Nurkic, Collins, Blazers Return To Practice In Orlando

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

It’s good to be back. 

After a cross-country flight and two days of strict quarantine, the Trail Blazers held their first practice Saturday at the Wide World of Sports complex on the Walt Disney World campus, exactly four months to the day since the 2019-20 season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The practice was really good,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts on a Zoom call Saturday afternoon from Orlando. “There was a lot of energy. I think everybody is ready to play basketball. Getting into contact, going live full court, half court, I didn’t see a lot of rust, to be honest. I thought everybody looked good, everybody is in good shape. I was pretty pleased.”

While the team has been going through solo workouts at their practice facility in Tualatin for the better part of two months, Saturday was the first time that they’ve had a contact practice since early March. But despite social distancing, both on and off the court, for the last four months, the Trail Blazers didn’t have any issues returning to a more tactile version of basketball. 

“I felt good about the contact,” said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “I think it’s been two and a half, almost three months that I’ve been training pretty hard with a lot of movement and stuff like that. And I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to preparing for contact is your body being able to loosen up and how agile you are, how still you are and things like that. I’ve been staying loose, I’ve been staying active, I’ve been moving around, I’ve been going pretty hard at things. It was just a small adjustment having contact. I think everybody looked that way, everybody looked like they’ve been playing. Nobody looked a little bit rusty as far as going up and down or getting bumped or having to fight through screens. Everybody was pretty much prepared.”

Which is good news for multiple reasons, first and foremost being that the Trail Blazers will have to hit the ground running once their eight-game “seeding” schedule begins July 31 with a tilt versus the Grizzlies, the team they’re chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. 

“I think everybody had a great time, we enjoyed it,” said CJ McCollum. “Everybody came back in good shape, really took care of themselves over the course of our little break. I’m looking forward to seeing how we progress up until (their first scrimmage on July 22) and then up until our first game.”

Not only was Saturday’s practice the first since the hiatus, it was the first time Jusuf Nurkić had reportedly gone through a full contact practice since breaking his left leg in two places in a double overtime victory versus the Nets at the Moda Center in March 25, 2019. It was also the first time Zach Collins went through his first contact practice after missing all but the first three games of the 2019-20 season undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder. 

“They both looked like the way we remembered them,” said Stotts. “I told Nurk that. He’s the Nurk that I remembered playing, at both ends of the floor. He made some really good passes, good rebounds. He just made good plays. Zach was full of energy. You couldn’t tell that either one of them had missed any amount of time. It was very encouraging.”


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