The Trail Blazers' second game of the preseason was supposed to be an opportunity for young players and the back half of the roster to play extended minutes.
Instead it turned into just a brief cameo for rookie Nassir Little.
With Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside getting the night off, Terry Stotts had hoped to give the rookie forward at least 20 minutes against visiting Maccabi Haifa. But Little’s night lasted just three minutes after he sprained his left ankle early in his first shift and had to leave the game for good during the second quarter.
Little got into the paint and rose up for a layup drawing a foul as he landed awkwardly on his left leg. He stayed in the game to attempt both free throws, but the Blazers committed an intentional foul to get their first round pick out of the game. Little walked straight back to the locker room and didn’t return.
Afterwards he didn’t sound concerned, calling his ankle “a little sore but nothing major.”
“It’s been doing good, it was just a minor tweak,” he added.
It was a lost opportunity for Little who had solid showing at the end of the Blazers first preseason game against Denver on Tuesday. He didn’t get an x-ray after Thursday's game, saying team doctors deemed in unnecessary, but he admitted that it was unlikely he will be cleared to play by Saturday night when the Blazers take on the Phoenix Suns (5pm on NBC Sports Northwest).
Thanks to the early injury, Little remains largely an unknown in the very early stages of his rookie season. Blazers fans got a chance to see him in summer league, but he’s played just 16 total minutes in preseason after spending September sharpening his game at the Blazers practice facility.
“Training camp was really good,” he said. “Just learned a lot, trying to get better each and every day. So, I thought it was pretty productive for me.”
Behind the scenes, the Blazers have been impressed with Little’s work ethic and his athleticism as a 19 year old going up against pros. But he isn’t likely to get much playing time during the regular season, which makes his absence from exhibitions games even more unfortunate.
The two weeks of the preseason were going to be a chance for him to get valuable on-court experience in a competitive setting against real opponents. With the minor injury, he’ll have to wait a few days before getting back out on the court. But a timeline of a couple days isn't bothering Little, who offered a much wider view before making his way out of the locker room.
“I’ll have a long career, I’m confident in that,” Little said with a smile. “So there will definitely be more games down the road.”
Listen here for a special Trail Blazers edition of The Bridge Podcast with Kevin Calabro: