The Trail Blazers have fallen short of their expectations on the court this season, having posted a 21-31 record to date. The team has also undergone front office and head coaching changes within the last year. However, interim general manager Joe Cronin told Mark Medina of NBA.com that the Blazers don’t plan to blow up their roster and launch a full-fledged rebuild at the trade deadline.
“I don’t think we have the appetite to tear it all the way down,” Cronin said. “We have too many good players and too many ways to get better without taking too big of a step back.”
When I previewed the trade deadline for Northwest teams on Thursday, I wrote that the Blazers’ most likely path would be to hang onto players like Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little while perhaps moving one or more veterans from a group that includes CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic.
In his conversation with Medina, Cronin didn’t confirm or deny shopping specific players, but hinted that Portland would be open to reshaping its roster to have a better chance of competing in 2022/23 and beyond, even if it means taking a bit of a hit in the short term.
“It’s delicate,” Cronin said when asked about the team’s short- and long-term goals. “I think we all take a big-picture approach knowing that one season is a small vacuum of a larger picture. It’s hard. We’re all so competitive that we want to win consistently. Sometimes to do that, you have to take a step back at times. Sometimes you just have to be patient. So, you’re trying to balance deal by deal what accomplishes the overall big-picture goals.”
Here are a few more of the most noteworthy comments Cronin made in his discussion with Medina:
On what message ownership has sent the interim GM about his job status:
“They’ve been very open with me as far as I’ll have an opportunity to keep this job. But there’s going to be a (GM) search. They showed a lot of trust in me by allowing me to make some decisions with staffing and going into this trade deadline with some roster decisions. So, the trust they’ve shown is really I can ask for and it’s a big compliment. We’ll just take it as we go as far as what the job search looks like and what my chances are.”
On Lillard’s recovery from abdominal surgery:
“It’s coming along great. The surgery was a success. That had been bothering him for years and years. It’s a big relief for him to finally address it. The hope that comes with it is knowing it’s a lot better and that this is really going to enhance his game and hopefully prolong his career.
“… We’re going to be patient and make sure he’s fully healed physically and mentally. I think the break for him is really good. These years really ran together the last three. The weight that he carries, that’s a lot. The way he carried through that injury. Physically, we want to make sure he’s good. Mentally, we want to make sure he’s refreshed and ready to go whenever he comes back.”
On whether the Blazers’ place in the standings will influence Lillard’s return date:
“With our whole approach, it’s going to be big-picture. We’re not going to rush him back just to win a few ball games. We’re going to make sure he’s healthy and right and perform for many years, not just this closing season. We’ll address it and look at it. But I don’t want to put any pressure on him. He can come back once he’s fully healed.”