Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers

The 2019-20 NBA season is officially back.

The Portland Trail Blazers tipped off their first full-contact practice Saturday evening in the Orlando Bubble.  

It was obvious after talking with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Head Coach Terry Stotts, that the Blazers are happy to be done with their two days of quarantine, as well as finally being back on the court as a team.

With just over 48 hours spent in Orlando, Portland begins its three-week training camp. Already, the Blazers have had several stories and ways to describe life in the bubble:

Quarantine was ‘therapeutic’ for McCollum.  

Coach Stotts believes the way the NBA has constructed the bubble has been ‘impressive.’

For the leader of the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard, he described life the bubble as "an AAU like feel" after running into former teammate Shabazz Napier before the Blazers' team meeting earlier in the day, following that up with a run-in with an even more recent former teammate, Kent Bazemore, while Lillard was walking to the bus to head to practice.

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

It's hard to believe that July 11 now marks four months since the NBA season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the first practice in the books, McCollum said the biggest thing for the Blazers is getting into game shape; but he, along with Lillard and Coach Stotts, described the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in their first practice back from injury, saying they “looked comfortable.”

 

McCollum also described what it has been like seeing players in the bubble tested for the coronavirus, making light of it, but saying, “grown men were crying, shedding tears.”

But not to worry, McCollum has plenty to keep him busy when the team isn't practicing. “I’ve got books, video games, got wine.” McCollum said. He also mentioned he brought his tea maker and a humidifier.

Smart move with the humidifier during the summer months in Florida, CJ! 

The Trail Blazers group chat has been, and will continue to be, key during life in the bubble.

“We communicate constantly,” McCollum added. 

The Blazers will now attend daily practices in Orlando ahead of three scrimmages (Thurs., July 23 vs. Indiana, Sun., July 26 vs. Toronto and Tues., July 28 vs. Oklahoma City), and before their eight-game 'seeding' schedule. Portland will officially restart the season on July 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

 

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

Lillard described the energy of their first practice like a normal training camp practice, but added they were, “doing some up and down, doing some half court sets, just kind of mixing it up… Everything was mixed in like it is during the season.”

 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers enter NBA's Bubble in Orlando-- everything you need to know 

The Trail Blazers were one of the last teams to enter the bubble, but after two full days in Orlando, Coach Stotts was quick to give the league credit for what they’ve been able to accomplish with the NBA restart.

The bubble is a unique experience… I’m really impressed with what the NBA has done… All the logistics involved with hotels and testing and food and gyms, security – it’s unbelievable, all the planning… We did our quarantine. Everything went smoothly. Testing… I think everybody has been pretty impressed. -- Blazers Coach Terry Stotts

Coach Stotts isn’t focusing on preparing for their first game until the Blazers have had a week to focus on themselves.

It’s all about getting better as a team, especially with the new additions of Nurkic and Collins.

“Right now we’re worried about us. We’ll prepare for Memphis… maybe a week or so before the game. But, right now it’s about just tuning in on what we need to do both offensively and defensively, conditioning, shooting. For this next week to 10 days, we’re going to be worried about making ourselves better,” Stotts said.