2018 Trail Blazers Exit Interviews

by Casey Holdahl
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Stunned. That would be one of the most apt ways to describe the reaction from the players during 2018 exit interviews held Sunday in Tualatin. Not even 24 hours removed from being swept out of the first round, this time by the New Orleans Pelicans, for the second straight season, the players sat in the theater at the practice facility to take questions from the media as everyone tried to figure out what exactly went wrong.

To be honest, losing the series to the Pelicans, while unfortunate, doesn’t qualify as shocking. While the Trail Blazers were the higher seeded team, they finished just one game better than the Pelicans in the regular season standings and entered the postseason playing arguably their worst basketball of the season. But to not win a single game, despite having homecourt advantage, is something every player who was simply stunned by. They knew losing the series was a possibility, but a sweep? They legitimately thought that prospect impossible. What’s more, multiple players noted they would have been offended at the suggestion that such a thing could happen before the postseason started a little over a week ago.

Maybe that was one of the problems? This team seems to have a habit of getting a bit complacent, and that would certainly help explain their performance in Game 3 in New Orleans, which has to go down as one of the most demoralizing playoff losses in franchise history. So perhaps they were so sure they couldn’t be swept by the Pelicans that they just figured, one way or another, that they’d extend the series to a Game 5 in Portland? Granted, the play of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo had much more to do with the abrupt end to the Trail Blazers’ postseason than anything else, but not giving proper shrift to the real possibility of having all of the work they put in during the regular season to get the three seed and homecourt squandered in four games might have been an ancillary issue.

Now, they have roughly five months to think about the end of their season and what it means for the team going forward. Only one team can win the championship, so there’s always 29 teams that end the year disappointed, but it’s hard to imagine any team will have more to regret at the end of their 2017-18 campaign than the Trail Blazers. Here’s what they said at exit interviews before going their separate ways…

DAMIAN LILLARD

"We continue to move forward, and we're going to continue to have opportunities to do better things, but you've got to take situations like this and learn from them. One team gets to be the champion at the end of the year, and this year that won't be us."

CJ MCCOLLUM

"My expectations for myself are high. My expectations for this team are high and will continue to be. And regardless of how it finishes I can live with failing, I can live with losing because I know I'm putting my heart and soul into this game."

JUSUF NURKIC

"All you do through the year is fight for the playoffs, to be in position to have a good postseason. Right now, it stings."

AL-FAROUQ AMINU

"Good season. Getting the third seed should be something that we not forget."

MOE HARKLESS

"They stressed to me how important I am to the team's success, and that next year I need to hit the ground running because when we went on a run this year is when I was playing really well."

EVAN TURNER

"Obviously finishing so quickly wasn't definitely the plan. To a certain extent, it was shocking, but that's what happens, I guess. We've gone up and down all season, regardless of being on the road, and I guess the run didn't work in our favor. Still a great season, a lot of firsts for me."

ED DAVIS

"I think at the end of the year, you always look at your success in the postseason. And that's what most people, most fans and most players dictate their season on. Obviously for us, it's sort of a letdown. After 49 wins, being the third seed and being swept, it's a tough pill to swallow."

SHABAZZ NAPIER

"Quite unaccomplished, to be honest with you. It's tough to get swept, we all agree with that. We fought until the end, we had a great season, regular season. It kind of sucks because you always have that sour taste and when you lose, it's even more sour when you get swept. We did a great job this year coming together through a lot of obstacles that we ran across throughout the whole season. Every single player came in, did what they needed to do and more and it kind of sucks the way it ended, but sometimes it happens."

PAT CONNAUGHTON

"I got a taste of it, and I'm looking forward to building upon it this summer, instead of being satisfied with it, really making sure I put in even more work."

ZACH COLLINS

"I know that I’m going to spend a lot of time in the gym this summer… It’s probably the biggest summer of my career, so I’m really excited. It’s going to be a lot of hard work in the gym."

MEYERS LEONARD

"I came in this building every day with the goal of working as hard as I could, and have everyone hopefully recognize my willingness to be a good person, a good teammate and always willing to work and be a pro."

WADE BALDWIN

"Playing minutes, that was the happiest thing for me. I didn't care if it was one minute, if it was three minutes, 20 minutes. I was just glad to be on the court."