Portland Trail Blazers - Page 3

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 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.

Trail Blazers Fire Back at Raymond Felton on Twitter

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The time since Raymond Felton departed Portland has been, let’s say, a little less than cordial. Trail Blazers fans didn’t like his training acumen and his perceived involvement in a locker room coup that blew up the roster and sent former coach Nate McMillan packing.

So when Felton went off into a rant about how he was mistreated during his time in Portland, you can imagine how the Blazers might have responded. Well, not exactly. They took it in probably the most childish direction their social media team could come up with.

[tweet_embed id=382634318901686272]

Felton didn’t like the reputation he and other players were receiving in the media.

“At the end of the day, they said a lot things about me,” Felton said. “Said a lot of things about Jamal Crawford. They said me and Jamal were bad eggs.”

He said that since he and Crawford were both in the 2013 playoffs, with their new respective teams, this view was unfair.

It doesn’t seem that either side is ready to reconcile on this one, so this feud should at least continue until the Blazers’ date with the Knicks on Nov. 25. Last time, he was booed each time he touched the ball. It’s safe to say they probably have more planned now.

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Raymond Felton: “I laughed at the (Blazers) crowd”

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Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton in his natural setting… eating a cupcake

Former Portland Trail Blazers guard Raymond Felton still has hard feelings when it comes to his look at his former organization. Felton has had success with the Denver Nuggets, his new team, while Rip City is stuck in rebuilding mode.

As the Blazers struggled last season, Felton said he got enjoyment watching the team and fans’ frustrations.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I laughed at the crowd,’’ Felton said. “We’re in the playoffs. What about you all.”[/gn_quote]

[gn_quote style=”1″]“At the end of the day, they said a lot things about me,” Felton said. “Said a lot of things about Jamal Crawford. They said me and Jamal were bad eggs. I’m sitting back like: “Jamal is with the Clippers having a great year, up for Sixth Man of The Year. His team was in the playoffs. And our team is in the playoffs. I don’t think we were the issues of bringing that team down. Not in the playoffs again and you want to put the blame on two guys. It was our fault they didn’t make the playoffs. Really?”[/gn_quote]

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Portland Trail Blazers Officially Release Guard Terrel Harris

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Terrel Harris
Terrel Harris
(John Rieger/US Presswire)

The Portland Trail Blazer have officially waved shooting guard Terrel Harris, confirmed by the front office. Harris was acquired by the Blazers during the team’s trade that brought center Robin Lopez to Portland from New Orleans. Harris’ contact for $884,000 was a non-gaurantee, which allows the team to cut him without penalty.

Considering the Blazers’ loaded guard rotation, Harris wasn’t likely to see significant playing time. His violation of the NBA Player Association’s drug policy back in early August made the inevitable parting seem all but certain.

Harris, an undrafted product of the 2009 draft class. Harris, 25, has averaged 2.3 PPG and 1.8 RPG through two seasons in the league. He’s had stops with the Miami Heat and most recently the formerly known as New Orleans Hornets.

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Richard Howell Added to Portland Trail Blazers Training Camp Roster

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Richard Howell
Richard Howell (Richard Byers Photography)

The Portland Trail Blazers training camp roster is still a work-in-progress. Portland announced another member of their training camp roster on Friday — Richard Howell, a 6-foot-8 rookie forward from the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Howell was a first-team all-ACC member as a senior and joins Oregonian E.J. Singler and guard Dee Bost on the nonroster spots.

Howell participated in predraft workouts with the Blazers earlier this May and has a long-shot chance at the roster for the 2013-14 regular season. More than likely, Howell will be chosen to participate with the Blazers’ D-league squad, the Idaho Stampede.

The training camp should open on Oct. 1, about a month before the regular season starts.

Per the Blazers’ release: “Howell, 22, averaged 12.7 points (51.8% FG, 63.3% FT), 10.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 31.6 minutes his senior 2012-13 season at North Carolina State. A First Team All-ACC selection last season, Howell ranks fifth all-time in school history with 1,055 rebounds.”

Howell’s addition raises the roster total to 19 players. He played on the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League squad this summer.

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Blazers’ Corner: Lillard has All-Star and Playoff Expectations

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While appearing on the TrueHoop blog on ESPN, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard answered a number of rapid-fire questions ranging from the weirdness of Paul Allen to his love of “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (Who isn’t).  But there was also some basketball-related questions as well.  The two most significant: Lillard’s personal goal for the season and a prediction on the number of games the team will win in the 2013-14 season.

Damian Lillard - nba247365.com
Damian Lillard | (nba247365.com)

For his own goals, Lillard said that he wants to be an All-Star.  Considering how well he played in his rookie campaign, that doesn’t seem as far-fetched as some people might think.  But after taking a look at the other point guards in the conference, it might be tough sledding for the small-market guard.

The obvious picks will be Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.  Paul has been considered the best point guard in the league for a number of years now (He is) and playing in Los Angeles certainly helps his profile.

Westbrook over the last few years has been aided by his impressive play and deep playoff runs resulting in more national exposure despite playing in Oklahoma City (It also doesn’t hurt to play with Kevin Durant).  Plus he’s an explosive and flashy player whom the fans want to see.

The next two challengers would be Tony Parker and Stephen Curry.  Parker, to me anyway, has been the most underrated player in the game for some time now, but not enough to not be selected for multiple All-Star games in the past.  He also helped San Antonio reach the 2013 NBA Finals, and nearly win it, so he too will be a player fans will probably select before arriving at Lillard.

Curry is the one point guard that probably increased his All-Star stock more than any other this past post season.  Helping lead the Golden State Warriors to the second round, Curry was phenomenal in multiple games, including 30 points and 13 assists against Denver in game two and 44 points and 11 assists in 58 minutes (Wow!) in game one of the San Antonio series ( A game they should have won).

Stephen Curry and Tony Parker - Getty Images
Stephen Curry and Tony Parker | (Getty Images)

If those ankles can hold up, Curry will be an All-Star this up-coming season.  He averaged 22.9 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line this past season and he was unanimously dubbed the biggest All-Star snub in 2013.  So it’s safe to assume fans and coaches will make up for that in 2014.

But the competition doesn’t end with those four.  Lillard will also have to deal with Ty Lawson in Denver who will probably put up better numbers with Andre Iguodala leaving and Danilo Gallinari recovering from a knee injury.

Other dark horses include newest western conference point guard Jrue Holiday (Who made his first All-Star team in the east last season) and Ricky Rubio whose flashy game demands to be seen in an All-Star game.  He just hasn’t been able to avoid the injury bug in his two seasons in the league.

So as you can see, the chances of Lillard making the team aren’t good.  He has no shot of being voted in by the fans, (What Blazers player does?), but if he can improve his game, avoid the dreaded Sophomore slump and help the team win a few more games than he has an opportunity to be recognized and selected by the coaches.

It’s a lofty goal, but one you want your rising star to have.

As for the team goals, Lillard predicted the team would win 46 games.  A 12-game increase in wins from a year ago seems a bit too high, but when you stop and think about it, Lillard might be dead on with his prediction.

With the bench being improved considerably and the addition of a legitimate center in Robin Lopez, the team improved on two major areas of concern: depth and interior defense.  While Lopez isn’t a defensive stud, he does work his butt off and that’s more than you could say about J.J. Hickson.

But the improved bench is the key to Portland earning more victories and solidifying a playoff spot.  Young additions like C.J. McCollum and Thomas Robinson have the potential to be key contributors, but you don’t know until they’re on the floor.

Mo Williams and Dorell Wright however, have the experience and the consistency to contribute immediately.  Williams is a 10-year vet who’s made an All-Star team and played with Lebron James.  He can be an explosive offensive player and at the very least he can be a security blanket incase McCollum doesn’t develop as quickly as some might expect.

Dorell Wright - warriorsworld.net
Dorell Wright | (warriorsworld.net)

Wright provides 3-point shooting, perimeter defense and athleticism.  He also has a championship ring and while he wasn’t a major factor on that Heat team in 2006, he does know what it takes to win in this league and that veteran leadership should work wonders on the younger players.

With those four players and Meyers Leonard, and perhaps Victor Claver, Portland has a number of options to go to when the starters need rest or get into foul trouble.  That was a luxury they didn’t have last season and they still managed to hover around .500 in March.

Lillard is a confident guy and when he says the team will win 46 games, he means it.  Looking at the changes that were made this offseason, that appears to be a realistic win total for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard Will Be Special Olympics Ambassador

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Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard

Blazers point guard Damian Lillard won the rookie of the year award last year in the NBA and he’ll help out with an ESPN initiative with the Special Olympics. He’s been selected by the committee as an ambassador for the events.

As a rookie, Lillard swept every month for the rookie of the month awards and finished his first year with 19 points per game, 6.5 assists per game and a .368 three-point shooting percentage, while setting an NBA rookie record by making 185 threes in the season. He’s a big part of the Blazers’ core and coach Terry Stotts’ strategy.

Explaining the cause, he said: “It’s to raise the awareness of people, just to see that they’re normal people, that they have normal abilities just like we have.”

Lillard returns as a sophomore with a new young backcourt companion in C.J. McCollum, largely thought to be a darkhorse for the 2013-14 ROY award.

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Blazers’ Corner: Aldridge’s Crazy Summer, No More Chalupas

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The Hectic Summer for LaMarcus Aldridge

There’s been a lot of drama surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge this summer.  During his April exit interview, the power forward said that the team was probably two years away from returning to the playoffs and that just getting there wasn’t good enough for him anymore.  Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts told Blazersedge in July that he’d received no indication of unhappiness from Aldridge during the summer.

The former No. 2 pick told multiple media outlets, including The Oregonian, that he had not gone to management to demand a trade, yet Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune reported that Aldridge told a reporter that he did in fact go to GM Neil Olshey to request a trade.  According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW, Aldridge “loves Portland.”  But then talk to Jason Quick of The Oregonian and he’ll say Aldridge “wants out” of Portland and believes the city is “too small” and “too boring.”

So as you can see, there’s been a lot of he said, she said, regarding Aldridge’s true feelings toward not only the team, but the city of Portland.  Most likely aware of all of this confusion, the Portland All Star decided to clear the air recently and his comments were reported by Yahoo! Sports and CSNNW.

LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge

“I wasn’t ready to make a move yet.  I was just frustrated in the moment.  I haven’t given Neil (Olshey) a chance yet,” said Aldridge to Yahoo.  That comment was in reference to speculation that he asked for a trade.  He denies asking for a trade and that he was just frustrated with the way the season ended.

He also said he never said anything negative about the city of Portland.  “Portland doesn’t bother me.  I don’t have an issue with the city of Portland.  I’ve been there my whole career.  I like the smallness of it and the passionate fans.”

He went on to say that he is looking forward to the upcoming season and that he is very encouraged by the moves the organization made during the offseason.  Aldridge has one more year left on his current contract and he would not say whether or not he intends to re-sign with the team.  “I’m focused on next season and how we can come together to be a playoff team.  That’s the only thing on my mind.”

The chances of Portland making the playoffs this upcoming season are strong.  Despite having one of the worst benches in NBA history, the Trail Blazers were competitive and in the playoff hunt well into March last season before nagging injuries to the starters eventually took them out of the playoffs and into the lottery.

With a deeper bench, improvements on defense and one of the better starting five in the league, Portland should return to the playoffs this season.  How far they advance is another story however.

Aldridge has said that he isn’t satisfied with just making the playoffs at this point in his career.  If that’s the case, then Portland will have to get out of the first-round cellar that they’ve resided in off and on for the past thirteen seasons.

Portland is the only team in the Western Conference not to advance past the first-round since their deep playoff run in 2000.  So if you’re going by that statistic, fans should brace themselves for this upcoming season being Aldridge’s last in a Blazers uniform.

No More Chalupas at Moda Center

I attended one Blazers game last season and despite the game ending in defeat (By two no less), I and the other 20,000 people in the arena were treated to a free Chalupa after Portland reached the century mark.  As a matter of fact, I still haven’t used that!  Checking the wallet …. and yes, I still have until the end of September.

Chalupas - portlandroundballsociety.com
Chalupas | (portlandroundballsociety.com)

If I or anyone else decides to go to a Blazers game this season, we can no longer look forward to the added bonus of free food.  The organization and Taco Bell will no longer run their popular promotion at games during the 2013-14 season.

Apparently the higher-ups at Taco Bell ultimately decided against continuing the partnership.  It kind of makes sense since the arena is now the Moda Center, named after Moda Health, an Oregon-based health insurance provider.  When you think of health, Taco Bell isn’t exactly the first thing you think of.  Oh, irony.

It seems like the Blazers have been doing this promotion for years.  I have fond memories of games going down to the wire and hearing fans chanting CHALUPAS, CHALUPAS!  Sometimes it felt like they were more interested in the free food rather than the win.

The organization is interested in establishing a new, in-game, free-food promotion with another company according to Blazersedge, but a plan hasn’t been put in place.  They need some incentive for the benchwarmers.  Free burgers, fries, how about a free shake?  It’s a great feeling being the guy that gets fans free food.  Just ask Luke Babbitt.

 

 

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