Ask Dwight - Blazers preseason issues & injuries
TUALATIN -- Even before free agent acquisition Mo Williams makes his regular season debut for the Portland Trail Blazers, he's already convinced that this is the place for him and his family.
“This organization is great,” Williams told CSNNW.com. “There's a comfort level I have with [general manager] Neil [Olshey] and [head coach] Terry [Stotts]. I played for both of those guys. If you've been around the league for as long as I have, you eventually want to play for an organization that's committed to winning and where you're happy with the situation. This is where I want to be.”
Olshey and Stotts have really made an impression on him, and why not? The organization is on the upswing, talent is blossoming, players are excited to be here and the corporate division is flourishing.
The Moda Center locker room and facilities are second to none. They're in the process of enhancing its practice facility which will include a top-notch theatre room, barbershop, game room, among other attractive features fit for players of this generation.
Times are beginning to change.
Portland has never been a hotbed for free agents. A number of obstacles continue to hamper that. But with Olshey at the helm, who has deep-rooted relationships with high-profile agents and players, gives Portland a fighting chance to lure in such talent.
That was the case with Williams, 30, who holds a player option for the 2014-15 season. It's quite early to be talking about next year, nevertheless Williams is proactively thinking next year and beyond...in Portland.
“They say the grass is not always greener on the other side, but it's green here,” Williams said. “So why leave?
“I'm very happy with where I am. And to be honestly with you, you're the first person I'm telling this to, I like it here so much, I can see myself here for a long time. Hopefully that can work out.”
Williams' wife, Keisha, and their five boys have found the Pacific Northwest “appealing” and “pleasurable,” making the transition to a different city and team that much easier for Williams.
“They love it,” Williams said. “The wife loves it and that's a plus. If they didn't like it, they would have to deal with it, but it helps when they love it. They don't just like it, they love it.”
So far Williams and his veteran leadership has blended in perfectly with this Trail Blazer collection of youth. Damian Lillard says Williams is constantly offering his knowledge and wisdom in practice. Not only is Williams a vital key to the development of the team's young core, but he's able to do so while in his prime.
Unlike most mentoring-type veterans, you're getting production on and off the court from Williams.
Yet, Williams to Portland almost didn't occur.
He was seeking a multi-year deal, a place he could call home. For most of the summer, most reports had him on the cusp of signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Then August approached and he still remained unsigned. Being a former All-Star who has proven his worth in this league, you would have thought Williams was on pins and needles this summer.
It was the exact opposite.
“For me, it was nothing,” Williams said. “It was my agent (Mark Bartelstein). My agent did all of the work. That's what you pay agents for, to take the stress off of you. I was at home with my kids, enjoying that. He would call, asking 'What you think about this? What you think about that?' At the end of the day, I told him not to call me back until we were ready to make a decision. And my decision was Portland.”
And now we look ahead to Friday's game as the Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz in Boise, Idaho -- the NBA team Williams played for last season. In 46 appearances, he averaged 12.9 points, his lowest scoring season in eight years. A right thumb that required surgery, limited Williams during his time as a Jazz.
At the end of the season, it was apparent they were going young, allowing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to sign elsewhere after drafting Trey Burke to be their franchise point guard.
In what wasn't the most pleasant experience last season, Williams, to his credit, has nothing but fond memories of his time in Utah and is looking towards the future.
“Utah is one of the best organizations in the league,” he said. “In my opinion, it's the best, because I haven't played in San Antonio or Miami, and I think those two franchises are up there, also. From top to bottom, Utah's organization is first class. It was sad for me to leave, it was sad that they went in another direction as far as the youth, but I understand that aspect of it and I don't have any bad feelings.
“Right now, my focus is helping the Blazers win ball games because this is a great organization, too. We got the talent to be special. The front office and coaching staff is great. It's going to depend on health and chemistry. But I think we'll be fine."