Blazers rookie Crabbe finds his place in NBA

Rookie surprised, but happy, to be in Portland

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — Inside his new workplace for the first time on Tuesday morning, Allen Crabbe felt wanted.

Crabbe, a 6-foot-6 guard from California, participated in the Portland Trail Blazers' first Summer League practice along with his new teammates. The suburban Tualatin setting was a long way from Cleveland — the place Crabbe once believed he would land.

"I didn't work out or speak to Portland," said Crabbe, who the Blazers acquired with the 31st overall pick in the NBA Draft. "It's funny how the draft process can go.

"I wasn't even aware of the interest from Portland. It's just kind of a shock when they told me I'd be traded to Portland. Cleveland picked me, I worked out for Cleveland, so I definitely thought I was going there."

After Tuesday's practice, which included four veteran second-year Blazers as well as fellow draft pick CJ McCollum, Crabbe reflected on his summer journey to the NBA. Things did not go as planned.

Crabbe, a long, slender player with a good shooting touch, was projected on one reputable draft website as a late first-round pick. However, unlike most prospects on the bubble, he did not crisscross the country for back-to-back workouts. Crabbe only worked out and visited six teams and missed the chance to impress at least four more due to an injury with his right foot.

Once inside those NBA gyms, Crabbe not only had to show how his college game could translate to the pros -- he averaged 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range -- but also answer questions about an incident involving his coach during his junior season at California.

During a Pac-12 home game in February, Crabbe returned to the Cal bench for a timeout when coach Mike Montgomery greeted him with an angry two-handed shove to the chest. Crabbe did not physically retaliate but appeared agitated when teammates got involved and had to be ushered off the court.

"It was an incident (where) something that wasn't supposed to happen, happened," said Crabbe, who confirmed that the topic came up during interviews with NBA teams. "It's just an incident they wanted to know more about and how I felt about it. It's water under the bridge."

Months later, Crabbe has moved past from the Montgomery push.

"Me and my coach, we still talk till this day," Crabbe said. "There's no intention of me being mad at him after that. It was just the spur of the moment. The situation got a little heated."

Once Draft day arrived, Crabbe felt so confident that he would be selected in the first round that he attended the draft in person. However, he waited until the early second round to discover that Cleveland chose him, then traded him to Portland.

"It was tough," Crabbe said of not becoming a first-round pick. "Anything can happen on draft night and that night obviously showed. But like I said, it's just a blessing to be here. It's not like I didn't get drafted.

"It tells me that I really have to prove myself . . . and go out and just prove to people I was worthy of a first-round pick. I'm over it now. I'm at a place where an organization, they wanted me."

Though Crabbe never suspected Portland, he does have a few six-degrees-of-separation connections with the team.

Crabbe's agent Sam Goldfeder — who also represents McCollum — is a good friend of Blazers general manager Neil Olshey. Also, during the 2004-05 NBA season, Montgomery coached the Golden State Warriors and employed Terry Stotts as his lead assistant. Stotts, now the Blazers' head coach, knew little about Crabbe on draft night but liked what he saw from his new player after the first practice.

"Obviously, he has a very good stroke. He squares up nicely, I think he plays well off the ball. He understood the concept of setting back screens and freeing things up," Stotts said. "It seemed like he has a good intuitive feel for the game. He has good length. Just from today, I thought he had good basketball IQ at both ends of the floor, so I thought he made a good impression."

Notes

• The team will work in five practices before beginning Summer League play in Las Vegas on Saturday.

• Former Oregon guard Garrett Sim landed a roster spot with the Blazers' Summer League team. Sim, who last played with the Vancouver Volcanoes during their push to the International Basketball League championship game last week, did not practice Tuesday with the team that included Will Barton, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard. Before the Volcanoes, Sim played in Germany and therefore must sit out until he gets clearance from FIBA.