Like the Portland Trail Blazers' practice facility, the team roster is under construction.
On the first official day in the NBA to sign free agents, the new look roster isn't a rebuild, but general manager Neil Olshey calls it “emerging.”
"Teams that hold on to something that isn't good enough are doomed to end up in mediocrity and failure,” he said Thursday. “You have got to know when it's time to move forward and take another path."
Olshey said the team is blazing a new trail, and that it was basically a two-year recruiting process to keep LaMarcus Aldridge. According to the GM, as of 3:00 p.m. On July 3, Portland was no longer on his list.
"We didn't inherit the happiest player in the world three years ago,” Olshey said. “We did a really good job of partnering with him and his agents and listening to what he felt like he needed in order to make a long term commitment to the organization and clearly it was on that path right up until probably when Wes got hurt."
The Achilles heel of the disappointing finish to the Blazers season spurred free agents Aldridge to San Antonio, Wesley Matthews to Dallas, and Robin Lopez to the Knicks. Combine those exits with the trade of Nicolas Batum to Charlotte, and it will be four new starters five for head coach Terry Stotts.
"I am kind of going in to it like three years ago when I got the job,” Stotts told reporters Thursday. “We had a relatively young roster, we had a lot of new players, I was a new coach. I am looking forward to coaching this team, how it's going to come together."
Lone returning starter Damian Lillard said the team will have an uphill fight. At three years, he is currently the longest tenured Blazer.
"It's kind of like we are starting back from the bottom I guess," he said.
No doubt, this is now Dame Time, all the time. Lillard looked like 130 million bucks during the news conference after signing the largest contract in franchise history, a five-year max-money extension to keep him in the scarlet and black through at least 2021.
"All my life I have always rolled with who is rolling with me and we brought guys in that wanted to be in Portland and now they are my teammates so that is who I am rolling with,” he said.
Lillard told reporters he is happier for his mother than he is for himself with this life altering money, and said his “biggest fan” still keeps him grounded.
"My Mom still tells me to put my glass in the sink, don't leave that sitting on the floor right there, take you mail upstairs,” he said. “It's things like that or, break down the boxes, boxes in the garage. She is my mother still, so it's not like people are treating me like a big shot."
Mr. Big Shot has new parts of his Blazer family. Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis join the team, a pair of energy guys who bring length and defense in this re-shaping in Rip City.
"This is one of the few organizations that like to grow their players, and keep their players and try to win championships that way instead of going in and out and trying to get guys," Davis said.
"I have been with a couple of teams so you know what you need out of a city so you just do what you need to do and once you see that those things are there it's like a no brainer," Aminu added, telling reporters and fans to call him “Rouq.”
The roster now won't be what fans see in October, as Olshey still has upwards of $30 million in salary cap space to play with.
As for the firing of assistant coach Kim Hughes, Olshey said it was his call and that it hurt him deeply on a personal level.
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