EXCLUSIVE: One-On-One With Team Owner Paul Allen
During halftime of of Portland's Las Vegas Summer League game against the Lakers on Sunday, Trail Blazers team owner Paul Allen spoke with Trailblazers.com about drafting CJ McCollum, the offseason acquisitions of Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson, the play of Damian Lillard and why the team decided to "rebuild" rather than "blow it up."
What are you thoughts on being able to get CJ McCollum at No. 10 in the 2013 Draft?
"Well, with nine picks ahead of us, we were very chaotic. We were gasping. I think for a while there, there was a video that showed the process of the draft. There was a lot of gasping in the room because we were surprised by some of the picks. But in the end we got the player we were hoping we would get in CJ McCollum."
What have you thought about CJ's performance so far at Summer League?
"Obviously he's pretty adept at creating his own shot. He's got multiple areas he can score from. I was impressed, one time he was just flying down the court. His end-to-end speed with the ball is very impressive, too. His awareness of where passes are going, his ability to make steals -- I think we've seen a couple deflections and steals in this game (against the Lakers) so far."
The team traded for Robin Lopez, someone who can play defense at the rim, something the team has been saying they needed since the end of the regular season. Your thoughts on that move.
"Well, we felt like we were over-matched. We were over-matched, undersized at center last year. JJ Hickson did everything he could there but we just didn't have enough size down there in the hole. I really think Robin is going to help us in that area protecting the rim and rebounding and generally being a physical presence."
The team also made a move to bring in Thomas Robinson, after which Neil Olshey said his development was one of the team's primary goals.
"We're very excited to have a player of his potential. He's a very good rebounder, he's extremely tough. Obviously he's got some rough edges to improve on his game, but the reason we're so excited is he's got upside and he's really hard-nosed and he rallies the other guys around him. So we're excited to have him as a part of our team."
How important was it for you to have the team improve going into next season after seeing how well the team performed at times last season? Some people might have assumed that the team would want to take a step back, but it seems like you've wanted to reload and make the playoffs.
"Any time you can get into the playoffs, it's a positive thing. Sometimes you have to say, 'Okay, we're rebuilding. We're blowing it up.' But that's not what we've decided to do, obviously, in this offseason.
"I think last year, you have to remember, was Neil's first year coming in and he had to find out about some of the players we had rights to like Victor (Claver) and Joel (Freeland) and (Luke) Babbitt and Nolan Smith. I mean, a lot of guys. It was a learning process to see how much they could contribute or where we needed to upgrade in the offseason, so we've really focused on trying to do that this offseason.
"We had the tenth pick in the draft and a significant amount of cap space to work with, so I think Neil's done an excellent job maximizing our opportunity. But then you have to see, as I said before the beginning of last year, how it plays out when the lights go on and the season starts and these guys are trying to win real games that count. Then you see the fruits of the offseason workouts with the coaches and all the time doing individual drills and all that stuff, you see whether that pays off. So that's always exciting."
After seeing how well Damian performed last year, the opportunity to go into this upcoming season with a chance to make the playoffs is a great thing. I feel like there's this idea that winning games doesn't matter anymore, that just sinking to the bottom as fast as you can to try and get draft picks is what you should do.
"There are some teams that look like they are executing that strategy in this offseason. And they're either going to get a guy they really like or not.
"During the draft process, we have a chart that shows the probability of success of each pick and there's no guarantees in this league. You can pick someone No. 1 and they don't necessarily workout because of development or injuries or many other things. So sometimes you go to the well there and rebuild and things don't work out like you hope. And other times you get Damian Lillard and you couldn't be happier."