A Confident Layman Helps Portland Stay Undefeated At Summer League

by Casey Holdahl
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LAS VEGAS -- A little over a week ago, forward Jake Layman wasn’t sure if he’d have a contract with the Trail Blazers for the 2018-19 season, let alone a larger role than he’s managed to carved out during his first two seasons out of Maryland.

But the Trail Blazers ultimately decided to pick up Layman’s third-year option, ensuring his contract for next season would be guaranteed.

“I was out in Portland working out, my mindset was I’m going to workout with the team, work my butt off and show them that if they pick (the option) up, I’m ready to play,” said Layman. “But if not, I’ll be ready to go somewhere else and do the same thing. I was so happy when they picked it up, definitely nervous during that time period.”

And if Layman is able to knock down shots and attack the rim as well as he did Sunday afternoon versus the Hawks at the Las Vegas Summer League, he might have an opportunity to earn more playing time now that he knows he’ll be back next season.

After a rough shooting performance in Portland’s first game, Layman went 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from three to finish with 23 points to lead the Trail Blazers to an 85-68 victory versus Atlanta at Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.

“I think the first game, everybody was really excited to get out there. I wouldn’t say nerves, just a lot of juice in that first game,” said Layman. “Didn’t shoot it as well as I wanted to, but I was still being aggressive, being confident out there and I think today it definitely showed a little more.

The Trail Blazers are now 2-0 in Las Vegas with one game to play before the start of the second annual Summer League Tournament.

One would hope Layman would look comfortable playing in his third summer league, which features all 30 NBA teams for the first time in the exhibition’s history, and that has mostly been the case through two games in Las Vegas. While he only managed to make five of his 12 attempts in Portland’s summer league opener against the Jazz, he made his presence felt on the glass by grabbing four offensive rebounds, one of which he converted into a highlight dunk in the fourth quarter.

And on Sunday, found his rhythm from outside, hitting four three-pointers while also finishing an alley-oop, blocking two shots and grabbing two steals in 20 minutes.

“I feel like last year, his narrative was he missed open shots and that was that,” said assistant coach Jim Moran, who is handling heading coaching duties in Las Vegas. “Now when I’m watching him he’s just shooting with confidence, he’s letting everything come to him, he’s not forcing it. He’s had two really good games, he’s got a good rhythm, he had a great offensive rebound dunk yesterday, he had a nice transition and-one. It’s just nice to see him under control, playing with poise, but more importantly, playing with confidence.”

Layman isn’t the only player on Portland’s summer league roster who is experiencing the positive effects associated with a boost of confidence. Rookie Anfernee Simons, who Portland selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft out of IMG Academy, has shown through two games that he’s up to the task of playing against NBA caliber players despite being 19 and not playing collegiate basketball last season.

“I catch on to things pretty quick, so after those two days of practice back in Portland, I felt like I was ready,” said Simons. “When I came out here, I felt like I was good.”

Which he was Sunday versus the Hawks, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from three, four rebounds and three steals in just under 20 minutes. What’s more, Simons help hold rookie Trae Young, the fifth overall pick of the 2018 Draft, scoreless in the first half.

“I think I played pretty well against (Young),” said Simons. “Played good defense, got into him a little bit and cause a little disruption.”

John Jenkins, who is the only starter who isn’t under contract with the Trail Blazers for next season, went 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from three for 12 points to go with three assists and a steal in 20 minutes. Wade Baldwin IV, who scored 20 points in Portland’s summer league opening victory, handed out 10 assists to go with seven points, eight rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes Sunday versus the Hawks.

Caleb Swanigan finished with five points, eight rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes and Zach Collins added eight points, seven rebounds and five blocks in 20 minutes before leaving the game in the second half with a right ankle sprain. Collins, who had his 2017 Las Vegas Summer League cut short due to injury, said he didn’t think the injury would keep him from playing in Tuesday’s game, though that is still to be determined.

The Hawks were led by John Collins, who went for 18 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. No other Hawks player scored in double figures.

Next up, the Trail Blazers play their last game before tournament play versus the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday at COX Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on NBA TV.

Trail Blazers-Hawks Box Score