The 6268 fans on hand in Boise, Idaho Friday night, provided a different atmosphere than the last time Victor Claver and Joel Freeland suited up as members for the Idaho Stampede. In December of last season, both big men were assigned by the Portland Trail Blazers to the Idaho Stampede, it was an effort to get the international big men more valuable minutes.
In total, Claver and Freeland played in six games (4-Claver, 2-Freeland) for the Stampede, and both utilized their time well in Idaho. But after the roster changes in Portland this past offseason, it’s unclear if there will be room on the Trail Blazers roster for both Claver and Freeland entering the 2013-2014 season.
Claver logged 49 games with Portland last season, and averaged 3.8 points, and 2.4 rebounds in 16.6 minutes. In his four games as an assignment player in Idaho, Claver averaged 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in 33.7 minutes. DleagueDigest.com spoke with the Spanish forward before his preseason contest in Boise, and found out what the 6’10”, 235 pound skilled player worked on this offseason.
First, Claver commented on being back in Boise, the site of his NBA D-League assignments last season, “Well, it’s different because last season when I came it was a different situation, now this is more what I’m used to, I feel more comfortable now.”
Claver was assigned early on in Portland’s season last year, but afterward spent significant time with Portland, and earned minutes in head coach Terry Stotts’ rotation. After a busy summer schedule, Claver discussed his readiness for the upcoming season. “I went home for one month to rest, and after that I returned to Portland in June to work out. After that I was in summer league, and then I went back to Spain for Eurobasket, so I have been playing all summer pretty much and I’m ready to go.”
Claver continued, “I didn’t work on anything specific in the offseason, but now I’m working on my shooting range, because I think it’s important to have that in order to be more aggressive. The defense will have to be more focused on me if I can make more 3’s, then I can create more space for my teammates.”
Claver finished with 5 points (1-5 fg, 0-2 3pt) and 3 rebounds in his preseason contest against Utah. With 5:09 left in the 4th quarter, Claver converted a nice and-1 play, his highlight for the evening.
The Spaniard did express his happiness in being a member of the Portland Trail Blazers franchise. “It’s great to be on a team like Portland, the fans are a big part of the team and organization. We hope we can give them the chance to enjoy the season with us, because I think we have a better team than last season.”
Whether or not Claver will end up with Portland to start the season remains to be seen, and after Portland’s roster moves this past offseason, Claver will surely need to impress Trail Blazers personnel in preseason.
English big man Joel Freeland is in a tough position as well. Admittedly, Freeland knows that he needs to showcase his all-around game in order to stick with Portland this upcoming season.
Freeland also spoke with DleagueDigest.com, and elaborated on what he needs to do in order to stick not only with Portland, but in the NBA. “I take a lot of pride in what I had to do defensively this summer, and I worked on that hugely. I had to work on that to give myself a chance to play in the NBA, and once my defense is good enough, I’ll be able to focus more on my offense when I get onto the court.”
Freeland recognized and praised his team’s offseason moves as well, but also feels the pressure in having to prove himself now that there is a somewhat crowded front court.
“We’ve put in what we needed, key pieces that we needed. We lacked a lot of defensive presence last year especially in the paint, we gave up a lot of shots at the rim. It’s great having someone like Lopez in there, he intimidates a lot of people and he challenges a lot of shots, it’s something all of us bigs are working on. It’s something that I’m trying to add to my game as well. It’s tough because there are some veteran guys in there now, and in those spots, but that just gives me more motivation to get one of those spots.” Freeland said.
Freeland finished Friday’s preseason contest with 2 points, (1-5 fg, 0-1 3pt), 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 17 minutes. Freeland did show off some of his defensive progress against Utah’s big men, by adding two nicely timed blocks to the crowd’s delight.
After speaking with a source close to DleagueDigest.com, Portland is likely to send EJ Singler, Dee Bost, and Richard Howell to Idaho for the start of the season, allowing Portland the decision of keeping Freeland. Will Freeland ultimately find a spot on Portland’s depth chart? The forthcoming set of preseason games, will play a large role in determining Freeland’s future with Portland.