As all of Rip City reflects on the Trail Blazers 2018-19 season, April 10th 2019 will most likely be a date that fans and players will remember for years to come. It was the last game of the regular season and Portland fans got a glimpse into the future.
On May 21st the media got a glimpse behind the scenes of the future and rookie Anferenee Simons.
At exit interviews on Tuesday with the season in the books, the Blazers offered up their thoughts on the season as a whole, what their summer plans will entail, and more.
The Blazers also discussed the future of the franchise with the potential of the Blazers' rookie shooting guard.
In that April 10th home game where Portland rested it stars and let the end of the bench play nearly the entire game, Simons led the charge that eventually led the Blazers to clinch the third spot in the Western Conference. Simons dazzled on offense with 37 points and nine assists.
That was the first real glimpse of the rookie’s potential.
“I think about it sometimes, especially when people comment, ‘Oh you wouldn’t be here unless Anfernee scored 37,’ so it’s a pretty fun moment, but I kind of just not harp on it too much and try to get better,” Simons said with a smile.
Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard did harp on Simons’ bright future.
“He’s potential is crazy,” Lillard said at Tuesday’s exit interviews. “I mean, I think last year I was here watching both of his workouts for the team, and he just looked so young. When I was watching him he was so explosive. He was a shot maker, you know, he can get to spots on the floor that a lot of people struggle to get to and he can do it.”
“Being able to shoot the ball, being that type of athlete, a really good floater, but I think his demeanor is what’s so big,” Lillard added. “It kind of reminding me of myself a lot, with just how in a room full of grown men in the locker room, he’s never uncomfortable… If everybody is on one side, he doesn’t just agree with everybody just because he feels like he has to or something like that. He stands on his own two feet.”
Simons played in 20 regular season games and averaged 3.8 points on 44.4% shooting, including 34.5% from three after hitting 10-of-29 attempts.
The 37-point game in the last regular season contest did give Simons more confidence moving forward.
Lillard is confident in the young gun as well.
“He works, he puts the time in. He doesn’t complain. I think he has a lot of qualities about him that make me believe that if he just keeps working and keeps developing, I think when I’m on my way out, you’ll all be talking to him every day,” Lillard said.
Another Trail Blazers veteran who mentioned the potential of Simons at this week’s exit interviews was Al-Farouq Aminu.
“I wish I was the type of professional that he was coming into the league. I kind of pat myself on the back as well, just because I’m a vet, and all the vets that we do have. I think it’s a two-way street… You usually see guys that are around in this league for a long time, they usually have somebody that they can pattern themselves after. I remember when I went to Dallas, I just learned how to be a pro,” Aminu said.
Chief also had a fun story that he shared with the media. During the season the Trail Blazer wings participate in a friendly three-point shooting competition after practice. Simons, who usually working with his fellow rookie Gary Trent Jr. after practice, somehow convinced Aminu and the rest of the guys to let him compete.
Simons won the three-point shootout.
“We usually don’t let rookies even play. So, it was kind of awkward man. We had a lot of guys go down… We should’ve really not let him get in there, man. He got lucky by even getting in there,” Aminu joked.
“That’s the kid, man. He makes the most of his opportunity,” Aminu said.
“It was the dark days, a couple of dark days for sure,” Aminu laughed.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been pleased with the rookie’s development as well.
"He makes the game look easy... He's got excellent offensive instincts... I think this is a big summer for both him and Gary [Trent Jr.],” Coach Stotts said.
Simons acknowledged that he is confident that he can be a rotation player next season, but added, “obviously, I’m not in control of that, so I just got gotta control what I can control.”
The 19-year-old said the coaching staff has not talked to him about his role for next season yet, but Simons said they did discuss “just getting better, learn a lot, and make sure you take everything seriously in Summer League because they empathized that was going to be big for me this summer.”
Simons will workout and spend most of his summer back home in Florida.
With just a little over a month away from NBA Summer League tipping off on July 5th, Simons said he’s ready to go repeat and bring back a second straight Summer League Championship.
The countdown is on and the future is in good hands.
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