The Trail Blazers are wasting no time in trying to make changes and get better on the defensive end of the court.
Tuesday was the first full-scale practice of training camp and Coach Terry Stotts constructed that workout around what he wants done on defense, with the hope of improvement over last season's ranking as one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
A new identity on defense is in order. Defense is hard work and getting better on defense is probably even more difficult.
“Today it was it was pretty much all a defensive focus,” Damian Lillard said. “Maybe the last 20 minutes we just did, you know, up and down with things. We were focused more on executing our offense, but pretty much up to that point it was our defense.”
And the defensive emphasis comes for a team that needs it.
“You know, I think that makes perfect sense,” Lillard said. “We haven't had trouble with our offense here. We've been one of the better offensive teams in the league. We never had trouble putting points on the board. But defensively is where we've struggled and had the inconsistency.
“So I think it makes sense that that would be our primary focus.”
What were the Trail Blazers working on?
“I feel like it's more of a presence,” Lillard said. “We're not giving up as much or allowing people to have as much space.
“And I feel like DJ (Derrick Jones Jr. and RoCo (Robert Covington) both of them, are high-IQ defensive players and they picked up on things pretty quick. And it felt, you know, a little more difficult with them out there in practice.
“I could tell that they know what they’re doing. They were processing things in their head that you know you just, it's not about whether we teach it to them or their coaches teach it to them or not, it's just defensive instincts."
Covington comes to Portland with a top defensive resume, having once been a first-team all-defense selection in the NBA. He was asked what his perception of the Trail Blazer defense while playing against the team.
“There was a lot of issues, as far as like, the connectivity, with everything,” he said. “And now me being here, like I'm always engaged and like I play for myself, but I also make sure I keep the guys engaged on the backside and, overall, just keeping guys in the loop so they can pay attention.
“Today we did a good job of building off of not being hugged up and just overall being engaged in being more mindful and like I said, our communication was very good today.”
Sotts was asked for his assessment of Covington.
“Obviously I think he's a good on-ball defender.” the Trail Blazer coach said. “Everybody sees that, but he is really good off the ball on the weak side. He anticipates. He stays engaged in the play.
“Yeah, he has good length. So I think when he's on the weak side, he reads defense as well -- and is usually in pretty good position.”
Portland won't have to wait long to take the new stuff into a game. Sacramento is scheduled to be in Moda Center Friday and Sunday for exhibition games.