NBA

Exclusive: Trail Blazers star happy with new defense-first identity

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Portland Trail Blazers center Joel Freeland says his impressive performances this year are the result of an off-season of hard work.

Speaking to GiveMeSport, the Team GB star revealed the improvements to his game - in particular his new-found defensive identity - has helped him secure more minutes on the court.

Freeland skipped the summer with Team GB in favour of individual workouts as he looked to improve upon an up-and-down debut season with the Trail Blazers.

He won praise from head coach Terry Stotts last month, and beat out 2012 lottery pick Meyers Leonard for the role of back-up center this season.

And Freeland believes the hard work in the off season is starting to pay off.

"It wasn't not playing for GB," said Freeland. "The whole thing was I needed to find my identity playing in this league.

"Last year I struggled a lot because I felt like I had to play in the same style as I do in Europe, trying to score more, post-ups and this league is completely different from playing in the European leagues."

Freeland was taken with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2006 draft, but he spent six years in the Liga ACB and Euroleague with Gran Canaria and Unicaja Malaga.

He signed a three-year contract with the Trail Blazers in July 2012, and played 51 games last year in the NBA - averaging 9.4-minutes-off the bench.

He's stepped up this season with a defined spot in the Trail Blazers rotation and is currently averaging 14.5 minutes-per-game this term.

"I found my identity was playing on the defensive end and everyone seems to be really happy with me. I took the summer and I realised who I was and what I had to be in this league, and I tried to keep my ego out of it.

"Me playing defence and helping the team, and not making rookie mistakes, knowing my rotations, playing more solid basketball, has finally given me more opportunity to get onto the court.

"And then hopefully from now on out I'll be able to get more confident on the offensive end and that will help further my career."

Joel Freeland and the Portland Trail Blazers take on Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls on Friday night/Saturday morning at 3am. Watch the game live or on-demand via NBA LEAGUE PASS at www.nba.tv

Topics:
Portland Trail Blazers
NBA

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