Portland Trail Blazers Media Day is well underway. We'll have continuing coverage throughout the day and a summary of all the day's proceedings at its conclusion, but right now the money quotes are coming from the high ranking executives in Portland''s front office. Our friends at CSNNW have been live-tweeting some of the comments. Here's a summary with light analysis.
General Manager Neil Olshey
This is probably the most you're going to hear about the salary cap situation next summer...the elephant in the room for the team and its players.
Olshey on Wesley Matthews: He knows he's part of the core, unable to talk extension at this time #BlazersTalk— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
Whatever plans the Blazers might or might not have, staying the course is the most likely outcome. Even if they wanted to make major moves, those aren't always available at a convenient time or price. Identifying the starter most often discussed in trade suggestions as a "core player" might indicate that Olshey doesn't see that move coming down the pike. On the other hand, what are you going to say at Media Day? But my sense is that the statement is genuine and will remain so until the moment a move is made.
Olshey: You're not going to get any breaks on any night vs the Western Conference. But names don't win games, teams win games. #BlazersTalk— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
In part this follows on the heels of the previous statement. The Blazers appear to be adopting "stay the course, trust the core" as a talking point this season. It'll appeal to the core values of the fan base, hearkening back to the '77 championship squad and the mostly home-grown Drexler teams. It's a little bit of a smoke screen too, though. The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't winning games because of the name on their jerseys. They're winning because they have Kevin Durant. The Blazers don't have Kevin Durant and didn't make any dramatic moves over the summer to get closer to the Thunder. Or the Spurs. Or the Clippers. The name thing works both ways. No matter what core values you associate with the Trail Blazers uniforms, they still need the guns to compete.
You hear the same talking point coming through here. "Flashy" carries the connotations of "reckless" or "hype-laden" or "selfish". Slow and steady wins the race. This can be true. On the other hand there's J.R. Smith flashy (mostly bad) and Durant/Chris Paul/Blake Griffin flashy (mostly good). The vanilla-vs.-flashy comparison also justifies the relatively pedestrian off-season moves.
Olshey: "At the end of the day, our roster was a good as any roster." http://t.co/kkWFlMRRh1— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
Yes? No? Portland's roster certainly performed above expectations as much as anybody in the league...more probably. But "as good as" may be a stretch when you played out of your minds and still ended up 8 games behind the Spurs and out in the second round. Also...bench.
Head Coach Terry Stotts
This is what you like about Terry Stotts. By using the "e-word" he absorbed expectations onto himself and his team that he could have muted. When he says that's the goal, that's the goal. On the other hand this is also what makes you nervous about Terry Stotts, as those same expectations can turn and bite you. But you have to admire the guy for laying it out there.
Stotts on Blazers bench: "Steve Blake has been a constant professional. He will help other players get shots." http://t.co/YKDOOIcBBz— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
True enough. The Blazers lacked a distributing point guard off the bench last year. If you consider Damian Lillard a score-first player they may have lacked a distributing point guard entirely, defaulting to Nicolas Batum in that role. Blake knows what he's doing. The question is, will his impact be big enough?
This is going to be the rallying cry for the team this season (as opposed to the fan rallying cry embodied by Olshey above). Winning the first round opened up vistas, brought confidence. Now that the Blazers have had a taste of success, they'll want to see how far they can take it. They'll also have some idea what they're sacrificing for.
Stotts contends that offensive philosophy will stay the same but will change up a few sets to "keep things fresh" #BlazersTalk— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
Don't fix what ain't broken. The big question: what about the defense?
Well, at least he didn't say that the starting rotation was open, but this still qualifies as a partial bingo.
President Chris McGowan
At least they're talking about it. Other than a brief period back in the 90's that's more than has happened in the entire history of the franchise.
McGowan: "I'm excited about the 300 level bar that we built. It's an unbelievable space." #BlazersTalk— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
McGowan: "We are leading the industry with what we have done with the food experience here." #RipCity— Comcast SportsNet NW (@CSNNW) September 29, 2014
How are you going to win the hearts of Portlanders? Talk about beer; talk about food. Having the bar at the 300 level also makes the experience feel more egalitarian, a departure from the "cater to the lower level" vibe that some have perceived. With McGowan, as with Olshey, you can see the attempt to reach out and cater to the invisible fan base. That said, much of the fanbase that we hear from would like more action on the Comcast front and no amount of beer or food talk will cover it. With the Blazers still locked into the TV deal, eats and beverages are easier to discuss.
Blazers online maven Casey Holdahl has the audio from all three executive interviews if you care to listen.
We'll have reaction to player interviews soon.