Remember when Gary Trent Jr. made a big splash in the rotation when the Trail Blazers riddled by injuries last season?
Of course, how could one forget that?
Now it’s time for his teammate and 2018 rookie class friend to do the same.
Sunday, Trail Blazers fans were treated to a first half clinic with Portland taking a 70-50 halftime lead over the New York Knicks.
The second half was a different story for Portland.
But, for Trail Blazers third-year guard Anfernee Simons the entire game was a chance to show he can step up when called upon.
And now, more than ever, with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic out for an extended period of time, it’s time for Simons to show what his teammates and the Blazers organization have talked about over the past two seasons in regards to his talents and high ceiling.
Fans got a glimpse of that aggressive Simons, not the timid one.
After holding off the Knicks to improve to 9-6 on the season, Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts, who has preached that now is a perfect time for Simons, Rodney Hood, and Gary Trent Jr. to all step up, was pleased with his young backup point guard.
“He played well. He shot the ball well, obviously. I thought he ran the offense,” Stotts said.
Simons finished with the only positive plus-minus of the second unit with a plus-seven.
After notching 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three to go along with three rebounds, and two assists, Simons was pleased with his performance Sunday, saying that he thinks he “played better”, but he knows it’s still all about the mental part of his game.
Through 11 games this season, the 21-year-old is averaging 4.2 points and 1.5 rebounds while seeing the floor for an average of 10.5 minutes per game when McCollum was healthy.
Just as Coach Stotts was pleased with the 21-year-old’s all around game against the Knicks, the team’s captain Damian Lillard was happy with the bench as a whole.
“The second group – they came out and they were sharp, they were making shots, moving, we were active in our zone. It was the way we needed to play,” Lillard said.
The Blazers have shown that they can win by committee with Lillard continuing to take on the scoring load.
And that will be key for the immediate future.
Simons was Portland’s second leading scorer Sunday behind Lillard’s whopping 39 points.
As Simons continues to learn from Lillard while also playing alongside the five-time All-Star with McCollum out, the minutes and opportunities for Simons will continue to be there.
And now, just think about Trent Jr. and Simons catching fire together on a nightly basis.
Just what the Blazers will need and the fanbase will love.