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Trail Blazers Kick Off Preseason With Blowout Over New Zealand Breakers
Scoot Henderson and Deandre Ayton made their Portland debuts in an up-and-down preseason showing.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Chauncey Billups called it "nervous energy." A couple of players called it "preseason jitters." There's going to be some of that with a Trail Blazers team with four rookies and only four players who were here this time last year.
Fortunately, they could get the worst of it out of the way against non-NBA competition and, for whatever a preseason victory is worth, come out of a pretty up-and-down performance with a comfortable blowout win over the New Zealand Breakers.
The headline was the debut of Scoot Henderson, who finished with seven points, six assists and only one turnover in 19 minutes. As rookie preseason debuts go, it wasn't on the level of Monday night's epic Victor Wembanyama-Chet Holmgren battle, but it did the job. Henderson's playmaking was particularly impressive, including one wraparound pass out of the paint to find a wide-open Matisse Thybulle in the corner. He even knocked down an open three in rhythm.
"I know I can hit the three," Henderson said after the game. "I don't want that to be a surprise to people. I think I'm an all-around player."
Billups felt better about the Blazers' defense than their offense, which at times was rushed and disjointed. There's not much to take from a game like this, but a few observations:
The order of player introductions in the post-Damian Lillard era: Anfernee Simons, Scoot Henderson, Deandre Ayton, Matisse Thybulle, Jerami Grant. We'll see if that holds when the regular season starts.
PA announcer Mark Mason is introducing Henderson's number as "S-C-double-O-T." The successor to "The Letter O."
All of the starters besides Henderson did not play the second half, but Billups started the likely opening-night lineup of Henderson, Simons, Thybulle, Grant and Ayton. Ayton was the best player on the floor in that time.
With Robert Williams III out, the backup center minutes were split between two players fighting for one of the last roster spots: Moses Brown and Duop Reath. Brown is more likely to make the team due to his size and rebounding ability, but Reath is intriguing and provides a different dimension at that position with his shooting. Both did what they needed to do to make their cases.
Last week in Santa Barbara, I heard great things about Toumani Camara's showing in training camp, and he impressed in his second-half minutes. The backup power forward spot is open between him, Jabari Walker and Kris Murray. Camara and Walker both played well when they got in.
Rough nights for Jerami Grant and Shaedon Sharpe. Anfernee Simons fared better, leading the Blazers with 14 points but committing four turnovers. After the game, he said he played "alright."
This group's first game against NBA competition is on Thursday when they host the Suns. It will be a revenge game for Ayton, as well as a homecoming for Nassir Little, Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks and Keon Johnson.