Kent Bazemore

Kent Bazemore gets revenge against the Atlanta Hawks, propels Trail Blazers at both ends of the floor

Kent Bazemore gets revenge against the Atlanta Hawks, propels Trail Blazers at both ends of the floor

Never bet against the player – in any sport – playing his first game against a team that traded him away. It’s seemingly inevitable that the discarded player will come up big against his former mates.

Ask Kent Bazemore, who stood out for the Trail Blazers Sunday night as Portland captured its first home win of the season with a 124-113 overtime decision over Atlanta.

“A lot of emotion tonight,” Bazemore said after his best performance of the young season at both ends of the court. “Obviously, every guy, once they leave a team is always looking to get back at them. Good to be out there competing against them.”

Bazemore took on a difficult defensive challenge, guarding Hawks’ talented point guard Trae Young and when you look at the points (35) that Young scored, it would appear the Atlanta player got the best of him. But Young went 9-30 from the floor, including 3-13 from three-point range, and had seven turnovers. Bazemore gave him a rough night.

And then on offense, Bazemore, thrust into the starting lineup because of Rodney Hood’s back spasms, scored 13 points – including two three-pointers early in the overtime period that vaulted the Blazers into a big lead – had eight rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

“It was huge,” Damian Lillard said of Bazemore’s effort. “Tonight, he had the assignment with Trae Young and (Young) had the ball in his hands pretty much the whole game – chasing him off screens, finding him in transition – just that type of effort is tough. He was there all night. And down the stretch, he was rewarded for his effort and for him to lock in like that – two big threes. But like I said, I think his effort on the defensive end and him taking that challenge was really big. I think it got his mind into the game and it was perfect. It came against his former team, and in a game that we needed.”

He wasn’t the only Portland player to step up.

The Blazers got 20 points on 8-12 shooting from Anfernee Simons, 23 points from CJ McCollum, who also had eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, and 21 points and 12 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside. Lillard finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists while playing 44 minutes.

Whiteside, never known as a great free-throw shooter, has made big strides in that department this season. And he went to the line to finish off a three point-play with a charity toss that pulled his team within a point with 2:20 to go. Then he hit two more to put the Blazer in front with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter.

“I work on them,” he said simply.

McCollum threw his hands in the air after hitting a three with 1:43 to play in overtime that seemed to ice the game for Portland. It appeared to be a gesture of relief and, after five three-point misses Sunday, the hope that his early shooting struggles are coming to an end.

“I just wanted to see one go in from long range,” he said. “I’m a good shooter, I get a lot of reps, I break down my shot weekly and I get a lot of help from people I work with. I have a lot of faith in myself, so it’s always good to make a shot when it counts.”

Both teams had 10 shots in overtime – Portland made five and Atlanta only two. It wasn’t a pretty win but the Trail Blazers weren’t in any position to worry about appearances.

“Needless to say, we needed that win,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought our guys fought through and found a way to win, however it came. And it didn’t come easy.”

Instant Analysis: It took overtime, but Trail Blazers get first home win of the season

Instant Analysis: It took overtime, but Trail Blazers get first home win of the season

Sunday night was a battle of two injury-riddled teams.

Trail Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood, who is still dealing with back spasms, is the newest Blazer added to the injured list. Kent Bazemore started in place of Hood.

Vince Carter (personal), John Collins (league suspension), Chandler Parsons (knees) and Evan Turner (Left Achilles) were on the in-active list for the Hawks.

Neither team was able to get out to a big lead all night, but it was the Blazers who got the last word in overtime, earning them their first home victory in four games at Moda Center.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 124, Hawks 113 (OT)

Here are three quick takeaways from the win from our NBC Sports team at the game:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider

Anferenee Simons had a great game, but we were not really sure why he wasn’t on the floor when the team was trailing and needed some offense... It wasn't until there was 27.9 seconds remaining in the game that we saw Simons for the second to last Blazer possession. 

Mike Richman, Reporter

At this point it does not matter how the Blazers come away with wins. This one was ugly early, but they were good enough in overtime to end their losing streak. Kent Bazemore's two three-pointers to open overtime were the biggest shots of the game, and he made sure to stare down the Atlanta bench to let his former team know about it.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

This game looked like it was going to be a track meet. The Blazers got out and ran early on. Moda Center fans were happy to see the Blazers get out to a quick start on the scoreboard as well. Portland slowed it down a bit after the first quarter, but it really wasn’t until the third quarter that the Blazers were moving the ball and getting more players involved not named Damian Lillard. Anfernee Simons took over in the third to keep the Blazers close. Portland’s defense in OT made the difference, along with two key three-pointers from Bazemore to start OT and CJ McCollum's play late in the extra period.   

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Sacramento Kings for a 7:00pm tip-off on Tuesday.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Expletives, relief and compassion - Hassan Whiteside's hyperextended knee

Expletives, relief and compassion - Hassan Whiteside's hyperextended knee

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Trail Blazers seemed to have dodged a bullet on Wednesday night. But, it wasn’t without its scary moment.
Portland’s starting center Hassan Whiteside came down hard, holding his left knee and then went straight to the locker room during Wednesday's game.  

The Blazer big man was closing out on Chris Paul with 1:22 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
It looked as if Whiteside twisted his left knee, but the injury was one that looked worse than it actually was, as Whiteside returned to the game to start the second half and ended up playing 14-second-half minutes. 

After the Blazers 102-99 win over the Thunder, Whiteside described the play:

“I hyperextended it. I was contesting Chris Paul’s shot. It’s just really sore right now. I did some movement and stuff, you know, I just wanted to come out and just give what I could to the team,” Whiteside said.

He gave his team a big time presence down low, along with 10 rebounds and six points while playing with the hyperextended knee in the second half. 

More than anything, Whiteside was ready to get back home.

Before he spoke with the media after the game, he pulled on his red Trail Blazer socks, and was singing a song that he had just made up.

Whiteside sang the repeated lyrics of: ‘I’m going back to Portland, I’m going to back Portland.’

It was a tune of happiness.

Whiteside told reporters, “I’m just glad we got the win and we can finally go home. I’ll take, 3-1 any day.”

The 30-year old big man didn’t know if there was going to be any further testing on his knee, but he did say it would most likely depend on how he feels when he wakes up tomorrow.

What made the situation even scarier for the Blazers is that Portland’s front court is already thin.

Blazer starting power forward and backup center Zach Collins has missed the last two games with a dislocated left shoulder that he suffered during Sunday’s game in Dallas.

Portland is also without centers Pau Gasol (left foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (left lower leg fracture), who are both continuing to rehab their injuries.

Having Collins out for the foreseeable future, proved to be even more worrisome for the Blazers when they saw Whiteside fall to the ground in pain.

“I was like, oh [expletive]. Not another one. And, you just never know in this league with injuries and guys landing wrong or obviously fatigue sets in after awhile, and that’s when we get those little nagging injuries… I think he’s going to be okay. I’m glad it wasn’t anything too crazy because we’re already thin, and I don’t know how many more bigs we can find at this point,” CJ McCollum said postgame.

“He’s a fighter,” Kent Bazemore added.

Blazers' head coach Terry Stotts was relieved to see Whiteside get up on his own power.  

“I didn’t see how it happened, but obviously he was in pain. I was glad at least that he was able to walk off and then be evaluated at halftime. The way things are going you hate to see that,” Stotts said.

It wasn’t just Whiteside’s teammates who were concerned when he initially went down. Whiteside himself was worried and so were the Thunder.

“Oh man, I hope it ain’t serious. I hope it ain’t serious, man. I put in a lot of work this summer. I just remember even OKC guys, [Dennis] Schroder and Chris Paul were like, ‘man you need to get up, you need to be okay.’ They really had a lot of compassion, I appreciate it,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside got up and was okay. Now Blazers fans are all holding their breath that the knee will still feel okay in the morning.

A Trail Blazer Identity: Never out of a game

A Trail Blazer Identity: Never out of a game

SAN ANTONIO -- In the end, it was a little too late for the Trail Blazers, but boy, was it an exciting finish. 

In the final 17 seconds of Monday night’s Blazers-Spurs game, Portland had four separate three-point attempts that could have had the Blazers sealing their fate for a second consecutive come from behind victory.

The final three-point attempt by Blazer All-Star Damian Lillard with 1 tick left on the clock was literally half way down the basket before the ball rolled out and the clock ran out. The Spurs held on to win 113-110.

“It did go in,” Lillard said with a smirk when talking about his last second shot.

“I looked right at it and it was halfway down, and it actually came out, but I had two opportunities back-to-back.  I don’t miss two. If I miss one, I can live with that, but it’s a little harder because I had two opportunities.”

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts didn’t waver midway through the fourth quarter, even though there was a chance to.

He decided not to take his starters out of the game, despite being down 19 points with 5:48 remaining on the clock.

“I was proud of the way we competed to get back into it. You don’t see too many games where both teams have a 19-point lead and it comes down to the last shot,” Stotts said.

Lillard scored 18 points in the final 3:50 of the game.

The late push by the Blazer team captain was not only done by his scoring, but by his leadership during the final timeouts.

“We went into the half with the lead, terrible third quarter, but we just kept coming to our huddle, saying, ‘keep pushing, keep going, keep working. There’s a lot of time, long game.’ Everybody was kind of echoing the same thing,” Lillard said.

“Somehow Dame was able to will us to get back into the game,” Stotts added.

Through the first quarter, it looked as if the Blazers were going to steamroll the Spurs. Portland jumped out to a 23-4 lead after hitting a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range.

However, the NBA is all about teams going on runs.

And for coach Stotts, he never counts his team out.

“Anything can happen in this league,” Stotts said.  “And, you just never know. That’s why you see a lot of coaches that are reluctant to pull the plug on the game because you never know what can happen.”

CJ McCollum, who finished with 27 points, believes the Blazers have always and will continue to claw their way back into games.

“We felt like we could give it one or two more last ditch efforts, and the ball started to go in. We started to get stops and I think our defense fed off our offense,” McCollum said. 

Despite Lillard not being able to get into a rhythm leading up to crunch time, his teammates know how ‘special’ he can be down the stretch.

That’s how Kent Bazemore described Lillard’s late-game heroics.

“We easily could’ve laid down,” Bazemore said. “But, with special guys on your team, Dame 18 straight in the fourth, that’s special. To have a wildcard like that, he can take us places.”  

Even the Spurs had to give it up to Lillard.

“It happened out of nowhere,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said postgame.  “He only had 10 [points] at the start of the fourth and [then] just went off. It’s hard to stop a guy like that when he gets going. One of the most talented players in the NBA and he had a great fourth quarter.”

Now that the Blazers are without Zach Collins (left shoulder) for the foreseeable future, the Blazers’ identity of willing their way to victory no matter how big the deficit will be something Portland will need to rely on even more.   

Kent Bazemore 'looking forward' to guarding Luka Doncic

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USA Today Images

Kent Bazemore 'looking forward' to guarding Luka Doncic

DALLAS - Let’s be honest, the Dallas Mavericks truly have two unicorns.

Yes, Mavericks big man Kristaps Porziņgis has had the nickname unicorn for years now, but really he and Mavs point-forward Luka Doncic are two ‘very unique’ players.

Portland will have its hands full. Trail Blazer forwards Rodney Hood and Kent Bazemore both say it will be a team effort when trying to slow down the duo.

“Their pick and roll, their ability to shoot the ball from both of those guys. Everything. We’ve gotta be locked in. We’ve gotta guard with five guys, not just the two guys involved in it… We just gotta talk and work our way through it,” Hood said after Saturday’s practice.

Blazer head coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t reveal the exact game plan on how Portland plans to defend Dallas, but he did mention it would be by committee.

“The matchups to start the game, and the matchups throughout the game are going to be fluid,” Stotts said.

“You’re going to see different guys guarding Doncic and Porzingis,” Stotts added.  

Doncic is coming off a night in which he notched his ninth career triple-double in the Mavericks win over the Pelicans on Friday.

Coach Stotts had a lot of praise for the reigning rookie of the year.

“He’s picked up where he left off. He’s remarkable, what he can do at his size,” Stotts said.

Coach Stotts hinted at the two-unicorn situation in Dallas.

“What makes it interesting is that they’re both so unique, and then you throw them together now, you’ve got very unique,” Stotts said.

Dallas is now 2-0 to start the regular season for the first time in 15 years.

Bazemore will have time on Doncic when they are both in the game at the same time, and Baze is more than ready for the challenge.

He also wants to alleviate some defensive stress from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“We’re going to have to do it by committee. But, I’m looking forward to it. That’s why I’m here, to take some of the pressure of my two guards. So, when I’m out there and [Doncic] is out there, I’ll take my chances at it,” Bazemore said.  

Bazemore and the Blazers get the chance to hand the Mavs their first loss of the season. Portland and Dallas tip-off at 4pm Pacific Time Sunday.

Hassan Whiteside wishes he was as fast as Kent ‘The Blur’ Bazemore

Hassan Whiteside wishes he was as fast as Kent ‘The Blur’ Bazemore

SACRAMENTO -- A monster block in transition, a beautiful lob, and that ‘blur’ effect on defense are what made up Kent Bazemore’s effective night off the bench Friday.

The Trail Blazers came on strong in the second half to defeat the Kings 122-112 on Friday night from the Golden One Center. Bazemore was a key piece to Portland’s success.  

 

With 10:24 to go in the fourth quarter, Bazemore chased down Bogdan and came up with a huge block as Bogdanović went up with a lay-in attempt.

In that moment it was a thing of hustle and determination on Bazemore’s part.

To Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, it was a turning point for his team.

“He’s tough defensively, makes the right basketball plays. I thought the block he made during transition was a turning point for us. We turned it over and he makes a play like that. He does what you need him to do, and he doesn’t get caught up in trying to score. He just takes what the game gives him and defensively, he’s up for the challenge,” Stotts said.

That transition block also had the Blazers locker room talking.

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who poured it on the Kings on Friday night with 35 points, pointed out that Bazemore’s performance is what he has always enjoyed about Bazemore’s game.

“I mean, the same thing I’ve always liked about it, except he’s on my team now. He makes shots, he makes plays, and he got his nose in there at all times… Guarding everybody on the floor, getting deflections, just coming up with big plays, even when he’s fouling,” Lillard said.

Bazemore’s aggressive nature leads to fouls and Friday night he had one that he wouldn’t take back.

At the 8:25 mark of the second quarter, Bazmore ran down Bogdanovic at the three-point line. He was called for the foul, but Bogdanovic made just two of three free throws.

Bazemore mentioned he would rather give up that foul than let his opponent take a wide-open three.

“It’s all about effort and contesting shots, making it tough for the other team,” Bazemore said. “We don’t really want to give anybody open shots, and if you’re there you try to make a play. It’s kind of what I hang my hat on.”

Bazemore finished the game with the only positive plus-minus from the Trail Blazers bench with a plus 17.

In 24 minutes of action, he went 4-for-7 from the field, including 1-of-3 from deep to score nine points. The eight-year veteran also pulled down eight rebounds on the night.

But of course, it was his defense that has put all the Trail Blazes on notice.

When Hassan Whiteside first met Bazemore in Portland last month, he told Baze that he was a fan of his.

The connection between Whiteside and Bazemore has been instantaneous. The two chalk it up to their upbringing.

“It’s that North Carolina connection,” they both said with big smiles.

Bazemore and Whiteside grew up about a four-and-a-half-hour car ride from each other.

Late in the fourth Friday night, Bazemore lobbed it up to Whiteside, who then threw it down. The duo said Blazers fans can expect a lot more lobs just like that throughout the season.

Whiteside, who we all know enjoys playing that tough, gritty defense, admitted he really wished that he was as fast Bazemore.

“I’m a fan of his defensive intensity. I wish I was that fast. He’s just unbelievable. It’s like playing against five of them.  There’s just times on the court, I just turn and, I call him ‘Blur Baze,’ so he’s a blur. So, he’s just all over the place,” Whiteside said.   

The Trail Blazers will need more ‘Blur Baze’ as they all mentioned as a team they must get better with their perimeter defense.

Will the real Anfernee Simons please stand up?

Will the real Anfernee Simons please stand up?

SACRAMENTO -- The real Anfernee Simons balled out in Sacramento.

“Staying calm,” is what Simons learned most from the first game of the season to the second game.

In the Blazers' season opener on Wednesday, Simons went 2-for-7 from the field to score just five points against the Nuggets.

But during Friday night's win in Sacramento, Simons caught fire early.

He feels like he learned a lot from game one to game two.

“The first game I was kind of erratic, so I just wanted to come into the second game, play better and be more calm… When I came out there, I was calm. I wasn’t sped up. I was getting good shots, good looks early, so I was happy to hit a couple shots,” Simons said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was happy to see a solid performance from his young guard.

“It’s good to see him score. Obviously, that’s his strength and we didn’t have much going on that stretch and really provided some timely shooting for us,” Stotts said.   

Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside summed up Simons' performance like this: 

“He delivers -- He’s like Wal-Mart, FedEx, and Amazon."

Simons scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half, but feels like it wasn’t as if he cooled down in the second half, he was just letting the game come to him.

“Just playing it out. It was a close game. I just wanted to go out and take my time, and make sure we sustained the lead,” Simons said.

Kent Bazemore, who was a spark plug off the bench for the Blazers, was impressed with Simons’ ability to take over at point.

“Really running that second unit—that’s what we’re going to need from him out there… He’s kind of got to be able to step-up and lead the charge, and he did just that tonight,” Bazemore said.

The 19-year-old has a history with Sacramento.

Maybe it’s one of those things where Simons just enjoys playing against the Kings, and that makes him feel more comfortable and confident.

Exhibit A:

A 37-point performance to lead the Trail Blazers to a comeback win in the regular season finale over Sacramento, which also then led to a three-seed out West, which then also led to the Blazers going to the Western Conference Finals, which then also led to sweeping the Oklahoma City Thunder, and which also led to OKC’s roster getting blown up.

Or maybe it’s just like Simons said, he learned from his first game this season.

But hey, maybe it’s the Kings. TBD.

Whiteside was 'dimed,' Simons 'delivered' and, of course, it was 'Dame Time'

Whiteside was 'dimed,' Simons 'delivered' and, of course, it was 'Dame Time'

SACRAMENTO – It’s going to be a crazy season in the NBA. And not just because the Western Conference is loaded with very good teams.

Basketball is changing rapidly and it was easy to see it over the last two Portland Trail Blazer games.

The Blazers defeated the Sacramento Kings Friday night 122-112 and did so with a solid effort from several players. And while Portland made 54.1 percent of its shots from the field and the Kings hit only 42.5 percent, Sacramento stayed close or even led during the first half and part of the second by hitting three-point field goals.

Portland struggled from three in its opener, hitting only 7-28, while Denver won that game by knocking down 18-32.

Friday, the Blazers did better, hitting 11 of 30 while Sacramento was 15-37.

But just so you know, the Nuggets opened their home season Friday by edging lowly Phoenix by a single point in overtime. And Denver made only seven of its 27 three-pointers.

That folks, is what they mean when they say the NBA is a “make-or-miss league.”

The three-point field goal is often an inconsistent shot, which is going to make for some inconsistent outcomes.

But the Trail Blazers can hedge those results a little bit with their inside game, which many other NBA teams have forsaken.

Hassan Whiteside made his name in the league as a defender but so far, and its only two games, he’s been a terrific addition at the low post. He was 9-10 from the field and 4-6 from the foul line in just 26:19 against the Kings, scoring 22 points to go with nine rebounds, a block and a steal. That made him 15-17 from the field overall, with a total of 28 rebounds.

“Them guys were just finding me,” he said afterward. “Making my job easier. I was trying to just emphasize holding those screens. Those guys were just ‘diming' me up. I was just trying to finish to the best of my abilities.

“Being out there with them guys means a lot.”

It was also the first time as a teammate Whiteside has witnessed Damian Lillard closing a game out, which he did with some outside bombs.

“I already knew what time it was,” Whiteside said. “Did you know what time it was? I think we all knew what time it was.”

Whiteside converted a terrific lob from Kent Bazemore into a dunk and was fouled in the third quarter.

“That was a Carolina connection,” he said. “You put it anywhere around the rim and I’m going to get it and I don’t care who’s under it.”

Whiteside is a player you can have some fun with, for sure. Does he expect to miss just one shot per game all season?

“Playing with playmakers like that, they just make it easy,” he said. “I think when we get used to throwing the lobs, it’s going to go up even more. Probably 10 or 20 games in, you’re going to see more. I feel like if I’ve got two feet in the paint, I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like it’s gotta be high.”

He was asked about Anfernee Simons coming off the bench for 15 points, hitting three of his six three-point attempts.

“Man, he just comes in with that second unit and delivers like Walmart, Fedex and Amazon,” Whiteside said. “He just delivers. I love it, man.”

Lillard was his usual dependable self, hitting 12 of his 20 shots, scoring 35 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. He got plenty of help from Bazemore, who was brilliant off the bench with his defense, shooting, passing and rebounding.

“That was a really challenging game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “Sacramento plays a style that’s really tough to guard. They push the tempo, they shoot threes, they played small lineups.”

And about that three-point defense…?

“It’s going to be an emphasis all year,” Stotts said. “I mean, every team shoots threes – that’s the reality. We just didn’t communicate well at times.”

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Transition and perimeter defense will be key vs. Kings

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Transition and perimeter defense will be key vs. Kings

Before the Trail Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, both coaches gave their thoughts on tonight’s matchup with their pregame media availability and at this morning’s shootaround.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts expects the game to be played at quick pace as his teams tries to limit Buddy Hield from getting easy buckets and De'aAron Fox from creating too much on the offensive end.
“Transition defense is going to be a key,” Coach Stotts said after this morning’s shootaround. “They’re an up and down team. We don’t know if Buddy Hield is going to play, but he played really well against Phoenix. He has a quick release. He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence.”

Hield is dealing with a left ankle sprain and was initially listed as questionable, but he will play tonight.

Portland is also focused on tightening up their perimeter defense.

“Three-point shooting after Denver is going to be a priority for us as well…. Offensively, just be ready to make some shots,” Stotts said.

“We definitely have to defend the three. They have five guys in their starting lineup who can shoot it… We’ve gotta be really ready to contest and try to limit their opportunities,” CJ McCollum said after shootaround.

While Damian Lillard, added, “It’s going to be a group effort,” vs. the young Kings squad.

“Knowing that Buddy Hield is shooting at high clip and often… We want to just limit their strengths as much as we can… They’ve got a lot of shooters out there and it’s going to be a tough task,” Lillard said.

Coach Stotts also mentioned during his pregame interview that he expects the Kings to go with a small ball lineup with guys that can space the floor due to the Kings various injuries.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

The Kings will be without Marvin Bagley at power forward. Bagley will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken right thumb. He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ opening night loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Kings head coach Luke Walton spent most of Friday’s pregame chat with the media addressing the injury and how his young team is going to have to come together without Bagley. Walton also mentioned he will play Harrison Barnes at the four more with Bagley out.

Sacramento will also be without Harry Giles III, who is dealing with left knee soreness.

HERE FROM COACH WALTON HERE:

How being on the road so often early can help Trail Blazers build team chemistry even quicker

How being on the road so often early can help Trail Blazers build team chemistry even quicker

Playing on the road is no easy task for any NBA team, let alone a team that is still trying to find its groove after a summer of roster turnover.

Thus, with seven new additions to the roster and plenty of time on the road to start the season, the Trail Blazers are in a state of: Buckle up and bond.

Of the first 18 games to the start the season, 13 of those will be away from Moda Center.

Yes, the road has its challenges. There’s no doubt about that, but it also has its perks as far building better relationships goes.  

Blazer center Hassan Whiteside admitted after Wednesday’s home opening loss against the Nuggets that he is still trying to find his footing after dealing with a sprained left ankle during the preseason. He does, however, believe it’s better to start on the road now than later in the year.

“I like that we are on the road at the beginning, kind of let’s [get] locked in a little more,” Whiteside said this week at practice. “As the season wears on, you’re in Game 40, Game 50, you might want to be home a little more. I think the schedule really works for us.”

[RELATED]: Hassan Whiteside showed why the Trail Blazers are excited about him

Blazers veteran Pau Gasol, who has been rehabbing his left foot and doesn’t have a timeline yet on his return, believes playing in so many road games to start the season can set the tone for the entire year.

“The road tests you in a different way,” Gasol said. “You’ve got to come together in order to get wins.”

“I think that’s going to be a good opportunity for us to really click and be on the same page, and dig in, and fight through, and see what we’re made of,” Gasol added.

Gasol continued to hammer home that point on how the road can change a team, and he would know, having played in 1,226 career games.

The 39-year-old is also all about playing road games early in the season.

“I think it’s better to do that early on… It forces you to grow and kind of step up. If you don’t, then you get run over and then the losses come, and then you scramble and try to get back on track. But again, it’s all part of the learning curve of any team,” Gasol said.

There will certainly be a learning curve for third-year player Zach Collins as he gets set for his new starting role with the Blazers this season.  He knows one thing is definite when it comes to starting life on the road this season:

“I’m sure that there’s gonna be a lot more team dinners this year.”

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Being with each other on the airplane, going to dinner, or just hanging out at the team hotel are just a few ways the Blazers will continue to build their relationships.

Facing adversity to start the season will most likely be the number one factor in forcing the Blazers to come together quickly.  

“It’s going to be one of those things where adversity could possibly hit early,” Damian Lillard said after pausing for a moment to really think about what it will take for his team to come together on the road.

“When you’re starting off on the road so much, and you’ve got teams that are excited early in the season, trying to come out, start their season right on their home floor, I’m sure they’ll be up to playing against us. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Collins agrees with his team captain.

“We’re gonna have to get used to a lot of adversity with each other,” Collins mentioned.

Portland’s first road trip of the season is four-game trip with stops in Sacramento, Dallas, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.

“I think it could be a situation where our team is tested to start the season and it’s going to be [about] how much we come together, what our character is as a group,” Lillard said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts believes there are a few positives to being on the road to start the season, yet he’d still rather have a more favorable home schedule at the moment.

“The road is always challenging. A lot of times when you win games that helps chemistry… I think it’s still early in that process, but yeah, guys are with each other more. They’re able to go out to dinner more. Hopefully that does have some good effects. I’d still rather be at home though,” Stotts said with a smile.      

Let the road test begin.

The Blazers will tip-off vs. the Kings Friday at 7:00pm.