Trent Jr. Picks Up Where He Left Off In Orlando

by Casey Holdahl
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If nothing else, Gary Trent Jr. is going to make sure his teammates stay hydrated.

After being in and out of the rotation in the first few months of the season, the 6-5 guard in his second year out of Duke averaged 29.2 minutes per game in February -- he served as Damian Lillard’s replacement while rehabbed a groin injury -- and continued to see his role increased in March before the season was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So when asking how he sees himself fitting into the rotation once the Trail Blazers begin their eight-game restart to the 2019-20 season in Orlando, you might assume he’d make a case for keeping his minutes. But while he undoubtably wants to play, he seemed more concerned with making sure his teammates are sufficiently motivated and hydrated.

“That’s a testament to my hardwork,” said Trent Jr. “That’s my game, that’s who I am as a player, that’s what I can do for this team. On the defensive end, on the offensive end, cheering for teammates, getting water.”

You don’t often hear players talking up their water dispensing skills, but it tracks with Trent Jr’s renewed focus on doing whatever he can to help his team. He’s talked about little else in his comments to the media since workouts in Portland started to increase in the run up to the Orlando restart.

“I’m confident, I’m ready to play any position I can on the floor to help this team,” said Trent Jr. “Defending, scoring, I can knock down open shots. Just here to do my job... This is the lightest I’ve been since I’ve been in Portland, the most in shape, body-wise, strength-wise. It’s only up from here.”

After making only 15 appearances during his rookie season -- he spent a fair amount of time running roughshod through G-League defenders while on assignment with the Texas Legends -- Trent Jr. has played in 58 games this season, averaging 7.7 points on 43 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from three, 1.7 rebounds and just under 1.0 assist in 20.0 minutes. Those averages started to climb as he started to earn more minutes backing up Lillard, CJ McCollum and even Trevor Ariza in smaller lineups, though it was his perimeter defense which might have been the most important difference between playing and watching.

“(Trent Jr.) has picked up where he left off,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “He hit his stride during the season, he’s in terrific shape. Defensively is where he made the biggest jump but I think offensively, he’s shooting the ball well, he’s not playing as much one-on-one, he moves well without the ball, he knows the sets. It was obvious to everybody this year the jump that he made from his rookie year to the next year.”

And even though he’s been elevated from warming the bench to playing rotation minutes, he’s still making a point of being an energy guy, someone who keeps a positive attitude while also delivering a bit of tough love and the occasional cup of water.

“To be honest, that’s just me, any time I get a chance,” said Trent Jr. “If I see you slacking, if I’m being lazy, I see someone be lazy, I’ll let ‘em know. I’m cheering guys on, I’m trash talking, just being vocal, being a voice out there on the floor.”

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