NBA

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.

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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. 

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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. 

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

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. 

Read more Portland Trail Blazers news on BleacherReport.com

NBA Open to Discussing Medical Cannabis

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MARIJUANA POLITICS – The News Source For an Informed Citizenry Post by Ngaio Bealum

Could the NBA allow players to (openly) use cannabis? It just may happen.  A recent post on reddit suggests that NBA commissioner Adam Silver is at least open to the idea. When asked about medical marijuana use and the NBA, this is what Commissioner Silver had to say:

“I would say it’s something we will look at. I’m very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana. My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it. Hopefully there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it.”

There may not be as much pain in the NBA as there is in the NFL, but there is certainly wear and tear. Professional basketball players routinely push their bodies to the limits. About twelve years ago, many players decided to curtail their use of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs for fear of kidney and liver damage. Cannabis is a natural anti-inflammatory and has no real side affects, except for perhaps a pleasant buzz.

As it is now, cannabis use can get an NBA player suspended, although that wasn’t always the case.  Old school fans will recall when former Celtics Center  Robert Parish got busted for receiving cannabis in the mail. He didn’t miss a game.

Many former players are now looking to capitalize on the new legalization. Former Portland Trailblazer  Cliff Robinson and  International Cannabis Business Conference panelist and former Detroit PIston John Salley have each started cannabis based businesses.  It is time for the NBA to embrace the future.

Ngaio Bealum is a writer, comedian, cannabis activist, and a decent juggler. You can catch him on the road performing at events like the Dope Show in Tacoma, Washington, and MCing the International Cannabis Business Conference. Follow him on the social medias. @ngaio420

The post NBA Open to Discussing Medical Cannabis appeared first on MARIJUANA POLITICS.

Oregon Salutes Greg Ballard, Kamikaze Kids

Greg Ballard, small forward for the mid-1970’s Oregon basketball squad dubbed by journalists as the “Kamikaze Kids,” was among the most talented basketball players to ever grace the hardwoods of McArthur Court. Today, Ballard...

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