The Trail Blazers’ Summer League has largely focused on the impressive play of Wade Baldwin IV, and the debut of rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. Along with that trio is John Jenkins’ burgeoning case to return to a NBA roster for the 2018-19 season. The former first-round pick has started in the backcourt for all three of Portland’s victories in Las Vegas, and Jenkins’ shooting has been a valuable addition to coach Jim Moran’s summer squad.
In order to understand how Jenkins ended up on Portland’s summer league roster, you have to go back to an injury that occurred near the end of his rookie campaign in 2013. A back injury reduced his first year to 61 games, and the surgery that followed limited Jenkins to just 37 games over the course of the next two years.
Circumstances and opportunities had changed in Atlanta by the time Jenkins was ready to return, which eventually led to the end of his stint with the Hawks. In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore, Jenkins described how his back injury drastically changed the course of his career.
“The injury changed everything, honestly,” Jenkins said in reflecting on his time with the Hawks. “As much as I didn’t want to admit it, it changed everything as far as my role on the team. Then there was a coaching change. So many things happened that were out of my control. I felt like I came back better than ever and proved that my last year there. It was too tough to get back into the rotation. I had a good first year, I thought, and I just wanted to come back strong. I ended up getting hurt in the summertime and tried to play through it during the season. It just wasn’t good all the way around.
“The injury definitely hurt me. I wish it never happened but it happened and I have to keep going.”
After a year overseas with Liga ACB’s San Pablo Burgos, Jenkins has looked good in Las Vegas. This isn’t surprising for the former No. 23 pick, though, as he had high hopes for his ability to flourish in Portland’s offense long before Summer League competition began.
Jenkins explained to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution why he picked the Blazers in the weeks prior to summer league.
“I worked out in a minicamp for them and it went really well,” Jenkins said of the Blazers. “The offense fits me perfect. With all the draft picks and roster guys they have now, I’m just trying to fit in the best way I can and contribute the best way I can.”
Baldwin’s stellar play through three games will hinder Jenkins’ chances of securing a spot on Portland’s regular season roster. If the Blazers choose to carry 15 players on their active roster, it appears that it is Baldwin’s job to lose.
That reality hasn’t dimmed Jenkins’ hopes of a NBA return in 2018-19.
“I know I’m capable of playing in the NBA,” Jenkins said. “I just need the opportunity.”
So far in Las Vegas, Jenkins is averaging 11 points per game while shooting 77 percent from the field.
You can read Chris Vivlamore’s full story on Jenkins by visiting The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.