This NBA season has been a roller coaster for Trail Blazers point guard Brian Roberts. Signed by the Charlotte Hornets in July for his 3-point shooting, he was in and out of rotation for much of the year, until being traded to the Miami Heat at the February deadline. Before he could pack his bags for sunny South Beach, he was traded again to cloud-covered Portland. It has been just shy of three weeks since the big change.
Although fitting into an unknown system mid-season is rarely easy, Roberts tells Blazer’s Edge that his new team did not hesitate to bring him into the fold.
"I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well to how things are run here, how coach wants to play, and just the players and everybody’s been real receptive and making me feel comfortable here." Roberts said. "It’s been good."
Since joining the Blazers, Roberts has appeared in seven games, mostly in garbage time, as Damian Lillard logs heavy minutes in the starting point guard role. It appears unlikely that Roberts will turn into a major on-court contributor this season, but he is good for a quick bucket when needed.
Smoothing his adjustment to this new environment are the preexisting relationships he has with several members of the team.
"It’s cool to come to a place where you got some teammates you’ve played with in the past like Al-Farouq [Aminu], and Gerald [Henderson] and Noah [Vonleh] in Charlotte. Me and Chief had a good relationship in New Orleans and it’s good to be his teammate again."
Roberts and Aminu played together for two seasons. At the time, both got experience in starting roles, but neither of them factored heavily into New Orleans’ offense.
This time around, Roberts is struck by the improvements Aminu made to his game. Through 65 games with the Blazers, Aminu has attempted almost four times as many threes as he did in the time that he and Roberts played together previously.
"He’s playing with a lot of confidence now." Roberts said. "He’s out there shooting the ball really well and you can just tell he’s playing like he knows what’s going on and he’s sure of what he can do and what he can bring to the team."
Roberts has an eye for talent.
Beyond praise for Blazers present, he shared his appreciation for Blazers past. He offered us a unique perspective on the man Aminu replaced in Portland’s lineup, Nicolas Batum, who was traded to the Hornets for Vonleh and Henderson last June.
"Nic’s great. As a player playing against him, I always admired the way he plays; just his pace and his basketball IQ. Being able to play with him for half a season there in Charlotte, it was pretty eye opening how talented he is. He sees things on the floor that either we don’t see or we see it a second later than he does, so it was cool to watch that and just to see how unselfish and how good of a player he is."
With 17 games remaining this season, Roberts will have some time to build himself into Blazers culture like his teammates before him. In the final year of his contract, though, his future here is yet to be determined. For the time being at least, he is happy to be reunited with friends and play for a competitive team. Head coach Terry Stotts seems to think he is a good fit.
"He’s been a great teammate; he’s been good in practice, good in the locker room, and when he’s had opportunities, he plays the right way." Stotts said. "He’s an experienced, smart player that’s picked up everything pretty quickly, so there’s a lot to like."
With the Blazers, Roberts has averaged 2.6 points in 3.7 minutes per game, making 8-of-12 field goal attempts. Perhaps not much in total, but enough to be considered a notable positive in short spurts thus far.