The Trail Blazers made a big splash at the NBA trade deadline this season strengthening their starting lineup while parting ways with a nice up-and-coming talent.
It was March 25 that the Blazers traded Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. to Toronto for veteran guard Norman Powell.
The move made sense at the moment, and it still does. The Blazers got a sharpshooting guard in Powell that would help space the floor for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, all while getting out from under the $10M contract of Rodney Hood. Unfortunately, to get a talent like Powell the Blazers had to part with the young, talented Gary Trent Jr. in the process.
Trent Jr. burst on the scene last season, taking over games in the NBA bubble. The Blazers hoped he would build off of that performance and become a major piece of the rotation this season, and he did. He became one of the team's go-to scorers on the second unit and started 23 of the 41 games he played with the Blazers this season.
The future looked very bright for Trent, but the Blazers likely wouldn't be able to retain him in free agency, so they parted ways.
On Friday the Raptors released a detailed feature video on Gary Trent Jr. where he talked about his time in Portland and the trade that landed him in Toronto.
Trent was stuck in the lineup behind CJ McCollum and often found himself losing shots to Carmelo Anthony when the second unit was on the floor. Like he said, he was a victim of circumstance but it wasn't going to stop him from striving for greatness.
"I sat back, and I worked, I stayed in my role, I played hard and I’m fortunate and blessed to have an opportunity, like you said, I can spread my wings a little bit. I can showcase that I can dribble of the ball and score off the raw, and showcase, I can pass, and find guys. So, just being able to play, it’s completely different. It’s a 360. I’m in a completely different mind space, and having the ability to just play, you know, man it’s a great feeling, I can’t even explain it."
It's absolutely great to hear that Gary is in a better mind space. That he feels he is having his talented better utilized and taken advantage of. Yet at the same time, it has to hurt Blazers fans to hear he felt like he was being bottled up in Portland. That's not all though. What he said next will sting the hearts of Rip City just a little bit.
The approach changes everything.
Statistically, Gary Trent is being afforded the same opportunity in Toronto that he was in Portland, with his stats nearly identical to what he saw in PDX.
Through 41 games in Portland: 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 30.8 minutes per game.
Through 8 games in Toronto: 14.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 33.4 minutes.
And there's also this game winner:
The biggest difference is Trent feels like he is part of the core. Part of Toronto's future.
Now, that's not to say he wasn't appreciated in Portland, he absolutely was. The fans loved him. His teammates loved him. The entire organization loved him. But, like Trent Jr. said, it was just hard to find his place on a roster with the likes of Lillard, McCollum, and Anthony.
Especially considering that Trent is set for a big payday this offseason, the writing was on the wall. The unfortunate business side of basketball.
Trent may be in a better situation for his growth now, and he says he finally feels wanted, he can rest assured that he will always be loved here in Rip City.