Babbitt saw writing on wall when team brought in Freeland, Claver

Babbitt saw writing on wall when team brought in Freeland, Claver
March 14, 2014, 9:30 am
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Babbitt on facing former team

(Derick E. Hingle | USA Today Sports Images)

NEW ORLEANS – When the Portland Trail Blazers get set to tipoff against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight in the newly-named Smoothie King Center, they’ll notice a familiar face on the opposite bench.

Luke Babbitt, the three-point specialist who played his first three NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers, is now a member of the Pelicans’ squad. Babbitt, 24, says it’s going to be a little weird going up against guys he considers to be good friends.

“I don’t know if it will be emotional, [but] it’ll definitely feel weird, feel different,” Babbitt told CSNNW.com this morning at shootaround. “Watching these guys play for three years -- Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum. It’s going to feel weird being on the other side, but at the end of the day, it’s just another game. So, that’s how I’m approaching it.”

Babbitt’s tenure with the Trail Blazers yields mixed emotions, depending on whom you talk to. Some would say he never got a fair shot, others would argue he wasn’t consistent enough to get a decent look.

The Trail Blazers obviously felt the latter, declining to pick up his fourth-year option prior to the 2012-13 season, making him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013. He went on to play in Russia for the 2013-14 campaign after failing to land an NBA deal. The Pelicans rescued him midseason from the freezing cold elements by buying out his contract and signing him to a two-year deal.

Babbitt says he saw the writing on the wall, in regards to his time in Portland diminishing, when the team brought over a couple of European players last year.

“I knew when they brought in guys like Victor Claver and Joel Freeland who were going to be there for a while,” Babbitt said. “So, I didn’t really think too much about it. I just kind of took it as it came and played out the year as if I didn’t know. But I felt I was given a fair shot over there.”

Coincidentally, Babbitt and Freeland got into a fight last season during a practice in Chicago.

I’ve digressed. Overall, Babbitt says he enjoyed his time in Portland and like everyone else who once played for the organization, he knows firsthand what great fan support they have.

“They have great fans,” he said. “I’m thankful for my time there. I feel like I improved as a player each year. There are great people up there. Coach [Terry] Stotts is a great coach and a good person. I have no complaints.”

No complaints? Not even the ones who once dubbed him “The Chalupa King” for supposedly his knack for scoring the 100th point, granting all fans in attendance a free Taco Bell Chalupa at the place formerly known as the Rose Garden?

“I don’t even think about that, honestly,” Babbitt responded. “I really don’t even spend a second thinking about that. You’re always going to have your negative and positive supporters. I have nothing bad to say. Great fans. Great basketball city.”

And on what he’ll take mostly from his experience playing for the Trail Blazers, he says simply playing with great players.

“Just being able to play with great players like LaMarcus [Aldridge], Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace. That’s just invaluable experience for me and it’s something I’ll remember,” he said.

“But right now, they are doing great. Obviously, they started off really hot. They’re playing great basketball overall. They’re great offensively, improving defensively from last year so it’s exciting for the city and the fans. They’re a young team still, so the sky’s the limit.”

Babbitt is currently averaging career-highs in points (5.3), rebounds (3.3), blocks (0.6), assists (0.8), and minutes (17.1).