Portland Trail Blazers rookie Jake Layman missed his third consecutive day of training camp with an undisclosed injury on Thursday, though he was with the team at their practice facility in Tualatin. Layman, without revealing the nature of the injury, informed Blazer’s Edge that he fully expects to play during preseason, which begins next Monday when the Blazers host the Utah Jazz, so it is likely not serious. Still, it has been difficult for him to remain sidelined while his teammates ramp up the action.
“Guys have been going really hard,” Layman said. “To go that hard for three days in a row, it wears on you, but what I’ve noticed with this group is that the energy level has stayed the same. Everyone is still playing as hard as they can, attacking on defense and offense. It sucks not being able to play.”
Layman’s unfortunate spectator role has, however, given him a unique perspective on player performance since he has been present to watch drills as an observer. He notes that point guard Shabazz Napier stood out in Thursday’s practice; a good sign for the Blazers, who may need Napier to perform well in occasional relief minutes for star point guard Damian Lillard.
“Today, Shabazz was unbelievable to me. Getting in the paint, finding guys, making shots. I think he played really well. Defensively too. He’s so low to the ground, he’s so quick. Him guarding the ball, he gets a lot of steals because he gets his hands in there and deflects balls.”
This sentiment was echoed by head coach Terry Stotts, who has also taken note of Napier’s energetic play.
“He’s a really good defender,” Stotts declared. “He’s good on the ball, he’s strong, he’s quick, he has really good fundamentals. I think he comes from a really good college program, being in Miami for a year—they have a good program—Orlando with Scott Skiles. I think he has a really good background and understanding of the game, a good IQ, and he’s tough. He doesn’t back down and he’s very competitive.”
Whether or not we get the opportunity to see Layman show off his tenacity in training camp as well remains a question mark, but neither he nor Napier are likely to be major factors in regular season play. What this tells us is that the Blazers could be an exceptionally deep squad this year. If Napier continues to perform at a high level and still ends up as the 12th man or so, there are worse problems to have.
Fans will have their first post-summer league chance to catch healthy Trail Blazers up close at the Wells Fargo Fan Fest this upcoming Sunday. Hopefully Layman will be able to participate in the intra-team scrimmage. Barring injury, Napier and other youngsters should be ready to go.