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Gary Trent Jr. On The Rise

Gary Trent Jr. is Mom’s Favorite this week, but he is not the only one to stand out. Caleb Swanigan and Mario Hezonja also get the nod.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Each week, Team Mom highlights her favorite 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 that happened this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Week 14, February 2-8. Denver (L), San Antonio (W), Utah (L)

Mom’s Favorite: Gary!!!!!!!!

This tweet is from July 2018, demonstrating my early appreciation for Gary Trent Jr.

Sure, a lot of it was because I loved his Dad, Gary Trent Sr. But also because he was a delight to watch at Summer League. This tweet was from his rookie season, reacting to his contribution to the 2018 Summer League Championship run in which he averaged 11.4 points off the bench.

Throughout the current season, injuries and an unbalanced roster have lead to opportunities. Trent is making the most of his minutes to earn the trust of the coaching staff, culminating in his closing out a close and critical win against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. In fact, he has closed out nine of the last ten games including playing the entire fourth quarter against both the Spurs and the Jazz.

What has Trent been doing to earn this trust? More like, what hasn’t Trent been doing, amiright? Since the birthday flu game in which he celebrated turning 21 by scoring 30 points while nursing a fever, Trent has averaged 13.9 points per game on 50% shooting including 45% from 3. He’s also added 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and one steal per game.

This week, in addition to closing out two important games, he averaged 15 points. His scorching performance against the Spurs on Thursday night, in which he shot 6-7 on mostly catch-and-shoot threes, also featured four lovely assists, one block and no turnovers.

It also earned him the walk-off interview.

On Friday against the Jazz he deployed a variety of weapons, including driving, dunking, spinning and oh, a casual step-back three:

Now we know he can create off the dribble, but he has been aggressive on defense as well. He blocked shots against the Denver Nuggets and the Spurs and harassed the Jazz to the tune of four steals including this one which he finished with a dunk:

Speaking of dunks, Trent has only dunked three times this year, twice in the past week. Here is one of the only things worth remembering from the very forgettable Denver game, a fast-break dunk with an assist from Anfernee Simons:

Finally—my favorite thing of all the good things Trent did this week—he got under Donovan Mitchell’s skin. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of what Trent said to punk them. If you know or have a guess, please put it in the comments below!

Caleb Swanigan double-double with screen assists

This one needs a little set-up: David Locke, founder of the Locked On Podcast Network and voice of the Utah Jazz, raised eyebrows last month when trying to hype up Rudy Gobert in advance of the All Star selection. His tweet about Gobert’s triple-double—with screen assists—rightly received a lot of ribbing.

In the game against Portland, All-Star Gobert fell short of a triple double, recording only nine screen assists. However, with 10 screen assists, 2018 Summer League Champions Caleb Swanigan got a well-deserved double-double.

Seriously though, Swanigan plays with enthusiasm and abandon. When energy is waning, the Blazers now have two young forwards to deploy (Nassir Little being their other weapon). There isn’t much that is precise about Biggie’s game (although his passes are quite accurate) but opponents can feel his presence on the court. He is unafraid to dive, swat, and take charges. And yes, he provides screens, creates space and shields Damian Lillard so that he can continue to operate when Whiteside sits. Here he is getting one of his ten screen assists.

Mario Hezonja needed to have a good game

And he did. Hezonja bears the brunt of a lot of criticism so when he does play well, I want to be sure and point that out. With both Nassir Little and Hassan Whiteside out this week, the Blazers needed more big men. Hezonja played 52 minutes in three games this week and had only one turnover. His best game was against the Jazz. He tied his season high with 11 points and also had six rebounds, one assist, three steals and one block.

Here is a highlight that shows him not trying to do too much, but doing what needed to be done. Hezonja catches a toss from Trent as Bojan Bogdanovic throws Trent to the ground. Hezonja passes it to Lillard who tosses it back for Hezonja to finish:

Honorable mentions

Pool reporting. In what must have been a very heated post-game atmosphere, Jamie Hudson was selected as the pool reporter to talk with the referees after the game. She asked them about the missed goaltend call. That couldn’t be an easy job!

Jaylen Hoard is putting up big numbers in the G League. Hoard averaged 22.5 points and 10 rebounds this week including a 27 point outing on February 6.

LeBron James correctly chose Damian Lillard for his All Star team. Can’t wait to watch the two of them take on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team featuring Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

Celebrate the 90s with this round-table. Rod Strickland, Jermaine O’Neal, Brian Grant and Chris Dudley discuss playing for the Blazers in the 90s in this fun video. Jermaine O’Neal still looks 18 years old.

That will do it for this week’s Mom’s Favorites. What did you like about this week? What plays or player make you excited for the future? Let us know in the comments below.

Xoxo Team Mom | @tcbbiggs