Chris Burkhardt

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland reflect on the life of Kobe Bryant

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland reflect on the life of Kobe Bryant

The NBA world was shocked early Sunday when news started to circulate that Kobe Bryant had passed away in a horrific helicopter crash. 

It was the type of news that at first, you thought was just a cruel social media joke. You didn't want to believe it. 

But eventually, you had to. 

Reports trickled in from Los Angeles, and eventually, the news was officially confirmed - Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi were gone. 

The news was hard to swallow, but fans, friends, and NBA players past and present took to social media to share their grief. 

Prior to Sunday's game against the Pacer, the Blazers held 24 seconds of silence and honored Bryant in a special way once the action got underway. 

Sunday also happened to be 90s night at Moda Center.

Former Trail Blazers Jermaine O'Neal and Rod Strickland were in attendance, both of whom played many games against the Lakers legend. 

Said O'Neal, "It still doesn't seem real and it's hard to digest" as he shared some thoughts about his close friend Bryant.  

Strickland, too, had some fond memories of Bryant, but they had little to do with their on the court battles. 

The former point guard's memories had more to do with the Mamba Mentality. 

The NBA lost a legend on Sunday, and the game just doesn't feel the same without him. 

 

Seahawks, Broncos, and the worst Super Bowl of all-time

Seahawks, Broncos, and the worst Super Bowl of all-time

Super Bowl LIV is just about a week away and it should be one for the ages. 

The high powered offense of the Kansas City Chiefs takes on the no-nonsense defense of the San Francisco 49ers. 

It's the classic unstoppable force meets the immovable object scenario. Something has got to give. 

How will it all play out? We will find out next Sunday. 

Until then, we have 53 years of classic Super Bowls to reminisce about. 

Some good. Some not so good. 

Seahawks fans, they've had both. 

USA Today recently ranked all the Super Bowls, and Seattle's Super Bowl XLVIII matchup against the Broncos ranks as the worst Super Bowl of all-time. 

Said USA Today,  "The chasm between pre-game expectations and eventual outcome may have been the widest in the game’s history. Seattle's Legion of Boom defense stifled a Peyton Manning-led offense that had scored a league-record 606 points."

This game was as one-sided as they get. 

The tone was set from the jump, with the Seahawks forcing a safety on the first play from scrimmage. 

From there on, the Seahawks dominated from sideline to sideline. 

With 2:58 left in the third quarter, the Seahawks scored another touchdown to take a 36-0 lead. It was all over but the crying for the Broncos. 

The Broncos were a two-point favorite but ended up losing to the Seahawks 43-8.

The game tied the third-largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history and was the largest margin of victory for a Super Bowl underdog. 

The game was ranked so low simply because it didn't even come close to living up to the pregame hype. 

However, for Seattle Seahawks fans it is the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. Of the three Super Bowls the team has played in, Super Bowl XLVIII is the only one the Seahawks have won. 

So where do the other two rank on USA Today's list?

- Super Bowl XL: Rank: 33 - Said USA Today, "Steelers 21, Seahawks 10: Pittsburgh joined the club of five-time Lombardi Trophy winners as RB Jerome Bettis ended his career in style in Detroit (his hometown) and Roethlisberger, 23, became the youngest quarterback to win the game despite forgettable numbers and amid controversial officiating that hurt Seattle."

- Super Bowl XLIX: Rank 3 -  Said USA Today, "Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24: It will forever be remembered for Russell Wilson’s goal-line interception with the game hanging in the balance when the Seahawks could have given the ball to bruising RB Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. The loss likely denied Seattle's shot at a dynasty while burnishing the Patriot Way. Brady won a record-tying third MVP award as he and Belichick collected their fourth title together but first in a decade. "

[SEE THE FULL LIST HERE]

For a trip down memory lane, let's rewatch the worst (best if you're a Seahawks fan) Super Bowl of all-time. 

Ryan Tannehill has high praise for Marcus Mariota

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USATI

Ryan Tannehill has high praise for Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota may no longer be the starter in Tennessee, but he is still making an impact for the Titans. 

Mariota, the former No. 2 overall pick, has failed to live up to lofty expectations in Tennessee. Midway this season, he found himself relegated to the bench as the team gave Ryan Tannehill the keys to the car. 

The story from here didn't play out as many fans expected. 

There were no hard feelings. Rather then be all "woe is me," Mariota supported the move and supported Tannehill. 

In fact, as the Titan's season came to an end in the AFC Championship Game, Showtime camera caught an exchange between the two quarterbacks that truly shows the type of person Mariota is. 

That's right, a visibly frustrated Tannehill was stopped and consoled by Mariota, with Mariota telling him “I am excited for you... it’s the start of something great, brother. I am so excited for you.”

Tannehill replaced Mariota, led the Titans on an improbable playoff run, and is now in Orlando prepping for the Pro Bowl. 

In an interview with the media, he had nothing but high praise for Mariota. 

Marcus is an incredible human being, and I have so much respect and love for him. The way he handled things... it was an incredibly tough situation. He was in Tennessee for five years, and it was his team and where he made his home. The way things went down, I don't think many guys in the world would handle it the way he did. He handled it like a true professional. He was supportive of me from Day One. I know he was hurting, and I tried to be empathetic with that throughout the season and give support to him as well. But he handled it so well.. he was supportive of me, helped me out on game days, in preparation during the week. He was just a consistent guy throughout the year.

That wasn't all. He added, "We are great friends and we will continue to be great friends."

It's moments like this that the world gets to find out what fans in the Northwest already knew -- Marcus Mariota is truly special. 

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has had an up and down season for the Blazers, literally.

The two-way player has been called up and had numerous stints with the Blazers, and has been sent back down numerous times to play with the G-League's Texas Legends. 

In fact, the Blazers sent Hoard back down to the G-League on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, his first game back with the Legends, Hoard exploded. 

Hoard had a career night, scoring 34 points and pulling down 12 rebounds in the Legends' 144-140 victory over the Oklahoma City Blue. 

Hoard played his college ball at Wake Forest, as did Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul.

With the Thunder on an off night, the former Demon Deacon star was on hand to support a fellow Wake Forest alum. 

Hoard has averaged 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 12 games with the Trail Blazers this season. In the G-League, he has averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with the Legends prior to tonight's outburst. 

WATCH: Fans give Trevor Ariza a warm welcome to Rip City

WATCH: Fans give Trevor Ariza a warm welcome to Rip City

The Trail Blazers pulled off a trade with the Kings on Monday, sending Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel. 

On Thursday, the newest members of the Blazers made their debuts.

The biggest name of the three is Ariza, and he was instantly thrust into the starting lineup. 

During pregame intros, Rip City made sure to show him the love. 

For his career, Ariza holds averages of 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. 

Portland is the ninth team he has played for, having previously played for the Knicks, Rockets, Wizards, Hornets, Kings, Suns, Magic, and Lakers.  

 

Those around the NBA have helped Delonte West in the past, but now he may need them more than ever

Those around the NBA have helped Delonte West in the past, but now he may need them more than ever

The NBA made a lot of news over the summer as the league pressed forward with new mental health initiatives. 

The league was trying to be forward-thinking with its approach to mental health and announced prior to the 2019 season that all teams would be required to have a licensed mental health professional on staff. 

It was a big step forward for the league and in line with a program set forth by the NBA Players Association in 2018. 

In recent years, high profile players have come forward with their struggles with mental health, helping to normalize these issues. DeMar DeRozan, Channing Frye, and most notably Kevin Love have all shared their stories. 

NBC Sports even produced a touching documentary over the summer titled "Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports." The documentary chronicled numerous athletes and their battles with depression and other mental health issues.

Here at NBC Sports Northwest, we did our own vignettes to help support the series, where Channing Frye was kind enough to share his story with us.

Frye's story is a feel-good one. He has recovered to the best of his ability and is now using his struggles as a way to help those in need. But coming through the other side of the dark tunnel is not always the ending we get. 

This is where we are today. 

Monday afternoon, a video circulated around the internet of former NBA star Delonte West being beaten in the middle of the street and incoherently yelling at police officers with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

He was shirtless, disheveled, and presumably homeless. The video was shocking and saddening. A man once on top of the NBA world sharing the court with NBA greats had reached the lowest of lows.

I share the video below not to poke fun at West, like so many trolls decided was a good idea on social media. I do it, though it may be uncomfortable to watch, to bring awareness to just how crippling mental health issues can truly be. 

[Langugage Disclaimer-- This video is not suitable for all audiences]

People on social media want to point to drugs and alcohol, or any other scapegoat, but those aren't the true issue.

Mental health is.

And West has a long document battle with it.

In 2008, West had an altercation with a referee during a team scrimmage, an incident that prompted him to get help for depression and a "mood disorder" he had been battling for years. 

Via a 2008 ESPN article:

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West contemplated quitting before leaving the team's training camp to seek help for depression and "a mood disorder" he has been battling his entire life.

West, who recently signed a two-year contract with Cleveland, said he removed himself from the team to "get my thoughts back together." He missed three preseason games during his absence from Oct. 4-15.

"I felt a feeling of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," he said.

The 25-year-old candidly discussed his condition following practice on Friday. West said he had been troubled by his behavior toward a high school referee during a scrimmage at the Cavs' training facility on Oct. 3. West took out his frustrations on the official, and said the incident was a warning signal for him to seek treatment to combat an illness that has troubled him for years.

"I needed help," he said.

West went on to have a great season with Cavs, but the wheels started to fall off shortly thereafter. He was arrested and pled guilty to two counts of weapons possession and was sentenced to eight months of home detention.

He signed with the Mavericks in December of 2011, was suspended twice for "conduct detrimental to the team," and was waived in October of 2012. He never played in the NBA again. 

Now, instead of making headlines for his skills on the hardwood, he makes headlines sitting on a concrete sidewalk. 

As West falls deeper into the abyss, the NBA sits idle. Will they offer a helping hand? They should...but their record shows otherwise.

Take Royce White, drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2012. White had battled anxiety his entire life. It was well documented. This anxiety led to a severe fear of flying. He struggled with the rigors of the NBA travel schedule and never played a single game with the Rockets. White says the league wasn't ready to help someone with a mental health issue.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, White said, "I said at [age] 21 to the NBA that I think mental health is the most important issue of our time and that the mind is the start and finish...Not only did they not have a response or argument — as if there’s a defensible argument — but the fans that are endeared with the game of basketball and sport, in general, provided an argument for them.” 

White was eventually cut by the Rockets for failing to fulfill his contract. The once-promising star never played a single game in the NBA.

The NBA failed White, but in the time since it has been much more accommodating to its players and their battles with mental health. However, the focus tends to be on players currently in the NBA. What about players from the past?

If the NBA really wants to be progressive they need to not only help players when they are in uniform and making the league billions of dollars, but they need to also help them long after they decide to hang up the sneakers. 

White and West are just two of the former players that could use the NBA and its resources. Who's to say there aren't countless more that have fought their battles in private, thinking they had no one to lean on? 

Just simply being there can be the difference between life and death. 

Delonte West needs help.

He needs help that very few can provide. The NBA has the capability to be a savior.  The league has been the for the West in the past, and will hopefully continue to be there when he needs then the most. 

I leave you with this, a message from West's former teammate and close friend, Jameer Nelson. 

 

 

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers

On Tuesday morning the Trail Blazers officially announced their long-rumored trade with the Sacramento Kings

Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver are gone, while Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel are on their way Portland.

The Blazers know what they are getting in Ariza: a solid veteran player that has made his entire career on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Stotts anticipates that Ariza will be the team's starting small forward, as many of us expected. 

But what about Gabriel and Swanigan? 

Let's start with Gabriel. He is a largely unknown commodity. In his first year in the league, after spending time in the G-League, Gabriel has played in just 11 games for the Kings. 

In those games, he has averaged 1.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 5.5 minutes per game.

He is another Moses Brown. A big body with potential, but still very raw and rough around the edges. Most likely, he will be an end-of-the-bench guy. 

That is the quick rundown on Gabriel. Now, what about Swanigan?

First, remember that Swanigan has been in Portland before and that stint didn't work out. 

He was drafted by the Blazers in 2017, failed to crack the rotation, and was later traded to the Kings in return for Skal Labissiere. 

Swanigan played 45 games for the Blazers, averaging 2.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. Swanigan's stint in Sacramento was much the same. He failed to crack the rotation, playing in just 10 games while averaging 1.3. points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists. 

To be fair to Swanigan, getting on the floor wasn't easy. He is a versatile player that can play power forward or center in small lineups, but he still had an uphill battle.

In Portland, he was buried behind the likes of Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, and Zach Collins.

In Sacramento, he was buried behind Dewayne Demon, Nemanja Bjelica. Richaun Holmes, Harry Giles, and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Getting on the floor wasn't easy. That's not the case in his second stop here in Portland. 

As we all know, injuries have ravaged the Blazers, especially in the frontcourt. 

The Blazers don't have Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, or Pau Gasol available.  

In fact, the Blazers now only have four players available that are 6'9" or taller: Hassan Whiteside (7'0"), two-way player Moses Brown (7'2"), and the newly-acquired Gabriel and Swanigan who both stand at 6'9."

Quite simply, Swanigan is going to get on the floor out of necessity. 

If the team were fully healthy, Swanigan would once again find himself on the bottom looking up. This time, he gets to start near the top.

The Blazers have lived by a "next man up" mentality all season long, and this time they had to go outside of Portland to find that next man. 

If Swanigan hopes to turn it around, to resurrect his career, there is no better chance than what the Blazers are giving him. 

To use a football analogy -  The ball is on the one-yard-line and the team is choosing to hand the ball off to Swanigan. What he does from there is up to him. When someone gives you the ball, you run with it.

He either runs through the door of opportunity that has been opened, or he runs himself back out of town... hopefully it's the former. 

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers. The chance for both of them to turn their season around starts on Thursday against the Mavericks. 

BREAKING: Blazers trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento

BREAKING: Blazers trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento

Breaking news in Rip City.

According to multiple reports, the Trail Blazers have agreed to trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to the Sacramento Kings for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. 

According to the reports, the trade saves Portland $12.3 million, cutting the luxury tax bill in half. 

Tolliver signed with the Blazers this past offseason, while Bazemore came over in an offseason trade with the Atlanta Hawks. 

Tolliver played in 33 games for the Blazers, starting nine of them. He averaged 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.9 rebounds per game. 

As for Bazemore, he was meant to be a key bench contributor for the Blazers, but was thrust into the starting role when Rodney Hood went down with an Achilles injury.

Bazemore played in 43 games for the Blazers, starting 21 of them.

He averaged 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. 

The key return here for the Blazers is Trevor Ariza. The 34-year-old has made his career on the defensive side of the ball, which is where the Blazers need the most help. Ariza has played in 32 games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is set to make $12.2 million this year and is under contract through 2021. 

With all the injuries up front, the Blazers need bigs, and they got two of them in Gabriel and Swanigan. Gabriel is a 6'9", 220lb forward in his first season in the NBA. He has played in just 11 games for the Kings, averaging 1.7. points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists.

As for Swanigan, he is someone Blazers fans know well. He was drafted by Portland in 2017 26th overall and played parts of two seasons with the Blazers before being traded to the Kings for Skal Labissiere. In seven games with the Kings this season he averaged 0.7 points, 1.0 rebound, and 0.3 assists. 

The Blazers are already depleted by injuries, and may not get the reinforcements before tipoff tonight in OKC. If Gary Trent (illness) is unable to play tonight, Portland would have just seven players available against the Thunder. 

Be sure to stay tuned to NBC Sports Northwest as we get more information on this breaking news. 

Even at 2AM, Damian Lillard finds time for the fans

Even at 2AM, Damian Lillard finds time for the fans

Portland lost a tough game to the Mavericks on Friday in Dallas. They were injured, beat, and some of them were severely sick, but still, they pressed on. 

The team loaded the buses, left the American Airlines Center and headed straight to the airport. From there, they loaded the plane to head to the next road stop — Oklahoma City.

Once the team landed in OKC, it was a straight line to yet another night in a hotel. Business as usual, right? We've all traveled before, we know the drill. But for NBA stars, it's anything but normal.

Upon arriving at the hotel they were greeted by dozens of fans itching to meet their favorite NBA stars... Oh, I forgot to mention, it was two o'clock in the morning!

2AM, and there the fans were. Damian Lillard was tired and ready to rest up for the Thunder, but he had other business to tend to first. 

You see, Lillard is a special breed. Rather than shuffle past the throng of fans and sneak into his hotel room, he stopped to sign autographs and meet with the fans.

Every one of them. 

The moment was caught by Amara Baptist, Digital Content Manager for the Trail Blazers. 

This is just another moment on a long list that reminds us all that Rip City is lucky to have Lillard representing this town.

Dame is a perfect ambassador for the Trail Blazers and the NBA.

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

Back-to-backs are always tough in the NBA, but this one just got tougher for the Blazers - Star shooting guard CJ McCollum will not play tonight against Oklahoma City after suffering a left ankle sprain in Friday's game against the Mavericks.

With about eight minutes left in the second quarter, McCollum drove to the basket for a layup attempt. Everything played out as normal until McCollum came down for the landing. 

McCollum's left foot came down on the right foot of Maxi Kleber, rolling in the process. He immediately went to the locker room and did not return.

McCollum played just 12 minutes of action, scoring four points and dishing out two assists.

On the season, McCollum is averaging 21.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. 

It is not yet known who will start in McCollum's place. McCollum missed a game a few weeks ago while dealing with an upper respiratory ailment and Gary Trent Jr. got the starting nod.  

However, Trent Jr. left Friday's game with as well and his status is currently unknown, though he was not listed on today's injury report.  

Should Trent Jr. be unable to go, it is likely the Anfernee Simons will get the start. 

Stayed tuned to NBC Sports Northwest for the latest updates from OKC.