NBA Report: New blood, fresh start for Blazers

Portland's rookies offer immediate signs of hope. That and more in Sam Amico's preseason observations.

News, notes and thoughts from around the NBA:

Trail Blazers rookie Meyers Leonard scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his first preseason start. Leonard and J.J. Hickson are battling for the starting center spot, with the veteran Hickson reportedly having the edge. However, Hickson missed this  game with a minor injury. The Blazers lost, 104-93 loss to the Suns.

• With Leonard and point guard Damian Lillard, a potential rookie of the year candidate, the Blazers have themselves two first-year players who should make an immediate impact. And that, folks, is what the draft is all about.

• The revamped Suns lost mainstays Steve Nash and Grant Hill. That hurts. But they did a nice job of filling out the roster this offseason. How does this sound for a starting lineup: C – Marcin Gortat; F – Luis Scola; F – Michael Beasley; G – Jared Dudley; G – Goran Dragic. If those guys play together, hey, you never know.

• Forward Markieff Morris and guard Shannon Brown have also looked good for the Suns off the bench.

• After a wimpy start, Raptors rookie big man Jonas Valanciunas showed some real promise in the second preseason game. Big V ran the floor well and proved to possess some strong footwork on the low block in a 82-75 win over the Pistons, scoring 11 points and pulling down eight boards.

• Raptors rookie guard Terrence Morris, on the other hand, needs a little work yet.

• Ben Hansbrough scored 10 points and passed for seven assists in the Pacers’ second preseason game, a 96-91 victory vs. the Timberwolves. His brother on the Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough, did not play in the game. Interestingly, Tyler’s spot on the team is secure. Ben’s isn’t.

Enes Kanter is a different (young) man. You already know the Jazz’s second-year center shed all kinds of weight (like, 50 pounds). But did you know it’s showing on the court? He has been, in a word, remarkable. In Saturday’s 99-86 win over the Lakers, Kanter compiled 14 points and 14 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. Wow.

• The Wizards have one of those “good dilemmas,” as both rookie Bradley Beal and third-year man Jordan Crawford have done very well in the preseason. In fact, each are practically scoring at will. Now the question is, who gets the minutes? But after last season, these are the type of tough decisions with which coach Randy Wittman can live.

• Center Brook Lopez scored 19 points with nine rebounds to lead the Nets to a 108-105 win over the 76ers. That means the Nets won their first (preseason) game while belonging to the borough of Brooklyn. Nice.

• Of course, the game went into overtime – which meant every man, woman and child who had to write a story on deadline was cursing the basketball gods.

• Speaking of the Nets, there’s an outstanding feature on the history of Brooklyn basketball, and what the team means to the community, in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated. I urge you to check it out.

• That is, of course, assuming we live in a society that still knows the definition of the word “magazine” and phrase “long-form writing.” It’s easy to wonder in these days of Twitter, Facebook and Walt Disney.

• P.S. Another good sign from that Nets-Sixers game: Andray Blatche finished with 12 points and five rebounds. The Nets picked up Blatche on amnesty waivers from the Wizards. Between Blatche and Lopez, who needs Dwight Howard?

• Meanwhile, Nets' overseas find Mirza Teletovic, a so-called “stretch” power forward, made just two of 13 shots. So far, the only thing he’s stretching is the Nets’ salary situation. But it’s early.

• Someone named Chris Copeland led the Knicks with 21 points in a 108-105 win over the Celtics. And the Celtics’ starting lineup included their regular gang of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. So I don’t get it, either.

• Actually, Copeland is a 6-foot-8 rookie forward who played in Belgium last year. Word is, he may have played his way onto the Knicks’ final roster after his little stunt vs. the Celtics.

• Good for him. Most of us would rather live in New York City than Belgium, too.

• But it’s not all bad news for the C’s. Rookie forward Jared Sullinger has been one of the best players, if not the very best, on the team during preseason. He’s already good. Throw in the motivation of being passed over 19 times in the draft, and we may be talking rookie steal here.

• Rookie forward John Henson scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench in the Bucks’ 108-91 drubbing of the Pistons. The Bucks are 2-0 in the preseason, having won each game by 17 points. With all the talk about the Brandon Jennings- Monta Ellis backcourt, young bigs Henson and Larry Sanders have done a nice job.

• Surprisingly, the Rockets have played very well together in the preseason. It’s surprising because the entire roster is so new ( Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb, Omer Asik, Donatas Montiejunas, Terrence Jones, etc.). If Kevin McHale can keep this up, coach of the year potential exists.

• I really like two under-the-radar rookie forwards: the Hawks’ Mike Scott, a second-round; and the Thunder’s Hollis Thompson, an undrafted guy. I have no predictions for either yet. But keep an eye on them.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO

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