On how the team will approach this offseason: “Well, it's interesting, it doesn't actually change a great deal from what is ordinarily the case. It changes a great deal from what we did last year. The restrictions placed upon all the teams because of Covid and the different things that took place around the bubble made this past draft and free agent cycle very, very different. We had a two-week open transaction window prior to the start of training camp. Ordinarily, we have near 20 weeks to shape and change your roster. That's certainly going to be the case this year. So we get more on a schedule commensurate with what we've all known in the NBA, and what we're used to. Although it shifted a bit on the calendar, the process will be very similar. and I think that that bodes well for all of us because I think by and large teams understand this cadence better than what we had to go through last year.”
On what he likes to do in his free time away from the facility: “Well Daniel, that’s a great question. I wish I could tell you I had a really good answer for what to do with your free time, I don't really have that. What's happened with the league and the way the calendar works now, especially with national team play being as prominent as it is in our scouting, there's really not a big chunk of time, where there's not something going on. You take a week here, you take a week there, but it's not a situation where you have what used to be the month of August was your downtime and you really could address making big sweeping changes to your process internally, and spending a lot of time trying to evaluate how we get better in implementing change. We don't get those big blocks of time now. So you tried to do it in sort of an ongoing way. The one thing I can tell you for certain, Meredith, my wife and I will definitely spend a good deal of time, whatever time we do have in the Napa, Sonoma (California) area as she continues to grow her business, but that's a home away from home for us and we enjoy that area quite a bit.”
On how encouraging is it for Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson to hold team workouts this offseason: “Well, it's very encouraging that they shared it publicly. It's something that internally they've talked a great deal about. Both of those young players want to be leaders in this franchise, and they understand what that means. They understand there's a responsibility that comes with that and it's certainly exciting that they're sharing their approach to building this team into growing and leading, but we've started to see a lot of that behind the scenes already and see no reason to believe it won't continue. Obviously, as an organization, you want to support those efforts. So again, speaking to the offseason question you just asked, a great deal of our offseason will be spent watching those guys do what they're doing and watching them start to flex their leadership muscles and that's exciting for us."
On Kira Lewis Jr. getting a full offseason to develop his game:"Yeah, it's really a shame the first and second-year players this year in the NBA, were really at a disadvantage from first and second-year players that predated them. The Covid protocols changed everyone's offseason program to such a radical degree that I think both Jaxson (Hayes) and Nickeil (Alexander-Walker) had their growth stunted and their progress slowed. I think Kira (Lewis Jr.), Naji (Marshall) were in that boat this offseason. It's really, really detrimental to young players to not have that period of time to grow, because in that 19, 20, 21 age range, your game is just sort of exploding from your fingertips and you really don't even know what you're capable of yet. So for them to get back into a rhythm where they can work on their game in a very measured way, Kira in particular, having now learned the speed of the game, working with Coach Weatherspoon as he has on changing his pace as he adapts to the change of speed that he recognizes, I think is going to be critical. I think Naji getting a summer to work with Coach Vinson from a shooting perspective is going to be really invaluable. We're excited about what Nickeil and Jaxson are going to be able to do. Jaxson will actually play summer league with us as well. So we really feel like we're about to get into a period of time that we understand and have a firm grasp on and that's really going to (lead) to development.”
On what he liked about Didi Louzada’s play in the final few games this season:"Well, I think it's a fair point you made on the small sample size, but I also feel like what people don't see are some of the things we did get to see which was two years of his competition in Australia. I think what Didi showed as an on-ball defender did not surprise us in any way. Didi himself spoke as Kira (Lewis Jr.) did about the speed of the game, adjusting to the speed of the game. He's grateful that he got a couple games to really be on the floor and identify exactly what he was dealing with. It helps calibrate his offseason as well a little bit as he plays summer league with us. He knows what he needs to put more effort and energy into. His development over the last two years with the Sydney Kings, starting with Will Weaver, who's now an assistant coach in Houston, being his head coach, and Chris Pongrass, who was the CEO of that team from a front office perspective. They did a truly remarkable job with him and implementing the things we cared a great deal about, but putting him in position to grow and flourish as a player. Didi was challenged by a few injury issues this year in Australia. I think his shot mechanics regressed a little bit as a result, and I know that the season or rather the offseason spent with Fred Vinson is going to be very useful to him. We feel like what Didi showed more than anything else is what we already knew, and that's this is an elite on-ball defender and he just needs to grow and continue to develop in his overall game.”
On what he liked from Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker toward the end of the season:"First of all, the thing we saw that was the most encouraging is they both competed consistently. There's a difference between exhibiting talent and competing to win basketball games. I think young players by and large in the league when they first walk on the court, they're trying to prove to everyone they can play. ... Both of those kids have now gotten to the point where they know they can play, they know they've proven they can play, and what they're doing now is competing to win. It was really critical for us to see that transition in that moment of realization in both of them and as we met with each of them in their exit interviews, Trajan (Langdon) and I were both really encouraged by their growth and development in that way, and I know the coaching staff is as well.”
On Willy Hernangómez’s approach to the game and what his impact was on the team:"His approach to the game is fantastic because he's all about the team but what stands out to me about Billy in a way that's truly unique is his approach to being alive every day is really significant. Billy comes in this gym with a smile on his face that's genuine and real every day. He lives in a sense of gratitude that is truly unique and it was so welcome this particular season above all other seasons. The grind this season was for everyone, their inability to get away from it, the fact that negativity would fester for so long because there was no way to cleanse yourself of it. When someone like Billy walks in the gym every day, and it's just a ray of sunshine is a human being, everyone came to rely on his presence, because you felt better when he was present. He drew out both sides of our locker room, veterans, young guys. He was a conduit for literally everyone in a very positive way, and we're truly excited about his offseason with Spain. He's going to play for the national team there. They have a very real chance to make noise in the Olympics and Billy's going to play meaningful basketball games and he's going to go there even though we can't sign him officially necessarily before he leaves for Spain. He's going to go there identifying himself as a Pelican and that's important to us.”