Today is the Portland Trail Blazers’ media day, which means all day the team will be answering questions, taking pictures, and preparing for the end of the off-season. Training camp begins tomorrow, and already LaMarcus Aldridge has plans to get down to business. In a live interview with Blazer blogger, Sarah Hecht, Aldridge answered questions about the Blazers’ added depth and playoff expectations:
One of the questions that’s coming up a lot is off-season acquisitions. Every media we talk about how there’s a different feel. This year, with all these acquisitions, it seems like it’s a really different feel. What are your thoughts on the acquisitions this year and really deepening the roster and how do you think that’s going to influence your guys’ style of play?
I think this is definitely one of my better years of adding guys I feel like we definitely added some depth, we added some bench. We have Dorell Wright; he’s one of the very, very—you know, 3-point shooters in the league and he’s pretty consistent. I think adding him with Wesley Matthews and Nic [Batum] is going to be big for us. I think from top to bottom, we definitely got better.
And thank goodness for that. Not to disparage the efforts of years past, but it’s nice to think Portland was finally able to put a team around him this time. The Blazers had a strong core last year, but that’s simply not enough. The more talent a team has dusted across its roster, the easier everyone’s job becomes; especially LaMarcus Aldridge’s.
When you think about those additions and how long it takes to get cohesive—you’ve had voluntary workouts—in your experience with some of those changeovers, when do you feel like things really start to gel? Is it different all the time? Are you already feeling something different this time?
I think there’s definitely been some gelling so far, but not until you get into training camp, not until you get into those pre-season games where you can kind of let guys see their roles, where their shots going to come from. I think as guys start to learn that, I think that’s when you gel, because everybody understands their position.
I cannot overstate how hugely important this is. The world watched as last year’s Lakers trotted into the season expecting a title, but failed to develop any sort of real chemistry and, instead, found themselves scrapping for a playoff spot at all. Their struggles were apparent as early as pre-season, where they lost every matchup. Pay close attention to how the Blazers gel early on in this year’s pre-season games (which begin October 7th).
And how about your thoughts on the value of the experience from some of the vets, and then also a crop of young guys? How do you think that blend is going to work for you guys this year?
It’s going to be good because we definitely have guys that have been in the league a little bit, you know, some guys that are going to play some games. I think also we have some guys like T-Rob that are really young and hungry that I wanted to bring in just starting, and that’s going to be good for us.
I think we’re all excited for this. For myself specifically, Thomas Robinson is the most interesting pickup. I’m excited to see how he grows in Portland and what he can do behind one of the best power forwards in the league. Aldridge has even mentioned the possibility of Robinson playing the 4 and him taking the 5 when the Blazers want to go small; a combination that could be genuinely lethal.
When you look at a team on paper vs. how a team actually ends up performing, when is it too soon for people to start talking about playoffs? You hear the power rankings and all that at the beginning of the year, and people are talking about the improvement of the team this year and how this is potentially a team that could be actually really fighting for the playoffs. What are your thoughts on that?
I feel like we are. I feel like we definitely got better. We were right there last year, even with the team we had last year. So I feel like this team is definitely better than last year and I feel like from day one in training camp, myself and the other captains are setting the tone early like this. You know, get out there. Let’s get better.
No one knows better than the players how close they came last season. We watched them rise, we watched them fall, and we watched injuries end a promising season late in the schedule. This year there is enough depth to accommodate injury and, hopefully, prevent it. Aldridge knows that. With a roster that can be collectively called a “team” this season, the pressure is on LaMarcus Aldridge to step up and lead once more. He is ready and so are the Blazers.