Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts answered questions about his expectations and plans for the 2013-14 season during Media Day at the "Moda Center" on Monday.
"Hello, everybody. Anybody want to ask me about LaMarcus [Aldridge]? [Laughter] I think that one's been covered."
"Expectations are the playoffs and beyond. We've made roster moves, we're more experienced than we were last year. Our goal was to make the playoffs last year, certainly our goal is to make the playoffs this year, but not just be satisfied with making the playoffs."
Will roster improvements lead to defensive improvement?
"That's going to be the No. 1 priority. For us to do what we want to do this year, we have to improve defensively. We're going to change some of our schemes, we'er going to change our emphasis, our mentality about it. Our offense is going to get better but for us to do what we want to do this year, there's no question we have to make large, long strides with our defense."
Playoffs or bust?
"Your words, not mine."
Is it on you to deliver playoff team?
"The Western Conference is very competitive and there's at least 12 teams out there that think they are playoff teams and there are only eight of them. That's why you play the season. I'm not backing away from the challenge and the competition of making the playoffs. We've improved our roster, the players coming back from last season have a year of experience, we're going to be a better team, there's no question about that. What that translates in, in terms of wins, playoff seeds, that's why you play the season."
"The obvious change to the bench is that we'll have more scoring. I thought last year's bench -- they've taken a lot of criticism over the summer -- I liked all those guys, they played hard, they competed, we had good leadership off the bench, so it's unfortunate that they were viewed the way they were. That being said, our bench will have more scoring, with the addition of Mo Williams, who has proven he's a scorer in this league. Dorell Wright can make threes, CJ McCollum is a scorer. Thomas Robinson offers a unique skillset that's not easy to duplicate. We're going to have a lot of versatility off of our bench, we are going to score.
"Everybody kind of gravitates to the offense. We're going to be fine offensively. We were fine offensively last year despite not getting a lot of scoring off of our bench. We're going to have to make strides defensively."
How do you boil down the philosophical changes on defense from last year to this year?
"First of all, we've made some changes to our roster, Robin Lopez being the key addition to that. It doesn't all fall on Robin's shoulders. He did a good job for New Orleans and New Orleans didn't have a good defense as well -- matter of fact, I think they were rated behind us. It falls on everybody.
"Our pick-and-roll defense is going to be more conservative, along the lines of Indiana, Chicago, San Antonio, where we don't extend our bigs, keep our bigs closer to the basket, protect the rim. We were one of the the worst teams at giving up shots at the rim and they converted a lot of them at the rim. We want to protect the rim better than we did last year. We did a good job defensively against the three-point line, which we want to continue. When you look specifically at what we're doing, you're going to cover 50 or 60 pick-and-rolls in a game. If we improve our pick-and-roll defense and our transition defense, those two areas alone will jump us up into the top half of the league."
Will you have a defensive coordinator?
What does EuroBasket gold do for Nicolas Batum's game?
"I was thrilled for Nic. To win any kind of championship, but I know how important those types of championships are to whoever plays in them, whatever countries are playing in them, whether it's World Championships or EuroBasket. I don't know how much that necessarily changes what Nic does for us, a lot of times players have different roles on their National Teams as they do on their NBA teams. Nic was on course to show a lot of improvement last year, which I think he still did, but the injuries really cut back on where he was going. He needs to continue to go in that same direction from an offensive standpoint.
"Defensively, and I'm going to harp on it, it's too easy to look at the numbers. What he did, he almost averaged 15, 5 and 5, which is great but for us to do what we need to do, we need that improvement from the offensive standpoint. Defensively, he needs to be more than just a lockdown defender. He needs to be a good team defender, and be a consistent defender."
Batum's EuroBasket from a leadership standpoint
"Well I don't know. The leaders on that French team are Boris Diaw and Tony Parker. He's right behind there, but I know that those two guys are the ones responsible for the leadership on that team. I know Boris, I coached Boris his rookie season, I know what quality people those two guys are. If he was able to pick up some of their traits from a leadership perspective, that would be great."
"You've probably got to know him a little bit, he's very smart, he's got a great work ethic, he has a skillset as far as being able to score, make tough shots. Like a lot of young players, he'll grow into that and become a lot better. Coming out of the gate, he's got some skills that there's no question in my mind he's going to have a long and successful career. He's a rookie and he's going to have to earn his minutes and he's going to have to be ready for his opportunity."
Training camp will be competition for minutes?
"Yes and no. With our core players, those core players aren't going to change. Damian, Wes, Nic, LaMarcus and Robin. Those guys are going to be our core, and Mo Williams obviously, who has been a proficient guard in this league. The competition will be there for a certain amount of minutes, one of the challenges for our team this year is to be more productive and more efficient for the minutes that you have. I would anticipate our core guys will play less than they did last year and that means they have to be more efficient."
Damian Lillard's improvement
"From an offensive standpoint, he needs to be more efficient, I think he can shoot a better percentage, get his assist to turnover ratio where we want it. It's not going to be him going from 19 points a game to 20 points a game, that's not the issue. I think it's the efficiency part of his game. Throughout the season I thought he became more efficient. That and as a team, we have to defend, and to defend that starts at the point with all five guys. A lot of his improvement will be within the team structure, maybe it won't be seen as much as the numbers."
How can veteran guards help Lillard's improvement?
"I think you look at both sides of it. Rookies learn the most when they are out there playing. Damian obviously played a lot and he learned a lot and he continued to improve a lot throughout the season. I think that's the best way to learn. That being said, having a guy like Earl Watson and Mo, who have had success from a team and individual standpoint, is very helpful for young players.
"Damian has an even keel, he doesn't get too high or too low, which is very important in this league. I don't think he would have done what he did last year if it weren't for that. Last year, we had Jared Jeffries who was exemplary in his mentorship. You need to have those kind of guys on the team and I think Earl and Mo will be good in that respect."
LaMarcus Aldridge -- is there more he can offer?
"One of the things about LaMarcus is that he's amazingly consistent. A lot of times people get bored with that. Coaches don't, players don't. Sometimes fans and media get bored with consistency, they always want more. He had a career-high in rebounds per game last year, I think that kind of got lost. I think he'll even have a better rebounding year this year. He's been amazingly consistent since his rookie season and that's what I expect. As a coach, when you know you have a player like that, who you can count on every night, to do certain things, that's a luxury. I wouldn't even call it an expectation, it's just a reality."
Do you agree with Neil Olshey that Nicolas Batum is the X-factor?
"I think that would be fair. Damian going into his second year, being Rookie of the Year is great but I think he needs to get better, and Wes. I think the thing with Nic is the consistency. That goes for a whole team, a young team, consistency. If you look at our record last year, as of April 1, we had a better record against the playoff teams than the non-playoff teams, and I think that was indicative of a young team. Consistency from a team standpoint is very important.
"Getting back to your question, I think that's very important for Nic, his consistency within a game at both ends of the floor, his consistency within a certain stretch of games throughout the season, that's a hallmark of a player moving up a level. Just mentioning about LaMarcus -- one of the reasons he's an All-Star is because of his consistency. For players to excel in this league, consistency is very important."
How deep will rotation be?
"What's today, September 30? I have a month to figure it out. The bottom line is that there are 240 minutes to be divvied up. You do the math. It may change from game to game, certainly you like to have some consistency, but that's why you have training camp, that's why you have a season. That's why you have depth -- to help you make your way through injuries throughout the season, which there will be injuries. Everybody being healthy, that's a luxury. I think it's way too early to talk about a rotation and minutes. That's why we have training camp."
CJ McCollum -- position?
"No, I think that's going to evolve for him. I coached Jason Terry early in his career, and everyone was saying, 'Is he a point guard or is he a two guard?' His career went one way and he ended up being a two guard. He thrived in that role. I coached Mo Williams early in his career. 'Is he a point guard or is he a two guard?' He's kind of proven he's a point guard. CJ, when you have the skills he has, you're going to see the improvement in both areas. You're going to see him play both positions, where he is five years from now, that's part of the beauty of watching guys evolve."
More versatile line-up combinations?
"You like having options. As a coach, you like having options and choices. If I make a bad choice, the fans like it because they can say I shouldn't have done something. I think having versatility is very important. I like to change lineups, I like to change match-ups, whether it's a shooting lineup or a power lineup, we have a lot of ways we can go this year. I think it's important that we establish our style of play, and what we want to do. There are going to be times when we can put four three-point shooters out on the floor, and there are times when we're going to have to play power basketball, and I think we have the ability to do both."
Taking as many threes as last year?
"Yes. Maybe more."
Is this the most talented roster you've ever had as a head coach?
"Yeah. I don't even think it's close. This is the best roster top to bottom that I've had the privilege of coaching."
Does that change your mentality coming in?
"No. Other than, embracing the challenge. Embracing the challenge, embracing the expectations. It's a lot better knowing that you have a chance to win every night. I liked as an assistant, being on teams that you knew were a 50 win team, and it was just a matter of what playoff seed you were going to be, I liked that. So, I don't know if we're there yet but I like going into the season feeling that way."
Do you worry about LaMarcus Aldridge situation becoming a distraction?
How does Robin Lopez change what you do with LaMarcus Aldridge?
"I think it's important to have a big guy behind LaMarcus. Certainly him playing center at times is going to be part of the equation. Having a defensive-minded center behind him, the only guy who probably falls in that category for him being a big, physical center, would be Joel Przybilla. I'm not comparing LaMarcus to Dirk [Nowitzki], but Tyson Chandler made a difference for Dirk, Erick Dampier was there. It's important when you have a power forward like that that he doesn't get worn out at both ends. Having Robin really shores that up for him."
Greg Oden is going to be pissed you didn't mention him
"I thought if Greg was healthy he would have been a perfect center for [Aldridge]."
Role for Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland on new bench
"The role is to compete and earn your minutes."
Disappointed that The Oregonian is only going to deliver four days a week?
"I am. My wife does the puzzle every morning and she's disappointed that three mornings a week she doesn't have her puzzle."
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter