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Pregame Notes: NBA Competition, Small Forward Battle and Dame On Altercations

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The Trail Blazers, after giving most of their starting lineup the night off versus Maccabi Ra’anana Thursday night, are expected to make use of their two remaining preseason games, each on the road, as more of a “dress rehearsal” for the beginning of the regular season, which starts October 19. But before leaving for his or her penultimate preseason game of 2022, a Sunday tilt versus the Sacramento Kings at Golden1 Arena, the Trail Blazers held a Saturday practice at their facility in Tualatin. Some notes from that practice…

• Results don’t matter much in preseason play, but the standard of your opponent does. So while it was fun to see Portland’s second and third string players run roughshod over Maccabi Ra’anana on the approach to a 53-point victory, it’s also a bit tough to figure it did much to assist them prepare for what they’ll encounter once the season starts.

So Sunday’s contest versus the Kings in Sacramento, the identical team they’ll face of their regular-season opener, presents a greater opportunity to gauge just how far along the Trail Blazers have come since facing the Clippers and Jazz in back-to-back games last week.

“We’ve had a pair good days of practice,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “It was good to be preparing to play a game again against an NBA team where we are able to sort of play a bit bit. Looking forward to that, but just plenty of cleanup stuff, going over stuff, just attempting to relearn plenty of our stuff. So we’ve had an excellent couple days.”

Billups also noted that he’s more likely to use Sunday’s game, together with their preseason finally versus the Warriors on Tuesday, as a likelihood to increase minutes while also trimming down the rotation. It won’t be like a daily season game, nevertheless it’ll be closer to it than their three previous contests, even in the event that they’ll see the identical team 10 days in a game that can actually count.

“I just take a look at it as we’re playing against a team that’s going to be a much improved team,” said Billups. “But it surely’s preseason, we’re just attempting to work on our stuff. I need our guys to get rhythm. It doesn’t matter to me that we play (Sacramento) first.”

• We already know who 4 of Portland’s five starters will probably be come the beginning of the regular season. Unless something unlucky happens of their final two preseason games, Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic will all be on the court when Portland’s season suggestions off on October 19.

But who will begin the season at small forward continues to be to-be-determined. Josh Hart, Justise Winslow and Nassir Little are all vying to start out this season on the three, with Billups using the preseason as a tryout of sorts.

“It’s been a bit bit up and down for everyone, to be honest,” said Billups. “I feel Josh has played very well with the unit, I feel Justise has played very well with the unit. And also you guys haven’t seen much of Nas, but we see it daily and Nas is continuous to get more comfortable.”

Hart began the sport versus the Clippers, Winslow got the dignity versus Utah and Little got the decision against Maccabi, though he can be the favourite to get the beginning Sunday versus Sacramento with a purpose to see how he plays alongside the regular-season starters. Little, who Portland chosen out of North Carolina with the twenty fifth pick of the 2019 Draft, was only recently cleared to return to full practice activities after undergoing shoulder and groin surgeries within the last six months, which makes his evaluation a bit more complex.

“Just getting back into the rhythm, just getting used to twiddling with the blokes, getting used to the atmosphere,” said Little. “I feel that’s something that folks don’t really account. While you don’t play, the depth perception, the fans, the adrenaline that you just’ve got to learn how you can manage, I’ve got to readjust to controlling all that stuff. I feel like even the last game we played, it’s getting a bit bit higher each game. Just keep continuing to construct off of that.”

As is usually the case for NBA coaches, Billups noted that ending the sport was more necessary than starting and that whoever gets the decision on Opening Night is not going to necessarily be the starter every game.

“All three guys are going to have such a big effect on our team,” said Billups. “Whoever starts, who knows in the event that they’ll finish. We just don’t know. But I actually value all three guys and I feel for us to be an excellent team all of them three should play well each time they play.”

• Unfortunately, for a lot of reasons, much of the discussion across the NBA this week has revolved across the altercation between teammates Draymond Green and Jordan Poole at a recent Warriors practice, a discussion that took on recent life with video of Green punching Poole finding its way onto the web. Most everyone has an opinion concerning the incident, be it concerning the fight itself, the footage being leaked to TMZ or each, including Damian Lillard, who grew up a Warriors fan and is an in depth friend of Green.

“It’s unlucky,” said Lillard. “While you spend as much time along with your teammates as we do, you would like it to be positive, you would like it to be respectful. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been plenty of heated moments that I’ve seen in my profession and I’m sure it’s happened in every locker room. And when you never want to see that, I feel what happens behind closed doors should stay that way. It needs to be handled appropriately nevertheless it should stay behind closed doors, so I believed the incontrovertible fact that video got here out was unsuitable.”

Lillard noted that he’s seen teammates get into scuffles in each college and the professionals, though not of the identical severity of the incident between Green and Poole. Anyone who has spent as much time across the game as Lillard knows that this stuff occur, though that doesn’t make it excusable either.

“I feel Draymond, who I do know pretty much, probably walked away from that situation saying ‘I probably shouldn’t have did that to my teammate or to my team,’” said Lillard. “Jordan Poole was probably walking away from it saying ‘After I pushed any individual, I should know that something could possibly be coming back and be able to defend myself.’ That’s it really. Unlucky situation but in terms of that, it went there and it’s unlucky.”

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