PORTLAND-- It s when optimism reigns supreme. It s Media Day, when 18 players roam around the Moda Center spend many hours talking, shooting promotional spots, reading scripts, singing songs, etc.

But it s their talents on the floor that will keep this community embracing them for 82 nights (and hopefully more) this coming season.

All told, there are seven new players that will hope to be part of the rotation for Portland this coming season. So chemistry is something these guys hope to find sooner rather than later.

I'm here, I'm happy, I'm looking forward to the season, said two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Judging solely on his demeanor, Aldridge looks like he s going to have an even better season than the last, when he averaged 21.9 points and 9.1 rebounds.

This team looks really good. We have a better bench. We have (Robin) Lopez, who's a true center. So I think this year should be good for us, he said

Aldridge s situation has been a topic of many conversations since last season ended. Rumors began to swirl about his unhappiness in Portland, though there was never a direct quote from Aldridge suggesting such. And that had Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey fired up when asked about his star forward.

Show me a media report where LaMarcus Aldridge said anything other than, 'I hope the team improves. I'm excited about what we did. I want to get better. I want to win,' Olshey said. Then we can have a conversation. Until then, let's move on. OK? Is that possible?

The biggest priority for the Blazers this offseason was finding a capable center to be a rim protector. They got that in an trade with New Orleans, landing 7-footer Robin Lopez.

I want to be someone who makes people think twice about driving to the basket, Lopez said. And while Lopez has been anointed the defacto starter at center, second year player Meyers Leonard is hoping a strong training camp will make head coach Terry Stotts rethink that.

Obviously I'm pushing for it (starting), whether that happens...there's no telling, Leonard said. I'm going to work for it, do my best and see what happens.

Both will begin to push each other starting on Tuesday when practice begins in Tualatin. The Blazers will play their first preseason game on Monday, October 7 against the Clippers.

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