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Trail Blazers Block Out The Suns For 2-0 Start: Post-Game Interviews

Despite a massive game from Suns guard Devin Booker, it was Noah Vonleh who stole the spotlight, helping the Blazers secure the victory.

NBA: Preseason-Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers wrapped up a 2-0 start to the preseason with a 115-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Forward Noah Vonleh, in his first game back after a thigh procedure, shone the brightest down the stretch, keeping the Blazers in it with renewed aggression. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. CSNNW brings us the post-game interviews:

CJ McCollum

Just your reactions, I suppose, from the play of Noah Vonleh. I mean you guys are absolutely losing it on the bench. It was fun to watch him perform at that level wasn’t it?

Yeah, definitely. Happy to see him out here. He’s a guy who works extremely hard and, having gone through some injuries this season early on, it’s good to see him play aggressive, play with confidence, and play like a man.

Play like a man, I like that. Did that surprise you or have you seen him play like that in training camp and practice?

No. He’s got a relentless motor, he’s very strong, athletic, and skilled, so I’m happy to see it all coming together and for you guys to be able to watch it and see it.

I was happy to watch. It was very fun. Were you surprised about how competitive and physical tonight’s preseason game was?

No. They’re certainly well coached. Earl (Watson) does a good job of passing over his mentality, defensively, for those guys to pick up full-court pressure, touch the ball, and I think they’re going to be a good team down the road.

What are a few things you guys can maybe shore up, work on, for the L.A. games upcoming?

I think, defensively, doing a better job of getting back in transition, offensively, sharing the ball and continuing to run through the sets. Obviously the playbook’s a little short right now and we’re not running a lot of sets, we’re not showing a lot of things, but as we get closer to the regular season, we’ll call a bigger variety of plays.

Thanks for your time.

No problem.

Damian Lillard

How do you feel things are coming along with some of the new rotations?

I think it’s coming along. I thought we probably did a better job in the Utah game, as far as ‘This guy handles, we want to do this, we want to do that.’ I think they made it harder for us to get to what we wanted to get to because of their style of play, but we had to find a way. It was a little bit rough. We didn’t move the ball as well as we did in the first game due to what they did defensively, but I was proud of the way we found a way. Guys didn’t stop playing. We just kept playing, the bigs kept sprinting into screens, we stayed aggressive, and we found a way—going into the fourth—to have a lead.

I believe this was the first time that you and CJ and Evan (Turner) played together, what did you think of that spurt?

Well, during that spurt Devin Booker got hot, so that was what we were kind of trying to shore up the whole time. We was like, CJ would guard him, he would hit a tough one, then I’d say ‘Let me get him,’ and he’d hit a tough one, then we’d get a stop, then he’d hit a tough one, then ET guarded him. I thought he did a good job, but the main thing is that we had three ball handlers. I remember each time, like, one time ET had it and he pitched it up to CJ, I was on the opposite side. One time I had it, I dropped it back to ET, I took off. We had so many different things that we could have done. We didn’t always get to it but it was just an open floor.

It was a little bit of a heated game. It was a competitive game and those guys went in there and they took the challenge. They jumped in the fire along with the rest of us that had been playing the first three quarters of the game. I was proud of what they did. They competed on both ends of the floor. We came up with big deflections, big defensive rebounds, and we executed late in the game. We won the game getting stops and executing down the stretch.

What did you think specifically about Noah?

That was big time, but I’ve always thought highly of Noah even in the summer. When I talk about wanting to be the first person to get to the gym, the first person that I see coming in is him. He’s always over there going through three shirts in a workout because he sweats so much. It was fun to see him go out there—even though it’s just preseason—to go out there and play well down the stretch of the game. He’s been hurt. He couldn’t go in camp like he wanted to, and he looked good out there. He looked good.

We hadn’t seen him be that aggressive. Have you seen that behind the scenes?

When he got back to practice we kind of laughed at him a little bit and told him he had something on his mind, you know, he had some pent up aggression, because he was attacking offensive glass, jumping over the top of everybody, fouling, just all over the place. He brought that same thing tonight. Down the stretch, he played aggressive, he was bouncing around out there, and he looked good.

Noah Vonleh

I just got to my sweet spot and just let it go.

So you like to be there first, huh? You like to be the first one in there?

Especially coming from and injury, I was one of the first guys there just rehabbing, doing a lift before practice, trying to strengthen my quad from the surgery I had, then getting some court work, like, 20-30 minutes before practice.

Do you feel like opportunities like this, every time is a chance for you to sort of prove that you belong in the rotation, or you’re fighting at least for a spot in rotation?

Yeah, definitely. Especially this year. We paid a lot of guys. We got Moe (Harkless) back, we got Farouq (Aminu), we got Meyers (Leonard) about to come back from his injury, so whatever opportunity I get, I got to go out there and showcase something. It makes the coaches think, like, ‘Man, Noah’s playing really well. We got to try to find some time for him out there.’ So, I’m just trying to keep it consistent as much as I can.

You said you worked with your performance this summer, what did you work on after that—before the procedure?

After summer league, I talked with the coaches and Neil (Olshey) and my agent, and we decided it was best for me to just get some more run in, get some more pickup, so I went to L.A., played at UCLA, there were a bunch of NBA guys down there: Victor Oladipo, Russell Westbrook, Trevor Ariza. It was some good run down there, so it definitely helped just playing with those guys and coach Oz (Dale Osbourne) was just telling me ‘Be a monster and go after the rebounds’ when I was up there, because he was up there with me. Just, like, ‘Be a monster, go after the rebounds. Just play with energy.’ That’s what I’m trying to bring over to translate over to the season.