Clingan ready to get to work in Portland

Bristol native Donovan Clingan saw a dream come true Wednesday night when the Portland Trail Blazers selected the former Bristol Central and UConn star with the seventh pick of the 2024 NBA Draft.

Ironically, the 7-foot-2 center’s first game in a Portland uniform will come against his former teammate. Stephon Castle was drafted fourth by the San Antonio Spurs. 

“Beyond proud of this dude! Love you for live bro,” Clingan wrote on X on Thursday.

Castle said this about Clingan on Instagram: “Proud of you brother, you deserve it.”

The Blazers and Spurs are scheduled to play each other in their first game of the 2024 Las Vegas Summer League on Saturday, July 13, at 6 p.m. at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Clingan is already buying into a big role on defense with Portland, which could use the help after ranking near the bottom of defensive efficiency rankings for the past decade, according to an article written by Casey Holdahl for the Blazers’ website.

“Something my mom (the late Stacey Porrini Clingan) always told me is defense wins ballgames, offense sells tickets,” Clingan said. “You’ve got to play great defense in order to win games and I want to win games. I’ll take a block off the backboard over a dunk any day of the week.”

Stacey would be proud of what her son has accomplished, and she’s always there.

“She was 6’4, great athlete, great basketball player but most important, she was a great mom,” Clingan said in an X post by The V Foundation. “She always was telling me the right things to do, always was making sure I was doing everything to keep my career and keep my head on track.”

Clingan and his family were introduced to the ones calling the shots in Portland before the big man’s introductory press conference.

“I really want to put the work in, I want to learn everyday to help this organization build from the bottom to the top,” Clingan said. “It’s a lot of hard work, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m willing to learn, willing to do whatever it takes for this team to win. I just want to learn.

“Whatever I have to do to help this team win, whether that’s offensively, defensively, just as a teammate, in the locker room, whatever it is, I’m going to give my all every single day.”

Another local twist

Waterbury native Ryan Gomes is one of three player development coaches on the Portland staff. Gomes, who played professionally in the NBA, NBA D-League and overseas, is in his first season with the Blazers. He previously coached with the Long Island Nets (G-League) and Kevin Ollie’s Overtime Elite.