The Trail Blazers found a silver lining in the dark COVID-19 clouds this week.
Contact tracing meant the Memphis Grizzlies would not have enough available players to play games scheduled for Wednesday and Friday night in Moda Center, providing Portland a rare practice opportunity at just the right time.
The team had a full-fledged contact practice today and expects to have another one tomorrow. That’s a rare event in a season with games scheduled virtually every other day.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Trail Blazers only recently suffered the loss of two of their best players -- CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic -- for several weeks and now have the unexpected opportunity to get back in the lab and work on how they want to play without those players.
“There's no question,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Having some extra time to work on things at both ends, when you lose two players like Nurk and CJ, who are an integral part of our team on both ends. We need to adjust and different guys will have different roles.
“And from that standpoint, missing these two games was good for us.”
And by all accounts, things went well Thursday morning.
“Yeah, it was good today,” Stotts said. “Today was a good day. Tomorrow we'll have another contact practice and work out some things that we need to improve on and maybe add some things.
“Saturday will be more preparation for (Sunday’s game vs.) New York. But, yeah, between getting some rest and getting some extra reps at practice has been good for us.”
Stotts said this, as near as he could remember off hand, may have been the team’s first full-contact practice in weeks.
“I don't know if we've had one since the season started,” he said. “Since our first game. So whenever, since we played Utah.”
Carmelo Anthony was asked if the coaches were turned up a bit for the occasion.
“Anytime you give coaches a couple of days, they turn it up,” he said with a smile. ”You had to lock in. You had to bring your mental, just as much as your physical today… we got a chance to actually get after it a little bit.
“You know, banging your head and scream and yell and, you know, laugh and joke, but honestly, get after it and have a good time doing it and get better. So it was definitely a good practice for us today that we can build on for tomorrow, and Saturday to get ready for Sunday, hopefully.”
Stotts recognized what Anthony was talking about.
“When you give coaches three or four days off, players hate that,” he said. “They know the coaches have a lot of stuff.
“It was good day. I tease the players, but they know. They're good about it -- they know the days that we’ve got to get things done. Even during the regular season, when there's a three-day break, they know the coaches kind of target those days and the players do too.”
Just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.