Portland Trail Blazers

LaMarcus Aldridge Reflects on Damian Lillard Relationship, Regrets About Blazers

San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge discussed his relationship with Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard in an interview published Thursday. 

Aldridge and Lillard played alongside each other in Portland for three seasons from 2012-13 through 2014-15, and Aldridge mentioned the struggles he had communicating with Lillard when they were teammates to Michael Pina of Vice Sports:

“It’s always tough for me to find that balance where I want to tell [Damian] not to do this or this is better. But I don’t want him to feel like I’m trying to hold him back from being who he wants to be. I do regret not talking to him at times, but also I feel like he was trying to find himself.”

Aldridge signed a free-agent deal with the Spurs in 2015 and has spent the past three seasons in San Antonio.

In addition to reflecting on the past with Lillard and the Blazers, Aldridge revealed that he has a better relationship with Dame currently:

“I would say him and I have learned more about each other since I left that would’ve helped us when I was there, so I’ve learned from that and I’m trying to be better and not worry if I come off a certain way, because I feel like when people know who I am as a person, they know I have no ill will. I’m more reserved, so I didn’t want to come off as trying to stifle his shine. I just got back in the corner and let him do his thing … I feel like if him and I communicated as much then as we do now, then things would’ve been totally different.”

Portland reached the playoffs in each of the final two seasons Aldridge and Lillard played together, and it made it to the second round in 2013-14.

Both players were named All-Stars in those two seasons as well.

Aldridge initially struggled upon leaving Portland, as his stats dipped significantly. He even requested a trade prior to this season.

After ironing things out with head coach Gregg Popovich, however, Aldridge has rebounded significantly.

With Kawhi Leonard missing most of the season due to injury, Aldridge has returned to All-Star form and is averaging 22.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for a Spurs team that is fifth in the Western Conference.

Lillard is having a great year as well with 26.8 points, 6.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds per contest, and he has pushed the Blazers into third in the Western Conference on the strength of an eight-game winning streak.

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Georgios Papagiannis Reportedly Agrees to 10-Day Contract with Trail Blazers

Free-agent center Georgios Papagiannis and the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly agreed to terms Tuesday on a 10-day contract, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski

The Sacramento Kings waived Papagiannis at last month’s trade deadline after they rolled the dice on him with 13th pick in the 2016 draft. 

As a rookie, the Greek big man was largely an afterthought until the Kings gave him more playing time late in the 2016-17 season. Papagiannis finished the year averaging 5.6 points on 54.9 percent shooting and 3.9 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game.

Papagiannis opened his second NBA season buried on the Kings’ depth chart behind Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, and Zach Randolph’s arrival in free agency muddied the frontcourt picture even more. As a result, he played an average of 7.4 minutes per night in just 16 games

His most productive time came with the G League’s Reno Bighorns. In 10 appearances for the Kings’ minor league affiliate, Papagiannis averaged 13.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 27.1 minutes per game. 

Thus far, all evidence suggests Papagiannis remains a major work in progress. But with a smooth mid-range jumper and decent pick-and-roll instincts, the 20-year-old eventually could morph into a steady contributor if the Blazers decide to extend his stay and devote resources to his long-term development. 

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Damian Lillard Met with Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen to ‘Spark That Urgency’

Damian Lillard‘s meeting with Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen turned into a discussion of how the franchise can join the ranks of the Western Conference’s elite teams.

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Lillard noted he wanted to open up a line of communication with Allen to see if they can improve the entire organization:

“It was just me showing urgency, spark that urgency, figure out, ‘OK, what do we have to do?’ We’re a five, six seed. What do we got to do to make the jump? If you don’t have a line of communication with people who can make the changes or the people who can make impact for things happening for the better, then you’re just going out there playing.”

ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported in January that Lillard and Allen met for nearly an hour at Moda Center before a game against the Indiana Pacers

Haynes noted Allen “feared” Lillard was going to request a trade leading up to the meeting, but it wound up leading to the three-time All-Star reaffirming his place with the Trail Blazers and “to gain assurances that the organization was just as devoted to expeditiously crafting a title-contending team.”

Lillard signed a five-year contract extension through the 2020-21 season in July 2015. He’s been with the Blazers since they drafted him No. 6 overall in 2012. 

Portland entered the All-Star break as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference with a 32-26 record. The team has made the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons but hasn’t advanced beyond the second round. 

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Damian Lillard Drops 50 Points in 3 Quarters in Blazers’ Win over Kings

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard scored 50 points in just three quarters in the Blazers’ 118-100 rout of the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center Friday night.

Michael Wagaman of the Associated Press passed along comments from Lillard about why he didn’t ask head coach Terry Stotts for more playing time.

“I saw we were up 20, and I was like, ‘OK, if we keep this lead, there’s really no reason to go back in there,'” he said. “I’d rather have a 50 in 29 minutes with some character than go out there and chase 60. I feel like that’s bad karma.”

Lillard connected on 16 of his 26 shots from the field, including eight of 13 attempts from beyond the three-point line. He was also a perfect 10 of 10 from the free-throw stripe.

The 27-year-old Weber State product added six assists, three steals and a rebound as part of the dazzling display. Maurice Harkless was the team’s second-leading scorer, recording 15 points.

Kings head coach Dave Joerger joked about his squad’s inability to keep the dynamic point guard in check, per Wagaman: “We did a super job on [Lillard] in the fourth quarter.”

Lillard’s performance moved him into a virtual tie with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook for seventh in the NBA in scoring, with 25.5 points per game.

He will look to continue his hot shooting Sunday night, when the Blazers return to Moda Center to face the Utah Jazz.

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Noah Vonleh Reportedly Traded to Bulls from Blazers for Milovan Rakovic

Noah Vonleh hasn’t lived up to expectations since he was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and the Portland Trail Blazers reportedly moved on from him Thursday.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Portland traded Vonleh and cash to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Milovan Rakovic.

Wojnarowski noted the Trail Blazers are now under the luxury-tax threshold and received a $3.5 million traded player exception as well.

Vonleh enters restricted free agency this coming offseason, so the Bulls are not locked into him long term should they choose to move on in the future.

While he is only 22 years old and showed enough promise to be a top-10 draft pick coming out of Indiana, Vonleh has struggled to establish himself at the NBA level. He averaged 3.6 points a night in 33 games with the Trail Blazers this season and has never scored more than the 4.4 points per game he averaged last season.

He is a solid rebounder, tallying 5.1 per game thus far this season. He can help a Chicago squad that is a mere 20th in the league with a minus-1.2 rebounding differential, per ESPN.com.

Still, this is a Bulls team that is in full-on rebuild mode after trading Jimmy Butler during the past offseason. Chicago is 18-35 and likely has its attention more on the upcoming draft than the remainder of this season.

Vonleh is a young piece who now figures to have the opportunity to prove himself in a new city. If he starts to turn things around and lives up to the expectations that accommodate a top-10 pick, the Bulls may opt to sign him to an extension when the time comes.

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Blazers Trade Rumors: Portland Rejecting Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum Offers

The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly rejecting trade offers for their star-studded backcourt.

On Monday, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported Portland is turning down inquiries regarding Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum even though “some folks have pitched deals centered around” the latter.

Lowe specifically mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers as a potential trading partner for McCollum. However, he noted Kevin Love and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets‘ first-round pick figures to be too heavy a price for Cleveland to pay, while replacing Love with Tristan Thompson in the package might not be enough for the Trail Blazers.

This comes after Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reported Jan. 23 that Lillard met with team owner Paul Allen to discuss the organization’s direction. Haynes noted Allen was worried Lillard would ask for a trade, but that never materialized.

Even if the Trail Blazers don’t move Lillard or McCollum before Thursday’s trade deadline, they could deal from elsewhere on the roster. Lowe pointed to the fact they are $3 million over the tax, granting “when a non-contender gets that close, it usually tries to duck it.”

He said wingman Maurice Harkless is a possible trade piece, considering he will make about $11 million per season through 2020.

Portland may not be a title contender, but it is 29-25 and tied with the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed. It is just one game behind the fifth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder but a half-game ahead of the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and one game ahead of the ninth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

There is an opportunity to move up in the standings and avoid a disastrous first-round matchup or fall out of the playoffs entirely, depending on how it plays down the stretch.

Keeping Lillard and McCollum figures to be critical in the postseason push, since they are the two go-to playmakers and leading scorers at 25.1 and 21.8 points per game, respectively.

What’s more, Lillard is 27 years old and McCollum is 26, and both are under contract until 2021.

Barring an unbelievable offer, it appears as if the Trail Blazers will keep their franchise cornerstones.

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CJ McCollum Drops 50 Points as Trail Blazers Rout Bulls

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum broke a franchise record for points in a quarter on his way to scoring a career-high 50 points in Wednesday’s 124-108 win over the Chicago Bulls.

McCollum scored 28 in the first quarter alone, setting a Blazers record and NBA season high for points in a quarter. He knocked down 11 of his 14 shots and outscored the Bulls by nine points in the frame.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts sat McCollum for nearly the first seven minutes of the second quarter, but he didn’t cool off during the lengthy break. He went into halftime with 32 points and came out with another 18-point quarter in the third, reaching 50 points in only 29 minutes.

Stotts was just about the only person who could slow McCollum down Wednesday night.

The Blazers coach again sat his red-hot guard at the beginning of the fourth quarter and kept him on the bench as the Portland reserves maintained a massive lead. No Blazer played more than 30 minutes. With a three-game road trip beginning Friday night in Toronto, Stotts’ decision to limit McCollum’s minutes is understandable, especially after he reached an even 50 points.

The Blazers have won seven of their last eight games dating back to mid-January. Keeping McCollum on the floor in a blowout wouldn’t be in the best long-term interest of the team.

Hypothetically, though, it’s fair to wonder how many points McCollum could have scored. He and Klay Thompson are the only two players since 1963-64 to score 50 or more points in less than 30 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.

McCollum might have gone for 60 or even 70 had he played 40-plus minutes. Instead, he just became the seventh Blazer in history to drop 50 or more points in a game. 

Not bad for three quarters of work. 

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Rip City Visits McCornack Elementary

10-27 blazer pkcEUGENE, Ore. — Eugene usually goes green and yellow for game day, but Monday it was all about the red and black.

Portland Trail Blazers representatives, along with Blaze the Trail Cat and members of the Blazer Dancers were at McCornack Elementary.

It’s all part of the statewide Rip City Relay, ahead of the team’s season opener.

Blazers representatives, along with Mayor Kitty Piercy, raised a Rip City flag, then took over a school assembly.

The weeklong journey ends at the Moda Center.

The Blazers play Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 29.

Blazers’ Corner: The Last Time Portland Won a Playoff Series

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Making the Playoffs, Great… But When Was the Last Time Portland Won a Series?

IN THE YEAR 2000.  IN THE YEAR 2000!!!!  Sorry, not only was I having a flashback to Late Night with Conan O’Brien, but I was also thinking about the last time the Portland Trail Blazers actually won a playoff series.

Blazers Jazz Playoffs - AP-Kevork Djansezian
The last time Portland won a series, Arvydas Sabonis and Karl Malone were battling in the paint. | (AP:Kevork Djansezian) 

That’s right, it’s been that long.  To put it in perspective, every other team in the Western Conference has managed to win at least one series in that span.  This includes some pretty terrible LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors teams in the mid-00s.  But even they managed to have one year where they broke through (LA in ’06, Golden State in ’07 shocking the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks).

Because it’s been so long, I thought I’d take a look back at what was popular/normal in THE YEAR 2000 just to depress Blazers fans even more reiterate how long it’s been.  All of these stats and facts were taken from thepeoplehistory.com.

Price of Gas:  $1.26

Wow, just wow.  The less said the better with this one.

Tiger Woods becomes the youngest player to win a Grand Slam in Golf

And we all thought he was well on his way to passing Jack Nicklaus and becoming the greatest of all time.  Instead, the Mrs. decides to take up the game by using Tiger’s head as a golf ball uncovering a web of lies on Tiger’s part.  He hasn’t been the same since all the infidelity stopped.  Think about that for a second.

The 2000 Presidential Election ends with George W. Bush defeating Al Gore despite more than a month of disputes of the final tally in Florida

Bush vs Gore - Rick McKay
It was too close to call in 2000. | (Rick McKay)

Now this was a mess.  We all thought Bush had won and then the “Hanging Chad” joined the lexicon delaying the inevitable.  This event will forever be immortalized by this gentlemen.  Never has an individual been more confused about anything ever.

Y2K

Guess what?  The lights stayed on, Skynet did not become self-aware and mass hysteria did not occur as dogs and cats remained somewhat agitated by one another.

51 Million viewers watch the first season finale of the reality show Survivor

Thus beginning the horrible, brain-cell killing, thought-it-was-a-fad-but-really-it’s-here-to-stay epidemic that is reality television.  Can you tell I don’t watch any of it?

Popular Music 

The Dandy Warhols - bbook.com
The Dandy Warhols! Remember them. | (bbook.com)

You had your boy bands (N-Sync, 98 Degrees, Backstreet Boys), female pop stars (Britney Spears, Pink, Christina Aguilera), indie bands going mainstream (Red Hot Chili Peppers), emerging UK rock giants (Coldplay) and a Pacific Northwest band creatively named The Dandy Warhols.

Popular Movies

It’s hard to follow a great movie year like 1999 (The Matrix, Fight Club, Office Space, American Beauty, The Green Mile, Three Kings, Election, etc..) and unfortunately, 2000 is not remembered fondly.  Sure you had Gladiator, Traffic, Wonder Boys (I threw that in myself.  It wasn’t popular) and Meet the Parents, but there was also bad blockbusters like Mission: Impossible II, Scary Movie and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

What was I doing in 2000

I can tell you what I wasn’t doing yet:

Driving with a license, smiling with my new straight teeth, graduating high school, discovering Arrested Development and breaking free of those totally awkward teenage years.

Blazers Team - Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports
A successful season for the Blazers is a series win in the playoffs. | (USA TODAY Sports: Kyle Terada) 

Why have I spent this entire Blazers column not talking about the Blazers?  Because I’m 30 now and I just realized they didn’t win a series in my 20s.  That’s how long it’s been since Portland won a playoff series.

Making the playoffs is great.  Portland has done it in 30 of their 44 seasons which is something the organization should be proud of.  But they’ve only managed to win at least one series in 9 of those 30 appearances.  They’ve lost in the first round in 9 out of their last 11 trips to the post season.

Is this the year they get over the hump?  And by hump I mean winning one series.  Blazer basketball in May, that’s all fans are asking for at this point.  Just a hint at the possibility of a team that might eventually be good enough to go deep in the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blazers’ Corner: Portland’s Late Season Struggles Seem Familiar

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What it is with the Blazers and the second-half to seasons?  Since the beginning of February, Portland is the only Western-Conference playoff team with a losing record at 13-14.  More recently, they’ve three of four and seven of ten.  Their star player, LaMarcus Aldridge, has been out the majority of this rough stretch, but if you’ve followed the team for a while, you know that All-Star player or not, this team always struggles to close regular seasons.

1999-20 Season

Ah yes, the last great Portland team.  Despite ultimately getting to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers in game 7 (I apologize for bringing this up), Portland did not enter the playoffs on a particularly high note.

 

Portland Trail Blazers
Portland lost to the Lakers three straight years in the playoffs in the early 2000s. | (nba.com)

If you recall  on Leap Year Day in 2000, Portland and the Lakers played at the Rose Garden with matching 45-11 records and 11-game winning streaks.  Anyone who followed the league knew these were the best two teams in the NBA and when they inevitably met in the conference finals, the winner would go on to win the championship.

They eventually lost a 90-87 heartbreaker and the tailspin began.  They would go 14-12 the rest of the way and while it didn’t prevent them from reaching the conference finals (they easily dispatched the T-Wolves and Jazz going 7-2 in both series), they did not have home-court when they played Los Angeles which may or may not have played a factor in that series (they lost two home games and won two road games in that series anyway).

2000-01 Season

The very next season, the team was rolling again.  Following a drubbing of the Golden State Warriors on March 3, the team stood at 42-18.  Things were going so well, they decided to bring more depth to the team by adding an aging Rod Strickland.  As it turned out, he was not the final piece to the puzzle.

A five-game losing streak followed, including two losses to the lowly Vancouver Grizzlies, Shawn Kemp got busted for drugs and left the team and the Blazers went 8-14 the rest of the way.

Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells - sikids.com
Portland was often frustrated late in seasons. | (sikids.com)

Despite finishing with 50 wins, Portland’s limp into the playoffs managed to get them the 7th seed and another matchup with the Lakers.  There was no exciting, long series this time around as the Blazers were swept by the eventual champs in three blow-out losses.  Oh, and they fired head coach Mike Dunleavy after the season.  The same guy who won Coach of the Year with the team two years earlier.

2001-02 Season

From mid-February to mid-March, the Blazers were actually playing really well.  At the All-Star break, the Blazers were an average team at 25-23.  But then they reeled off 18 wins in 22 games and were riding high at 44-27.

They then preceded to go 4-6 in the last ten games, finish as the 6th seed and once again got swept 3-0 by the eventual Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.  It’s a smaller sample size, but it’s still noteworthy.

2002-03 Season 

Another strong start and an average finish.  After winning 7 of 9, the Blazers sat at 39-20 on March 2 and possibly had one more deep playoff run in them with aging stars like Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis.  But once again, the team struggled heading into the post season.

Portland went 11-12 to finish the regular season, met Dallas in the first round as a 7th seed and after being down 3-0 in the series, the Blazers rallied and took the Mavericks to a game 7 in Dallas (the first team in NBA history to force a game 7 after being down 3-0).

But the team would run out of gas in the fourth quarter of the deciding game and eventually lose 107-95.  That was a competitive team with Zach Randolph coming into his own and Bonzi Wells playing the best basketball of his career (remember his 45 points in game 2?).

If only they had had that fire in the last quarter of the season?  They could have gotten home-court advantage and played Dallas four times in the Rose Garden.

2007-08 Season

This team brings back fond memories.  Expected to still be in rebuilding mode, the 07-08 team looked like it was headed there after a 5-12 start.  But then Portland did the unthinkable and won 13 consecutive games and 19 of 21.  On January 14, they were a solid 23-14 behind strong play from a couple of young studs (Brandon Roy and Aldridge), the Vanilla Guerilla Joel Przybilla and the irrationally clutch Travis Outlaw.

Travis Outlaw - wallcoo.net
Travis Outlaw was Mr. Clutch with the Blazers. | (wallcoo.net)

The honeymoon would not last however as the young pups would go 18-27 the rest of the way.  But it was fun while it lasted.

Recent History  

The following two seasons ended with a thud.  The 2011-12 team had expectations going into the season with Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace and newly acquired Jamal Crawford and Raymon Felton as well as rumors of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden’s return.

Yeah… about that.  Felton came in to training camp out of shape, Crawford went from being a streaky shooter to just plain awful, Camby got old overnight, Roy and Oden never played for Portland again and coach Nate McMillan was eventually fired.  The 66-game lockout season is not a fond memory.

And that brings us to last season.  Everyone remembers the 13-game losing streak to end the season, but do you remember that team was 20-15 at one point after beating the Miami Heat at home?  That doesn’t sound like an impressive record, but last year’s team essentially had five players worth a damn.

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns, Game 2
The last two months have been frustrating. | (Getty Images)

It’s because of this that the starters played too many minutes, broke down and the team went 13-34 (yikes?) the rest of the way.  After the win against the Heat, Portland lost six straight games where the margin of defeat was never greater than six.  This gut-wrenching stretch doomed them the rest of the way.

So as you can see, Portland apparently believes in the adage; it’s not how you finish, but how you start.  This season has followed the same formula and unless the Blazers right the ship quickly, they’re in danger of joining a long list of teams that had unmemorable playoff runs.

 

 

 

 

 

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