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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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Blazers draft picks ready to contribute right away

GM, coach feel team has improved with their 3 rookies

By , Columbian sports staff
Published:
6 Photos
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin, left, and head coach Chauncey Billups, right, stand with draft pics, Rayan Rupert (72), Scoot Henderson (00), and Kris Murray (8) while they hold up their new jerseys during an NBA basketball news conference in Portland, Ore., Saturday, June 24, 2023.
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin, left, and head coach Chauncey Billups, right, stand with draft pics, Rayan Rupert (72), Scoot Henderson (00), and Kris Murray (8) while they hold up their new jerseys during an NBA basketball news conference in Portland, Ore., Saturday, June 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer) Photo Gallery

Scoot Henderson compared his joy of basketball to candy.

Kris Murray is about getting better every year.

Rayan Rupert looked up to his “big brother” Nic Batum for advice.

All three Portland Trail Blazers rookies gave a taste of what the team and fans can expect of them when they faced the local media for the first time on Saturday at the Blazers practice facility.

Blazers general manager Joe Cronin and head coach Chauncey Billups both said Saturday they felt the team has improved after Thursday’s NBA draft.

“It’s not often you get three (players) from the green room,” said Billups, referring to Portland’s draft position (No. 3, 23 and 43). “I value them for sure. Love guys who are competitive, play with fire, play on both side of the basketball. All three do that and are very dynamic.”

Henderson, a 6-foot-2 forward picked third overall from the NBA G League Ignite, says he sees the hype building on social media.

“I don’t pay any attention to it,” the 19-year-old said. “I know who I am as a person and that all that matters.”

He said he finds real joy just being on the basketball court.

“It feels like when you are a kid who wants some candy and mom says no all day and finally you get a piece of candy,” Henderson explained. “It’s a real joy when I’m on court.”

He frequently said his family and work ethic got him to the NBA.

Murray, pick No. 23 from Iowa, said Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery stressed to him about getting better every year.

“He let me play through mistakes and that helped me mentally,” Murray said. “I showed everything in my game last year.”

Rupert, who is from France and picked in the second round at No. 43 overall, said he’s known Batum — the former Blazer — for 10 years.

“He’s like a big brother for me,” Rupert said. “He said a lot of good things about this organization and the people here.”

Billups acknowledged there’s work to be done, but he likes what the future holds.

“They are young, but don’t play that way,” he said. “With their high basketball IQ, young mistakes will be minimized. We did a good job of targeting the right kind of players where the learning curve wouldn’t be big.”

For his part, Henderson said he has the ability to pressure on defense “in all kinds of ways.”

Murray added that his versility at 6-8 allows him to guard multiple positions, while 6-6 Rupert referred to himself as a two-way player who can play “both sides of the ball.”

Cronin confirmed all three draft picks will play summer league basketball.

The Blazers first game will be at Las Vegas against the Houston Rockets on July 7. Portland then faces San Antonio and likely the star of the 2023 draft Victor Wembanyama on July 9, Charlotte on July 11, and Orlando on July 13.

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