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Trail Blazers Lacking Practice Time with New Players

COVID has necessitated changing half the roster, but Portland has no way to acclimate them.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Like every NBA franchise this December, the Portland Trail Blazers are struggling to field an intact roster after being swept by COVID-19. Portland has lost Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington, several reserve players, Head Coach Chauncey Billups, and Assistant Coach Roy Rogers to NBA Health and Safety Protocols in the last week. As a result, they’ve had to onboard several new players—inexperienced in the league, not just with the team—to make the minimum roster requirement of eight.

That’s the obvious cost of dealing with the virus, but Trail Blazers writer Casey Holdahl pointed out another in an article on the Blazers’ website today: safety precautions prevent the team from holding meaningful practices. Not only is half the roster brand new, players can’t get used to each other or Portland’s schemes before taking the court in an actual, live game.

Holdahl quotes Scott Brooks, former head coach of the Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder, now Portland’s assistant in charge of leading the club during Billups’ absense:

“We can make some adjustments here and there just from the rotation, see who plays better with some of our new guys or some of the guys playing extended minutes,” said Brooks. “We’re going to figure this out on the fly, we’re not going to have a lot of practice time. We can’t practice until late (Tuesday) night and then we have a game, so you don’t want to do too much but we have to do enough to get a little bit better.”

Holdahl also assures readers that the team and staff are not taking a fatalistic approach to the problem:

“We know what we’re going through and we know it’s not going to be easy,” said Brooks. “We’ve just got to keep fighting. Chauncey has done a great job of instilling there’s no excuses around here. That’s part of developing, that’s part of growing up in this league.”

The Blazers will face the Utah Jazz tonight at 7:00 PM at the Moda Center.