Summer League brings more change for Blazers
TUALATIN, Ore. — Jeff Pendergraph remembers the first go around and he remembers it well.
The Portland Trail Blazers power forward was a young, untested rookie. His first taste of real competition — the 2009 NBA Summer League — was staring him straight in the face. So, Pendergraph went low key and played it straight. But he was also bug-eyed, nervous and naive.
“I made sure my shirt was tucked in. My laces were tied just right and the strings were in,” Pendergraph said Wednesday, following a morning workout at the team’s practice facility. “No playing around. Everything was super serious.”
But that was last year. Before the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Pendergraph averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks during the team’s 2009 five-game summer run. And before the former Arizona State standout recovered from hip surgery to emerge as the biggest surprise on the 2009-10 Blazers, averaging 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 39 hard-played games (four starts).
Now, Pendergraph is preparing for his second run through the Summer League. He and Dante Cunningham, a fellow second-year Blazer, are expected to be named captains of the team. And while rookies such as 2010 first-round draft pick Luke Babbitt and former Mountain View High School star Nik Raivio will carry the heavy weight of uncertainty, Pendergraph is a brand new — and very confident — young man.
“I think most of it is going to be me and Dante kind of leading this team,” Pendergraph said. “Especially our draft picks. Making sure they are coming along and understand what’s going on, so we have them ready for training camp.”
While Pendergraph has unquestionably matured, he is not the only Blazer going through changes as the 2010 Summer League approaches.
Second-year guard Patty Mills is attempting to trade a brief summer stint for a permanent spot with the Blazers.
The speedy point guard from Australia played in 10 games for Portland last season, averaging 2.6 points in 38 total minutes.
But Mills was plagued by injuries throughout 2009-10, dealing with the after effects of a wrist injury while suffering a broken foot just before the 2009 Summer League began.
Now, Mills is healthy, excited and primed. But he is also aware that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to his future as a Blazer.
“It’s still in the air, I guess,” Mills said. “But coming back here with a chance to play again is a chance to show what I do.”
Meanwhile, Blazers assistant coach Kaleb Canales is Portland’s new Summer League coach.
Wednesday marked Canales’ 32nd birthday. And after spending six years as a Blazer — working his way up from a video intern into one of the team’s go-to assistants — Canales acknowledged that the first day of Summer League practice was a very special day for him.
“Obviously in this situation, you’re the head coach, so you’re implementing more stuff and you have to play a different role,” Canales said. “But it feels good to me. It feels natural, and I’m excited.
The Blazers begin Summer League play 3 p.m. Sunday against Houston at Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas. The team will play a five-game schedule against the Rockets, New Orleans, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota and Chicago.
Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that the Blazers are considering trading guards Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez to Miami in exchange for players including Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. The Heat are reportedly shopping Beasley and Chalmers in the attempt to make room for free-agent forward LeBron James. However, Blazer sources denied the report, stating that Portland has not been involved in trade talks with Miami since before the 2010 NBA Draft. … Blazers center Greg Oden was seen in the team’s weight room during Wednesday’s practice. Oden was not made available to the media. But he appeared to be in good shape and improved spirits. “He’s great,” Canales said. … The 2010-11 NBA salary cap was set Wednesday at $58 million. The luxury tax is $70.3 million. The Blazers’ mid-level exception — Portland’s primary option for obtaining a free agent this summer — is worth $5.7 million.
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What: 2010 NBA Summer League
When: July 11- 18
Where: Las Vegas
TV: CSN (37)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Local talent: Former Mountain View/University of Portland standout Nik Raivio is on the Blazers’ initial summer roster.