Trail Blazers media day: In upgraded West, belief will be the key word for Blazers

Trail Blazers media day: In upgraded West, belief will be the key word for Blazers

The Trail Blazers enter the 2017-2018 season in familiar territory: a massive underdog, almost forgotten among the seismic changes in the Western Conference, which might be a good thing for this group.

After last season, when the Blazers sputtered to a 41-41 record -- during which top executive Neil Olshey said “I think guys went in thinking things could be given and not earned, to a certain degree,’’ -- these Blazers seem to have found a familiar preseason stance: Discount the Blazers at your caution.

 “I think we are flying under the radar, like a couple of seasons ago,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We are back to being the underdog, and all of us embrace that mentality. And I think that gives us a different type of edge, a chip on our shoulders.’’

With 12 returners, and a rookie bigman in Caleb Swanigan whom the veterans raved will come in an make an impact, the Blazers know things won’t be easy in a Western Conference that has the defending champion Golden State Warriors and dramatically enhanced rosters in Oklahoma City (Paul George, Carmelo Anthony), Houston (Chris Paul), Minnesota (Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague), Denver (Paul Millsap) to name a few.

It’s why the team’s pulse, captain Damian Lillard, says it’s important for the Blazers to adopt a simple, one-word concept: Belief.

“I think we just have to truly believe,’’ Lillard said. “It’s one thing to get up here and say I believe we can be a good team, and I believe we worked hard, and I believe we got better. But when it’s really in you .., that drive inside you, and you look to your left and right and say I believe in this guy and he can bring something to the table that can make us a good enough team? I know that I really have that.’’

Instilling that belief will be one of the subplots to a training camp that will feature competition for starting roles at small forward and power forward, and questions about the team’s big-man depth now that power forward Noah Vonleh is out for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

“I think I see more in my teammates sometimes than they see in themselves,’’ Lillard said. “I think that’s what it comes down to: We are all talented, have ability and are happy to be teammates, but when you have that belief, you can go further.’’

Among the Las Vegas oddsmakers, the Blazers are projected to be a borderline playoff team, better than Memphis and Utah, but behind Minnesota, Denver and the Clippers.

Last season, the Blazers found that talk is cheap. They thought they were ready to take the next step after finishing fifth in the West, but instead struggled to make the playoffs while playing with a losing record from Dec. 10 through April 1.

Now, as three All-Stars (George, Butler, Anthony) have moved from the East to the West, the margin for error has become even smaller.

“One of positives of such great players moving to the West is it’s obvious to everyone on our roster that we need to step up our games from day one,’’ Olshey said. “So guys have been dialed in more.’’

Odds and ends: One player Olshey went out of his way to praise: point guard Shabazz Napier.  “He’s had a really nice off season.’’ …  Olshey said he was “incredibly aggressive” in trying to upgrade the roster this offseason, presumably referring to his attempts to acquire Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in trades. “Look, we tried to keep up in the arms race as best we could,’’ Olshey said. “We made every effort  … most of the movement was by trade and you need willing partners when it comes to trades. I can tell you we were incredibly aggressive. We protected certain pieces of our roster that we felt were irreplaceable … we did everything in our power to try an accelerate where we are trying to get to as a team.’’

Coach Terry Stotts said three starters are locked in cement: Lillard at point guard, CJ McCollum at shooting guard and Jusuf Nurkic at center … Blazers’ team president Chris McGowan said the Blazers have been notified by the NBA they will not be under consideration for the 2020 or 2021 All-Star Game … After nearly coming to a deal with one client, McGowan said he has renewed pursuit of a partner to advertise on the Blazers’ jersey. He said a deal likely won’t happen until mid-season or next season.

Blazers breathe sigh of relief

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Blazers breathe sigh of relief

Breathe, Rip city. Breathe! Blazers fans had to hold their breath in the final seconds, but in the end the Blazers were able to leave Charlotte with win. The Blazers missed some clutch free throws to leave to the door open for the Hornets, but it wasn’t enough room for the Hornets to get through. It took a lot of effort, and little bit of luck, but the Blazers have now won three in a row. Next stop, Minnesota.

Final Score: Blazers 93 – Hornets 91

How to stream Blazers vs. Hornets

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How to stream Blazers vs. Hornets

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.

There are two games remaining on the Portland Trail Blazers (15-13) five-game road trip and on Saturday night the Blazers face the Charlotte Hornets (10-18) in the second night of a back-to-back for both Portland and Charlotte.

On Friday night, the Trail Blazers held off the Orlando Magic and ended up with a 95-88 victory. Jusuf Nurkic returned to the lineup on Friday after missing four straight games with a right ankle sprain.  Nurkic was on a minutes restriction and struggled to get back into the flow of the game right away.  He finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and also pulled down 11 rebounds.

Damian Lillard had a game-high 21 points, while CJ McCollum chipped in with 20 points.  Al-Farouq Aminu scored 15 points for the second straight game.

Aminu is now shooting 58% from three-point range in his last five games.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 14-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

As for Charlotte, the Hornets are also going to be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back after hosting the Miami Heat on Friday night.  With Friday’s 104-98 loss to the Heat, the Hornets have now lost five of their last six games.

Outside of Kemba Walker, who is averaging 22.1 points per game, and Dwight Howard, who is averaging 16.4 points, the Hornets have not found a consistent third scoring option.

Former Trail Blazer forward Nicolas Batum returned to action this season in mid November after coming back earlier than expected from an elbow injury that he suffered in early October.  In 14 games played this season, Batum is averaging 10 points per contest.

Charlotte is 8-7 at home this season.

The Blazers are currently not reporting any injuries, while the Hornets, will be without Cody Zeller (left knee surgery) vs. the Blazers. 

Saturday's meeting is the first of two between Portland and Charlotte this season.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Hornets game with Rip City Live at 3:00pm on Saturday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

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

 


Quick Links:

Blazers find their own brand of Magic in Orlando

 

Video:  Aminu with the hot hand yet again as Blazers hold off Magic

Video:  All is fair in hazing and free throws

Video:  Damian Lillard cheats on his diet just like you  

Video:  “I call him Yoda.” Are the Trail Blazers Star Wars buffs?


 

Game Details:

Where:  Spectrum Center, Charlotte NC

Tip-off: 4:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  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 coverage on Facebook: 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

Blazers find their own brand of magic in Orlando

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Blazers find their own brand of magic in Orlando

Make that two wins in a row for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland went to Orlando and dominated the Magic from start to finish. The Magic put together a run in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Blazers. The Blazers used the hot shooting of Al-Farouq Aminu (15pts, 3-5 from deep) to improve to 2-1 on this 5-game road trip. Not only did the Blazers grab another win, they also saw the return of Jusuf Nurkic from a right ankle sprain. The Blazers look to make it three wins in a row on Saturday when they travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets.

Final Score in Orlando: Blazers 95 – Magic 88

How to stream Blazers vs. Magic

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How to stream Blazers vs. Magic

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 (14-13) will look to make it two straight wins when Portland visits the Orlando Magic (11-18) on Friday.

Portland overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Heat 102-95 in Miami on Wednesday night which snapped a five-game losing streak for the Trail Blazers.  CJ McCollum led the charge with 28 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 15 points and 13 rebounds in the win.

Ed Davis finishied with 11 points and five rebounds.  Davis played a season-high 26 minutes. 

Center Jusuf Nurkic (sprained right ankle) missed his third consecutive game and backup center Meyers Leonard (illness) also did not play. 

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 14-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

After winning six of its first eight game, Orlando’s season is not looking as promising as the start to the season.  The Magic have lost three in a row and 14 of their last 17 overall.

The most recent loss for the Magic came at home on Wednesday night when the Clippers beat Orlando 106-95.

In the loss, Jonathon Simmons had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while  Nikola Vucevic added 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.  

As for the injury reports, the Blazers have listed Nurkic (sprained right ankle) as questionable, while the Magic have listed Arron Afflalo (back spasms) and Aaron Gordon (concussion) as questionable.  Plus, Evan Fournier (sprained right ankle), Jonathan Isaac (sprained right ankle) and Terrence Ross (sprained right MCL/non-displaced fracture of right tibial plateau) are all listed as out vs. the Blazers.

Friday’s contest is the last of two meetings between the Trail Blazers and Magic this season.  Portland defeated Orlando 99-94 back on November 15th at the Moda Center.

Looking at the recent history between the Blazers and Magic, Orlando has won five of the last seven meetings against Portland at home in the Amway Center.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Magic contest with Rip City Live at 3:00pm on Wednesday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

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

 


Quick Links:

The losing streak is no more!

 

Video:   Lillard—We had to get this one

Video:   Blazers can finally exhale

Video:   Blazers needed this win in the worst way

Video:  Wednesday night Lillard showed us, sometimes, steps don’t count

 

Game Details:

Where:  Amway Center, Orlando FL

Tip-off: 4:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  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 coverage on Facebook: 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

The losing streak is no more!

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The losing streak is no more!

It's about Dame time! The Blazers came into Miami losers of five straight, and for much of the game it looked like they would drop number six. However, Lillard and Co. flipped the switch in the fourth quarter to bring home the 102-95 win. The Blazers, led by Lillard down the stretch, outscored the Heat 32-16 in the fourth quarter. The Blazers now have a new streak: A one game winning streak! Can they keep it going on Friday in Orlando?

Finall Score: Blazers 102 - Heat 95

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

It wasn't surprising that the Trail Blazers lost another game Monday night. The fifth straight defeat came in Oakland to the Golden State Warriors, a team that has beaten Portland like a snare drum recently.

Yes, the Warriors were without all-stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green and others -- but they still had enough to handle the Blazers with relative ease.

Portland staged a fourth-quarter comeback, mainly due to Damian Lillard's heroics. Lillard was playing with yet another new lineup combination down the stretch, this one consisting of Jake Layman, Zach Collins, Noah Vonleh and Pat Connaughton. Later, CJ McCollum came on for Layman, but this was the group that played most of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, starters Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard, who helped stake their team to a lead after the first quarter, didn't appear in the final period. Just as Shabazz Napier -- who had put together a nice run of off-the-bench performances -- rode the bench for the entire game. Napier has not played in the last two games and has seen just eight minutes of action in the last three. This after Napier had played at least 14 minutes in all of the previous 14 games. Leonard's playing time has been odd, too -- he went four straight games without playing, then in his last 12 games has played a streak of 4, 22. 17, 4, 0, 0, 0, 8, 16, 3, 20 and 18 minutes.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Injuries have complicated Coach Terry Stotts' rotations recently, but Portland hasn't been crippled by injuries the way some other teams have. Stotts has said previously that he is more comfortable when he finds a set rotation but so far this season, it just hasn't been there.

I think it's become a problem for this team because players -- in any sport -- usually need a consistent role in order to perform consistently. Players need to know what's going to be expected of them every game.

But Stotts' job isn't easy. He has too many players who bring similar skills, too many who defend well but can't shoot and a roster that's unbalanced. His best two players -- McCollum and Lillard -- basically play the same position and he doesn't have any consistent scoring on the wings. In the middle, he has a center who hasn't played anywhere near what we saw from him during his sneak preview last season.

I don't know the answer to all this but I know the roster isn't going to change much. It's locked in. I think at some point the coach is going to have to make rotation choices and stick with them. I think, too, he may need to define who his shooters are and make sure they get more shots than the ones who can't make shots.

And hope that his team stays together long enough to get things straightened out.

Blazers can't keep pace with Warriors in 111-104 loss

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Blazers can't keep pace with Warriors in 111-104 loss

Even without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors were just too much for the Trail Blazers. Portland fell to Golden State, 111-104, dropping the first game of a five-game road trip, and losing their fifth game in a row. The Blazers now look to right the ship on Wednesday in Miami.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Final Score: Warriors 111 – Blazers 104

Postgame Videos:
Damian Lillard
CJ McCollum

How to stream Blazers vs. Warriors

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How to stream Blazers vs. Warriors

In addition to our normal game streaming for NBCS Northwest customers via the NBC Sports App, if you don't get NBCS Northwest but live in the Trail Blazer territory you can now sign up for our NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” a 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy.

The Portland Trail Blazers (13-12) now hit the road for matchup on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors  (21-6).

Portland dropped its fourth straight game on Saturday night, 124-117 at the Moda Center to the Houston Rockets.  The Blazers were without Jusuf Nurkic (right ankle) and Maurice Harkless (left quad) for Saturday’s contest.

In the loss, Damian Lillard finished with 35 points, six assists and four rebounds.  Lillard also made a franchise-record-tying nine three-pointers on the night. CJ McCollum added 28 points and four assists.

Monday’s game marks the start of a five-game raod trip for the Blazers.

[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.]

As for Golden State, the Warriors defeated the Detroit Pistons 102-98 on Friday night on the road. Kevin Durant finished with a double-double of 36 points and 10 rebounds.  He also dished out seven assists and five blocks. Kevin Thompson had 21 points in Friday’s victory.

The Trail Blazers have listed Maurice Harakless (left quad) as questionable for Monday's contest, while Jusuf Nurkic is out vs. the Warriors.  Draymond Green (right shoulder) is listed as probable, Zaza Pachulia (left shoulder) is doubtful, and Steph Curry (sprained right ankle) is out.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Warriors contest with a special hour-long Rip City Live at 6:00pm on Monday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our live streaming pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

40 in the 4th for 4th loss

Rockets dictated Portland’s 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

 

Video:   Is this the lineup for against the Warriors?

Video:   The Blazers fought hard, but maybe not hard enough

Video:   Meyers Leonard – The Enforcer

Video:   Blazers show life, but can’t ground Rockets


 

Game Details:

Where:  Oracle Arena, Oakland CA

Tip-off: 7:30pm

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 6:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Rockets dictated Portland's 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

Rockets dictated Portland's 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

I'm not big on moral victories. As I said last night on Talkin' Ball, this is big-boy basketball and winning on the scoreboard is the only thing that matters.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

But that's not to say we didn't learn some positive things from Saturday night's loss to the Houston Rockets, which finished off an 0-4 homestand for the Trail Blazers. What did we learn? Here's what I saw:

  • Meyers Leonard in the starting lineup worked. I don't care what you think, the guy can flat-out make shots. And this team needs more players who can do that. He probably should have seen fourth-quarter playing time but...
  • Coach Terry Stotts was busy trying to match up with the Rockets' fourth-quarter small lineup. However the problem with Portland's small lineup is that it usually contains more defenders than scorers. And the unfortunate part of that Saturday night was, even though it may have been the team's best defensive group, it was totally incapable of getting defensive stops. In fact, I can't remember a time when I've seen a team stack layup on layup down the stretch of a game the way Houston did to the Trail Blazers. Chris Paul and James Harden not only got to the basket whenever they wanted, they did so with their strong hand -- Harden from the left side and Paul from the right. So...
  • It wouldn't have hurt to have had some help in the basket area to at least harass those layups a bit. I'm not sure why that's so difficult for Portland to do when I see other teams doing it to the Portland guards quite frequently. And the real bottom line to all of that was ...
  • If you aren't getting stops while using your best defenders in that small lineup, forget about it! Face it, the Rockets can be impossible to guard. So...
  • Why not just go with your best offensive players, regardless of size or defensive ability? Make them worry about guarding YOU. Houston hit 15 for 18 from the field in the fourth quarter and murdered Portland from the foul line. Why not just put your best offensive players on the court and try to score with them? Because....
  • YOU WEREN'T ABLE TO STOP THEM AT ALL WITH THAT SMALL LINEUP SO SCRAP IT AND GET SOME SHOOTERS OUT THERE!
  • I may be obsessed with this -- well, I AM obsessed with this -- but I don't like it when the opposing team dictates Portland's lineups. Play the ones who got you the lead instead of the ones who are in the process of blowing a 14-point lead inside one quarter.
  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shot their way out of slumps, which was a good sign moving forward.
  • Zach Collins did a terrific job during his time on the floor. He's not afraid to shoot an open shot and he's got a real instinct for blocking shots. I'd sneak him onto the floor as often as possible in the upcoming games to try to kickstart his development by getting him more comfortable. This team is in serious need of rim protection and he might be just the guy to provide it.
  • I don't envy Stotts with the lineup and rotation decisions he has to make on a nightly basis. He almost has too many versions of the same players and he is probably never quite sure what he's going to get from some of them on a night-to-night basis.
  • That said, I'd make sure to not only get Pat Connaughton on the floor every game, I'd make sure he got his shots. He's alert on defense and opportunistic on offense. And he is becoming a reliable scorer if he is allowed to be.
  • Ed Davis may be having one of his best seasons but he's going to struggle getting playing time because, all things being equal, some of the younger players are going to need developmental time and they are going to get it. I see Davis as a valuable trade piece at the deadline -- a big help to a contender looking for a rebounder off the bench.
  • Please, somebody in the league office, take a look at the way Harden is officiated. He often mixes in an extra little hop during his Euro-step and he deserves no extra benefits. And when he misses a shot, it's not always because he was fouled. Thank you.