January 25, 2022

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Fit And Go Forward

What did the Trail Blazers learn after three scrimmages? Not as much as you may think

That’s a wrap on the games that don’t matter.

What were the biggest takeaways from watching Portland go 0-3 in tune-up play?

Well, there were plenty of good personal performances, some struggles on both ends, and then there was the minor injury bug that hit.   

The real bright spot: Trail Blazers’ 7-footers Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins made their return to the court in the NBA restart. They both look healthy and rust-free.

The bad: The Trail Blazers didn’t have a completely healthy roster in any of the three scrimmages.

The ugly: Portland will need to clean up a few issues on the defensive end. The Trail Blazers continued to struggle to defend the three. In Portland’s final scrimmage against OKC — who is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league — the Thunder made 20-of-40 from long range against the Blazers.

The good news moving forward: Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after Portland’s final scrimmage Tuesday that he expects “everybody to play” Friday in their first seeding game after Damian Lillard (left foot inflammation) missed the last two scrimmages.

One of the biggest takeaways from the scrimmages for the Blazers was having time to acclimate Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic alongside each other.    

“I don’t know that I’ve really learned that much,” Coach Stotts said of the three scrimmages following the final tune-up game. “Zach and Nurk coming back in was an adjustment, but as far as learning anything new — not really. We’ve been with each other all year. There’s not a lot of surprises.”

Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

   

The Trail Blazers were not only limited in players, they also were limited with their playbook in these scrimmage games.  

So, for those who were concerned about the Blazers’ offensive struggles in the first two scrimmages, just keep in mind they were missing their top scorer and were missing a handful of plays.  

And yes, training camp included three scrimmages, but there were plenty of practices that we didn’t get a chance to watch over the past few weeks.

That’s where Coach Stotts feels some of the most valuable time was spent while in Orlando.

I don’t know about the scrimmages… I think the best thing was to get out there and play against somebody else, play at game speed. I think our practices were probably more beneficial than our scrimmages, but playing extended minutes, playing a nine-10 minute stretch, from a conditioning standpoint was probably the most important thing for us. We had a lot of practice time and did a lot of things that we wanted to get done in practice. So the games were more about just playing games.  — Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

But that doesn’t mean the players weren’t thankful to get up and down the court in games that didn’t count before the real ones started again.

“I think the practices are valuable,” Anfernee Simons explained postgame. “And the scrimmages were just to get a feel for the game. I think practicing and actually playing the game is two different things. So, I think getting good practice time in and getting good game time in is always good too.”

Coach Stotts also added that his rotation will “probably be on a game-to-game basis” as the Blazers look to treat the seeding games as if they were playoff games.

The big positive from the final scrimmage game was the play of the two-year players, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

I’d say the thing I learned the most is be ready, stay locked in, now it counts. So going out there, we’ve got to lay all out on the line, stay together, we’ll be just fine. — Trail Blazers second-year player Gary Trent Jr.

Simons, who led the Blazers in scoring in the final tune-up with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, took over starting point guard duties with Lillard out.

Simons felt like Sunday’s scrimmage was a great opportunity for him to get back into the flow of game action.

“Just gaining confidence, getting my rhythm back. Obviously, we’ve been away from the game for a long time, away from actually playing the game, so I just wanted to come in and get a good rhythm,” Simons said.

But for Simons and the rest of the Blazers guards, the emphasis moving forward is to use their big lineups to their advantage on the defensive end.

I think coming in as a team, we just want to impose our will on teams defensively. We’ve got a lot of 7-footers that can protect the paint, so we want to encourage [our opponents] to go right into Nurk and Hassan and Zach. I think we’ve been emphasizing that the most.  — Anfernee Simons

Now the Blazers have three days until the real thing.

We will learn pretty much everything we need to know on Friday when the Blazers take on the Memphis Grizzlies with a full playbook and full roster.

That game will set the tone. 

What did the Trail Blazers learn after three scrimmages? Not as much as you may think originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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