Maurice Harkless found himself healthy enough to play and back in the starting lineup Friday night vs. the Pelicans. This meant Jake Layman headed back to the bench. Then, Layman exploded for 20 points in the second quarter.
Which begs the on-going question: Which of the two should be in the starting lineup?
While debated heavily on social media among fans and written about in the media, there really has not been any discussion internally with the team of Harkless coming off the bench this season even when he is coming back from injury. But with the emergence of Jake Layman, some are still wondering who should start at small forward. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained the decision to put Harkless back in the starting lineup after missing the last five games.
“Just from a rotation standpoint, I think we all feel like Moe and the starters is good. I think Jake provides some energy, like he did tonight off the bench,” Stotts said.
“The way Jake was going I had every intention of brining him back at the end of the second quarter, but Jake had it rolling, but I thought, that’s the best I’ve seen [Harkless] play in a long time. The way he started the game, made some dynamic plays. We really needed his minutes in the second half with foul trouble. Played him at the four. But, I thought he looked really good,” Stotts added.
It could be easy to think that Harkless and Layman are competing for the same role and that could bring some rift between the two.
That could not be further from the truth.
Harkless embraced Layman with a hug and was one of Layman’s biggest cheerleaders from the sideline after Layman went on the flurry and ended up scoring 20 points in the second quarter.
“I love watching Jake when he gets like that, man. He gets like that, it’s just like nothing nobody could do. We see it all the time in practice and just for him to be able to be out there, do it in front of everyone, it’s pretty cool and I’m happy for him,” Harkless said postgame.
Layman had joked how his teammates kept encouraging him to shoot once they saw he was in the groove in the second quarter.
“He looked a little tired out there, but we were getting on him like ‘you’ve got to shoot’… That second quarter was a whole lot of fun to watch,” Harkless said.
The Blazers realize it’s not about competing with each other for a spot on the team, it’s about competing together as a team to win.
“At the end of the day it’s about who can give us the best chance to win. When Moe’s healthy, he helps us a lot and then when he’s not, Jake has to be prepared to play more minutes and step up and I think that he’s done a great job staying ready all season, being in and out of the rotation, different roles, he’s been ready to play regardless,” McCollum said.
Whether you are for Harkless starting or Layman starting, just know, these two forwards are starting to really help the Blazers make a big push in the standings as we all start thinking about the postseason.