This offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers made headlines with their big-money acquisitions and re-signings. They decided to go all-in on continuity and fostering their chemistry, building a team that can stay together for the foreseeable future. In signing free agents Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli, and re-signing C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard, the Trail Blazers amassed $112 million in used cap space (which is the third-highest in the league).
With 14 of 15 roster spots already locked up, there was only one spot for three potential players: Grant Jerrett, Greg Stiemsma and Tim Quarterman all had to battle for the 15th chair.
In the end, it was the 22-year-old Quarterman who made the cut. The former LSU guard, who went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, earned a place on one of the league’s most promising teams.
“It was surreal,” Quarterman told Basketball Insiders. “Just to know that I finally made it to this point. I remember calling my mom and letting her know. Hearing how excited she was, it was big for me and her.”
His age and potential, coupled with an ability to hit the three-point shot, make him a perfect fit for this team. Learning on the fly under the influence of a young, mature leader in Damian Lillard, Quarterman has nothing but good things to say about his time with one of the most dynamic point guards in the league.
“It’s great for a young guy like me,” Quarterman said of playing with Lillard. “He’s a special dude. Even though he’s a superstar, he’s probably the most humble guy I know. Just being around him, you can be yourself, you can be a cool guy. He’s pretty laid back and you enjoy the company of him, just to pick his brain and learn.”
Grateful for the opportunity, Quarterman knows he’s in rare company. With the Blazers having no player over the age of 28, none of his teammates are too far removed from their early years in the league, which means they each can offer him practical advice he can relate to and build from.
Other Blazers teams in recent memory weren’t always this way. But this team is different. The culture, chemistry and friendships have helped this team form a very strong collective bond and team culture, which has translated to notable success on the court.
“This is a very special group,” Quarterman said. “The vets we’ve got, they’re also young guys at the same time. So it’s a very close-knit group and they treat everyone like family, from the coaching staff on down. It’s a great position for a young guy to be in.”
Quarterman understands that he is the 15th man on this deep Blazers team and that he’ll need to continue improving his game in order to carve out a role where he can make a consistent impact. He isn’t taking this opportunity with the Blazers for granted and is ready put to put in the work necessary to earn his keep.
Part of that work will include adding strength in the weight room and being open to whatever role or assignment he may get from his coaches.
“I think the weight room is going to be big for me this year,” Quarterman told Basketball Insiders. “I just want to learn a lot from these guys. Taking everything that they show me, all of the advice they give me, and just try to have a good year. Whatever Coach [Terry Stotts] asks me to do, just try and do it to the fullest of my potential and go out there and just work hard.”
The 6’5 point guard has a notable work ethic. The trait, which is sometimes undervalued in the league, is extremely helpful on a team level as well. The Blazers’ roster is loaded with players who have a similar work ethic, which means Quarterman is fitting right in. When a team is stacked with players who are not only talented, but particularly hard-working individuals as well, it oftentimes has the effect of pushing the group even further. Whether he gets a real chance to make an impact on the court this year or not, Quarterman will be pushing his teammates and himself day in and day out.
“The chemistry and the way we work separates us,” Quarterman said. “Everybody from the top man to the low man. Dame, even though he’s where he’s at, he comes in and works hard every day. When you see that as a young guy and you’re kind of at the bottom, you know what separates yourself. So you just try to go out there and put in the work that he does. From him on down to all of us, everybody puts a lot of work in, a lot of time in. We’ve got good chemistry, everybody can hang around everybody. I think that’s what separates us from other teams.”
After working so hard to get to this point, Quarterman isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows this team and city are very different from any other around the NBA. The fan base is rejuvenated, the team is confident and the expectations have gone up for this squad – all of which Quarterman notices.
“It’s a great city and we’ve got a great fan base,” Quarterman said. “When we’re out, a lot of people notice you. We’ve got great fans, and everywhere we go there’s just a great atmosphere.”
An undrafted player who never gave up on his dream, Quarterman is hoping to turn some heads and be a difference maker for years to come. After landing with a great organization that possesses a proven track record of developing young talent, Quarterman is certainly a name to look out for in the near future.
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