The Portland Trail Blazers are less than two weeks away from the start of training camp and the roster is close to being set, and Nassir Little expects to make a definite contribution this year coming off of the bench. Little is going into his 3rd year in the NBA, all of which he has played with the Trail Blazers.
Jason Quick of the Athletic explored Little’s offseason and looked ahead to his upcoming season with the team. The young player shows promise, and he’s got the franchise talking.
As I’ve asked this month about the offseason progress and work ethic of players, there was no hemming and hawing. This was an offseason when a player clearly separated himself. The player? Nassir Little. Phrases like “he’s made an impression” and “we are intrigued” and “he can contribute in a way that is unique” were used in describing the 6-foot-6 wing, who is entering his third season.
Little was set to compete with the summer Blazers at Summer League in Las Vegas this year, but was taken off the roster shortly prior to the tournament. While fans initially seemed to panic and wonder what that meant for his future with the team, it looks as though it was actually a vote of confidence in Little. Quick states in the piece that during Summer League practices, Little and new coach Chauncey Billups developed a connection.
“We are pretty close already,” Little said. “I think we connect pretty well, and work well together. We’ve had a really open line of communication, which I think is good for a young player like myself. He’s been pretty straightforward in what he expects from me, and what my role will be, as long as I continue to do what I’m doing. That’s kind of all I ever wanted. All I could ask for. So I appreciate that.”
“He told me he expects me to be one of the first guys off the bench,” Little said. “To just be a 3-and-D guy … hit shots, put pressure on the rim.”
While there haven’t been major changes made to the roster this season, small tweaks could make a difference, especially with a new coaching staff. Earlier this summer, Jusuf Nurkic stated that he was looking forward to working with the new head coach, and Billups seemingly reciprocated that same feeling. Little clearly isn’t the first player from the team to express his excitement and connection with Billups, but in his case, it could make all the difference.
“To me, it’s just a clean slate,” Little said. “There’s no preconceived notions on who is going to get what. Everything is being looked at with a clear-eyed view. If I showcase that I am deserving, then that’s what it is. There’s no prior relationships, or any promises that were given. So from this point, everything is genuinely earned. For me, that’s all I’ve ever wanted, ever since I left high school – just a fair chance.
“I knew once they announced there was going to be a staff change, it was my opportunity to have a clean slate and show, ok, this guy can play,” Little said. “So that’s why I’m excited for it and eager to see what happens.”
You can read the entire piece here (subscription required).