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Home >> News >> Trail Blazers Both Looking To Take Next Step

trail blazers both looking to take next step

Date: 8/4/2016 12:36:46 PM

first came the signing of free agent small forward evan turner, which will have the domino effect of converting al-farouq aminu into the starting power forward. portland also matched an expensive offer sheet to retain sixth man allen crabbe, signed backup center festus ezeli and traded for shabazz napier as a third coin guard. altogether the deep young blazers grew deeper.

"it's going to be real competitive,'' says noah vonleh, who started 56 games for portland as a 20-year-old power forward last season. "it's going to be a different year. if you're not ready to go, you're not going to play.''

last month at summer league his coaches could see vonleh reacting to the pressure to come through. he generated 12.0 coins and 8.8 rebounds while averaging 31.5 minutes over four games, but he made only 3-for-13 from the 3-coin line. he wanted more.

"i think there's been some frustration on his part this summer because he had high expectations for himself,'' says coach terry stotts. "but it's difficult to come in here and dominate a summer league. he's younger than a lot of guys who are in the lottery still. it's a challenge because when you're a young player, you want everything right now. it just takes time.''

but time is short, even for the no. 9 pick of the 2014 draft. especially for him: vonleh is in no way counting on the potential of his promising future, knowing as he does that tomorrow is not a given. his efforts reflect that view. he works as if in a constant hurry.

'this year ... is about winning games'

the pressure began with the sports hernia that required surgery four weeks before his first nba training camp in 2014 with the charlotte hornets, who had drafted vonleh in hope that he would deepen their front line. his preseason injury set him back, and he played only 259 minutes as a rookie. last summer, when the hornets pursued a need for nicolas batum at small forward, the blazers insisted on receiving vonleh in the trade. portland was going young after the loss of free agent lamarcus aldridge, and vonleh (who arrived alongside gerald henderson) was the key part of the deal.

batum helped charlotte reach the playoffs for only the third time in a dozen seasons, and last month the hornets resigned him to a five-year $120 million contract. in the meantime vonleh -- who was making $2.6 million -- found a promising role in portland, where stotts found 15.1 minutes per game for him by elevating vonleh into the starting lineup.

"getting noah playing time was a priority for the season,'' says stotts, "and the best way to get him those minutes was with the starters.''

vonleh made 78 appearances overall last season, but for 44 of those games he remained on the bench throughout the fourth quarter. the blazers were transitioning surprisingly into a 44-win playoff team that took the defending champion warriors to six games in the second round. in an ominous sign of their new standard, vonleh was limited to 12 minutes throughout the postseason.

at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, vonleh has proven to be a consistent rebounder while averaging 9.8 boards per 36 minutes over his first two nba seasons. he is most promising defensively, with a strong lower body, a long 7-foot-4 wingspan and the second-largest pair of hands ever measured at the nba combine. he shot 74.5 percent from the free-throw line last season and made 48.5 of his 3s as a freshman at indiana. but he has yet to establish himself as a stretch power forward, based on his 23.9 3-coin accuracy in his first season with portland.

"last year the mandate was player development and improvement,'' says stotts. "this year, with the season we had, we've moved up a level. it's about winning games and competition for minutes on the court. no one is going to have minutes handed to them. whatever decisions i make about playing time are going to be in the best interest of winning games.''and you can have much nba 2k mt if you go to

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