Blazers' Zach Collins on his Summer League debut: "Terrible"

Blazers' Zach Collins on his Summer League debut: "Terrible"

LAS VEGAS – Trail Blazers’ rookie Zach Collins didn’t mince words when it came to evaluating his Summer League debut on Saturday:

“Terrible,’’ the 7-footer said after the Blazers’ 72-63 win over Utah. “Terrible … I just didn’t play well.’’

Collins finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, but had six turnovers and shot 3-of-13 from the field. Many of his turnovers came when he was stripped inside or lost control of the ball in traffic.

“I was soft,’’ Collins said.

Inside the Blazers, the evaluation was much more measured.

Jim Moran, the Blazers’ assistant coach who is serving as Summer League head coach, said he could see Collins beating himself up in the locker room while looking at the boxscore, but he said the 19-year-old was probably obsessing about the wrong things. 

“From a coaching standpoint … we are more concerned about the defense, and on defense he was good,’’ Moran said. “That’s the one thing when we watch film tomorrow, we will stress his defense. Just being in the right place, setting screens, getting guys open … it’s the little things first. He’s going to get his shots, and they are going to fall, but he can’t judge his play off the stat sheet.’’

Collins showed flashes offensively, particularly early. He threaded a nice bounce pass to a cutting Jake Layman that resulted in a dunk, then later hit a turnaround baseline jumper.

On defense, his four blocks were are the obvious highlight, but the coaching staff said he also stood out in the subtleties of the game, such as moving his feet, rotating to help and fighting through screens.

More than anything, Collins showed the fire and competitiveness that the organization touted when they traded up to take him with the 10th overall pick. Never was it more evident than his immediate postgame assessment of being “terrible,” a mood that didn’t subside 30 minutes after the game had ended.

“I’m my biggest critic, so right now I’m going to give you guys some pretty negative stuff about myself,’’ Collins said. “That’s just the way it is.’’

How and where to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Bucks

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How and where to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Bucks

If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, now you can stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  And, if you can’t stream it on the NBC Sports App you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

On Saturday night, the Portland Trail Blazers (2-0) will conclude its three-game road trip to start the season.  Saturday’s contest is a back-to-back game for the Blazers as Portland gets its toughest test yet taking on the Milwaukee Bucks (1-1).

The Blazers are coming off a 114-97 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. It was the 2017-18 season debut for CJ McCollum in Friday’s win after serving a one-game suspension in the season-opener.  McCollum led the way scoring 28 points.  McCollum also pulled down seven rebounds. 

Damian Lillard added 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Al-Farouq Aminu finished with a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.   Off the bench, Evan Turner added 17 points.

Portland held the Pacers to under 100 points after Indiana had scored 140 points in its season opener vs. the Nets.

The Bucks will also be playing in the second leg of back-to-back when Milwaukee hosts Portland.  The Bucks lost their home opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, 116-97.  

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in the home loss on Friday.  Malcom Brogdon added 16 points.  Antetokounmpo and Brogodn were the only Buck players to reach double-figures.

Through the first two games of the Bucks season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 35.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and three steals.

For Saturday’s injury reports, the Blazers will again be without Noah Vonleh (right shoulder).  The Bucks are going to without Jabari Parker (left knee surgery rehabilitation).

Last season, Portland dropped both games against Milwaukee and the last time the Trail Blazers won in Milwaukee was back in November of 2013.

Our Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams will help set the stage for the Trail Blazers and Bucks contest with Rip City Live on NBC Sports Northwest starting at 4:30pm.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.
 


Quick Links:

Welcome Back CJ! Blazers roll to 2-0

Trail Blazers beat Pacers and the talk once again is defense


 

Video:  CJ McCollum: The Return

Video:  CJ being CJ and all hail The Chief

Video:  McCollum says Aminu is the glue + rookie D is about not vomiting

Video:  Jason Quick: Hello 2-0


 

Game Details:

Where:  BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI

Tip-off: 5:30pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (4:30pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.
Live streaming of NBCS programing: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Trail Blazers beat Pacers and the talk once again is defense

Trail Blazers beat Pacers and the talk once again is defense

INDIANAPOLIS – The Trail Blazers rolled past their second straight opponent Friday night, this time a 114-96 dusting of the Indiana Pacers, and once again all anyone wanted to talk about was the Blazers’ improved defense.

Portland is 2-0 in the regular season, and dating back to the preseason has won seven in a row, all of the games examples of a connected, alert and active defense.

“We’re playing defense,’’ Al-Farouq Aminu said when asked what he likes most about the Blazers’ start. “I mean, in the past it hasn’t been one of our strongest suits, and this year, top to bottom, everybody is playing defense.’’

So how can a roster where 12 of the 14 players are the same as last season make what appears to be such a dramatic turnaround?

The answer is layered, but may best be explained with two simple concepts: The Blazers, Aminu says, are talking more on defense; and that communication is happening, CJ McCollum says, because the players are finally seasoned enough to know what to talk about on defense.

“Early on in your career you don’t talk because you don’t know,’’ McCollum said. “What do you say? If you don’t know what is going on, what do you talk about?’’

When teams bring up defensive communication, it could be anything from recognizing and then anticipating another team’s play, to calling out screens, to letting teammates know where they have help.

They are subtle developments that come through film study, game experience and repetition.

McCollum, for example, says as he begins his fifth season, he is talking more than ever.

“A lot more,’’ McCollum said. “My rookie year, I didn’t say anything, I was just trying not to vomit on myself … going down the court just trying to stay in the right spot and try not to mess up.  Think about it, you are young, you don’t know. All I know is: ‘Go score.’ That’s it.’’

The Blazers for the past three seasons have been among the youngest in the NBA. But that youth has experience. Damian Lillard has been a starter going on six seasons. McCollum is going on his third season as a starter. And Aminu and Al-Farouq Aminu are beginning their third season where they are paired as interchangeable defensive forwards.

So even though Portland starts this season with the fourth youngest roster in the NBA (24.317 years), it is a roster that has not only played a lot of games, but done it together.

So now, Lillard and McCollum can recognize a team’s play call and can better anticipate where they need to be. And Harkless and Aminu are doing a better job communicating where and when their help is coming from the weakside.

“The big change that I’ve noticed is just how much we are talking,’’ Aminu said. “Guys are saying the coverages … and it becomes contagious.’’

After two games, Blazers' opponents have combined to shoot 37.7 percent from the field.

But that doesn't mean the Blazers’ defense is a finished product, or that there still aren’t lapses.

On Friday in Indiana, on the Pacers’ second offensive play, forward Bojan Bogdanovic went backdoor on Maurice Harkless for a layin. Irritated he wasn’t alerted to a back screen, Harkless motioned with his hands that his teammates needed to talk to him.

Still, coach Terry Stotts was pleased Friday with the overall defensive effort, particularly the team’s transition defense, which has been a point of emphasis.

And while nobody is going to confuse the Blazers’ first two opponents – Phoenix and Indiana – with a playoff-caliber team in the West, they are both teams that last year put up 118 points on the Blazers. That fact wasn't lost on Lillard.

"We came in here ready to guard,'' Lillard said. "We’ve had a lot of fun actually playing defense; we see what it can to for us.''

 

Welcome Back CJ! Blazers roll to 2-0

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Welcome Back CJ! Blazers roll to 2-0

Early on in this young season the Trail Blazers defense looks much improved and is a big reason they are 2-0 following a 114-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Portland scored 62 points in the first half, and defensively was giving the Pacers fits. The second half started sloppy, but then CJ caught fire, scoring the final 12 points of the third quarter. Once The Closers checked in, it was all over. 


Final Score: Portland 114 - Pacer 96

Trail Blazers' defense to get biggest test to date tonight against Pacers

Trail Blazers' defense to get biggest test to date tonight against Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS – So is this Trail Blazers’ defense for real, or what?

Portland on Friday night will get its best answer to date whether its defense is indeed new-and-improved when it plays at Indiana, which is coming off a 140-131 win over Brooklyn on opening night.

The Blazers’ defense looked great during the preseason, but Toronto played without DeMar DeRozan, the Clippers without Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers, and the Kings without four of five starters.

Then in the season opener, a 124-76 win at Phoenix, the Suns looked like a team that will vie for the worst record in the league.

It’s why coach Terry Stotts and the players have taken a cautiously optimistic approach when it comes to crowning the Blazers’ D as rehabilitated from last year’s disaster.

“It’s one game,’’ Damian Lillard cautioned after the Suns win. “I was happy to see it carry over. From camp, to preseason, then come the first road game, we did it again. We showed what we can do if we are committed to the defensive end.’’

While the Pacers figure to be a middle-of-the-road team in the East, they will be a better test than the rebuilding Suns. Plus, behind guards Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo and Corey Joseph, the Pacers are emphasizing a fast-paced approach under coach Nate McMillan.

“Nate has done an unbelievable job of letting us take the onus as point guards, and kind of let us run the show,’’ Collison told the Indy Star. “He was a point guard himself. He knows what it’s like to let us see the game, instead of micromanaging every single play. If we can play like that, call a guard game, play with one another, we will be all right.’’

The Pacers’ 140 points was the franchise’s opening night record, and if there has been a soft spot in the Blazers’ defense during the preseason and the opener, it has been in transition.

But the Blazers have been as active and connected as we’ve seen since the days when Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez vaulted Portland into the Top 10 in defense.

Stotts has repeatedly referred to this defense as “alert” and “focused” and on Wednesday in Phoenix the trio of Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu on the perimeter was as imposing collection of arms and length as I can remember from a Blazers team.

So another game, another test to see whether the Blazers really are ready to defend. Should be interesting. NBC Sports Northwest will carry the game at 4 p.m. with Rip City Live pregame show starting at 3 p.m.

Today's Blazers' links:

I wrote about Evan Turner and his defensive job on Devin Booker.

The Indy Star previewed tonight's game.

It's an Indiana homecoming for Pat Connaughton and Caleb Swanigan.

 

How and where to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Pacers

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How and where to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Pacers

If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, now you can stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  And, if you can’t stream it on the NBC Sports App you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

The Portland Trail Blazers continue its three-game road trip with a stop in Indiana on Friday night to take on the Pacers.  Portland is coming off a 124-76, opening night win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The 48-point victory was the largest margin of victory on any opening night in NBA history.

The big story of the opening night was Pat Connaughton and his career-night of 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting all coming off the bench for the Blazers. Damian Lillard was the one to lead the charge, though, with 27 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Friday night against the Pacers will mark the first game of the season for CJ McCollum after McCollum was suspended for opening night for stepping foot on the court during an October 11th preseason game when Blazer rookie Caleb Swanigan got in an altercation with Suns big man Alex Len.

Looking at the injury report for Portland, rookie Zach Collins (gastroenteritis) is listed as probable after missing the season opener on Wednesday night and forward Noah Vonleh (right shoulder) is still out for Friday’s game.

As for the Pacers, Indiana beat the Brooklyn Nets, 140-131, on Wednesday night.  Friday’s contest will be the second game for the new look Pacers (minus Paul George).  This is an obvious rebuilding time for Indiana, as the Pacers returned just five players from last season. 

In Wednesday’s win over the Nets, Myles Turner scored 21 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.  And, in their debuts as Indiana Pacers, Victor Oladipo had 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and Domantas Sabonis added16 points and had seven rebounds.

Last season Portland and Indiana split the season series with each team winning on its home courts.

Our Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams will help set the stage for the Blazers and Pacers contest with Rip City Live on NBC Sports Northwest starting at 3:00pm.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.
 


Quick Links:

It was just one game, Blazer fans – but what a game it was

Evan Turner helps lock down Devin Booker, then praises Suns’ rising star

Report: Blazers sign Wade Baldwin to two-way deal

 

Video:  Highlight: Blazers 124, Suns 76

Video:  Connaughton: Be the same guy day in and day out

Video:  Lillard: You couldn’t ask for a better effort

Video:  Dwight doubles down on Pat Connaughton

 

Game Details:

Where:  Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis IN

Tip-off: 4:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.

Live streaming of NBCS programing: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Report: Blazers sign Wade Baldwin to two-way deal

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Report: Blazers sign Wade Baldwin to two-way deal

The recently released Wade Baldwin has found a new home with the Portland Trail Blazers, this according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

Baldwin failed to make the final 15-man roster this season with the Memphis Grizzlies, and was waived back on October 16.

Baldwin, the 17th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, spent most of last season jumping between Memphis and the Iowa Energy of the D-League. He has played in 33-games during his short career, averaging 3.2 points and 1.8 assists per game.

Stay tuned to NBCS Northwest for all the latest information on the Baldwin signing.

Evan Turner helps lock down Devin Booker, then praises Suns' rising star

Evan Turner helps lock down Devin Booker, then praises Suns' rising star

PHOENIX – If the Phoenix Suns were “embarrassed” Wednesday by the Trail Blazers, as coach Earl Watson suggested after the 124-76 defeat, Evan Turner says they can take solace in something: the will of Devin Booker.

It was a big night for Turner, who earned the spot start in place of the suspended CJ McCollum, an assignment that pitted him against Booker, of the NBA’s most promising offensive stars. The marquee defensive assignment was what Turner wanted, and it was a spotlight start to his quest to become All-NBA Defense this season.

“I think I did great,’’ Turner said matter-of-factly after Booker was held to 6-of-17 shooting and 12 points – more than 10 points below his season average last season.

But Turner wasn’t boasting. In fact, he wanted to talk more about Booker than himself.

What stood out to Turner was the way Booker kept fighting on a night that was frustrating both on a personal level and a team level. The Blazers led by as many as 58 and Booker could never get anything going, constantly running into the swarming arms of Turner, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, or the mobility of big man Jusuf Nurkic.

“Sometimes when you have young kids who don’t win ever, it seems like they become content with it,’’ Turner said. “But I think he has a next level, where he wants to win.’’

Turner could sense the frustration of the 20-year-old throughout the night, and it impressed him.

“He cares. I think that’s what I respect about him the most,’’ Turner said. “You go up against certain young guys in the league and they are … they get (an) NBA (attitude) … but I think that kid genuinely cares.’’

Turner said before the season he wanted to publicize his NBA All-Defense aspirations, much like Draymond Green did, in order to draw attention to his work on that side of the ball.

“I think it would be cool, and it’s an attainable goal,’’ Turner said. “Obviously, you have to put it out there first so the masses can get the idea to watch you play defense. You saw Draymond lobby for Defensive Player of the Year for four years, and he just finally got it.

“But sometimes, when it comes down to it, I think I’m an underrated defender. I will slide from guarding a 5-foot-9 guy to a 6-9 guy. So, I don’t know what it takes to be called elite, but I think I can be an elite defender in this league,’’ Turner said.

Wednesday against Booker and the Suns was a nice addition to his defensive portfolio, but Turner wanted to make sure his satisfaction with his defense wasn’t taken as a slight on Booker.

“I mean, not to knock the kid … he is super talented, super good - everything people think,’’ Turner said. “And he has a bright future because he can score in several different ways, and I think he is going to get even better. I just hope they are able to turn the corner. He has to understand there are going to be nights like this, where nothing clicks. That’s just how it goes. But I definitely respect the skillset he has as well as his knowledge of the game. You don’t see that much.’’

It was just one game, Blazer fans -- but what a game it was

It was just one game, Blazer fans -- but what a game it was

OK, Blazer fans, you know the drill.

Keep repeating this to yourself: "It's just one game. It's just one game. It's just one game"

And there are 81 yet to play. But I must admit, that 48-point win on opening night on the road was very impressive. And I don't care how bad the Suns are, it was quite a game for the Trail Blazers.

Let's talk about it:

  • The defense was obviously very solid. The Suns are a guard-oriented offensive team and the Blazers took those guards -- Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe -- out of the game, holding them to 11-for-35 shooting from the field and Phoenix had nothing left. And shortly after intermission, the overmatched Suns pretty much quit.
  • You can give several individual players their due for the defense, but what I liked best was the cohesion by the entire team at the defensive end. Pick-and-roll defense was improved and so was the interior stuff. Jusuf Nurkic makes a difference in the paint with his ability to leave his own man and intimidate drivers. Mostly, I saw a new alertness and aggression at the defensive end -- and that was special.
  • Pat Connaughton showed what he's capable of doing and it was plenty. Maybe it was just because this game was in Phoenix but he reminded me a lot of Dan Majerle, except he's a better three-point shooter than the ex-Sun.
  • Damian Lillard was, well, Damian Lillard. That leadership he provides is as important as his talent. He's a rare one, folks. A special player.
  • This was another illustration of Portland's overall talent level. Coach Terry Stotts played everybody and they all can play. This isn't a season when the Blazers will have two or three players at the end of the bench who are "projects" or merely players happy to be there. These guys all belong on an NBA court.
  • It's on to Indiana for a matchup against the Pacers, who amassed 140 points in their opening win over Brooklyn, so it should be a better test for the Portland defense. And remember, it's just the second of 82 games.

Blazers' Maurice Harkless starts his own All-Defense campaign

Blazers' Maurice Harkless starts his own All-Defense campaign

PHOENIX – Evan Turner says he wants to be named NBA All-Defense this season, but during the Trail Blazers’ season opener on Wednesday, he found he might have some pretty stiff competition.

And it’s coming from his own teammate, Maurice Harkless.

Harkless on Wednesday had such an inspiring and dominating defensive performance that at times during the Blazers’ 124-76 victory teammates stood and applauded him, while coaches bowed in respect.

Afterward, Turner feigned offense that Harkless stole his own defensive shine.

“I know I said I want to be All-Defense, but dang, Moe looked like he was about to do it!’’ Turner said. “He was all over the place. It was actually crazy. I was like, ‘Is that Moe again? Is that Moe AGAIN?!’’

Harkless had one block and tied Damian Lillard with a team-high five deflections, but his impact went beyond what any statistic could measure. If he wasn’t ball-hawking Suns’ touted rookie Josh Jackson, Harkless was offering help to cut off lanes for scoring specialist Devin Booker. And throughout the night, he was pairing with Turner or Al-Farouq Aminu on switches, providing a seemingly impenetrable wall of arms and hands.

Perhaps most notably, with the Blazers leading 43-30 in the second quarter, Harkless denied a perimeter pass to Jackson, but just missed. He recovered quick enough to cut off his baseline drive, then poked away the ball when Jackson tried to crossover dribble.

The play happened in front of the Blazers’ bench and had everyone standing. Assistant Dale Osbourne got so hyped, he pounded Harkless’ chest several times.

“Plays like that get the whole team excited,’’ Harkless said. “Sparks everyone to play like that on defense. If that’s what I got to do, then that’s what I got to do.’’

Harkless said that sequence took him back to the playground in Queens, where he learned to like defense.

“You are making the other guy mad. It’s funny. Like after that play, (Jackson) was mad,’’ Harkless said. “I was talking trash … stuff like that is fun, it takes you back to the playground,  playing one-on-one against guys, talking trash the whole time. That’s how I learned to play basketball, so it’s still fun to me.’’

Harkless has vowed this season to be a defensive leader, and that includes not letting a quiet offensive night carry over to his defense. Wednesday was exhibit A in being a defensive leader.

After his play on Jackson in front of the Blazers’ bench, Harkless had nice transition defense to stop Jackson, then later blocked a fast-break layin attempt. That prompted assistant David Vanterpool to yell to Harkless across the court and bow in respect.

The funny thing about Harkless’ standout night was it started so poorly. He was whistled for two fouls just 2:34 into the game and had to go to the bench. Sometimes when players get in early foul trouble, it creates a tendency to be tentative when they return.

Not Harkless.

“I think I have more of a hit-first mentality, whereas before I had a hit-back mentality,’’ Harkless said. “I’m approaching this year a little bit different. That’s how I’m looking to approach every game.’’

Like Turner, who’s hoping his talk about All-Defense will draw attention to his craft, Harkless is hoping that eventually referees will catch on to his more aggressive and physical defensive style and perhaps prevent a repeat of his two early fouls.

“Eventually, the refs will see I’m just physical, and let me play,’’ Harkless said.

Today's Blazers' links:

Speaking of Harkless, Mens Fitness writes about his core workout.

I wrote about Pat Connaughton making the most of his opportunity.

Damian Lillard says the Blazers couldn't ask for better effort.

The Arizona Republic writes about the worst loss in Suns' history.

Casey Holdahl at the Blazers writes that Connaughton proves he belongs on the court, not the diamond.

Joe Freeman at The Oregonain writes about Connaughton and Harklesss leading the way.