Portland Trail Blazers Media Day 2013: Photos, Interviews and Takeaways

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2013

PORTLAND, OR - SEPTEMBER 30: Lamarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers poses for photos during the teams annual Media Day September 30, 2013 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Monday marked the Portland Trail Blazers media day, and it didn't disappoint. 

There will be a brand new focus in the Rose City this year, and it starts and ends with defense. 

The Blazers did their best to really move beyond what didn't work last year and what they believe will be the key to this season. 

This team will be dedicated to playing defense at every position on the court. 


Defense, Defense, Defense 

For Blazers fans that got used to watching teams slice through the interior defense like a hot knife through butter, this is welcomed news. 

The Blazers lacked tough perimeter defense, they lacked interior defense and they lacked strong help defense. 

They didn't have anybody down low that could intimidate or help, so teams routinely ended up with easy shots in the paint. 

It certainly seems like the players will be focused on a new sense of accountability that starts on the defensive side of things. 


LaMarcus Aldridge asked for a center 

The second-biggest story to come out of media was news that star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge asked management to bring in a true center to play alongside him. 

Now, no disrespect to J.J. Hickson, but there is not a person on the planet that views him as a true 5. As a result, the Blazers' struggles on the defensive side were amplified because Hickson couldn't protect the hoop. 

Because of Hickson's limitations, Aldridge was forced to shoulder a much bigger burden defensively, which in turn led to struggles offensively. This team was also woefully thin, so by the end of the season Aldridge appeared worn out. 

This is where Robin Lopez enters the picture. 

Lopez spent last year with the New Orleans Hornets and started every game at center. He finished averaging 11 points per game and just under six boards. 

Lopez is a willing defender who likes to bang down low. He is a below-average rebounder for the position, but the Blazers will gladly work with that if it means they won't be so soft on the interior. 


Getting back to basics 

Coach Terry Stotts wants the Blazers to get back to basics. This starts on the defensive side of the ball. Fundamentals are being stressed as far as help defense, pick-and-roll defense and some forms of zone. 

This also should be the focus on offense as well given that this team really didn't excel at much on either side of the court last year. 

Sure, they nailed a lot of triples, but this team was in need of a new philosophy, and it certainly appears that Stotts has one in mind. 

Stotts wants his players to be held accountable, and while that starts on defense, it applies to offense as well. 

Players need to know their roles and what is expected of them. 



The Blazers will need to improve drastically on defense in order to have a chance at reaching the playoffs, which certainly seems to be the goal. 

The good news for Blazers fans is that coach Stotts is completely focused on this. He is preaching accountability to his players, and if they buy into it, this team could certainly improve greatly. 

The overall level of talent in Portland has increased dramatically, so now it comes down to execution. If the players can execute on defense, it will lead to better opportunities on offense. 

But this is something that must play out at all levels. The guards need to keep their guys in front of them in order to take pressure off of the bigs down low. 

The bigs have got to be willing and able to come to the rescue when there is penetration from the guards. 

The players are all connected and Stotts is doing a good job of drilling this into the players' heads. 


Wrapping up 

Overall, Blazers fans should be encouraged by what they saw on Media Day. 

The coaches and players are all saying the right things and they appear to recognize where this team needs to improve. 

Heading into training camp, it will be crucial for the learning curve to get stiffer. It won't be enough to talk about defense and personal accountability, it will have to actually be executed. 

This team wants to improve greatly and training camp will be where that improvement will need to take shape.