Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers role players now transitioning back to 'original roles'

Trail Blazers

With 33 regular season games remaining on the Portland Trail Blazers 2020-21 schedule, it’s all about finding a new rhythm.

Or an old one. 

For the past two months, the Blazers have been in:

Survival mode.

And it's gone well as Portland currently sits in the sixth seed out West. 

Now, it’s about adapting back to what they once knew.

Tuesday’s contest against the Pelicans, a magical come-from-behind win led by Damian Lillard’s 50-point heroics, was also a game that saw the return of CJ McCollum.  

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McCollum played just 26 minutes and finished with 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-7 from three as he continues to shake off the rust.

 

With the starting shooting guard back in the lineup after suffering a fractured left foot on Jan. 16, that meant a shake-up in the rotation.

Gary Trent Jr. went back to being a spark off the bench as Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts went with a nine-man rotation. Rodney Hood played the least with 11 minutes.  

And it was third-year guard Anfernee Simons who was left out.

Simons earning a DNP was a “product of CJ coming back and playing 26 minutes,” Stotts said.

“I think there’s no question that [Anfernee] knew when CJ came back he knew that things were going to change as they did with Rodney as well. That’s part of the reason you have a deep roster so that when guys go down, other guys are able to step in, and when guys come back, everybody goes back to their original roles.”

As for Gary Trent Jr., who had started in place of McCollum for the past two months, he continued to provide a three-point spark and was able to get to the free-throw line late in Tuesday's game. He finished with 22 points in an impressive 32 minutes of work.

“I thought he had a really good night,” Stotts said of Trent Jr. “Really for him to get 31 minutes off the bench is – that’s a lot of minutes off the bench. He’s averaging 35 as a starter. We went with a three-guard lineup, so he got some extra minutes there. “

Could we see the three-guard lineup in the future?

It sounds like it’s definitely a possibility.

The rotation definitely isn’t set in stone even for the next two weeks without Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture).

[RELATED]: Jusuf Nurkic reportedly aiming for return in two weeks

 

Stotts elected to stick with Nassir Little in Tuesday's rotation. Little brought the energy and effort on both ends, earning 18 minutes. 

Coach Stotts admitted that he is going to have to make some difficult decisions with who will see time and who won't. 

It’s going to be tough. With CJ coming back and eventually Nurk coming back the minutes and how they go for guys coming off the bench. Certainly, Gary Trent and Melo, and Enes have a body of work this season.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

“So the other guys, whether it’s Ant or Nas, or Rodney – it’s going to be some tough decisions to be made and I wanted to give Nas an opportunity, which he had last night. I do trust Rodney, that’s why I put him back in five minutes to go and he was really good defensively.”  

McCollum was averaging 33.8 minutes a game before his injury, while Nurkic averaged 23.3 minutes.

But that’s why teams have a deep roster.

Always adapting.

That’s part of the deal is tough decisions have to be made.

Terry Stotts