The addition of Rodney Hood leaves the Blazers with tough choices

The addition of Rodney Hood leaves the Blazers with tough choices

Rodney Hood answered the easy question with his smooth, left-handed jumper the first time he touched the ball.

The Trail Blazers newest addition is going to fit in just fine.

Hood had 14 points in his Portland debut, helping the Blazers beat the San Antonio Spurs 127-118 by hitting six of seven shots in 25 minutes off the bench.

“He was good,” CJ McCollum said. “He was efficient, he was sharp, got to his spots, looked very comfortable and kind of showed some versatility that we expected him to have.”

The harder questions come next as Terry Stotts tries to reconfigure his rotation to fit in Hood.

Stotts used 11 players against the Spurs. Hood, Evan Turner, Jake Layman, Meyers Leonard and Seth Curry made up the bench unit in the first half. But Curry played just seven total minutes and didn’t get off the bench after halftime. Then in the third quarter, Zach Collins got seven spot minutes at backup center minutes, supplanting Leonard.

The Blazers bench has been a key to their success so far this season, and Hood should only add to that dynamic even if he disrupts the status quo.

“We kind of had a rhythm to what we were doing and that rhythm has been broken and everybody’s going to have to be patient (and) figure it out,” Stotts said. “One night it’s going to be one thing and maybe the next night it won’t. That’s just the way it’s going to be … until it changes.”

Prior to the trade that brought Hood to Portland, Stotts had settled into a 10-man rotation, juggling 11 guys through various lineups is impossible and certainly won’t happen on most nights. Hood is going to play, meaning someone on the back end of the rotation is going to get pinched. Before Thursday’s game Stotts spoke to some of the Blazers players individually about the impending roster crunch.

“Coach has done a great job communicating with us to stay patient with it,” Jake Layman said “Lineups might change game in and game out for a little but, but just to stay ready and stay patient.”

“I think we’re all smart enough to see where (Hood) could fit in,” Damian Lillard added. “It’s as simple as that. I think being professionals we can figure things out. We can say, ‘Okay he can probably play with this group and play this many minutes and he can do this for us.’ And then you see what coach does and then you go from there.”

Against San Antonio, Curry and Collins felt the crunch of the Blazers’ new-look rotation. Eventually the numbers game might cost Moe Harkless, Jake Layman or Evan Turner some playing time.

In his first 25 minutes in a Blazers uniform, Hood proved that he belongs on the court. The question for Stotts is which of Hood’s new teammates belong out there with him.

“Honestly, it’s going to be a challenge for everybody,” Stotts said. “It’s going to be a challenge for me. It’s going to be a challenge for the team.”

Instant Analysis: Rockets prove to be too much against Blazers

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Instant Analysis: Rockets prove to be too much against Blazers

HOUSTON – Both the Trail Blazers and Rockets got out and ran early and often on Monday night. Early in the game, it was all about who was more successful on the fastbreak and who could get to the free-throw line more.

The Rockets blew the game wide open in the third quarter.

Monday in Houston marked the first night of a back-to-back for the Blazers. Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts pulled his starters with 3:49 to go in the game. Houston led 120-99 at the point before the Rockets continued to roll to their 11th overall victory.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Rockets 132, Trail Blazers 108

Here are three quick takeaways from Monday’s loss:

1.  So much attention on Lillard opened up opportunities for others

The Rockets, as they do, switched on nearly all screens against the Blazers and with so much of their focus on Damian Lillard, the lane opened up for Nassir Little and Hassan Whiteside early in the game, but the Blazers had a hard time converting in the second half.  

2. Harden doing what Harden does

Whether it was drawing fouls, especially on the young Blazer defenders, finishing at the rim, or knocking down threes, James Harden was putting up MVP-type numbers and leading his team to a victory.

Harden also took advantage of his matchup against Blazers rookie Nassir Little. Harden went to his bag of tricks to bait Little into fouling him from deep. Little racked up four fouls in the first half.

The connection between Harden and Clint Capela was also on full display. That’s what makes Harden so difficult to defend, he’ll get his buckets, but he’ll also find his teammates for the lob or hand-off down low.

3. Rockets overpower Blazers on the boards

Heading into the fourth quarter, Houston was outrebounding Portland, 46-32. The Rockets also had 23-second chance points after three quarters compared to the Blazers’ eight.  Houston showed off its weapons on both ends and proved once again why the Rockets were predicted to be one of the top teams to beat in the West.

Up Next: The Blazers will play in their second leg of this back-to-back when they visit New Orleans on Tuesday night. The Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 5:00pm PT.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the player!

 

Pregame Notebook: Blazers expecting Rockets to have a faster pace

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Pregame Notebook: Blazers expecting Rockets to have a faster pace

HOUSTON -- The Trail Blazers (5-8) visit the Houston Rockets (10-3) tonight as Portland gets set for its second of six games on the road. The Blazers and Rockets tip-off at 5:00pm PT on NBC Sports Northwest.

Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard explained the challenges they will face in Houston, specifically with the duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

“I expect [the Rockets] to play how they always do,” Lillard said at Monday morning’s shootaround. “I don’t think they’ve changed much. The only difference between this year, last year, and the year before that is the pace. Obviously, you add Russ, he likes to push it, play in transition, play in space, and James prefers half court… They have a lot of shooters out there and they’re going to play in the paint… It’s going to be threes and at the rim, so that’s what our challenge is,” Lillard said.

After listing Clint Capela (concussion) and Danuel House Jr. (sacral; contusion) as probable for Monday’s game, the Rockets have announced both Capela and House are available for tonight’s game vs. Blazers.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts kept his pregame interview short after reporters were asking about the reports of Carmelo Anthony joining the team soon. Coach Stotts won’t comment further on Melo until Anthony joins the Blazers in New Orleans.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

Shootaround Notebook: Why do Harden and Westbrook work so well together these days?

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Shootaround Notebook: Why do Harden and Westbrook work so well together these days?

HOUSTON – It’s a showdown that several people had marked on their calendar with the Blazers visiting the Rockets on Monday night.

With it being the first time since Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook have faced each other since the Trail Blazers beat Westbrook and the Thunder in the postseason, there was a question on everyone’s mind at Blazers’ shootaround this morning.

Is there any carryover for Lillard, or any extra feelings because of last postseason?

“No,” Lillard said promptly.

“We’ve played against each other for eight years,” Lillard laughed. “I mean, playoff series, I mean, that was it. Neither one of us won a championship. It’s not a huge deal. We went at each other in the playoffs and we won, and he’s on a different team now, that’s it.” 

CJ McCollum feels the same way.

“No, we’re just trying to win a game, I think that’s the biggest thing, figure out ways to execute our game plan and try to win a game. The past is the past, and everybody is kind of living in the present and working on how we can get better as a 5-8 team,” McCollum said.  

[RELATED]: How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Rockets tonight at 5:00pm

The Trail Blazers duo both expressed how Harden and Westbrook have figured out how to work together once again, despite Harden being ‘the man’ in Houston for the past seven seasons.

“They’re both MVPs,” Lillard said. “They’re smart enough players to figure it out, they’re friends, so I think that makes it easier for them to coexist and they’ve also played together before, obviously at different stages of their career, but all those things play a factor and I think that’s why it's been working out.”

Lillard and McCollum both believe that Harden and Westbrook’s friendship is key to why the can coexist.

“If you look at the statistics, James is the man, not just on his team, but he’s averaging 40 points a game. So, he’s the man pretty much wherever he goes in terms of how he plays, how he gets to the free throw line, how he generates shots, but you’re talking about two people who were friends, so they’re able to coexist, it’s easy, they’ve known each other before basketball,” McCollum said. 

“They have a common goal of trying to win a Championship, so I think that makes things easier when you get along with somebody and you are both on the same page in terms of what you want to accomplish,” McCollum added.

That common goal is something Rip City recognizes in the duo of Lillard and McCollum.

In the Monday night battle of duos, the Blazers will be looking to hand the Rockets just their second home loss of the season. 

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Rockets tonight at 5:00pm

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Rockets tonight at 5:00pm

HOUSTON – The Trail Blazers (5-8) began their six-game road trip with a 121-116 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.

Now it’s time for Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook to square off for the first time this season. The Rockets currently hold a 5-1 home record and are 10-3 overall.

The Trail Blazers are still waiting for the newest addition, Caremelo Anthony. Melo is expected to join the team late Monday night or early Tuesday morning once the team arrives in New Orleans.

You can watch the Blazers-Rockets game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

2:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

4:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

4:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

5:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Rockets

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

Plus, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

Quote of the Day

“I knew I’m going to make shots eventually. I ain’t going to go 80 games and shoot 33 percent from three. That’s impossible based on how I work and the shots I get, and the type of player I am. It was just a matter of time – watch the film, breaking it down, get to my spots… I had some good looks that I didn’t make, I should’ve made about eight or nine of those threes, but you can’t make every one.” – CJ McCollum after his 32-point performance vs. San Antonio   

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Ranking the nightlife on the current road trip

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Ranking the nightlife on the current road trip

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the road in the NBA? Numerous days on airplanes, numerous nights in hotels, all the best food from around the country, and more!

Sure, it can be exhausting, but it’s not without its moments of relaxation and fun.

In the latest edition of the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast, Channing Frye ranks the nightlife on the Blazers' current six-game road trip.

San Antonio. Houston. New Orleans. Milwaukee. Cleveland. Chicago. Who wins this race?

Which city ranks as a negative on a scale of 1 to 10?

Which city is middle of the road, but easy to get in trouble in?

Which city ramps up the “creepy” factor?

We won’t spoil it, but you can take a listen for yourself in the latest episode of Talkin’ Blazers with Channing Frye. The discussion starts around the 19 minute mark. 

But don’t forget, Utah nightlife is undefeated. Nothing beats Salt Lake City on the road.

Back to Basics: CJ McCollum got it going in San Antonio

Back to Basics: CJ McCollum got it going in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – The Trail Blazers needed every bit of CJ McCollum’s 32 points on Saturday night along with some key stops down the stretch to defeat the Spurs.

Even though McCollum struggled in the final period, his scoring early helped boost the Blazers.

It also helped boost McCollum overall.

However, don’t think for a second that he didn’t feel confident that he would turn things around offensively.

“I knew I’m going to make shots eventually,” McCollum said. “I ain’t going to go 80 games and shoot 33 percent from three. That’s impossible based on how I work and the shots I get, and the type of player I am. It was just a matter of time – watch the film, breaking it down, get to my spots… I had some good looks that I didn’t make, I should’ve made about eight or nine of those threes, but you can’t make every one.”    

In Saturday’s win, McCollum went 13-of-25 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. Through the first three quarters McCollum shot 66.7 percent from the floor.

Blazer head coach Terry Stotts mentioned postgame how McCollum didn’t shoot well down the stretch, but added, “CJ had a terrific offensive night for the first three quarters… CJ probably got a little fatigued, but he had it going.”

On the season, McCollum is now shooting 40.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent from long distance.

It has been hard for Trail Blazer fans to not think about his 21.1% shooting night against the Nets or his 16.7% shooting night from three against the Clippers.

For McCollum though, he got back to the basics, and now his jumpers are falling.

“Just getting to my spots and raising up is the biggest thing. I’ve been getting the same shots all season, they’re just starting to go in,” McCollum said.

Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little enjoyed watching the McCollum show on Saturday. Little also noted that he is one of the biggest cheerleaders on the team.

Well, he didn’t use that word.

“If you look closely, I’m a gasser,” Little said. “So, I’m gassing him up all game, telling him to keep killing, keep going… It was really fun to watch.”

McCollum and the Blazers will look to keep the momentum going when they visit Houston on Monday.

 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast below:

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win over the Spurs

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win over the Spurs

Talk about a roller coaster of emotion, because that is what Blazer fans dealt with in San Antonio on Saturday night.

The Blazers, without Carmelo Anthony and in desperate need of a win, jumped on the Spurs early. Portland held the 41-23 lead at the end of the first, and the lead ballooned to 23 just minutes into the second quarter.

It looked like the type of game the Blazers would pull away and coast to victory. But the Spurs wouldn’t have it.

In the second half, Gregg Popovich earned two quick techs and was ejected, jolting a little life back into the Spurs. San Antonio went on a 32-13 run following the ejection and had a double-digit lead in the fourth and final quarter.

Just when it looked like the Spurs had flipped the script, Portland flipped it right back. The Blazers clawed back and ended the game on a 17-6 run to grab the lead, and the victory over the Spurs.

Final score in San Antonio: Blazers 121 – Spurs 116.

 

QUOTABLES:

Nassir Little on the key to winning:

I mean, down the stretch we got key stops, and I think honestly the biggest play of the game was when I tipped it off of Rudy (Gay) and got the extra possession and Rodney (Hood) got the and-one to put us up three.

CJ McCollum on importance of the victory:

Super important. We took a loss to Sacramento then another loss at home. We got another long road trip, four games under .500, it was huge for us to not only get a win on the road to begin the trip, but just to start the trip the right way. 

Coach Stotts on what the win means:

Well, to win it in the fourth quarter, you know our defense, we had held them to 20 (points) in the fourth quarter, that's big for us. I think defensively in the fourth quarter, that was really important for us. It's been our Achilles heel lately, so hopefully, that will reinforce them.

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Highlights: A wild game in San Antonio ends in Blazer win

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

That win in San Antonio Saturday night for the Trail Blazers?

It was engineered by the “other guys.”

With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – usually the ones carrying the heavy load in the fourth quarter – suffering through 1-7 efforts from the field in the final period, their teammates stepped up and forged a rally from a 15-point deficit with 8:32 left to a 121-116 win over the Spurs.

And it was the rest of the starting lineup that provided a good deal of the firepower. In the fourth quarter:

  • Rodney Hood hit both his field goal attempts and only free throw opportunity, including a huge three-point play with 1:21 to go that pushed his team into its first lead of the period.
  • Nassir Little had five rebounds in the quarter, some outstanding defense, big hustle plays and a resounding dunk.
  • And Hassan Whiteside was the biggest of them all, hitting four of his five shots from the floor, all three of his free throws, grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots – all in the final quarter. Whiteside finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and made perhaps the biggest play of the game with 37.1 seconds left and his team clinging to a one-point lead. He made a terrific block on DeMar DeRozan and then drew a loose-ball foul on DeRozan, who grabbed Whiteside’s shirt and pulled him down after the blocked shot.

Whiteside, a 57.5 percent career foul shooter, calmly made both free throws to push the lead to three.

“Hassan played a terrific fourth quarter at both ends,” Coach Terry Stotts said.  “He scored for us, he finished around the bucket, made his free throws. He was a big presence at the rim. He deterred a lot of shots. He really made a difference.”

Portland once led this game by 23 and had an 18-point lead after the first quarter. But the Spurs caught fire after Coach Gregg Popovich got booted out of the game at the 9:37 mark of the third period and climbed all the way into that 15-point lead.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Whiteside said. “The difference in this one is we communicated down the stretch. We got stops at the end. I was telling the guys, we worked too hard to let this one slip away. We were just locked in on defense. Everybody just said it’s winning time. We definitely need a sense of urgency, but it’s not like the season is over. Guys are getting better. I’m doing things I’ve never done before in my career. I’m passing the ball more. Making backdoor passes to Dame. It’s the system here.”

The Trail Blazers were not sharing the ball early in the fourth quarter and missing quick shots. The big problem was a lot of one-pass or no-pass possessions before Stotts seemed to call for some multiple-player weaves, just to get the ball moving. The result was an 11-0 run that got the Blazers back in the game.

“Defensively, the fourth quarter was really important for us,” Stotts said. “We came up with a lot of loose balls and got some steals. It was a great game, big for us.”

Portland plays Game 2 of this six-game junket Monday in Houston.

Trail Blazers ordered up a side dose of energy in the form of Nassir Little

Trail Blazers ordered up a side dose of energy in the form of Nassir Little

SAN ANTONIO— An energy difference maker? 

That is Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little’s emerged role these days.

Portland fought back from being down by as many as 15 points in the second half to beat San Antonio 121-116. The Blazers tightened up on the defensive end and were able to come up with big plays down the stretch. 

And that’s where Little enters the conversation. 

“I think he made some amazing plays tonight," Rodney Hood said postgame. “Offensive rebounds… His energy was amazing and that’s what we needed. If we didn’t have that I don’t think we would’ve pulled this win out. I think he was one of the MVPs of tonight.”

Little finished with a plus/minus of a plus-15, the third best on the team.

The 19-year-old was in the game when it mattered in crunch time. He had an impact giving the Blazers extra possessions and bringing that energy.

Little threw down a monster dunk with 3:03 remaining in the game.

That dunk was mentioned on numerous occasions as a game changing moment with Little bringing that spark.

“He's got a lot of energy and a lot of athleticism, and he is using that. I think he’s been great for us in terms of his energy. He’s still learning and figuring out the game, but one thing he is going to do is play hard, and I think you can see that,” CJ McCollum added.

Little explained how the seas parted ways for him and he took it hard to the rim for the jam.

“CJ came off a pick-and-roll and I was coming behind rather than standing on the three-point line. I just cut because CJ was going off… I cut to the basket and then just went off. That’s one of my roles on the team -- is to bring energy, make those kinds of plays, and get my team extra possessions and keep us in the game,” Little said.

Just seconds before the dunk, Little was called for a shooting foul.

His teammates thought it was a clean block, but it cost the Blazers just one point with Derrick White making 1-of-2 from the line.

Little’s teammates loved his aggressive nature.    

“I think Nas got called on the foul, it wasn’t a foul but he really was the MVP. He made big plays tonight,” Hood said.

And so did Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“Nas got called for a foul on a block, but it was a great energy play,” Stotts said.

Little had played in just three games with 32 total minutes prior to starting the last two contests.

In his second straight start, Little is now averaging 6.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and four personal fouls.

Little said he is “trying to do the small things” now that he has been given the opportunity.

As Damian Lillard put it postgame, Saturday’s game was a “super important one" for the Blazers to win.

And now, Little is showing off his super important athleticism and energy. Through the last two games Little has been a valuable piece to the puzzle. 

 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers podcast below: