Damian Lillard named the winner of the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award

Damian Lillard named the winner of the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award

Damian Lillard has been named the winner of the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award, given annually to an NBA player, coach or staff member who has shown “outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

The award is selected by the Pro Basketball Writers Association and named after the second commissioner of the league.

The other finalists for this year’s award were Bismack Biyombo, Devin Booker, Mike Conley and Steve Kerr.

Lillard’s contributions to the community are well known.

His “Respect” program is in its sixth year and its second year of focus on specific high schools, in order to have a more significant impact. Those schools were Madison, Parkrose and Roosevelt. Lillard funds the entire program himself with no help from corporate partners. The program encourages students to attend class and become more involved in school activities.

“My goal with the Respect program is to provide support and have a positive impact with the students so they can go on to better themselves," Lillard has said. "I’m so proud to see that the program is having success within the high schools and that the students are excited to participate.”


He is an ambassador for the Moda Assist program that funds playgrounds, he has been a part of the Make A Wish program and he is a global ambassador for Special Olympics.

Previous winners of this award include 17 Hall of Fame players and current stars LeBron James and Pau Gasol.

How should we judge Evan Turner's third season with the Blazers?

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USA Today

How should we judge Evan Turner's third season with the Blazers?

Evan Turner's role and history with the Portland Trail Blazers is complicated. Brought in in 2016 to ease some of the tension off of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the playoffs, that narrative and his purpose has shifted. In his first two years, Turner played the traditional 3 spot, dribbling the ball on the floor with Portland’s stars. At the conclusion of 2018-19, Turner had played half of his minutes as a true point guard, often with neither McCollum or Lillard on the floor.

This change in usage was reflected most in Turner's assist percentage, which doubled year-over-year. Turner's turnovers went up as well, and we saw him start to hone his game. He shot even fewer 3-pointers, and for much of the season he was the catalyst that pushed the Blazers’ second unit forward.

That was important for Portland, a team that has not only shifted Turner's role, but how it relies on its personnel over the past three seasons. At certain points over this season, the second-most important factor for the Blazers was: Jusuf Nurkic, defense, Turner, the second unit, and Jake Layman. It simply depended on which month — or sometimes which week — you were asking about. 

Turner was supposed to be vital for Portland heading into this postseason. They knew they didn't have Nurkic, and as both injuries piled up and Ramadan approached, the Blazers needed the comfortability and reliability of Turner in that bench unit.

Of course, that's not what Portland got from Turner. 

In the postseason this year, Turner scored a measly 2.7 points per game, shooting  32.6  percent from the field. Defensively he was solid, but Turner just didn’t have the impact necessary on offense and at times he became unplayable. Terry Stotts apparently thought so, too, and the 22-minute per night Turner hit that mark twice in the postseason — both against the Golden State Warriors. He withered, and the fervor around the discussion of his staying in Rip City has been dialed up once again.

It's possible that Turner was out of his comfort zone. The players he passed to during the regular season got erratic playing time in the postseason. Stotts’ truncated layoff lineup meant Zach Collins, Seth Curry, and Meyers Leonard —  three of the top five recipients of Turner’s passes during the year — were no longer steadily playing.

Absent that, Turner's poor playoff performance was at least partially the result of the inherent issues at hand with this Blazers roster: there's not enough shooting, and the coaching staff doesn’t trust the end of the bench on defense. In the playoffs, Turner played less with sharpshooting talent and more with Portland’s starting wings in Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. His ability to generate offense as a passer was tied to their inability to shoot the ball.

In that way, we end the 2018-19 NBA season a bit like we did several years ago, after Turner's first playoff performance underwhelmed. Portland’s system has been scouted, and although Stotts has added wrinkles to this offense, it's not enough to overtake the lack of shooting production per dollar spent, compartmentalized by individual contracts. 

As a regular-season ball handler and dynamic forward who can guard four positions, Turner has molded himself into something approaching the value of his $70 million deal. But on a team that has as many fatal flaws as the Blazers do — aggravated by a lack of wing shooting — Turner finds himself back where he started.

The initial assessment of Turner was that Neil Olshey overpaid him, even for the role he was sold on several summers ago. Yes, the Blazers did need a way to get the ball out of Lillard and McCollum’s hands against postseason traps, but Portland still required additional shooting. They don't have that yet, and so Turner looks worse in comparison.

Unfortunately, a more complex consideration of Turner’s use in Portland, one that takes into account his excellent regular season progress, results in much the same outcome. He can’t shoot, and because he’s a dribbler but not a driver, a lack of individual offense limits what Turner can produce himself.

Evan Turner is a good basketball player, although overpaid. He would be an excellent piece on a legitimate Western Conference Finals contender, but at this point the team around him doesn't require a man of his talents. In that way, Portland is constructed a bit backwards. Long-term wing shooting will be of particular desire this summer for Olshey. That might help Turner moving forward.

For now, much like Portland itself, Turner remains a useful-but-flawed player with an obvious obstacle to overcome. And like the Blazers, there’s no clear route to fix what ails him.

McCollum: You have to believe you are untouchable

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USA Today

McCollum: You have to believe you are untouchable

CJ McCollum plays with a swagger every time he is on the court, and there is a reason why.

On “Pull Up with CJ McCollum” this week, McCollum talked about how you have to have the mentality that you're the best in the world, whether it's true or not doesn't matter. That mindset sets you apart from the rest. 

It's that mindset that has made the Warriors what they are, and it's how McCollum approaches life:

(Via Pull Up with CJ McCollum/Cadence13)

McCollum on the importance of having the “We’re the best” and “I’m the best” mentality as a team and as a player, and that this is his mentality every day… “You have to believe you are untouchable,” and “You have to believe that you are unstoppable.”:

CJ McCollum: “Like Draymond said before, you have to have the mentality that ‘We're the best’…and they lost it for a second, but they got it back. ‘We're the best. I'm the best. No one can check me.’ And that's my mentality every day. I'm the best in the world. No one can see me. Whether it's true or not is…irrelevant. You have to believe you are untouchable. You have to believe that you are unstoppable. If you are a scorer, like I'm a scorer, no one can check me. And…[I’m not just saying that]…I really believe no one can check me. And there's some people out there that think they can check me, as they should, but I don't think they can. And if you put me [on] that island, I'm going to swim out and you're going to drown. You know what I'm saying?”

Jordan Schultz: “It's Alcatraz. You're escaping.”

CJ Schultz: “I'm escaping. You're not.”

Jordan Schultz: “Or I'm getting on a raft and you're getting eaten by a shark.”

CJ McCollum: “There's one seat left on this boat. I'm kicking you off….you know what I'm saying? And that's the mentality you’ve got to have, because otherwise you're not going to be successful. If you have doubts, or if you have fear and you…put that fear into the universe, that shit becomes real and it becomes a deterrent and it really affects you.”

Listen to the full podcast below.

ET and Moe take on Paris

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USA Today

ET and Moe take on Paris

The Blazers offseason is in full swing and thanks to social media we have a great idea of what our favorite players are doing all summer long. 

Meyers Leonard is taking his talents to YouTube, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless are taking over Paris, while CJ McCollum is in China. 

Here is a quick look back at some of the Blazers best social media posts of the last week. 

View this post on Instagram

Mercí, Paris

A post shared by evan turner (@evanturner) on

Damian Lillard wasn't hitting the vacation road, but he did stop on Instagram to take the time to say goodbye to assistant coach David Vanterpool. Vanterpool is leaving the organization to become an assistant coach in Minnesota, and Lillard had some parting words for this friend and mentor. 

These Blazers got bounce: The Top 10 Dunks of the Year

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USA Today

These Blazers got bounce: The Top 10 Dunks of the Year

The Blazers damaged a lot of rims this season with some pretty savage dunks. Of course, when you have players with nicknames like "Hammer" and "Bosnian Beast," you know you are going to be seeing some monster jams. 

In a year full of lots of "boom shaka laka" our friends the Trail Blazers managed to pick the Top 10 jaw-dropping jams of the season. Take a look.  

(This is where you get the disclaimer: No rims were harmed in the making of these videos. Well, sorry, bot a lot of rims were harmed in the making of these videos)

Trail Blazers are first pre-draft workout for Stephen Thompson Jr.

Trail Blazers are first pre-draft workout for Stephen Thompson Jr.

Stephen Thompson Jr. is certainly no stranger to this area. But even though he played four seasons at Oregon State, it was not a short ride up Interstate-5 for his Trail Blazers’ pre-draft workout Monday. Like so many other players, he has trainers elsewhere and Thompson made the trip from southern California.

But it was eventful, because it was his very first pre-draft workout for an NBA team.

“Definitely a great experience,” he said. “A great opportunity for me to come out here and show what I can do in a workout setting. Hopefully, I’ll get a few more before the draft.”

Thompson, whose father is an assistant coach for the Beavers, had a solid career at OSU and finished it off by starting all 31 games for his team as a senior, averaging 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. The 6-4, 190-pounder shot 34 percent from three-point range for his career.

And that outside shooting is something he believes makes him an option for an NBA team.

“Spacing the floor,’ he said. “Shooting the ball and being able to attack the closeout. Hit open shots.”

He said he didn’t encounter anything during the workout Monday that he wasn’t expecting.

“Other guys and my trainers have been telling me what to expect,” he said.

He was asked what he needs to do to improve his game, which, of course, would give him his best chance to find a place in the league.

“Definitely the main thing is getting stronger,” he said. “Playing with more physicality, especially on the defensive end. Guarding the ball one-one-one, my feet – things like that.”

Thompson is going through the draft process without his younger brother Ethan, a redshirt sophomore last season who originally declared for the draft but withdrew on the final day he could do so.

“For the most part, while he was still in the draft, we were together all the time,” Stephen said. “Working out every day, lifting, things like that. It’s been all right being without him. He’s doing his thing, I know he’s going to have a big year next season and I’m looking forward to seeing that as well.”

Trail Blazer workouts: Ky Bowman spurned 'Bama, UO football for hoops

Trail Blazer workouts: Ky Bowman spurned 'Bama, UO football for hoops

Ky Bowman could have been catching passes at Alabama or Oregon. Instead, he ended up playing basketball at Boston College.

And now, as he tries to earn a spot on an NBA team’s roster, that football mentality just might serve him well. In Portland Monday morning to showcase his skills for the Trail Blazers, Bowman is creating a buzz among some of the teams he’s worked out for – and there have been many of those teams.

“This is my 16th workout,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been going out and playing hard, showing people I can play defense and conducting things on offense, showing people that I’m not just a scorer.”

A 6-1, 188-pound guard out of Boston College, Bowman originally committed to play football at North Carolina. He says he had "personal invitations" to football camps at Alabama and Oregon but couldn’t attend them because of a death in the family. And then when he got an offer to play basketball at BC, he knew he had to take it.

At Boston College, he averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game, which shooting 37.4 percent from three-point range as a junior last season.

“I’m glad I chose basketball,” he said. “This is what I love. A lot of times you can come in here and relieve all the stress off your body. I come in here and I’m free.

“I lost my dad earlier in life and I’m the youngest of five, so I need to be there for them. This is my opportunity to showcase my skills. Everyone else has used football or the military to get out of Havelock (N.C., his hometown) and I’m taking this route.”

And Bowman believes he has two tools that will help him accomplish his goals:

“Believe in yourself and trust in God,” he said.

He is well aware of what his situation would be if he gets drafted or even invited to an NBA camp.

“You aren’t going to come in and be a star,” he said. “So you have to do the things that are going to get you on the floor, especially from the defensive standpoint. Coming out here, my defensive role is my biggest task.”

“In the NBA, you’re switching one through five,” he said. “On defense, I’m trying to show my toughness. And on offense, show that I can conduct the floor.”

Bowman still has two workouts left. Is he tired?

“When you’re in the process and you love basketball, you just do it,” he said. “Those guys who get tired, they don’t love it as much.”

We're gonna miss you, Coach Vanterpool

We're gonna miss you, Coach Vanterpool

It was reported earlier today that Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool is leaving after seven seasons and will be joining Ryan Saunders' staff in Minnesota. 

It was a tough pill to swallow for Blazers fans. Most of them thought he would leave for a head coaching job, not another assistant job. 

But this isn't just a lateral move. Vanterpool is moving up the ladder and experience as an associate head coach puts him one step closer to getting a head coaching gig.

It's classic happy for him, sad for us situation.

On Thursday night the Blazers Outsiders discussed how the movie impacts the Blazers. 

Take a listen in the video above. 

The legend of Seth vs Steph in the Western Conference Finals

The legend of Seth vs Steph in the Western Conference Finals

The Portland Trail Blazers needed every advantage they could get in their Western Conference series against the Golden State Warriors, and in Games 2 and 3 it looked early on like one of the answers might just be Seth Curry and his lifetime of experience playing older brother Stephen Curry. 

No doubt Blazers fans will remember Game 2 fondly, and the legend of Curry vs. Curry has already started to grow. But just how much did little brother actually bother big brother?

The initial results aren't great. Stephen Curry scored a combined 73 points in Games 2 and 3, and his assist totals, field-goal shooting, and plus/minus was stellar. 

But the younger Curry did get his digs at big bro, and all of Seth's steals in Game 3 came against Steph. 

So what should we really think about the family rivalry that budded in the Western Conference Finals in 2019? How much did Seth throw his MVP sibling off his game?

Watch the video above to see the full breakdown and the verdict.

 

Trail Blazers lose assistant coach David Vanterpool to Minnesota Timberwolves

Trail Blazers lose assistant coach David Vanterpool to Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves have hired David Vanterpool as their associate head coach to work with head coach Ryan Saunders and run the T-Wolves’ defense.

Vanterpool has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach under the Trail Blazers’ Terry Stotts and has been credited with the development of Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

The “associate head coach” title is a step up for Vanterpool, who has had numerous interviews for open head-coaching positions over the past two seasons.

“This is a great opportunity for David to increase and diversify his coaching profile in his pursuit of becoming an NBA head coach and one Terry and I had discussed at length with David prior to his decision,” said Portland President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.

``David was a valuable member of our staff and an important part of our success,” Stotts said. “In his seven years with the Blazers, he was instrumental in all facets of NBA coaching – game preparations, offensive and defensive game plans, player development and player relations. I am very happy for him and his new opportunity. We will miss him and wish him all the best.”

The Trail Blazers could possibly lose another assistant coach as Nate Tibbetts has been rumored to be a candidate for the Memphis head-coaching job.