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CHICAGO – When Bruce Brown, who was a standout guard at the University of Miami, visits Portland in June for a draft workout with the Trail Blazers, there is a good chance a certain memory will be fueling him.
When he was 8 and living in Boston, he remembers huddling in the kitchen with his mom and two siblings
“She didn’t have enough money to get oil for the house,’’ Brown said of his mom. “So we had to open the oven for heat and had to sit by the oven for heat. That stuck with me. I want to get her out of that situation, and (the NBA draft) is a great opportunity.’’
Brown has piqued the interest of the Blazers because of his size (6-foot-5), and his defensive skills on the perimeter, which were shelved the final two months of this season after he broke his left foot. He says the foot has been fully cleared for the past two weeks.
Brown, who averaged 11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season, says his versatility is his strong point and he said he has heard his game compared to that of Boston’s Marcus Smart.
“I can play both ends of the ball,’’ Brown said. “I can guard 1-through-3 and make three’s.’’
Make no mistake, though: Brown’s forte is defense.
“I just know that’s what I do. Growing up I wasn’t the best offensive player, so I had to focus on defense and getting steals,’’ he said. “I just love getting stops and helping my team.’’
He said his focus leading up to the draft is to prove his left foot his healthy, but he said he was confident teams would see his physical strength and stamina. His 3.75 percent body fat was the lowest recorded at the NBA Combine and he said he completed 17 reps of the 185-pound bench press.
“I definitely love the weight room,’’ Brown said. “I used to be a scrawny kid, skinny. But then I just fell in love with the weight room. I love the feeling of being sore.’’
Brown is projected to be a late first round or early second round pick. He said at the Combine that he met with Houston, the Clippers, Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Memphis and Toronto.
He said whichever team picks him will be getting a player that knows how to stoke his own fire. It happened earlier this season, when he was slumping. He thought about what his mother told him: Never forget where you came from.
So from upscale Coral Gables, where the University of Miami resides, Brown said he drove to Miami Gardens, which more resembled his gritty Boston neighborhood.
“I took a drive there and regained that feeling of where I came from,’’ Brown said. “I couldn’t go up to Boston, but it was just a way to see where I came from, the poorness of some of the areas. It grounded me, reminded me.’’
And come June 21, those memories will surface once again.
Trail Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen has contributed $1 Million to a Washington Gun Control Measure known as Initiative 1639 that would tighten gun ownership laws in Washington.
Allen tweeted Monday about his contributions and feelings about gun safety:
I hope people throughout the state will support the campaign, so that we can qualify and pass this important initiative into law. 2/2— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) May 21, 2018
For more information on Initiatve 1639 you can visit their website.
CHICAGO – The Trail Blazers are working with the agent of Landry Shamet to arrange a predraft workout with the Wichita State guard, and when it happens it might feature the best shooter in this year’s NBA Draft.
On the eve of the NBA Combine in Chicago, agent Happy Walters tweeted a video of Shamet, proclaiming him the best shooter in the draft.
Shamet, who averaged 14.9 points last season for the Shockers while shooting 56 percent from the field and a whopping 44.2 percent from three-point range, won’t argue.
“I feel confident about that; I will shoot with anybody,’’ Shamet said. “I feel confident in my jump shot.’’
Is he the best?
“That’s for other people to decide, whether they think I am, but I know where I think I am,’’ he said, before pausing. “Um, yeah.’’
The 6-foot-4 Shamet says he likens his game to a blend of Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, Cleveland’s George Hill, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Portland’s CJ McCollum.
“My thing is I take bits and pieces from guys who do things really well,’’ Shamet said. “I feel like I’m a cerebral player. I’m not going to wow you with crossing people up, or doing things that a lot of guys in the limelight do. But I feel like I’m a solid player, pretty steady across the board.’’
There are two questions about Shamet: Each of his feet have been broken, and there are concerns whether he can defend at the NBA level.
Shamet says much of his conversations with teams have been about the health of his feet. He broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in 2015, then suffered the same injury in his right foot in 2017, after which he had surgery to insert a screw.
“I know that two foot injuries are somewhat of a red flag, but I keep stressing how good I feel,’’ Shamet said. “I’m actually proud of how I overcame those injuries. My psyche, my approach … it reconstructed how I looked at things. There would be practices I could see teammates not wanting to go through, but I would have killed to be in that position. So it taught me not to take things for granted.’’
As far as his defense, he is spending the weeks leading up to the June 21 draft training with Sacramento point guard De’Aaron Fox.
“He is as quick as they come,’’ Shamet said of Fox. “Defense has been the biggest thing for me. I want to erase those question marks on that end that people might have.’’
But the one question people shouldn’t have, Shamet insists, is about his shooting. His AAU coach, Darin Mason, has crafted his jump shot since he was in high school.
“He’s like my golf swing coach,’’ Shamet joked. “He’s the only voice I will listen to; I don’t want to hear it from anybody else. It’s kind of our thing.’’
He says he hasn’t quite perfected his shot but he says he is confident about it being NBA ready.
“I feel it’s something I can bring to the table immediately,’’ Shamet said. “Three-point shooting is needed everywhere. It’s a threat you have to honor, and that’s me. But I don’t want to come in and be a volume scorer or take crazy shots and stuff like that. But (three-point shooting) is the biggest thing I can contribute.’’
In recent years, some of the NBA's top talent has elected to forgo the NBA Pre-Draft Combine and meet with teams later in the Draft process for individualized workouts.
But Boise State's Chandler Hutchison made headlines when he did just that, despite being projected a late first round selection.
Chandler Hutchison has withdrawn from the NBA Combine and canceled all workouts after receiving assurances he's found a "safe landing spot." It appears that he has secured a promise from a team drafting in the 20-30 range. Hutchison is currently slated #24 on the ESPN mock draft— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 16, 2018
The news sparked immediate speculation that Portland, which is picked 24th overall, may be that team.
However, after according to our Jason Quick, that's not the case.
Hearing Blazers are NOT the team that promised Boise State wing Chandler Hutchinson. ESPN reported Hutchinson withdrew from combine and workouts after a team in 20-30 range promised to pick him.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) May 18, 2018
Hutchison, a 6'7" guard and a four-year player at BSU, was named to the first team All-Mountain West in each of the past two seasons where he set career highs with 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a senior.
So if it wasn't the Blazers, then who was it?
According to Aran Smith of NBADraft.net, that was the Bulls, who have the 22nd overall pick.
The Blazers appear to have focused their attention on wing defenders at the Combine.
Players who today confirmed they have met, or plan to meet with Blazers at NBA Combine:— Jason Quick (@jwquick) May 18, 2018
Donte DeVincenzo, PG/SG, Villanova
Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton
Jerome Robinson, PG/SG, Boston College
Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU
Bruce Brown, SG, Miami
Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati
Other players to interview with the Blazers in Chicago were Miami's Lonnie Walker, Duke's Gary Trent, Jr. South Carolina's Brian Bowen and Oregon's Troy Brown.
The names mentioned is not a complete list, however it's worth noting the amount of guards and small forwards are on that list.
Pre-Draft workouts begin the first week of June with the NBA Draft taking place on June 21st.
CHICAGO – When prospects at the NBA Combine last week were summoned to a meeting with the Trail Blazers, they were in for a surprise.
Unlike meetings with the Clippers, where waiting for them inside a hotel room was NBA legend Jerry West, or unlike meetings with the Lakers alongside Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, prospects walked into their Portland meeting to find …. Dana Sinclair.
“It was … different,’’ Duke wing Gary Trent Jr. said.
Sinclair is a sports performance psychologist who has been working with the Blazers since 2007. When she was first hired by then-general manager Kevin Pritchard, Sinclair would sometimes convene with the team on the road. But now, she is mostly in charge of handling the Blazers pre-draft intel.
According to some of the players Sinclair interviewed last week, they were given a checklist with various character traits. After they checked what they felt applied to them, there were a serious of questions.
“It was questions like, ‘What would people describe you as?’’’ Brian Bowen said. “And ‘What would you describe yourself as?’ It was interesting. It was her getting to know me personally. I liked it.’’
After the checklist and questions, the players talked with Sinclair and discussed the results. Some of the players said she nailed their personality.
“She was close,’’ Oregon’s Troy Brown said. “But she said she thought I was a little unsocial, and when she said that I was a little shocked. I was like, not me. Not me.’’
Bowen, the former Louisville recruit, said she nailed him.
“She formed and said things about me that were so accurate it was crazy,’’ Bowen said. “It was eye opening.’’
Bowen said there was nothing weird about the questions and noted that Minnesota asked him the most interesting question: If you were driving and approaching a yellow light, what would you do?
WILL BLAZERS’ SHAKE?
One of the prospects the Blazers interviewed in Chicago was SMU’s Shake Milton, who notes that he has “had my fair share” of adversity in his life.
This season as a junior, he broke his right hand, forcing him to miss the season’s final 11 games. And when he was 15, his father, Myrion, died in 2012 at age 43 because of a heart issue.
“My family was in my corner, and that’s all I needed,’’ Milton said.
A 6-foot-5 guard, Milton was the American Conference player of the year after averaging 18.0 points and 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He says he figures he will standout because of his shooting, his basketball intelligence and his defensive versatility.
“With my length, I can guard multiple positions,’’ Milton said. “I feel like I can do anything the coach asks me to do. The way the game is going – positionless basketball – you have to be able to guard multiple positions and knock down shots.’’
Even though his father is gone, his memory lives on with Milton’s nickname. His father, during his playing days at Texas A&M was called “Milkman.” So when his son was in the womb, he started calling him Shake … as in Milkshake.
So even though his proper name is Malik, Milton has always gone by Shake since he was born.
IN THE GENES
One of the top scorers the Blazers appear interested in is Boston College guard Jerome Robinson, who like Milton, has a father who played collegiately.
Jerome Sr. was a small forward who played at South Florida before a nine-year professional career overseas.
“I remember playing 1-on-1 against him when I was young and he would show no mercy,’’ Robinson said. “He was dunking and everything.’’
It wasn’t until high school that he beat his father and he says he hasn’t lost to him since.
Lonnie Walker, a standout defender at Miami who is expected to be a lottery pick, was asked at the combine who was his toughest player to guard. He didn’t hesitate.
“Jerome Robinson,’’ Walker said. “He gave me 30 points. I have to respect a guy who gave me a whole lot of buckets like that. He is a vet. You have to pay respect when it’s due. He knows his spots, how to shoot, how to score. It was definitely a challenge.’’
Robinson, who this season as a junior averaged 20.7 points while shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range, has been training with Noah LaRoche, the owner of Integrity Sports and the trainer of Russell Westbrook.
Robinson says he will be defined by two traits: hard work and character.
“Nothing was given to me, not even in my own household. I will work in the dark until I see the light,’’ Robinson said. “I don’t have a ridiculous wing span or ridiculous height, but I know that I have a mental advantage against guys I play against. That’s the way I attack the game.’’
One of the top names scheduled to workout in Portland in June is Duke wing Gary Trent, Jr.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his father Gary Trent played with the Blazers from 1995-1998.
“He always he told me stories of those teams, and the name they had, the Jail Blazers,’’ Trent said. “But he told me funny stories, stories of him, JR (Rider), Rasheed (Wallace).’’
Trent Jr. as a freshman with Duke averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. He carries himself with a brash confidence and says he will show NBA teams that he can be a prolific scorer. He is projected to go anywhere from the mid-teens to the second round.
“I honestly feel like I’m better than that,’’ Trent said. “I can score with the best of them – post, mid range, three, off the dribble, catch and shoot. I feel like there is not situation on the offensive end that I can’t do. ‘’
Part of that confidence comes from being schooled by his father, not only in the nuances of the game, but also the draft process.
“It’s almost as if I had a cheat sheet,’’ Trent said. “My father has been through it all – the combine, the one-year deals, the three-year deals. He’s been at the bottom of the bench, a key contributor off the bench. He’s been through every situation, and that’s the plus of having a father who played.’’
Trent is also well-schooled on the current Blazers, and said he felt he could make an immediate impact in Portland.
“I think I could come in right away and help be a nice spark, come in and knock down shots,’’ Trent said. “There is so much pressure on Dame and CJ, I would probably just get easy buckets just spotting up and doing little things like that.
“And scoring when I need to – drive, catch and shoot, play make, drop off to them and Harkless and all them guys … the big man, how do you say his name again? Nurkic, yeah, he’s a talented player, too. They have a lot going on, a lot of good things.’’
CHICAGO – On Friday, the Trail Blazers will meet with guard Khyri Thomas at the NBA Combine, which will hold some significance for the Creighton standout.
CJ McCollum, the Blazers’ star shooting guard, is one of the players Thomas says he most admires and models his offensive game after, and if fate would have it that the Blazers select him at No. 24 during the June 21 draft, Thomas says it would be a blessing.
“If he took me under his wing and I could go at him every day, that would be lovely,’’ Thomas said with a smile. “That would be lovely.’’
Even though Thomas is attracted to McCollum’s game, he is a much different player.
A 6-foot-4 combo guard with a wingspan of 6-foot-10.5 inches, Thomas was the Big East defensive player of the year the past two seasons. He also shot 41.1 percent from three-point range, giving him the desired “three-and-D” label that has become the NBA’s latest trend.
“In college, we already had our scorers and go-to-guys,’’ Thomas said. “So I had to think how I could stand out and not be miserable. So I thought defensive was a thing … plus, defense wins games.’’
Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, who scored 31 points in the NCAA title game, faced Thomas twice in the regular season and left impressed.
“On the ball, he’s amazing,’’ DiVincenzo said. “He’s long, he doesn’t take risks at all, so he contains well. And he has the length to contest bigger guys, reads the pick and roll great, and he can read weakside. So he was a tough defender for us both times we played them. And offensively, he killed us (at Creighton).’’
Thomas had 24 in that win over then third-ranked Wildcats and finished the season averaging 15.1 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from the field.
He attributes much of his development to attending Ft. Union Military Academy outside of Richmond, Va. for high school. He entered what he said was a typical high school kid – interested in basketball and joking around – but left as a leader.
“It was a reality check,’’ said Thomas, who liberally uses sir and ma’am. “I matured, manned up and took it seriously.’’
It was a talk with a lieutenant at the academy that changed his on the court demeanor.
“He said, ‘I know you are quiet and shy, but if you become a vocal leader, the sky is the limit,’’’ Thomas recalled. “And that’s what I did – I stepped into a leadership role and guys listened to me.’’
On June 21, it will be Thomas listening for his name. Mock drafts have him going in the first round anywhere from the teens to the 20s.
Thomas at the Combine said he met with Phoenix (pick 16 and 31), Chicago (7thand 22nd), Washington (15th), Atlanta (19 and 30), (Boston (27th) and the Lakers (25th). He said Portland was one of a couple teams he would meet with on Friday.
He said whichever team drafts him will be getting a blend between Kawhi Leonard – “because he is a two-way guy and does the right things” – and McCollum, “because he is crafty and under control.’’
If he so happens to be selected by Portland? He figures that would only enhance his admiration of McCollum.
“I like the way plays,’’ Thomas said. “I watch a lot of film on him, just how crafty he is, in ball screens and one on one.’’
The 2018 NBA combine tips off on Wednesday and runs through Sunday at Quest Multisport complex in Chicago. Of course, the combine is all about allowing NBA teams to get an early close look at potential draft picks while evaluating the players based on specific tests and getting a chance to sit down and interview players.
Combine participants are tested on their verticals, agility and strength while also scrimmaging against each other, 5-on-5, in front of the many NBA scouts in attendance.
This year, 69 players will participate in the combine.
Of the top players in several mock drafts, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jalen Brunson will all be headlining this year’s draft class in Chicago.
In recent NBA combines, there have been a handful of notable players who declined their invitation to Chicago. This year you will not see Arizona's DeAndre Ayton, who several mock drafts have slotted as the number one overall pick, along with international prospect Luka Doncic, and Texas A&M's Robert Williams, as all three top prospects have decided not to participate in the Combine.
You can watch the 2018 NBA Combine on ESPN 2 on Thursday, from noon-4 p.m. and Friday, noon-4 p.m.
If you’re at work or not able to get to a TV on Thursday or Friday make sure to keep it locked @NBCSNorthwest on Twitter and right here on our website with videos and articles with the biggest storylines surrounding the Blazers and this year’s Combine participants. Our Blazers Insider Jason Quick is on the ground in Chicago and will keep you up to date.
Various mock drafts all over the interwebs have the Trail Blazers selecting one of the following and we will be focusing on these five players during our Combine coverage:
We will also keep an eye on local product, Troy Brown Jr. out of Oregon. Plus, don’t forget to catch The Bridge Thursday night on NBCS Northwest at 6pm with a live update from Chicago with Jason Quick.
The Phoenix Suns were the big losers during the regular season and had the best chances of coming away big winners during the NBA Draft Lottery. The math held true, and the Suns will pick #1 in June's NBA Draft.
The big winners of the night however were the Sacramento Kings who jumped up to #2. The Kings had the seventh best odds in the lottery and only a 6% chance of landing that pick.
The Atlanta Hawks also moved up and all of this forced Memphis, Dallas, Orlando and Chicago down the draft order.
Do Blazer fans care? You should.
Two Western Conference teams are going to get a difference maker in this year's draft (Phoenix #1, Sacramento #2). Luckily neither are in Portland's division but it adds more young talent to an already deep Western Conference.
Also of note is that the LA Clippers hold back to back picks in this year's draft at #12 and #13. Expect the Clippers to make a fast turnaround and return to a playoff berth sooner than later.
Full Draft Lottery Order:
1 Phoenix Suns
2 Sacramento Kings
3 Atlanta Hawks
4 Memphis Grizzlies
5 Dallas Mavericks
6 Orlando Magic
7 Chicago Bulls
8 Cleveland Cavaliers (trade from Nets)
9 New York Knicks
10 Philadelphia 76ers
11 Charlotte Hornets
12 Los Angeles Clippers (trade from Pistons)
13 Los Angeles Clippers
14 Denver Nuggets
Blazer5 had one impressive debut in the 2K League. They went undefeated in pool play, beating 76ers GC, Magic Gaming, and Raptors Uprising GC. They then took down Pacers Gaming and Cavs Legion GC to set up a rematch with 76ers GC in THE TIPOFF championship game. Blazer5 came up just short of bringing home a tournament win, but they had an impressive debut none-the-less.
OneWildWalnut and Dat Boy Shotz (that's right, we go by gamer tags around here) proved to be the league's best frontcourt pairing, while Mama Im Dat Man surprised everyone with his ability to run the show. Add in Lavish Phenom and Grant Monster doing all the little things, and Blazer5 proved to be a force.
Now they get to transition from the tournament to the regular season.
We silenced the doubters with a 5-game win streak and a championship game classic in the first-ever @NBA2KLeague tournament.— Blazer5 Gaming (@blazer5gaming) May 9, 2018
Follow the team and hear their thoughts in this exclusive video recap. 🎥 pic.twitter.com/dZKph13kdw
For those of you who don't know, here is how the NBA 2K League is set up:
- The 12-week season is split into four-week chunks of play, with mid-season tournaments in between.
- Following the regular season, there will be a final tournament to decide the champion of the inaugural season.
- The tournaments throughout the season will not only have bragging rights on the line, but they'll also have cash prizes! The winner of the final mid-season tournament also wins an automatic bid into the playoffs.
- The first mid-season tournament starts June 8, while the second mid-season tournament begins July 13. The regular season playoffs begin August 17.
- The seeding for each tournament will be decided by the team's record during the four week stretch of regular season games that precede the tournaments.
If the Blazers early run is any indication, OneWildWalnut and crew will give gamers and Blazers fans alike something to cheer all summer.
And speaking of Walnut, our Serena Winters recently had a chance to catch up with him and Blazer5 as they trained for Friday's season opener. (Check out the full interview from The Bridge above.)
You can also catch the squad when they hit the virtual court on Friday for the season opener against Magic Gaming. The action for Blazer5 starts at 9 PM Eastern Time and can be streamed on Twitch.