Been there done that: How this veteran group of Trail Blazers is governing themselves

Mike Richman
NBC Sports Northwest

Anthony Tolliver has done this before. Three years ago he was a in Sacramento, then Detroit and last season it was Minnesota. 

The Blazers 34 year old forward is very familiar with learning a new system and new teammates during training camp and preseason.

"I've been in enough situations now personally to be able to adjust pretty quickly," Tolliver said after the Blazers first preseason game. "For me it's just still always a process learning the new language. Every culture, every process, every coach, every team has its own language for the same type of stuff. As soon as you get that down it really becomes just basketball after that, and that's the easy part."

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The defensive coverage that the Kings called "gold, the Timberwolves called "down", and the offensive action that was "motion" with the Pistons looks a little bit different with the Blazers. But the veteran forward isn't sweating the new lingo. He's had 12 preseasons worth of practice to perfect the adjustment process. 

He isn't alone on the Blazers roster either. Unlike in the summer of 2015 when the Blazers' roster upheaval left Portland with the youngest roster in the league, the team's next major roster turnover five summers later granted Terry Stotts and his coaching staff with a veteran group.

Tolliver, Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol have all played at least seven NBA seasons and their institutional knowledge from years in the league make them quick studies as they try to learn Stotts' system.

"Pau Gasol, and Anthony Tolliver and Kent Bazemore after a day picked up on everything," Stotts said. "The learning curve is a lot easier with veteran guys."

Stotts said the practices have been more nuanced, instead of hands on teaching he can explain a concept or new set and then let guys work through it in live settings.

"We're picking stuff up. I think it's a good mix of experience and young talent. That's allowing us to keep moving along," Damian Lillard said. "We're able to teach each other. I'm always pulling somebody aside and sharing something with them, Kent is pulling somebody aside, CJ is pulling somebody aside, even Pau. We're governing ourselves in those situations instead of coach having to go over stuff two, three, four times. It's like first time and then we're on the sideline discussing it. I think that's been a huge part of us being ablt to keep moving instead of one thing at a time."

Even with a veteran group picking up concepts on the fly there will still be challenges. New teammates have to learn each other's tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. And for all their familiarity with the offensive and defensive calls, the Blazers still struggled to shoot against the Nuggets in their preseason opener and the offense stalled after halftime. They looked like a new group playing together against real competition for the first time.

But with vets across the rotation, the team has been able to skip over some early season challenges that come with less experienced rosters. They have plenty of guys that have been here before, next up is figuring out how to do it together.

"That's what this time, what preseason is for, early in the season if for," Tolliver said. "To really get through those humps and figure things out."

Been there done that: How this veteran group of Trail Blazers is governing themselves originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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