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Portland Trail Blazers Media Day: Anfernee Simons Set to Lead

A new year and a new role emerges for a sudden veteran.

NBA: Portland Trailblazers-Media Day Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers Media Day, 2023 gave Portland players a chance to reflect on a summer of change and look forward to the year ahead with a brand new roster and agenda. Perhaps nobody stands closer to the crux of that transition than Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons. He’s the most experienced backcourt player the Blazers field right now, also one of the only two players on the team who will continue major rotation minutes from last year to this.

You can see Simons’ entire Media Day interview in this video:

Here are highlights of the question and answer session.

On increased opportunities without Damian Lillard on the roster:

Obviously when somebody like Dame leaves that’s made a big impact on your life and on your career, it definitely hits harder than any other teammate leaving... He was kind of like the last one of the group. Now we just turn the page and move on to new journeys.

I’m just excited about this year and the opportunity that I have. Like I’ve said each and every year, I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity that’s ahead of me. It’s no different this year.

On being the longest-tenured Blazer:

That’s crazy.

On whether he wants to take over team leadership now that Lillard is gone:

For sure. I think coming into the NBA, that’s kind of like the dream. Being able to be the guy on a team, demand that out of you and your teammates as well. I just take it as a challenge and a step in a new direction in my development as a player, as a person, and in my life in general. Kind of turn the page in becoming who I want to become and reaching my potential. I see it as just another step in the journey.

On the current team’s potential:

We’re a very youthful team now. We’re playing at a fast pace and we want to play at a fast pace. It’s just fun. Whether it’s Scoot [Henderson] bringing the ball down the court or Shaedon [Sharpe], fast guys that can get downhill anytime they want to, and they’re just making plays from there, showing their athleticism, showing their ability to score and pass.

On adding Deandre Ayton:

DA is a great player, number one pick in my draft. He’s just a man among boys. He’s easily one of the most talented bigs in the league. He can provide a lot for us. Whether it’s on the offensive end or the defensive end, he just gives us a different level of ability to play any kind of defense or do different things on offense that make us hard to guard.

On seeing Lillard in another jersey:

I saw that yesterday. It didn’t look right at all, just from the first look. Obviously everybody has to deal with change at some point... It definitely didn’t feel real looking at that, seeing him in a Bucks jersey, but I’m just hoping he gets to achieve the goals he wants to when he goes over there.

What he improved on during the offseason:

Last year taught me so much on how teams guarded me—guarded me sometimes and Dame sometimes—where they were denying full court, not letting us get the ball and kind of disrupting us. I think this year it was more being able to handle the constant being denying with the ball, getting bumped, being trapped, so now I’m still finding ways to be successful and making sure I’m available for the whole game through that. Obviously it’s easy to get tired when they bump you through the whole game...

...Also stepping into more of a leader role, obviously, making that come out of me, being more vocal about the things I want to get done and want to do.