Oct 01

Training Camp Notes: Defensive Focus, Increased Accountability and Lopez Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

By caseyholdahl

-- There was much talk during media day about the team needing to improve defensively, which makes perfect sense considering the Trail Blazers finished the 2012-13 season ranked 29th in the league in opponent field goal percentage. After trying to tailor the 2012-13 defense to the available personnel, head coach Terry Stotts said that the team would get back to basics in 2013-14.

"Our pick-and-roll defense is going to be more conservative along the lines of Indiana, Chicago, San Antonio where we don't extend our bigs, keep our bigs closer to the basket, protect the rim," said Stotts on Monday. "We were one of the worst teams in giving up shots at the rim and they converted a lot at the rim. We want to protect the rim better than we did last year."

And to hear the players tell it, the process of revamping Portland's defense was the focus of the first day of training camp at the team's practice facility in Tualatin.

"I think it would be a bit of an understatement to say we were very thorough in covering (defense) today," said Robin Lopez after his first official practice as a Trail Blazer.

According to Stotts, the team can expect much of training camp to be focused on installing new defensive philosophies during morning practices with evening practices featuring more offensive work.

"Every contact practice will be a lot about defense. Defense will be in every practice, particularly in contact practice," said Stotts. "But you have to coach both sides of the ball. It's important that they bring the intensity and the physicality to the defensive practices and then the evening practice with offense is more mentally being in tune."

-- Stotts, in his first year as Trail Blazers head coach, inherited one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. And often times, it showed. After all, there's only so much you can do when a third of your team is comprised of NBA rookies.

And while there will be plenty of mistakes made this season, Stotts is changing the way he and his staff react to those mistakes. Miscues that might have gone unaddressed last season (or at least addressed in private) are being immediately called out this time around.

"You can't accept certain things," said Stotts. "You can't accept mental mistakes. You can't accept mistakes that you know better and they need to be pointed out. They need to be corrected. At this stage it's about teaching and correcting. At some point, whether it becomes punitive, that's another story. But right now, you can't let things slide. It's too easy to let things slide."

Stotts says that the veterans can help when it comes to correcting mistakes, but in the end, it's on the coaches to … coach.

"The veteran players who are able to teach the younger guys, like LaMarcus was helping Meyers and Earl was helping Damian, I think you have that built in with your team," said Stotts. "But ultimately it's me and the coaching staff that has to get everything on the right page."

On some teams, star players are exempt from this kind of tough accountability (Bill Walton has often said that Jack Ramsey would get so mad and him and Maurice Lucas during practice that he would throw out Bobby Gross) but that doesn't seem to be the case for Stotts. Even his most accomplished players heard about their mistakes, at least during the first practice.

"Coach got after us," said Damian Lillard. "He told us he would hold us more accountable this year and he came out and he did that in the first practice. Everybody practiced hard, we had a lot of guys out there communicating loud and I think we got done what we wanted to get done for the first day."

-- And finally, a lot of attention was paid last week to the series finally of the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" so much so that numerous members of the Trail Blazers were asked about the show's final episode at media day.

But for a guy like Robin Lopez who has had a life-long love of comics, the premier of a new show on ABC, "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." based off the Marvel Comics series of the almost-the-same name, held more interest than the Walter White's last hurrah.

"I think the first show was fantastic," said Lopez. "I've heard some things, surprises in store. I'm glued to the edge of my seat. I'm very eager to see where it's going. I have my theories."


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