Hecklers and naysayers have no room in Evan Turner's world these days

Hecklers and naysayers have no room in Evan Turner's world these days

There is a fan at Trail Blazers home games who takes great effort to heckle and chastise Evan Turner.

It reached a head a couple weeks ago, during a blowout win over Sacramento, when the heckler harped on the fact that Turner had only two points as the Blazers were closing out the Kings.

“Hey Evan! I see you got your typical two! Your typical two!’’’ Turner said, recreating the scene.

He shakes his head thinking back to it.

“All year … That’s what you call a true fan, huh?’’  

Turner says he understands he might have to take some ribbing in the give-and-take of a fan-player relationship at a game. But the season-long chiding by this fan had, in Turner’s mind, become harassment.

So, late in that Sacramento game, Turner faced the “dumb redneck,” who sits three rows back from the court.

“When I turned around and cursed him out, he turned bright red,’’ Turner said chuckling.

That Turner stopped absorbing insults and dished back is indicative of where he is in his second year in Portland: comfortable enough in his role and his performance to no longer care what the outside noise is saying.

In telling the middle-aged heckler to “shut the (expletive) up,” Turner might as well been speaking to all who still harp on his 4-year, $70 million contract.

“First off, let me say one thing: Everything I have done, I have earned,’’ Turner said. “My contract – that’s my bread, and I earned my bread. So, kiss my ass. Dead serious. Write that. I earned that (expletive) money.’’

In Portland, his teammates call him one of the smartest players on the team. And his coach says he is invaluable both for his defensive versatility and for his array of offensive weapons, from posting up, to shooting mid-range to passing to running the offense. And above all, they all say he is team first, all the time.

“All I’m doing is what my coach asks,’’ Turner said. “I’m trying to help the team, truly and genuinely help the team. Because I’ve been on teams where I’m putting up 20, and nobody gave a damn because we were losing.’’

Never before has Turner’s wide-ranging value been more on display than during the Blazers’ nine-game winning streak that has vaulted them to third in the Western Conference.

His defense was instrumental late in Friday’s win over Golden State, when got up-close-and-personal while forcing misses from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Earlier in the week, against Oklahoma City, he had 17 points – which included three three-pointers – to fuel the season-series clinching win. And in an important victory against Minnesota, he had a team-high six assists and zero turnovers.

“He doesn’t get enough credit, but we know what he does, and that’s all that matters,’’ Maurice Harkless said motioning around the locker room.

And, perhaps, that’s the key, Turner says. He doesn’t care whether he gets the credit. And he doesn’t care if people think he is worth $70 million.

“At the end of the day, winning matters,’’ Turner said. “Character matters. And what you are willing to sacrifice matters. I think my biggest steps and growth are being able to compartmentalize the things that really matter. I used to waste a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter. Who gets credit and all that stuff … it doesn’t matter.’’

One thing that does matter: A smile.


It is Thursday, the day before the Blazers will play Golden State in a matchup of two of the NBA’s hottest teams, when Turner stops after practice to pose for a picture to model his Li-Ning shoes.

Even though the shot is for his shoes, Turner adorns the biggest and cheesiest of smiles, for which he is playfully ribbed.

“Hey, a smile can mean a lot. I can murder somebody, and if the judge looks at my smile, it can be the difference between 30 years and life,’’ Turner said.

What makes this rationalization even more funny is … he’s serious.

“That’s why I smile on my driver’s license,’’ he said, dead serious. “You never know.’’

His teammates are often left shaking their head, either in confusion or in a can-you-believe-this-dude wonderment.

“He’s the funniest guy on the team, and the funniest guy on the team, accidently,’’ Harkless said. “And we all love him for it.’’

The Blazers are a mostly serious group, very dedicated to their craft, and it is natural over the course of the long NBA season for players to be uptight, or find themselves in moods.

And probably never in the last decade has there been a more off-the-wall personality than Turner to prevent that tension from escalating.

“ET helps us out a lot, not just on the court, but his personality,’’ Ed Davis said. “Every day, he comes in and mixes things up. Little things that you need in a long season, like you come in and are feeling like, damn, I don’t feel like hearing Coach’s mouth today, or I don’t feel like seeing Shabazz … but ET will come in and bring that unique energy and everything changes.’’

Turner’s outlook changed midway through his career, shortly after he contemplated quitting the NBA while he was in Indiana. He was involved in a practice scuffle with Lance Stephenson, fell out of the playing rotation and felt like his career had hit a dead end.

“It was after the Pacers incident,’’ Turner said. “I guess I reached an age when I realized what was important. You start equating that to the real sentimental stuff and you starting putting stuff into perspective.’’

His perspective now?

“This is basketball. It should be fun,’’ Turner said. “Sports are for kids, and adults mess it up. For me, I was one of those people, who overly, overly, overly took it serious. To the point where it wasn’t fun. So now, I make sure I have fun with it. This is a dream. A game.’’


Although Turner doesn’t like to admit it, much of the fun of last season was squashed by the burden of his new contract. Fans had expectations for a player making $17 million a season, and Turner couldn’t help but feel those expectations as he tip-toed through acclimating himself on an already established team.

He averaged 9.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 25.5 minutes a game while shooting 42.6 percent form the field and 26.3 percent from three-point range.

Both Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier said they have either seen or heard Turner struggle about the burden of his contract.

“A lot of players get judged on their salary,’’ Davis said. “If he was making, let’s say 8 million a year, they would be like, ‘He’s the best player in the league’ … that’s just how life is. But I always tell him: That’s a good problem to have. I’d rather have someone talk (stuff) to me if I was making 17 million a year than 6 million a year. So that’s a good problem.’’

This season, much of that burden seems to have subsided, in part because he says he is “focusing on positivity” and in part because he knows he is an invaluable cog to the Blazers’ machine. 

As a result, he neither has the time nor the energy to waste in justifying his contract.  In fact, he borders on being offended having to defend it.

“I don’t mean to be harsh, but I get tired of it being brought up,’’ Turner said. “And it’s really not my focus. Who am I supposed to prove it to? Some might be of the opinion that I help the team a lot.

“But as long as there are radio personalities who are nowhere near the team, and there’s people who have never played basketball giving their opinion and making up blogs, there will be stuff out there,’’ Turner said.

This season, he is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from three-point range. They are not standout statistics, but coach Terry Stotts and the Blazers players say stats will never capture Turner’s true worth.

“I can talk all day about him. Not a lot of people understand the value he has for this team. And they don’t understand because he is not a conventional player,’’ Napier said. “But he is our best post-offense player. Defensively he is able to guard Kevin Durant, then switch and guard Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. But it’s also his leadership skills, and his charisma, his camaraderie – the things people don’t see. They are the things that make up ET. And it’s those things that make him a great player to us.’’

Napier often refers to “intangibles” when talking about Turner, noting a recent piece of advice he gave to Zach Collins – to spin immediately after getting a pass in the post. Collins immediately implemented the advice and scored.

“He calms guys down, gets guys in right spots … he’s just the leader we need,’’ Napier said.


That some Blazers fans, including the third-row heckler, are slow to see what his teammates see, is not surprising to Turner.

He was energized this summer on a trip to China, during which he found a renewed zeal for the game. He filmed one of his workouts, of him shooting 3-pointers, and posted it on social media. He was stung to see negative comments about his shot.

And upon his return, during a conversation on ride with an Uber driver, he was taken aback at the narrative about his game. It caused him to recoil, and it started his obsession to seek only positivity.

So when he was asked if he is appreciated, he was quick to answer.

“From my teammates, of course. Absolutely,’’ Turner said. “I don’t really care outside, nor is it really worth digging into. I get the love. I really only pay attention to the positivity.’’

With the NBA’s longest current winning streak, never have the Blazers been surrounded by more positivity, and Turner has been in the middle of it all.

“We’ve won nine straight. I mean that’s dope as (expletive),’’ Turner said.

Perhaps that’s why he snapped back at the heckler, and why he has become more adamant in standing up for his contract.

“I’ve come from the mud,’’ Turner said. “I had nothing. I had a pair of shoes. My mom worked hard to put me in the situations I’m in. I rejected a lot of negativity and a lot of cop-outs growing up to stay focused and get to situations like this. That’s why I’m fired up about it. I’ve never taken (expletive). I’ve only taken what I’m supposed to take, never tried to dip out on people, and I’ve tried to live life the right way. What’s mine is mine. It’s my (expletive) money. And if it ever got taken away, I’m strong enough to go get more.’’

So the hecklers can heckle, and the voices on the radio can take shots. Turner is busy listening to the positivity of the NBA’s hottest team.

“I know this is just the way sports is,’’ Turner says, thinking back to the heckler. “And to whom much is given, much is expected. But perception is reality, and it takes a while to change perception.’’

The Blazers bunch... That's the way they became the Blazers Bunch

The Blazers bunch... That's the way they became the Blazers Bunch

It's the story
Of the Portland Trail Blazers
Who have been busy winning 13 straight games
They were 15 men
Leaning on each other 
And they knew they weren’t all alone

No one knows that one day when things started clicking
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group must somehow form a family
That's the way we all became the Blazers bunch

The Blazers bunch, the Blazers bunch
That's the way they became the Blazers bunch

Lean on Me: Blazers streak defined by familiar theme

Lean on Me: Blazers streak defined by familiar theme

LOS ANGELES – On Sunday night, shortly after Portland had won its 13th consecutive game, an odd thing happened in the Trail Blazers locker room.

In separate interviews, at separate times, three different players used the same phrase to explain the Blazers’ sudden rise to NBA prominence:

“We are leaning on each other.”

First Maurice Harkless said it. Then Shabazz Napier. And finally, Damian Lillard.

Certainly, it seemed, with so many players saying the same thing, this had become a rallying cry, or at least a concept driven home by coach Terry Stotts and his staff during what has become the second-longest winning streak in franchise history (16 is the Portland record).

But in a fitting example that mirrors their about-face, the lean-on-me trait was more organic.

“We haven’t talked about it,’’ Damian Lillard said. “It’s just the best way to describe it. That’s just what we are doing. You just have to trust (teammates) will make the right play, trust they will knock down the shot, trust they will be there in help-side (defense), trust they will tell you a screen is coming. And we are just doing it.’’

The lean-on-me concept has taken shape in different forms. Sometimes, as Lillard pointed out, it can be in a play such as Al-Farouq Aminu coming to double-team as Tobias Harris tried to post up Lillard Sunday.

Other times, it can be a player picking up another teammate for an entire game, as the streak has been best defined by different players emerging in starring roles on different nights.

If Jusuf Nurkic has struggled, Ed Davis has been there to pick up the slack. And if Davis fouls out in 11 minutes, as he did Sunday against the Clippers, Nurkic is there to record a double-double while adding four blocks.

And while Lillard has been spectacular, including put-the-team-on-his-back moments in miracle comebacks at the Lakers and Suns, there have been plenty of co-stars along the way.

Napier made a big steal of Isaiah Thomas in the final seconds of the Lakers win. Zach Collins had a coming-of-age performance against Oklahoma City. Al-Farouq Aminu has made game-clinching three-pointers against Miami, Cleveland and Detroit. Evan Turner played important late-game defense against Golden State and made a clinching basket against Cleveland. Harkless was a spark against the Clippers. Ed Davis has had more big moments than he can flex at, and CJ McCollum has had dominant scoring stretches, particularly against the Cavaliers.

“That’s what teams do,’’ Stotts said. “Not everybody is going to have a night every night, and whether it’s Shabazz or Pat (Connaughton), or Ed … we’ve had different guys off the bench to have an impact. Different guys have the ability to make plays.’’

For the past month, Lillard has been trumpeting the well-rounded performance of the roster. He says he is trusting and his teammates more than ever before. As a result, the Blazers’ surge has been empowering for the roster.

“In the past, when teams have made a run, I’ve gone out there and tried to will us in the right way, or CJ will try it,’’ Lillard said. “But this year, we are leaning on each other … we are trusting each other and guys are coming through, getting big time blocks, big time steals, big rebounds, free throws. The more connected we are, the better we will be, and it’s showing.’’

On Tuesday, the Blazers will go for 14 in a row against Houston, the team with the NBA’s best record. Who will be the star? Who will make the big shot? The big defensive play?

Unlike in year’s past, that answer is hard to say for sure. And that, the Blazers say, is what defines them, and this streak.

“I think it just shows how much we are leaning on each other,’’ Harkless said. “We are trusting each other. We are doing this together, and that’s going to be important moving forward.’’

Blazers go Hollywood for lucky number 13

USA Today

Blazers go Hollywood for lucky number 13

If you see a member of the Trail Blazers in public, try not to get too close. There is a high chance you could burn yourself because this team is on fire! The Blazers went to Los Angeles on Sunday and dismantled the Clippers, 122-109 for their thirteenth win in a row. That’s right – 13 wins in a row! Portland continues to hold on to the three seed in the Western Conference, and now has a two game lead on No.4 Oklahoma City. 

Box Score: Blazers 122 – Clippers 109

Next up:  The Blazers play host to the league leading Houston Rockets (56-14) on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30pm at Moda Center. 

Quck Hit: 

Make it a dozen in a row!


Make it a dozen in a row!

You've heard it a lot lately, but it happened again. The Blazers have now won 12 straight after running the Detroit Pistons out of Moda Center on Saturday night. Damian Lillard played a complete game finishing with 24 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Up next, the Blazers go for a baker's dozen tomorrow night in LA vs. the Clippers. 

Box Score: Portland 100, Detroit 87

Quick Hits: 

With emergence of trust in teammates, Lillard Time expands for Blazers

With emergence of trust in teammates, Lillard Time expands for Blazers

While much of the glory has been given to Damian Lillard during the Trail Blazers’ 11-game winning streak, a subtle development has emerged on the fringe of the spotlight:

More than ever before, Lillard is trusting his teammates.

And they are delivering.

Lillard’s trust was on full display Thursday during the Blazers’ 113-105 victory over Cleveland, when he made two heady assists in the closing minutes that thwarted a LeBron James-led comeback.

“People during this streak have asked me about leading the charge,’’ Lillard said. “But I keep telling them that I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing unless everybody else was carrying their weight.’’

On Thursday, much of the weight was carried by fellow star CJ McCollum, who scored 29 points, but it was two late-game plays by Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner that illustrates the team’s growth, and Lillard’s trust.

On the heels of a 14-2 run, Cleveland was within 105-102 with just less than three minutes left, which usually triggers that special trait in the Blazers’ point guard known as Lillard Time.

Sensing this, the Cavaliers put James on Lillard, and when Lillard took James to the basket, it drew Jordan Clarkson into the paint. But instead of forcing a shot, Lillard kicked out to Al-Farouq Aminu, who nailed a three-pointer with 2:38 left.

On the next Blazers’ possession, Lillard missed, but the rebound was tapped back to him in the corner with Cleveland’s Kyle Korver in front of him. As Lillard sized up the situation, James came to Korver and indicated he would guard the Blazers’ star.

Inside the Blazers, Turner is hailed as one of the team’s smartest players, and he instantly recognized that with James on Lillard, it meant Korver would be left to guard him.

“Personally, I thought they were trippin’,’’ Turner said. “I was like, this is the best thing that could possibly happen. They are really switching. I mean, Korver is a great player and a great shooter and all that, but I feel great in the post, and over the years I’ve had a decent amount of success against people his size and smaller.’’

So Turner slashed through the lane and immediately established post position on Korver.

Flashback to last season and think of a six-point game, less than two minutes left, in the middle of a playoff push  … would Lillard give up the ball there?

“No,’’ Lillard said. “It’s not that I wouldn’t have recognized that play, but I feel like  … ET has gotten comfortable and we’ve seen him go to the block and be successful.’’

So instead of taking it upon himself to seal the game, Lillard didn’t hesitate and fed Turner the ball. Turner immediately went to his bread-and-butter and backed Korver down into the paint, where he scored with 1:49 left.

“Very unselfish,’’ Turner said of Lillard. “It was huge. In that part of the game, a critical part, to trust me enough in a mismatch, and be aware of my strength … it was great.’’

Does Turner think Lillard would have done that last season, Turner’s first in Portland?

“I don’t really know,’’ Turner said. “Because I don’t want to take away from Dame. He’s smart and always tries to do the right thing. But I will say, one thing we have been doing great lately is moving the ball.’’

Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he didn't want to read too much into one play, but he liked what he saw late from Lillard.

"That was a sign of trust and recognition,’’ Stotts said.

Lillard says the two late-game plays – part of his nine-assist night - were an illustration of how the Blazers have become a more well-rounded and dependable team. Sure, during this streak he is averaging 31.7 points, and has willed this team to victories at Phoenix and the Lakers, but he no longer feels the burden to do it all himself.

This team, he says, thinks. This team communicates. And this team has different players elevate their play on different nights.

“Us leaning on each other is as big as anything,’’ Lillard said. “We have to lean on each other.’’

Not one, not two, not three... ELEVEN in a row


Not one, not two, not three... ELEVEN in a row

Another game night and another Trail Blazers' victim as Portland extends its winning streak to 11 games by taking down LeBron James and Cavs! Portland's dynamic duo did it again as CJ McCollum (29 points) and Damian Lillard (24 points, 9 assists) led the charge. LeBron James poured in 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Up Next: Detroit on Saturday night.

Box Score: Portland 113, Cleveland 105

Quick Hits:

Awaiting birth of his son, Damian Lillard eyes schedule

USA Today

Awaiting birth of his son, Damian Lillard eyes schedule

For Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers’ playoff push isn’t the only thing in a stretch run these days.

Lillard and his girlfriend are expecting a son, with March 19 as the projected due date. That could affect the star guard’s availability - the Blazers are in Los Angeles on March 18 for a game against the Clippers, and Lillard said he would fly home and miss the game if his girlfriend went into labor.

Lillard, who is enjoying the best season of his six-year career, said being a father has been on his mind throughout this season, but he said it hasn’t changed his play.

“I’ve always known it was going to happen; I mean, he’s going to come,’’ Lillard said.

The Blazers also have games March 20 against Houston and March 23 against Boston, but both are at home. The Blazers then go on a five-day, three-game trip to Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Memphis.


Tough Love: How Blazers' coach Terry Stotts is reaching Jusuf Nurkic

Tough Love: How Blazers' coach Terry Stotts is reaching Jusuf Nurkic

Throughout this Trail Blazers season, an important development has been unfolding on the sidelines: the coaching of Jusuf Nurkic by Terry Stotts.

In probably one of his more dogged and pointed undertakings in his six seasons as coach of the Blazers, Stotts this season has been relentless in his pursuit of excellence from the 23-year-old center.

“I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in practice. In huddles. He will get after him,’’ Damian Lillard said.

Stotts acknowledged that this season, and in particular the past two months, he has taken great effort to reach Nurkic.

“I think I’ve probably given him more attention than other guys,’’ Stotts said.

Sometimes it has been through film study. Sometimes it has been with a sharp reminder. And a few times, it has been a reduction in Nurkic’s minutes.

In all, Nurkic doesn’t dispute that Stotts has been hard on him.

[Buy Now - Blazers Pass for access to Blazer games if you don't get NBCS Northwest!]

“He should,’’ Nurkic said. “I’m 23 years old. I’m still growing up. In basketball, it’s my fourth year, and almost like my second in the NBA. It’s a learning process for me.’’

Lillard, who does his own share of mentoring Nurkic, has watched Stotts deal with Nurkic with a curious eye. He says what Stotts has done with Nurkic underscores the most “underrated” facet of Stotts’ coaching – the ability to get the most out of a player.

“With Nurk, (Stotts) might raise his voice a bit, but it’s never like embarrassing him, or saying ‘That was soft!’" Lillard said. “It’s more, ‘Nurk! You are better than that!’ … or ‘Stop doing that! We need you to go up strong!’  And it’s stuff Nurk needs to hear at times.’’

For how dominating Nurkic can be – such as Monday, when he had 27 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in the Blazers’ win over Miami – he can also be frustrating.

Throughout the season, he has forgotten plays. Missed a bevy of close-range shots. And drifted mentally.

Nurkic said in his past – his first two seasons in Denver – those types of transgressions were met with benchings and the silent treatment.

With Stotts, they have been met with stern lectures that are centered around teaching.

“I never have a coaching experience like his personality,’’ Nurkic said. “I’ve never had a coach who has trusted me that much … I had a coach before (Denver’s Mike Malone) who never talked to me or play me; now I have a coach who talk to me about every play, and in the film room with me, to work on the stuff I need. He shows me how I can be better. That’s what it is all about.’’

It is at the core of Stotts’ coaching philosophy: teaching through positive reinforcement and challenging in a positive, rather than negative, manner.

“I don’t like to over-coach players,’’ Stotts said. “I think they get a lot of information from different people – other players, agents, their families – so I try to be to-the-point and helpful.’’

But make no mistake, Lillard says, Stotts challenges Nurkic. Stotts this season has probably been as forceful and pointed as he has been with a player in Portland, outside of Meyers Leonard. Lillard smiles when thinking about Stotts’ tactics with Nurkic, because he knows the perception is that Stotts is always Mr. Nice Guy.

“It’s underrated about Coach Stotts, because he is such a nice dude,’’ Lillard said. “Like, he’s not always screaming and being angry – you see him smiling and being happy all the time. But I think it’s underrated that he is willing to get it out of you.’’

Stotts, however, points out that it all starts with the player. A coach can push and prod all he wants, but ultimately it is up to the player.

“And I give Nurk credit,’’ Stotts said. “He has put in a lot of work with our assistants and in having a serious approach to improving. It always starts with the player.’’

But with Nurkic, there appears to be a key to unlocking his talents, as evidenced by his rocky time in Denver. Lillard says he thinks there is a certain way to handle the 7-footer and Stotts has found it with coaching that blends a nurturing style with moments of cracking the whip.

“I think we’ve all learned that Nurk will respond (to criticism); he doesn’t get in his feelings and all that stuff,’’ Lillard said. “So Coach, he understands that Nurk has the ability to float sometimes, and if you get on him, he will give you something. Coach is good about things like that – not being constantly on a guy’s back, but if something needs to be said, he will definitely say it.’’

Probably the most concrete coaching moment came around the All-Star Break, when the staff restructured his shooting workouts, which had devolved into a series of nonchalant and finesse shots. Nurkic says there is a new rule: He can only practice shots he will take in the game.

“It’s about getting away from the flip shots and staying in control,’’ Stotts said. “Him taking the time to steady himself and get game-like shots. And he has worked hard at it. That work he has put in is starting to pay off now.’’

Since the All-Star Break, Nurkic has seen improvement in every category: his shooting percentage has improved from 48 percent to 55 percent. His scoring from 14.1 to 15.0 and his rebounding from 8.2 to 10.3.

“If we can get that from him,’’ Lillard says, “we are a different team.’’

Nurkic says that point – his importance to the Blazers - has been one of the main themes Stotts has hammered home to him throughout the season.

“Just to point (out) how much I know this team needs me,’’ Nurkic said. “Everybody knows. My teammates they really know how much I can bring. So when I’m at my best, we have a great chance to win.’’

The scary part is Nurkic says he still has room to improve. And Lillard says with the way Stotts is pushing Nurkic’s buttons – by both being demanding but nurturing – that improvement will come.

“Once somebody like him sees they really believe in me, and that Coach is getting on him but it’s ‘You are better than that’  … he feels the love,’’ Lillard said. “He not crazy. He’s one of those guys who if he feels the love and he knows you want the best for him, he’s going to give you everything he’s got.’’

Blazer5 Gaming slots in at #6 in inaugural NBA 2k draft


Blazer5 Gaming slots in at #6 in inaugural NBA 2k draft

The NBA2K League held its inagural draft lottery today and the Trail Blazers franchise "Blazer 5 Gaming" came out with the No. 6 (out of 17) overall pick.

Dallas won the top pick in the draft while the Warriors will pick last.

The draft is scheduled for April 4th and will work in a 'snake' format, much like many fantasy leagues. 


You can learn more about the Blazer 5 Gaming team at their official website.