During the final minute of the second quarter between the Trail Blazers and Suns on Saturday night, Trail Blazers PR announced that backup wing Rodney Hood would not return to the game due to right hip soreness.
According to Blazers PR, Hood suffered the injury in Thursday’s game against the Thunder; however, he played through the injury in Saturday’s game, but he didn’t last long.
Hood played just nine minutes, finishing with four points.
With Hood now sidelined and Evan Turner already out due to left knee soreness, that made way for the Trail Blazers' rookie shooting guard Anfernee Simons as he recorded some meaningful minutes in Portland’s 127-120 victory over Phoenix.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts subbed Simons in for CJ McCollum with the Blazers up 92-74 with 2:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Coach Stotts could have played his other backup wings more minutes, but instead he saw a great opportunity for the youngster and he ran with it.
“I was glad Anfernee got a chance to get some minutes, you know, with Rodney being out and Evan being out, I wanted to have him be out there with Damian [Lillard]… So Dame could be kind of a settling influence with him out there, but I thought he did well in the third quarter,” Stotts said.
Simons even knocked down his first career three-pointer in the third with an assist from Lillard.
“I threw it to him. He’ll remember that forever,” Lillard said with a smile.
“It’s the first of many. He’s a young talent. He’s gonna be good for years to come,” CJ McCollum told Trail Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam postgame.
Jusuf Nurkic celebrated the three-pointer from the bench and after the game he smiled saying, “they say you always remember the first one… I was giving him a hard time for him not making some, but I’m happy he made his first one. It was really a great moment for him.”
Lillard wasn’t just happy about the three Simons put down, but also that Simons got some “real experience.”
“I was excited to be able to coach him while he was on the floor and kind of trying to put him in good situations and get that real experience,” Lillard said.
“Get that real experience, that’s different than the G-League and practice or getting in when we are up 25. He got in the game when it was still a real part. He got into a real intense part of the game against their starters and I thought that was good for him,” Lillard added.
Nearly a minute after Simons entered the game, he picked up a quick foul and then another foul less than 30 seconds after the first one.
McCollum took it upon himself to talk with the young fella about another teachable moment.
“Stop fouling so much. He fouls too much, but other than that I think he was just excited,” McCollum said. “Getting used to guarding guys with referees, I think that played a factor.”
Simons finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting. He ended up committing three fouls on the night.
The 19 year-old scored a career-high seven points back on November 16th against the Timberwolves, but that was solely in garbage time in Minnesota.
One final teaching point: as Simons’ career continues to rise, he’ll have to get used to the media attention. Simons was quick to leave the locker room after Saturday’s win as a lot of rookies are accustomed to doing.
Not so fast young fella.
Not so fast.