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Trail Blazers Fans in Las Vegas React to Summer League

We asked Blazers fans in Vegas their thoughts so far on Summer League.

Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers pose for a group shot in the Thomas and Mack Arena
Trail Blazer fans at NBA Summer League
Bruce Ely/Trail Blazers

Editor’s Note: Blazer’s Edge contributor TeamMom took a visit to Las Vegas recently to check out the Blazers in the 2017 NBA Summer League. While there, she chatted with several fans and asked them their thoughts on the team.

It’s so hot in Vegas that the bottom of my shoes melted.

Anyway, Tuesday was the Blazers’ third NBA Summer League game, and I’m not going to lie—it wasn’t pretty. Still, even with singed feet, fans in Vegas maintain a cautiously optimistic attitude about the upcoming season. Several were happy to share their feelings about the Blazers, and I spoke with eight of them:

  • James and Chelsea flew down from Portland. They caught a Summer League Championship game by chance a few years ago and decided to come down for the tournament.
  • Marissa, a moderator at Blazer’s Edge (Mrs. Bro) lives in Vegas and loves any chance to see the team while they’re in town.
  • Nick and his family came from Modesto.
  • David and Karen are long-time season ticket holders.
  • Lonnie and his wife Ronnie enjoy coming down to Summer League during their anniversary week.

Here are some of their thoughts and impressions from Las Vegas (answers have been edited for clarity and brevity).

Thoughts on Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan

Chelsea: I loved watching Swanigan. He’s good on the court, he doesn’t back down. I think I heard him cheering on the other players and he seems like a good on-court presence, and I imagine that carries itself in other ways too.

Marissa: I think that Swanigan is looking so comfortable out on the court, especially with Summer League guys—he looks like he can handle it.

Lonnie: Caleb is all hustle. He actually reminds me of Jerome Kersey the way he plays.

Players walking through group warmup routine in a gym
Trail Blazers Summer League squad warms up before game against San Antonio

Did No. 10 overall pick Zach Collins Disappoint?

James: I think maybe we didn’t need to get the No. 10 pick. I don’t think Zach Collins looked that great. He just looked short on confidence. I don’t know if that was the injury playing into it but there was definitely a little hesitation and a lot of just not appearing NBA ready at this point. So we’ll see. You have to have time.

Chelsea: I don’t think I got to see enough of Collins to where I can make a strong evaluation but I’m excited to see what he does this year.

Marissa: It looks like Collins is very green. I think he needs to have some protein shakes and get in the weight room and then he’ll be fine.

Karen: I’m still a little on the fence with Collins but we’ll see. I’m sure he’s going to come out of his shell.

Lonnie: Pretty impressed so far. Zach is a couple of years ahead as far as his knowledge goes, it shows in the way he positions himself on defense. Watch him defend the post on a shot, he keeps his arms up, doesn’t extend down where you see a lot of players pick up cheap fouls that way.

Talking About The Blazers’ Draft Picks

Nick: I just don’t know. I really don’t...I’m not going to sit there and say “oh, they look great” or “they look terrible,” it’s just kind of right in the middle.

David: I think they have a lot of potential. They’re going to take a while to develop, but I think they’ll see some minutes coming in. Not big minutes, but they’ll be allowed to contribute.

What Excites You Most About the Upcoming Season?

David: I’m looking forward to the Bosnian Beast sending us in a whole new direction. I think he’s going to make a huge difference after a whole season of playing.

James: I’m looking forward to seeing the team offensively find what their best starting five is and work with that throughout a whole year. I think having Jusuf Nurkic in there definitely helps but also having some of the other players like Harkless kind of more settled in a role. And Aminu, too.

Chelsea: I am so excited to see a whole season of Nurkic. I think he is going to do so much for the team and to watch the other players develop around him. I think from what it looks like he’s been spending some time with Damian in the offseason and I think that relationship on-court and off-court is really going to help the whole team.

A man and a woman smiling in a basketball arena
David and Karen flew in from Portland to support the team.

Competition in the West was Also on Everyone’s Mind

Marissa: I think I’m kind of nervous for this season to start because I don’t know where we’re going to fit into the new Western Conference. I’m just kind of excited to see how it all shakes out and see where we end up.

Nick from Modesto (who is predicting 50 wins): If these guys pan out—and I think they really could—I want them to win...otherwise they gotta start all over again. I’m looking forward to seeing them beat some teams they should have beaten last year and coming out really strong. I think there is going to be a learning curve for a lot of these other teams in the west.

[The Blazers] should win 10 games in a row. Early in the year, I feel like they could go on a winning streak and really do well. I think a lot of these teams are going to take a long time to get it together. If they don’t, [the Blazers] are in a lot of trouble.

Thinking About Team Chemistry

Karen: It’s going to be fun to see these new players developing. I love to watch Damian and CJ and their mentoring, and see how it turns out.

Lonnie: One thing Zach does is he gets a little down on himself, and I’d like to see him get in with Dame and work on the mental aspect of his game and not get so down, and just have him get around the team and have him develop.

Father and son smiling in crowded arena
Nick brought his family over from California.

We’re all Waiting for the Woj-Bomb

Chelsea: Everybody wants a splashy move, and I would love to see the blazers have a splashy trade. I‘m kind of hoping we might have something else coming up but it’s hard to say. I think we got ourselves into a pretty poor salary situation and getting out of that is going to take some craftiness.

James: I think a luxury tax team that finishes in the eighth seed isn’t that great. It would be nice to offload some of those salaries that we paid out the previous year but that’s not realistic, so you kind of have to work with what you have. Then in two years we might have a little more freedom, but yeah, you can’t get rid of those contracts.

Marissa: I think the offseason has been exciting overall—for other teams. But for us it’s been pretty boring. I’m excited about our new guys, I think they’ll really bring something to the team which is exciting to have new guys come in and mix it up. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

I don’t think there’s anything they can do, they missed out on everybody else. I think they have to work with what they got. I’m just crossing my fingers—that’s all you can do.

David: I think it’s just what I expected. Last year after they signed everyone to the big contracts, and that was going to be our team moving forward. But, you know, I think we’re doing fine.

Lonnie: What moves? (laughs) The draft? It was okay. I think everyone is expecting a trade. If anyone does step up and deal with Portland, they’ll be doing them a favor. There are a lot of rumors out there about Melo and Portland getting involved with that. I think at best it will be a lateral move. I’m not expecting much, but Neil is going to have to do something.

What do you think after seeing the first several Summer League games in Vegas? First impressions of the rookies? What are you looking forward to most this season? And what do you think about the Trail Blazers’ offseason (so far)?