Portland Trail Blazers rookie Toumani Camara continues to make a big impression early in his NBA career.
Camara, 23, was drafted with the No. 52 pick in this year’s draft by the Phoenix Suns, who traded him to the Blazers in the Damian Lillard deal. Despite his youth, Camara has not only cracked Chauncey Billups’ rotation, but he plays a key role as well.
“He doesn’t mind hitting you first,” Billups said after the Blazers’ loss against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. ”Most guys nowadays in our league, they don’t play with the physicality coming in at a young age. They have to kind of grow into that. It’s just what he does and I think probably four or five of their guys were pissed at him tonight, which is a great thing to see.”
One of those guys pissed at Camara was former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who always takes pride in trying to get under his opponent’s skin.
Marcus Smart and Toumani Camara exchange a few words pic.twitter.com/mv87LcKgoM— eric (@EricTweetsNBA) November 6, 2023
Camara was a game-time decision with a wrist injury, but he felt fit enough to play. He played a key role off the bench with eight points, six rebounds and a bunch of impactful moments that can’t be defined in a box score.
“He was huge,” Billups said. “One of the reasons why I brought him in there kind of early is he just brings so much to us on both ends of the floor. Picking up the ball full court and just denying guys the ball, not letting them catch it where they want. It kind of took them out of their rhythm a little bit um so it was a big deal.”
Camara isn’t just impressing his coach, but his teammates as well.
“He was huge,” Jerami Grant said postgame. “Great hustle plays, offensive rebounds, hit a couple shots. We need that energy, especially you know when we were a little bit off in the third and fourth quarter so him coming in doing that is providing a spark for us.
“He definitely doesn’t play like a rookie. He plays like he’s been in the league for a few years. He knows what to do and he plays for his strengths.”
Camara and the Blazers are back in action on Wednesday when they visit the Sacramento Kings. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT inside the Golden 1 Center.