PORTLAND – After the Wells Fargo Fan Fest, a light intrasquad scrimmage for the fans free of charge with a running clock and halftime entertainment featuring Trail Blazer rookies dancing the Dougie, there was a not-so-subtle reminder that the real games are coming.
More specifically: The Lakers are coming.
Jared Jeffries lingered in front of a locker-room flat screen monitor that aired the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings game. J.J. Hickson stopped briefly and checked the score, as well. Justin Holiday held his phone to his ear but did not speak into it as he watched Kobe Bryant nail a jump shot before the halftime buzzer.
On Oct. 31, the season begins with those Lakers coming to the Rose Garden but the rapt audience inside the Blazer locker room still had their minds set on the conclusion of the preseason with two games against the Utah Jazz, which begins Monday night.
“Of course, you care about the Jazz,” Hickson said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get better, to execute in half court. We have the Lakers on Halloween, and of course we’re looking forward to that game. But anytime you step on the court, you’re looking to get better and have fun. Go out and do what coach tells us to do.”
The Blazers, 2-3 in the preseason, treated the Black Team-White Team scrimmage as a fan-friendly event.
At halftime, LaMarcus Aldridge gripped the microphone and commanded all the team rookies to come to center court.
All Blazer newcomers had to hit the Dougie. Showing no ego with his No. 6 draft pick status, Damian Lillard enjoyed the dancing spotlight, even dropping it low to the delight of the fans filling the lower bowl.
Still, the Sunday night run also served some purpose.
Coach Terry Stotts wanted players to get in a good sweat after a light day of video break down and a weight-lifting session.
By Monday, the focus will return to execution and preparing for the regular season, prominence on that Halloween night.
”We’ve got 10 days before we play the Lakers,” Stotts said. “Each day has to be constructive. I’ll get with my staff and talk about things that need to be put in between now and the Lakers.”
There remains a premium on zone defense and late-game offense — the Blazers’ bench played the entire fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night but could not rally for a comeback in the 101-97 loss.
Echoing the training camp refrain, Jeffries emphasized that these final days will be a resource for improvement.
“It’s about us getting better,” Jeffries said. “If we stay the course, we’ll get better as a team and always play well. Right now, it’s about us playing well as a unit and getting better.”