Portland Trail Blazers Media Day 2023 brought overarching themes of newness and change. New players reacted to their newfound situations and returning players reacted to how much had changed since the end of last season. Following the mega-trade of franchise star Damian Lillard, the team is embarking on a new era.
Head Coach Chauncey Billups, the man expected to lead this newlook, youthful roster on the court, was also interviewed for the event. Throughout the session, Billups expressed his excitement for the new opportunities that come with the changed roster.
You can see Billups’ entire interview here:
Here are highlights from Billups’ session.
On Portland General Manager Joe Cronin’s trade work this summer:
I think Joe did an incredible job this summer — his patience, he was diligent the whole time. He wasn’t reactive at all, he stayed disciplined to what we knew we wanted and needed. You rarely see big-time trades go down where everybody made off and did well and feels good about it. Dame is in a position, I’m so happy and excited for him, he’s going to be on the most talented team he’s ever played on. ... What we’ve gotten in return — I just think what he did revitalized the organization. I really do.
On working with Cronin to put together the team he wants to coach:
I was saying to Joe, if we’re gonna be young, we need to be able to play fast, we need to be athletic. We want to play that type of brand of basketball. I said it in front of [the press] all the time, talking about how small we were or all these types of things that we didn’t have. I think now the best thing is we can just start talking about what we do have, and that to me is very exciting.
On having no clear-cut star on the roster:
You’re probably going to have a situation where there’s gonna be so many different guys night in and night out that lead the team in this or that, but to me there’s so much beauty in that. You become less predictable when you have those types of teams. When you are like that and when the ball is really moving, you get so much more engagement from everybody. ... None of our guys our all-stars. We didn’t inherit that, where it’s like, we went and got this dude that’s a five-time all-star. Nah, we don’t have that. We’re gonna groom that. We’re gonna raise that because it’s gonna happen.
On the youth of the roster:
We’re so dang young, man, it’s going to be fun, but there’s going to be some tough trying times out there because of our youth.
On new center Deandre Ayton’s role with the team:
I’m very honest with him. We’re not bringing Deandre here for him to be [Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid], where we’re gonna throw him the ball 30 times a game and say, “alright, go be the MVP.” That’s not going to be his role. However, he probably will have a more expanded role than he had in Phoenix.
On the talent of Scoot Henderson:
I didn’t realize how good of a playmaker he was. I knew he was explosive and tough and competitive and all of those great things, but he has a feel about him, about his game. He has a way of — he’s so competitive and he’s always trying to win, he has a way of bringing you with him. For a young guy, that’s not easy. ... He can get to his spots pretty easily. He can really guard. He’ll learn a lot of tough lessons this year.
On Anfernee Simons’ development as a player:
Ant is really primed to take his game to another level. His confidence is just different. He’s so much more vocal now. He’s talking all the time, he’s talking to Scoot. ... Things that I want him to work on to be better [are] just his playmaking, him reading the game, him knowing when to attack, when to facilitate. He’s going to be out there some with Scoot, some with [Shaedon Sharpe], knowing the difference.
On Malcolm Brogdon’s impact on the roster as a leader:
I think that he’s gonna be very beneficially to Ant, to Scoot, to [Sharpe]. And it’s always good to have a guy like that when he can still play. I remember being kind of like that when I was older in the league, but I wasn’t that good anymore, so I gotta tell you. I can’t go out and show you and compete against you.