Each week, Team Mom highlights her favorites plays, players and other things that made the Trail Blazers fun to watch. Who is Mom’s Favorite this week? What were your favorite things this week? Let us know in the comments below.
Mom’s Favorite: Hassan Whiteside
It is a shame that this is the play that national NBA fans will remember from Hassan Whiteside’s Portland Trail Blazers’ debut:
NBA basketball is back feel the intensity pic.twitter.com/lQYuKCVyl9— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 24, 2019
If this was all you saw of his first game in Rip City, yeah, it is pretty sad. But just like we shouldn’t buy too much stock based on someone’s highest highs, we shouldn’t sell on their lowest lows either. Despite a few lapses, Whiteside had a solid debut this week, showing he has the capability of being just what the Trail Blazers need while awaiting the return of Jusuf Nurkic.
Whiteside protected the rim, grabbing 28 rebounds and tallying three blocks over two games. He generally made things tough in the paint. Guards who tried to get into the restricted area came up against his huge shoulders and gigantic arms. He played tough one-on-one defense against one of the best centers in the league. Here he is drawing a charge on Nicola Jokic, resulting in the Joker’s third foul with 8:11 to go in the first.
Whiteside is off to a great start on both ends of the floor. He's hyped after drawing this offensive foul on Jokic pic.twitter.com/Ig2rDfxOmj— Nate Mann (@nate_mann13) October 24, 2019
Coincidentally, 28 rebounds and three blocks are the same numbers he put up over the first two games in Miami last season. The difference? In Portland, he also scored 38 total points on 88% shooting, plus 8-10 from the line. With Miami, he only scored 21 points on 42% shooting and shot 50% from the free throw line. At least during these first two games, things have been clicking offensively for Whiteside.
In addition to proficient scoring, Whiteside is making good on his own prediction that he will increase his assists this season. He made 68 passes with three assists this week, a good start for someone determined to become more of a playmaker.
Finally, Whiteside was the consummate bench cheerleader in the fourth quarter against Sacramento. Word out of Miami is that he was a malcontent. If he is playing (as expected) for his next contract, you would think he would want to play as much as possible. However, against the Kings, he logged only three seconds and no stats in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, he seemed engaged and cheerful.
Dame has no respect for the Kings defense and Whiteside is in a happy place pic.twitter.com/onk3BmM0zW— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) October 26, 2019
Early returns come with warnings, but I think it is fair to exhale just a bit and release at least some of our worry about how Whiteside will adjust in Portland. There will be bumps, I’m sure of it, but in Week One, he showed he has what the Blazers need.
Gold Star: Kent Bazemore
I can’t even remember my life before Kent Bazemore was a Blazer.
Bazemore to Whiteside alley-oops? Okay!
OPEN UP MY EAGER EYES pic.twitter.com/x068GR2KYt— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) October 26, 2019
Bazemore steals (five so far plus a gazillion in the preseason) are going to lead to buckets on the other end all season, aren’t they?
Bazemore does about 12 things in this possession. Disrupts the drive (sort of a joint block with Whiteside), saves the ball from going out of bounds, passes up to Hezonja in transition, catches a trailing pass and immediately pops it over to Simons who is beautifully set on the three point line because the Kings were pulled into the paint:
VERY. SOLID. PLAY. pic.twitter.com/cYEm05nV6M— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) October 26, 2019
Coaches’ challenge. Coach Terry Stotts challenged a call made against Zach Collins in Friday night’s game, a call which would be overturned. This looked like a big vote of confidence for the young fella and positive reinforcement that his coach has his back.
Keep your eye on Skal Labissiere. Labissiere is an effective screener. With Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter and Jusuf Nurkic unavailable, Lillard will have to build chemistry with new-to-him players to find room to maneuver on the court. Zach Collins currently leads the team in screen assists by a wide margin, with ten screen assists leading to 24 points. Off the bench, Labissiere has recorded 3 screen assists leading to seven points. He is tied for effectiveness in this category with Anthony Tolliver, but with his youth and growth potential, I can see Labissiere rapidly improving and earning minutes.
CJ McCollum dunked in the first week! Last year it took him eight games until his first dunk and he finished the year with only 14 total. Maybe this is what #SeasonOfCJ looks like?
CJ Dunk Counter begins tonight pic.twitter.com/uGJDl69xgx— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) October 26, 2019
And speaking of dunks, please enjoy Anfernee Simons’ first dunk of the season:
Finally Gary Trent Jr. is making an early case for best (or at least loudest) dressed this season.
Who was your favorite player this week? What was your favorite play? Let us know in the comments below!