The Portland Trail Blazers were in a celebratory mood after earning their ninth win of the season on Friday night, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 134-128 on the second night of a back-to-back series.
After the win, Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups took the chair behind the podium, answering question from assembled media members.
You can find the interview here. Below are key excerpts from Billups’ comments.
On the blossoming play of second-year forward/center Jabari Walker:
He’s come a long way. We spent a lot of time talking about ‘Bari this year, just based on how far he’s come. I use him at the four, I use him at the five. He does his job and he does it very well.
I just thought playing small in this game was going to be a big deal. We’re so much scrappier when we’re able to play that way. You don’t lose any rebounding when you put ‘Bari out there because he’s such a good rebounder. That’s the one thing you’re scared of when you play smaller, is the rebounding thing. You lose some size, but you don’t lose the toughness and rebounding when ‘Bari is out there.
I just thought he gave us a great lift. That was incredible second-quarter defense that we played after trading baskets with them in the first quarter. It was the unit that he was on out there that I thought was so good. I just made the change at halftime. I felt that was the best lineup for us.
On the lineup with Matisse Thybulle, Toumani Camara, and Walker playing together:
We usually switch a lot when we’re doing that. We’re able to speed teams up, speed guys up at times when that group is out there. Obviously they’re all really good defenders, but they can get into those passing lanes. That’s the way we need to play when most of our offense is sitting on the bench in street clothes. We have to try to play that way.
On the spark Ibou Badji brings:
It’s a big deal. As you see, how loud those plays become with Big Ibou down there. One, everybody’s just so happy to have him out there. And you can just see that. So that’s one thing. And then not only having him out there, but having him play well and make plays, it ignites us. To have a guy back there like that, it’s a big deal. When we’ve struggled this year keeping people on teams away from the basket. We’ve struggled in that area. If guys can get there and we’ve got big boy back there erasing some shots, it makes a big deal for us.
On Scoot Henderson developing as a shooter and passer:
What you’re seeing is what experience does. Just getting him out there. That pass was incredible. The read was incredible. You’re seeing him now start to play free and loose, and let the game kind of just happen out there as opposed to thinking it before it happens. Just let it happen. So you’re seeing the game slow down for Scoot a little bit. It will continue to do that.
I’m just loving his ascension, man. Every single game he’s continuing to get better. Like the last game, he had a tough first quarter, had a really good three quarters after that. I thought he played a complete game the whole night today. He played a great game. I thought defensively he was tough as heck. He was going in there getting grown man rebounds, diving on the floor. That’s just who he is, man. I was happy for him today.
Billups also talked about back-to-back games, learning about his team, and whether centers Deandre Ayton and Duop Reath will return for the team’s upcoming road trip.
The Blazers will begin that trip by facing the Phoenix Suns on Monday, January 1st at 6:00 PM, Pacific.