Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz
Tip-off: 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 18
Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
I am inordinately pleased with this consolation round matchup. The Trail Blazers’ scrappy backcourt of C.J. McCollum and Will Barton gets to match up with the Jazz’s highly touted backcourt of Trey Burke and Dante Exum. Instinctually, one might put McCollum and Barton at a disadvantage, but I think they actually have a leg up. Burke and Exum have quietly underwhelmed in Las Vegas, averaging just 9.0 and 6.8 points per game respectively (compared to McCollum & Barton’s 20.0 & 14.5). There is a lot of potential here for some Rip City recognition.
And redemption for that matter. The Trail Blazers played awfully against the Hawks yesterday, landing themselves in the consolation round to begin with. This will be the last Trail Blazer game for three months, so they had better make it count. They sit with a 2-2 Las Vegas Summer League record, and I would very much like to be able to say they put forth a winning effort when all is said and done.
On an individual level, this game serves as a redemption opportunity for Meyers Leonard. The 7’1” soon-to-be third year center missed the first two games of Las Vegas Summer League with an injured shoulder and has averaged just 5.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game since, while being a constant defensive liability. If he can handle the even more ridiculously proportioned Rudy Gobert (7’1” tall: 7’8.5” wingspan) for this one game, I will be immensely proud of him. He could use the confidence boost.
At any rate, the Trail Blazers are staring down the barrel of a tough matchup for their Summer League finale. We have seen high highs and low lows from Portland thus far. McCollum and the presently injured Thomas Robinson seemed to be the most consistent, so we’ve got a good idea of which players are likely to earn rotation minutes come October. Today is the last competitive opportunity for everyone else to show that they are worthy of attention and further development or a training camp invite.
 Actually, let’s explore this tangent briefly. All the time I see people demanding confidence from Leonard without investing any in him. So many Trail Blazers fans are quick to tear him down at every opportunity with complete disregard for the negative impact it has on the esteem he needs as his first building block. He is a 22 year old kid that is just trying to do the best that he can for you. Can we as Trail Blazers fans not provide the nurturing community we are so proud of, or are we too sore from hypocritical back-patting at this point?