TUALATIN, Ore. — Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts began the offseason Thursday by receiving a new contract.
Stotts praised owner Paul Allen and the Blazers organization as a whole, adding: “I’ve been in this league a long time. Honestly, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.”
For the first time in 14 years, the Blazers had games to play into mid-May, but general manager Neil Olshey said Thursday’s announcement was a mere formality.
“Terry knew he was going to be back,” Olshey said. “Formalizing a contract, that’s between myself, Terry’s agent and making sure Terry’s on board. That’s paper work. The contract extension wasn’t a result of us winning a playoff series. The contract exertion was a result of this organization moving in the right direction.”
And that’s what the Blazers — individually and collectively — were about as they met as a group for the final time on Friday: moving in the right direction.
Olshey only has to look in his inbox for motivation.
“I walked off the court last year, we won 33 games and the first thing Paul (Allen) said was ‘How are we going to get better?’ We won 54 games this year and we’re in the second round of the playoffs and the first email I got (from Allen) yesterday was ‘how are we going to get better?’ “
The Blazers were proud of their season but not content with losing in the second round in five games.
The Blazers praised their second round opponent for their execution and focus. But the Spurs also have something else the Blazers now know they need to have: depth.
Olshey told reporters they will have two roster spots opening and he promises they will be aggressive in exploring opportunities to bolster their team, including the draft.
“You don’t know when the phone is going to ring. You don’t know if there’s going to be a player available that you can pursue,” Olshey said.
Back-up point guard Mo Williams said on Friday will opt out of his contract, in search of a three-year deal and veteran guard Earl Watson said he is weighing the option of trying to come back for another season of playing or make a transition into coaching.
Portland’s starters have been in the top-three among five-man line-ups in the NBA in terms of minutes played over the last two seasons, according to NBA.com.
Stotts wants to make better use of the bench. But to do that he says that Portland’s young bench players must improve, although he felt like most of them had this season.
“We need them all to get better,” he said.
Each player has his own summer plans to improve.
Most notably, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge will be in the Team USA training camp with a chance to make the final roster and represent their country in the FIBA World Championships in Spain in September.
Hanging over every improvement is Aldridge’s impending free agency after the 2015 season, which the All-Star said he did not talk about in his exit interview.
They could sign Aldridge to an extension, but Aldridge will be able to earn more money and years on the contract due to the NBA’s collective bargaining rules if he finishes out his current contract before re-signing.
The Blazers and Aldridge see eye-to-eye.
“The most important thing is everybody including LaMarcus knows he’s the number one priority in the organization right now,” Olshey said. “These are all things that will be worked out with LaMarcus and his agent. I think the big thing is that LaMarcus wants to be here and clearly we want him here. That’s the challenging part, the economic part will take care of itself.”