Trail Blazers

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: 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: Training Camp Injuries and Free McMuffins

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Rash of Injuries Plaguing Blazers in Training Camp

Injuries are a part of basketball (or any sport for that matter), but as Blazers’ fans know very well, injuries have become expected at this point for the organization.  I don’t need to go into all of the significant injuries that have befallen this franchise over the years (there’s plenty of coverage on that subject online), but once again, the injury-bug has hit the team.

Here’s a list because there’s been so many in a week:

LaMarcus Aldridge: Left quad strain.

Dorell Wright: Dislocated finger.

Will Barton: Concussion.

Mo Williams: Right angle sprain.

Nicolas Batum: Concussion.

C.J. McCollum: Fracture in left foot.

As I said earlier, injuries are a part of sports and I’m sure if you look at many training camps in the NBA so far, you’ll find a number of minor issues and the majority of these for the Blazers are not long-term concerns.  But that last name mentioned is a concern.

Atlanta Hawks v Portland Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum | (Jack Arent/Getty Images)

McCollum, taken with the 10th pick in last June’s NBA draft, fractured the 5th metatarsal bone in his left foot at practice on Saturday.  The rookie guard previously broke the same bone in the same foot last January during his senior season at Lehigh causing him to miss the rest of the season.

His recovery time for the first injury was set at 8-10 weeks, but McCollum said that it wasn’t until the Blazers played at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League in July that he was fully healed.  That’s more than six months recovery by my math and if you go by that, fans will not be seeing the rookie for quite some time.

As far as the team goes, the injury isn’t as significant as people might think.  McCollum was already fourth on the Blazers’ depth chart behind Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams so besides youthful energy, the team will not miss much at the guard position.

Another silver lining is that McCollum has already gone through this injury before.  He knows what it takes to recover and the fact that this happened before he’s played a minute of NBA basketball should be motivation for the rookie to work even harder to get back on the court.

The injury is certainly a blow to the Blazers’ season and their bench, but the team now has the depth to sustain a major injury.  As long as another one doesn’t occur at a weaker position, the team will remain competitive.  But the way training camp has started (and history), perhaps the team and the fans should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

No More Chalupas, How about McMuffins!

This week the Blazers’ organization unveiled the new logo for the Moda Center.  The Moda Center is named after Moda Health, an Oregon-based insurance provider.

One thing not associated with health is fast food, which until recently, was given to fans in the form of a coupon for a free Chalupa if the team reached the 100-point mark in a game.  Sadly, the Chalupa promotion ended this off-season.  Some speculated, myself included, that perhaps in connection with the name, the organization was headed towards a more healthy free food option.  Instead, they traded one fast food item for another.

Blazers and McMuffins - nba.com
Blazers and McMuffins | (nba.com)

The team on Monday announced that they have partnered with McDonalds on a new “100-Point Play” promotion for the next five seasons.  Every time the team reaches that magical milestone, fans in attendance will be offered a voucher for a free McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg.

Beginning Nov. 2, which will be the team’s home-opener against San Antonio, fans are encouraged to chant “MICK-E-DEES, MICK-E-DEES” if the team is nearing 100 points.  Cheesy video graphics will no doubt follow.  My money is on Robin Lopez chomping down on a McMuffin.

Of course one of the fun aspects to the 100-point/free-food milestone is guessing which player will be the one to accomplish the feat.  The organization thought of this and in connection with McDonald’s, have created a digital “100 Point Player of the Game” contest.  Fans will be encouraged to vote online for which Trail Blazers player they think will score the 100th point.  If the team gets to 100, one fan that selected the correct player will be chosen to receive a Trail Blazers merchandise item, courtesy of McDonald’s.  The contest will be good for both home and road games.

Side note: It will be interesting to see if fans go along with the “MICK-E-DEES” chant.  “MC-MUFFIN, MC-MUFFIN” sounds better or if they want to be more accurate, how about “HEART ATTACK, HEART ATTACK.”

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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Could Arsalan Kazemi Go to the Portland Trail Blazers?

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Arsalan Kazemi (Brent Wojahn/Oregonian)
Arsalan Kazemi
(Brent Wojahn/Oregonian)

Arsalan Kazemi has done a lot of moving around over his basketball career.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Kazemi came to the United States to play against the highest level of basketball competition in the world. He had a stop at Rice (Texas) where he competed for three seasons before joining the Dana Altman‘s Oregon Ducks program for his final season of eligibility.

With his opportunity in Eugene, Kazemi didn’t waste any time proving how special of an athlete he is. Kazemi nearly averaged a double-double for the season with 9.4 PPG and 10.0 RPG.

Now with his collegiate career behind him, the Iranian/Texan/Oregonian is hoping to find his permanent home following the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday.

He may have found his home with the Portland Trail Blazers. Take a look at the video below.

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Singler Returns for Second Portland Trail Blazers Workout

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EJ Singler (Gary A. Vasquez/US PRESSWIRE)
EJ Singler
(Gary A. Vasquez/US PRESSWIRE)

E.J. Singler didn’t expect that graduation day would be even more of a stepping stone into the professional world as it already would be.

Tuesday, a day after he was decked out in an emerald green cap and gown celebrating with family and friends, Singler received a phone call from the Portland Trail Blazers organization informing the former South Medford High School and Oregon Ducks star that they’d like him to return to the Rose City for another workout.

“It’s been a good two days,” Singler said.

The fact that the Blazers chose for Singler to return points towards a strong interest to either use one of their second round picks on him or choose to go after him in free agency should he go undrafted. The 6’5″ SF competed in six-player workout on June 7 earlier this month that included Duke C Mason Plumlee, a target for the Blazers’ No. 10 overall pick.

“I’m thinking it’s a good thing,” Singler said of the Blazers’ interest in him as a potential prospect. “If they want me back, they saw something that they liked and they wanted to see a little bit more. Just really happy I got the opportunity to come back and showcase my skills.”

Listed below were his career statistics with the Ducks:

EJ Singler Stats

Singler, after requesting not to redshirt his freshman season in Eugene for then head coach Ernie Kent, started 22 games his first year with the Ducks and 132 total over an incredible four-year career.

The 2013 NBA Draft will be on Thursday June 27th. EDN will recap all of the Blazers’ move as well as any Ducks that may be drafted.

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Detroit Pistons Want Maurice Cheeks as Head Coach

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Maurice Cheeks
Maurice Cheeks

The Detroit Pistons have a former Blazer coach in mind to fill their open head coaching vacancy. His name? Maurice Cheeks. According to the Detroit Free Press who has a “knowledgeable source”, Cheeks is the front-runner to coach the Pistons.

According to the source, who didn’t want to be named because the deal hasn’t been finalized, Detroit and Cheeks are in the negotiating stages of the process. The deal could be completed this weekend.

Cheeks had an up and down career (to say the least) as the Blazers head coach. Although the Blazers reached two post seasons with him, they never managed to get past the first round and missed the playoffs in both of his final two years.

Unlike the Blazers players during the jail blazers era, Cheeks is most known for a positive non-basketball related incident. In 2003, Cheeks helped a 13 year old with stage fright finish the national anthem before a Blazer game. The two’s performance was followed by an emphatic standing ovation from Blazer fans.

After being asked to leave by the Blazers, Cheeks landed in familiar territory. In 2005, the Philadelphia Sixers hired him. Cheeks played point guard for the Sixers for eleven seasons and won an NBA championship in 1983 with Dr. J and Moses Malone. He spent three seasons as head coach in Philadelphia and was fired in 2008.

Ever since then, he has been an assistant for the recently perennially talented Oklahoma City Thunder.

If he gets hired, Cheeks will adopt a promising young roster led by Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. Cheeks career record is almost dead even at 284-286.

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Wesley Matthews Receives Arthroscopic Surgery on Elbow

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Mesley Matthews (NBA Images)
Mesley Matthews
(NBA Images)

Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews successfully received arthroscopic debridement on his left elbow today. Dr. Ken Yamaguchi performed the surgery at Washington University Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. Arthroscopic debridement is used to clear damaged tissue from the elbow joint.

Matthews is expected to recover in 3-4 weeks.

Matthews averaged 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and led the team in steals while averaging 1.3 per game. He also made the fourth most 3-pointers is Blazers history by converting 169 last year.

Matthews hadn’t missed a game in his NBA career until he suffered a left hip injury in December. He played and started in 69 of the Blazers 82 games last season.

The former undrafted prospect out of Marquette is on the Blazers books until 2015 and has been a vital cog for the Blazers arsenal ever since Portland stole the then restricted free agent from the Jazz after his rookie season.

Despite the rumors that the Blazers may look to pick up a shooting guard like CJ Mccollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mathews starting shooting guard role is likely secure.

Get well soon, Wesley.

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Blazers Receive ‘Team Sponsorship Activation Award’… What!?

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The Blazers and Burgerville team up
The Blazers and Burgerville team up

Congratulations, Trail Blazers fans. Your team won the championship…. of advertising.

The Portland Trail Blazers won one of the most bizarre awards in all of major sports. No, the Team Sponsorship Activation Award,” is not handed out to sorority’s or boy Scout troops; it is an actual official NBA award. I know, astonishing stuff.

A team of marketing executives from around the NBA awarded the Blazers for the promotion of the “Blazers Burger” for Burgerville. The burger contains extremely innovative ingredients such as cheese and peppers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Burgerville and I know that sponsorships are a mutually beneficial endeavor between a team and a company. However, to present an award for the best sales job is beyond ridiculous and kind of toes the line of an NBA team between a team and a Wall Street executive. I know that without money major sports wouldn’t exist. So by all means NBA teams, advertise your product whatever way you want, and make tons of money. But the fact is, no one cares! They care about the sport, the players and the affiliation with the city. Not the business!!

This is not meant to be a stab at Burgerville in the least. Congratulations to them for putting together a great marketing campaign. It’s just, why in the world does the NBA bother awarding it? It’s absolutely pointless.

Why can’t the 52 million dollars they made through this partnership, be enough? I firmly believe in the unwritten rule that making money for yourself does not justify an award of any kind. Imagine if Blake Griffin received an award for making the most money off of endorsements. Or if countries were given awards for the most mutually beneficial trade.

Finally, why do we have to live in a society where there has to be an award for everything? All it does is water down the importance of legitimate awards.

Please NBA, just end the madness and get rid of this award before I throw up again.

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Damian Lillard’s Entourage Accused of Assault

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Photo released by KGW
Photo released by KGW

After an impressive rookie season in which he won rookie of the year unanimously, Damian Lillard faces the first potential blemish to his reputation.

Two brothers named Jermaine and Phillip Ulinwa told KGW that Lilard’s entourage beat them up after the two snapped a picture of the Portland Trail Blazers point guard.

The two say that they offered to apologize for the apparent transgression but Lillard and his crew weren’t having it. The argument escalated and the fight broke out. In the end the two were punched and kicked repeatedly.

Phillip Ulinwa says that they broke his nose and forced him to get stitches on his lip. To make matters worse, the two claim that Lillard instigated the fight by aggressively approaching Ulinwa.

“And since he did that, the rest of the guys started getting riled up too and like they thought it was okay to just start fighting out of nowhere,” said Ulinwa.

Thankfully for Blazers fans, the police are not implicating Lillard in the crime.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“What we do know for certain at this point is Damian Lillard is not a suspect in this incident at all,” said Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.[/gn_quote]

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