The Portland Trail Blazers will commence their 2022-23 NBA season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Sacramento looks to string together enough wins to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Meanwhile, Portland aims to capitalize off of a healthy Damian Lillard and retooled roster, after an injury-plagued 2021-22 saw them miss the postseason for the first time since Lillard’s rookie year.
How to Watch
Wednesday, October 19 - 7:00 p.m PT
The game will be available to watch on Root Sports Plus, NBC Sports California, and NBA League Pass.
Injuries and Player Availability
Guard Gary Payton II, center Oliver Sarr, and forward Trendon Watford are all out for this game.
Rookie Keegan Murray – the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft – and sharpshooter Kevin Huerter, are both listed as day-to-day battling their own ailments. Murray has been sidelined for a week with an illness, and is now in Health and Safety Protocols, having not practiced with the team Tuesday. [Update: Murray has now been ruled out for the game.]
On the other hand, Kevin Huerter first missed practice on October 13th due to ankle soreness. However, the University of Maryland product is expected to suit up Wednesday, in the opener, after practicing on Monday, as per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.
The Sacramento Kings ran the table in their preseason schedule, going an impressive 4-0, including a win against these same Trail Blazers. They won their contests by an average of 27.5 points. Sacramento will enjoy having their dynamic duo of Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox salivating at starting the season strong.
Meanwhile, The Blazers went 1-4 in preseason, registering their only win against a non-NBA team. They lost their contests by a margin of nearly 22 points. Damian Lillard will be looking to mesh with his new co-star Jerami Grant, one of the better two-way players in the league, and galvanize his young core back to the successes of contention.
Rip City lost the season series to Sac-Town 2-1 in the 2022 campaign, with Lillard playing in both losses. While both games were decided by four points or less, they were able to best the Kings without Dame in a 103-88 win, where Anfernee Simons led the charge with an efficient 31 points on 10-17 shooting. His seven threes on 11 attempts spearheaded a Blazers team that won the long-ball battle 17-7.
Portland – especially an undersized Jerami Grant – will need to gameplan for Domantas Sabonis’ inside game, where he ranked seventh in the association with 12.2 points per game in the paint. Kevin Huerter adds an element of three point shooting that Sacramento has been missing since the departure of Buddy Hield.
And, among all point guards who averaged 18 points per game or better last season, De’Aaron Fox led the pack with zero single digit scoring games. Lillard and Simons will have their hands full on defense, while also asked to carry much of the scoring and playmaking load.
What They’re Saying
Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee gave more clarity into who could potentially start in place of the former Atlanta Hawk:
Monk, who started in place of Huerter against the Lakers, averaged 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 18.2 minutes per game in the preseason. He shot just 30.8% from the field and 20.8% from 3-point range. Davis averaged 11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 14.7 minutes per game in the preseason, hitting 45.5% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Brown said he hasn’t decided who to start if Huerter is out for Wednesday’s game. “I haven’t even thought about that yet,” Brown said. “And I told this to our team, I think before last game, that’s why we’re a team. That’s why we’ve got 15 guys, because you’re going to have injuries and guys out and all that stuff throughout the course of the year. So, for me, if you’re all in, it means you’re ready to go and the next man up, so whoever the next man up is, go out there and give it your all until you get subbed out.”
Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian assesses the prospects of the Blazers from a roster perspective, whilst factoring in lack of proven continuity:
On paper, this team looks as good or better than the 2020-21 group that went 42-30 and finished sixth in the Western Conference. However, unlike that team, this roster does not have a history of success together. Portland will have three new starters and the projected top 12 players feature eight new faces: Grant, Hart, Winslow, Payton, Keon Johnson, Trendon Watford, Drew Eubanks and rookie Shaedon Sharpe. Another potential hurdle? The Blazers could be significantly better and still not reach the playoffs given the depth of the West.