Jamie Hudson

That Anfernee Simons confidence wasn’t always there

That Anfernee Simons confidence wasn’t always there

The Trail Blazers 24th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is ready to become a household name.

And as Anfernee Simons enters his second season in the league, he has shown no fear in the preseason.

Simons has been looked at as a potential breakout star this upcoming season. Local media and Blazers fans have discussed on social media that this is a kid who plays with an unbelievable amount of confidence.

But for ‘Ant,’ it wasn’t always like that.

“I’ve honestly never been the most confident player,” Simons said after Saturday's practice.

It wasn’t until he was nearly 18 years old, which keep in mind, was just two years ago, that the quiet kid from Orlando, Florida really came into his own. 

“In the beginning of high school I wasn’t that confident in my game. I knew I could shoot the ball, but I wasn’t like thinking that I could do everything to where I could score the ball well until I probably got to be almost a senior [in high school].”

Simons also gives a lot of credit to his teammates and Blazers coaching staff in his newfound ability to have faith in himself.

“Last year against the older guys and being able to score against them, do different things against them, that kind of helped gain my confidence, Simons added. “And then the coaches saw that, and they were telling me to be aggressive and stuff like that, that gained my confidence as well.”

[RELATED]: All eyes on Trail Blazers Anfernee Simons and he's here for it

Simons has had time to evaluate his preseason play and he feels overall the last few weeks went “pretty well.”

“It’s a learning process. So, I have to be able to learn on the fly and kind of get going quick. I think I’ll be all right when the season starts. I think I learned a lot from the preseason, being put in different situations,” Simons said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with Simons in his new role of fully being inserted into the rotation, and with a few of the new additions during the preseason.

“You watch our games, I think – Anfernee, Mario [Hezonja], and Kent [Bazemore] I think they’ve all really assimilated well to what we’re doing,” Stotts said.

At the end of September, the Blazers exercised their third-year option on Simons and fourth-year option on Zach Collins to solidify their future in Portland.  

Simons took to his twitter account after the news broke, to show his appreciation.

[RELATED]: Anfernee Simons is one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets – and Neil Olshey likes it that way

The relationship between Simons and Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has been strong since Simons was drafted to Portland.  
Lillard was just voted the Best Leader in the league in the most recent GMs survey on NBA.com, and it’s easy to see his leadership shine through in Simons.

Lillard’s current advice to Ant:  

“He just tells me to be who I am,” Simons said. “ He knows I can score the ball at a high level. He wants me to go out there and be aggressive at all times. Not just trying to shoot the ball, but creating for others as well.”

The second-year player admits it’s hard to ignore all the hype that’s been written and talked about in regards to his upcoming season.

“I’m on social media a lot and a lot of people tag me in stuff, so I see it. It’s good people notice my game and stuff, but I want to prove those people right, so I use that as motivation,” Simons said.

[REALTED]: Trail Blazers very high on Anfernee Simons

Simons also realizes that he and Collins are going to be two key factors to this season’s success.

That’s why his bond with Collins is starting to grow even more this year.  

“We kind of have to gain a certain type of relationship and trust. We’ve got to push each other to be great, and also keep us leveled headed, and keep us calm throughout everything that’s going on around us, all the hype going around us,” Simons said.

There might still be question marks surrounding Simons’ game, but Blazer fans are sure ready to see all the hype come to fruition.

Despite tweaking his ankle twice in preseason, Hassan Whiteside says he'll be ready to play opening night

Despite tweaking his ankle twice in preseason, Hassan Whiteside says he'll be ready to play opening night

Not only has Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside been adjusting to a new team and new life in Portland, but he has also been dealing with a tweaked left ankle.

An ankle injury that Whiteside suffered on two different occasions during the preseason.

The 7-footer did not go through all of practice on Saturday, but he isn't too concerned about his left ankle.

Whiteside seemed to finally be finding his groove in Utah on Wednesday night with the Blazers beating the Jazz in Portland’s fourth preseason game.

Unfortunately for Whiteside, he tweaked the left ankle yet again.

Nearing the 8:45 mark of the third quarter, Whiteside appeared to roll his left ankle while securing a rebound.

The first time he suffered the ankle injury was early on in training camp, during practice when he came down on Zach Collins’ foot after the two were battling for a rebound.

[RELATED]: Whiteside's weaknesses & how will they affect the Blazers

The ankle tweak in Utah was not as bad as the first one.

After Blazers practice on Saturday, Whiteside did not seem worried about his injury, saying the ankle, “Is good, man. I just didn’t do contact today, but tomorrow we’ve got optional [practice], so I’ll come in and get some more work [in].”

“It’s not as bad as last time,” Whiteside added.

Whiteside was confident in saying that he will “for sure” be able to play on opening night against Denver.

The plan is for Whiteside to participate in all of Monday’s practice including all of the contact drills.

The Blazers big man feels fortunate that he still has a plenty of time to get his wind back and feel completely acclimated.

“It affects me, because I’m missing time. Getting in cardio, getting in game shape, getting that chemistry out there, but it’s a long season,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside added that he feels comfortable with the Blazers sets and has been studying them on his phone and the team’s iPads.

The Trail Blazers now have three days before the regular season tips off with the Denver Nuggets in town. Meaning, Whiteside has three days to get that ankle feeling right before he battles Nikola Jokic. 

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among best leaders in the league

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among best leaders in the league

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR BEST TEAM LEADERS:

The floor general is often the teams’ leader, but for Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard his leadership goes far beyond running the team on the court.

Talk with anyone in the Blazers organization or close to the team, Lillard is a type of captain who leads by example, and who has earned the respect of his teammates from the top of the roster to the bottom.

[RELATED]: More than just his Mother: Damian Lillard’s leadership rooted in deep influence from his family

GMs have noticed Lillard’s leadership qualities and they are speaking out about it.

Lillard received the most votes for best leader with a whopping 41 percent, ahead of Stephen Curry (37 percent) and LeBron James (15 percent).

And, what a difference a year makes.

Last year, Lillard received 7 percent of the votes to LeBron James’ 30 percent.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR WHICH HEAD COACH RUNS THE BEST OFFENSE:

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has always been looked at as a great offensive mind of every coaching staff he has been on over the years.  

Learning from his early days with the Seattle SuperSonics under head coach George Karl to his days in Dallas with coach Rick Carlisle, Stotts gets the best offense out of his team.

[RELATED]: Terry Stotts has ditched the whiteboard in favor of an iPad

Whether it’s an out of bounds play or the way the Blazers run their motion offense, Stotts is being recognized by general managers around the league as a great offensive coach.

Stotts comes in tied for second place on the list with 14 percent of the votes. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni also received 14 percent of the votes behind Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Stotts is 352-249 in his seven seasons at the helm in Portland.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.

Jannero Pargo's perspective: The coach every player can relate to

Jannero Pargo's perspective: The coach every player can relate to

Trail Blazers practice had just wrapped up for the day.

In the far left corner of the gym stood a smiling Jaylen Hoard after he just finished draining a three-pointer from the right wing.

Before Hoard could do a victory dance, Portland’s assistant coach Jannero Pargo was seen on the floor… Doing push-ups. 

“There was a bet, and unfortunately I lost. I want to keep these guys confident. I don’t want to take too much from them,” Pargo said with a smile.

That sense of humor isn’t the only thing that has helped Pargo land his first NBA coaching job.

The newest addition to Portland’s coaching staff is giving the Blazers a fresh perspective.

When Portland lost assistant David Vanterpool to the Minnesota Timberwolves to be their associate head coach, Pargo was brought in two weeks later.

Vatnerpool was known as a players’ coach. He also had a very well known, special bond with Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

BIG SHOES TO FILL

Filling DV’s role was no easy task.

Pargo’s ‘reliability’ though has become a building block in how he has transitioned so well into his first NBA assistant role.

Lillard compared Pargo to a former Trail Blazer guard who was also a coaching intern for the Blazers in 2017.    

“I think [Pargo] brings something different then what we’ve had in a long time,” Lillard said. “It’s kind of like what we had in Steve Blake, but Steve Blake wasn’t in the same position that he’s in… In the way that he’s like a veteran NBA point guard. So, he’s sharing things with us as guards and with the team that you’re hearing from an NBA player.”

“Just different parts of the game that you’ve just got to be an NBA player to understand,” Lillard added. “Like some things happen in practice where the coaches will break it down to us one way when we make a mistake, and with him he’s like ‘I know sometimes your man is over here and it’s hard to get to get to this spot, but,’ so he’s telling us from a perspective that we’ll understand a little bit more and be a little bit more receptive to him because he’s coming from our position.”

Blazer rookie Nassir Little echoed Lillard’s sentiment.

“What I like about him is he brings a lot of reliability,” Little said of Pargo. “He’s a guy that is still able to come out here and play like he’s a 20-year-old, which is really crazy. With him, he understands the game from a player’s perspective and that allows him to give us some good insight that we can put into our games immediately to help us right away.”

Just two years removed from his NBA playing days, Pargo realizes how crucial his 11 years of experience in the league is currently helping him be a better coach.

“A lot of players look at guys like, you know, they’re trying to tell them what to do,” Pargo said. “And… The first thing they’re thinking in their head is -- ‘where did you play at?’ For me, I can say I played 11 years in this league, and you know, I was able to do some things. So, when I say something they respect it and they kind of take it to heart and that’s a good thing to have.”

Lillard even went as far to say Pargo has similar qualities to Vanterpool.

“It’s energy, it’s fresh. It’s kind of like how DV was for us…. A mixture of Steve Blake and DV. It’s that type of impact for us,” Lillard said.

HIGHLY REGARDED

After being in Portland for just a few months, Pargo has made a big impact on the players as well as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“He came recommended,” Stotts said. “Unsolicited recommendations, from coaches [and] GMs in the league and when I hired him, a couple of other coaches out of the blue texted me and said he’s one of their favorites. So, I was very happy with the hire.”

Stotts knew how important it was to fill Vanterpool’s role, saying that Pargo, “played for a lot of different coaches, a lot of different systems. He’s seen it all… When we lost David, he kind of had that perspective and so we wanted to replace that.”

Not only was it Pargo’s experience in the league that caught Stotts’ attention, but it was also Pargo’s time spent coaching in the G-League that was also significant to Stotts.  

“[We] didn’t really have a connection with him other than, I mean, I had never met him, obviously… But the fact that he spent two years in the G-League meant a lot to me. Every coach on our staff has spent time in the minor leagues and that’s important,” Stotts said.

Pargo took a lot away from his two years on the coaching staff for the Windy City Bulls.

“It was a great experience. It helped prepare me for this journey right here. Just learning and getting better as a coach, trying to think more like a coach than a player,” Pargo said.

HE’S STILL GOT IT

Over the summer, Pargo was at the Blazers practice facility working with the young Blazer squad.

Little appreciates that Pargo is still able to get out on the court and ball.

“In the summer we used to play one-on-one, and all that type of stuff. He’s super quick. That helps guys like me with our lateral quickness on defense and stuff like that. It allows me to be a better player,” Little said.    

It’s apparent by watching Pargo shooting jumpers after Blazer practices that he can still play, but he knows he can’t ball every day.

“A lot of guys have been giving me a lot of flack, because I think I can still play,” Pargo said with a big smile.

The 39-year-old then joked, “I can play one day, but how I feel the next day is the problem.”

Lillard knew that Pargo could still hoop the first time he saw him on the court.

“The first day I came back in September he was giving them fits. I mean, he can still play,” Lillard said.

AN ALL-AROUND COACH

Just because Pargo played point guard, doesn’t mean he isn’t here to share his words of wisdom to every single player on the roster.

“Every guard thinks he’s a big man,” Pargo said. “We all wish we were 6’11''. So we kind of have post moves and stuff like that. I just try to teach the bigs stuff from a guard's point of view to give these guys a little edge when they may have a small on them.”

Overall, Pargo wants to bring a player-coach opinion, which has already earned him respect from the team.

“Just be a voice to the team. They get tired of hearing Terry so much,” Pargo said with a chuckle. “You’ve got to have guys who can rely the message, just with a different voice.”

It’s probably safe to say that just as the Blazers themselves welcomed Pargo with open arms to the coaching staff, Blazer fans would too welcome anyone who has been compared to Steve Blake and David Vanterpool.

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR WHO GMs WANT TAKING THE GAME WINNER:

The 0.9 shot.

The ‘bad’ shot.

Those are just two examples that everyone always thinks about when it comes to Damian Lillard and his game winners.

#LillardTime has been around for seasons now, and to put it simply, that means Damian Lillard is Mr. Clutch.

The GMs have recognized just that…

Lillard is tied for second on the list of top clutch players. He’s tied with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson as the guy you want taking the shot when the game is on the line. Those three are behind Stephen Curry, but ahead of Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR WHO HAS THE BEST HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE:

Opposing players often talk about how difficult it is to play in Portland with the Moda Center crowd backing its team.

According to the GMs around the association, Portland is the fourth most difficult place to play.

Denver comes in at number one.

For anyone who has attended a game at the Pepsi Center in Denver, you know it is not the crowd that makes Denver a difficult place to play, but rather the altitude and teams being able to adjust to it quickly.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers loss in Denver

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USA Today Images

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers loss in Denver

The young Trail Blazers showed up in Denver on Thursday night.

Despite not having Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside, the Blazers' role players still put up a fight against the Denver Nuggets in Portland’s 2019 preseason finale.

Mario Hezonja had his second straight solid game. Just three seconds short of 28 minutes of action, Hezonja made 6 of his 11 shots from the floor, including 3-4 from the three-point line to finish with 18 points. He also had five rebounds and six assists.

But, it wasn’t enough as the Blazers fell to the Nuggets 110-104. Portland finishes the exhibition season with a 2-3 record.

Here is what you might have missed:

Quotables:

“Getting used to everyone around me, getting used to the system, getting used to the stuff that we run, getting used to the defense. It’s up and down – not just for me but for all the new guys. It’s normal. But we have great chemistry. We have a great team. It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve accomplished a lot of great things in a short amount of time. Now everything starts to go for real.” – Mario Hezonja on the Blazers preseason overall

“Mario played well both nights. Tonight, in the first quarter we had a big lineup out there and he was the point guard. We put in some sets where he could drive the ball and make some plays.” – Coach Terry Stotts on Mario Hezonja’s performance vs. the Nuggets

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Latest news & analysis:

Instant Analysis from the Trail Blazers preseason finale with the ‘irregulars’

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REPORT: Blazers convert Exhibit 10 contract of rookie Moses Brown to a two-way deal

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

Trail Blazers convert Exhibit 10 contract of rookie Moses Brown to a two-way deal

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers convert Exhibit 10 contract of rookie Moses Brown to a two-way deal

UPDATE (Oct. 18, 10amPST) -- The Portland Trail Blazers make Brown news OFFICIAL. Read the release here:

The Portland Trail Blazers have exercised the two-way player conversion option in the contract of center Moses Brown, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

Brown, 20, appeared in all five preseason games for the Trail Blazers, posting averages of 5.2 points (69.2% FG, 61.5% FT), 2.2 rebounds and 1.00 block in 6.9 minutes per game.

A rookie out of UCLA, Brown (7-1, 245) went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. During his lone season at UCLA, Brown averaged 9.7 points (60.7% FG), 8.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 1.94 blocks in 32 games (31 starts).  He was named a 2018 McDonald’s All-American following his senior season at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, New York.

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Following the Blazers loss to the Nuggets in Portland’s final preseason game of the year, news broke about the Blazers adding one more player to a two-way contract.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Portland is converting rookie center Moses Brown’s 10-day contract to a two-way deal.  

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had high praise for the young man during training camp:

“He just turned 20, being undrafted, and just so much upside, since September he’s been -- offensive rebound, after offensive rebound, after offensive rebound. He runs the floor well. He’s receptive of information. He takes criticism… Whatever you need him to do, he’ll do it. Whatever you say to him, he’ll listen.”

Players on two-way contracts may spend up to 45 days on an NBA roster and the remaining time on an NBA G League roster.

Brown was a one and done player out of UCLA. He finished his freshmen season averaging 9.7 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds.

At just 20-years-old, Brown has shown growth and ability to learn on the fly, which has really impressed Lillard.

“I’ve never seen anybody get better from the first day that I came back to now. It’s like a completely different player and I definitely think he’ll make it. He’ll be an NBA player. He’ll have an NBA career. I don’t have any doubt about that,” Lillard said after Tuesday’s practice.  

And now, Brown’s NBA career is officially starting in Portland.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed this week how Brown has been able to make an impact on both ends of the floor during training camp.

“He’s a raw talent. He’s got great length. He’s a good learner… He plays hard. Anything that an agile big man brings to the game -- I mean, he impacts the paint defensively, he actually finishes very well around the basket on the offensive end,” Stotts said.

The NBA allows teams to have two players signed to two-way deals. The Blazers now have both spots filled with Brown and fellow rookie Jaylen Hoard, who signed his two-way contract in early July.

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

We are just days away from the NBA regular season tipping off, and general managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, offseason moves, and more.

In the annual survey handed out by NBA.com, general managers are not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel.

The final results of percentages are based on the pool of votes to that particular question, rather than on all 30 GMs. Meaning, not all 30 GMs may have casted a vote on a particular question. 

The Trail Blazers as team and individually received major props in a few of the categories, and in other categories they can use this survey as some bulletin board material.

VOTES ARE IN FOR BEST POINT GUARDS:

Damian Lillard was voted second best point guard in the league for the 2019-20 season.

Last season Lillard didn’t make the list.

The GMs voted Steph Curry with 57 percent of the vote last year, followed by Russell Westbrook with 17 percent, while Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul each had 10 percent of the votes.  

Lillard is entering his eighth season with career averages of 23.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game.  The 29-year-old said at Trail Blazers Media Day, the focus is to win a Championship.

Lillard has led the Blazers to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons. The next step for Lillard -- taking his team to the NBA Finals.

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.