Luke Babbit, Armon Johnson make NBA debut
Special to the Nevada Appeal
Luke Babbitt felt right at home during his NBA debut.
“It felt like basketball,” Babbitt told an NBA-TV audience after scoring 13 points in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 84-67 victory over the Houston Rockets in the Blazers’ Summer League opener Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas’ Cox Pavilion. “It was just like in college or a pickup game, no different except everyone is a little bit better.”
There weren’t many players on the court better than Babbitt or former Pack player Armon Johnson, who was also making his debut for the Blazers. Babbitt added four rebounds and two assists to his team-high 13 points in 27 minutes. Johnson played just under 32 minutes and scored eight points with two assists, four steals and three rebounds. He also turned the ball over just two times.
“The main thing I heard from everyone was to just be aggressive,” Babbitt said on NBA-TV. “All rookies are going to make mistakes so I was told to just stay aggressive and don’t change my game.”
Babbitt, who had four turnovers, was 3-for-3 from the free throw line and 0-for-3 from 3-point range. He made 5-of-6 shots from inside the arc.
“I shot the ball terribly from three,” Babbitt said. “I think I’m a pretty good shooter from 3 though I didn’t show it today.”
Babbitt scored his first NBA points on a 10-foot jumper after pulling down an offensive rebound for a 6-2 Portland lead with 7:25 to go in the first quarter. He also scored a minute later for a 10-4 lead on a layup after another offensive rebound.
“He’s got a lot of skills,” said former NBA player Brent Barry, an analyst on NBA-TV’s telecast. “The only way you get good skills in basketball is to put the time in and he has that. He’s ready to take the next step and bring that skill to the NBA level.”
Babbitt drained a shot from the right corner for a 31-26 Portland lead with 3:45 to go in the second quarter. The 6-foot-9 forward also drove the left side of the lane for a three-point play for a 45-31 lead late in the first half.
Babbitt, who spent the majority of his time on the floor guarding Houston’s Chase Budinger (game-high 21 points), had just four points in the second half as Portland emptied its bench. He converted two free throws three minutes into the third quarter for a 47-36 lead and hit a long two-pointer for a 49-40 lead about 90 seconds later.
“He showed a lot of the things he was able to do at Nevada, putting tons of points on the board,” Barry said.
Johnson, who, like Babbitt, was in Portland’s starting lineup, also had a productive debut. The former Pack point guard was 4-of-8 from the field (all inside the arc) and didn’t get to the free throw line.
Johnson had a steal and a layup for a 12-5 lead early in the first quarter and picked up one of his two assists on a pass to Jeff Pendergraph for a 14-7 lead. Johnson also drove the left side of the lane for a layup and a 25-21 lead with just under eight minutes to go in the second quarter.
Johnson, who switched back and forth from point guard to shooting guard, drained a 15-footer for a 33-26 lead late in the second half and his final points of the game came on a left-handed runner down the left side of the lane after a pass from Babbitt with about seven minutes to play.
The Blazers outscored Houston by 14 when Johnson was on the floor and by nine when Babbitt was on the floor.
Portland will next be in action on Tuesday from Cox Pavilion against the New Orleans Hornets at 7 p.m.