From cursed to charmed: 2017-2018 Blazers riding wave of luck, success

From cursed to charmed: 2017-2018 Blazers riding wave of luck, success

By now, it’s getting hard to deny that something special is happening to the 2017-2018 Trail Blazers.

The Blazers are the hottest team in the NBA, having won nine in a row heading into tonight’s game against Miami. But there is a more subtle trend that has become a part of this season:

For once in their tortured franchise history, the Blazers have been favorably affected by injuries.

From teams around the Blazers in the standings, to players being sidelined when facing Portland, the Blazers this season have gone from cursed to charmed.

A franchise that has watched injuries end careers – from Bill Walton to Sam Bowie to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy – and had late-season injuries ruin seasons (Bonzi Wells, Wesley Matthews), the Trail Blazers this season are seemingly catching a break at every turn.

In the hotly contested Western Conference, every team around the third-place Blazers has weathered a significant injury.

Fourth-place New Orleans lost All-Star DeMarcus Cousins for the season.

Fifth-place Minnesota is without All-Star Jimmy Butler for two-months of the season’s stretch run.

Sixth-place Oklahoma City lost Andre Roberson, it’s defensive anchor, for the season.

Seventh-place San Antonio has played nearly all season without All-Star Kawhi Leonard.

And the trio of remaining contenders – Denver (Paul Millsap), the Clippers (Patrick Beverley) and Utah (Rudy Gobert) – have played long stretches with key players out.

But it’s not just the teams around Portland that have been impacted.

In an uncanny trend, the Blazers this season have often benefitted from playing teams without either a star player or key players.

It started in the season opener, when Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe was held out while the team tried to facilitate a trade and has continued through tonight, when Miami will be without starting center Hassan Whiteside and guard Dwyane Wade.

In between, the Blazers have missed Stephen Curry twice. John Wall twice. Jimmy Butler twice. Whiteside twice. James Harden. Kyrie Irving. Blake Griffin. Draymond Green. Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony. Myles Turner twice.

And that list doesn’t include this season’s chronically injured, like Leonard (twice), Mike Conley (twice), Tony Parker (twice).

If you think the Blazers are going to apologize for having to play teams that are short-handed, think again. History has been too cruel.

“For us,’’ Damian Lillard reminded, “luck hasn’t always been on our side.’’

**

On March 5, 2015 the Blazers beat Dallas to improve to 41-19, where they sat in third place in the West. But it was a night their season changed.

Matthews, their starting shooting guard and the heart-and-soul of the locker room, ruptured his Achilles tendon during the game and was lost for the season.

Without Matthews down the stretch, the Blazers’ defense disintegrated, and some of the team’s grit disappeared. The Blazers limped to a 10-12 record, finished fifth and were dispatched by Memphis in five games.

It marked the end of one of the most popular and encouraging Blazers cores in years. LaMarcus Aldridge left for San Antonio. Matthews signed with Dallas. Robin Lopez signed with New York and Nicolas Batum was traded to Charlotte.

Players on that team were left to wonder what would have happened had Matthews’ Achilles stayed in tact? Not only that season, but the future?

It wasn’t the first time an injury derailed the Blazers late in the season.

In April of 2001, the Blazers were trying to stave off an epic late-season collapse when Bonzi Wells went up for a dunk at Golden State.

Moments later, Wells was pounding the court in agony, his left knee blown out. He had torn his ACL and would be lost for the final six games and the playoffs.

After beginning March in first place in the Western Conference, the team started to unravel amid the tantrums of Rasheed Wallace and internal strife amid late-season additions Rod Strickland and Detlef Schrempf.

Coach Mike Dunleavy made a controversial move during the spiral: he moved Wells to the starting lineup in place of Steve Smith, who was coming off an appearance on the Olympic team.

The move was starting to reap benefits as the team headed into April. Wells, who would finish second in the NBA in field goal percentage, was demanding double-teams on the post. And Smith began to flourish as the No. 1 option off the bench.

Coming off the Western Conference finals appearance the season before, the Blazers never got to see how the new lineup would fare in the postseason, and they were swept by the Lakers.

**

Of course, the injury curse has long been a part of Portland’s history.

After leading the Blazers to the 1977 title, Walton broke his foot in Game 60 at Philadelphia. The Blazers were 50-10 at the time, which included a 30-1 record at home, including 26 straight.

Portland finished 8-14 and lost to Seattle in the conference semifinals.

Then there was Bowie … and Oden … and Roy … all promising careers cut short by injury. Even last season, the Blazers’ late-season flurry to the playoffs was tainted by Jusuf Nurkic’s broken leg, which kept him out of all but one playoff game.

But this season, outside of Al-Farouq Aminu missing 13 games with an ankle sprain, and Lillard missing seven games with hamstring and calf injuries, the Blazers have been healthy.

Around here, people figure it’s about time the breaks went Portland’s way.

“People ask me why I’m always so optimistic, why do I always believe?’’ Lillard said. “I know that a lot of things go into an NBA season, and injuries are part of it. Bad stretches are part of it. Some guys don’t have the season you expect them to have … you just never know what is going to happen.’’

So, luck? Sure. Every team needs it.

“If that’s considered outside luck, then so be it,’’ Lillard said. “It’s part of it … Right now, things are going well for us. But we are doing the right things to give ourselves a chance to win these games and take advantage of the fact that other people might be going through things we are not.’’

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Moses Brown and Jaylen Hoard are headed back to the Lone Star State. 

The Portland Trail Blazers completed two-way transfers of both players to the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, as announced on Monday. 


Brown, the 20-year-old center out of UCLA, has played in nine games for Portland, averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. With the Legends, Brown has averaged 14.9 points while shooting 63.8 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from the free-throw line. He’s also adding 7.6 rebounds and 1.41 blocks for the Legends. 

Hoard has averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 13 games with the Trail Blazers this season. The 20-year-old rookie has been averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 16 games for Texas. He’s been a hot hand for the Legends as of late, posting a double-double 27 points and 16 rebounds in the Legends victory over Agua Caliente on Feb. 7.

It's perfect timing for both players to get some extra work in. The Trail Blazers and the rest of the NBA are on All-Star break. Portland's will return from the break and host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. 

Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

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USA Today Images

Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game was an overall experiment from the league with its new format.

And it seemed to work.

Both teams were playing a little bit of defense and the fourth quarter was way more competitive than it has been in recent years.

The new format looked like this:

Each of the first three quarters begin with the score of 0-0 and lasted for 12 minutes.  At the start of the fourth quarter, the game clock was turned off and a final target score was set of 157.

The final target score was determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points.

Team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were laying it all out on the line.

It came down to the free throw line with Anthony Davis hitting 1-of-2 to help Team LeBron secure the win. 

FINAL: Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155

Team LeBron had to score 33 points in the final period to get the win.

About halfway through the 33-point flurry, NBA fans started posting on Twitter about five-time Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. They knew what time is was...

Fans were letting the world know that the game would’ve already been over if Lillard had been healthy enough to play.

 

One fan even mentioned, Lillard would’ve ended the game just like he did in the postseason against the Thunder.

Oh snap.  

As King James attempted a Logo Lillard game-winner, but with no success, fans were quick to say Dame would’ve had that one.

It wasn’t just fans in Rip City that wanted Damian Lillard out on the court.

Fans from all over the country were posting about how Lillard Time would've been spectacular down the stretch of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

NBA fans sure missed them some Logo Lillard.

This season, Lillard is averaging 29.5 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from deep.

This fan even went as far as to say that Lillard should've still won the MVP honors.

Even though Lillard was reppin’ Team LeBron from the bench and didn’t get a chance to get on the floor, it was clear that social media was missing Dame Time.

Fingers crossed the All-Star Game will have the same format moving forward for Lillard to shine once again and prove social media right. 

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend did not go as Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had planned.

He was going to participate in the three-point contest.

He was going to get buckets and try to help Team LeBron get the win against Team Giannis in the All-Star Game.

But, with a strained groin injury that Lillard suffered in the last game before the break, his All-Star weekend turned into him focusing on getting healthy and performing his music in front of thousands.

Lillard admitted that his weekend in Chi-Town has been a lot more chill now that he’s injured.

In a sit-down interview with Trail Blazers Digital Content Manager Amara Baptist, the 5-time All-Star gave his thoughts on the weekend, an update on his health and how the Trail Blazers are ready for a final playoff push.

“Just to be able to lay low, be with my son, be with my family has been cool,” Lillard told Baptist.

Lillard said he feels ‘pretty good,’ just four days after suffering a right groin strain in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and has been getting treatment and training while he has been in Chicago.

“It’s obviously sore, it’s a legit injury,” Lillard added.

The Trail Blazers team captain didn’t get to showcase his basketball talents this weekend, but he did get to share his musical talent with the world, performing on the NBA Saturday Night stage.

“It was cool just because being selected for the three-point shootout and the All-Star Game, and then not being able to play because I’m hurt, but still having a side of me or a talent that could be put on display was pretty cool,” Lillard said.

“Being able to share my music on the stage in front of that many followers and viewers, I thought that was real cool. I was excited about that, like it was my All-Star.”

In his 8th season, Lillard has been putting up historic numbers.

He’s been on a scoring tear.

In his last 10 games, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points, 9.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He is also shooting just under 50 percent from the  field, while hitting 47.2 percent from three.

Lillard admitted that it was tough not to compete in the All-Star Game this weekend.

I think we work so hard to be acknowledged for what we do. And this is like a reward that you don’t get to participate in… I realize that my health is first and my priority is my team if I want to come back and try to give us a chance to make a playoff push, then I can’t risk that by going out here and tweaking my groin a little bit more, making it worse than it is. Not only for this season, but going forward. I had to make a business decision, I guess. Obviously, I can even feel it, I know it wouldn’t be right to do from the standpoint of the future and the rest of the season it didn’t make sense.”  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Now it’s all about the homestretch of the season. Portland does have a favorable schedule, too, with 15 of their final 26 games at home.

Lillard knows he and his team must come together and be on the same page.

I think the urgency just has to be there. I think in our last 12, 13 games, we’ve played with a mentality, an edge that we need to win games, and I think that’s why we’ve won more games than we have been winning, especially against the better teams in the league -- home and on the road. So, I think we just have to continue that. I think coming out of the break you’re going to start seeing teams who are struggling to stay in that race, just fade away. -- Damian Lillard

After having that look in his eye Wednesday night following the loss to the Grizzlies, Lillard said, “It’s far from over. Believe that. It’s far from over.” 

Lillard added to that message this weekend:

“I think we’ve got to be that team that continues to fight through because we’ve been here before, so I just think it comes down to the urgency and how much it means to us, and I know it means a lot to our team. I gotta get healthy and we just have to come correct, our mentality has to be right. We’ve got to be on the same page, we’ve got to play with that purpose,” Lillard said.

The 29-year-old also mentioned that getting Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) and Zach Collins (left shoulder) back from injuries will only help them in the postseason.

“Once we get in [the playoffs], I’m pretty sure we’re the last team that anybody wants to see.”

*Mic Drop.

*Wave.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW HERE:

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

It was just four days ago that Damian Lillard suffered a right groin strain and then suggested that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker should be his replacement for the NBA All-Star Game.

And that’s exactly what the league decided to do.

Despite not participating, Lillard was still introduced alongside Booker before Sunday’s game.  

Before action tipped off, TNT’s Allie LaForce spoke with Booker about how Lillard had mentioned that he was one of his favorite players to watch.

Booker feels the same way.

It’s a mutual respect thing. Obviously, Dame is one of my favorite players to watch too. So, I want to go out there and do what he would do – get a few buckets and hopefully get the win. -- Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker said pregame

This season, Booker is averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds.

Lillard spoke with the media on Saturday about how much of a fan he is of Booker’s game.

“I watch a lot of their games, just because I like to watch him play.”

The 2018 NBA Three-Point Contest Champ will now have Lillard on the bench cheering him on in tonight’s All-Star Game. 

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

The 2020 All-Star weekend is full of fun, excitement, drama and music. 

Five-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who would not be able to participate after suffering a groin injury, would still be involved in the weekend in a way that no other has done before...

Perform on stage.

This isn't the first time Dame D.O.L.L.A. has taken the stage, but it was memorable in more ways than one. It was what he was wearing that stood out alongside his music and musical guests: a leather jacket with the words "Mamba Forever" on the back.

This tribute to the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant isn't the only way the All-Star weekend is celebrating their lives: Team LeBron and Team Giannis will be sporting jersey No. 24 jersey or No. 2 jersey during the All-Star game.

 

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

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USA Today Images

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

The original participants of the 2020 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest included: Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings; Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks; Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls; Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets; Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards; Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets; Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat; and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

But, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns replaced Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, who was forced to withdraw from the Three-Point Contest due to a right groin injury.  

It’s really unfortunate that Logo Lillard wasn’t participating, especially this year because of the new format.

The NBA put a new twist on things adding two new shots from 6 feet behind the 3-point line. The "Dew" green balls worth three points each.

The two rounds had 27 shots instead of 25 that took 70 seconds instead of 60.

The additional shots from the wing were known as the "MTN DEW zone".

The new shots from deeper range would have most likely helped give Lillard an edge, all of Rip City knows that.

In Lillard’s last 10 games, he is averaging an impressive 47.2 percent from behind the arc. 

But, Booker did Lillard proud with the ‘Dew’ green ball. Booker was the fourth participant to shoot in the first round and he was the first player to hit both of the ‘Dew’ deep three-balls. He put up 27 in the first round and 26 in the second round.

Booker, along with Hield and Bertans, were the three to move on and face off in the Final Round.

And boy, the Final Round did not disappoint.

It came down the final Money Ball.

Here are the results of the Second and Final Round:

Bertans: 22 points

Booker: 26 points

Hield: 27 points

This is the first time the Hield has taken home the 3-point hardware.

Now, here's to hoping they bring back the ‘deep’ three-ball for  next year’s competition, and Lillard will be a participant. 

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Rip City has been anticipating this performance since it was announced last week that Damain Lillard would be performing on the music stage during NBA All-Star Weekend. 

Chicago’s Native rapper Common introduced DAME D.O.L.L.A.

“I’m proud to present not only an NBA All-Star, but this is an artist… Show some love to my guy, DAME D.O.L.L.A.,” Common yelled proudly into the microphone.  

DAME D.O.L.L.A performed ‘Money Ball’ featuring Jeremih followed by, ‘Run it up’ featuring Lil Wayne as Lillard became the first NBA player to perform on the NBA Saturday Night musical stage.

'Money Ball' can be found on Dame's latest album "Big D.O.L.L.A," while 'Run It Up' is on "Confirmed."

Lil Wayne didn’t make his way to the stage until midway through ‘Run it Up.’ Between Lillard and Lil Wayne’s presence on the stage, it looked like the performance brought the house down at the United Center.

Lillard also paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a ‘Mamaba Forever’ jacket on stage.

After the show, Lillard took to the Trail Blazers Twitter account to share his thoughts on being on the big stage in Chicago, but not the typical big stage he is used to performing on during All-Star weekend.

All-Star Saturday-- it was a blast. It was a great time. I hope everybody enjoyed the show. I felt great out there and it was a great time. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on his Dame D.O.L.L.A. performance

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Despite not being able to participate in the 2020 All-Star festivities, there was still cause to celebrate in Chicago.

That's because Damian Lillard popped the question over the weekend!

The Trail Blazers five-time All-Star asked his longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson at a private party filled with family and friends. 

The two have been dating since their college days at Weber State.

Lillard’s mom, Gina Johnson, shared videos on her Instagram of what looks like a star-studded engagement party.

From the IG videos it was fun to see a few of Lillard’s former teammates are in attendance. Evan Turner and Tim Frazier are in on the celebration, while Lillard’s close friend and mentor, former Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool is there as well. Chicago rapper Common was also in attendance.

And, can you say Relationship Goals?

Kay’La proudly showed off her new cushion cut diamond in the IG videos.

CJ McCollum, who proposed to his longtime girlfriend in September 2018, has joked with Lillard over the year, asking him when he was going to pop the question and Lillard would always just smile.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was a great option.

The happy couple welcomed Dame Jr. on March 29, 2018 and ever since then they have been melting Rip City’s heart with their Instagram posts.

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Happy Valentine’s Day ppl. ❤️

A post shared by Damian Lillard (@damianlillard) on

Dame Jr. has even made his way to Blazer games and warmed up during pregame.

Can you imagine Dame Jr. in a little tuxedo for the wedding? Those pictures will undoubtedly be adorable.

From everyone at NBCSNW congrats on your engagement, Dame and Kay’La! 

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Friday’s Rising Stars game started out with plenty of fastbreak dunks and some crazy three-point attempts as the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend is officially underway.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Pacers big man Myles Turner joined TNT’s Brian Anderson to call the game.

During the first quarter, Mitchell shared his thoughts on if he likes the new addition of the Coaches Challenge.

In explaining why he isn’t completely on board with the new addition to the game, he made sure to add that there was plenty of talk about during their controversial game against the Trail Blazers, which was exactly one week ago today.

Oh yes, Blazer fans remember.

With under 14 seconds to go and a chance to tie the game, Damian Lillard went hard to the rim.

It was clearly a goaltend on Rudy Gobert, but there was no call.

Lillard was furious, asking for a replay, but with no call on the court, no review could take place.  

And thus, Mitchell explained just that during the TNT Rising Stars broadcast.

I’m 50-50 on it. I’m not going to lie to you. I think the biggest thing with the Challenge is, I think the rule -- there’s more you can add to the rule. We had a game against Portland that got a lot of attention just because the whistle may not have been [blown]... I think you should still be able to challenge that. I think that’s something that the league may need to take a look at. -- Donovan Mitchell on Coaches Challenges

“It’s a tough job for the refs,” Mitchell added.

Of course, nothing can help change the results of that Blazers-Jazz game from last Friday; but hey, Rip City – now you know at least Mitchell is advocating for a change on national television.