in order to develop our younger players."
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports: "CSNNW.com has learned that the Blazers and restricted free agent at the time, Tiago Splitter, reached an agreement on a four-year, $36 million offer sheet. However, when it became apparent that San Antonio would match, both sides agreed to not go through the three-day restricted free agency process."
- Here's more from Olshey in an interview exchange following the press conference.
Here's a full transcript of the press conference.
Neil Olshey: "We've had a busy and productive couple of weeks. These guys are the result of it. They're going to make for a much stronger, more competitive team this year. I appreciate all of them these being so gracious and excited about coming to Portland. I want to welcome Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez and Earl Watson."
Robin Lopez, what was your reaction to the trade and how does it feel to have a lot on your shoulders as a starting center?
Robin Lopez: "I wasn't too surprised with the trade. It happens in this league, it's a business. In response to the center comment, I'm just excited to get out there with the guys and play. I've played against Portland in the past few seasons, they always have a group that's competitive, a hard-working group and I really want to be a part of that."
Thomas Robinson, do you feel like you have anything to prove being on your third team in the NBA?
Thomas Robinson: "I think coming into the league I just want to prove that I deserve to be here as a player. As far as being moved around twice already, like Lopez said, it's a business. As a rookie, I learned that pretty quick. You can't take that personal, I'm excited to get a chance by the Portland Blazers and I want to make the best of it."
Neil Olshey, can you explain how these pieces came together this summer?
Neil Olshey: "We spent a lot of time looking at roster composition and how we want to construct things going forward. Clearly, there were voids on our roster following last season that we needed to fill. We didn't care if it was draft, free agency or trade, as long as it when all was said and done, we had a much-improved bench, guys who will challenge for starting positions, and make us a more competitive team, which is what we always talked about during the offseason.
"Thomas was the first piece. Clearly Houston had goals where they needed to clear cap room. They very reluctantly acquiesced and we were able to put together a deal with Daryl [Morey]. They accomplished their goals, we were able to get what we think is absolutely a steal in Thomas. We now basically have the fifth and sixth picks in last year's draft. We valued both he and Damian [Lillard] and we're lucky enough to have both of them.
"The next domino to fall was Robin [Lopez]. Very similar situation. New Orleans was in a very difficult spot. They clearly had goals in free agency where they needed to create cap room. As it turned out, we were able to construct a three-team trade. I want to thank [agent] Arn Tellem and Robin for expressing so much interest in his being here. They helped leverage the situation to make sure Robin ended up with us. He had many suitors, but knowing that he would come in and start from Day One, it was clearly a need and that he get a very quality 80 percent of the starting lineup [to join] was really enticing to he and his representatives.
"Dorell and I go way back, back to the days of Santa Monica High School, working out together at ABCD camp. Clearly we know Terry values three-point shooting, versatility, and in terms of a wing player, Dorell was the highest guy we had on our board. We were lucky he wanted to be here.
"Earl and I go back a long way as has already been documented. He's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around. He has the greatest natural command presence that I've ever seen. It's something this team sorely needs. Someone that can inspire our young guys, lead our veterans and be a presence on and off the court. I think you guys will realize from Day One how integral that will be going forward."
Terry Stotts, what do you see in these players and how they fit into your system?
Terry Stotts: "A lot of it is echoing what Neil just said, but Robin is going to be our starting center, an area that was a weakness for us last year. JJ Hickson did a terrific job but we were one of the worst teams in the league, if not the worst, in the paint and at the rim. I think Robin is going to anchor our defense, which is our biggest area of need.
"As Neil mentioned, three-point shooting is a big part of the NBA game. Dorell brings that. I think his versatility, being able to spread the floor if we play a small lineup, we can do that with him and Nic at three and four.
"Thomas is a young talent, and in some ways similar to JJ last year. He'll be a beast inside, he can rebound, run the floor, he's rugged. Watching him practice today, he's one of the stronger players I've been around. He adds a dimension to the team that we don't have. That's something we'll be able to utilize throughout the course of the season.
"Earl, for all the things that Neil just said. He can still play. He's coming in as more of a mentor to CJ [McCollum] and Damian [Lillard] and in the locker room. As he showed last year when he beat us in Utah, he's capable of winning games in this league. He gives us the opportunity to be on the floor, help us win games, or beyond that, doing the little things behind the scenes with our personnel."
Earl Watson, how can you influence the young guys?
Earl Watson: "I think coming into the league with Gary Payton so I learned a lot my rookie year. That carried me through my entire career. Playing for certain coaches, and playing for great organizations, it's more nurturing and being a guide for them, especially in practice. Professionalism, working hard. There's not just a switch you can turn on.
"This organization wants to get back into the playoffs and win games, it starts in practice every day building blocks. When times get difficult, being a positive role model for us in the locker room, pushing guys forward, sometimes you have to push guys forward, sometimes you have to walk with them."
Earl Watson and Dorell Wright, what led to your decision to sign with the Blazers?
Dorell Wright: "I could definitely say opportunity, come in and help a young team. Me being a veteran, but still being young, I can really see myself fitting in here. They shoot a lot of threes here and that's one of the departments I'm good in. Great staff, great people in the front office, great people here. I'm just really excited to be here. I think it's going to be great for myself and family."
Earl Watson: "For me, it was coach and style of play. Relationship wtih Neil, and the respect I have for the organization, and the team. I think the team is a talented team, a team where I can have an influence with my experience and veteran leadership. Just have an impact every day like I said."
Thomas Robinson, how good of a player can you be and how does it make you feel when Neil calls you a steal?
Thomas Robinson: "I think I still have a lot more upside to my game. I don't think I've even come close to a finished product. To him saying that, it's a great feeling to be wanted. I've been in this league a year, been tossed around, that can mess with confidence and mess with everything. To hear somebody actually tell me they want me on their team, that's a great feeling."
Dorell Wright, you're not too far removed from your best season. What do you need to do to return to that?
Dorell Wright: "Just being on the floor. The only way you can be productive in this league is getting on the floor. Doing whatever I have to do to be out there, working hard, making shots, defending, all the small things. We have a great group of guys, a lot of young talent, so I've got to just find my way as far as fitting in. The rest is up to coach."
Robin Lopez, describe your defense
Robin Lopez: "Really, if I hearken back to last season, I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my teammates on the floor. Most of the time that was at the defensive end, being the last line of defense. Altering shots, trying to discourage plays at the rim. There were times when New Orleans needed me to score, they needed me to crash the offensive boards, kind of a utility role. That said, first and foremost, my focus is on the defensive end, blocking shots, deterring shots, that sort of thing."
Robin Lopez, played a slow pace last year, how do you feel about potentially playing in a faster pace?
Robin Lopez: "Between Phoenix and New Orleans, obviously I've kind of seen the alpha and omega, I suppose. In Phoenix, we had a very up-tempo style, I changed my game, I think I still had success there. In New Orleans, it was a little slower. Just kind of got to keep your focus.
"In both situations, I was trying to be more of a defensive-oriented guy. I think it's more of a change on the offensive end. In Phoenix, lots of pick-and-rolls and open court opportunities. In New Orleans, we were a younger team so we would have seen more set plays but we didn't always get there."
Neil Olshey, do you feel like you hit your free agency targets with these four players?
Neil Olshey: "I do. We were identifying skills as much as we were identifying players.
"I know everybody on the other side of the computer wants to look at names. You know what, names don't always get it done, teams get it done. Guys that fulfill their role get it done. Guys that play the right way get it done. Terry, myself, the front office staff, the coaches, we all sat down and knew how we wanted to construct this roster in terms of ability.
"It may not be in terms of name awareness, but it has to do with what they bring to the table after where we were lacking last year. These guys fill voids that we feel were there and we think we did it as efficiently as we could. We maximized our $11.6 million in room. We think we nailed the draft as well. When you look at the three different vehicles, draft, free agency and trades, using all three of those vehicles produced these four guys, CJ and Allen [Crabbe].
"I think we're well on our way. We've increased our talent base, we've added assets. We've added guys that are still in the prime of their career that can continue to grow with this roster. We're setting ourselves up for a long run without really giving up any long-term flexibility."
Neil Olshey, importance of salary cap flexibility with these moves?
Neil Olshey: "That's the job. Look at things on the macro level, look further out. Terry has to look next game, next practice, what can he do to help win games? It's my job to help provide him with those resources. We're well on our way, like I said.
"I have the utmost confidence in these guys. I think they'll be big time for us. It's clearly documented that our bench was the worst in the NBA last year. By design, by the way, in case anybody missed that. It was in order to give our starters minutes, in order to develop our younger players. Now it's time to take a step forward, lengthen our rotation, get more guys on the court, give our starters more of a rest. We've got guys here who are going to play starter's minutes, we have guys who will support those starters from a rotation standpoint, like I said, any time you can keep your flexibility and accomplish your goals, that's the key.
"If you're going to give up your flexibility, make sure you're right. We didn't identify anybody this offseason that was worth giving it up, relative to how much we believed in this group of players."
Terrel Harris -- where does he fit in and will you use the room exception?
Neil Olshey: "Terrel is landing in about an hour or so. Hopefully if the trade clears, Terrel will be available for Summer League. We'll see what he has. Clearly he is entering a position where we have quite a bit of depth with CJ, Wes [Matthews], Will [Barton] and Allen [Crabbe]. There's a roster spot there. We were able to preserve our room mid-level. We'll see if an opportunity comes up. I usually prefer to carry 14, just to have flexibility for trades down the line and to do uneven deals, but if a compelling reason comes up to fill that roster spot, to either use the room mid-level or Terrel can make the team, his contract is guaranteed October 31, we'll deal with that then."
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter