Earning A Rotation Spot Is On Joel Freeland's To-Do List
By sarahhecht Posted in: joelfreeland
One of the major story lines this season for the Trail Blazers is the growth and development of the five rookies on the roster. The oldest of those rookies, Joel Freeland, was drafted by Portland back in 2006 and has played in Europe since. Now he's finally made the jump to the NBA, making his story one of slight adjustments, patience and learning.
Now, four games into the 2012-13 campaign, Freeland has played in two games and totaled 15 minutes, four points and seven rebounds. Don’t be surprised by the lack of playing time though, because he certainly isn’t. Freeland understands this transition is exactly that, a transition, and it’ll take him a bit of time and a lot of hard work to acclimate. That said, he’s very pleased with how it’s going thus far.
“It’s going good, it’s slow, obviously,” Freeland said. “I’m just getting used to the game all in all. It’s completely different from what I’m used to back in Europe and it’s not an easy transition by all means. The pace of game is a lot faster, people are a lot stronger, but I’m getting there. Each practice I’m getting better and I’m just trying to put that into the games when I get the opportunity to play.”
When those chances come around, as they did in Oklahoma City and Dallas, he’s focused on implementing the skills he’s been practicing and also those he knows well. We’ve seen him successfully run with the team, crash the boards and take the extra step in effort plays to make his mark.
Right now, Freeland understands his minutes will be sporadic. He’s also crystal clear on the specific development he needs to earn a regular position in the rotation.
“I think all in all the thing that’s keeping me off the floor at the moment is my defense,” Freeland said. “That’s something that I’m working on and I’m working on it every day, being in the right position, rotations, showing on picks and things like that, those are the things I’m working on everyday.
“One of the main differences [from the European game] is the three second rule on defense and knowing your rotations if you’re stuck in the middle of the paint, knowing when you gotta get out,” he said. “In Europe you can stay in there as long as you want and you don’t have to worry about getting out to then worry about rotation. So if someone’s driving to the baseline and I’m stuck in the paint I’m staying there, but here I’ve got to worry about am I in the three seconds, I’ve gotta get out then I’ve gotta get into the rotation. So it’s little things like that which I’m gonna get soon.”
Head Coach Terry Stotts has his eye on Freeland and is watching his growth every day waiting for him to catch up with the speed of the NBA game and to improve his defense, two of the main challenges he says European players face when coming across the pond. When those things click for Freeland, Stotts is confident he’ll earn himself a spot in the rotation.
That said, right now Freeland's main goal is to maintain his high level of concentration and work ethic to move through the adjustment phase as quickly as possible.
“I’m working all the time," he said. "Because I’m not playing too much I’m getting a lot of extra work in. So I come in before practice, I get like an hour and a half before practice with coaches, I watch a lot of video on the things that I’m doing in the games and practices as well, just trying to improve on things. Improving my shot, improving my defense, I’m just trying to do little by little because if I’m not playing I’ve gotta do all these other things to make sure I can get into the games.
“It’s tough but it’s enjoyable at the same time. This is what I always wanted, I wanted to be here to play against the best and now I’ve got the opportunity to do that. I’m gonna take full advantage of it and just keep working the way I’m working.”