Dwyane Wade

Breakfast with the Blazers: McCollum nearing shoe deal with Li-Ning?

Breakfast with the Blazers: McCollum nearing shoe deal with Li-Ning?

Ripples are being sent through the shoe industry with word that Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is on the verge of leaving Nike to sign a deal with the Chinese company Li-Ning.

McCollum, who wore a pair of Li-Ning shoes in the Blazers’ preseason game against Phoenix on Tuesday, was asked after the game if he was switching sponsorships.

“In negotiations,’’ McCollum said with a big smile as he left the locker room.

One person who helped McCollum with those negotiations? Teammate Evan Turner, who has been a Li-Ning client since 2010.

Turner this summer spent 12 days in China on a Li-Ning shoe tour, during which he often had Face Time chats with McCollum.

“I told (Li-Ning) if you want to talk to him, I wouldn’t come to him with a BS offer the first time around and close his ears off,’’ Turner said on Wednesday.

Hearing Turner talk, it appears a deal has been reached.

“I guess they got the situation right, the money right, and I think CJ will be a great person for the brand,’’ Turner said Wednesday. “He’s a talented individual on and off the court, so I think he will help the brand a lot.’’

On Thursday morning, however, McCollum said no deal has been reached.

"There is mutual interest,'' McCollum said. "Still in negotiations ... but my contract with Nike is up.''

McCollum would be among the higher profile athletes to sign with the Beijing company, which is founded by legendary Chinese gymnast Li-Ning.

In 2012, megastar Dwyane Wade signed with the company, which came after Shaquille O’Neal inked a deal in 2006. Other NBA players who wear Li-Ning include Turner, Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson III.

“It’s getting better every single year,’’ Turner said of Li-Ning. “It has a big presence in the Chinese market, which is huge for a player and your own personal branding because you can multiply that more so than in America. With a kid like CJ, and the talent he has, he will be able to do that worldwide.’’

McCollum, who is the first year of a four-year, $106 million contract with the Blazers, is coming off a career-year in which he averaged 23.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range and an NBA-best 91.2 percent from the free-throw line. 

Today's Blazers' links:

Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest reminds us that Damian Lillard has some big off the court news on Friday. 

Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest writes that Terry Stotts has some tough decsions ahead.

Mike Richman writes about Evan Turner and his surprise at initiating offense on Tuesday.

Casey Holdahl of trailblazers.com writes about Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss

Fourth quarter surge leads Blazers past Bulls

Fourth quarter surge leads Blazers past Bulls

CHICAGO -- A fourth quarter surge keyed by the offense of Evan Turner and Damian Lillard and the defense of Ed Davis carried the Trail Blazers to a 112-110 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday. 

Turner scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth and Lillard had 11 of his 30 points down the stretch as the Blazers pulled away with an 11-0 run midway through the quarter, a run that was sparked by two blocks from Davis. The push gave the Blazers a 103-93 lead with 5:55 left and the Blazers hung on for dear life down the stretch as they scored only five points over the next 5:30 before sealing the game with free throws. The final score looked closer than it was after Jimmy Butler hit an uncontested three-pointer as time expired.

Portland (12-10) kick-started a five game trip and avenged a 113-88 loss to the Bulls on Nov. 15, when Chicago bolted to a 35-14 lead after one quarter. Chicago (11-9) lost its second straight despite 34 points from Dwyane Wade. 

The fourth quarter spurt was special for Turner, who went to high school in Chicago and was cheered on by family members sitting behind the Blazers bench. Turner hit five-of-six shots, including three in a row in the fourth quarter, and finished with 10 points, four assists and two rebounds. CJ McCollum added 24 points and Allen Crabbe had his second consecutive strong game off the bench with 17 points. 

Chicago entered the fourth leading 87-86, taking control in the third quarter with a 12-1 start to the second half. Portland trailed by as many as six in the third but closed within one when McCollum hit a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left. 

The Blazers held a 65-57 halftime lead, thanks in part to a 12-2 run late in the second quarter that was fueled by the strong bench play of Crabbe, who scored 11 of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter. 

The Blazers welcomed the return of Al-Farouq Aminu, who missed 13 games with a left calf strain, during which the team went 6-7. Coach Terry Stotts pregame said Aminu would be limited to between 16 and 20 minutes on Monday, while bringing him off the bench. 

Aminu entered with 3:23 left in the first quarter and the Blazers leading 23-20 and almost instantly recorded an assist with a pass inside to Mason Plumlee. He played seven minutes in the first half, during which he showed some rust (0-for-2), but also some of the top-level defense the Blazers had been lacking with a nice block of a Wade jumper.

Aminu finished with three points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.

Next up: Blazers at Milwaukee, 5 p.m. Wednesday (CSN).


Bad start gets worse for listless Trail Blazers as Bulls roll to easy victory

Bad start gets worse for listless Trail Blazers as Bulls roll to easy victory

This time, there was no halftime pep talk, and no late-game miracle that could rescue the Trail Blazers. 

In one of their more listless performances of the young season, the Blazers fell behind 10-0 and never recovered as the Chicago Bulls ran them out of the Moda Center during a 113-88 rout. 

Portland (7-5) missed its first 11 shots and trailed 35-14 after the first quarter as the Bulls (7-4) played with more energy, more precision and more urgency to start their six-game trip. The 14 points was the fewest first-quarter points this season for Portland, which now embarks on a five-game trip through Houston, New Orleans, Brooklyn, New York and Cleveland.

It was the second consecutive home game Portland came out listless. On Sunday, the Denver Nuggets jumped to a 17-point lead, which prompted a spirited halftime speech from coach Terry Stotts that sparked a game-changing 36-15 third quarter. On Tuesday, the Blazers trailed 56-37 at halftime, but were outscored 27-26 in the third, putting the game too far out of reach for a miracle comeback like earlier in the season in Denver. 

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while Dwyane Wade added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Bulls played without starting point guard Rajon Rondo (left ankle sprain), but it didn't matter as second-year point guard Jerian Grant was fantastic with 18 points, three assists and five steals. Fromer Blazers center Robin Lopez added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Taj Gibson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. 

It was an awful night for every Blazers player except Allen Crabbe (15 points) and Ed Davis (nine points, nine rebounds). Damian Lillard missed his first eight shots and Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless both missed their first six shots. Lillard finished with 19 points but shot 7-for-22 and CJ McCollum added 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting. 

The Blazers started the game 2-for-19 from three-point range and finished 9-for-34 (26.5 percent) and they were outrebounded 67-49.

Notes: The Blazers fell to 2-2 without starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who is expected to be out at least two weeks with a strained left calf. The team said Aminu will travel with the team on its upcoming trip, during which he is supposed to be re-evaluated for a potential return ... Center Festus Ezeli will not be with the team in Houston or New Orleans while he obtains a medical opinion on his ailing left knee. Ezeli has not played this season. He is expected to re-join the team over the weekend in New York.

Next up: Blazers at Houston, 5 p.m. Thursday (CSN).