Heading into the 2020 offseason, Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey had one primary goal in mind: to get better defensively, primarily on the wing.
Portland had the highest offensive rating in the bubble at 122.5 points but also had the league's third-worst defensive rating at 120.4 points during that same time frame.
Plain and simple, if the Trail Blazers want to contend in the Western Conference, they need to get better defensively.
Thus, Olshey brought in positive wing defenders such as Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington to help fill that hole.
Covington especially has been known as one of the NBA's premier team defenders on the wing and his versatility made him the crown jewel of last season's trade deadline when Houston acquired him to fully embrace small-ball.
Now, he wants to bring that same energy to Rip City.
"What I'm bringing here is that tough, tenaciousness, and everything in between," said Covington. "For me to be able to come in with that role and get back to it, it says [the] organization believes in me and my work ethic and what I've done so far."
The Trail Blazers clearly see Covington as a missing piece to making a significant leap in the Western Conference after trading two first-round picks and last year's starting small forward Trevor Ariza to acquire the seven-year veteran.
"That's been my job for the last five years and I've... excelled at it," explained Covington. "I take that challenge on heavily. Guys have specific roles and I'm not one of the people that's a guy that goes out and scores 30, 40 points a night. I'm the guy that's supposed to stop other people from getting 30, 40."
Ever since he's played basketball, Covington has always been a team-guy, but he accepted further defensive responsibility at Middle Tennessee State. There, he began setting the groundwork to become the versatile defender he has become.
"I've always been a defensive guy. I started as a big so I've always had that mindset, but as far as me taking on to guard guys who are much faster, stronger, and a lot quicker, that just came from the time of going to college and guarding my point guards who are a lot faster than me."
As a senior, he was a Second Team All-OVC selection and helped TSU make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1989, where they fell 67-54 to Saint Mary's in the First Four.
He then further accepted that defensive challenge while earning his place in the NBA on 'The Process" Philadelphia 76ers, when he was playing on a four-year, $4.5 million contract.
"I've been tasked with that for the longest time. You know my coach in Philly gave me that task, and that challenged [me] and I worked at it and I've done everything that I need to do."
Three years later to the date of his signing, Covington had transformed into one of the league's best 3-and-D players. So, as early as the CBA allows, the Sixers renegotiated and extended him with a four-year, $62 million contract which increased his pay by $15 million during the 2017-18 season.
Despite the life-changing pay and regardless of the results on the floor, Covington strives to always get better.
"I never get satisfied with what I'm doing. So as long as I continue to make the job as hard as possible that's what my main thing is.
"It just... allows me to be in this limelight now. So, me taking on that responsibility once again that's... what I live for and that's what my ultimate goal is to stop people from getting their average and everything else. To make their impact on the game a lot less significant."
As for what Covington loves about playing defense, he gave an easy answer that Blazers fans love to hear: "Everything."
"Everything. Everything. I've loved seeing the look on people's faces when something gets disrupted or the play doesn't go through the way they imagined it.
"Just overall, having that mindset of you're messing up everyone else's... flow of the game for them. You take people out of rhythm and you make it uncomfortable for them, it can be a long night and it just depends on who the player is, they can really put your team in a good position to really thrive and really put yourself in the game to win."
As for his fit in Rip City, don't expect him to be hard to squeeze into the rotation. He's a low maintenance, high impact player that the Blazers have sought for seasons.
"I can fit in anywhere. I'm not a guy who comes in and demands a lot."
Rip City will get to see how Robert Covington improves the Blazers when the NBA season tips off of December 22nd.