Ready or not, here they come.
The Trail Blazers, with but three practices under their belts, will play host to the Sacramento Kings Friday night in a 7:30 telecast on NBC Sports Northwest, which will carry all four of the team’s exhibition games.
And it will be a new experience in so many different ways. Portland will likely open the game with new players -- Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington -- starting at the forward spots. Enes Kanter, back in a Portland uniform after a season with the Celtics, will go at center as Jusuf Nurkic -- a late arrival to camp -- is not likely to be in uniform. Behind Kanter will be another newcomer, Harry Giles.
But there will be a lot of other differences Friday, in what will be a mostly vacant Moda Center.
The Trail Blazers’ radio and television crews will be on hand to do the game and there will also be a limited number of other media in attendance.
But that’s it. Due to COVID-19, there will be no fans in the arena and the limited number of attendees will be masked and socially distanced.
The Trail Blazers are expected to be playing a little differently this season, too. But three days of practice might not be enough time for them to show noticeable changes.
Asked if his team might hold back anything new during the exhibition season, Coach Terry Stotts said he doesn’t think, at this point, there has been enough time to install very much -- new or not.
“I think it's too early right now,” he said. “We don't have enough to hold anything back. You know it's a ‘What we have is what we have.’
“We have three practices right before we play Utah (in the Dec, 23 regular-season opener). I don’t know if we’ll hold anything back in the two games against Denver, but then those three practices before the Utah game gives us an opportunity to do some things that we haven't shown in preseason.”
The Trail Blazers had experience playing in front of empty seats while finishing last season in the Orlando bubble. But this season is likely going to be different.
“I think it's gonna have somewhat of a similar feel as the bubble,” Stotts said. “The league was really prepared, in that we only had three gyms and they all had the LED boards, it was all blacked out.
“And so there was a consistency in every game. Every game in the bubble was pretty similar. I think what's going to be different now is that different arenas are going to have different ways of covering the seats. In the bubble, everything was blacked out so you really didn't have a sense of an arena.
“They're not going to do that in most arenas so I think that's going to have a different feel to it. Different teams are going to have different sound systems. So, I guess more than anything else, what I'm saying is it is going to be different from arena to arena as opposed to the bubble.”
And so Friday night promises to be the first night of an all-kinds-of-different season.