Blazers Start Preseason vs. Kings: Who Can Play, How to Watch, What to Expect & More

By Matthew Zimmer

The Portland Trail Blazers last played an NBA game on Aug. 29, and they’ll suit up on Friday night in the Moda Center for their first of four preseason games.

104 days between games for Portland. For comparison’s sake, the NBA Champion LA Lakers also play Friday night, their last game was on Oct. 11 (61 days).

There are still some question marks heading into Portland’s first of two preseason games with Sacramento.

Who Can Play

While Jusuf Nurkic could theoretically play against the Kings, head coach Terry Stotts doubts Nurk will be in action on Friday.

As of Wednesday, Nurkic still needed two days of negative test results. No official news on Thursday or Friday morning if he continued testing negative for COVID-19.  So, Nurk could be available, but personally I would be surprised to see him against the Kings on Friday.

Rodney Hood will miss Friday’s game, but there’s an expectation that he’ll be ready for Sunday’s preseason bout with the Kings.

Zach Collins isn’t expecting to be back until mid-January at best. He’s still dealing with rehab from ankle surgery after he injuring it against Memphis in the play-in game back on Aug. 15.

The rest of the Blazers roster should be available for the game.

However, there was an unidentified player who tested positive for COVID-19 when Portland announced the facility was closed back on Sunday (Dec. 6). So, there could be another player out.

How to Watch

The game will be available both on local and national TV. NBC Sports Northwest and ESPN will carry the game with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT.

What to Expect

Without the full roster at his disposal, I expect Terry Stotts to play around with his lineup a little bit.

No Nurk means Enes Kanter likely starts at Center with Harry Giles III as the backup.

No Collins and no Hood means the debate of who starts or comes off the bench in the regular season will continue at least through Sunday when Hood “probably” will play. So, expect Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington to be in the starting five.

  • PG – Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Keljin Blevins
  • SG – CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr.
  • SF – Derrick Jones Jr., Nassir Little, CJ Elleby
  • PF – Robert Covington, Carmelo Anthony
  • C – Enes Kanter, Harry Giles III
  • Out – Collins, Hood, Nurkic

After that, I really don’t know what to expect. With the regular season just 12 days after from the first preseason game, Stotts may change how much or how little he plays his guys.

However, last season the first preseason matchup came 15 days ahead of the regular season. So, maybe Stotts will just keep do what he did last year.

For the first preseason game in 2019, Lillard and McCollum both played just 15 minutes. Collins (24), Hood (22) Simons (21) Mario Hezonja (20) and Kent Bazemore (20) were the only Blazers to play 20 or more minutes.

After we all got excited about Hezonja after last year’s preseason, I’m planning on not getting too excited about anyone playing against the Kings.

What I Want To See

Even with that Hezonja point made, I do have a few things I want to see tonight.

Anfernee Simons was talked up a lot coming into last season, and he largely didn’t live up to Neil Olshey’s ridiculous praise. However his backcourt counterpart, Gary Trent Jr., played unbelievably well in the bubble.

So, I want to see how Simons plays, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt because it’s preseason. I also want to see how GTJ shoots from deep. I won’t truly judge him for just one night, but I want to see if all his work translates to the start of this preseason.

Obviously, I want to see how the new guys mesh. Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Harry Giles should all get some time on Friday. How will the offense run with RoCo and Jones joining Dame, CJ and Kanter, who have played together before.

The offense will probably be bare bones so Stotts doesn’t put a lot on film, but I still can’t wait to see Covington and Jones in action.

Also, with Giles, he’s gotten some praise for his play so far in practice — including his passing — and we all know how much Stotts loves a big man who can pass.

Finally, on a totally “I’m a homer” note, I want to see CJ Elleby play. I’m a Washington State grad, Elleby left Wazzu early and Portland snagged him in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.

I know he likely won’t play at all in the regular season — except for garbage time or because of injuries/COVID issues — so preseason is likely the most I will get to see Elleby suit up for the Blazers this season. All I’m saying is just let me have this one, hahaha.

If nothing else, I just want to see Blazer basketball back on the court.

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