Robin Lopez vows to help the Portland Trail Blazers with something the team missed last season: defensive stops.
The 7-foot-center acquired by the Blazers in a three-team trade with New Orleans and Sacramento was introduced to his new team on Thursday.
The Blazers lacked a real center last season, instead using forward J.J. Hickson up front with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. As a result, Portland never had a big shot-blocking presence on the defensive end.
Hickson, a free agent, signed this week with the Denver Nuggets. In the trade that brought Lopez to Portland, guard Tyreke Evans went to the Pelicans and guard Greivis Vasquez was sent to the Kings. Portland also acquired guard Terrel Harris from the Pelicans in the trade, and gave up the draft rights to Jeff Withey, future second-round draft picks and cash.
Lopez averaged 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.56 blocked shots in 82 starts last season with the Pelicans.
”J.J. did a terrific job but we were one of the worst teams in the league in the paint and around the rim,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said in proclaiming Lopez his starter next season.
Bringing in Lopez was one of several moves the Blazers made in free agency. Most were aimed at shoring up Portland’s bench, which was lacking last season when the team lost its last 13 games to finish 33-49 and out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Portland signed free agent Dorell Wright, a nine-year NBA veteran, who averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
The Blazers also picked up free agent guard Earl Watson, a 12-year NBA veteran who played the past three seasons with the Utah Jazz. He played in 48 games last season, averaging 17.3 minutes and two points, 1.8 rebounds and four assists.
The team also obtained forward Thomas Robinson in a trade with Houston for the rights to Kostas Papnikolaou and Marko Todorovic, as well as two future second-round picks.
Robinson was the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft by the Sacramento Kings but he was dealt to Houston in a February trade. He played in 70 total games last season, averaging 4.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 15.1 minutes.
All three joined Lopez for introductions on Thursday.
”I know this organization wants to get back in the playoffs, and it starts in practice every day,” said Watson, who promised to mentor point guard Damian Lillard and draft pick C.J. McCollum.
The Blazers on Thursday announced that they had come to terms with McCollum, who was the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft out of Lehigh. The day before, Portland announced the signing of guard Allen Crabbe, the 31st pick out of California acquired in a draft night trade.
McCollum averaged 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.05 steals over four seasons. He scored 2,361 career points, making him the all-time leader for the Patriot League.
Crabbe, Pac-12 player of the year last season, averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in three seasons with the Golden Bears.
Both McCollum and Crabbe are on Portland’s NBA Summer League roster.