Preseason Starts Saturday Versus Raptors In Vancouver, BC

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

After just four days of training camp, the Portland Trail Blazers begin their 2018 preseason schedule Saturday afternoon with a matinee versus the Toronto Raptors at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

While much of the team had assembled in Portland and were playing pickup games prior to the start of training camp, the first official practice of the 2018-19 season was held on Tuesday. Given that, the Trail Blazers are approaching Saturday’s contest as more of a chance to gauge their progress over the last week rather than how they stack up against a Raptors roster under first-year head coach Nick Nurse and featuring Kawhi Leonard, who was acquired from San Antonio in exchange for DeMar DeRozan.

“This game is about us and getting guys on the court and working on the things that we’ve been working on,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We won’t be preparing for Toronto.”

To that end, Stotts said at Friday’s practice that his goal was to get all 17 available players -- only Maurice Harkless will sit out with a left knee injury -- in the game  and with no one playing more than 20 minutes Saturday in Vancouver, BC. But some players joked that even 20 minutes sounded like a lot for a first preseason game, at least for those who have already familiar with the grind of an 82-game regular season schedule.

“Run up and down the court, maybe five, six minutes worth of running then bow out gracefully,” said CJ McCollum. “I know what I’m capable of, I don’t really need the preseason. This is enough work for us, going up and down against each other, getting our conditioning in, figuring out where you’re going to get your shots from. Preseason is more for the fans, we’re good. We’ll be alright.”

For some players, preseason play is more about getting their teammates up to speed than it is working themselves into shape, though for Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, it’s a little of both.

“Just play hard and get some rhythm,” said Lillard of his goals for Saturday’s contest. “I’ve got a pretty good grip on what we want to do on both ends of the ball, I’ve been here. So I’m going to try to continue to help guys out, play as hard as I can and just find some rhythm. I don’t play pick up in the summer, so usually when we start training camp and we playing games, that’s when I kind of get in a rhythm.”

Saturday’s is the second time in as many years that the Trail Blazers will face the Raptors in preseason play. The Trail Blazers won last year’s meeting 106-101 at the Moda Center, though the Raptors have taken the last six reason season games in the series.

Saturday afternoon’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest, with a Toronto-based broadcasting crew calling the action. Travis Demers, filling in for Brian Wheeler, and Jay Allen will have the radio call on Rip City Radio 620 AM.