The Portland Trail Blazers had their 18-game winning streak in season openers snapped on Wednesday with a 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets. However, Jason Quick of The Athletic (subscription req.) wrote about how the Blazers are looking on the bright side, the highlight being the performance of offseason addition Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside had 16 points, 19 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes during his regular season debut for Portland. He even drew three early fouls on Denver star Nikola Jokic in the first quarter that forced Jokic to sit most of the first half. Damian Lillard said Whiteside’s performance was telling of the kind of player he can be.
Lillard left the Moda Center encouraged by what he saw from Whiteside, the new center whose 16 points, 19 rebounds and two blocks told only part of the story.
“I love what he did tonight,” Lillard said of Whiteside.
Portland head coach Terry Stotts concurred with Lillard, saying that Whiteside’s play was solid on offense and defense.
“You look at the line he had, he had an impact on both ends,” Stotts said. “For a guy who didn’t get a lot of run in preseason, I thought it was a pretty good performance by him.”
Whiteside has been criticized in the past for lacking motivation and becoming disengaged with the Miami Heat. Though Jokic eventually had the last laugh, Whiteside’s willingness to take him on was what stood out to Lillard.
“The thing that makes me the most excited is he is competitive,” Lillard said. “He was like, ‘I’ve got him’ and he played like ‘He ain’t going to do that to me.’ You can’t ask for more than that.”
0-1 isn’t the start Portland wanted, but the early returns on Whiteside are favorable. You can read Quick’s full article here (subscription req.).