Don’t expect Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts to declare a starting lineup anytime soon, but after Tuesday’s opening practice the coach did reveal one important note about his rotation: Newcomer Evan Turner will share backup point guard duties with CJ McCollum.
“It’s one of the reasons Evan is here, to help with that,’’ Stotts said Tuesday. “He played point last year with Boston. Whether you say he is point guard or point forward … he can initiate the offense from his position. I think if you watch what he did last year with Boston he is a very versatile player on both ends of the floor.’’
Last season McCollum exclusively – and capably -- handled the backup point guard duties, but the Blazers made an offseason point of emphasis to add another ball handler to alleviate the double-teaming pressure teams applied on McCollum and starter Damian Lillard.
Turner, who signed a 4-year, $70 million free agent deal with Portland, will be that man while third-year point guard Shabazz Napier is expected to be used only in emergency situations.
“That’s one of the reasons we signed (Turner) to begin with … there was so much pressure on Damian and CJ to be the primary ball handlers. Adding another play maker … this league is about being able to make plays and Evan is very comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s an excellent passer, he can find bigs, and he can bring the ball up the floor.’’
Turner, of course, will also be a candidate to start at small forward, with competition coming from Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe. It figures to be the only intrigue in Stotts’ opening night lineup, as Lillard and McCollum will start in the backcourt and Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee figure to start in the front court.
Stotts, who eschews talk of starting lineups throughout the season, held true on the first day of training camp, saying he wants to keep an open mind.
“That’s what October is for,’’ Stotts said. “I’m not going to talk starting lineups. I think you are going to see different players get starts throughout the preseason; that’s what this three, four weeks is for.’’
Whichever lineup Stotts chooses for the Oct. 25 season opener against Utah doesn’t mean it will be etched in stone. Last season, Stotts used seven different starting lineups, and this season his roster is much deeper and more versatile, affording him to make adjustments on the fly.
“It’s fun … it’s a challenge,’’ Stotts said of his options. “You want to make good decisions, but again, that’s what October is for: Who plays well with whom? (Seeing) different lineups and different combinations and then we will settle on something. But I don’t think you have to have all the answers going into the first game of the season.’’
Notes: Rookie Jake Layman did not practice Tuesday and Ed Davis withdrew himself from the end of practice, both because of injuries the Blazers did not disclose … Owner Paul Allen attended the first practice. “I’m really optimistic about this year and I think you can feel that atmosphere in the gym,’’ Allen said after the practice … Neil Olshey, Blazers president of basketball operations, said the team will give “full support” should its players choose to express themselves on social issues through protest or other means. Damian Lillard said he imagines he will do something, but doesn’t have anything planned at the moment.