Blazers Host Kings In Preseason After Three Days Of Practice

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

After one of the longest offseasons in NBA history and one of the shortest training camps, the Portland Trail Blazers play the first of a four-game preseason schedule by hosting the Sacramento Kings Friday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

In a season sure to be one of the oddest in league history -- the season is 10 games shorter than usual, the schedule is being released in parts, the Toronto Raptors have to play in Tampa, FL and most games will be played without fans, at least to start the season -- it only makes sense that the start would be unprecedented. So the Trail Blazers playing a preseason game, and a nationally-televised one at that, after just three days of practices -- they lost two days after closing their practice facility due to positive COVID-19 test results -- seems like an apropos way to begin the 2020-21 campaign in earnest.

However, preseason games are always more about preparation than results, so in that way, Friday’s game versus the Kings will be traditional. The goal is simply to get in a run against someone wearing a different jersey, everything else is a bonus.

“I think these two games with Sac is about getting guys minutes,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We’ll have 12 guys eligible to play, we’ll see how that goes. It’s about getting everybody on the court, not overdoing the minutes -- I don’t see anybody playing more than 20 minutes in either game, maybe 25.”

And even though there’s nothing at stake in terms of the result, there are ample reasons to tune in. It will be the first Trail Blazers game played without fans at the Moda Center, which will be quite a contrast from playing in front of one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA.

But more importantly, it will be the first time anyone working outside of the team’s practice facility in Tualatin will get a look at Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Harry Giles and CJ Elleby, all of whom were acquired via draft, free agency or trade in the offseason. Add in the return of Enes Kanter after a season with the Celtics along with Carmelo Anthony coming back and there’s plenty of cause for excitement.

“I think everyone is glad to be on the court, to be honest, there’s a lot of energy,” said Stotts. “Generally speaking, training camp, first couple days of training camp are usually pretty good, everybody is excited to be playing. The challenge is going to be when fatigue sets in, the legs get a little heavy, but we’ve had two really good practices.”

Portland is expected to come out with a starting lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jones Jr., Covington and Kanter.

And while the team doesn’t release an injury report for preseason games, Stotts did say that Jusuf Nurkic, who only recently returned to Portland after spending time overseas, would be unlikely to play as he has only recently finished the required round of COVID-19 testing. Rodney Hood, who is working his way back after rupturing his left Achilles a little over a year ago. Zach Collins will also be unavailable until at least mid-January as he comes back from offseason ankle surgery.

Friday’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest and nationally on ESPN. The game will also broadcast on Rip City Radio 620 AM.

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