Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Some real talk about Portland's 114-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night:

  • A wacky, crazy, strange game. And for Trail Blazer fans, probably the most exciting game of the season. In the fourth quarter Portland did a great job of mucking the game up -- being physical on defense and very aggressive at both ends of the floor. It resulted in a 42-point quarter while holding the Sixers to 25. I liked the Blazers' passion in the period more than anything. They fed off the home crowd, which was rightfully going bonkers for the first time in weeks
  • And speaking of the home crowd, the referees pitched in and helped as much as they could. Portland shot 47 free throws while Philadelphia got just 14. That's a joke, but once again testimony to the NBA truism that the aggressive team gets the calls.
  • The game may have turned on a flagrant foul call on Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter when he bumped Jusuf Nurkic to the floor. Or Nurkic just flopped onto the floor. I can understand an official watching that in real time and thinking it may have been a flagrant foul -- but after watching a replay? That was a real bad call -- and even though Nurkic missed his free throws, you could feel the game changing on that call. Embiid seemed discouraged and tired down the stretch. Great player, though.
  • Nurkic offered a look at both sides of his game. He suffered through all sorts of stumbles, fumbles and misfires over the first three quarters. The man has missed more close-in shots and layups this season than any player I've ever seen. But in the fourth quarter, after getting his nose bloodied, he found passion and assertiveness. He was an inspiration down the stretch -- leading to the obvious question: Where has THAT Nurkic been?
  • The Sixers are a well-coached team but I could not figure out why they didn't send Embiid to the low post in the fourth quarter and let him go directly at Nurkic who played most of the final period with five fouls. My goodness, Nurkic will commit that sixth foul if you give him half a chance. in fact, the passive game officials aside, I thought he did commit his sixth foul two or three times but it just wasn't called
  • Like Nurkic, Shabazz Napier completely turned his game around in the second half. He missed his first six shots and struggled against the quickness of 76ers guard T.J. McConnell in the first half. But he hit seven of his last eight shots and was a big part of his team's late rally.
  • I'm not sure how much longer NBA officials will keep falling for Nurkic's flopping around but you have to figure it will reach that point.
  • CJ McCollum had one of those games we've come to expect of him -- making just about every open shot he got, including some big ones.
  • Somehow, Portland found its passion button in the second half. I don't know what triggered it, but it's been missing most of the season. What a difference when this team is playing with desperation and aggression.

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CJ McCollum makes guest appearance in Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s latest music video

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USA Today Images

CJ McCollum makes guest appearance in Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s latest music video

The wait is over.

The second music video from Dame's Big D.O.L.L.A. album has dropped.

Damian Lillard announced on his Instagram on Thursday that the ‘Money Ball’ music video featuring Jeremih, Danny From Sobrante and Derrick Milano is here.

The best part for Trail Blazers fans: CJ McCollum makes a guest appearance! 

Lillard and McCollum are dropping some serious money in this 'Money Ball' music video. Check it out here:

With new faces and better shooting, can the Trail Blazers rely less on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?

With new faces and better shooting, can the Trail Blazers rely less on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been a good 3-point shooting team in years past. Well, their stars have been. Terry Stotts has relied largely on both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to carry the load for them on that end of the floor. But now there is a glut of new wing and front court players in Portland, many of whom might be able to take some of the pressure off of Portland's stars to start the year.

Things will start from the inside out, where Zach Collins will need to shore things up. Collins will play a bigger role this year, starting at power forward, and he didn't shoot a very good percentage at the rim relative to other centers in 2018-19. 

Oddly enough, this could be compounded to start 2019-20 by both CJ and Damian. According to Cleaning the Glass, they both ranked in the lower percentiles for for guards when it came to shooting at the rim last season. But their attacking is a function of how the Trail Blazers offense works, and how the team garners free throws, which are each important in their own right. You can't really change how Lillard and McCollum plays at this point, and so it's up to other teammates to make up for them at the rim.

Alongside Collins' individual improvement could be another solution at the rim: the fastbreak. Portland was 29th in frequency in transition last season, but they were a whopping 6th in points per play. That's some untapped potential, particularly off defensive rebounds.

Then there's what Portland can do with 3-pointers, how Kent Bazemore can act as a one-man wrecking crew... the list goes on. I'm excited about how this team can look different on offense this year, and more dynamic. The real question is whether Stotts recognizes the need to break out of his shell a little bit.

Watch the full breakdown above to see all the ways the Blazers can contribute on offense outside of Lillard and McCollum.

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers win in Utah

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers win in Utah

In their second to last exhibition game, the Trail Blazers were able to put it all together and look like a cohesive team for the first time this preseason.

CJ McCollum was showing off his extended range. He scored a game-high 28 points while going 5-of-7 from three-point range, including a deep 27-footer. Damian Lillard added 25 points as the Blazers came out on top, 126-118 over the Jazz.

Here is what you might have missed:

Quotables:

"I don’t think it’s worse, I don’t think it’s worse. It’s sore because it’s still fresh, but we’re going to keep compressing it and go day-by-day.” -- Hassan Whiteside on his most recent ankle injury compared to tweaking that same ankle in training camp

“I thought Zach in particular made some really impressive plays at the rim. I don’t know how many blocks he ended up with, but he had two or three really impressive blocks that should’ve been scores, and it really ignited us the other way.” -- Blazers head coach Terry Stotts on Zach Collins

“Just having them back there for support, and knowing how well they do what they do, it’s a great feeling as a perimeter guy.”  Damian Lillard on having the twin towers in Collins and Whiteside on defense

Best of Social Media:

Latest news & analysis:

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

Hassan Whiteside tweaks left ankle in preseason game at Utah

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

Elhassan: People sleep on the Blazers for real and every year they prove us wrong

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

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Chris Burkhardt

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

The Blazers opened up preseason play last week by traveling back in time and playing a game inside the "Glass Palace," aka Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

Among the sea of black and red jerseys, disco outfits, and stylish suits straight from the 1970s, one custom jersey stood out like a sore thumb: A custom Damian Lillard jersey. 

Obviously, it wasn't the name on the jersey that had fans doing a double-take. Rather, it was the jersey the name was on. No, it wasn't a Blazers jersey. No, it wasn't a Weber State jersey. It wasn't even an Oakland High School jersey... Lillard's name was seen on the back of a Golden State Warriors jersey.

But this wasn't just some Hamptons Five fan pulling the ultimate troll. It was a fan that wanted to show his pride for everything Lillard means to the East Bay. 

The man behind the jersey is Segun De Silva. I had a chance to catch up with him before the game simply to ask why he wore the jersey. His answer came from the heart. 

De Silva proceeded to tell a story about how he loved Damian Lillard, but refused to wear a Trail Blazers jersey. He has his reasons, but he still wanted to find a way to show his love for Lillard. 

De Silva, an Oakland native, went to his roots. He picked a Golden State jersey not because he bleeds blue and gold, but because it represented his home town. How? Well, he didn't go with a jersey that said Warriors across the chest. He instead picked the alternate "The Town" jersey. A jersey made to represent more than the Warriors on the court, but the entire city of Oakland. 

Not only did it speak to Oakland, but it matched Lillard in a special way.

For those who don't know, "The Town" jersey features the Jack London Oak on the chest. The oak tree is an everlasting symbol of the city and also happens to be tattooed across Lillard's chest 

De Silva got Lillard's name on a Warriors jersey, but a jersey that had Oakland's nickname and Lillard's tattoo on it. For De Silva, it had nothing to do with basketball. 

Lillard is a hero in Oakland. As De Silva told me, "If he can leave Oakland and embrace a city like Portland, then I can too." Lillard, and fellow Oakland legends like Marshawn Lynch, are beacons of hope that show so many people what can happen when you dream big and put your mind to it. 

I asked Lillard what he thought about a fan wearing a custom Lillard/Warriors jersey to a Blazers game. He laughed at first. Then I told him De Silva's explanation and this is what he had to say:

That means a lot because I always tell people growing up in Oakland how much pride we had in successful people from our city. I'd go to school and everybody would swear up and down that Gary Payton was they uncle, or they was related to Jason Kidd, they was related to Antonio Davis.

They just wanted some type of attachment because that's the kind of pride that people have from Oakland. That shows exactly that. Just that sense of pride and him being proud of not only my success as a basketball player, but who I am as a man. He seems like he has a lot of respect for that.

It sounds like just an Oakland thing.

I tell this story simply to say, don't be so quick to judge. What looked like a troll, was a man with a story. A story we can all appreciate and understand. And if you don't get it, there is a reason why... It's an Oakland thing. 

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

It was just last week that Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside was explaining how his left ankle injury that he suffered during training camp "wasn’t as bad as a broken heart."

He tweaked the ankle weeks ago in practice after battling for a rebound with Zach Collins and then coming down on Collins’ foot.

Whiteside told reporters this week that his ankle was pain free as of few days ago.

The 7-footer seemed to 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.

Shortly after Whiteside went back to the locker room, the Blazers announced that he would not return to the game due to a left ankle sprain.

The good news:

Whiteside doesn't believe his tweaked left ankle is worse than last time he injured it.

“I don’t think it’s worse, I don’t think it’s worse. It’s sore because it’s still fresh, but we’re going to keep compressing it and go day-by-day,” Whiteside told reporters postgame.

Before leaving the game, Whiteside scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting, while also pulling down 11 rebounds on the night to go along with one block and one steal.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with Whiteside’s 16 minutes of action.

“He played well in both halves. I didn’t even look at his numbers, but you know, he gets 11 rebounds in 16 minutes, he had an impact on the game,” Stotts told reporters.

Next up for Portland, the Blazers will travel to Denver to visit the Nuggets in the second night of back-to-back to finish up the preseason.    

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

SALT LAKE CITY – As far as preseason games go, Wednesday night’s contest against the Utah Jazz was just about all the Trail Blazers could have asked for -- and more.
So many things went well, it’s hard to know where to start in what turned out to be a not-as-close-as-it-sounds 126-118 win over the Jazz.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were terrific – in mid-season form -- against the Jazz backcourt of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. Lillard had 25 points with five rebounds and four assists and McCollum scored 28 while shooting 11-15  from the floor, including 5-7 from three.

“I felt good,” Lillard said. “Playing at altitude, we knew that was going to be a challenge. We came out in attack mode and played it like a real game. We challenged ourselves and our conditioning, trying to get into regular-season form and we just had a good run tonight. These are the kind of games you want to have at least one time going into the regular season.”

McCollum, continuing to show signs he’s going to be shooting more from long range, did a nice job of showcasing his varied offensive arsenal.

“This was going to be our last preseason game and so we wanted to get some good conditioning in with the altitude,” McCollum said. “Go compete. They’ve got some good guards and we wanted to see where we’re at.”

Zach Collins started at power forward and Hassan Whiteside started at center and the duo has a chance to be a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams. They are both aggressive rim protectors and Collins hit his first three-point field goal of the exhibition season and a handful of tough shots under duress inside. He finished 6-6 from the field.

“I love playing with Hassan,” Collins said, “We’re both rim protectors and he’s very good at it. Both of us being at the rim it’s going to be tough for other teams to score.”

Whiteside played well, getting 11 rebounds in 16 minutes but provided the only downer of the night when he reinjured his left ankle, spraining it again after leaving the game in the first half when he cut his right hand on the rim.

“I don’t think it’s serious,” said Whiteside, who sat out 10 days during the exhibition season after spraining it the first time. “First time I’ve ever had to go to the back twice in one game.”

Several rotation players had solid outings and Rodney Hood was reliable as the starting small forward. Mario Hezonja made five of his eight shots, including a couple of three-pointers, on the way to a dozen points, four rebounds and three assists. Kent Bazemore was solid at both ends and Anthony Tolliver got some significant time at center, forcing the Jazz to go to a smaller lineup.

Portland led 117-100 when Coach Terry Stotts pulled the last of the starters off the floor in the fourth quarter.

Stotts hasn’t been concerned with getting a win – this was his team’s first over an NBA team in the exhibition season – but he did want to see the group play better. And it did.

“We really played well,” Stotts said. “Offensively, the first half was fun to watch. We moved the ball, Dame and CJ were in a really good rhythm. All in all, it was the best game we’ve played so far.”

Stotts had praise for Whiteside, whom he said, “played well in both halves. He had an impact on the game. It was good to see for him.

“And I thought Zach, in particular, made two or three very impressive plays at the rim. He had two or three blocks that could have been scores and they really ignited us going the other way.”

Portland wraps up its exhibition schedule at Denver Thursday night but it’s anybody’s guess who will be on the floor for the Blazers. Stotts wouldn’t commit after the game about it, but he’s indicated he would not use his key players much – if at all.

Elhassan: People sleep on the Blazers for real and every year they prove us wrong

Elhassan: People sleep on the Blazers for real and every year they prove us wrong

It's only the preseason but the question has to be asked: Are people around the country sleeping on the Trail Blazers?

AGAIN? 

This week on The Jump, Portland was a big topic of conversation.  

Amin Elhassan, one of the many rotating co-hosts of The Jump, picked the Trail Blazers as his putting down ‘the 100 bucks’ sleeper team to win the Championship this year.   

“I think a lot of people are overlooking the Blazers, and they do it every year, right?”

“I heard the other day, Karl Anthony Towns said people are sleeping on us, the Timberwolves – ‘what have you done!? What have you done that we shouldn’t be sleeping on you?’ But [the Blazers] people sleep on them for real and every year they prove us wrong, and every year we find reasons to knock them down and say they aren’t going to be good enough,” Elhassan said emphatically.

Elhassan joined ESPN in 2012 as an NBA analyst. Before his time as TV analyst, he worked in the league for over a decade. He most recently was the Assistant Director of Basketball Operations with the Phoenix Suns.

The Trail Blazers odds to win it all this season are 30-1, that’s according to Las Vegas.

Elhassan is placing his bet on the Blazers. Are you?

Instant Analysis from the Trail Blazers 'dress rehearsal' in Utah

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USATI

Instant Analysis from the Trail Blazers 'dress rehearsal' in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY - The Trail Blazers officially played their second to last preseason game, but for the vets, it was likely the last 'real' basketball before the regular season gets here. 

Here are three takeaways from Dwight Jaynes who was on the scene in Utah:

1. Using Hassan Whiteside and Zach Collins together in the starting lineup is going to create matchup problems for other teams. That's a lot of size to contend with at both ends of the floor.

2. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum appeared to be ready to go for the regular season. And McCollum has extended his three-point range out a few feet.

3. The Blazers are going to have to continue to work on their perimeter defense. They are allowing too many open threes for their own good in a league where shooting more threes is going to be a big deal.

Note: Trail Blazer's center Hassan Whiteside left the game in the third quarter after rolling his ankle. He did not return. 

Check back here throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, reactions and videos from the locker room!

Hassan Whiteside tweaks left ankle in preseason game at Utah

Hassan Whiteside tweaks left ankle in preseason game at Utah

On Monday, Hassan Whiteside told Dwight Jaynes the following in terms of his injured left ankle:

“Pain free as of about two days ago,” Whiteside said. “We had a tough practice today. We scrimmaged. A lot of live work. Like a real game. I love it.”

That all might have changed tonight in Utah though. Around the 8:45 mark of the third quarter, Whiteside appeared to roll his left ankle while securing a rebound. 

Blazers announced Whiteside (left ankle sprain) will not return tonight. This post will be updated when more information becomes available. 

Check back later for more updates from the team and from Dwight Jaynes who is on the scene in Utah.