Not everyone can be like Blazer5's Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser

Not everyone can be like Blazer5's Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser

February 9th, 2017 is a very important date for fans of the NBA 2K franchise. That was the day it was announced that the popular sports video would be featured in a new professional eSports league. 

One year later, 17 teams, each one associated with an NBA franchise, would start the inaugural NBA 2K League season.

One of those founding members was the Portland Trail Blazers owned squad, Blazer5 Gaming. 

During the very first league draft, Blazer5 Gaming used the 29th overall pick to select Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser to run the point on the virtual hardwood. Two seasons later, Mama Im Dat Man was named NBA 2K League Most Valuable Player. 

He may have earned MVP honors after just two seasons in the league, but the road to get there actually began a decade earlier. 

"I started playing video games probably when I was eight or nine. I started on the PS2 and all I would play was Madden and Call of Duty. I would play those things day and night. I wouldn't care. That's what I played," said Nasser. 

While those two tried and true titles were the go-to for Nasser, one special game made him make the transition to the virtual hardwood.

"It got to a point when 2K10 came out, I believe Kobe was on the cover, when I made that transition to 2k. I was always in love with basketball, played my whole life, so that is what I fell in love with."

This story to this point sounds relatable. Many of us, myself included, have spent many hours in front of the TV with a console controller in our hands. Whether it was the PS2 like Nasser, or the Super Nintendo like myself, we all remember our first experience with video games. 

But, while millions of people play video games for fun, only a select few are good enough to say they play them professionally. Nasser is one of them.

When I started playing, I was just playing casually, just having a good time. Then I started playing with my friends. When I started playing with my friends, I used to beat them by 20, 30, and 40, it got to the point where they would look at me like, 'Bro, are you being serious right now? This is crazy. You're much better than everybody else and it's not even close.' So I used to play small money matches for $10 here, $15, $20, versus people at my school or just people that I knew would want to play me because they knew I was good. So that's where it kicked off. As the years passed, I played more and more competitively and it got to this point. - Nidal Nasser on his road to the 2K League

Here's the thing, as with any sport, there is always someone who thinks they can do it too. We all know that one person who thinks if they got 15 minutes a night they could average 10 points and hit threes with ease in the NBA. That one person who thinks they could thow a 99mph fastball and get a few base hits in MLB. That one person who watches an NFL player drop a pass and says out loud, "put me out there, I would have caught that!"

Well, no. No, you can't. Even the worst professional athlete is leaps and bounds above the average Joe, but that won't silence the naysayers. 

eSports are no different. 

Millions of people play these video games online, and a lot of them think they should be on top of the mountain. They question why Player A was able to make it in the league while they sit at home.

"I see it a lot," said Nasser. "People be like, 'Oh, why is he in there? I should be in there. The league is a fluke. He's only in there because he knows people. He has connections,' all the good stuff."

Even Nasser, the reigning MVP, heard it a time or two on his way up. "I'm not gonna lie. In the beginning... I saw it a lot towards me. Now, in general, now that I've won MVP and I've kinda established myself, I don't really get that anymore. Almost never..." 

Nasser's skills have more than done the talking for him, but he still has something to say to those that try to bring him or anyone else in the league down:

My thing to them is that there's so many outlets for you to get your name out there. There's so many outlets for you to perform and show who you are. And people don't want to take the time out of their day to do it. It's just like any other job. You have to put the hours in. You're not just gonna come in and be like, 'Oh, I'm here. Now I'm gonna get drafted because..." and make B.S. excuses. Are you gonna do that for a real job? No. So why would you do it for the NBA 2K League, which is kind of like a blessing, to be honest. You're playing video games for money! So, you gotta put that extra work in. - Nidal Nasser

Those people that believe they should have a spot in the league could have their chance sooner, rather than later. The NBA 2K league started with just 17 teams, but entered Season 3 with 23. One of those teams is the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai, the only team not affiliated with an NBA team. This means that as the league expands they could have more than just the 30 NBA team affiliates. 

The league could continue to expand in the future, and Nasser sees it having a global impact. 

"I hope it blows up, I really do," said Nasser. "The fact that we've gotten up to this point, I didn't even believe, and now my expectations are out the roof... I feel like we can only get better. I feel like the broadcast can get better. I feel like when trash-talking really is implemented when we go back to the stage, I feel like that's when people are really gonna dive into it."

If you do decide to dive into this league, you will realize it's more than just a video game. It's entertainment. Just like you watch your favorite reality TV show because of the personalities, or you watch your favorite movies because you fall in love with certain characters, you do the same with eSports. 

Some people have that thought process of, 'It's just video games. I can't get into it.' But then they're going to watch a drama series that is completely scripted. Just give it a shot. If you give it a shot you might like it. You might like a personality like me, like Walnut, like Brandon, doesn't matter who it is. Once you fall in love with somebody, once you just like their personality and just enjoy watching them, you're gonna tune back in. - Nidal Nasser on the NBA 2K League

Nasser has built off of last season's MVP season, averaging 30 points per game this season and leading Blazer5 to an undefeated record. Can they remain undefeated? You can find out for yourself next Wednesday when Blazer5 Gaming returns to the virtual court to take on Knicks Gaming. 

If you haven't seen Mama Im Dat Man do his thing, now is the perfect time to take the dive and see the entertaining league for yourself. 

You can catch all the action on the NBA 2K League's Twitch and YouTube channels.

Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Fry and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon. 

CJ McCollum gets candid about race in America

CJ McCollum gets candid about race in America

Racism has taken a seat front and center in the 2020 news cycle.

The killing of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement sparked countless riots and protests across the country. Protests that continue more than a month after his passing. 

The protests, coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement, have forced many of us to have the uncomfortable conversation about racism in this country. 

Among the many having the conversation is Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum.

"What's happened in the world now has given us a chance to have those uncomfortable conversations," said McCollum in a recent NBA roundtable, "I'm a black man. I've faced racism. I've gone up against racism, but I still didn't know enough. I still wasn't as educated as I would like to be. I just tried to watch as many movies as I could, as many documentaries as I could, read as many books as I could so that when I have those conversations, I'm not just biased. I'm not talking about my experiences, I'm talking about the experiences of my ancestors, the experiences of everyone."

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

While, on the surface, we have come so far since the end of segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is very apparent that we still have so far to go.

As a way to help educate and bridge the gap, NBA stars Blake Griffin, Harrison Barnes, and Kyle Korver recently paired with McCollum to have a candid conversation about race in America. 

The conversation was aired in its entirety on the Excel Sports Management Instagram page (listen to the full interview below). 

While each of us has a unique perspective and experience in regards to racism, it was incredibly powerful to hear from these four.

McCollum, in particular, struck a chord, as he shared stories about race and his experience in Portland.

"Fast forward to being drafted to Portland, Oregon, it's a place that is extremely white," said McCollum. "Having gone to the African American museums and we learn more about Oregon's history, you'll find out that it wasn't too long ago where all the blacks were forced to leave... This was a place that wasn't big on racism in terms of slavery, but they believed that this should be an all-white place."

Growing up in Oregon, I've learned a lot, I've seen a lot. There is a city called Lake Oswego, they call it Lake No Negro, in a sense as a running joke because the only black people that live there now either play professionally, work for Nike, work for Intel... it's like a running joke. I never really truly understood it until I researched the history of Oregon. - CJ McCollum on race in America

Not only does Oregon have a sad history with the African American population, but the state also held Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II.

While race relations may be a stain on Oregon's history, it's an important part none the less. It is something that you look back on, learn about, and hope that your knowledge helps prevent us from ever repeating.  

It doesn't change the past, but the knowledge can help heal the wound.

As a black man, McCollum has a perspective that many of the fans who root for him can't understand. McCollum also happens to be engaged to a white woman. It's something that he is thankful for because it has allowed him to better understand a race experience wholly different than his own.

As a person who's marrying a white woman, I have a very good understanding of white race, I have a very good understanding of black race. My job as a guy who plays in the NBA, my job for my neighborhood and where I come from is to try to bridge the gap to allow people to understand my perspective, but also sharing my wife's perspective, her family's perspective. -- CJ McCollum on race in America  

McCollum also talked about how perception can create racism even if you don't know it. How people have an idea in their head of how a certain person, a certain race is supposed to act and when someone doesn't conform to that stereotype it throws people off. 

"I think there's a lot of preconceived notions as a black man on how we're supposed to behave, how we behave historically, how we act," said McCollum. "When you're a 'proper' black man, it catches people off guard, they're surprised. 'Oh, he's so well-spoken. He's so this, he's so that. He's so educated.' It's almost as if assume that since you're a black man you wouldn't be... it happens far too often."

However, it's not a one-way street, and McCollum admits it. As a young black man, McCollum said that he had many false narratives about the white community. Ideas of how white people should act, think, speak, etc. It wasn't until attending Lehigh University, and predominantly white university, that McCollum learned that his ideas were wrong. 

My perception has changed because of my experiences. I even had some biases or racism toward whites based on what I was taught, based on what I seen growing up, based on what you hear in the neighborhood. Then you go to an all-white school and you realize a lot of those things aren't true. There are great black individuals in this world, and there are ones who aren't doing things the way they're supposed to do. The same thing goes for the white race. -- CJ McCollum on race in America 

This is why the conversation about race in America is so important.

McCollum himself had his preconceived notions wiped away through experience and learning. 

If you just act like an ostrich and bury your head in the sand, you'll never get a chance to listen and learn from someone else's experience. 

You may have negative stereotypes in your head about certain populations and not even realize it. But through listening and learning, you, too, can begin to bridge the gap and shift the narrative.

McCollum is an NBA superstar. A person with a platform that millions of people can listen to. McCollum has done his part, he took to the time to speak. 

Now it's time for us to listen and learn, and hopefully help create the change needed to make the world a better place. 

Trail Blazers are bubble bound

Trail Blazers are bubble bound

The Trail Blazers are on their way to resume the 2019-20 season in the Orlando bubble.

All 22 participating teams will be in Orlando by the end of the week after teams started arriving at the Walt Disney World campus on Tuesday.

The Trail Blazers should be able to settle in at their Disney Yacht Club hotel by 8:00 p.m. local Orlando time.

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said goodbye to his fiancée and his son Dame Jr. at the airport this morning. The Blazers will spend a minimum of 5 weeks in the bubble.

 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

The Clippers, Thunder, Celtics, Pelicans, Kings, Grizzlies, Heat, Wizards, Jazz, Nuggets, Nets, and Suns all touched down in Orlando earlier this week.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

As for Portland, the Trail Blazers will now quarantine for the next day and a half before training camp practice begins on Saturday evening in Orlando. We will hear from the Blazers via a Zoom call following their first practice.   

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando 

Former Blazer Patty Mills will donate every cent of NBA salary to fight racism

Former Blazer Patty Mills will donate every cent of NBA salary to fight racism

Patty Mills wants to put an end to racism and he’s willing to donate his remaining NBA salary to do so. 

When the NBA restarts in Orlando, the San Antonio Spurs guard will participate, but with the goal of tackling racial inequality. Mills, an Australian native, will donate the approximately $1,017,818.54 he earns in the eight games scheduled at the Disney World campus to Black Lives Matter organizations. 

"I'm playing in Orlando because I don't want to leave any money on the table that could be going directly to Black communities," Mills said in the video. 

Mills, who played in Portland for two seasons from 2009-11, said the salary will be going to Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody, and We Got You, a campaign he helped organize that is dedicated to ending racism in sport in Australia.

For the first time in my career, I have white people — teammates, old teammates, old coaches — telling me they never knew the level of racism in sport, especially in Australia. They haven’t felt comfortable asking me, as a black Australian, about racism before. Which speaks to the impact and value of the Black Lives Matter movement and the millions who have participated in protests around the world.”

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

The NBA’s commitment to social justice causes will also be prominent in the league's return. The NBA is allowing players to make personalized statements on their jerseys through the remainder of the season.

Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has chosen the statement “How Many More?” according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports. Lillard’s backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, will use his jersey to make a statement about education reform in the Black community. 

Teams are slowly arriving to the NBA bubble this week. The Trail Blazers will arrive on Thursday around 7:00 p.m. local time and are among eight arrivals of the 22 teams participating in the league’s restart. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando 

Jusuf Nurkic announces Bosnian Beast clothing line

Jusuf Nurkic announces Bosnian Beast clothing line

Jusuf Nurkic might just be a fashion icon. 

The Blazers big man hasn't played in a game since March 25, 2019 when he broke his leg against the Brooklyn Nets, but he has been making great use of some of his spare time.

While hitting the rehab trail, Nurkic was an ever-present body on the Portland bench. 

Fans loved seeing Nurk in the arena, but they also loved to see what he was going to be wearing. 

From the stylized suits to his graphic tees, Nurkic was always dressed to impress. 

Now he is taking that sense of fashion he has put on display for years in Portland and turning it into his own brand. 

On Wednesday, Nurkic took to social media to announce the Bosnian Beast clothing line. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

For a very limited time, July 10th through the 13th to be exact, fans can head to TheBosnianBeast.com to buy their favorite Nurk merch.

While the news of the new line was great to hear, those with a keen eye may have noticed Nurkic dropping hints on social media in recent weeks and wearing some of the merchandise during workouts. 

Something tells me Nurkic is gonna have no problem pushing his new product in Rip City.

 

 

Trail Blazers preparing for no home-court advantage

Trail Blazers preparing for no home-court advantage

A lot has been made about no fans attending NBA games in the Orlando bubble. 

The phrase, 'it'll be interesting' keeps coming up when talking to players and coaches about the resumption of the season with no spectators. 

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins said that this unique situation isn’t going to force him to adjust his game or his trash talking.  

I'm not going to change. So y'all might hear some pretty vulgar language coming out of my mouth, but, you know, I don't know... We'll see. I'll try to play it by ear. I don't want to change how I play and how I talk. But, we'll see. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins

Okay, now that we’ve been forewarned, we’ll be ready for all the smack talk. 

The league has been working with both national and regional television broadcast crews on the challenge of what should, and what will ultimately be heard over the airwaves.

There have been several ideas floated out there to how the television broadcast will look and feel, which includes the possibility of pumping out crowd noise to help out the 'home team.' 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Besides potentially hearing the players on the court a bit more than usual (or maybe a lot more), the players themselves have realized the experience without fans is part of the restart that they will need to adjust to quickly.

Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony mentioned this week that it will become obvious who really feeds off the crowd and needs that extra motivation.   

"We as athletes, we rely on the fans to get momentum, and that's how you make runs, and that's how you get back in the game with your fans," Melo said on a Zoom call Tuesday. "Guys is not going to have that, so you're going to be tested to see how motivated you are as an individual. How much self-motivation you have to go out there and get yourself going and motivated to go play in front of no one. So you have that aspect." 

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony on playing the 3 again: "Today in this game it’s positionless"

Could the Trail Blazers coaching staff be more of a factor in a tiny gym with very limited people in attendance?

Portland’s coach Terry Stotts doesn’t believe so.

“I don't see the staff being more vocal because if you watch them during the game most coaches are pretty much into the game,” Stotts said Wednesday ahead of the Blazers traveling to Orlando on Thursday. “It's going to be interesting how the game is run, how the game looks on television, if they pipe in some sound and if the game in person is going to feel different than the game that you see on television. I'm pretty sure the league has a lot of plans in both those areas, but certainly… I don’t know if home-court exists right now. It might even be a better test of each team to winning and losing and not basing it on home-court. So that's going to be interesting. But, to answer your question, a lot of things now is just kind of speculation.” 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando 

Even though the players have said they've thought a lot about and even discussed with each other their expectations on having no crowd support, Coach Stotts is right; we are all just speculating right now.  

The good news is, we now have just a little more than three weeks to continue to speculate until the 2019-20 NBA season resumes on July 30. 

Damian Lillard will be proven right about players breaking the bubble

Damian Lillard will be proven right about players breaking the bubble

There has been a considerable amount of apprehension as the NBA gets set to resume the 2019-20 season. One such concern is that not all of the players that enter the bubble will stay in the bubble.

Will there be players who break Orlando bubble protocol?

Well, with the handful of teams that have already touched down in Orlando, Florida to spend a minimum of five weeks at the Walt Disney World campus, the food situation is suspect. Not to mention trying to keep players from leaving the bubble may not be an easy task even if there were appetizing food options. But, more on that in a moment.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard doesn’t have a whole lot of faith that other players won’t break the bubble rule.

My confidence ain't great. My confidence ain't great because you're telling me you're gonna have 22 teams full of players following all the rules? When we have 100 percent freedom, everybody don't follow all the rules. I don't have much confidence. But hopefully it'll be handled to a point where we're not putting everybody at risk or in a dangerous position. -- Damian Lillard

But luckily for Lillard, he's a homebody or, in this case, a hotel-body during a normal NBA season.

“I know there's going to be activities for us and all that stuff, but I mean, I'm gonna be chilling. I feel like there's still a possibility for something to spread within that bubble, just with so many people doing so many different things that we've got to follow to be safe, even though we're not exposed to the public. So for me, it's going to be: What time is practice, what time can I get in the weight room, what time can I get some shots up, what's the plan for game day. And then I'm gonna be in the room. I'm gonna have my PS3, my PS4, I'm gonna have my studio equipment, my mic, my laptop, I'm gonna have all my books. That's it, man. I'm gonna be in the room, chilling.”

A handful of the 22 teams that are part of the NBA restart have already arrived in Orlando with teams traveling to the bubble from Tuesday to Thursday this week. Once the teams arrive they will be tested for COVID-19 and will isolate for up to 48 hours, before being tested again and begin practicing as a team.

Of course, once in the bubble players are not allowed to leave the premises.

The thought of NBA players being eliminated from the outside world and only eating the meals provided was already concerning, but then once Nuggets shooting guard Troy Daniels and Nets two-way player Chris Chiozza showed off their food in the bubble all bets were off that players will have the willpower to stay in the bubble.

As one would imagine, social media took off after seeing the brown paper bag meal.

People joked that this NBA provided food would not be up to superstar LeBron James’ standards.

Players have received a reported 113-page document outlining all the protocols and rules once inside the bubble. A player who leaves campus will be quarantined for at least 10 days and will have to undergo deep-nasal testing. 

During a Zoom call Wednesday, Blazers coach Terry Stotts mentioned that it is unfortunate that his team won’t be able to bond as a group as much during their time in the bubble due to the protocol that players can't go into each other's rooms. But, Stotts did say there will be places for his team to congregate.   

Stotts also added, “I’m hopeful that everybody understands the seriousness of it… I give our players a lot of credit, not only on our team, but in the league. I think they understand what's at stake -- from a personal standpoint, a health standpoint, and a league standpoint, so I'm optimistic that that everybody's going to do what they're supposed to do.”

For now that’s all we can do, be as optimistic as Coach Stotts that the Orlando bubble will remain a bubble.  

Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

For the past couple of weeks, the NBA and NBPA have discussed placing social justice messages on the back of jerseys rather than their last names.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has chosen the statement of “How Many More?” to be worn on the back on his jersey.

The personalized statements on NBA uniforms are part of the NBA’s efforts to deliver social justice messages and not detract from the current movement while play resumes. The players had a total of 29 different messages they could choose from, such as "Black Lives Matter" or "I Can't Breathe." The statements are designed to support either a social or charitable cause.

The reported list of approved social messages includes:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum informed the media on Monday of his uniform statement.

I chose ‘Education Reform’ because I’m big on education. I think that's really important and something that we lack especially in certain communities, black communities, people of color and communities where kids are at a disadvantage.

I think there needs to be more light on that. So that's kind of been my focus and will continue to be my focus. Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that needs fixing in this world, but historically I focus on education. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

Jusuf Nurkic has reportedly chosen to wear "Equality." Rookie Nassir Little has chosen "Black Lives Matter."

The Blazers have discussed how they plan to continue the social injustice conversations while in Orlando.  

Both Lillard and Blazers coach Terry Stotts have voiced their thoughts on the opportunities that will arise once all 22 NBA teams are in the Orlando bubble.

Obviously there will be a lot of eyes on us in Orlando. So I do agree with the fact that it’s an opportunity for us to make statements with the amount of people that’s going to be watching -- whether that’s together, before games, during games, after games, TV commercials, whatever that might be, I do see some opportunities in that.  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Professional athletes all over the country have been participating in nationwide protests, while also using their social media platforms to be active in social justice messaging following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

All 22 NBA teams will arrive in the Orlando bubble by late Thursday evening.

Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard admits Draft night earrings were fake 

Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard admits Draft night earrings were fake 

Draft night attire never disappoints. Prospects don wild, progressive and sometimes ill-advised suits on the NBA red carpet. 

Last year, we had Bol Bol’s six-figure spiderweb black suit and Zion Williamson channeling his inner LeBron

Zach Collins paid tribute to his hometown in the lining of his suit in 2017.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned about Draft night looks, sometimes what we see is not always what you get. 

Enter five-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who was taken sixth-overall by the Trail Blazers in 2012. In that moment, he not only became Portland’s guard of the future, he looked like one, too.  

Dame sported a three-piece suit with red hanker chief flare and finished off his look with studded diamond earrings. If there’s one thing we know about Lillard today, it’s that he always keeps it real. 

But one thing about his draft night look was 100 percent fake and he doesn't mind putting himself on blast. 

Like they say, fake it 'til you make it, right? 

Luckily for Lillard, he can now skip Claire’s in the mall and grab some real diamond studs at a high-end retailer as one of the NBA’s highest-paid players.

While those ones were fake, Lillard does have the real thing now... except for he doesn't wear them. 

The Trail Blazers guard recently came in at No. 30 on Forbes’ annual list of highest-paid athletes. But, Dame remembers when it wan't always that way.

Will earring Dame make his triumpant appearance once NBA resumes play? Probably not. But, we'll always have the memories of Draft night, fake earrings or not.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando

Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando

As NBA teams make their way into the bubble in Orlando, Florida ahead of a three-week training camp before play resumes, the Trail Blazers won’t make the trip until Thursday.

The Blazers will land in Orlando around 7:00 p.m. local time and then will be subject to quarantine under the NBA’s bubble protocol.

Portland won’t practice until nearly 48 hours later.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Up to this point, the Blazers, along with the other 21 NBA teams set to restart the 2019-20 season, have held individual workouts only.

It’s not until teams step foot in the bubble that they will finally be able to practice together and have full-contact practices.

For the Trail Blazers, it will be a balancing act between making sure the players will be as close to game shape as possible, while also using the three-week camp to go over new schemes with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.

We've had coaches meetings about how we want to develop our practices, how much to do early, how much to do late, how much to alternate hard practices. We're going to change some defensive concepts with the addition of Nurk and Zach, so there'll be teaching, a little bit more teaching some concepts defensively. The contact will work itself out. And the good thing is -- we've got three weeks of practice to build up. -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

Stotts commended NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA on the protocols put in place before entering the bubble and upon entry.

“I think the league did a really good job of using these two weeks from a COVID standpoint and testing, and then having the three weeks of practice to get ready for a game,” Stotts said. “It's something you know when you talk about contact, we gotta get out and play, there's no question. But, we gotta make sure that we don't fall into a trap of trying to do too much too early.”

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

The players and Coach Stotts are eager  to finally get up and down the court as a group after participating in voluntary individual workouts two weeks ago, followed up by mandatory individual workouts over the past week.

“We haven't been that isolated in that we've seen everybody for the last two months, we've been at the practice facility. We've seen each other. So we haven't been isolated where we're not talking to people. The only contact we're missing is on the court.”

The Trail Blazers have been given a three-hour time slot for practices, but Coach Stotts says the first practice on Saturday will most likely run for two hours following the team being quarantined for the first day and a half in Orlando.  

The Blazers will also have a weight room available as well.

Saturday will be the first day to hit the ground running both figuratively and literally.

“Not a lot of guys are doing much today,” Stotts said during Wednesday’s Zoom call. “Obviously, tomorrow's a travel day. The next day is a quarantine day, so it'll be essentially a minimum [of] two or three days that they haven't done anything, so we've mapped out our practice… I think it'll be good to get them out and play. We'll do some teaching... If the quarantine is over early enough, I'd like to have a meeting in the afternoon at the hotel and go over some video of some things that we've been working on. So, I think we have to kind of wait and see.”

One of the many concerns of returning to play has been that players haven't played a competitive game since March.

To combat that issue during the three-week training camp, each team will participate in inter-squad scrimmages from July 22-28, ahead of the NBA's resumption on July 30.

The Blazers will play three scrimmages:

  • Thursday, July 23 vs. Indiana at 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Sunday, July 26 vs. Toronto at 3:00 p.m. PT
  • Tues, July 28 vs. Oklahoma City at 3:00 p.m. PT 

The scrimmages will have the look and feel of a typical NBA game.

These games are not only looked at as being a dress rehearsal for the teams, but for the television broadcast crews as well to iron out any unforeseen kinks.

“The only thing I know about the scrimmages is that they're going to be games,” Stotts said. “They're going to be 48-minute games [with]referees. So it's not going to be an informal scrimmage... It's going to be conducted just like a regular game.”