June 18, 2024

Gary Trent Jr.’s departure from the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t without sadness: ‘On our team, we’re more than just teammates’

Last Thursday began like another typical game day for Gary Trent Jr.

He went to the Portland Trail Blazers’ shootaround that morning in Miami, worked on his shot, joked with teammates. Laughed.

A pregame nap back at his hotel room followed. That’s when his agent, Rich Paul, called.

“He just told me, ‘you’re going to get traded,’” Trent said. “And that was that.”

Texts began flooding Trent’s phone as the news become public prior to the NBA trade deadline. Many texts came from teammates, including mentor Damian Lillard. Trent said he called Anfernee Simons. Both were drafted together by the Blazers in 2018.

Trent went through his farewells, some in person, and packed. Then it hit him that he was no longer a Blazer.

“You could say it was sad,” Trent said. “After you went to war, you fought with guys, you’ve been unsuccessful, you’ve been successful. You had ups, you had downs. You had good moments, you had bad moments. So, we just look back on it all and appreciate it. During the time when you’re with one another and all of those guys, you never know when it’s going to come to an end. And when it actually does, wow … it’s the end.”

Portland traded Trent, a second-round pick in 2018, and forward Rodney Hood to Toronto for guard Norman Powell, who in his sixth season offers the Blazers more polish as a scorer and defender than the promising, but still raw, 22-year-old Trent.

A car picked up Trent at the hotel and drove him four hours to Tampa, Florida, where the Raptors have played their home games this season because of Canada’s travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trent said he arrived at about 11:45 p.m., worked out and then went to sleep.

Trent passed a physical on Friday and then got himself ready to make his Raptors debut that night against the Phoenix Suns.

Thursday night, the Blazers won 125-122 over the Heat in their first game without Trent and Hood. Afterward, several players expressed their sadness about saying goodbye to two friends.

“It’s tough, man,” CJ McCollum said. “Two good guys. Two guys who do things the right way. Great teammates. Great locker room people. You never want to see them go, but at the same time, hopefully, they get a bigger and a better opportunity where they’re going.”

McCollum said he spoke to Toronto All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry about Trent and Hood.

“I told him to take good care of them,” McCollum said. “So, I’m looking forward to seeing how they’re utilized there. I’m looking forward to seeing how Gary continues to develop and continues to grow. And we’re eternally grateful for Rodney. We don’t make it to the (2019) Western Conference finals without him. …They’ll be friends of mine for life.”

Damian Lillard, a mentor to Trent, said he was looking forward to seeing how Powell fit in with the Blazers, but lamented the fact that they had to see “two of our brothers go.”

“On our team, we’re more than just teammates,” Lillard said. “We develop bonds with each other, we spend a lot of time with each other. And it’s sad to see them go, but it’s part of the business.”

Lillard said he expects Trent and Hood to experience continued success.

“GT will go on and do great things and get a great opportunity and make a lot of money,” Lillard said. “I think his future is really bright. The same with Hoody. It was just business. But both guys are great people, great teammates and really good players.”

Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr., shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) AP

Center Enes Kanter, who has been traded several times during his career, empathized with Trent and Hood.

“Especially during the season, it’s tough,” Kanter said. “Obviously, we are going to miss them a lot. Gary and Rodney were not just amazing players, but amazing teammates and really good on and off the court. So, we just wish him luck.”

As fate would have it, Trent’s second game with the Raptors will come Sunday against the Blazers in Tampa.

“We’re going to see him soon, actually,” Kanter said with a smile

Trent said he will carry with him what he learned in Portland, especially from Lillard and McCollum.“Since I got there from day one, I was learning as much as I could from Dame and CJ, and even got to learn from (Carmelo Anthony) the last two years of my career,” Trent said.Interestingly, Trent’s father, former NBA forward Gary Trent Sr., in 1998 was traded from Portland to Toronto after having appeared in the 41st game of his third season. Now, 23 years later, Trent Jr. has been traded from the Blazers to the Raptors after appearing in the 41st game of his third season.

“It was wild,” Trent Jr. said. “It’s stuff you almost can’t put into words. It’s almost like it was written already in a sense. Like it was destined to happen. It was supposed to happen. It’s crazy, though.”

Trent Sr. has filled in Trent Jr. on what it’s like living and playing in Toronto.

“He gave me a lot of great stories just talking about the city,” Trent Jr. said. “He said it’s beautiful, it’s one of the most international cities in the world. The food is amazing and the vibe is amazing. The fans are amazing. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about it. So, I’m glad to have the opportunity to play for this organization.”

Trent is joining a team led by two small guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Both are 6 feet tall. Trent, who is 6-5, left a team led by two small guards, the 6-2 Lillard and 6-3 McCollum.

Gary Trent Jr.

With Portland, Trent came off the bench, other than when McCollum was injured this season. In Toronto, Trent will start as the team evaluates him before he becomes a restricted free agent this offseason. Trent struggled in his debut on Friday, scoring just eight points in 31 minutes while missing all five of his three-point attempts during a 104-100 loss to the Suns. He said he will do what he can to fit in with his new team

“Coming from a two-guard set, knowing where to find my spots to score, knowing my role and playing that to the best of my ability,” Trent said. “I’m coming here to share with everybody. To jell with everybody. To try to get back on the winning track.”

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