Shootaround Notes: Injury Updates, McCollum Off The Ball, Bigs In The Paint
The Portland Trail Blazers (0-2) will try to get their first win of the Las Vegas Summer League when they play the Chicago Bulls (2-0), a team that has yet to lose a game at summer league, Tuesday afternoon at 5 PM on NBA TV from Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.
Some notes from this morning's shootaround …
-- Acting summer league head coach David Vanterpool was noncommittal regarding the availability of Will Barton (right knee) and Victor Claver (right thigh) for today's game, though he did note both players were "feeling better" and that their injuries are "nothing serious."
But while their coach was tight-lipped, the players were a bit more forthcoming. Both Joe Freeman and Chris Haynes have reported that Will Barton has said he will not play. The assumption is that rookie guard Allen Crabbe will start in his place.
Claver said he is a gametime decision. If I had to guess, I'd say he plays.
-- Despite two blowout losses, Vanterpool says the team has no plans to make any major changes before Tuesday afternoon's game against the Bulls. While winning at least one game would be nice (especially considering the team ended the regular season on a 13-game losing streak), the overarching goal is still the same as it was when the team started summer league mini-camp a week ago.
"The focus has been to get better everyday," said Vanterpool. "And to me, learning from mistakes is important. You have to make sure that you correct things that you maybe didn't do well the game before and don't make the same type of mistake twice. If there was a mistake in running back or, as a team, we' didn't move the ball on offense as well, then don't make that same mistake the next game. Move the ball maybe too much, maybe make too many extra passes. Doing little things to be able to build on what you learned the day before or the game before is more important than anything."
-- The team will continue to experiment with lineups and positions, with the most noticeable likely being moving rookie guard CJ McCollum off the ball. After handling point guard duties almost exclusively during his time on the court in the first two games, the team would like to see how McCollum responds when not responsible for being the team's primary ball-handler.
"We'd love to have him off the ball a little bit, free him up, get a chance to take a look at that, see what that looks like," said Vanterpool. "He'll get a chance to be off the ball a little bit tonight."
McCollum will likely start the 2013-14 regular season backing up both Damian Lillard at point guard and Wesley Matthews at shooting guard, so it's understandable why the team would like to give him an opportunity at summer league to play the two in the next three games. Not that it matters all that much to McCollum.
"I feel very comfortable playing on or off the ball, so I'm not too worried about it," said McCollum. "I feel like I'll find success at either position. I look forward to playing a game tonight and trying to get a win."
-- The complaint I've heard most through Portland first two games is that Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland haven't shown much offensively to get excited about. Trail Blazers fans want to see improvement from Leonard and Freeland, and anything from Robinson, who joined the team officially less than a week ago.
Vanterpool admits the team hasn't run many plays through the first two games to get the ball in the hands of either Robinson, Leonard and Freeland in the post, but notes that the bigs also need to do a better job of being in position to get the ball near the basket.
"They've also got to postup sometimes," said Vanterpool. "It's a little bit of both parties kind of working together. A lot of times, if you're in the right place at the right time, the ball will find you, so we want to encourage our bigs to rim run… We'll set up some different sets to get guys the ball in the post. T-Rob is probably one of the only guys that gets down low. And Joel Freeland also gets down there and kind of gets some movement going, gets some footwork and able to get in there and get some shots up. We look to do that, but again, they have to post strong and get themselves in position to actually receive the ball."