Practice Notebook: Reviewing Film Of A 45-Point Loss, Hindered By Injuries And The Return Of Shootaround

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers held practice Thursday afternoon in San Francisco prior to their final game of preseason versus the Golden State Warriors (tipoff scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. on ROOT Sports and Rip City Radio 620 AM). Some notes from practice...

• Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups didn’t say too much to his team in the immediate aftermath of their blowout loss, albeit in preseason, to the Suns Wednesday afternoon in Phoenix. There’s little room for ambiguity when you lose by 45 points, so he didn’t figure there was much reason stick his finger in a fresh wound. In fact, there’s cause not to.

“It’s funny, I’m a coach that, after games like this, I don’t speak in the locker room right after because it can be really emotional,” said Billups after Wednesday’s loss. “You could say some things sometimes you can’t take back. So watch the game again -- whatever that was, watch that again. I’ll talk to the guys (Thursday) about what I seen, how I do feel like we took a step or two back.”

Which is what he did during a lengthy film session prior to the team’s practice Thursday afternoon at Chase Center in San Francisco. After reviewing the game and having a night to sleep on it, Billups, rather than using specific clips to highlight a bevy of mistakes and lack of effort, played the first quarter unedited, one in which Portland put up just 11 points while also giving up a series of open shots, especially from three.

“We had a really good session today and honestly all we did was I talked a bunch about where we are, where we need to be and we watched the first quarter together,” said Billups. “I just kind of broke down the whole first quarter, offensively and defensively, because I’ve always thought that when you can actually watch the game together -- as a coach, I can go at night, chop up the film and show all good plays or bad plays -- but when you watch it in sequence, live, unsliced up, it’s a little different.”

• Portland announced that Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, Cody Zeller and Tony Snell will all miss Thursday’s game with various injuries (Damian Lillard is also out due to “rest”), and while players sitting out preseason games is arguably the standard rather than the exception, Portland’s inability to field a full squad at any time during training camp has become something of a concern.

Simons, who has impressed with his preseason play more than any other Blazer, played two games and has been a full participant during most of training camp, though Little (hamstring) and Zeller (nose) each appeared in just one preseason game and Snell has yet to be cleared for full practice. And that’s to say nothing of players like CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Ben McLemore being limited at times during camp due to minor injuries.

While missing preseason games and/or having to sit out training camp practices isn’t a huge concern, it is a bit more worrisome for a team trying to change their style of play under a new coaching staff.

“It’s hinder us a little bit because you want to get stuff in and you want to do certain things and obviously it’s important to have your main guys there to be able to do it, the guys who are going to play the bulk of the minutes,” said Billups of injuries during training camp. “When you don’t have that, you’ve just got to kind of look down the rest of the checklist and maybe plug some things in. It’s hindered us a little but just got to keep it going.”

• It wasn’t all that long ago that holding shootaround the morning of a game day was standard in the NBA. While it’s still common for teams to do some on-court work the morning before a game, it’s no longer the tradition it once was even a decade ago for all 30 teams. Research showing the importance of rest prompted many teams, including the Trail Blazers, to reconsider whether they’d be better served letting players sleep as opposed to holding shootaround. And when COVID-19 protocols made any attempt to schedule time and space much more difficult to pull off, teams like the Trail Blazers all but eliminated traditional shootarounds, opting rather for on-court work prior to pre-game warmups before home games and hotel conference room walkthroughs and meetings before road games.

But between the arrival of Billups and the loosening of COVID-19 rules, Portland is back to holding more traditional shootaround, at least for the time being.

“I think right now, while we’re all trying to learn each other and learn thing, it creates an opportunity for you to get a little more time with the guys,” said Billups of having regular shootarounds. “That’s kind of how I see it. Now, we get in a position where we know what we want, we playing the way we need to play, all those things, maybe at that point rest is more valuable. I’m guessing the goalposts will continue to move on that.”

While Billups is open to changing the team’s approach to shootaround at some point, his preference as a player was to get some work in the morning before a game, either with his teammates or by himself.

“I was such a bit routine guy that I wanted shootaround,” said Billups. “Even the times that we didn’t do anything, we didn’t have a shootaround, I would make sure to go get my stuff because it was just my routine. It wasn’t until the end of my career where some teams started not having shootaround, it just seemed so foreign to me. But it’s not so foreign anymore.”

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