Summer League Shootaround: Starters Not Known, McCollum Carries A Lot And Crabbe Is Bit Nervous
The Portland Trail Blazers begin their 2013 Las Vegas Summer League tonight at 5:30 PM against the Phoenix Suns at Thomas & Mack. You can watch live by purchasing Summer League Pass or wait for the tape-delayed broadcast at 10 PM on NBA TV.
Some notes from this morning's shootaround ...
-- Portland assistant coaches David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts will take turns acting as the team's head coach during Summer League, with Vanterpool drawing tonight's opener against the Suns. And you can tell he's ready for the task, as he was already in midseason form when it comes to being coy about the starting lineup.
"We kind of reserve the right to decide at game time," said Vanterpool, "so we're keeping that close. I've got some ideas in my head."
It's to assume that CJ McCollum, Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard will start at the point, small forward and center, respectively. But it's not clear if Will Barton or Allen Crabbe will start at shooting guard, no is it a guarantee that Thomas Robinson will start at power forward over Joel Freeland. I'd give an edge to Barton and Robinson getting the nod.
It's only natural for Vanterpool to decline comment on the starting lineup seeing as how his boss, head coach Terry Stotts, typically does the same. And there's one other factor that makes Vanterpool's reticence unsurprising.
"I was in Oklahoma City before this," said Vanterpool, a reference to the Thunders' notoriously tight-lipped stance when it comes to media. "I can't help it."
One thing Vanterpool did make clear is Damian Lillard, despite being on the roster, will not play tonight against the Suns. Everyone else under contract will see significant time.
Said Vanterpool: "We're here to win, we want to win, so our guys are definitely going to play so you'll get a chance to see the guys who were here last year as well as the draft picks. They'll definitely play a lot of minutes."
-- Phoenix rookie Alex Len still ins't cleared to play after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured left ankle (and he just had surgery on his right ankle
, too) so CJ McCollum will undoubtedly be the most high-profile rookie in tonight's contest. And while fans are certain to have high expectations, so too do his coaches.
"I'm really looking for and hoping that he attacks being a leader aggressively," said David Vanterpool. "It's going to be different during the season, of course, and he'll be able to take more of a backseat. But here, he needs to make sure the guys on offense are in the right positions, and if they're not, for me, it's the point guards responsibility all ways."
McCollum is aware of the expectations Vanterpool has for him in his first game as a Trail Blazer. And even though he's had less than a week to learn a bare-bones version of the team's offense, he feels like the responsibility for telling other players where to be, even when he may still trying to figure it out for himself, comes with territory.
"That's my job," said McCollum. "Even if I'm playing the two, you've got to kind of point to spots and make sure guys are in the right positions, make sure you're executing plays. So I look forward to the challenge."
That's not to say he's expected to be flawless. Far from it. But Vanterpool was adamant that mistakes are perfectly acceptable in summer league, as long as they're correctly quickly.
"(McCollum) is a smart kid," said Vanterpool. "He understands our sets, he understands our principles, he understands a lot of things and has picked things up quickly. Again, he's young, he's going to make mistakes, so you've kinda got to hope he grows from them. I'm really looking for him to grow each and every quarter, as opposed to each and every game. So he makes a mistake in the first quarter, he shouldn't make the same mistake in the second quarter. And if he does, by halftime, that mistake should be corrected and gone."
It will be interesting to see how McCollum responds in his first game action since breaking his left foot during a game against VCU on January 5. Add in that it's his first professional game against players far better than those he typically faced at Lehigh and you can imagine the 6-3 guard would be a bit nervous. Not the case, says the fresh-faced journalism graduate.
"I already signed my contract," said McCollum. "That was the butterflies. Getting here is the butterflies and maintaining once you get here is the hard part. This is a preseason game. It means a lot, but at the same time, we've got a long ways to go until after Halloween when the season starts. Just want to take it all in stride. Obviously I want to play well. I want the team to play well, too, but we'll see what happens."
-- While CJ McCollum may claim he's not nervous for his first NBA contest, fellow rookie Allen Crabbe was willing to admit that he's a bit anxious for his first game as a Trail Blazer.
"Feel good. Kind of nervous, but I feel like if I tell myself to calm down, just play basketball like I've been doing all my life, I'll be fine."
One thing helping Crabbe is he played for a former NBA coach, Mike Montgomery, at Cal, which he says prepared him for the short turnaround of starting practice on Tuesday and playing a game on Saturday.
"I feel like the concepts are pretty simple, pretty easy for me to catch up on things," said Crabbe. "We ran a lot of sets at Cal, so I'm used to running sets and picking up on them pretty fast. It's all good. Feel like I'm catching up pretty fast."