The smiles, the handshakes, and the hugs: Trail Blazers media day is truly a back-to-school type of feeling.
Just like with every media day, it’s a chance for the media to catch up with the players, hear about their offseason, their goals, and any expectations they may have set for the year.
Over the course of about four hours of interviews there were a couple of common themes throughout.
After each player finished talking at the podium to the masses of the media, the player then made their way into the Fountain Room in the Memorial Coliseum for a special NBC Sports interview.
The rotational players were congruent on two things:
This team has the capability of winning a title. Pau Gasol is a walking legend.
With seven new faces added to the Trail Blazers roster, this media day was all about getting to know the new guys and the feeling surrounding the team.
For veteran Anthony Tolliver, who has played for 11 different NBA teams, he has a gut feeling about this roster.
“This is the first time I’ve gone into the season expecting to compete for a Championship,” Tolliver said.
It was evident that this Blazers squad has championship on the brain.
It was also apparent, they know just the guy to help them get there.
“Pau knows what it takes," as far as winning a championship goes, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said.
“He commands the respect of his teammates just because of what he’s done in his career,” Stotts added.
But for the young Blazers, it has taken them a bit to adjust to seeing the future Hall of Famer on a daily basis.
Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons know how fortunate they are to be entering their second year with Gasol as their mentor.
Trent Jr. has a master plan to learn from Gasol while the team is on the road.
“I’m trying to go sit next to him on the plane, so I can pick his brain apart. Hear about every story about Kobe Bryant, my favorite player. So, hopefully when we get to the plane I’m gonna sit with him and that’s going to be your seat for the rest of the year,” Trent Jr. said with a big smile.
Trent Jr. was born in 1999.
Simons was born in 1999.
Gasol was drafted in 2001.
The 39-year-old would be happy to know that the 20-year-old, Trent Jr., still thinks Pau is hip and happening.
“He’s joking around with guys, he’s being cool. He’s being funny. He’s still young and hip. He’s still got it,” Trent Jr. said with a smile.
Simons is also looking to pick Gasol’s brain, but he had to get over how surreal it is to be on the same team.
“It was crazy the first time I saw him in the locker room. I was like this is Pau Gasol for real, like it’s crazy!” Simons laughed.
It’s a little different story for Hassan Whiteside.
“We were always battling on the court. So, it’s like so different. Like, seeing him in a friendly environment, where it’s not always so much competition like it was in the past,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside joked about how that friendly nature of Gasol goes away once he hits the court.
That friendly nature seems to be firmly rooted in Gasol. He is happy to be in that mentor role, in fact he prefers it.
Once Gasol is healthy again after undergoing surgery on his left foot last May, Gasol said he hopes to bring “good decisions, good basketball IQ, create a good flow, good chemistry on the floor… And leadership off the floor as well with the young guys.”
Gasol wants to be, “a guy that [players] can ask advice and look for support and guidance to a certain degree.” Gasol went on to say, “I’ve seen quite a bit, I won’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen quite a bit.”
The humble and friendly nature of Gasol was exuded at Trail Blazers media day. His teammates exuded their respect for him as the 2x time NBA champ looks to chases another ring.
This time with Portland.