Terry Stotts

Blazers’ Corner: Mid-Season Analysis

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Mid-Season Analysis

The Portland Trail Blazers have officially hit the halfway point of the season and to say they have exceeded every expectation would be a massive understatement.  I projected them to win 45 games and even that felt like a bit of a reach compared to other predictions.  But here they sit near the top of the NBA standings with a 31-11 record.  So how have they gotten this far?

Health

Portland’s starting five has been the same for every game this season (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!).  The league has been hit hard with numerous injuries to key players and some how, the Blazers have been able to avoid the injury bug despite the fact that the team’s starters are still playing a lot of minutes (With the exception of Lopez, the other four starters are in the top 50 in minutes per game according to espn.com).

Trail Blazers Trio - NBAE-Getty Images
Portland has been lucky to avoid injuries so far this season. | (NBAE-Getty Images)

While health has never really been a concern for the current roster, there’s always that thought in the back of fan’s minds that someone will go down.  Maybe after all those years of injury after injury, the law of averages is in Portland’s favor.  They could use a break (poor choice of words).

The Offense

Ask any player if they would prefer to play in a structured offense with designed plays the majority of the time or a free-flowing style with improvisation and freedom and they’ll choose the latter every time.

Terry Stotts is an offensive-minded coach and he’s come to the conclusion that letting players do their thing, with a little bit of structure involved, is an effective game plan and it’s worked wonders so far.

Today’s NBA game is about 3-point shooting, ball and player movement on the perimeter and pick-and-roles and Portland leads the league in scoring (109.3 PPG), because they do all of these things really well.  These are the most efficient ways to score the basketball and the Blazers have made it their mission to focus on these areas.

LaMarcus Aldridge

Ironically, the team’s best player relies on taking mostly inefficient shots (the midrange jumper), but he may be the best in the world at it so it’s fine.

 | Photo by
LaMarcus Aldridge and his unguardable jumper. | (Getty Images)

Aldridge is having a career-year in scoring and rebounding by a wide margin and he’s been on a tear as of late (28.8 PPG, 15.8 RPG in his last five).  Despite Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews scoring better than they did a year ago, Aldridge has taken and made more shots than any other player in the league (Yes, even more than Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony).

Teams are rarely double-teaming Aldridge because of the shooters on the perimeter and this is allowing him to take his patented fadeaway jumper or work closer to the rim with his new and improved post moves.

There are only four guys in the league averaging 20 and 10 and LA is one of them. This is thanks in large part to Robin Lopez’s presence, but Aldridge has also made a concerted effort to crash the boards more on the offensive end (he has 20 in the last five games).

At the moment there are four MVP candidates; Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Aldridge.  Everyone already knew he was one of the top 15 players in the league, but a possible MVP?  Even being in the discussion speaks to the improvements he’s made in his game over the last few seasons.  Now the team is playing well and he’s getting some well-deserved national recognition.

Defense Still an Issue

Portland ranks 27th in points allowed at 103.5 PPG.  They sit 19th in overall opponent FG percentage and 3-point FG percentage which isn’t bad but isn’t exactly great for an aspiring elite team.

Wesley Matthews guarding Kevin Durant. -Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE
Matthews is one of the few committed to playing defense. | (Steve Dykes: US PRESSWIRE)

The real issue is points in the paint.  Despite the edition of Lopez in the middle, teams are still scoring at will near the basket.  Matthews is Portland’s only legit defender, (Batum is good, but a little overrated) and opposing players are getting around Portland’s guards with ease resulting in 47.6 PPG down low.  That’s second worst in the league and it accounts for 46 percent of opponent’s total offense against the Blazers.

Stotts’ perimeter philosophy on offense is working against the Blazers at the other end.  The scary part is Stotts changed the team’s defensive mindset to deter interior scoring after last year when they were dead last in points in the paint.  This season, there’s been a greater emphasis on the bigs hanging back on pick-and-roles in an effort to better protect the rim.  But they’re actually giving up more points than a year ago when undersized forward J.J. Hickson was forced to play center.

The defense has to improve if Portland has any notion of advancing in the playoffs.  Scoring points is fun, but stopping opponents consistently is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.

So far it’s been a fun and unexpected ride for the Trail Blazers.  They’re playing an entertaining brand of basketball.  Making the playoffs was the goal for this team entering the season, but now expectations are much bigger.  The national media has been waiting for them to eventually falter, but it hasn’t happened yet.  The next test will be sustaining this high level even longer and carrying that momentum into the playoffs where they haven’t been in four years.

 

 

 

Blazers’ Corner: Adversity, Rookie Debuts, Experimenting with Bench

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Portland No Longer Sneaking Up on People

If there’s one thing to take away from Portland’s recent slump (losing 4 of 7), it’s that the honeymoon of anonymity they enjoyed for the first two months of the season is gone.  Teams like Philadelphia and Sacramento remembered the drubbings they took at the hands of the surprise Blazers earlier in the season and they came prepared (guarding the 3-point line, doing work in the paint) in their victories.

Portland can expect this to continue moving forward as teams now have two months of game film to pore over.  But this can be said for every elite team in the league.  Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Indiana have all suffered multiple uncharacteristic losses recently and that’s a product of both attrition and in-season experience.

But an encouraging sign in Portland’s four losses recently is that they’ve all been by 4 points or less.  Winning close games tends to balance itself out as the season progresses and after enjoying a 13-1 record in games decided by 9 points or less, the Blazers are starting to see that the proverbial ball doesn’t always bounce their way.

Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews
Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews | (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Another positive to take away from the recent struggles is that the problems (shooting, turnovers) are correctible.  In the case of shooting, while teams have made it a point of emphasis to pay closer attention to the Trail Blazers on the perimeter, Portland is still getting good looks, they’re just not hitting them right now.

The turnover problem lately has been interesting.  Terry Stotts’ free-flowing offense involves a lot of improvisation in the passing game and teams are picking up on this by guarding the passing lanes better and getting deflections.  This disruption has caused the offense to be more vulnerable to fast-break baskets.  Nicolas Batum in particular has been guilty of a number of risky passes either in the lane or across the court that are not getting through.

Does the tighter defense mean Stotts will try to reign in the loose offense to avoid easy buckets at the other end?  My guess is no.  Why change your identity after it’s worked so well up to this point?  Portland is simply dealing with some adversity at the moment and how they deal with it may reveal how well and how prepared they are come playoff time.  It can’t always come easy.  Maybe this recent reality check is a good thing for the Blazers.

CJ McCollum Makes His Debut

CJ McCollum finally made his first appearance of the season on Wednesday night and despite a turnover early, the rookie appeared calm and cool under the bright lights.

In 14 minutes of action, the guard recorded 4 points on 2-of-5 shooting as well as 2 rebounds.  Nothing special, but he seemed to make a conscience effort to stay in control which will be important for him if he wishes to crack, and remain, in the rotation.  Stotts even ran a play for him out of a timeout that got McCollum his first NBA points which had to be a sigh of relief for the young player.

Perhaps McCollum can act as a perfect complement to Williams off the bench.  Williams likes taking risks and shooting early in the shot clock which can be good and bad at times and having a player like McCollum who’s more deliberate and methodical could be a nice change of pace.

Stotts Beginning to Experiment With Bench More

Coach Stotts has been tinkering with his player rotation lately.  First he began giving Meyers Leonard minutes in place of Thomas Robinson and the second-year center has played solid.  He grabbed 7 rebounds in just 12 minutes of work in a win against the Clippers on December 26 and he collected 8 points and 10 rebounds in a blowout win versus Charlotte.

Thomas Robinson - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Robinson was a spark off the bench on Wednesday night. | (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Another recent development is Dorell Wright being benched.  Wright just hasn’t been right (no pun intended) since a 5-for-5 3-point night in Philadelphia on December 14 and Stotts finally made the decision to put in Will Barton in the second quarter of Portland’s loss at Sacramento.  Barton actually hit the team’s first 3 of the game, but that was really all he did on Tuesday night.

The Orlando game saw the debut of McCollum and the emphatic return of Robinson.  Though his sudden inclusion in the rotation was probably more due to Orlando playing small ball, Robinson was a bundle of energy in 11 minutes.  He scored 6 points on 3-for-3 shooting (including an impressive put-back dunk) and he threw in 3 rebounds and a monster block.

All of these random sightings from normally anonymous players is a sign that Stotts is beginning to realize that it might be time to expand his normally strict 9-man rotation.  But it feels like a 6-man rotation as Mo Williams is the only player getting legitimate minutes off the bench.  Joel Freeland has been good in limited action, but Stotts hasn’t trusted other guys enough to give them consistent time.

But we are reaching the halfway point of the season and the starters are most likely beginning to feel the affects of the grind that is the NBA schedule.  McCollum returning will be beneficial, but the team will need more help from the bench as the season moves along.

Blazers’ Corner: Still Proving The Critics Wrong

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Team Passing Every Test

What separates a good team from a great team is one that can not only play their own style to win, but one that can adjust on the fly when what they normally do isn’t working.  The last two victories over the Pacers and Thunder are a prime example of Portland beginning to transition from being “a good little team,” to a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said it best following the team’s win over Oklahoma City.  “We played two different style teams — a rugged one with Indiana,  and another up-paced team with OKC,” Matthews said.  We are able to rise to the occasion.”

Perhaps the sign of a great team is one that can dictate the pace, but whether or not Portland is ready for that is beside the point.  They are winning regardless of the style, whether that’s slow grind-it-out performances over Phoenix and Chicago last month and on Monday night against Indiana or in a more fast-paced game against the Warriors, Knicks or Thunder.

Portland Trail Blazers - Getty Images
Portland emphasizing team ball during this impressive run. | (Getty Images)

They would prefer the ladder, but as Charles Barkley likes to say, “you live by the jump-shot and you die by the jump-shot.”  But Portland has won six of their last seven by shooting under 45 percent and have been consistently dominated in points in the paint.

So why do they keep winning?  There’s a number of factors.  For one, LaMarcus Aldridge is playing the best basketball of his career.  We’re just 19 games in and he’s already won a Player of the Week honor, put up a 30 and 20 game and become the first player this season to record at least 38 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 0 turnovers in the win against the Thunder.

While his overall shooting percentage is down a bit, it feels like any turnaround jump-shot or elbow jumper he takes is going in.  He’s also rebounding at a higher rate averaging 10 rebounds.  In fact, when he grabs at least 6 boards, the Blazers are 16-0 and when he doesn’t they’re 0-3.  When your best player is having a career-year, the team is going to win a lot of games.

Another factor is the presence of Robin Lopez in the middle with the key word being “presence.”  He’s not the fastest big-man or the most athletic, but he’s at the very least a seven-footer who can grab 8-10 rebounds, block or affect numerous shots and possess a halfway decent offensive game that keeps the defense honest.

Perhaps the biggest factor is that the team is slowly beginning to improve on the defensive end.  Ranking 16th in opponents points-per-game according to nba.com,  coach Stotts decided to implement a new defensive philosophy where the big-man sags off the perimeter player rather than go over the screen to help with the guard.  This means more emphasis on protecting the paint and while they are consistently being outscored down low, that’s more of a product of the offense focusing more on the perimeter.

There’s certainly room for improvement on the defensive end, particularly in guard penetration, but for now the team is holding its own on that end of the floor.  Maybe with time, the team can creep toward the top 10 in overall defense because at this point, it’s the only factor holding them back from being a true contender.

Terry Stotts Wins NBA Coach of the Month Award

When you coach your team to an 11-game winning streak in one calender month, there’s a good chance you’re going to get some recognition for it.  Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was indeed recognized for his great work in leading Portland to a 13-3 record in the month of November when he was named the Western Conference Coach of the Month by the NBA on Monday.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers-Training Camp
If my team were 16-3, I’d be smiling like that too. | (Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE)

Tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history, the run included impressive victories over Denver, San Antonio, Chicago and Golden State.  They also went 7-1 on the road with the only loss coming to those suddenly pesky Phoenix Suns.

Stotts becomes the sixth Blazers coach to win a Coach of the Month award, joining Jack Ramsay, Mike Schuler, Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy and Nate McMillan.  When asked about receiving the award, Stotts was quite humble and quick to credit those around him for the achievement.

“It feels good, but more than anything else, with awards like this, it’s a team award,” Stotts said.  “Player of the month, those guys are making the baskets.  But when you win an award like this, the players did a great job this month, my staff did a great job, we stayed healthy because of our health and performance department.  So this is definitely a team award.”

The team’s early success was mostly attributed to a soft schedule, but with back-to-back home wins against two title contenders (Indiana, Oklahoma City), Portland is answering every critic with resounding playoff-like performances.

Following the team’s win over OKC, Aldridge credited Stotts with allowing the players the freedom to play loose on offense and not “abusing” that freedom according to Aldridge.

So far Stotts’ is getting through to his players and the results have been phenomenal to say the least.  If this continues, Stotts will most certainly be in contention for Coach of the Year.

 

 

Trail Blazers Bounce Back With 113-98 Road Win Over Denver Nuggets

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DENVER – The story of the Portland Trail Blazers’ (1-1) 113-98 win over the hosting Denver Nuggets (0-2) is simply the win itself. Portland snapped a five year drought of failing to capture a victory in the mile high city, which dated back to the 2007-08 season.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Blazers’ forward LaMarcus Aldridge said of the win back in December of 2007. Aldridge missed the trip due to an injury at the time. “I stayed home and watched the game… in my theatre. And I haven’t won here since.”

Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge posts up against Denver’s J.J. Hickson. Hickson was acquired by the Nuggets this offseason from the Blazers. | (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Aldrdige had himself an impressive game all around, finishing 12-of-26 with 25 points and nine rebounds. However, the star of the show was guard Wesley Matthews who finished with his first double-double of the season collecting 21 points and 12 boards. Most impressive was his 7-of-13 shooting and 4-of-4 from three point range.

“Top to bottom, solid win for us,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said.

More importantly than snapping the mile-high drought, Portland captured its first win of the season. The Blazers now sit at the .500 mark with a tough remaining stretch ahead. Saturday the Blazers will host the San Antonio Spurs (2-0) then the Dwight Howard-led Houston Rockets (2-0) on Tuesday.

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Blazers Crushed 104-93 in Season Opener Against Suns

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After an incredibly exciting offseason, or so we thought, for the Portland Trail Blazers (0-1) a 104-93 opening night loss to the Phoenix Suns (1-0) has fans and analysts alike scratching their respective heads.

“œThe Phoenix Suns outplayed us,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “They were ready from the get-go. They got out and ran. All the things that we were working on, we had a setback today. Transition defense; we were slow reacting to that. Their guards did a good job of penetrating.”

Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers big man Robin Lopez drives to the hoop in the team’s loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Lopez finished the game 1-of-4 with three points and two rebounds | (Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

As was the issue last season, the Blazers’ bench failed to help out and a lack of depth sill seems present. Only two Portland players scored in double-digits – LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard – and the collective bench only managed 12 points.

“We were not ready,” Blazers SF Nicolas Batum said. “We can talk about how much better we are and all the things we want to do, but we’ve got to be ready. We had a good preseason. We had a good training camp. But the preseason is over.

“œThat was a good warning for us.”

Batum was the next leading scorer for the Blazers behind Aldridge and Lillard with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds.

Nicolas Batum
Blazers’ small forward Nicolas Batum dives for a loose ball against the Suns | (Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

But as has been mentioned, the two bright spots were Portland’s two stars in Aldridge and Lillard who finished with 28 and 32 points respectively. Should the Blazers find a way to get the rest of its players more involved, this team is talented enough to make a playoff push. It’s only game one.

“We have 81 more games — that was only one,” Batum said. “But we have to correct things now. We can’t wait.”

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Portland Trail Blazers Fall 89-81 in Preseason Opener

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Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers | (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

The NBA is back, and the Portland Trail Blazers started their exhibition slate with an 89-81 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Moda Center Monday night. It was a poor shooting game as both teams finished below 37 percent from the field and 20 percent from three.

DeAndre Jordan capitalized on the lack of LaMarcus Aldridge and the introduction of Robin Lopez to lead all players with 16 points. Jordan added eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals to own the spotlight Monday. The Clippers also had big showings from Blake Griffin (14 points), Willie Green (14 points, 4 assists) and Chris Paul (15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists).

The Blazers were led by once-again stellar efforts from Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard. Batum led the Blazers in scoring with 12 and Lillard added 11 and 6 assists. New addition Lopez started center, where he’ll work from during the season, and nearly earned a double double by scoring eight and picking up 10 boards.

From the bench, rookie from Cal Allen Crabbe scored six, rookie from Mississippi State Dee Bost scored seven, Will Barton scored seven and sophomore backup center Meyers Leonard scored ten and had six rebounds.

Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews | (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

The Blazers, in addition to missing Aldridge, were without the talents of new guard Mo Williams, offseason pickup Dorell Wright, and first-rounder C.J. McCollum.

Portland played the Clippers close, with a Crabbe put-back slam pulling the teams even early and Crabbe adding a three soon later that made it 28-27 Portland. However, 17 first-half turnovers made the going tough for the piecemeal squad.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”Well, it looked like a first exhibition game,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.[/gn_quote]

A bad pass by Aldridge’s replacement, Thomas Robinson, set up a Griffin dunk at the other end that made the Clippers lead 53-40.

Stotts is coaching the Blazers for his second year. The Clippers acquired a new coach in the offseason, Doc Rivers from Boston, and he has LA looking like a brand-new team from all reports. CSN columnist Dwight Jaynes said about as much after the game.

“Doc already has made a big impact on the defensive end and you know he’s going to insist on unselfish offense. This is going to be a juggernaut.”

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How High is Damian Lillard’s Ceiling?

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After the best rookie season in Portland since Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard is ready to improve on his award winning season and take the next step forward. As a rookie he quickly established himself as the jewel of the 2012 NBA Draft class winning every single rookie of the month award through the season. He finished 2012-13 with 19.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.1 RPG and a league-high 38.6 MPG.

While it’s hard to expect much more from the dynamic playmaker, there’s nothing holding Lillard back from surpassing even the wildest Blazer fans’ dreams.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard

But in order to become one of the NBA’s elite he’ll need to sure up a few aspects of his game. The first one being his three-point shooting. Lillard shot just .368 from deep, connecting on 185-of-503 attempts. At media day, Lillard addressed this issue and said it was something he was working on.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I want to shoot at least 40 percent from three,” Lillard said. “Field goal percentage should probably be higher than it was last year, so 48 percent, somewhere around there… hopefully.”[/gn_quote]

Finding a consistent deep range threat in Lillard would not only be vital to his own game, but would  do wonders as well for the team. Portland ranked 20th in the NBA last season in three point shooting at .353 and hasn’t been in the top-10 since 2008 when they had that Roy guy.

Roy not only helped with his dominant shooting but also his driving ability, which allowed sharpshooters to knock down shot after shot. While the Blazers don’t have the outside weapons now that they did then, they still have forward Nicolas Batum and shooting guard Wesley Matthews who are underrated threats.

Also, the arrival of lottery pick C.J. McCollum is still an unknown. McCollum has been listed as the Blazers’ backup shooting guard but being a top-10 pick he’ll definitely see serious minutes, especially if he can gel with Lillard. This article by Hoops Habit even projected that the duo could be one of the best in the NBA.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard | (Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Another area that Lillard will need to improve upon if he’s looking to join teammate LaMarcus Aldridge in the all-star game will be his assist-to-turnover ratio. Lillard’s 2.2 ATR, while not terrible, is hardly that of an elite point guard. Lillard had the 39th best ratio for players of his position last season behind guys nowhere near his skill level.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I haven’t even thought about the (assist-to-turnover ratio) numbers, but you don’t want to turn the ball over the same amount of times you did the previous season,” Lillard said. “Coming in, my priority is going to take better care of the ball. Hopefully, my assists will be up higher, and my turnovers will be lower.”[/gn_quote]

With how often Lillard has the ball in his hands, it’s no wonder that he’s going to have his fair share of turnovers. With added shooters (McCollum, free agent Dorell Wright) to the team, expect to see Lillard’s efficiency rise dramatically.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard | (Bruce Ely/Oregonian)

But being specific, what is the ceiling for Lillard? Is it a reserve all-star appearance? A starting role in the all-star game? An MVP? Has he already hit his peak and this all moot?

This will be another transition year as Lillard and Aldridge continue to build their on-court chemistry. Expecting anything above an all-star appearance is simply ludicrous. Should Lillard vastly improve on his weaknesses, as were discussed above, he could receive an all-star bid. Even that is an extreme stretch. I can easily name 10 guards better than Lillard.

  1. Chris Paul, Clippers
  2. Tony Parker, Spurs
  3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
  4. Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
  5. Rajon Rondo, Celtics
  6. Stephen Curry, Warriors
  7. James Harden, Rockets
  8. Dwyane Wade, Heat
  9. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
  10. Derrick Rose, Bulls

I list these in no particular order, but firmly believe that each is more proven than Lillard… at this point. That’s the key. At this point.

Who knows how Bryant or Rose will return from injury? Who knows if Harden will implode with a locker room cancer like Dwight Howard? Who knows how Parker will fare with an aging team around him? Will the dinosaur that is Wade move aside and let LeBron James steal the show in Miami completely? How will Rondo do with complete garbage surrounding him?

Lillard has the potential to make the top-5 of this list if all the pieces fall into place perfectly. That is, of course, for this next season. If we’re looking long-term Lillard easily projects to being a top-3 guard by the prime of his career.

Hopefully for Blazers fans all the pieces GM Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts have put in place are still there in a few years. And you know who I’m talking about… Mr. Aldrdige.

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Portland Trail Blazers Sign G Mo Williams

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Mo Williams
Mo Williams

Mo Williams has officially signed with the Portland Trail Blazers. The former Utah Jazz guard has agreed to terms on a two-year deal with a reported $5.4 million.

“As a player, Mo is an explosive scorer and willing facilitator,” General Manager Neil Olshey said in a release. “As a person, his character and professionalism will set an outstanding example for our young players on the court, in the locker room and in the Portland community.”

Williams joins an incredibly deep and talented point guard position for the Blazers. Along with superstar Damian Lillard, the Blazers have rookie C.J. McCollum and Earl Watson.

Williams has had an up-and-down career. After earning a spot in the 2009 All-Star game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Williams has not played a complete season averaging just 37.5 games per season and 28.5 starts per season. Williams made 46 appearances for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, starting each one and averaging 12.9 PPG and 6.2 APG.

“I’m very excited to be back with Mo again,” Head Coach Terry Stotts said. “He adds versatility, scoring and veteran leadership to the team.”

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Blazers Updates: Portland Doesn’t Offer Maynor, Aldridge Wants Out

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Terry Stotts (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)
Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts will have some big decisions to make
(Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

The Portland Trail Blazers are going to let go of Eric Maynor — a point guard the team acquired midway through last season. Maynor did all the things a backup to the Rookie of the Year was required to do, scoring 6.9 points and dishing out 4 assists per game in 27 outings in Portland, but the powers that be with the Blazers chose before Thursday’s draft not to extend the restricted free agent a qualifying offer.

The decision, GM Neil Olshey said, was based on financial concerns with the summer’s free agent market.

There’s also the matter of who the Blazers drafted that makes it a pretty wise decision. Though it will make it a young position, the drafting of C.J. McCollum to pair with 2013 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard will present a number of possibilities that are cheaper than hanging onto Maynor.

It’s not easy though to say goodbye to any Blazer who performs the way Maynor did perform in his short stint in Oregon. Portland fans are the best and recognize the hustle players put on the floor and excellence they embody off it more than almost anyone. Maynor especially played well as a member of Portland’s extremely stagnant bench which frequently finished games under double digits in points.

Also in Blazer news this week, All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge reportedly requested to get out of Portland — to either Dallas or Chicago. Jason Quick of the Oregonian said that Aldridge called Portland too small and boring.

The Blazers have started some work on those sorts of deals, what with Aldridge’s contract being up at the end of next year. However, Chicago is unwilling to part with Joakim Noah and that makes any current deal to the Bulls a “non-starter.”

Back in May, Aldridge was tentative to talk about his role in the future, saying that he thought they had a great team and that he looked forward to what their cap room could provide.

But his talk has escalated recently, starting with the week before the draft. His future is now anything but certain and his destined location is probably anywhere but Portland as the ruling factions of the Trail Blazers appear to be trying to get their money‘s worth from the last pieces of the team’s former championship aspiration.

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Blazers Want to “Play Faster” in 2013-14

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Terry Stotts (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)
Terry Stotts
(Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

With the drafting of guard CJ McCollum, the Blazers will have an incredibly talented backcourt.

Add in Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe to the mix with Rookie of the Year winner Damian Lillard and you get a very young, explosive group.

Portland’s projected two-deep next season:

  • Point Guard: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum
  • Shooting Guard: Wesley Matthews, Allen Crabbe

The Blazers needed to improve their depth and they did just that with the draft. Now they have a core group to cycle through with huge upside.

With this surge of young speedy talent, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts wants to see them starting using this to their advantage.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I would like to play at a little bit faster pace than we did last year,” Stotts said. “Having C.J., who is used to having the ball and pushing it up, (should help). There was a lot of pressure on Damian to try and do too much. The flow of the game was a little bit easier when we got (Maynor) at the end of the season. Hopefully with C.J., having multiple handlers, we’re able to pick up the pace and tempo at the offensive end.”[/gn_quote]

The Blazers could, of course, trade away Matthews to try and make room for McCollum in a starting role, but for the time being it’s safe to assume that they are comfortable with working him into more and more playing time.

Olshey has talked in the past about wanting to implement a more up-tempo style of offense, but he hasn’t had the horses yet to do it. Now Lillard won’t be worked into the ground like he was last season and the Blazers can actually use some rotation.

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