It was exit-interview day for the Portland Trail Blazers, the final chance for the media to interview the key players, coach and management of one of the most surprising teams in the franchise’s 49-year history.
There weren’t a lot of shocking happenings – other than President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey announcing that the team has extended the contract of head coach Terry Stotts. But that wasn’t much of a surprise, either, since Stotts had just engineered a run to the Western Conference finals for a team predicted before the season to win 42 games and miss the playoffs.
The pertinent video is on this website and I invite you to peruse it, but in the interest of time, let me hit a few of the highlights for you, in order of the players’ appearance:
CJ McCollum: “It was an incredible season based on what we went through. Expectations weren’t that high. It was a pretty incredible year.”
Meyers Leonard: “The last two games were what I know in my heart I can do. Heading into this offseason I feel very confident in what I’ve done. I’m happy to know I feel I gave the staff and the organization confidence in me. I’m going to come back next year ready for a more definite role.”
Evan Turner: “It was dope. We did a lot of great things this season. We went from being a playoff-caliber team to a potential championship-caliber team. We’re legit.”
Al-Farouq Aminu: “I’ve been here four years now. It’s the longest I’ve ever been at one organization. I don’t think you heard me complain too much.”
Damian Lillard: “People who might not have believed before, people who thought I was crazy for thinking we could push that far, now I’m sure a lot of people believe it more than they did before. We were coming off a sweep in the first round (last season). It’s a great feeling just to know, OK, we had a 15-plus lead in three of the four games. We know that we were capable of winning those games. And if those things go our way, we’re looking at going to the Finals.”
Maurice Harkless: “Overall, we have a lot to be proud of this season. We would have liked a better outcome. But that’s a huge accomplishment by us as a team.”
Enes Kanter: “It’s been an amazing experience. This team made me a better person and a better player. It was the best thing that ever happened in my career.”
Rodney Hood: “I’m not sure (about his free-agency). Obviously, we know it’s a business. We’ll see how everything works out this summer. I’m on the record with how much I love it here and I want to be back. I want to be embraced. That’s a big word that means a lot to me. Whether that equals to a dollar amount, that’s what I’m looking for.”
Zach Collins: “(On whether he’d like to be a starter next season) Yeah, absolutely. I think this playoff run, not only for myself but for the team, it was a great experience. And now we’ve been there and we know what to expect. For me personally, going through that and being able to play a big role and help our team win a lot of games the playoffs, I’ve already learned so much, just in the last month in the playoffs.”
Anfernee Simons: “(The last game of the regular season) obviously gave me a lot of confidence. It was a good kick-start for the summer. (And in the summer league) I want to prove myself. I am young but I’m still able to play with the best of them. I can’t wait.”
Neil Olshey: “(On Stotts’ contract extension) We win every year. It’s year No. 7 – six straight playoff appearances. Two division titles. A trip to the conference finals. And we still have one of the youngest rosters in the league. But it goes beyond wins and losses. It’s alignment, partnership, Our young players develop. It’s a commitment to a longer-term view. One of the things I’m most proud of is everyone who comes through here has gotten better.”
Terry Stotts: “(On where he ranks on the list of Trail Blazer coaches) Doctor Jack (Ramsay) is a Hall of Famer and Rick Adelman will be. I’m not going to touch those guys. They are idols of mine. I don’t even presume to be in that category. There have been a lot of great coaches here.”