The Portland Trail Blazers might have stumbled in the opener, but the reigning NBA Summer League champions returned to form Sunday, blowing out the Houston Rockets 97-87 in Las Vegas. Portland shot the lights out, going 60 percent from the field and received a huge boost from its sophomore guard tandem.
I’m not sure if someone can have a career night in Summer League, but if one can, then Gary Trent Jr. will be taking this evening to the bank.
- Dame & CJ who?. Shaking off ho-hum debuts, the backcourt duo of Anfernee Simons and Trent was exceptional - combining for 47 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. They were particularly lethal in the first half, where they bordered on unconscious before accepting smaller roles down the stretch. With his dad in attendance, Trent flashed impressive ability to score at all three levels - backing down a smaller defender and knocking down an easy mid-range fader in one of the opening possessions, and then later hitting the deck to score on a diving transition layup - to go along with a wet outside jumper. Simons wasn’t far off himself, but was also struggled distributing the ball (6 turnovers).
- Baby steps. Also showing improvement was rookie Nassir Little, who tried to do a little too much against Detroit but looked more comfortable in a supporting role. His stat line won’t blow you away - 7 points, 5 boards, 1 block in 22 minutes, but he demonstrated some of the things he can do that the Blazers direly need: defense, offensive rebounding and reliable, if not world-beating three point shooting. But everything not catch-and-shoot or a shot near the rim will continue to be a big work in progress.
- Asset shy. It’s not like the Rockets are fielding a a heralded squad out here. In fact, the only players that figure to be on its opening day roster are Isaiah Hartenstein and Vincent Edwards, both second round guys that don’t figure to factor much into the equation of Houston’s future. Their most recent first round pick that is still on the team is Clint Capela, who was drafted in 2014. Not a lot of foundation below the likes of James Harden and Chris Paul.
The Blazers get a day off before taking on the Utah Jazz Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. PDT.
Steve Dewald, Miles Custis, and Dan Marang are on site in Vegas, and will have plenty of coverage from Summer League. Stay tuned.