With a concussion that led to serious dehydration in the NBA restart, Portland Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little didn’t see much time on the court in Orlando, Florida.
In his first season at the pro level, Little showed flashes of potential upside with his tremendous athleticism and great work ethic.
In 48 regular season games played as a rookie in 2019-20, he averaged 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 11.9 minutes of work.
But now as the young Trail Blazers forward looks to make a big leap from year one to year two, he’s kept his mind and body right during this shortened offseason since leaving the Orlando Bubble.
“So, I just decided to attack it out of the gate in order to stay ready,” Little added.
Staying ready was a theme for the Blazers’ No. 25 pick out of North Carolina. The Tar Heels standout didn’t see consistent minutes under head coach Terry Stotts, which is normal for rookies in Stotts’ system.
It takes time to develop trust.
Little mentioned that he was able to sneak away for a bit during this offseason to spend time with family and friends, which he added “was nice to get away,” but since he’s been back in Portland, he’s kept his “same groove.”
As for Little’s goal for his second year in the league, he’s, of course, looking to see an uptick in minutes.
Learning opponents’ tendencies, knowing when to gamble in passing lanes, and how to best defend certain players in the pick and roll, while also making sure to play sound one-on-one and team defense -- are all things that worked well for second year player Gary Trent Jr. during the 2019-20 season.
Trent Jr. took assistant coach Jim Moran’s advice and worked on his defense all last summer.
The results: The emergence of Gary Trent Jr.
Little had a front row seat to Trent Jr. improvements and thus, more playing time after taking advantage of his opportunity due to early season injuries.
So it’s no wonder that Little realizes the importance of defense as a young player to see the floor as a Trail Blazer.
As for the other side of the ball, Little is focused on consistency.
“Offensively, being able to hit more open shots, I think I progressed significantly throughout my rookie year and I’ve progressed a lot since then to now, so I’m excited to see what I can do on both ends of the court this year,” Little explained.
As are Trail Blazers fans, Nassir!