It’s been a big week for Portland Trail Blazers forward Trendon Watford. On Monday, news broke that the Blazers converted Watford’s two-way contract to a four-year, $5.8 million deal with the final two years non-guaranteed. After starting the season as an undrafted rookie outside of the rotation, Watford’s NBA future is much more secure today.
“[My family and I] all got on the group Facetime and celebrated,” Watford told reporters yesterday. “I was screaming a lot. You can hear my voice is gone a little bit.”
The new certainty and commitment shown by the organization is a boost to Watford’s confidence.
“[Damian Lillard] texted me, congratulating me yesterday and saying he believes in me and the organization believes in me going forward,” Watford said. “Having them saying that, moving forward I feel confident.”
Prior to January, the LSU product had only appeared in nine out of 35 games for Portland, never playing more than 10 minutes in a single game. After injuries decimated the roster, the Blazers were forced to call upon Watford.
Since the new year, Watford has appeared in all 23 games, playing less than 10 minutes in only three of those games and breaking the 20-minutes-per game threshold five times. His numbers don’t pop (4.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game), but he’s emerged as a valuable role player. He hustles with toughness, can facilitate the offense as a point-forward and converts around the basket with a dependable floater.
“I’ve just been going out there playing my hardest, playing how I know how to play and making winning plays,” Watford said. “I think that was noticed.”
Watford has been one of the cogs in the machine making this Portland unit run much smoother lately. Since overhauling the roster at the February trade deadline, Portland has ripped off four straight wins, displaying a more active defense and a more united offense. With no true backup center on the roster, during this winning stretch, Watford at 6’9’’ has taken on the difficult assignment of guarding opposing big men.
In one of the most impressive wins of the streak, a 122-107 beatdown of the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 14, Watford contributed an all-around game with nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Head coach Chauncey Billups told reporters yesterday that he’s “happy [Watford] is with us long-term.”
“I’m happy that he’s gotten the opportunity to actually show that he can play and he can ball,” Billups said. “And I’m happy that it worked out for him. He got what he earned.”
Watford said he was confident coming into the season, but it took him a while to get out the “butterflies” and get used to NBA action. Now he feels his comfort level increase with every game.
“Now I’ve gotten a rhythm. I’ve gotten used to the game speed,” Watford said. “I pretty much know what to expect.”
With his spot in the rotation and contract locked down, Watford isn’t satisfied yet. He’s hungry for more.
“It’s just the beginning,” he said. “I’m getting started and I’m excited for what’s to come.”