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Blazers’ Little Locked In on Defense, Patient on Offense

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Rookie forward Nassir Little has focused on defense through the Trail Blazers’ first three games of NBA Summer League.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 2 - Portland Trail Blazers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little has started to find his footing through three games of NBA Summer League. That transition started with his commitment to hustle and defense. Little, an explosive 6-foot-6 wing out of North Carolina, has embraced a complementary role on a squad that features Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

After Tuesday’s narrow 97-93 loss to the Jazz, Little elaborated on his approach to his time in Las Vegas: “For me, it’s focusing on the defensive end. Offensively, that’s going to come down the road.” Little continued, “Right now, I’m just locking in on the one thing I know I can do to get myself on the court and be productive for the team.”

Little’s patience on the offensive end is tied to the advice he has received from both Simons and Trent. “They have given me confidence. Them admitting that it didn’t come to them that easy that first year—I think it is important for rookies to know that. Everyone wants it to come right away. Things don’t always go like that.”

The Blazers’ record through three games sits at 1-2. Little, who has come off the bench during that span, is averaging a modest 4.3 points per game on 33 percent shooting from the field.

Despite Little’s standing as a first-round pick, coach Jim Moran is not concerned with his production on offense. Moran explained, “You can’t expect a guy to come in here [and score], especially a guy who is not a point guard and doesn’t have the ball in his hands a lot.” Moran continued, “We have only put one or two plays in, so we have a limited playbook. He has to learn where his shots will come from inside those plays.”

Larger point totals could be on the way for the former Tar Heels forward. Little was upbeat about the strides he has made with understanding Portland’s scheme and terminology. “We have made a lot of improvements—even from the first to the second game. We have been watching film, locking in on stuff, paying attention to the details. I think we are improving each game.”

Little and the Blazers return to action on Thursday to face the Thunder.