Mo Williams

Blazers’ Corner: McCollum’s Debut Imminent, Former Blazer Suspended

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CJ McCollum Getting Healthy at the Right Time

Update:  According to Yahoo Sports, McCollum is expected to make his NBA debut on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings following a weekend trip to the D-League.

On Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers announced that they had assigned rookie guard CJ McCollum to their NBA Development League affiliate.  Usually when a player is sent to the “minor leagues,” it’s an indication that the player is struggling and needs to improve his game and confidence against lesser opponents.

But in the case of McCollum, this is good news.  The former No. 10 pick in last June’s NBA draft fractured his left foot for the second time in training camp and has yet to play a single minute in the Association.  The fact that he’s been cleared to play in five-on-five competitive basketball is a sign that he’s close to making his debut for the Blazers.

Atlanta Hawks v Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum in Summer League Action. | (Jack Arent / Getty Images)

And his inevitable debut couldn’t come at a better time.  For as much credit GM Neil Olshey received for the moves he made to improve the bench, so far, the reserves actually haven’t been that much better than last year’s atrociously and historically bad bunch.

According to hoopsstats.com, Portland’s bench is averaging just 23 PPG which is good for third worst in the NBA.  Last year’s infamous squad averaged 18.5 PPG.  Not that big of a difference.  Adjusted per 48 minutes and the so-called improved bench is only averaging 3 points more (16.4) than last year’s team (13.4).

Of course the bench has to play in order to produce and coach Terry Stotts appears to have visions of last year ingrained in his brain.  Portland is fourth in the league in total minutes logged by the starters and this has resulted in 79 percent of the team’s league-leading 108.2 PPG coming from the usual five.  Imagine how many more points they would produce if they had a consistent scorer off the bench.

Mo Williams, who was expected to be that scorer in the second unit, is the only bench player averaging more than 20 minutes a contest and it drops off considerably after that (Joel Freeland; 14:50 MPG, Dorell Wright; 13:37 MPG).

Williams has struggled as of late resulting in his 3-point game dropping to 35 percent and his overall shooting dipping below 40 percent.  For as streaky as he is thought to be, his career shooting numbers are actually pretty decent (38.5 from 3, 44 overall).  He had a nice night against Charlotte (15 points, 10 assists, 6-9 shooting).  That’s a start.

Wright has been even worse lately.  After going 5-for-5 from 3-point range in a victory over Philadelphia on December 14, Wright is just 12-for-36 since.  His unmemorable performance in Oklahoma City (8 minutes, 0 points, 0-2 shooting) had me saying, “can we see Allen Crabbe get some run.”

Long story short, McCollum getting in Portland’s rotation can’t come soon enough.  Any question about whether he could after the team’s hot start have been erased in the last two weeks.  Yes, the team scores a lot of points, but they need more from that second unit.

Former Blazer Andre Miller Suspended

Former Blazers point guard and fan-favorite Andre Miller was suspended two games by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.  The suspension comes a day after Miller was involved in a heated confrontation with Nugget’s head coach Brian Shaw during the first half of the team’s loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.  At one point, Miller had to be restrained by his fellow teammates in full view of the fans.

Andre Miller - David Richard : USA TODAY Sports
Andre Miller is having a season to forget. | (David Richard / USA TODAY Sports)

 

Denver was in the midst of suffering their eighth-consecutive loss and Shaw was trying any combination of players to end the slide.  Unfortunately Miller was not in consideration.  The veteran point guard was no doubt irked at the fact that not only did his 239 consecutive games streak end, but it was also the first DNP-Coach’s Decision of Miller’s career.

This isn’t the first time Miller has gotten into it with a head coach.  If Blazer fans recall, Miller had a similar shouting match with former coach Nate McMillan almost three years ago to the day.  At least Miller had the courtesy of undermining McMillan in practice rather than during a game.

A former first round draft pick back in 1999, Miller should obviously know better at this point in his career.  That being said, it still didn’t make sense for Shaw not to at least put him in the game.  The Sixers were seemingly in control for most of the night, but the Nuggets were still in reach.  Miller has been a savvy and underrated player wherever he’s been and he would have been effective against Philly’s young guards.

It’s been a frustrating year for Miller as he is averaging career-lows across the board.  If Denver has no more use for him, perhaps Portland can hire him as an alley-oop consultant.

Blazers’ Corner: Defense Still a Concern, Batum Unhappy About Triple-Double, Williams Mistaken for Children’s Author

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Defense Still an Issue for Trail Blazers

Well we’re four games into the NBA season and the Blazers stand at a very respectable 2-2.  Following a demoralizing performance in the season opener at Phoenix, the Blazers bounced back with impressive victories over the Denver Nuggets (In Denver no less, a place they never win) and the defending Western-Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs.  They followed up those wins with a loss against the much-improved Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

Before the season began; the coaches, players and management were all preaching defense as the area they were most focused on improving from a year ago.  Through four games however, there hasn’t been much progress made on that end of the floor.

The Blazers' Big Three - Sam Forencich:Getty Images
Defense is still a priority for the Blazers. | (Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

The team has given up an average of 52 points in the paint through four games and that is good for second worst in the entire league.  With the exception of the Denver game, Portland is giving up 51 percent shooting in the other three games and that’s primarily due to the poor interior defense.  The fact that they’re 2-1 in those games speaks to how well the offense has performed so far this season.

But if the Trail Blazers want to win games, they can’t trade baskets.  Eventually they’ll have to consistently make stops.  The alarming thing to think about is that the majority of points they are giving up have been in the half-court.  Other than the Phoenix game, Portland has done a pretty good job against fast-break points so the biggest weakness has been defending the paint in a set defense.

To be fair, they have had to deal with a number of talented guards including the suddenly dynamic duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Ty Lawson, Tony Parker, James Harden and Jeremy Lin in their four games.  So is the early-season struggles in the paint due to poor play or because of great opposition?  It’s too early to tell, but at least so far, defense continues to be the biggest crux of this team.

Nicolas Batum Records Triple-Double in Strange Way

NBA players would be lying if they said they don’t pay attention to their stats.  Basketball, like baseball, is a stats-driven league and players are always aware of scoring milestones, double-doubles and FG percentages.

Another statistical feat is the triple-double where a player records at least 10 in three different categories.  It’s a sign that a player excelled in multiple areas of a particular game.  Blazers’ forward Nicolas Batum achieved the triple-double twice last season and in the waning moments of the team’s game against San Antonio, he was two points shy of recording another one.

But with the team up seven with only a few seconds left, it wasn’t necessary, or honorable, to score another basket.  It’s one of those unwritten rules that a player doesn’t try to pad his stats when the game is basically over.

Nicolas Batum (Getty Images)
Nicolas Batum | (Getty Images)

 

And yet when Damian Lillard received the inbound pass, he tossed the ball to Batum who dribbled past half-court and harmlessly threw up a long 3-point shot that went in.  As soon as it happened, Batum looked like a dejected child after being told there was no Santa Claus.  Tim Duncan had his hands in the air with a face that read, “what are you doing?”

Batum knew what he had done was wrong and after the game he said as much.  To their credit, the Spurs didn’t seem too upset about it.

“Why would I be mad at that?” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.  “He’s a good kid.  I don’t care.”

It was certainly an awkward and bizarre end to the Blazers’ win and what Batum did was probably wrong, but he was at least contrite about it.  We’ve seen much more selfish stat-whores in the past (see Ricky Davis and Andray Blatche).  But at the end of the day it’s still a triple-double whether Batum wants it or not.

Mo Williams Mistaken for Children’s Author

JJ Abrams is one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood right now.  Having directed the two most recent Star Trek films and now in charge of Star Wars returning to the big screen, it’s safe to say he’s one of the most influential names in the entertainment business.

Eager to work with as many creative people as possible, Abrams recently attempted to contact children’s author Mo Willems to not only compliment him on his work after Abrams’ son had made him aware of the author, but to also create a business relationship that might lead to a collaboration at some point down the road.

After getting on the phone with the person he thought was Willems, Abrams was understandably confused following the conversation.

Mo Williams - AP Photo:Rick Bowmer
Mo Williams | (AP Photo: Rick Bowmer)

“He was quiet on the phone, almost monosyllabic, disinterested.  Frankly it was a bit of an odd reaction.  It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered that I had, in error, called Mo Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers.”

Why didn’t Williams simply tell Abrams that he didn’t write any children’s books during their conversation?  Because Williams coincidentally has had aspirations about writing children’s books himself and they had communicated before the phone conversation via email about the subject.

It wasn’t until the story was published that Williams found out he was talking with a major Hollywood director.  Now Williams feels like he has an “in” in the business if he wants to try acting some day.

“I think I’m going to reach out to him.  JJ Abrams, let’s get together man.  Let’s communicate, have a lunch, have a dinner, whatever.  Maybe I could become a movie star.”

Mo Williams: basketball player, future children’s author and movie star?  One thing at a time Mo.

 

Portland Trail Blazers UFA Guard Elliot Williams Signs Deal With Cavaliers

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Elliot Williams
Elliot Williams | (Portland Trail Blazers)

Elliot Williams has been with the Blazers for the past couple years, but missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, and signed a 2013 deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Williams said during April’s exit interviews that he would like to stay with the team, but the Blazers’ offseason was filled with guard pickups and Williams didn’t make the cut for the training camp roster.

The 24-year-old guard played in just 24 games since he was drafted in the first round in 2010. A shoulder injury was to blame for his other missed time and Williams only saw action in the 2011-12 season.

Portland drafted Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum and Cal guard Allen Crabbe, signed Mo Williams, and retained starter Wes Matthews and backup Will Barton in this offseason.

Williams didn’t play on the team’s summer league squad, though he said he wanted to, adding, “I know a lot of the young guys, it would be a good chance for me to get back going.”

Elliot holds career averages of 3.7 points and 0.8 rebounds per game in the 24 games he played.

Blazers Corner: Going Corporate Was Inevitable

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What’s In a Name?

A lot of people, myself included, aren’t a big fan of change.  We stick to the things we like and when something we’ve grown accustom to suddenly becomes something different (a website, a logo, the intro of a certain HBO show about television journalists!), we can get a little upset.

On Tuesday the Blazers’ organization announced a 10-year agreement with insurance provider Moda Health.  The deal means a new name and logo will grace the front of the arena for the next decade.

Rose Garden
The artist formerly known as the Rose Garden

The Rose Garden has been the name of the Trail Blazers’ arena since it opened in 1995 and to be honest Blazer fans, we should be lucky it lasted that long.

Of the 30 NBA teams, there are only three now that do not bear a corporate name: Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks; The palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons; and New Orleans Arena, home of the Pelicans.

And that number will probably shrink even more if and when the Pelicans find a corporate partner to assist in their rebranding from the Hornets.  I can’t believe Detroit doesn’t have one.  That city is bleeding money.

A quick Google search reveals that every other NBA team has changed their name at least twice in their existence (Even storied franchises like Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago).  I’ll always think of Utah’s arena as the Delta Center, but they’ve played in the EnergySolutions Arena since 2006.  Indiana, the state known for its love of basketball, currently has its professional team play in an arena called Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  Before that it was Conseco Fieldhouse.  Before that it was Market Square Arena.

Other arenas are named after retail stores and airlines and even Pepsi.  Frankly, the Moda Center doesn’t sound half bad.  The new logo will have a rose incorporated into its design anyway, so at least fans will still be able to look at it and think of the Rose Garden.

The arena may have a new name, but to be honest, the majority of people will probably still call it the Rose Garden.  Some of us embrace change, others just decide to deny the concept entirely.  When it comes to the name of the home of the Trail Blazers, fans will probably go with the latter.

The Mo Williams Signing Came Out of Nowhere

The Trail Blazers rounded out their roster by signing veteran point guard, and at times scoring machine, Mo Williams.  Talk about an under-the-radar pick up.  Mo Williams was an All-Star in 2009 (He did play with Lebron that year so you have to account for a little inflation), but Williams is the perfect bench player who can come in and spell both Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews some minutes at the guard positions.

Is this the best “last roster signing” ever?  Williams is only 30-years-old, the contract is only one year guaranteed and affordable and Williams is automatically going to give the Blazers at least 8 points every night off the bench.

Mo Williams - Mike Acker:Willamette Week
Mo Williams | (Mike Acker/Willamette Week)

Williams is one of those players who can get hot really quickly and that will bode well for Portland when they’re going through some scoring draughts.  Fans may think of Williams as a streaky shooter, but he’s a career 38 percent from 3-point range and 44 percent overall.

The signing of Williams means Portland will have a crowded backcourt and will likely mean limited playing time for rookie Allen Crabbe, Will Barton or veteran Earl Watson.  But it never hurts to have depth, something Portland can relate to coming off of last year, and at the very least Williams and Watson (Two Blazer killers while on other teams by the way), can provide guidance to Lillard and rookie C.J. McCollum.

Williams can focus on shot selection and moving without the ball while Watson can preach defense which he is excellent at.  In fact, Watson’s sole mission this season should be to teach Lillard and McCollum how to play lock-down defense.  It’s the most glaring weakness in their games and if they can improve upon that, then this team will be significantly better.

Between Williams, McCollum, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard coming off the bench, Portland should be a playoff team barring any major injuries from the starters.  The over-worked starting five of a year ago won’t have to worry about playing 40 minutes a night anymore.

Charter, Comcast SportsNet Northwest Reach Deal 

If you have Comcast SportsNet Northwest and you’re a Blazers fan, then you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past six years.  In 2007, the Trail Blazers signed a 10-year contract with the cable channel, offering fans 60 games on the schedule.    Between those games and the additional ones on KGW and nationally broadcast channels (ESPN, TNT), fans were able to see every game.

tv-and-basketball - hoopskills.com
TV and Basketball | (hoopskills.com)

But not everyone was thrilled about the deal.  In addition to customers of Direct TV and Dish Network, anyone living on the Oregon coast or in certain sections of northern and southern Oregon were unable to see their only major professional sports team.  That is until now.

According to OregonLive, Comcast SportsNet Northwest has reached an agreement with Charter Communications, the primary TV provider on much of the Oregon coast, to begin airing the cable channel starting Sept. 17.  Charter customers will have to pay for a premium cable package to get the channel (Of course), but this is good news for a large majority of people.

The fact that a large portion of the state of Oregon is unable to watch the Blazers is frustrating and speaks to the greed in professional sports and television.  This is 2013!  Anyone who has a television and some form of a box that broadcasts channels should be able to watch the team, but because of license agreements and blackouts and all other kinds of politics and red tape, we’re unable to make this happen.

This agreement with Charter is a step in the right direction however.  If you want more people to be interested in your product, you have to have more eyes available to see it.  Simple right?  Now the people who live on the coast have that option.

Mo Williams Changing Jersey Number, Won’t Wear Brandon Roy’s No. 7

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Mo Williams
Mo Williams

Portland Trail Blazers newest addition, Mo Williams, will apparently not wear No. 7 for the Blazers next season and will instead wear No. 25.

Williams will instead wear the No. 25, which was previously assigned to fellow off-season pickup Earl Watson.

According to a source close to the Oregonian, the number change has nothing to do with any Brandon Roy rumors and is solely about Watson kindly allowing Williams to use his preferred number. Watson has a new number, but has not said which one.

Coby Karl did wear No. 7 during last year’s preseason, but he was released by the Blazers prior to the start of regular season. So for now, Roy is still the last Blazer to wear the No. 7, as he should be.

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