The Portland Trail Blazers’ season came to an end at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans in a disappointing sweep out of the NBA Playoffs. Attention now turns to the offseason and what comes next for Portland. Players and team personnel gathered for exit interviews with the media following their loss, and we’ve complied some of the highlights.
What’s your plan this summer?
I know that I’m going to spend a lot of time in the gym this summer. I’m really looking forward to that; coaches have been talking to me all year about how this is a really big summer for me — it’s probably the biggest summer of my career. I’m really excited, and again, it’s going to be a lot of hard work in the gym.
Do you have aims at adding on weight?
I certainly don’t want to lose weight.
You want to be here, though?
For sure, 100 percent.
One, I’ve been here three years, so the comfort level is there. Since I’ve been here the fans [have been] supporting me. It’s a first class players-first organization. A lot of organizations say that, but they really stand by that here. I respect and appreciate that. The guys in the locker room. I enjoy it here, and I still think this team has a lot of potential. We can still get some places.
How do you feel about the way the season ended for you?
I felt like I was able to do what I was able to do all year: be confident. [New Orleans] had a gameplan — they wanted somebody else to beat them — and I thought I did a pretty good job of making it at least competitive. Happy that I was able to help in this series in that way, and maybe didn’t finish how we would’ve liked to, but it is something that I feel good about in the sense that, when it comes to those times of the year when people do try to make adjustments like that, I’ll be able to show up for sure.
When you look back on this season what will you remember most?
I think you’ll just remember the roller coaster of emotions, the six-game losing streak at home, remember getting swept and losing home court. Then you try to look at the positives of the season, the fact that we were up and down but we had a 13-game winning streak in March.
A lot of guys stepped up, a lot of players assumed a role they didn’t have in past years and performed well, like Shabazz and Pat and [Ed Davis] played well coming off injury and Chief had some very bright moments and stepped up, Nurk has some bright moments and Dame as well and just try to look at the positives and negatives.
You said that obviously everybody wants to know where you want to be...
Everybody knows where I want to be: I want to be here. It’s not a secret, but I can’t control those stuff like I couldn’t before.
You’d like to get a long-term extension here?
Yes. Definitely. I find my home here, but definitely need to agree both sides. Like I said, I do my part on the court, and my agent and the people here are going to figure out the rest — or not.
Wade Baldwin IV
Can you go more in-depth on [your journey to the Blazers]?
I was pretty pleased with how I handled that whole situation, and glad that I can go from a mindset where I’m thinking, ‘This season, I might not even step on the court’ to playing minutes — that was the happiest thing for me. I didn’t care if it was one minute, if it was three minutes, if it was 20 minutes, I was just glad to be on the court.
Overall thoughts on the season?
I started the year with an injury to my hamstring so that derailed me a lot. It was always gloomy when I was trying to get things going because I understood that we had a lot of great players in front of me and a lot of players who would fight for position like Pat was.
I’m excited about what I did and I’m excited about the future just continuing to improve and to work on things I learned this summer and season, just continuing to improve this year.
Plans for the offseason?
I care a lot about my progression and I want to succeed and to prove that I am a good player and be a factor for the team. Watching film this last year, I know there has been a progression and if I look at all my numbers from last year they were up … That progression will go up with more work and attention to detail.
What will you take away from the season and how it felt to be in the rotation?
For me, I was able to play in almost every single game and I got a taste of it now. I had some good games and some games that were not so good. That constancy thing is what’s going to keep you in the NBA, I got a taste of it and I’m looking forward to building upon it this summer and not being satisfied and really making sure that I put in the work.
Free agency plans
I’d love to be here. This city, and this organization has really helped me with my development as a basketball player and a young man. I want to come back and make sure I make an even improvement than I did from Year 2 to 3. Hopefully it’s here from the team that has helped these last three years.
Reaction to the loss and season’s end
I don’t want to say I’m over it. But I was just disappointed last night. I got home, held my son, watched the boxing card that happened last night. It was an exciting card. Doing both of those things kind of calmed me down.
What do you think this team is missing Dame?
I’m not sure. I’m sure some people will look at it and say, “well this team needs this kind of player and they need that.” But, I’m not sure, because you look around and you say, Golden State won the championship in 2015, they had Steph [Curry], they had Klay [Thompson], Draymond [Green] had a great season. Then they just had really complementary pieces. They just had guys came in and did a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and it was really done by committee. I honestly feel that our team is capable of something like that, so it’s hard for me to say.
How would you respond to the narrative that you and CJ [McCollum] need to be split up for the team to take that next step?
I don’t agree with it. I think it is that simple, I don’t [agree]. I think that’s the easiest thing to say, but I don’t agree with it.
What is this team missing?
I think in certain standpoints we definitely’ll have to be more consistent. I think one thing that may help as well is there’s no jabs or anything but building an identity outside of our two strong scorers. You know they’re terrific offensively — sometimes in our darker days and our darker moments we sometimes go downhill when a team fully focuses a lot of attention on our stars.
What was the message from Neil and Terry (in exit interviews)?
Just to keep working and just be ready to go next year and stuff like that. And they stressed to me how important it is we get off to a good start next year. This year we kind of had a slow start, individually I mean, and basically they stressed to me how important I am to the team’s success and that I need to next year hit the ground running.
Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts
Olshey on the need for possible sweeping changes
Last year the narrative was that it was going to take sweeping changes. Let’s be a little measured in our reaction. It’s our job to be measured; no one thinks the roster is a finished product.
Stotts on the team’s chemistry
I put this team in with the past two seasons; the building of the group that came in in 2015, they have grown together. It is a very tight-knit group.