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From the Elbow #19: Crabbe Dribble

In pre-season, Blazers rookie Allen Crabbe is fighting for minutes and finding his way as a pro—all while strapped to a Minnie Mouse backpack.

Allen Crabbe is a pretty laid back dude. It makes sense, considering he was born and raised in Los Angeles, and spent three years playing college basketball in Berkeley—two cities notorious for fostering chilled-out men and women of all types.

One of two Blazer rookies who will be on the Opening Night roster for 2013-14, Crabbe's laid back demeanor was in full effect following his team's first game of the exhibition season, a lackluster loss to a LA Clippers team that featured, among their many regular stars, the grandson of Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan

Crabbe spent nearly a minute adjusting the cuffs of his long-sleeved, pink colored dress shirt—picked out to match the pink Minnie Mouse backpack he's been forced to carry around as part of the NBA's rookie hazing rituals—before facing a small gathering of local media, interested in asking him about his first full run as part of a professional basketball team.

In a game that featured 21 Blazer turnovers and more than a few stumbles on both offense and defense, Crabbe provided one of the few high points. And he was more than willing to talk about it.

"Overall, I feel like I did pretty solid," Crabbe said of his first NBA experience. "The more I was in the game the more comfortable I felt. I wasn't really too nervous, the game felt pretty comfortable."

But Allen Crabbe's rookie season will be about more than just one game or one stretch of inspiring play. Taken number 31 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, Crabbe finds himself in a rather unenviable position. 

The 31st selection of the draft is the first selection in the second round. One pick earlier, and Crabbe would have been signed to the kind of rookie contract enjoyed by lottery picks like Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum—deals with a little more security and a lot more money.

To make matters worse, following the addition of Crabbe on draft day, Blazer General Manager Neil Olshey added a couple veteran players who are very likely to take minutes that may have otherwise gone to Crabbe. 

In a sense, Crabbe will be fighting his experienced teammates for minutes while simultaneously fighting to prove to Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts that he belongs on the court. And this is where a laid-back attitude can come in handy.

"I'm just trying to stay in my element. As the season goes on I'll be more comfortable then I can talk to [management] about that type of stuff," Crabbe said of his outlook on the future. "But right now, I'm just doing whatever they ask me to do. [When] the opportunity comes I'm going to go out there and play hard."

Opportunity, as luck has it, may come sooner than Crabbe expected. McCollum, the Blazers' newest high profile rookie, will start the 2013-14 season on the sidelines. The Lehigh guard broke a bone in his foot during training camp, and though he was around for the Blazers' preseason opener, he was in street clothes walking on crutches with his foot in a boot.

Though Crabbe and McCollum don't play the same position, there will be minutes available, and they are Crabbe's for the taking. Answering the call when opportunity knock is just the thing that will get a rookie near the bottom of the depth chart noticed by his head coach.

"Young players I've been around who have gone on to succeed just keep at it," Stotts said. "When their opportunity comes, they're ready for it."

Will trying to be prepared for a big opportunity put extra pressure on a player like Allen Crabbe, adding extra stress to the already stressful transition from college All-American to lower-rung NBA rookie? Terry Stotts doesn't think so.

"It's different for every player, I'm sure some players feel more pressure than others, but from my standpoint the only pressure is for him to come out every day and compete and improve, and learn from mistakes," Stotts said. "He's in a position where he's going to be able to continue to improve as a player and it's going to help his career."

Again, a good attitude goes a long way to alleviate stress:

"When the opportunity comes I have to live up to the expectations," Crabbe said. "I just got to go out there and play basketball."

And it's not like Crabbe doesn't have other things to worry about too. Spotted leaving the Blazers' suburban practice facility on foot following the team's first day of training camp, Crabbe said he's currently living with a friend and the two of them are sharing a car.

Without a lottery pick payday, Crabbe has to pay a little more attention to where his money goes.

“Financially, everything is stable. You just got to be smart the first couple of months,” Crabbe said. “I’ve got to prioritize, get things that I really need. A car can wait.” 

For now, Crabbe can expect to see a lot of court time during the Blazers' exhibition season. Newcomers Dorell Wright, Mo Williams and Earl Watson, veterans with 33 NBA seasons under their combined belt, are being brought along slowly after sustaining injuries in training camp. LaMarcus Aldridge, also an injury victim, was held out of the Blazers' first preseason game too.

As the new look Blazers continue to work on coming together as a unit, Crabbe will likely be right in the mix.

"I think Allen is figuring it out," Stotts said. "He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, he's a smart player. He's usually in the right place at the right time. He's been a pleasant surprise as a young player."

For Crabbe, those are marching orders he can follow.

"I'm just trying to make improvements each and every game," Crabbe said. "Hopefully, next game, when I'm out there, I can just continue improving."

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