PORTLAND, Ore. — For Portland Trail Blazers fans, the wait is finally over.
The regular season doesn't actually start for Portland until October 18, when the Blazers open the season on the road against the Phoenix Suns. But Tuesday night, Portland opens its preseason schedule with a contest at the Moda Center against Phoenix, and though preseason competition is inconsequential, it's still an opportunity for fans to watch the team and see what's new.
Here's a look at a few things we're interested in watching tonight. Check out the game at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest (formerly Comcast Sports Northwest) or NBA TV.
Will Nurkic let it fly from deep?
Everybody knows the biggest storyline surrounding Nurkic is his weight loss and improved physique. An interesting subplot is whether Nurkic gets the green light to shoot 3-pointers this season.
During media day, Nurkic said if head coach Terry Stotts wants him to, he's "definitely" going to shoot the occasional 3-point shot this season. Nurkic doesn't have much of a track record of shooting the long ball during his career. He has attempted six 3-pointers in his first four NBA seasons and missed all of them. He shot one 3-pointer and missed it at Fan Fest on Sunday.
Nurkic did show a solid midrange game last season with Portland. In his 20 games with the Blazers, about 87 percent of his field-goal attempts were within 10 feet of the basket, but he also shot 12 percent of his shots between 16 feet and the 3-point line, which would be a career high. Nurkic made 39 percent of those attempts, the second-best mark of his career from that distance.
The thinking goes, if Nurkic can push those long 2-pointers out past the 3-point line and maintain the same shooting accuracy, it could help stretch the floor for the Blazers. If Nurkic fires up a 3-pointer or two tonight against Phoenix, it doesn't mean Stotts has given him the green light for the season, but it might indicate he's thinking about it.
Can Swanigan live up to the hype?
Caleb Swanigan has exceeded expectations at every opportunity since he was drafted late in the first round by the Blazers in June.
He made the all-league team in summer league. At media day, his teammates singled him out as a player who impressed during precamp scrimmages. And on Sunday at Fan Fest, he scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds.
With last season's starter Noah Vonleh out with a shoulder injury, the power forward starting position is up for grabs. It will likely come down to Swanigan, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard or Zach Collins.
Swanigan won't start Tuesday. Davis is getting the nod against Phoenix, according to Trail Blazers beat writer Casey Holdahl. But If Swanigan plays well against the Suns, the hype may start to reach Nurkic Fever levels.
Also worth mentioning
Zach Collins: Word out of training camp is Collins has impressed with his defense. Coming off a subpar, injury shortened summer league, it will be interesting to see how the Blazers' Top-10 draft pick fares in his first real NBA action.
Evan Turner: Will Turner look more comfortable in the Blazers' offense this season? Holdahl reported that Turner, not Maurice Harkless, will start at small forward tonight against the Suns. That training camp battle is definitely one to watch throughout the preseason.
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.
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