The Portland Trail Blazers successfully held off the Utah Jazz for a 98-89 win in their preseason debut on Monday. Star point guard Damian Lillard led the Blazers in scoring with 16 points in just 23 minutes, but it was a rounded team effort that allowed them to come out on top after trailing early. CSNNW brings us the post-game interviews.
I thought we looked pretty good.
How do you feel the new guys meshed well?
I thought they did a good job. When you join a new team, it’s hard to not kind of take a step back and not want to step on people’s toes, you know, not be aggressive, be unsure, and I thought our guys came out, they played aggressive, they were who they are, and they looked good doing it.
Who were the new guys who stood out to you tonight?
I thought they all played well. Seeing Grant Jerrett get out there early and just jump right in the flow, I think that speaks to how much we’ve been around each other; guys showing up early, knocking down shots, him rebounding, contesting shots. He came out and looked well doing what we needed him to do. But Bazz (Shabazz Napier) looked good. He was comfortable, he knocked down shots, he pursued over pick-and-rolls. ET (Evan Turner) was what we thought he would be. Another ball handler; a guy making plays. Getting in the paint, I thought he did a good job for us. A lot of guys came in and did what we expected them to do—what we are going to need them to do to be a better team.
Dame, I thought Moe (Harkless) was a little (indiscernible) back on both sides of the court.
We love Moe. It’s that simple. His versatility on both ends of the floor, being able to switch with him with our bigs and our guards. He can play on the block, he can knock down perimeter shots, he’s a threat in transition. He was great tonight. He’s looked good for the last month or so. Everybody came back prepared, everybody’s excited about our team moving forward.
Can you feel different personalities with different groups on the court? Is this, like, a style of play, or do you feel like you guys kind of play the same way no matter who’s in there?
You can feel the change. That was the first time I actually felt that. In practice, when you put different groups together, you know ‘this guy plays this way, he plays that way,’ but that was getting in the game and having ET out there and CJ (McCollum) out there, and now I’m going off the ball more than I usually would and they calling the play and I’m in a different position. So that has a different feel than me playing with two playmakers and I’m handling the ball. They get a rebound and I take off running. It was a different feel. It was a great way having AC (Allen Crabbe) out there, playing with different lineups and my role being different with each lineup instead of it being ‘I’m going to come off a pick-and-roll and make a play and we’ll go from there.’ It was a little bit different. I liked it.
We didn’t come into the game and say ‘Alright. Dame, you don’t handle the ball that much.’ It’s been all month. We’ve been playing, I’ve been getting off the ball just trying to get out of the sight of the defense so much, coming off pin downs, coming off flare screens—just not having the defense focus on me with the ball in my hand, just trying to get high quality looks and be in a different position offensively because we have that luxury. That’s all it was. I’ve been doing it over the last month, so I’m just more comfortable with it now, so in a game it naturally happens.
Dame, what do you think that’s going to translate to for you? Are you going to get different shots or are you going to be more aggressive? How is this going to benefit you?
I think over the course of the game I get higher quality shots. I’ll be able to get better looks. We got sets now that complement the roster that we have, where I don’t have to have the ball and I don’t have to beat two defenders all the time. Sometimes the offense is putting the defense in position where it is me and a big or my man gets left on an island and it’s a better opportunity for me. I’m excited about that.
So it’s not necessarily you having to break down your guy?
Yeah. I’ll be in those situations. I think it’s good because over the first three quarters we giving them a different look, and obviously, when it comes to the fourth quarter, I’m going to get the ball and I’m going to take it up to a higher level and try to go win the game. It gives us more options.
How is that different than when you were playing with Eric Maynor and Steve Blake and Mo (Williams) in other years though?
It’s kind of the same thing, but now that’s the way we going to play, because back then it was for four minutes or five minutes because we was dropping the ball into LA (LaMarcus Aldridge) and playing off of that. Now it’s going to be primarily on the perimeter, so we going to be moving the ball around, penetrating, kicking, flare screens, pin-downs, instead of it being throw it to the block and then we screen away and, you know, just kind of action just to keep the defense off of LA. Now it’s going to be real live action, so it’s the same, but it’s a different thing.
What do you like about this offense?
The thing I like about it is just being aggressive. Coach tells me to be aggressive and be who I am. That’s basically what you want to hear in a coach.
What’s been your mindset coming into training camp? Does it feel different than Miami or Orlando?
Yeah, I just grind, man. I’m in a great opportunity with Dame and CJ and just learning from them and watching them and competing against them. It’s a great opportunity for me, so I just want to continue to compete.
I guess the reaction from fans tonight is that you’re full speed all the time. Do you know any other level?
I didn’t think I was. I actually thought I was kind of a little slow, but I think that with this team, that’s kind of the flow they want. I’m kind of suited for that and I’m able to get into the right spots and fortunate enough to make shots. I just got a group of guys who are able to run, so it’s easier for them. I just try my best to be the best guard I can be out there.
It was a good first outing, man. I feel like we did really good second half of picking it up on the defensive side. It was good, man. I feel like it was a good first preseason game for us. It’s always good to get a win to start the preseason off and it was good to play against somebody else instead of playing against our teammates all the time.
You hit a couple of runners—floaters—toward the basket. Is that something that you worked on in the offseason?
I mean, a little bit. Just little stuff you try and add to the game. Those are easy shots. If I don’t want to get to a pull-up, I feel comfortable with a floater and I can go to that, so just a little something.
Is it easier for you to shoot this year? I mean, do you feel more comfortable getting the high volume shots up?
Yeah, man. I mean, the game’s easy. Like you say, you’ve got that year of experience, you know where your shots are going to come. Like I said, the system that we run, our offense, it makes it easy for everybody. You know where you’re going to be most effective, you know where your shots are going to come, so it’s pretty simple now, man. A year under my belt. I’m really comfortable out there. That’s all it takes is time and opportunity, so you get a feel for the game and it comes easy to you.
Came in here at halftime. We always go off defensive rating of how we did each half and it wasn’t that good in the first half, and then came back second half and they didn’t score that much. That’s the type of defensive team that we’ve been working towards to becoming in training camp, in practice, and it makes it easy for us as a team as well. When we get stops on defense, it allows us to get out and run. We have a young, athletic team—even the bigs. It makes it easy for us to get easy points, and if we can win the easy points battle then it’s going to be hard to beat us.
I was impactful on both sides of the ball and that’s the type of player I am. I try to make a difference on both sides and just make plays for myself and teammates. I think I did a good job tonight.
Do you feel much pressure to, I don’t know, win a job or to make a case? You feel—
No. I don’t feel any pressure in basketball. I’m out there just having fun, playing and trying to win. That’s the only pressure—if any—that I feel.
There’s so much talent on this roster. Do you just feel like ‘Hey, I just need to go out and play’?
I mean, we all just playing. If I play my game, like I said, coach going to put me in whenever he put me in. Whatever happens happens. I’m going to go out there and just play.
Has that changed for you? Would you have said the same thing last year?
No. The same thing. I just go out there and just play. I can control what I can control. I used to get caught up in other stuff when I was younger, but I realized you got to just focus on what you can control and that’s all you can do.
What was the difference between your first 3-point attempt and your last ones?
I don’t know. The first one kind of just slipped out of my hands. I felt comfortable just shooting. I thought the second one was going in. The other ones, same thing. I just kept catching and shooting.
What were your opening impressions of playing with these guys?
I think it was good. I think we did pretty good defensively once we calmed down. I think we got a pretty good flow of ball movement, and I also think once we get used to lineups and the mismatches I think we’ll all settle in a little bit more.
Do you feel like guys still have to kind of get used to your passes? There were a couple there with Ed (Davis) that didn’t look like he was quite—
It’s 50-50. I think after you grow up, you learn to pass (indiscernible). So right now, we’re going to get it together. That’s what preseason is for and that’s what practice is for. Some of them I probably maybe shouldn’t have thrown, some of them I probably could have dragged out a little bit more, but I think right now the mistakes are being made in the passing regard. It’s going to prep my teammates to be more alert over time, so it’ll work itself out. We’re all getting used to each other.
Do you think your game complements AC (Allen Crabbe) particularly well?
Yeah, I mean, he can shoot, I can play make, I think we can interchange and guard the same position, kind of switch a little bit, and I think we can do a lot together as well.
Defensively, what did you like about this game?
I think once we settled in, coach challenged us to keep stopping them and I think we did that. Obviously that’s a situation where we want to get better at and grow in that atmosphere, and I think tonight—even though we didn’t do it right at the start or whatnot—I think we still set the tone. Once we get that going along with growing in the defensive rebounding area, we’ll be fine.
I was pleased with the effort tonight. I thought it was a good way to start the preseason. We did a lot of good things. I liked our defense in the second half, I thought we got a lot of loose balls and showed a lot of good energy in the second half. Offensively, I thought we were pretty solid for most of the night. We didn’t make our shots in the first half, but we hung with it and got on a role, especially in the third quarter.
What did you think of Moe?
I thought he played well. I thought he played the way Moe plays. He did a little bit of everything. It was nice he made his two threes in the second half to start the third quarter. That got us going. Defensively, he was solid. He played like Moe plays.
Who caught your eye tonight that you were impressed with?
With us? You know, I think with the type of game it was, I thought that we had a lot of good performances. It wasn’t necessarily someone standing out. I thought Dame and CJ and Moe—they all played well. Grant played well. Shabazz played well. I thought a lot of guys played well. Allen obviously played well. Mason (Plumlee) played well. I mean, I can go down the list. I thought we had a lot of good play that was very complementary, that helped each other out at both ends of the floor. I liked the way we played as a team. I have a hard time singling anybody out because it was a good overall effort.
Evan showed his versatility in spite of (indiscernible)
He did. It’s going to be an adjustment for him, but I think you could see how he’s going to help us. Putting him in spots offensively where he’s comfortable is going to take some time, but he can pass, he can shoot, he has a great handle, and I think it’s just going to continue to get better for him.
Terry, did you feel early on that you guys were a lot of one pass and shoot? Just the open game?
Not really. I thought when we got down whatever it was—11 to two, 13 to two, whatever—I thought we were getting good shots. We were just a little tight, but no, I was pleased with the shots we were getting all night.