It has been a long road back.
But Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little has finally worked his way back to where he had dreamed about and put in countless hours for so many years:
Playing in an NBA regulation game.
“Just to get back out on the court, it felt really good. I went through a lot these past four or five months, but I got through it all. It was kind of a sign that I made it through the adversity,” Little said following Friday’s practice.
To say Little went through a lot since July 21, 2020 in the NBA restart is an understatement.
Until Thursday night, Little had not played in an NBA game since March 10, 2020 in Portland’s final home game before the season was postponed.
The second-year player now has 49 career NBA games under his belt. Following complications with dehydration, after suffering a concussion in late July in the NBA restart, he never saw game action in the Orlando Bubble.
Then, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the start of the 2020-21 training camp.
Little mentioned that he “never got too low.”
He kept pushing through and kept the faith.
“With the whole COVID situation, it sucked being sick, but I knew I would get through it, which I did,” Little said Friday.
Little’s symptoms included headaches, feeling achy, loss of appetite, having a fever, and chills.
He credited the doctors and trainers as well as his teammates' support in helping him to get through the rough few weeks.
The 20-year-old says he doesn’t have any lingering effects from the coronavirus and adds that he “feels good.’
But now it’s about getting his body right.
“When you don’t play for a while you kind of lose a step and it’s just a matter of getting that back.”
With Portland up 115-93 over Minnesota, Little saw garbage time when he entered the game at the 7:47 mark of the fourth quarter but it was a perfect way to ease back into NBA game action.
In 48 games played as a rookie last season for the Blazers, Little averaged 3.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
As the Blazers cruised to a 135-117 victory Thursday, Little recorded two points and one rebound in eight minutes of work.
Following the win, Damian Lillard mentioned how the bench was poking fun at Little’s excitement to finally see the floor again.
“It was good to see him out there,” Lillard said. “He’s been through a lot and then coming back this season, missing a lot of time, having to work his way back, with his condition, all those things. It’s been a tough few months for him. It was good to see him back on the court.
“When coach called his name, he started smiling right away and everybody on the bench was kind of laughing about it.”
But Nas didn’t even realize his teammates were poking fun at him.
“It took me a second to realize how to take off my jacket and pants and all that stuff and check into a game. It felt brand new,” Little said with a big smile.
It’s probably safe to be that the newness feeling could wear off soon, but the smile won’t.