Blazers introduce draft picks
By ANNE M. PETERSON
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) While speculation swirled about the Trail Blazers' moves in free agency, the team welcomed its three recent draft picks to Portland.
Guards Damian Lillard and Will Barton and center Meyers Leonard were introduced at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Children's Museum. Later, the trio toured the team's facilities.
The draft picks were the first step of an offseason rebuilding effort by the Blazers, who went 28-38 last season and out of the playoffs.
The NBA's moratorium period ends on Wednesday and teams may begin signing free agents. Teams will have three days to match offers for restricted free agents.
The Blazers took Lillard out of Weber State with the sixth pick before selecting the 7-foot-1 Leonard out of Illinois with the 11th in the June draft. It was the first time that Portland had two lottery picks in the draft. Barton was selected out of Memphis with the 40th overall pick.
Lillard, a two-time Big Sky Conference player of the year, averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists as a junior with the Wildcats before declaring early for the draft. New Blazers general manager Neil Olshey called him the team's "franchise point guard."
Lillard was flattered.
"Even though he's saying that right now, I still know I have to come in and work for it and earn my stripes," he said.
Leonard averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season before he also declared early for the draft. He led the Big Ten with an average of 1.9 blocks per game.
Barton, the Conference USA player of the year last season as a sophomore, averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds.
"We thought we had one of the best drafts in the league this year and these guys are the reason why," Olshey said.
The draft picks were the Blazers' first significant moves by Olshey, hired earlier in June to help make over the team.
Olshey, who spent nine seasons with the Clippers, has targeted Hibbert, but The Indianapolis Star newspaper reported on Monday that the Pacers plan to match any offer for the center.
Similarly, the Blazers have said they plan to match the Minnesota Timberwolves' reported 4-year, $45 million offer for Batum, who has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds over four seasons with the Blazers.
The Blazers are tight-lipped about any other moves they may have in mind.
Meanwhile, the team is also looking for a new head coach to replace Nate McMillan, fired at the trade deadline last season after more than six seasons at the helm.
Portland is also seeking a new team president after the resignation of Larry Miller this past weekend. Miller is leaving the team after five seasons to rejoin Nike's Jordan Brand, where he was before accepting the job with the Blazers.
"This was my choice," Miller said Monday. "I just felt it was the right time."
The Blazers announced a $25,000 donation to the Children's Museum for a new outdoor adventure exhibit as part of Monday's press conference.
Updated July 9, 2012