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Joel Freeland has entered the final year of his 3-year contract with the Portland Trail Blazers but doesn’t want that to deter his playing style.
The GB forward will become a free agent next summer but isn’t about to make any drastic changes to his game – which has received much praise from Portland teammates and media.
“Obviously it’s in my mind but at the same time I don’t want it to overtake the way I’m playing,” he said of the contract situation. “Of course I want to continue in the NBA but I don’t want to be caught trying to do stuff that I can’t do.
“I want to be level headed about it and really try to keep doing the things that I’m doing that’s made me valuable to this point; the defence, running the floor, helping the team win, not making mistakes, all these little things that not a lot of players like to do, I need to try and thrive off.”
So far this season, Freeland played in six minutes in the opening two games without scoring before missing the next two with a toe injury. However, he expects to return to action this week and believes Portland can go even further than last season’s effort of reaching the Western Conference semi-finals.
“I think we can achieve exactly what we achieved last season, if not more,” he claimed. “I wouldn’t say we’ve had a rough start to the season, but I feel like we’re still trying to find ourselves a little bit.
“We have a great team, we added Chris Kaman and Steve Blake who are great veteran players that are gonna help the team immensely. I just think we’re trying to find our feet at the moment and the sky is the limit for us, without question.”
The 27-year-old admits that the addition of Kaman will have an effect on his minutes but remains upbeat about the situation having admitted to enduring a tough first season in the NBA.
“We have Chris Kaman now, who’s going to be playing a lot of minutes from the 4 and the 5 so there’s going to be nights this year when I don’t get off the bench but I can’t dwell on that too much.
“I’ve got to continue what I’m doing and keep proceeding in the line I’ve been taking. Obviously it’s not the easiest thing in the world but at the same time I feel like the first year has prepared me for it,” he added.
“My first year, was definitely tough all round. I went through it before and I can go through it again.”
Freeland is doing all he can to make a lasting impression in Portland and even sacrificed National Team duty in the summer to play in the NBA Summer-League, which he feels proved beneficial.
“I decided to play because I feel like I needed to show my face here and I needed to show my commitment to the team in order to make my case for playing this year,” he admitted. “I feel it helped me a lot.
“It’s a different style of game to the NBA in general, but to run up and down and try to get ahead before the season starts as far as our defensive sets go and our offensive sets as well. Not a lot has changed since as far as our sets so that was definitely a good thing for me.”
Despite the ongoing battle for minutes, Freeland doesn’t regret making the jump to the NBA when he did and is prepared to fight to remain in the league as opposed to settling for a return to Spanish top flight, the ACB.
When asked whether he sometimes wished he was playing in Europe, the response was simple: “No, I don’t.”
“I played in that league for 6 years, it was a part of my career that I fully cherish but I felt like that if I didn’t make the step towards the NBA when I did, then I never would have made that step,” he continued.
“I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be here and play at this standard and experience it and hopefully I’m going to try to continue to stay here and get another contract for some years to come.”
The Trail Blazers exercised the option of forward Meyers Leonard but decided to let Thomas Robinson become a free agent in the summer by declining his 4th-year option. The duo are seen as Freeland’s main rivals in the battle for minutes under LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Kaman.
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