Portland Trail Blazers Media Day 2022 featured interviews from Portland’s big names like Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, but it also included appearances from featured role players. Veteran forward Justise Winslow, second-year pros Trendon Watford and Keon Johnson, Summer League stud Jabari Walker and backup big Drew Eubanks all spoke to the media about their roles for the upcoming season.
Danny Marang of Blazer’s Edge and 1080 the Fan tweeted some notable clips from each player. Here’s what they had to say.
Winslow ‘Wants to Start’
While the players featured in this article are all expected to contribute off the bench this season, Justise Winslow is aiming his sights on the starting lineup. Earlier in the day, Portland head coach Chauncey Billups announced the Blazers’ small forward position would be decided in an open competition between Nassir Little, Josh Hart and Winslow. Winslow is likely the biggest underdog in the race, but it’s a job he intends to win.
We all want to start we all want raises, but at the same time you have to remember you’re a part of a bigger team, but yeah I want to start.
This upcoming season will be Winslow’s eighth in the league. The 26-year-old is known for his defensive versatility and toughness. These are traits he thinks would’ve meshed well on some of his coach’s mid-2000s Detroit Pistons teams, which were renowned for their defensive pressure.
I think he (Billups) knows I could’ve played on those bad boy teams and with him in Detroit.
Watford Ready to ‘Thrive’
Last season, Trendon Watford was one of the gems discovered during Portland’s colossal tank job. Gifted with an abundance of unexpected minutes, the rookie on a two-way deal played his way into a guaranteed NBA contract. Now entering his second season, the 21-year-old, 6-8 forward believes he can help out the Blazers at any position.
Anywhere Chauncey puts me, I feel like I can thrive. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 I can hold it down- if Dame needs a break I can hold it down.
As a starter on Portland’s Summer League team in Las Vegas this July, Watford helped Portland win the Summer League title and earned MVP honors in the championship game. He said he took it on himself to be a vocal leader.
I just wanted to be that vocal leader at Summer League, learning from guys like Dame, Nurk, Jerami - I’m really looking forward to learning more.
Watford said an outspoken personality is just natural for him.
It’s just my personality to be the light in the dark room - I’m getting Ant to talk a little more we’re getting really close. Dames not really quiet - laughs - I just want to be light.
Walker Starting to ‘Fit in’
Another Summer League standout, Jabari Walker has become a Rip City fan-favorite before his first official NBA game due to his impressive campaign in Las Vegas. The 2022 late second round pick said he has been shocked by all the support.
It’s crazy, I don’t feel like I should have as much fan support as I do - but I guess the way I portrayed myself, they really like me I guess.
The rookie said he’s starting to find his place among his teammates, with some help from Greg Brown III and Little.
I’m starting to see where I fit in.
I talk to Greg Brown a lot, he was just a rookie last year and Nassir Little has been a vet to me on what to expect.
Eubanks ‘Proud’ to be a Blazer
Drew Eubanks grew up in Oregon, playing for Reynolds High School and then for the Oregon State Beavers in college. After playing for the Blazers on a series of 10-day contracts last season, this summer he agreed to return to his hometown team on a one-year deal. He said he takes great pride in suiting up for his local NBA franchise.
I felt like I was playing for the people I grew up with, Oregon State, Reynolds - it’s just the best way to put it is ‘proud.’
He also spoke on what it’s been like learning how to play with the unique talent that is Damian Lillard.
I’ve never really played with a guy where my [defender] is up at the level or blitzing the screen - the biggest thing has been set the pick and get out of there and then it’s up to me to find that shooter in the corner or make the play from there.
Johnson Focused on ‘Defensive Presence’
Keon Johnson came to Portland, along with Winslow, last season in the trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington out of town. As a rookie first round pick, the 20-year-old demonstrated great athleticism and leaping ability at the guard position. Now entering his second season, Johnson said he’s worked hard in the offseason to be a bigger factor on the defensive end.
I’ve got one year under my belt now. I just took it back to the basics - I sat down & wrote things down, one of them was my defensive presence. How can I be different in the defensive end, one of the things I’ve added is picking up at 94 feet & that’s really improved my conditioning.
Check around the site for more summaries of Media Day 2022 interviews!