Thinking back to last July when Kent Bazemore first spoke with the media: He was dressed in a suit for his official press conference as a Trail Blazer -- a bright-eyed veteran forward who was eager to have a fresh beginning.
Anthony Tolliver had just finished a workout before addressing the media on a warm summer day. He discussed his excitement to join a team that was coming off a Western Conference Finals run. He was ready to help the Blazers space the floor and provide leadership off the bench.
It didn’t pan out the way these two had hoped, to say the least. Although, their eventual trade was prognosticated.
And while it was expected that Baze and AT wouldn’t be in Portland very long, based on their contracts, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty that their teammates are going to miss about them.
Reports of the two being traded surfaced Saturday afternoon, nearly four hours before the Blazers tipped off their final game of their three-game trip with Portland visiting OKC.
For many of Rip City faithful, they will miss Bazemore’s chase down blocks and the energy he brought on the defensive end.
Yet, fans may not know exactly what will be missed when it comes to Bazemore and Tolliver in the eyes of the Blazer players themselves.
While reminiscing about the past four months, the Blazers mentioned how they will miss the way Tolliver carried himself as a journeyman in the league.
They will also miss the way he connected them to their faith.
Tolliver was a big advocate of attending chapel.
The chapel sessions usually last about 15 minutes. For some players, such as Tolliver, attending chapel service has become a staple in their pregame routine.
All 30 NBA teams have volunteer chaplains who meet with the teams an hour before every game inside every arena. There’s no requirement that players attend, though more did this year.
Directly following Saturday’s loss to the Thunder, all eyes were on Trail Blazers floor general Damian Lillard as he spoke about the move.
For Lillard, it’s all about staying neutral when a trade comes down the pipe. He’s the face of the franchise. He has to remain steadfast, diplomatic.
But now, thanks to Tolliver, Lillard has his faith to lean on more.
I’m always in the middle when the moves happen because I develop friendships and relationships with my teammates... Me and Baze spent a lot of time around each other, interacted a lot even before he was brought to Portland… It’s sad to see him go.
Same thing with AT.
AT has been a big part of me taken a step forward in my faith. Being in Chapel and sending scriptures and stuff like that – so, he’s had an impact on me and our team in that way and how he is with the younger players – showing them how to be a true professional. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on losing Bazemore and Tolliver
While a handful of Blazers addressed the media about the trade, Jusuf Nurkic and Mario Hezonja took to Twitter to thank their now former teammates and wish them luck.
The two veterans, who are about to embark on their new life in Sacramento, may have had the most impact on the young Blazers just like Lillard said.
On a career night for Gary Trent Jr., he discussed how difficult it is to lose teammates to a trade.
The second-year player believes there are two big things he will truly miss: The energy and faith...
AT and Baze were great teammates. I learned a lot from Baze. Same with AT. With AT, with his presence, having a bible study for the team, we’re going to miss that type of stuff. Baze, with his energy. Me and Baze was always joking around, playing around every day with each other. But, it’s a business, at the end of the day, and teams are going to have to do what they have to do. We all know, we all signed up for that. I wish nothing but the best for them. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr.
Just because every professional athlete knows and says “it’s a business,” doesn’t mean they have to be okay with it all.
And from the sounds of it, it doesn’t ever seem to get any easier.
Seventeen-year veteran, Carmelo Anthony has witnessed his fair share of trades.
He said he “was shocked” to get the text about the move, but offered up an explanation on how he deals with teammates coming and going:
“I say it’s a part of the game… Because you start to build friendships and relationships and bonds with guys, and at any given moment something like that can actually happen. I’m more talking about everything outside of basketball. I think the front office had to do what they had to do -- I don’t question that, but from our standpoint as players and guys who got a chance to kind of bond and build a friendship that’s a tough one,” Melo said.
It’s all part of the game, fair or foul.
Still, it’s part of Lillard’s approach of ‘staying in the middle’ when it comes to trades is about making sure he’s not just focusing on losing teammates.
“You’ve got new guys coming in and you don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it’s a business and make guys who are coming in not feel welcome – that’s why I’m always in the middle, because I’m always going to welcome new teammates, but it’s always sad to see guys you’ve got a relationship with [go].”
As Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers welcome in Trevor Ariza and Wenyen Gabriel, while also welcoming back Caleb Swanigan, it’s about starting anew right now.
The second half of the season is about to ramp up for the Blazers, Lillard is looking forward to what Ariza could bring to this team.
"I think he can really help us. I think the situation that we in 18-26 I think; it’s not where we planned on being. Things haven't been working out, we haven't been winning a lot of games and his experience, his skill set --3 and D, he can guard, pretty much four positions… And his size, it gives us something we could really use,” Lillard said.
The Trail Blazers will still have to wait at least one more game to start figuring it out with their new pieces. The trade will not become official until Tuesday.
Portland hosts Golden State Monday night at 7:00pm on NBCSNW.