SACRAMENTO -- Trail Blazer guard Anfernee Simons is already known as an offensive weapon, a knockdown shooter, and a multiple scoring threat.
The second-year player is averaging 11.9 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from long distance.
But, it isn’t his shooting that’s on his brain these days.
Simons still thinks about that shot Kyrie Irving made over him last Friday night. The 20-year-old discussed how he’s been feeling about his defense thus far this season at Tuesday morning’s shootaround.
“I think it’s been alright, except when Kyrie hit that shot on me… I’m still thinking about that one, but I think it’s been alright. I think I can get better at it,” Simons said.
Irving was able to hit a tough fadeaway jumper over Simons to put Brooklyn up five with 17.8 seconds remaining in last Friday night’s 119-115 loss to the Nets.
Simons’ defensive pressure on Irving did not go unnoticed by the Blazers floor general.
“He’s fearless,” Damian Lillard said after shootaround. “A lot of times when we talk about players being fearless, it’s like you think about taking a big shot or stepping up in that way, but, I mean, it’s just being able to go out there and compete against the best and he was lined up against one of the best, and he wasn’t afraid, and there wasn’t an option, and that’s the kind of person and player he is.”
“He’s also [been] going against me and CJ [McCollum] in practice for two years, so he’s prepared for it,” Lillard added.
The Blazers know what they have in Simons as far as offense goes, but at the other end of the floor, the coaching staff is still working with Ant to get better.
“The coaches have been telling me to make sure I continue to play defense,” Simons said.
Simons feels that he has made a leap from his Summer League defense to now.
“For sure, I think it’s just more knowing your personnel and knowing who you’re guarding I think that helps out a lot too,” Simons said.
McCollum agreed with Lillard that Simons has been “growing” on both ends this season.
“I think he’s done a great job continuing to learn – technique, spacing, you know, how close he should guard certain players, and how to really approach the game. I think he’s got a lot of practice in guarding Dame and I these last couple of years, learning a lot of tricks offensively and defensively to where it helps him kind of maneuvering screens. He’s growing daily. He’s very talented offensively, but he has the tools to be a really good defender as well,” McCollum said.
“We all guard each other so we’re constantly learning," McCollum added.
The Blazers are looking to keep their momentum going after Sunday night’s win over the Hawks as Portland takes on Sacramento.
Portland’s trio of guards will continue to learn about themselves as they take on a Kings team who is without their leader in De’Aaron Fox. Fox is dealing with a left ankle sprain.
The Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7pm tonight. You can watch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!