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.