Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

OAKLAND – I haven’t found many people outside of Charles Barkley willing to say that the Portland Trail Blazers have even a small chance of upsetting the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, which begin this evening in Oracle Arena.

Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers are heavy underdogs to what have become the perennial NBA champions.

But does that mean Portland can’t win? No. It does not. But the Blazers will need help.

From the Warriors.

Let’s face it – if Golden State comes out and throws its very best games at Portland, the Trail Blazers are going to have a very difficult time sticking around. And the Blazers are going to have to play at a high level to stay with the powerful Warriors.

But in the playoffs, teams don’t always play at their highest level. Stuff happens. And the pressure, which often sits more heavily on the favorite than the underdog, can have an impact.

Take Portland’s previous series, against the Denver Nuggets.

Denver had the seventh game at home, where about 80 percent of the time the home team wins. Denver had a 17-point lead in the first half. Portland went 4-26 from three-point range. Damian Lillard went 3-17 from the field.

Yet, with all that, the Trail Blazers won the game 100-96. And it wasn’t, quite obviously, due to how fantastic Portland played in the deciding game.

Denver shot just 29.2 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and missed all six of its three-point tries. A good many of those shots were wide open. The Nuggets just missed them.

For the series, Denver made just 33 percent of its three-point shots – something you certainly wouldn’t expect from Golden State, a historically great shooting team from distance.

But again, stuff happens. Perhaps the Trail Blazers are a team of destiny that will confound the experts all the way to a championship. And with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the lineup, anything is possible.

Kevin Durant is not going to play in the first game of the series and probably not in the second. I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses more games than that because calf strains are tricky. And of course, the Warriors have a right to expect to win the series without him and may not want to risk further injury by bringing him back too soon.

But facts are facts. Even if Portland steals a win on the road, it will have trouble holding serve. The Warriors have won at least one road game in their last 21 playoff series, an NBA record.

And since the 2014-15 season, Golden State has a 13-5 record (2-2 this season) in the regular season against the Blazers and is 8-1 in the playoffs.

Not only that, the Warriors are 3-0 in the playoffs without Durant in the lineup.

But all that historical stuff is meaningless. The series will be decided on the floor, where Portland is a definite underdog.

But can the Blazers win? Yes. Of course. Somebody, sometime, is going to knock these guys off.

And that team will probably have been an underdog heading into the series.

Rodney Hood undergoes successful surgery to repair torn Achilles

USA Today Images

Rodney Hood undergoes successful surgery to repair torn Achilles

The Portland Trail Blazers announced Wednesday, veteran wing Rodney Hood has undergone successful surgery to repair his ruptured left Achilles tendon.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Ferkel at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute earlier today.

It was on December 6th in the Blazers loss to the Lakers when Hood suffered the injury at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter

As of right now, the Blazers are saying there is no timetable for Hood’s return to basketball activity.

[RELATED]: Fans and NBA players send their love to Rodney Hood 

This season in 21 games, the 27-year-old averaged 11.0 points 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 29.5 minutes per game.

Hood was having one of the best seasons of his career.  

His shooting percentage (50.6%), along with his three-point shooting percentage (49.3%) and rebounding average were all career highs.


CJ McCollum: Melo going to those other teams was “a blessing in disguise”

CJ McCollum: Melo going to those other teams was “a blessing in disguise”

Earlier this season, the Portland Trail Blazers signed Carmelo Anthony to a non-guaranteed, 1-year deal to upgrade their wing rotation. After a few weeks and one Western Conference Player of the Week Award later, the Blazers fully guaranteed his contract. 

But this wasn’t Melo’s first chance to play in a Blazers jersey. Trail Blazers stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have both gone on the record in prior offseasons to recruit the four-time gold medalist to Portland

McCollum recently joined Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes' Posted Up Podcast where Melo was discussed.

CJ talked about what Melo has brought to the team and how him passing up the Blazers in the past was “a blessing in disguise” for him.

I told him ‘you going to [Oklahoma City and Houston] was a blessing in disguise for you.’ Because your understanding and appreciation for the game changed. He had time to be with his family, he got invaluable time with his son....He had a full year to workout and spend time with his kid and kind of like reflect on life, and I think his appreciation of the game shifted, it changed, the way he plays now you can see he’s excited about the game.

Anthony is averaging 15.9 points per game and 5.6 rebounds in eleven games played for the Trail Blazers. His scoring and shooting ability has provided additional spacing on the floor for Lillard and McCollum to operate. He has also played with excellent energy following a season away from the game. 

Now with the season-ending injury to starting small forward Rodney Hood, Anthony will be called upon to an even greater extent for offensive production. Good thing his legs are fresh. 

The Portland Trail Blazers (10-15) continue their season Thursday night on the road against the Denver Nuggets (14-8) at 7:30pm PST

What a win vs. Denver can mean for the Trail Blazers' psyche

USA Today Images

What a win vs. Denver can mean for the Trail Blazers' psyche

The Trail Blazers have played a total of 25 games.

Of those 25, the Blazers have won 10.

Of those 10, the Blazers have just ONE win over a team with a winning record. (That was against the Dallas Mavericks on October 27th when Portland still had a healthy Zach Collins for three quarters of the game.)

That could change on Thursday night in Denver.

But it won’t be easy.

The Nuggets are currently 14-8 on the season, which puts them fifth in the Western Conference standings.

The good news for the Blazers: The Nuggets have lost five of their last six.

After easily defeating the New York Knicks Tuesday night, 115- 87, the Trail Blazers felt good about blowing out a team they were expected to blow out.  

“It’s good to have wins like this because it’s a team that we desire to beat, a team that is inferior to us, we want to go out there and take care of business and we did exactly that,” Kent Bazemore said Tuesday night.

Now as the Blazers shift their focus to Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, former Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony offered up his thoughts on how significant it would be for the Blazers to come away with a win in the Mile High City.

It’s definitely an important game, being in the same conference, knowing what we’re trying to accomplish. You know those guys are coming in with a loss tonight, so I’m sure they’ll be ready in front of their home crowd. This will be a good one for us to go get on the road. -- Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony  

Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts gave his opinion on Thursday’s matchup:

“They’re the same team that we played in the playoffs; we are not the same team, so it’ll be different. They are a good team. They are the same team that took us to game seven and they are at their place so it will be a challenge.”

As of Thursday morning, the Trail Blazers were three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The last the time Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum played in Denver was in their Game 7 victory back on May 12th, using that nostalgia could provide just enough boost for the Blazers to hand the Nuggets their third straight loss.
The Blazers know they are going to need to slow down Nikola Jokic.

Jokic is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game.

In Portland and Denver's first meeting of the season, which also happened to be the Blazers regular season opener, Jokic had 20 points and 13 rebounds despite getting into early foul trouble.

In the loss, Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 32 points and eight assists, while Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 19 rebounds in his debut as a Trail Blazer.

This is a must for Whiteside on Thursday:

The 7-footer will have to do his best to get a hand in Jokic’s face when the Joker is out on the three-point line.

The Blazers tip-off their two-game, six-day trip, at 7:30pm PT Thursday.

Jaylen Hoard transferred to Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard transferred to Texas Legends

PORTLAND, Ore. (December 11, 2019) – The Portland Trail Blazers have completed the two-way transfer of forward Jaylen Hoard to the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

In five games with the Trail Blazers this season, Hoard, 20, has averaged 1.4 points (50.0% FG, 50.0% FT), 1.4 rebounds and 0.4 assists. Hoard (6-8, 215) has appeared in four games with the Legends, posting averages of 17.8 points (55.8% FG, 53.8% FT), 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

For those who loved ‘License to Lillard’, another series called ’Dame Time’ is coming soon

For those who loved ‘License to Lillard’, another series called ’Dame Time’ is coming soon

For those of you who loved the five episode series ‘License to Lillard’ (that can be found on YouTube), another series on Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is in the works.

It’s called ‘Dame Time’ and is produced by Adidas Hoops.

‘License to Lillard’ took a dive into the mind, tactics and life of Damian Lillard. From overcoming a foot injury, his collegiate career at Weber State and where it all started in middle school to becoming a first round draft pick and NBA All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers. It captures the small details of Lillard’s game: how he breathes, 

You can find all the episodes on YouTube.

License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

License to Lillard, Episode 2: Building Blocks

License to Lillard, Episode 3: The Draft

License to Lillard, Episode 4: Orientation

License to Lillard, Episode 5: Rookie Debut

Who knows what this new series will have in store. Becoming a father? Reliving ‘The Bad Shot’ that sent chaos into the league? His life in Portland? What we do know is that if it's anything like the previous series, it will be very, very cool.

Damian Lillard to be inducted into Big Sky Hall of Fame

Damian Lillard to be inducted into Big Sky Hall of Fame

The Big Sky will induct its very first class into the conference's Hall of Fame early next season, and one very familiar name is on the list. 

14 Big Sky legends will make up the inaugural class, but perhaps none has more meaning here in Portland than former Weber State star Damian Lillard.

Lillard is one of the best players in Weber State history. He was the nation's second-leading scorer during his final season, averaging 24.5 points per game - a Wildcats record. 

During his time in the Big Sky, he was named conference MVP twice, was a three-time conference First-Team selection, and was named Freshman of the Year in 2009. He is also the only player in Big Sky history to earn All-American honors.
Despite the accolades, not a lot was known about Lillard outside of Ogden. 

That all changed in the summer of 2012 when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Lillard with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He wasted no time making a statement on the game's biggest stage, winning the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year award. 

Now in his eighth season with the Blazers, Lillard is a four-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection and is the franchise's all-time leader in three-pointers made (1583), and second only to Clyde Drexler in points scored (13,527).

The Big Sky Hall of Fame ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 14th in Boise, Idaho. 

The big-time players the Trail Blazers are probably NOT going after

The big-time players the Trail Blazers are probably NOT going after

Earlier this week, I wrote about what the Trail Blazers might do in the wake of the injury to Rodney Hood and the troubles the team is having winning games without its injured players.

I said I did not expect any moves to be made that were not long-term moves – trades that would help beyond this season.

It’s time to go more in-depth on that topic because there are rumors out there about players who do not fit into that category. Portland will be shopping the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside and possibly Kent Bazemore, in order to swing a deal for a major piece – perhaps the last big deal the team will be able to make for a few seasons.

So, quite obviously, that means acquiring players with more than this season left on their contracts. In other words, unless they get stuck without a better deal, they would probably not be looking to trade an expiring contract for another expiring contract.

If you look at their search in that context, you can eliminate several talented players who have been mentioned as possibilities by the national media.

Among those players whose contracts expire this season:

Danilo Gallinari

Gordon Hayward

Paul Millsap

Bogdan Bogdanovic

DeMar DeRozen

Otto Porter Jr.

Anthony Davis

Andre Drummond

Understand, too, that it appears Davis and Drummond are expected to stay with their current teams and most of the other players on that list would probably not commit to re-signing with Portland without first testing the market this summer. Porter is a player the Trail Blazers have coveted, but without a commitment to re-sign here that they could trust, it would be a gamble.

Trading the expiring contract of Whiteside is perhaps the team’s last best chance of landing a big-time starter for what this team expects to be a championship core. Would you do it for a player you cannot count on to be back next season? Especially with what’s going on this year. What was supposed to be a run at the Finals is looking more and more like a pipedream. But with the expected return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins next season and beyond, the hope of a big run is still alive.

That’s why the players with major seasons (and major money) left on their deals are the most likely targets. The most-often mentioned are Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Love has been mentioned frequently, but is a question mark. There was a report that Portland is his favored destination, but I have not been able to substantiate that and, in fact, have been told by people close to him that the report is not necessarily true. And the other concern with Love – who is obviously a terrific player with championship pedigree – are his injuries. Over his last three seasons, he has played 60, 59, and 22 games. At an average salary of $30.1 million over the next three seasons, his availability is a concern.

Griffin, also a spectacular player, has the same problem. Over the last six seasons, he’s played in an average of only 38 games per season.

Aldridge, more durable than the others, carries some concern at 34 years old, that his career would be nearing a decline – and he also has only one season left on his contract.

One other thing should be mentioned, too. There is a very good chance that Whiteside’s contract alone might not be enough to land any of these players. Some sweetening might be required to make a trade for players who have been all-stars.

Would the Trail Blazers include a first-round pick in a deal? Yes, I think they would. But would they be willing to throw in Collins? Anfernee Simons?

I don’t know. I do believe that over the next couple of seasons, any of the three players just mentioned would be better for them than the young ones. But after that, not so sure. If they include one of their promising young players, that would mean they are going all-in for the next couple of seasons in a search for a championship. And perhaps paying a price for it in the seasons after that.

Stotts 'trying different things' with new lineup wrinkles

Stotts 'trying different things' with new lineup wrinkles

The Trail Blazers rolled over the hapless New York Knicks on Tuesday at the Moda Center, ending a two-game losing skid by pummeling one of the league’s bottom feeders. The blowout win was much needed for the struggling Blazers, but more importantly the game allowed Stotts to reach deep into his bag of tricks.

He tested new lineup pairings, went deep into his bench well before the game got out of hand and even mixed in a little zone defense. 

“The way things are going, we are trying different things, different lineups,” Stotts said. “[I] talked to my assistants earlier today about what can we look at. We are trying to find different things.”

Anfernee Simons was the first sub of the game, as Stotts turned to the three-guard lineup featuring Simons, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum at the first possible opportunity. Simons has been one of the first players off the bench all season, but lately he’s been replacing McCollum, not joining him on the wing next to Lillard.

“Me, CJ and Ant -- our minutes together have been positive for the team. So why not?,” Lillard said. “I think (Stotts) was just rolling it out there and seeing how it would go.”

The tinkering may have started with the first substitution, but it was the theme of the entire night. Stotts went deeper into his bench than he typically stretches, playing 10 guys in the first half and getting Gary Trent Jr., who hadn’t played since Nov. 23, an extended shift in the second quarter. 

The Blazers mixed in some zone on a couple defensive possessions before halftime, and Stotts also rolled out a super-big lineup with Hassan Whiteside and Skal Labissiere sharing the court for the first time this season. The very early returns on that two-center look were positive as the Blazers outscored the Knicks by 11 points in the six minutes Whiteside and Labissiere shared the court.

“I think it’s good,” Whiteside said. “Skal reminds me a lot of Zach (Collins). I think we could do it more. I’m glad coach had that confidence to go out there. I think it could work.”

The Knicks are 4-20, and they lost their 10th straight game on Tuesday night in Portland. Part of the Stotts’ willingness to experiment is simply because New York’s roster is a mess. But the other side is a real need for the Blazers to find some combinations that work. There probably won’t be many more nights where the Balzers zone up on defense. And the Whiteside-Labissiere pairing, while effective against the non-shooting, non-dribbling Knicks frontcourt could be a tough combination to trot out on most other nights. 
But this was more about process than results. The willingness to mix things up is more significant than whether the experiments proved fruitful or could be repeated. At 10-15 Blazers need solutions, and on Tuesday the coaching staff showed it’s ready to search for remedies in new places.

“I mean we’ve struggled to start the season so right now why be afraid to try different things if what we’ve been doing this whole time has been giving us issues anyway?” Lillard said. “You gotta be willing to step outside your comfort zone and do things. But as long as coach is doing that with faith that it has a chance, and when he puts us in those positions we do it with confidence, and like we believe in what we’re doing, I feel like it’s going to have a chance to work. So that’s all that counts.”

Trail Blazers players, coaches visit local hospitals, cuteness ensues

Trail Blazers players, coaches visit local hospitals, cuteness ensues

It’s time to spread some holiday cheer.

On Monday, a day before taking on the New York Knicks at the Moda Center, the Portland Trail Blazers visited Shriners Hospital and Doernbecher Children's Hospital. The team signed autographs and spent time with kids giving them memories they’ll treasure forever.

Here’s a thread of all the most precious moments.

CJ McCollum loved the video of Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver as much as the rest of us.

The Trail Blazers' season continues Tuesday night against the New York Knicks at 7:00pm in the Moda Center. The game will be available live on NBC Sports Northwest.