LAS VEGAS – ‘There’s no place like home,’ – a prominent quote from the movie Wizard of Oz that automatically makes you think of Dorothy wearing her ruby red slippers.
For the newest Trail Blazer Hassan Whiteside there’s no place like his new home, Portland, OR.
Whiteside was either channeling his inner Wizard of Oz or he was just showcasing his style on Thursday evening in Las Vegas while wearing sparkly ruby red shoes.
The Trail Blazers held Thursday’s introductory news conference at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV before Portland tipped off its fourth Summer League game. Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts were in attendance.
The Blazers are excited to finally have their guy they wanted three years ago after the four-team trade for Whiteside with the Miami Heat became official on Thursday.
“Hassan’s a player we’ve pursued multiple times in free agency. We’ve chased him through trades with the Heat. We finally find some traction… We’re thrilled to have him,” Olshey said to start off the new conference.
Maybe it was Whiteside’s Blazer red shoes and shirt or maybe it was his infectious smile that gave it away, but there is no doubt Whiteside is very much looking forward to this new chapter with Portland.
“What makes me excited about joining, is just the movement and how much they did in these last couple of years, going to the Western Conference Finals… And they have two guards, guys that you have to guard once they get out of their car in the parking lot… Those guys are big time shooters,” Whiteside said.
“I think I describe it as a perfect situation. You ever been on the beach, just chilling and drinking a nice water looking out at the sunset? That’s how I feel,” Whiteside continued.
Whiteside joked ‘yes, a water,” after saying the beach comment.
The 30-year-old is already bringing the laughs.
With Trail Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic sidelined for the foreseeable future, both Stotts and Olshey acknowledged how important the trade to acquire Whiteside was to this year’s team.
Stotts also said he plans to “put [Whiteside] in a lot the same situations that we put Nurk.”
For his career, Whiteside holds averages of 13.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.
Before Whiteside was formally introduced in Vegas, he spent a couple of days in Portland.
Whiteside said he is already feeling the Rip City love.
“It’s so nice. People are so nice in Portland,” Whiteside said. “I heard so many welcome to Portlands… They really embrace me. It feels like a close-knit town that really loves the Blazers. I tell people all the time this is the only arena where you can come out in the lay-up line and when you go through warm-ups, you look into the stands and it’s like 60 percent of the fans are already waiting on you.”
There has been a lot of chatter about how Whiteside’s situation with Miami went south over the last couple of seasons and that maybe he has been a bad locker room guy.
To that, there is one thing Whitside would like his new fan base to know:
“Just how much I care…”
“I think a lot of stuff, if we did have a problem, it’s because we were losing and as a competitor you always want to win,” Whiteside said. “You know, I feel like it was a down year since we didn’t make the playoffs and that does something to you in the offseason.”
“You at home watching other teams play, you want to be out there. I think that’s what I really want them to know that how much I care about working and getting better. This a fresh start and realistically I really think that this team is on the verge of doing something really special,” Whiteside added.
Trail Blazers fans in attendance of Summer League showed their love to Whiteside by asking to take pictures with the Blazers big man and telling him how excited they are to have him in Portland.
Whiteside can now rock those red shoes while saying, there’s no place like home in Portland, OR.