Elliot Williams doesn’t need to see presents open this holiday season — seeing training camp open will be blissful enough.
“When camp opens, its going to be like Christmas,” said the Trail Blazers guard, who, on Tuesday, was working out in the team’s practice facility for the first time since the lockout began. “I’ve been out of game situations for a year and a half.”
Williams had surgery on his dislocated right patella last year and did not log a single minute for the Blazers. The Memphis product — drafted 22nd overall in 2010 — was also denied the opportunity to partake in summer league due to the lockout.
But he kept his game sharp by playing pickup ball in Memphis, Houston and Los Angeles. As for the knee?
“It feels really good,” Williams said.
100 percent good? asked a reporter.
“Yes,” Williams replied.
Williams admitted that the lockout had him particularly worried seeing as how he has yet to step on the floor in an NBA game, and added that his expectations for himself are “to do whatever it takes … whatever Nate (McMillan) and his coaching staff wants out of me.”
This would include Williams playing point guard in addition to shooting guard.
So far, the 22-year-old has impressed his teammates — LaMarcus Aldridge in particular.
Monday, Aldridge praised both Williams’ skill and athleticism while touting his ability to create his own shot. Williams confessed that he was flattered by the acclaim considering Aldridge is “the best player I’ve played with.”
But then the most important question came.
Can you still get 48 inches on your vertical?
“I hope so,” Williams said.
Blazers forward Luke Babbitt was also between the lines at the practice facility Tuesday, but working on what’s between the ears may be the biggest issue for him.
Last year, in his rookie season, Babbitt posted a field goal percentage of .273, a 3-point percentage of .188 and free-throw percentage of .333.
The numbers are abysmal no matter what his role, but particularly dire given that he’s viewed as someone who can provide an outside touch.
“I know I was brought here. I’m a shooter, someone who can stretch the floor and provide offense,” Babbitt said. “I’ve known that from Day 1.”
In fact, an anonymous players’ poll conducted after the 2010 draft listed Babbitt as the best shooter from his draft class, a reputation he is hoping to revive.
The University of Nevada product was asked about having to play power forward this year due to the logjam at small forward with Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum. Babbitt answered by saying that he was versatile, and that while there are “a lot of good players at my position, I’m hoping to provide something that they don’t have,” — essentially referring to his outside stroke.
Babbitt then discussed his confidence last year, saying that it is “something every young player has to go through.” “You gain confidence with every experience you have,” Babbitt said.
Smith wants “to earn it”
Rookie point guard Nolan Smith was another Blazer in the practice facility for the first time since the lockout. And the key number for him was — 3.
Consistently knocking down the open 3-pointer has been his primary focus during this offseason as he feels the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy will get him plenty of open looks. But he also found himself playing a lot of 3-on-3 Tuesday — full-court 3-on-3, that is.
“We were testing to see what kind of shape we were in,” Smith said. “LaMarcus was just pushing us all to keep on playing.”
But Smith welcomes the challenge. Some feel that the backup point guard position is his to lose, but he said Tuesday that when he comes to a new place, his mentality is that “I need to earn it.” Smith then mentioned that he had recently talked to former Duke teammate Kyle Singler, a Medford, Ore., native who will be playing in Spain this season.
“He told me I was coming to one of the best cities, and to take advantage of his home state,” Smith said.
Does that include going to Medford? a reported chimed.
“I don’t know about that.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org