The 2016 Las Vegas Summer League started a little differently for Portland Trail Blazers point guard Shabazz Napier. Acquired from the Orlando Magic via trade less than one week ago, he was a late addition to the roster. As such, he had next to no time to practice with his Summer League teammates and learn the lay of the land. It was not an accident that his Summer League debut was delayed, despite availability on opening day. He needed more time to assimilate.
As expected, though, Blazers Summer League Coach Dale Osbourne would not sit him indefinitely. Napier was inserted into the Blazers' starting lineup for their game with the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday; a game that would end prematurely for Napier, who exited in the third quarter after a collision with teammate Cliff Alexander left him with a minor head wound (requiring two staples). Prior to his departure, he looked surprisingly comfortable in his new environment, tallying five points and two steals in just 15 minutes.
Although the Blazers went on to lose the game 69-85, Napier was a bright spot for Portland, aggressively attacking the hoop (albeit with limited success). Blazer's Edge caught up with him after the game to see how he felt about his performance and his new teammates.
David MacKay: "Aside from the injury, how did you feel out there in your debut tonight?"
Shabazz Napier: "A little rusty. It's been a while since I've played five (on-five). I felt like I didn't have a lot of touch, especially with the layups. The first layup I missed, I was kind of upset with that, and then the second one, but it happens. I look forward to being out there next game and doing much better."
DM: "What are the challenges of being a late arrival to the team?"
SN: "It's the point of not knowing who is out there with you; just knowing my name. I mean, I know Noah [Vonleh], Pat [Connaughton], and Jake [Layman] because they're guys from the Boston area. Other than that, I don't know what they do, what Noah likes to do on pick-and-rolls, I don't know if Jake likes to come down on pin-downs-- just stuff like that. I just got to learn their game. I think our fluidity and our chemistry will get better throughout the Summer League."
DM: "Has Dale [Osbourne] been helpful integrating you on the fly?"
SN: "Yeah. I've been learning the plays, learning these guys, so it's been very helpful. I'm excited to continue to work and continue to do better with these guys."
DM: "Since joining the Trail Blazers, has Dame [Lillard] reached out to you?"
SN: "Yeah, they have. I talked to Dame before today as well. They've been very helpful. I told the guys 'I just want to continue to get better and learn from you guys,' him and C.J. [McCollum]; great point guards, great scoring guards in front of me, so I'm excited to continue learning from them."
DM: "What does it mean to have them on the sidelines supporting you today?"
SN: "It means a lot. With him-- Ed Davis is here-- it means a lot, not to just myself, but just for the team. Just for the young guys to see that they're there supporting us. A lot these young guys, including myself, don't get a lot of time in the season. We're supporting them; it's great to see them do the same. I know they care about us and we care about them."
The Blazers play their next game on Tuesday, July 12, against the Utah Jazz. It is yet unknown whether or not Napier will start in that match-up as well, or come off the bench. His injury does not appear serious enough to keep him sidelined. It should be interesting to see what he can do with more time on the court.