Breakfast with the Blazers: Anthony Morrow shooting way to roster spot

Breakfast with the Blazers: Anthony Morrow shooting way to roster spot

The Trail Blazers won’t make their final roster cuts for another 7-to-10 days, but it’s hard not to think Anthony Morrow made the team Thursday night after his preseason performance against Toronto.

The 32-year-old shooting guard, who has made a nine-year NBA career out of being a sharp-shooting specialist, lived up to his reputation Thursday when he made 4-of-5 three-pointers in an eight-minute span of the Blazers’ 106-101 victory.

For a Blazers team that is lacking veterans and is wondering how it will replace Allen Crabbe’s long-range shooting, Morrow is looking like the perfect fit.

“That’s a skill that is always going to be needed,’’ Damian Lillard said. “It just shows why he is still around: He can shoot the ball.’’

Morrow is competing for the 15th and final roster spot with rookie point guard Isaiah Briscoe and former first-round pick Archie Goodwin.

The Blazers don’t need a fourth point guard, and it seemed from the start that the competition for the 15th spot would be decided either by Goodwin’s potential or Morrow’s ability to shoot.

There are still four preseason games left, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Neil Olshey wasn’t drafting up a contract late Tuesday night.

“Obviously, it helps,’’ coach Terry Stotts said when asked whether Morrow’s Tuesday performance solidified his chances of making the team. “But as I’ve said before, we will talk about him making the team – or whoever – we will talk about the 15th spot in a week in a half or two.’’

One thing is certain: Morrow wants to be in Portland, and not just because it would extend a career that has passed through Golden State, New Jersey, New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Oklahoma City. He says this group of Blazers have created the most enjoyable of the 10 training camps he has attended, and he says the Blazers’ offensive system is made for him, and reminds him of his time in Golden State, which included the 2008-2009 season, when he led the NBA with a 46.7 three-point shooting percentage.

“I thank God that they reached out to me in summertime. I knew that offense is pretty much tailor made for me, and the way I play,’’ Morrow said. “(Shooting) is what I do, and that’s what I’ve been doing the last nine years and that’s something they said they needed and wanted to give me an opportunity. So I just want to take advantage of it.’’

Morrow has been around so long that Lillard said he can remember as a high schooler going to watch the Warriors play, and seeing Morrow establish a then-career high. And Stotts said he was in the gym at the Las Vegas Summer League when Morrow scored a record 47 points.

However, a long career will inevitably raise questions. Does Morrow still have the shooting touch at age 32?

That question, players say, has been answered. Emphatically.

“I think the first day of camp, I don’t know if he missed a shot,’’ CJ McCollum said. “When he is open, he usually makes it. You can just see every shot he shoots looks good. He’s a shot maker, and that’s something we need.’’

The Blazers are also finding out that Morrow is a stand-up professional, a good guy who fits their work-hard, team-first culture.

“You know just from being around him he is a professional,’’ Lillard said. “Obviously, when he came we knew this guy is a shooter. He makes shots and we’ve seen it in practice everyday – when he shoots it and gets it off, it’s going in.

“He has an elite skill that everybody doesn’t have. Every team needs shooting, especially with us losing A.C … knowing you can rely on him, the attitude he has had … it’s a pleasure to have that kind of weapon.’’

Today's Blazers Links:

NBCS Northwest's Dwight Jaynes has some high praise for Caleb Swanigan.

Orlando Williams breaks down the heady passing from Swanigan.

The Oregonian's Joe Freeman asks how the Blazers will replace Allen Crabbe?

In case you haven't heard, Damian Lillard dropped his second album on Friday.

Breakfast with the Blazers: McCollum nearing shoe deal with Li-Ning?

Breakfast with the Blazers: McCollum nearing shoe deal with Li-Ning?

Ripples are being sent through the shoe industry with word that Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is on the verge of leaving Nike to sign a deal with the Chinese company Li-Ning.

McCollum, who wore a pair of Li-Ning shoes in the Blazers’ preseason game against Phoenix on Tuesday, was asked after the game if he was switching sponsorships.

“In negotiations,’’ McCollum said with a big smile as he left the locker room.

One person who helped McCollum with those negotiations? Teammate Evan Turner, who has been a Li-Ning client since 2010.

Turner this summer spent 12 days in China on a Li-Ning shoe tour, during which he often had Face Time chats with McCollum.

“I told (Li-Ning) if you want to talk to him, I wouldn’t come to him with a BS offer the first time around and close his ears off,’’ Turner said on Wednesday.

Hearing Turner talk, it appears a deal has been reached.

“I guess they got the situation right, the money right, and I think CJ will be a great person for the brand,’’ Turner said Wednesday. “He’s a talented individual on and off the court, so I think he will help the brand a lot.’’

On Thursday morning, however, McCollum said no deal has been reached.

"There is mutual interest,'' McCollum said. "Still in negotiations ... but my contract with Nike is up.''

McCollum would be among the higher profile athletes to sign with the Beijing company, which is founded by legendary Chinese gymnast Li-Ning.

In 2012, megastar Dwyane Wade signed with the company, which came after Shaquille O’Neal inked a deal in 2006. Other NBA players who wear Li-Ning include Turner, Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson III.

“It’s getting better every single year,’’ Turner said of Li-Ning. “It has a big presence in the Chinese market, which is huge for a player and your own personal branding because you can multiply that more so than in America. With a kid like CJ, and the talent he has, he will be able to do that worldwide.’’

McCollum, who is the first year of a four-year, $106 million contract with the Blazers, is coming off a career-year in which he averaged 23.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range and an NBA-best 91.2 percent from the free-throw line. 

Today's Blazers' links:

Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest reminds us that Damian Lillard has some big off the court news on Friday. 

Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest writes that Terry Stotts has some tough decsions ahead.

Mike Richman writes about Evan Turner and his surprise at initiating offense on Tuesday.

Casey Holdahl of trailblazers.com writes about Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss

Exhibition season a time for observations, but not judgments -- yet

Exhibition season a time for observations, but not judgments -- yet

For me, as someone covering an NBA team, training camp is the most frustrating part of the season.

I'm supposed to comment on or analyze changes the team is making, update people on new players and, in general, talk about how things are looking for the upcoming season. And I have to tell you, the way things are today, that's very close to impossible to accomplish.

We don't get to watch more than a few minutes of each day's practice and what we do watch isn't enough to draw conclusions. Hence, the frustration. That's why the exhibition season is a lot more fun.

And, of course, it begins tonight with a Moda Center game vs. Phoenix that you can watch at NBCS beginning with Rip City Live at 6:30.

What will I be watching tonight?

For me, it's about player development. I never worry about that with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum because we've seen their off-season work ethic and assume they will come into each season better than they were the previous season. But here are a few other players I'll be anxious to see:

  • Jusuf Nurkic -- We already know he's lost weight but what about his game? We've heard he has improved his shooting range but I want to see what we're going to get on the defensive end. How is his rim protection going to be? His rebounding?
  • Zach Collins -- Certainly Caleb Swanigan got all the early rookie attention with his play in the summer league, but lately, there is a buzz about Collins. He's looking comfortable and confident, we hear. I want to see where he is in his development.
  • Caleb Swanigan -- This team is looking for a starter at power forward, could a rookie claim that job? I wouldn't be surprised.
  • Meyers Leonard -- Well, you know -- confidence.
  • Evan Turner -- Where will he fit? He can be a valuable contributor in the right role and I'm interested in what that will be.

Obviously, there are other players of interest but these will be my main focus for the first few games. And let me add, it's real dangerous to make snap judgments at this time of year. To the veterans, these games are just a chance to get loose and work on specific things. Don't go overboard either way on performance.

It's time for observations, not judgments.

Breakfast with the Blazers: Stotts has preseason 'challenge' at point guard

Breakfast with the Blazers: Stotts has preseason 'challenge' at point guard

When the Trail Blazers open their preseason tonight against Phoenix, coach Terry Stotts admitted that his biggest task is not finding indications of who he should place in the starting lineup or even a playing rotation.

It’s keeping stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum off the court.

Because backup point guard Shabazz Napier is nursing a left quadriceps injury and will be unable to play, Stotts said the “challenge” of his night will be limiting the minutes of Lillard and McCollum.

“The concern without Shabazz is not running up Dame and CJ’s minutes,’’ Stotts said. “That’s an important thing in preseason.’’

It is unknown how long Napier will be sidelined. He has not practiced since injuring his thigh last Wednesday, but he has been seen doing light running and side-to-side movement.

Stotts said he plans to play everyone who is healthy, but he doesn’t figure anyone will play more than half of the game. Last season in the preseason opener, Evan Turner played the most (26 minutes) while Lillard played 23 minutes and McCollum 22. Napier helped ease the point guard minutes by playing 17 minutes.

Lillard, who averaged 36 minutes in the regular season last year, said limiting his minutes can sometimes be easier said than done.

 “Usually (Stotts) tries to save me from me,’’ Lillard said. “He knows once I go out there and start feeling good in the game, and get into the flow of the game, I will be like, ‘Leave me in. Leave me in.’’’

Perhaps that’s why Stotts noted Monday that “it will be a little bit of a challenge” to limit his prized backcourt on Tuesday night.

Lillard said he doesn’t see it as a problem, pointing out that shooting guard Pat Connaughton knows every position and that rookie point guard Isaiah Briscoe has been handling himself well in camp. Also, Turner could play some spot minutes at point.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pat out there handling it a bit,’’ Lillard said.

Briscoe stands the most to gain. The rookie from Kentucky is one of three players trying to win the 15th and final roster spot, along with sharp shooter Anthony Morrow and guard Archie Goodwin. He performed  very well in the team’s intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists while hitting 6-of-7 shots.

Today's Blazers Links:

I wrote about Stotts' beginning his quest to find the right fit with lineups.

Willamette Week recaps an appearance Damian Lillard made on OPB.

Neil Olshey made an appearance on Courtside last night:

Here's Olshey on Jusuf Nurkic.

Here's Olshey on the Blazers' vision.

Here's Olshey on the rookies.

The Oregonian's Joe Freeman previews the preseason opener.

Terry Stotts and his Trail Blazers' puzzle: Finding a fit in preseason

Terry Stotts and his Trail Blazers' puzzle: Finding a fit in preseason

The puzzle that is the 2017-2018 Trail Blazers roster will begin to be sorted out Tuesday in the preseason opener against Phoenix.

Coach Terry Stotts says he has three starters locked in for the October 18 season opener at the Suns – Damian Lillard at point guard, CJ McCollum at shooting guard and Jusuf Nurkic at center – but the starting forward spots and the rest of the rotation are up for grabs.

“I have a pretty good idea some of the lineups we will try, but I’m not sure what will be the final product,’’ McCollum said. “Coach isn’t set in stone; he’s going to let guys play for minutes, earn minutes, or lose minutes.’’

The small forward competition is between Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu while the power forward starting spot will be between Aminu, Ed Davis, Harkless, Caleb Swanigan, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins. Noah Vonleh, who is nursing a shoulder injury, will also be in the equation when he returns in early November.

Both Lillard and McCollum said they are most interested in how the power forward position shakes out, and Stotts said the starting power forward is probably his biggest decision.

“We have a lot of very good players at that position – a lot of them have similar skillsets,’’ Stotts said. “So, seeing which ones complement each other. I like the versatility of those guys and the different combinations, so it’s going to be interesting over the preseason games to see how they play with each other.’’

Stotts said he intends to play everybody on Tuesday, except injured players Shabazz Napier (quad), Vonleh (shoulder) and CJ Wilcox (knee). He said nobody will play more than a half and one of his main concerns is limiting the playing time of Lillard and McCollum, especially without Napier being able to handle point guard duties.

The players say several factors go into what they think should be a starting unit and the second unit.

Harkless, who has started 83 of his 156 games in Portland the past two seasons, said continuity is important. In that regard, the best lineup would probably be Harkless at small forward and Aminu at power forward.

“Any time you have a group that has been together for some time, they can only get better,’’ Harkless said. “You guys watch, (he and Aminu) are able to do so many different things defensively.  We can switch pretty much anything between us two. We both do a really good job communicating with each other so we can help other guys. We pretty much got each other’s back in any situation, and that’s important, especially defensively.’’

Stotts, who ended the 2015-2016 season and began last season with Harkless and Aminu as the starting forwards, said their track record will be noted.

“Playing Mo and Chief together has been good in the past. The last two years that has been a good combination,’’ Stotts said. “So we will take that into account.’’

Stotts has favored the Harkless/Aminu combination in the past because he likes their defensive versatility in being able to switch interchangeably.

However, last season, he eventually went to Vonleh as the starting power forward after Aminu had early season injuries to his calf and back.

“Chief got hurt and that kind of changed the dynamics of the season,’’ Stotts said.

Another factor to consider is Turner, who started to find his footing late in January once he was made the starting small forward. Turner took on the opposing team’s point guard defensively, and started getting into more of an offensive rhythm when he broke his hand at Dallas in February.

Turner says he thinks the collective intelligence of units is important when considering lineups, while also looking at whether a unit has an identifying strength.

“You have to have a sure-fire advantage in one area – whether that’s offense or defense,’’ Turner said. “You need to have something that makes that unit go, or something that makes it unique.’’

McCollum said two factors stand out to him when considering the starting lineup: balance and chemistry.

“And guys who are willing to accept roles,’’ McCollum said. “Once you get past that starge, you can pretty much elect whoever you want in those spots. A lot of times, it’s not the five best  player. Part of maturing and being a man is understanding your role, understanding how you help the team.’’

Stotts said he figures to mix-and-match lineups throughout each game, trying to find the right combinations. Tuesday will be just the start, the first of six before the real season starts.

“There are a lot of different routes we can go,’’ Lillard said.

Tuesday's game: Phoenix at Portland, 7 p.m. (NBCNW).

Breakfast with the Blazers: Fan Fest scrimmage observations

Breakfast with the Blazers: Fan Fest scrimmage observations

Some observations after the Trail Blazers’ Fan Fest scrimmage Sunday at the Moda Center, keeping in mind that is was just a intra-squad workout:

CJ’s ‘target practice’

As crazy as it sounds, it looks like CJ McCollum is primed for an even better season than last, when he averaged 23 points and 3.6 assists while shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range and an NBA-best 91.2 percent from the line.

Some of the shots McCollum made Sunday had Neil Olshey, the team’s top executive, shifting in his seat and chuckling at the absurd ease in which McCollum scored over blanket coverage. All night -- be it with his ball handling, court vision or shot making --  it seemed as if McCollum was toying with the competition.

All told, he hit 6-of-9 shots and all three of his three-pointers and finished with 15 points and the MVP trophy.

“Pretty good target practice,’’ McCollum quipped afterward.

This training camp, McCollum seems more at ease. Confidence has never, ever, been a problem for him, but in the past, it seemed like he carried an angry confidence, like he was in a rush to get recognized, or in a hurry to prove people wrong.

This season, that confidence seems more … peaceful, more comfortable.  I think that was on display pregame, when McCollum and Damian Lillard had a midcourt conversation with television broadcasters Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd.

In those settings, Lillard is usually the one who owns the stage. But on Sunday, it was McCollum who held court, telling stories about his travels to Africa, and making quips about social media posts.

To me, it looks like a young star coming into his own, as a player and a person. When that synergy happens, look out … and it’s why I think it’s possible McCollum surpasses Lillard as the team’s top scorer this season. 

The surprise

The biggest surprise Sunday was the play of guard Isaiah Briscoe, the rookie from Kentucky who is one of three players trying to win the 15th and final roster spot.

Briscoe scored 14 points and hit 6-of-7 shots while adding six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

After the game, coach Terry Stotts shrugged and said that’s what the staff has been seeing all training camp out of Briscoe. He is in competition with NBA veteran sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and guard Archie Goodwin, a 2013 first round pick – a spot I think many figure will go to Morrow – but after seeing Briscoe on Sunday that might be more of a battle than we think.

Solid Swanigan

Caleb Swanigan had 13 points and four rebounds, and what I liked best was his no-hesitation three-point attempt, which he made.

His ability to be a spacing power forward will only help him get on the floor in what figures to be the most heated position battle of the preseason. Between Swanigan, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Maurice Harkless, and eventually Noah Vonleh when his shoulder heals, coach Stotts will have many options.

I’ve been curious this training camp how Stotts and the players view Swanigan from a spacing standpoint, and all have had basically the same response: He hasn’t shot it well the first week, but they know he can. If he can consistently hit the jumper, that will give him a better chance to be on the floor with Lillard and McCollum.

Of course, the bread-and-butter for Swanigan is his nose for the ball, and that was on display Sunday. He is not afraid to bang inside and he is one of those guys who is constantly in motion.

“What saw from Caleb is what we’ve seen for the last month: Effective scorer, tough, feels very confident on the block,’’ Stotts said.

Odds & Ends

While Swanigan has earned much of the attention and figures to be more game ready, don’t sleep on fellow rookie Zach Collins. On Sunday, Collins had a nice block on Swanigan at the rim, and word out of practices is that Collins has emerged as the team’s best rim protector … Speaking of defense, Meyers Leonard looked much better at contesting shots on Sunday. People often fixate on his shot, but for the coaches, it’s his defense that has prevented him from playing more. Leonard knows this and perhaps that’s why he was pumping himself up and talking to the crowd after holding his ground during a couple of Jusuf Nurkic’s forays into the lane … Ed Davis was really active and bouncy, which is exactly what the Blazers need from him. Next game, spend a couple possessions where you just focus on Davis and you will notice how many little things he does – keeping a ball alive, tipping a rebound to a teammate, showing help defense to cut off a drive, setting a hard screen. He makes this team better … Looks like it could be another hold-your-breath-and-pray shooting seasons for Al-Farouq Aminu. He went 0-for-4 with one airball and a near airball … Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless were late scratches to the scrimmage, but Stotts said both should be available to play Tuesday in the preseason opener against Phoenix. 

CJ McCollum wins MVP honors in 2017-2018 Fan Fest scrimmage

CJ McCollum wins MVP honors in 2017-2018 Fan Fest scrimmage

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 15 points to lead the Black team to a 54-37 win over the Grey in the Trail Blazers’ annual Fan Fest scrimmage at the Moda Center.

McCollum hit 6-of-9 shots, including all three of his three-point attempts, and added two assists. Teammate Isaiah Briscoe, who is one of three players battling for the 15th and final roster spot, added 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting while adding five asssits and six rebounds.

Rookie Caleb Swanigan led the Grey team with 13 points and four rebounds. Damian Lillard added eight points and Pat Connaughton seven.

Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner were late scratches from the scrimmage because of what coach Terry Stotts said were “nagging” injuries. He said both players should be available to play in Tuesday’s preseason opener against Phoenix.

Breakfast with the Blazers: Sunday is Fan Fest, a free event to see team scrimmage

Breakfast with the Blazers: Sunday is Fan Fest, a free event to see team scrimmage

Sunday is the Trail Blazers’ 13th annual Wells Fargo Fan Fest, which is essentially a chance to see the Trail Blazers scrimmage for free at the Moda Center.

If you have never been to the event, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s free, first-come-first-serve on the seating, and a chance to see the Blazers’ players in a setting that is relaxed and intimate.

“It’s like they came to a practice, and we are just hoopin’ in front of them,’’ Damian Lillard said. “Like a pickup (game) … that’s pretty cool.’’

Doors open at noon and the team will scrimmage around 1 p.m., which will consist of four six-minute quarters played on a running clock except for the game’s final minute.

To receive a free ticket, click here or go to www.nba.com/blazers/fanfest.

It will be Blazers’ fans first look at rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, the first chance to see what a slimmed down Jusuf Nurkic can do on the court, and to see for themselves whether Meyers Leonard has improved.

But more than anything, it’s a chance to interact with the players and see them without the pressure of a game weighing on them.

“It’s good for the people who can’t afford to go to the games,’’ Ed Davis said. “And it’s a good chance to be up close and see us.’’

Coach Terry Stotts said he puts very little stock into what happens during the scrimmage, so don’t expect a player to win or lose a rotation spot because of what happens Sunday, but he also stressed that the event is not a time for horseplay.

“I like that our players are able to interact with the fans during certain parts of it, and from a basketball standpoint, we make it a competitive game,’’ Stotts said. “It’s not a practice, but it’s not like we are just out there screwing around. It’s a competitive game and guys are trying to win. And we use it as an opportunity to work on the things we’ve been working on in camp.’’

Lillard, who has won the Most Valuable Player of the event three times, says he doesn’t plan on winning it this season. He said plans on playing only limited minutes in order to give the rookies and other players a chance to showcase for the fans.

Then again, he said the same thing last season then came out on fire, hitting his first five three-pointers, which prompted him to keep playing. Not so this year, he says.

“This year, I will probably play very, very little,’’ Lillard said. “I’ve been here five years, they’ve seen me play, they know what I’m going to do. They want to see who else is out here, who has improved.’’

In past years, the event has drawn anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 fans. If you aren’t able to attend, you can watch on CSN at 1 p.m.

Either way, it’s an event worth watching.

“As players, we enjoy playing in front of a crowd,’’ CJ McCollum said. “We enjoy being able to provide them with a free experience. I know a lot of fans don’t necessarily have the time, or the money, to go to as many games as they would like to. So to be able to go in and sit courtside at the arena … it’s a good environment. And it’s a first chance to look at the new guys.’’

Today's Blazers Links:

I wrote about teammates praising Meyers Leonard after first week

Dane Carbaugh listed five questions the Blazers must answer this season.

The Oregonian's Joe Freeman has a story on Anthony Morrow and his fight for the 15th spot. 

Has Meyers Leonard improved? Blazers teammates say 'yes'

Has Meyers Leonard improved? Blazers teammates say 'yes'

It’s only training camp, and it’s only been one week, but the early returns on a new-and-improved Meyers Leonard are encouraging.

According to some of his Trail Blazers’ teammates, Leonard has made an impression this week during the team’s two-a-day workouts.

“He looks good,’’ CJ McCollum said. “This is my fifth training camp and I think this is the best he has looked. He’s aggressive, he is playing strong, he is making shots. I think it’s just more about staying consistent with it through training camp … then transitioning from good training camp to good preseason to a good season.’’

Leonard, 25, entered training camp optimistic that he had improved his game after spending much of his summer working out with noted trainer Drew Hanlen in Los Angeles. His summer came on the heels of what he called a disappointing season in which he averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent fro the field.

A 7-foot-1 center with soft touch and unique physical tools, Leonard has said much of his past struggles have been mental. After the summer workouts with Hanlen, which included a mechanical tweak to his shot and developing a “plan” in how to diversify ways he can attack a defense, Leonard felt he was as healthy – mentally and physically – as he has been since becoming the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft.  

His teammates agree.

Captain Damian Lillard on Friday said it’s hard not to see a change in Leonard.

“It’s noticeable. I think everybody notices,’’ Lillard said.

Lillard cautioned that it’s one thing to show confidence in training camp practices and another to show it against a real opponent. But he said he likes the first steps Leonard is taking.

“You can tell he’s trying to show something, he’s trying to prove it,’’ Lillard said. “The best thing right now, he’s really pushing (Jusuf Nurkic). He’s challenging him, playing physical with him, not backing down from him, making him have to play through fouls, making him have to run the court. He’s doing a great job alone, but he’s really pushing Nurk too.’’

The next test for Leonard will come next week, when the Blazers play home preseason games against Phoenix on Tuesday and Toronto on Thursday.

Breakfast with the Blazers: Shabazz Napier and his quest for playing time

Breakfast with the Blazers: Shabazz Napier and his quest for playing time

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every morning, check in here for Breakfast with the Blazers, which will be your spot to catch up on what happened last night, or look ahead to what is pertinent today with the Blazers.

**

This morning, my "Inside the Blazers Podcast" debuts, which will include an interview with Blazers’ point guard Shabazz Napier.

I hope you give it a listen because it gives insight into the mental toughness and determination required for an NBA reserve. It takes a true professional to stick to his process and work ethic, even when minutes are not guaranteed. Also, it is an illuminating peek at Napier’s upbringing and morals, which have shaped him into the competitor he is today.

Napier, remember, started the season’s final two games, recording 32 points, six rebounds and five assists against San Antonio and 25 points against New Orleans. He also hailed by teammates as the MVP of a crucial game at Orlando coming out of the All-Star Break, when he led a comeback with 10 points, six assists and seven rebounds while providing critical defense.

Napier will be one of the subplots to follow this preseason, in part because his finish last season and in part because the work he put in this summer – which was enough to lead Neil Olshey to single him out during media day. Those factors raise the question whether he could command more playing time as the team’s backup point guard.

Napier, who is beginning his fourth NBA season and second with the Blazers, knows he is in a tricky situation on the Blazers: Starter Damian Lillard averaged 36 minutes last season and the 12 minutes Lillard rested,  CJ McCollum – or sometimes Evan Turner -- amply filled in.

“I’m stuck in this situation where they play a lot of minutes, and I can quit but that’s not who I am,’’ Napier said. “I understand that at any given time your number can be called – so I’m going to continue work my butt off.’’

Coach Terry Stotts on Wednesday said he still likely considers McCollum the backup point guard, and that he doesn’t know what Napier could do to earn more time.

“Bazz had a good summer, and he had some good runs last year when Dame was out,’’ Stotts said. “The question is defensively – how does that work? But certainly he is going to have an opportunity. I haven’t made a decision one way or the other on the rotation. It will just play itself out.’’

Lillard, who often goes against Napier in practices, said he could foresee the two-time former NCAA champion seeing the court more.

“Last year, I was surprised to see him not play as much,’’ Lillard said. “But this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he played more.’’

McCollum, who not only played the ninth most minutes in the NBA last season, but who has also logged the most miles run on the court in the NBA the past two seasons, said he doesn’t feel like he needs a breather.

“I’m ok with whatever, honestly,’’ McCollum said. “However Coach thinks I can help the team, that’s what I will do. I feel like I’m in good enough shape to do whatever is necessary. I’ve led the league in miles the last two years, a lot of it is on offense and how we move on offense – lot of cuts, lot of flair screens – so I will be ready to do whatever.

“But I think Shabazz is very capable of playing backup point guard,’’ McCollum said. “There’s a lot of different lineups we will use this year to where a lot of us will be out there at once and it will be handle by committee, and that includes ET as well.’’

How to handle the point guard minutes is probably not the most pressing among Stotts’ preseason decisions – figuring out the starting forwards figures to take precedence – but how Napier plays will certainly be something worth watching next week when the Blazers open preseason play Tuesday at home against Phoenix and Thursday at home against Toronto.

All Napier wants is a chance.

“I’ve always thought the more you can be on court the better you can be as a player, because that experience is second to nothing else,’’ Napier said.

Here’s to rooting to see what he can do with a chance.

Today's Blazers' Links: 

CSNNW's Dwight Jaynes asks whether Pat Connaughton can step into Allen Crabbe's role?

CSNNW shows that there is a Bad Boys 3 in the making.

CSNNW's Peter Socotch has the video of Evan Turner explaining he will never go vegan

Socotch with more video of Jusuf Nurkic explaining why he is wearing a protective mask at practice.

The Blazers' Casey Holdahl writes about a slimmer Jusuf Nurkic.

The Oregonian reports that former Blazers' guard Bonzi Wells recently suffered a heart attack

Joe Freeman at The Oregonian writes that it's important for the Blazers to get off to a good start.