EGGERS: How the Trail Blazers live while at work and play
Comfort in the work place is important in any business -- even in sports writing.
In my den at home, where I do the majority of my work, there is virtually everything I need -- personal computer, laptop, printer, reference books, computer desk and chair and, perhaps most essentially, a healthy supply of cigars.
In much the same vein, the Trail Blazers are doing what they can to make their Tualatin training facility a place where the players want to be.
On Wednesday, the local NBA club gave the media a tour of the facility after its recent $4 million remodeling project.
The results are impressive. Engineered by a local firm, GBD Architects, the remodel touched 33,000 of the 38,600 square feet in a building that was slightly expanded in size and greatly improved in quality of product.
The project, which began last April and is taking on its finishing touches, included repainting of the spacious gym area, construction of a 30-seat theater, enhanced video work, weight and locker rooms, a spa therapy area and, most importantly, a dining area that already has become the hub of activity for the players.
Workers raised the ceiling in many areas, provided natural lighting in others for a more open look and turned what had become outdated in the years since the training facility opened in 1999 to something more modern and user-friendly.
I didn't notice any Brazilian Ipe wood floors, German-built lockers, infection-free Corian surfaces, Italian furnishings or hand-woven rugs from Nepal, offerings that have turned the University of Oregon's Football Performance Center into an excess of opulence.
But the renovated Blazer facility should serve the franchise well, both for players on the roster and those who will arrive in the future.
Terry Stotts has coached for five NBA clubs and visited more than half of the league's training facilities.
"They did a remarkable job with the remodel here," Stotts says. "When it was built, it was extremely functional and the best around at the time. Now after the remodel and expansion, I don't know if there's one better in the league."
If one person deserves credit for pushing the project through, it's second-year general manager Neil Olshey, who convinced owner Paul Allen to provide the capital to update Portland's facility.
"It shows commitment," Olshey says. "It has become an arms race around the league. This used to be a unique building. It was one of the first in the league that had its own practice facility. Now it's commonplace.
"You have guys coming from college situations where they have $25- to-$30-million practice facilities. When they set that as the bar for how they're treated, when they have access to that in college, you have to have the same resources in the NBA."
Until this year, when the coaching staff wanted to watch video with the players, they gathered in the gym area, set out chairs and cranked up the projector. Now there is a dedicated theater room, with plenty of spacing between the leather seats, surround sound and three big-screen monitors as well as a theater-size screen for a showing of the latest Disney film, or whatever provides the next calling.
The weight room has been extended and updated. It includes a cardio theater, a plyometrics area, a cinder block wall (against which to toss medicine balls) and wall-mounted Keiser resistance equipment, run by an air compressor in the equipment room.
Adjacent is a room for massage therapy -- an on-staff masseuse is there daily when the team is in town -- and a barber shop, with stylist available on appointment.
"Wesley Matthews pushed for the barber shop," Olshey says, smiling. "It makes (the players') life more convenient. It's something they don't have to worry about handling off-site. It's one more thing we can take off their plate that we can handle here for them."
The physical therapy room is now equipped with tiled floor and a private exam room. The spa therapy area has three pools -- a cold plunge pool, hot tub and eight-foot-deep motion pool with resistance element.
The locker room is carpeted and -- like everything else in the facility -- custom-designed with NBA players (tall people) in mind. There are USB plugs for phones and power outlets for computers, and the lockers are arranged in the exact order of the set-up at the Moda Center, lest the players forget where they're supposed to dress.
The dining area has replaced the old players' lounge as the place to congregate. It is equipped with a gas fireplace below a TV big screen, with a half-dozen leather easy chairs set out for the players to relax, eat and visit. There is another TV monitor in the kitchen part of the room.
"Before and after practice, we serve breakfast and (lunch), and that has helped build some camaraderie, chemistry and relationships," Stotts says. "It's a communal place that lends itself to bonding. And it allows the players to realize how much we have invested in them."
Adds Olshey: "The dining room has become the showpiece. This has become the biggest impact spot, more than any other area in the building. Every morning you come in and guys are sitting together like a family, eating breakfast and sharing time together. After practice, guys are lingering, whether they're getting treatment or watching games. It's the lounge concept in a dining room."
Olshey has experience with such a thing during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2003-12. The Clippers remodeled their training facility in 2010.
"When we rebuilt the Clipper facility, we used (the Blazers' training facility) as a template," Olshey says. "I spoke quite a bit with Mark Warkentien (the former Blazers' director of player personnel). (Coach) Mike Dunleavy was here in Portland when they built it, and he wanted a similar floor plan."
After the remodel, Olshey says, "When (forward) Blake Griffin came out for his draft workout, he saw what environment he'd be working in. It dispelled a lot of incorrect myths about the Clippers and their commitment."
The idea is to present that kind of image to prospective free agents the Blazers hope to sign down the road.
"It's a statement," Stotts says. "When you go to free agency, you say, 'This is how we invest in the players.' "
The current Blazers are "thrilled" with the renovated practice facility, Olshey says.
"It's great," says guard Mo Williams, who has spent time with five teams during his 11-year NBA career. "We have all the amenities we need. It's always nice to be in on the front end of a renovation.
What we have now is up there with any (practice facility). It doesn't miss anything."
Englishman Joel Freeland is in his second season with Portland after spending most of his pro career abroad.
"I love what they've done with the place," Freeland says. "I considered it was amazing before, me being a European boy and not having the facilities we have over here. It's incredible. They've really outdone themselves.
"We're there a lot, probably more now than ever. We're there after practice sessions, hanging out, watching TV, getting some food, chilling out. It's cool."
It's lavish, but not overdone. In a small market like Portland, it's an advantage the Blazers need to stay competitive with the rest of the league. It's medium rare and well done, all at the same time.