This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

Now that the Trail Blazers have finished their season, it's a good time to step back and assess what we have learned about the team and where it's headed. A few thoughts on the morning after it all came to a crashing halt:

  • The biggest takeaway from this season was the impact of Jusuf Nurkic and what it means to the franchise's future. Before his injury, he had the look of a franchise center -- a player with the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor. This, as you know, was no small development. It's the most difficult position to fill in today's game.
  • It must also be pointed out how poorly this team played prior to his arrival. Before that blockbuster deal with Denver, the Trail Blazers were on their way to one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history. And they certainly were not going to be a playoff team. Nurkic carried them into the postseason. But those early struggles -- and the duplication of them after his injury -- should not be forgotten. Lessons were learned about this team and its players during that time and they should be used to help shape the future.
  • This franchise has three valuable building blocks -- guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nurkic. I believe that every other player on the roster is a possible trade piece.
  • Those three first-round draft choices could also be used in trades. In fact, I'd be surprised if Portland keeps all three.
  • That said, aside from the Trail Blazers' Big Three there isn't an awful lot to trade that would bring a talented veteran player in return. There are some high salaries for players who didn't have banner seasons and who may not be desirable to many other teams. The draft picks aren't exactly premium ones, either. Putting those pieces together and acquiring anything of value is not going to be easy.
  • What do the Trail Blazers need? Without a doubt, a forward -- either a power forward or small forward -- who can shoot and defend. Some deep playoff experience would be a big plus. There is not enough outside shooting on this team and it's time to deal with that problem. The frontcourt provided very little firepower. A proven scorer is a must and I doubt that player is available in the draft.
  • This team needs to add a veteran presence to the locker room and on the floor. And I'm not talking about a guy who isn't going to play much. Not someone just stealing another season in the league for the money, who isn't going to play much. Leadership on the court is going to be as critical as off the court. He wouldn't have to be a starter but I think it would be important that he contributes as a rotation player.
  • I would not expect an important player to come via the draft unless Portland finds a way to move up. This team's window of opportunity is growing near and waiting two or three seasons for a youngster to develop might not work. Ideally, a way would be found to add a savvy veteran. But again, that won't be easy.
  • This is a very important off-season for the franchise. Neil Olshey is going to have his hands full. It's time for this team to fill out its starting lineup with at least one more core player who can grow up with the Big Three. I would expect some major changes involving the roster. I'm not certain which of the other players has value to other teams but I wouldn't be surprised to see several of them move on to other teams. It's time for that.
  • For fans, this is no time to panic.  I believe this is potentially a very exciting time to be a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers. With three outstanding players as the foundation, this team can move forward with confidence to add a couple of new pieces that should clarify the squad's personality and eventual future.
  • It shapes up to be a very interesting off-season.

 

How to stream Blazers vs. Mavericks

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How to stream Blazers vs. Mavericks

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

The Portland Trail Blazers (23-21) look to continue its winning-streak after getting five wins in a row with a 100-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.  The Blazers host the Dallas Mavericks (15-30) Saturday.

In Thursday’s win, Damian Lillard led the way with 26 points. Jusuf Nurkic had his 10th double-double of the season with 17 points and 19 rebounds.

Portland’s defense was dialed in the final period and held the Pacers to just two points in the opening seven minutes of the fourth quarter.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 11-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

As for Dallas, the Mavericks are now riding a two-game losing streak after dropping a close one to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.  The Nuggets took the 105-102 victory. Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored a team-high 25 points and also had five assists.

The Mavs have been bringing the offense this month and currently rank ninth in the NBA in offensive rating with 109.1 points per 100 possessions.

This season Dallas is struggling to rack up wins though. Harrison Barnes is leading the way in scoring with 18.7 points per game. Former Trail Blazer Wesley Matthews is averaging 18.3 points on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 36 percent shooting from deep.

Saturday night’s contest will be the first of three regular season meetings between the Blazers and Mavs.

Looking at the injury report for the Blazers, Portland has listed Shabazz Napier (upper respiratory) as probable for Saturday’s contest. For the Mavericks, JJ Barea (left groin strain) is listed as questionable, Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia), Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) and Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) are all out vs. the Blazers.

Our coverage of the Trail Blazers and Mavericks game starts with a special hour-long Rip City Live at 5:30pm on Saturday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

You can catch all the postgame reaction and interviews from the Trail Blazers locker room live on Talkin' Ball immediately after the game on NBCSportsNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

Home sweet home

Mark Stein: This is the year Portland will break up Lillard and McCollum
 

 

Video:  Bosnian Beast helps life the Blazers over the Pacers

Video:  The $5k bucket challenge that had everyone talking

Video:  They call him the Bosnian Beast for a reason

Video:  Cedric the Entertainer stole the show after the Blazers win

 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

Tip-off: 7:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Special hour-long Rip City Live (5:30pm), 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 coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at noon 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 hire former referee Don Vaden as a consultant

Trail Blazers hire former referee Don Vaden as a consultant

There is a new member on Trail Blazers, but Friday’s transaction had nothing to do with adding shooting, perimeter defense or veteran leadership.

Still, the addition of Don Vaden gives the Blazers something no other NBA team currently has: a former NBA referee to serve as a consultant who offers everything from education on league rules, background on referee personalities and tendencies, and views into how to avoid, or draw, fouls.

Although Vaden signed on Friday, he has been around the Blazers since January and has already offered these insights and coaching tips to players and coaches:

*Vaden has instructed rookie Zach Collins that his defensive style of vertically challenging shots – which often drew fouls early in the season – is fundamentally sound and will eventually earn the respect of the officials.

*Ed Davis, who has been called for a rash of pushing fouls underneath the basket, needs to keep his arms closer to his body if he intends to get away with the move.

*And if you thought Damian Lillard has increasingly tried to draw fouls while attempting three-pointers, it’s because Vaden admits with a sheepish chuckle: “That’s being taught.’’

“He’s going to be a tremendous resource,’’ coach Terry Stotts said.

Vaden has 30 years of experience between the NBA and WNBA. He spent 15 seasons as an NBA referee, retiring in 2003, and spent 15 years in the WNBA, where he worked as the director of referees and their officiating programs.

The position is unique in today’s game, but not groundbreaking. Vaden says the Houston Rockets years ago employed a former referee for a similar role. Vaden says his company, Interactive Consulting, is open to signing with other teams.

Vaden was at Thursday’s Blazers-Pacers game and offered the team a few observations and explanations. While CJ McCollum prepared to shoot a jumper, a foul was called under the basket as a Pacers defender wrestled with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic. McCollum made his shot, but after review, the basket was disallowed and play resumed after an inbound.

Vaden explained that the basket would have counted had McCollum been in the upward shooting motion of his shot when the foul occurred, and Nurkic would have been awarded a free throw.

Also, he pointed out how a player should have been called for an offensive foul while going up for a layin, because his off-ball arm was extended beyond a 90-degree angle.

And he also eased the mind of Blazers guard Pat Connaughton, who thought he was fouled on a shot. Vaden confirmed he was.

He said he hopes these types of observations and comment can help clear the minds of players and better educate them why fouls are, or are not, called.

Vaden’s hire comes at a time when tensions between players and referees have escalated.  He said he hopes that escalation doesn’t reach the Blazers.

“I look at it this way: We are in the same office. They have to be able to work together and they have to figure it out,’’ Vaden said.

“There is enough problems in the league between referees and players that I don’t want it to happen here, and I don’t want it to happen within the league. So the more we can help figure that piece out, and open the lines of communication, the better off we will be.’’

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

The Blazers extended their home winning streak to five tonight with a solid performance against the Indiana Pacers. Jusuf Nurkic returned to form with a stellar 19 point, 17 rebound game. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 26 points. Next up Portland will host Dallas on Saturday night. 

 

It was also not your usual postgame press conference as a special guest took over...

Box Score: Portland 100, Indiana 86

Quick Hits:

 

Mark Stein:This is the year Portland will break up Lillard and McCollum

Mark Stein:This is the year Portland will break up Lillard and McCollum

Long time NBA writer Mark Stein, who spent 17 years writing for ESPN, has now signed on with the New York Times and published a 'Newsletter' today in which he laid out eight predicitions for the year. Among them was this gem:

"This is the year Portland will break up the potent backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum."

Stein explains his logic about balancing the roster in detail and you can click the link to read the full Newsletter. 

Through 43 games this season, McCollum is averaging 21.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 42.6% from three.

A trade of this magnitude would certainly be a major shake up to Portland but could offer huge upside if the right talent was brough back in return. 

How to stream Blazers vs. Pacers

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How to stream Blazers vs. 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, you can now stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  Or, you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

The Portland Trail Blazers (23-21) are looking for its fifth straight home victory when Portland hosts the Indiana Pacers (24-20) on Thursday night.

The Blazers are coming off a 118-111 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday as Portland snapped a three-game losing streak.  In the win, Damian Lillard had 31 points, five rebounds and seven assists.  CJ McCollum added 27 points.

Portland is now 11-10 at home this season.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 11-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

As for the Pacers, Indiana has won three in a row after its most recent W coming on Monday night with the Pacers beating the Jazz, 109-94.

Victor Oladipo had 28 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists.  On the season, Oladipo is averaging 24.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest.

As a team, the Pacers have the sixth best offense in the league with points per possession right now.

For Thursday’s injury reports, the Pacers will be without center Myles Turner vs. the Blazers. Turner has been out with a ligament sprain and muscle strain in his right elbow.  He suffered the injury on January 8th vs. the Bucks.  The Pacers have gone with a small ball lineup starting Domantas Sabonis at center with Turner out.

Indiana will also be without Robinson III (Left ankle surgery rehabilitation) and Edmond Sumner (Left knee surgery rehabilitation).  The Blazers are not reporting any injuries.

Thursday’s game will be the final meeting of two between Portland and Indiana this season. Portland won the first matchup at Indiana, 114-96, back on October 20th.  It was the Trail Blazers second game of the season and second straight win.

Our coverage of the Trail Blazers and Pacers game starts at 6:00pm on Thursday night with Rip City Live as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

You can catch all the postgame reaction and interviews from the Trail Blazers locker room live on Talkin' Ball immediately after the game on NBCSportsNorthwest.

Podcast:


Quick Links:

What’s hotter than the Sun(s)? The Blazers offense, that’s what

Top 5 moments in Blazers win over Suns 


 

Video:   Blazers were on fire vs. the Suns

Video:   Dame and CJ proved to be quite the dynamic duo vs. Phoenix

Video:   Was Stotts sending Nurkic a message in 1st half benching?

Video:   Did you know 5 Blazers scored in double digits on Tuesday night?


 

Game Details:

Where: Moda Center, Portland OR

Tip-off: 7:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (6:00pm), 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 coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at noon at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

What's hotter than the Sun(s)? The Blazers offense, that's what

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What's hotter than the Sun(s)? The Blazers offense, that's what

The Blazers offense was on fire Tuesday night en route to a 118-111 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns. The Blazers came out of the gate with perhaps the best stretch of offense we have seen all season. Portland hit its first 8 shots, and 11 of its first 15. No one could miss, and by halftime it looked like a blowout was in the works. The third quarter was much of the same, as the Blazers extended the lead to as many at 25 points, but then it go interesting. Devin Booker caught fire in the fourth, scoring 21 of his 43 points, and cut the once giant Blazers lead to single digits. But the Blazers offense answered when it mattered most, and although they left it open for a second, they slammed the door shut when they needed to. 

Final Score: Blazers 118 - Suns 111

Podcast:

Minnesota hands Portland its third loss in a row

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Minnesota hands Portland its third loss in a row

The Blazers hit the road on last Tuesday and picked up an impressive win over the Thunder. It looked like the Blazers may have been readt to turn the corner and grab some big wins on the road. That was not the case. The Blazers dropped their third game in a row on Sunday, a 120-103 blowout to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Portland led 33-31 after the first quarter, but it quickly fell apart. The Blazers scored just 10 points in the second quarter, at one point going more than seven minutes without a bucket. In that same time the T’Wolves went on a 14-0 run and blew the doors open. The Blazers never recovered.

Final Score: Timberwolves 120 – Blazers 103

Next up: The Blazers return home to play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Coverage begins at 5pm on NBC Sports Northwest and on the NBC Sports App

Podcast:

Nothing easy for the Blazers in NOLA

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Nothing easy for the Blazers in NOLA

The Blazers traveled to the Big Easy on Friday, and the trip was anything but easy. The Blazers came out of the gate strong, but found themselves down by as many as 16 points in the second quarter. Portland was able to claw back and head to the locker room tied 61-61 at halftime, but were unable to get over the hump in the second half. The Blazers took a season high 42 three-point shots, but only hit on 12 of them (28.6%). You live by the sword, you die by the sword, and tonight's poor shooting from deep killed the Blazers.  

Final Score: Pelicans 119 – Blazers 113

Next up: The Blazers wrap up this four-game road trip with a stop in Minnesota on Sunday. Coverage begins at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest, and on the NBC Sports App.