Anfernee Simons is one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets – and Neil Olshey likes it that way

Anfernee Simons is one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets – and Neil Olshey likes it that way

(Sixth in a multi-part series detailing the inside story of the Trail Blazers’ summer of change)

This season a lot is being expected of 20-year-old Anfernee Simons. Even CJ McCollum wasn’t rushed into the fire as quickly as Simons, the second-year guard the Trail Blazers plucked out of IMG Academy.


The front office talks about his “high ceiling” and his teammates rave about what he can do on the floor. But make no mistake, this franchise isn’t putting a heavy load on Simons without the strong belief he can handle it. This is a player whom Neil Olshey, the Portland president of basketball operations, called “the most talented player on the board,” when the team selected him with the 24th pick in the 2018 draft. Later, Olshey famously called Simons “the most gifted player I’ve ever drafted.”


In the accompanying video, Olshey compares the development of Simons to the early days of Damian Lillard and McCollum in Portland. And talks about the impact his performance in the final game of last season, when Simons brought his team back from a 28-point deficit against Sacramento to a capture a No. 3 seed in the West that a lot of people were saying they shouldn’t try to earn.


Simons is 6-4 and seems to already be able to get to the spots on the floor he likes and has a pure jump shot. He worked at point guard during summer league but he’s going to be a scorer at either guard spot. As Olshey says, Simons didn’t have the usual “year of hype” that a lot of players get from their college career.


But the Blazers are all in on his talent and potential.

Pau Gasol won't be ready for Blazer opener, Hassan Whiteside says he'll play

Pau Gasol won't be ready for Blazer opener, Hassan Whiteside says he'll play

Players, coaches and fans are counting down the days before the Trail Blazers’ season opener Wednesday against the ever-present Denver Nuggets Wednesday night in Moda Center.

And there’s another countdown to think about, too. And that's how many Blazer centers are down for the count. We have known for months that Jusuf Nurkic would not be back with the team until sometime after the new year because of his broken leg.

Then Portland center Hassan Whiteside sprained his left ankle Thursday night in an exhibition game at Denver and was held out of contact at Saturday’s practice. He did go through shooting drills and Coach Terry Stotts said the team would be preparing for the opener as if Whiteside will be in the lineup, “But our preparation will be the same, with him or without him.”

Whiteside said Saturday he plans to play Wednesday.

That would be important because it appears veteran center Pau Gasol will not be available for the start of the regular season, as had been hoped.

There was originally thought there was a chance that the veteran center would be recovered from his surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot in time to play in the season-opener, but he said Saturday that likely would not happen.

“Better,” he said when asked about his condition. “It’s just the part of rehab when you ramp up the load, you’ve got to see how it reacts. And it takes some time to adjust to it. So, if you do too much, if you’re too excited, it’s kind of counter-productive. That’s a little bit what happened early on; It felt really good, very excited about it and now we’re taking it a little slower.”

So, it’s safe to say you won’t be ready opening night?

“That’s a very safe statement” Gasol said. “It’s a process. It’s going to take -- not a little longer than we thought -- it’s just not going to be as short or quick as we thought we could do it.

“I’m trying to make sure when I do get back, I’m there for good.”

Stotts said Gasol’s absence won’t be so critical since the team played without him throughout the exhibition season.

“It doesn’t affect us much because we haven’t had him,” said the Portland coach. “It would probably have been different had he played in the preseason and then not have him available. Basically, since he’s been out of commission, it really hasn’t affected us. The better question is when he comes back. Then things will have to change.”
The Trail Blazers and Nuggets met for seven games in the playoffs last season and then played each other twice in the preseason. Neither team would have wished for those head-to-head exhibition games this season, but the preseason schedule is made up many months prior to the regular-season schedule. And obviously that counting schedule is made without regard for the preseason slate.

For Denver, whose season ended with the playoff loss to Portland, this will be the 10th time in its last 12 games it has played the Trail Blazers.

 

Despite tweaking his ankle twice in preseason, Hassan Whiteside says he'll be ready to play opening night

Despite tweaking his ankle twice in preseason, Hassan Whiteside says he'll be ready to play opening night

Not only has Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside been adjusting to a new team and new life in Portland, but he has also been dealing with a tweaked left ankle.

An ankle injury that Whiteside suffered on two different occasions during the preseason.

The 7-footer did not go through all of practice on Saturday, but he isn't too concerned about his left ankle.

Whiteside seemed to finally be finding his groove in Utah on Wednesday night with the Blazers beating the Jazz in Portland’s fourth preseason game.

Unfortunately for Whiteside, he tweaked the left ankle yet again.

Nearing the 8:45 mark of the third quarter, Whiteside appeared to roll his left ankle while securing a rebound.

The first time he suffered the ankle injury was early on in training camp, during practice when he came down on Zach Collins’ foot after the two were battling for a rebound.

[RELATED]: Whiteside's weaknesses & how will they affect the Blazers

The ankle tweak in Utah was not as bad as the first one.

After Blazers practice on Saturday, Whiteside did not seem worried about his injury, saying the ankle, “Is good, man. I just didn’t do contact today, but tomorrow we’ve got optional [practice], so I’ll come in and get some more work [in].”

“It’s not as bad as last time,” Whiteside added.

Whiteside was confident in saying that he will “for sure” be able to play on opening night against Denver.

The plan is for Whiteside to participate in all of Monday’s practice including all of the contact drills.

The Blazers big man feels fortunate that he still has a plenty of time to get his wind back and feel completely acclimated.

“It affects me, because I’m missing time. Getting in cardio, getting in game shape, getting that chemistry out there, but it’s a long season,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside added that he feels comfortable with the Blazers sets and has been studying them on his phone and the team’s iPads.

The Trail Blazers now have three days before the regular season tips off with the Denver Nuggets in town. Meaning, Whiteside has three days to get that ankle feeling right before he battles Nikola Jokic. 

Anthony Tolliver slots right in to what the Blazers have been doing on offense for years

Anthony Tolliver slots right in to what the Blazers have been doing on offense for years

Anthony Tolliver has been a Portland Trail Blazer before, albeit very briefly. He's now one of the oldest players on the team at age 34, and he brings shooting at the power forward position. Up until last season, Tolliver has been a pretty reasonable contributor at a low rate. So what will he offer Portland this year, and should we be afraid of his age?

That's the real question both Blazers fans and the coaching staff will try to answer early in the season. With Al-Farouq Aminu gone, the theory behind the front court rotation has changed along with all the new faces. It will help that Tolliver has been an almost exclusively 3-point shooting big man in recent memory. In fact, in the past eight seasons, Tolliver has shot 50% or more of his field goal attempts as 3-pointers. That's sort of ahead of the curve, and it's made him valuable well into his 30s.

One thing I did notice while watching tape of Tolliver — mostly from two years ago when he was better utilized in Detroit — was just how much the Pistons put him into Horns sets that are similar to what he’ll experience with the Blazers. 

Check out the full video above to see some of the sets the Pistons ran that are similar to what Portland does, and to see what else the Blazers can use from the sharpshooting forward.

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among best leaders in the league

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among best leaders in the league

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR BEST TEAM LEADERS:

The floor general is often the teams’ leader, but for Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard his leadership goes far beyond running the team on the court.

Talk with anyone in the Blazers organization or close to the team, Lillard is a type of captain who leads by example, and who has earned the respect of his teammates from the top of the roster to the bottom.

[RELATED]: More than just his Mother: Damian Lillard’s leadership rooted in deep influence from his family

GMs have noticed Lillard’s leadership qualities and they are speaking out about it.

Lillard received the most votes for best leader with a whopping 41 percent, ahead of Stephen Curry (37 percent) and LeBron James (15 percent).

And, what a difference a year makes.

Last year, Lillard received 7 percent of the votes to LeBron James’ 30 percent.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

NBA GMs Survey: Where Coach Stotts ranks among coaches running best offense

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR WHICH HEAD COACH RUNS THE BEST OFFENSE:

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has always been looked at as a great offensive mind of every coaching staff he has been on over the years.  

Learning from his early days with the Seattle SuperSonics under head coach George Karl to his days in Dallas with coach Rick Carlisle, Stotts gets the best offense out of his team.

[RELATED]: Terry Stotts has ditched the whiteboard in favor of an iPad

Whether it’s an out of bounds play or the way the Blazers run their motion offense, Stotts is being recognized by general managers around the league as a great offensive coach.

Stotts comes in tied for second place on the list with 14 percent of the votes. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni also received 14 percent of the votes behind Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Stotts is 352-249 in his seven seasons at the helm in Portland.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.

Jannero Pargo's perspective: The coach every player can relate to

Jannero Pargo's perspective: The coach every player can relate to

Trail Blazers practice had just wrapped up for the day.

In the far left corner of the gym stood a smiling Jaylen Hoard after he just finished draining a three-pointer from the right wing.

Before Hoard could do a victory dance, Portland’s assistant coach Jannero Pargo was seen on the floor… Doing push-ups. 

“There was a bet, and unfortunately I lost. I want to keep these guys confident. I don’t want to take too much from them,” Pargo said with a smile.

That sense of humor isn’t the only thing that has helped Pargo land his first NBA coaching job.

The newest addition to Portland’s coaching staff is giving the Blazers a fresh perspective.

When Portland lost assistant David Vanterpool to the Minnesota Timberwolves to be their associate head coach, Pargo was brought in two weeks later.

Vatnerpool was known as a players’ coach. He also had a very well known, special bond with Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

BIG SHOES TO FILL

Filling DV’s role was no easy task.

Pargo’s ‘reliability’ though has become a building block in how he has transitioned so well into his first NBA assistant role.

Lillard compared Pargo to a former Trail Blazer guard who was also a coaching intern for the Blazers in 2017.    

“I think [Pargo] brings something different then what we’ve had in a long time,” Lillard said. “It’s kind of like what we had in Steve Blake, but Steve Blake wasn’t in the same position that he’s in… In the way that he’s like a veteran NBA point guard. So, he’s sharing things with us as guards and with the team that you’re hearing from an NBA player.”

“Just different parts of the game that you’ve just got to be an NBA player to understand,” Lillard added. “Like some things happen in practice where the coaches will break it down to us one way when we make a mistake, and with him he’s like ‘I know sometimes your man is over here and it’s hard to get to get to this spot, but,’ so he’s telling us from a perspective that we’ll understand a little bit more and be a little bit more receptive to him because he’s coming from our position.”

Blazer rookie Nassir Little echoed Lillard’s sentiment.

“What I like about him is he brings a lot of reliability,” Little said of Pargo. “He’s a guy that is still able to come out here and play like he’s a 20-year-old, which is really crazy. With him, he understands the game from a player’s perspective and that allows him to give us some good insight that we can put into our games immediately to help us right away.”

Just two years removed from his NBA playing days, Pargo realizes how crucial his 11 years of experience in the league is currently helping him be a better coach.

“A lot of players look at guys like, you know, they’re trying to tell them what to do,” Pargo said. “And… The first thing they’re thinking in their head is -- ‘where did you play at?’ For me, I can say I played 11 years in this league, and you know, I was able to do some things. So, when I say something they respect it and they kind of take it to heart and that’s a good thing to have.”

Lillard even went as far to say Pargo has similar qualities to Vanterpool.

“It’s energy, it’s fresh. It’s kind of like how DV was for us…. A mixture of Steve Blake and DV. It’s that type of impact for us,” Lillard said.

HIGHLY REGARDED

After being in Portland for just a few months, Pargo has made a big impact on the players as well as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“He came recommended,” Stotts said. “Unsolicited recommendations, from coaches [and] GMs in the league and when I hired him, a couple of other coaches out of the blue texted me and said he’s one of their favorites. So, I was very happy with the hire.”

Stotts knew how important it was to fill Vanterpool’s role, saying that Pargo, “played for a lot of different coaches, a lot of different systems. He’s seen it all… When we lost David, he kind of had that perspective and so we wanted to replace that.”

Not only was it Pargo’s experience in the league that caught Stotts’ attention, but it was also Pargo’s time spent coaching in the G-League that was also significant to Stotts.  

“[We] didn’t really have a connection with him other than, I mean, I had never met him, obviously… But the fact that he spent two years in the G-League meant a lot to me. Every coach on our staff has spent time in the minor leagues and that’s important,” Stotts said.

Pargo took a lot away from his two years on the coaching staff for the Windy City Bulls.

“It was a great experience. It helped prepare me for this journey right here. Just learning and getting better as a coach, trying to think more like a coach than a player,” Pargo said.

HE’S STILL GOT IT

Over the summer, Pargo was at the Blazers practice facility working with the young Blazer squad.

Little appreciates that Pargo is still able to get out on the court and ball.

“In the summer we used to play one-on-one, and all that type of stuff. He’s super quick. That helps guys like me with our lateral quickness on defense and stuff like that. It allows me to be a better player,” Little said.    

It’s apparent by watching Pargo shooting jumpers after Blazer practices that he can still play, but he knows he can’t ball every day.

“A lot of guys have been giving me a lot of flack, because I think I can still play,” Pargo said with a big smile.

The 39-year-old then joked, “I can play one day, but how I feel the next day is the problem.”

Lillard knew that Pargo could still hoop the first time he saw him on the court.

“The first day I came back in September he was giving them fits. I mean, he can still play,” Lillard said.

AN ALL-AROUND COACH

Just because Pargo played point guard, doesn’t mean he isn’t here to share his words of wisdom to every single player on the roster.

“Every guard thinks he’s a big man,” Pargo said. “We all wish we were 6’11''. So we kind of have post moves and stuff like that. I just try to teach the bigs stuff from a guard's point of view to give these guys a little edge when they may have a small on them.”

Overall, Pargo wants to bring a player-coach opinion, which has already earned him respect from the team.

“Just be a voice to the team. They get tired of hearing Terry so much,” Pargo said with a chuckle. “You’ve got to have guys who can rely the message, just with a different voice.”

It’s probably safe to say that just as the Blazers themselves welcomed Pargo with open arms to the coaching staff, Blazer fans would too welcome anyone who has been compared to Steve Blake and David Vanterpool.

The inside story of Dame D.O.L.L.A.'s “Money Ball” music video -- in his own words

The inside story of Dame D.O.L.L.A.'s “Money Ball” music video -- in his own words

Damian Lillard’s – aka “Dame D.O.L.L.A. -- “Money Ball” on his latest album has brought him a lot of attention and is apparently getting a lot of streams. And the music video, released Thursday, will take it up another notch.

“Money Ball” is much more of a conventional rap song than most of Lillard’s previous work and the video reaches, for the squeaky clean Lillard, the “edgy” level.

He admits that and explains the reasoning behind the song and the video, which depicts Lillard (and backcourt mate CJ McCollum in a cameo) throwing dollar bills around. There’s also a stripper pole and scenes from a club and you may even hear a word or two that you haven’t heard in his songs previously.

It’s another genre and perhaps a risk for him.

But listen to him tell the story.

Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers grab lucky number 13 against the Spurs

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NBCSNW

Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers grab lucky number 13 against the Spurs

We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-2020 NBA season by looking back at each of the victories in the 18-game home-opener win streak. Here is a look at what happened back in 2013 when the Portland Trail Blazers faced the San Antonio Spurs in the home-opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2013? Let’s paint the picture:

  • LeBron James was the reigning MVP,
  • Carmelo Anthony was the league's leading scorer
  • The Miami Heat were the defending champions
  • Damian Lillard had just won Rookie of the Year
  • Anthony Bennett was the No.1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
  • The Blazers had the No.10 pick and drafted CJ McCollum.
  • The New Orleans Hornets officially became the New Orleans Pelicans 
  • The Charlotte Bobcats officially announced intent to change back to the Charlotte Hornets.
  • The Rose Garden changed its name to the Moda Center 

 

As for the Blazers home opener...

The Blazers opened up their home schedule of the 2013 season by welcoming the San Antonio Spurs. The game was close from start to finish, but Portland still controlled most of the way. Portland led for 42:42 of the game, taking the 12-10 lead with 5:43 left in the first quarter and never trailing again. Thanks in large part to a Nic Batum triple-double, the Blazers pulled off the 115-105 victory. 

Notable stats: 

San Antonio -

Tim Duncan – 24 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist

Tony Parker– 17 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assist

Manu Ginobili– 11points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

Kawhi Leonard - 9 points, 2 steals, 1 rebound, 1 assist

Portland –

LaMarcus Aldridge – 24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

Damian Lillard – 27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists

Nic Batum– 11 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists

Wesley Matthews– 20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

The Blazers would finish the season 54-28, good for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Portland would face Houston in the first round of the playoffs, and thanks to Damian Lillard's now famous 0.9 shot would advance to the second round for the first time since 2000. The Spurs would eliminate the Blazers 4-1 and go on to win the championship. 

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among others when the game is on the line

General managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming NBA season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves.

VOTES ARE IN FOR WHO GMs WANT TAKING THE GAME WINNER:

The 0.9 shot.

The ‘bad’ shot.

Those are just two examples that everyone always thinks about when it comes to Damian Lillard and his game winners.

#LillardTime has been around for seasons now, and to put it simply, that means Damian Lillard is Mr. Clutch.

The GMs have recognized just that…

Lillard is tied for second on the list of top clutch players. He’s tied with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson as the guy you want taking the shot when the game is on the line. Those three are behind Stephen Curry, but ahead of Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.

More on the Blazers in the GM surveys:

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Moda Center ranks among best home-court advantage

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.