Quite a turnout today at the practice facility in Tualatin for the first Las Vegas Summer League practice. I'd like to say most of the media were in attendance to get their first look at Jeff Pendergraph, Dante Cunningham, Patty Mills and the rest of the summer leaguers, but the big draw was Kevin Pritchard, who addressed the media for the first time since the free agent moratorium ended yesterday. I guess his popularity shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering all that has reportedly transpired over the last week.
You've got three options if you'd like to know what KP had to say today at practice. You can watch the video over at iamatrailblazersfan.com, you can listen to the podcast of his comments, or you can read the transcript below. It's your world.
Q: How has the past week gone?
KP: We’re working hard. There’s no doubt about it. We’re looking at all our options. We’re excited about the possibilities. Maybe they happen tomorrow, maybe they happen in two months, maybe they happen at the trade deadline. But we like the fact that we have a 54-win team, a great young team. We expect our four rookies from last year to really improve, and that would be Oden, Rudy, Bayless and Batum. They’re growth is important, and maybe more important than anything we do in free agency or with a trade. We’re excited about the season. For me personally, seeing guys in this gym playing basketball, makes it sparkle a little bit.
Q: How close are you to signing Millsap?
KP: We’re looking at all of our options. I wouldn’t just say that we’re just looking at that. We are talking with him. That I can verify. But he’s not the only person we’re talking too. But we’re selective. The thing I would tell you is it’s just not a fit here anymore, it’s a special fit. We’re very selective. And I know a lot of free agents have signed with other teams, and that’s OK with us because we feel like there are certain guys that are right for us and some that don’t fit.
Q: Can you see spending money on a power forward when you have LaMarcus there?
KP: I’m a big believer in that you get the best player. Nate is an unbelievable coach. He always figures out how to blend the talent together, and if you can get the best player available, go get him.
Q: Are you worried at all about the contract negotiations with Brandon and LaMarcus?
KP: Well, in any negotiation, they’re complex. That’s just the nature of it. LaMarcus and Brandon are absolutely critical to what we’re doing going forward, and they’re going to be here a long time. We’re having amicable talks with their agents. We’ve known their agents for a long time. They’ve done Martell Webster, so it’s that group. So it’s not like we’re going through this for the first time with those guys. And it’s amicable, and we plan to make it amicable. More importantly, Brandon and LaMarcus will be here for a long time.
Q: How surprised were you that Hedo pulled out and how did you feel?
KP: You know, I was disappointed. I can’t hide my emotions that way. Very disappointed. We went through a process with him. We got to a point where we both felt comfortable. But here’s what I do know: If it wasn’t right for him, then it isn’t right for us. We’re after players who are about winning, who are about being successful, and being unselfish. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t fit, and I’d rather know now than later.
Q: So you’re looking for the best player regardless of position?
KP: We’re looking for the best opportunity.
Q: How important is it for Bayless to come up big in the summer league?
KP: Well I think that it’s part of his development. I don’t want to put the pressure on and say, ‘If he doesn’t play great, then he’s out,’ because last year he was the MVP. It’s a little bit of a change because what we really want from Bayless is to convert a little bit of a thinker, more of a reactor, and a guy who can come in and make other people better. I know for a fact that he can go get 30 points in a summer league game. That I have no doubt. What we want to see is growth as a point guard.
Q: How disappointed have you been at this first week or so?
KP: Not at all. The one thing I can tell you is this: We have a 54-win team that’s young, that’s growing and we hope that they can all continue to grow. I don’t feel like anybody on our team can’t get better, and that’s usually a unique position, and we’re sitting on some cap space. So you don’t make a move just to make a move, you make the right move. And whether it presents itself today or a week or a month, you don’t know. But we’re not afraid to pull the trigger and we’re going to be active in trying to create some of those things.
Q: Would you say you’re focused primarily on free agents or the trade market?
KP: I think you limit yourself if you say you’re just going after free agents. There are so many other opportunities, and we’re one of the few remaining teams that have cap space. So you have to be creative in how you use it. When the right deal come, we’ll know.
Q: How challenging is it to try making this team better when it’s already improved so much?
KP: Well I think that’s the good thing. We have worked so hard to get this team into place that it’s hard just adding someone. It’s just hard adding a player that we don’t feel like is better or isn’t a better fit for us. So that’s the good news. Nate and I talked about it today, and we were like, ‘yeah we could do a lot of things, there are a lot of things out there,’ but we love Batum, we love Roy, we love LaMarcus and we love Rudy. We feel like we have these cornerstones, these foundational pieces, plus we’ve got all these guys that are still growing. It’s good news, and being patient sometimes is the best thing.
Q: How important for big forwards to do well in summer league?
KP: We’re looking forward to seeing if they can step out onto an NBA type of game in summer league and be productive. Now being productive doesn’t necessarily mean going out and scoring. We’ve got scorers. We need some toughness. We’ve always said at the start of the summer, ‘boy we really need that toughness.’ We’re looking at that and from what I saw, and I didn’t see a whole lot, they both bring a lot of energy and we’ll see that throughout the summer league.
Q: Do you feel like you’re in a power position with all that money?
KP: I’m not saying we won’t use it, I’m just saying we might not use it today and we might look to use it later. But I can’t say that with certainty. I do know this: there is an arms race. There always is with the best teams. Now we’re considered one of the best teams in the West. We had the second best record with a young team. Adding the final piece or one of the final pieces is the most difficult thing to do, and you have to make sure it’s a special fit. You can’t just throw it out there because it could mess up your chemistry, it could do some things that you don’t want to do, so we’re selective.
Q: How content would you be going into the season as it is right now?
KP: I would have no problem with it. None at all. 54 wins. Young. Improving. I want to help Nate and we talk about it everyday with bringing in some guys with experience, and we’ll continue to try to do that.
Q: On the negotiations with Brandon Roy.
KP: Of course I can’t comment on the details of the negotiation. What I will tell you is this: We all value Brandon and LaMarcus so much, and we know they’re a part of this organization for a long time. We’re going to do everything we can to come to a solution. Whether it’s this week or next week, I don’t know. But it’s so important to us and to him, and he specifically, Brandon, and LaMarcus have been a part of this turnaround. I was a part of the group that drafted him. I have a special bond with those guys so I understand that. And we’re going to negotiate with those guys always in good faith. Always.