LAS VEGAS – There have been a lot of good storylines for the Trail Blazers after an undefeated run through the round-robin portion of the Las Vegas Summer League, but perhaps no story is gaining more momentum than the emergence of rookie Gary Trent Jr.
Trent on Tuesday had a team-high 20 points while making four three-pointers to lead the Blazers to a 95-89 win over San Antonio, helping Portland join Phoenix and Denver as the only 3-0 teams in Las Vegas.
While the Blazers’ undefeated run has been directed by exceptional play from veteran point guard Wade Baldwin and steady scoring from veteran Jake Layman, Trent has been both consistently notable.
In the first game he made 9-of-9 free throws, in the second game he impressed the coaching staff with his defense, and Tuesday he was the leading force in helping the Blazers build leads as large as 22 points.
Throughout, one thing has been noticeable: Trent is not afraid to shoot.
Trent leads the Blazers with 36 shot attempts, and everyone – from Trent, to Baldwin, to coach Jim Moran – say more should, and will, come.
“Shooters shoot,’’ Trent said. “It’s what I do.’’
Moran said the coaching staff has had zero complaints about his shot selection.
“Right now in Summer League, he’s a big threat for us, he can make shots, we need him to make shots,’’ Moran said. “And the majority of his shots have been good. He’s not out here jacking bad threes or forcing stuff. Most of stuff he’s shooting is coming out the flow of our system, so I’m happy with it.’’
Trent has modest statistics through three games – 14.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and shooting percentages of 36.1 overall and 38.4 from three – but the players and coaches say it’s how he plays that stands out more than his stats.
Baldwin said Trent’s ability to get shots is diverse. He can use his size to get defenders off him and create separation, and he knows how to use screens and then be in a position to shoot.
“That’s a special talent,’’ Baldwin said.
Baldwin said he actually noticed Trent earlier this year when he watched Duke play Michigan State.
“He has great preparation before the shot,’’ Baldwin said. “He didn’t make a lot of shots in that game, but I could see the preparation and how he got the shots.’’
The big question now is how this translates to the big club, when the Blazers meet for training camp in September. Trent is a wing, but will likely play small forward at first, which is a position that currently has veterans Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner and Jake Layman on the depth chart.
Still, as Moran noted, shooting is shooting.
“I mean, if a guy can make shots, that’s something that definitely translates,’’ Moran said. “I think defensively you always worry about the rookies because physically they might not be there yet and they might not know the NBA game and defensive schemes. That’s something we are going to try and have to bring him up to speed. And I don’t decide playing time and rotations, but he has had a great Summer League. I’m happy with him.’’
Notes: Zach Collins did not play Tuesday because of a sprained right ankle suffered in Sunday’s game against Atlanta. Collins said he sprained the ankle twice in the game, but said he expects to play Thursday in the Blazers’ next game … Baldwin had another stellar game Tuesday and continues to apply a stranglehold on the bid for the 15throster spot, if the team decides to use it. He followed up his 10-assist game on Sunday with nine more against the Spurs to go along with 16 points and five steals. “He’s been phenomenal,’’ Moran said. “He’s getting guys in their spots, calling plays, playing defense … he’s just really growing into that point guard role. He’s been outstanding for us.’’
More struggles Tuesday from Georgios Papagiannis (1 point, 2 rebounds in 7 minutes) and Caleb Swanigan (five turnovers, 2-of-10 shooting). Papagiannis is competing with Baldwin for the final roster spot … Rookie Anfernee Simons started his first game and finished with 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting.