Damian Lillard will bring his recording setup to Orlando for the NBA's return

Damian Lillard will bring his recording setup to Orlando for the NBA's return

The Portland Trail Blazers, led by point guard Damian Lillard, will be heading to Orlando, Florida for the resumption of the NBA season at the end of the month. 

Now, he's revealed what he's bringing with him into the bubble.

In an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Lillard said he plans to bring many entertainment items, including equipment for a recording studio.

Man, I'm bringing my recording setup for my room. I have my desktop mic, I'm gonna have my laptop and all my stuff ready to record and my video games, I'm gonna have my books. I'm gonna have my whole set up, man. This going to be my house for the time being so I'm a set it up comfortably. 

Will we see a diss track live from Orlando? Marvin Bagley and the Sacramento Kings will be in the same city, but no matchup between the teams is scheduled.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Earlier in the interview, Lillard stated that he wants the Blazers to have an extended stay in Orlando, beyond just the eight-game regular season.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

"I'm not trying to go there and waste a month and a half and just go back home," said Lillard. "I could have been at home this whole time. If I go there, I'm going to stay. I'm going to try and extend my stay there. That's also motivation."

The ultimate motivation remains the NBA Championship.

"My motivation is to get in the playoffs. For one, we want to play for a chance at a championship," said Lillard. "I think everybody's coming back with some rust on 'em. Some teams gonna have guys that choose not to play. Some guys gonna be disinterested, wanting to go about their summer. Some guys gonna be out of shape...It's gonna be a lot of factors that give a lot of teams a chance to actually come in here and win it. I think that's part of my motivation, is knowing there is a legit chance... We got our starting power forward and center back. We're a healthier team. That's motivation."

In the meantime, Lillard has been working in the studio including the release of the music video for his latest track ‘GOAT Spirit’ featuring Raphael Saadiq.

[RELATED]: Dame D.O.L.L.A drops new track, music video for GOAT Spirit

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

“Paul George is a star. And Patrick Beverley is one of my favorite players and favorite people in the world. Don’t mess with Dame,” said Stephen A. Smith on Monday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take.

Shall we recap what occurred over the weekend down in the NBA bubble?

The Portland Trail Blazers faced their first back-to-back of the NBA restart. On Saturday, Portland fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 122-117. It was a team loss, but Damian Lillard uncharacteristically missed two free throws down the wire which prompted in Los Angeles’ Patrick Beverley to tap his wrist, shout ‘Dame Time’, and wave goodbye to the Blazers as the teams headed to the locker rooms. 

After the game, Lillard responded to his antics in the most Lillard way, taking it as respect after sending home Beverley and the Houston Rockets with that 0.9 shot back in the 2014 playoffs and then against in the 2019 playoffs against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. PG13 fled to the Clippers after getting sent home by Dame.

24 hours later, Lillard followed this up by dropping 51 points on the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Portland needed the win in such a tight race for the Western Conference eight seed.

Let that be a fair warning to the rest of the NBA: don’t poke the Lillard bear.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Don’t mess with Dame. Don’t mess with Dame D.O.L.L.A. He’s not the one. He’s not the one. This brother on many, many occasions has stepped up in big moments and he has closed. This brother has carried this Portland Trail Blazers franchise and has been the face of the franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith’s comments come hours after Skip Bayless called out Lillard on Fox Sports’ Undisputed saying he’s not buying “Dame Time.”

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

We’d like to remind you that Lillard is averaging 29.3 points, 8.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. So yeah, Damian Lillard is ‘that guy.”

Lillard might be adding Bayless’ name to D.O.L.L.A.’s next diss track.

But let’s get back to Smith defending Lillard because it goes far beyond what he does on the court and with a ball in his hands. 

This is also a guy that doesn’t get enough credit for his community service, his philanthropy, the fact that he is a guy that is socially conscious, never gets in any kind of trouble or whatever. This dude is worthy of being the face of a franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Couldn’t be more true. 

Lucky for the Trail Blazers and Rip City, Lillard has stated time and time again his loyalty to Portland and his desire to bring the city of Portland another NBA Championship.

Watch the Stephen A. Smith clip below.

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

No one wants to be on the other end of a feud with Damian Lillard. 

Just ask Skip Bayless, who got dunked on by the Portland Trail Blazers star and pretty much all of Twitter, after he took jabs at Lillard on the “Undisputed.”

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name? -- Skip Bayless

When Lillard found out about the FS1 host’s rude remarks, he clapped back and called Bayless a joke. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect -- Damian Lillard

The roasting didn’t stop there. 

NBA Twitter feasted on the comments.












Haven’t people learned by now they can’t get in a war of words with Damian Lillard? Just ask Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Patrick Beverley how that turned out...

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

As we head into the final week of NBA seeding games, it’s time to take a break and reflect on what the league has been able to do with its plan to return to play.

Start off by noting that there are still no COVID-19 cases reported inside the league’s bubble. And while I don’t expect that to continue throughout the entire span of the playoffs, I think it’s an achievement.

Particularly in view of what’s happened in baseball and even PGA golf, where players have tested positive. And I would expect the NFL to be full of positive tests once its players gather for a while.

The bubble has been very efficient for the NBA. Everyone on that campus in Orlando should be praised for their cooperation and patience in a difficult situation.

I'm certain it's not an easy life.

But wasn’t it obvious from the start that if you can get the athletes and staff to buy into the science of quarantines, social distances, tests and masks, the concept is very workable?

Again, it’s not perfect. Somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to go off the ranch or contact someone from the outside and bring the virus onto the campus. But from what I’ve seen so far, the NBA will be ready to handle what comes of that.

COVID-19 doesn’t rain from the sky and it doesn’t spontaneously combust. If you are virus-free and build a fence around you or your group, you have a very good chance of never meeting up with it.

The idea of traveling from city to city and allowing players the freedom to navigate their communities without regulation or supervision, the plan that baseball is messing with, seems doomed. Are you paying attention, NFL?

The virus is extremely contagious and nothing to be playing around with. I congratulate the NBA, its players, coaches, support staff and front office officials for coming up with a plan that, so far, is keeping everyone safe and allowing the season to continue.

If only the rest of our country was as careful and sensible.

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

The Blazers will rest on Monday following a 124-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday that left Portland just half a game behind Memphis for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. 

Moving into the eight seed would be huge for the Blazers. Not only does it give them more separation from the ten seed to ensure Portland a chance to play its way into the postseason, but it would make it so the Blazers only need to win one play-in game rather than two.

Heading into the bubble, ESPN's BPI had Portland with only a 9% chance of getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That chance has more than tripled to 30.3%.

But, just because the Blazers aren't playing today doesn't mean the standings won't be affected. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Here are the standings heading into Monday.

8. Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule: Boston, Milwaukee 

9. Portland Trail Blazers (0.5 games behind) Remaining schedule: Dallas, Brooklyn

10. San Antonio Spurs (1.0 games behind) Remaining schedule: Houston, Utah

11. Phoenix Suns (1.5 games behind) Remaining schedule: OKC, Philadelphia, Dallas

Note: New Orleans and Sacramento were both eliminated from postseason contention Sunday. 

Notable Games August 10:

Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Who do we want to win? Oklahoma City.

Line: Phoenix -7.5

With the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Spurs all on off days, the Suns are the only team in the playoff race for the eighth seed playing on Monday. However, it should be an easy win for Phoenix due to OKC resting many notable players such as Steven Adams, Danillo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous Alexander, and Nerlens Noel.  

If Phoenix wins: They move into a tie for the tenth seed with San Antonio and would stand just a half-game behind Portland with two games remaining for all teams.

If Phoenix loses: They will drop to a game and a half behind Portland for the ninth seed with two games remaining. The Suns would need Portland to lose out to have a chance to get the ninth seed. 

Scenarios:

Portland Wins Eighth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis goes 1-1

-Portland goes 1-1, Memphis goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 2-1

Portland Wins Ninth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis 2-0

-Portland goes 1-1, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 2-1

-Portland goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 0-2, Phoenix goes 1-2,

Play-in games schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT

Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT 

Next up: The Portland Trail Blazers will play the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 11 at 3:30 p.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest.

This article will be updated after Phoenix's game.

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard has a superstar profile and plenty of accolades to back it up. 

He’s a five-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection recipient, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year and is coming off a 2019 season where he led the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly two decades last season.

Heck, even NBA2K dubbed Lillard the king of point guards when they announced the Portland Trail Blazers guard as the first athlete on the cover of NBA2K21. 

But, Skip Bayless isn’t convinced Lillard has reached superstar level quite yet. On the 'Undisputed' Monday morning, he took jabs at Lillard, a 88.9 free throw shooter, for missing two free throws on Saturday as Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris Sr. taunted his misses. 

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name?

I don’t see it and I haven’t seen it when it really, really counted, and I don’t think the Clippers had seen it either. Because I gotta tell you, they laughed at your man. They clowned your man when he missed the two free throws, then missed the tying three late in that game. They’re over on the bench, their tapping their imaginary watches ‘it’s Dame Time,’ their waving goodbye to him just like the way he waved goodbye to Russell Westbrook and in the end Paul George, he was there, and their waving goodbye to him…

And the great irony of this is the Blazers are the team the Clippers are rooting for to play your team, the Lakers, because it’s obvious, it is painfully obvious, that the Portland Trail Blazers have the best chance, at least on paper, of at least giving your guys a tussle in the first round on the playoffs. -- Skip Bayless

Bayless continued to harp on what he perceives as Lillard’s failure to lead his team, referencing the Blazers star and his decision to uncharacteristically pass up a potentially game-tying 3 against the Boston Celtics. 

Instead, Lillard quickly threw a pass to a cutting Jusuf Nurkic, who laid it in with 3.4 seconds to play, pulling Portland within one. Boston hit a pair of free throws, a Nurk inbounds pass sailed out of bounds, and the Celtics walked away with a 128-124 victory. 

Damian Lillard disappeared down the stretch of that game... He missed the tying three with 53 seconds left in that game. It came early in the bubble, but the point is: they had em’ and then they didn’t, because that guy has to be that guy down the stretch of these games in the Bubble that are seed games. They should easily be 6-0. -- Skip Bayless

What Bayless failed to point out is that when the pressure fell on Lillard Sunday, as the Blazers took on the Philadelphia 76ers, he responded. 

When the Sixers took a 114-108 lead with 4:23 remaining, Portland shot back with 12 unanswered points, capped by seven-straight points from Lillard on the and-one 3-pointer and a pull-up triple on the next possession.

The Trail Blazers star followed the missed free throws game by exploding for 51 points as the Blazers took down the 76ers 124-121, putting Patrick Beverley and Paul George’s petty postgame drama in the rear-view mirror. 

Shannon Sharpe knows it’s not the bad plays or even the savage trash talk off-the-court that makes you a superstar, it’s how you respond, and Lillard did...just like he has time and time again.

“When you look at Dame, he’s a superstar,” Sharpe said. “I believe he’s a Top 10 player. He’s in my Top 10 for what it’s worth, because he’s big time. He can take and make big shots, he can get to the basket, he’s a great free throw shooter and I’m surprised like everybody else that he missed those two free throws.” 

Bayliss still isn't buying "Dame Time," but Lillard doesn't need to explain to him why he's truly an elite player. He'll never have Lillard's respect anyways. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect." -- Damian Lillard

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

The NBA’s restart has seen its fair share of close games and so have Portland Trail Blazers fans.

Sunday’s game once again came down to the final seconds, but this time it was against the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers

However, in this one, the Blazers made stops when they needed to, and they made clutch free throws.

For future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony, that ‘rush’ of feeling needed by a team late in games is “absolutely” still a feeling that comes over the 36-year-old.

Absolutely. That doesn’t go anywhere, when you put the work in and you believe that you should be out there at those moments and your comfortable in those moments, those are just normal moments for myself, being comfortable in those situations and those moments down the stretch, being able to have your teammates rely on you to make plays, they expect that... They expect me to make the plays that I make, make the shots that I make, and they have the confidence in me to do those things. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony    

Those 'moments down the stretch' from Melo were key on Sunday. 

Thanks to Melo’s corner three with 4:08 to go along with his big-time defensive rebounds late in the game, and his final defensive stop on Josh Richardson, Anthony showed his veteran leadership and mentality to never quit was just what the Blazers needed following Saturday’s loss.

The final 10.2 seconds of Sunday’s 124-121 win over Philadelphia were intense to say the least.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave credit to the Sixers role players postgame, saying that Josh Richardson “was outstanding.”

Coach Stotts also talked at length about how much Damian Lillard’s 'on a mission' mentality and his ability to deal with last-second pressure meant to the Blazers.

Lillard finished with 51 points and seven assists in the victory.

Even though the Blazers haven’t been getting many stops on the defensive end throughout the seeding games, Anthony came up with a huge stop in the final play of the game.

With the Blazers up 124-121, the Sixers had 10.2 seconds to tie up the game after taking a timeout, but, Josh Richardson missed a 25-foot three-pointer with Melo's swarming defense.

“I thought everybody was locked in. [Melo] was aggressive on Richardson, made it difficult for him, and made him take a tough shot," Stotts said. "I thought everybody was locked in. It wasn’t pretty, but they didn’t score."

Coach Stotts had plenty more to say about his wily veteran.

His experience – his communication – he’s been in these moments and he has good ideas and good suggestions for players and coaches, but he’s been at it a long time… I think having him in these moments, he's shown here in the bubble how important he is in those moments. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Melo’s fourth-quarter performance at both ends, along with him moving up to No. 15 on the all-time scoring list, earned him the game ball.  

Anthony finished with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

Melo did come up limping after that stop on Richardson, but, not to worry, the 17-year veteran said he’s all good after the win.

“I’m bumped knees with Richardson. But, I’ll be alright,” Melo said.

Anthony and Lillard can't get all the credit for the Blazers’ success down the stretch (but most of the credit).

Let’s go back to the 10.2 second mark of the fourth.

Jusuf Nurkic calmly stepped up and hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put the Blazers up 124-121 after the Sixers were forced to foul Nurk near mid-court with time winding down.

“Nurk came through in the clutch with two key free throws,” Stotts said.

Nurkic also played through some aches and pains as well as foul trouble.

The Trail Blazers 7-footer most likely should've sat out of Sunday's game because, of course, most players who come back from a big injury do not play in both games of a back-to-back.

But, Nurk played because he knew his team needed him with Hassan Whiteside out due to a left hip strain.

“As much as I’ve been preparing myself for the last 14 plus months, I was not prepared for a back-to-back,” Nurkic said. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play, but… Whiteside was injured, so after that loss [Saturday], I couldn’t afford to not play… So tried to fight through and I’m glad we win this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses.”

Whatever it takes.

Nurkic knows that has to be the Blazers mindset, as does Portland's team captain, who is even more thankful to have his pick-and-roll partner in crime back on the court.

He’s extremely important and he’s coming off a major injury. He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty, and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk-through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I don't really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic

Lillard had nine straight points late in the fourth to go along with Nurkic icing the game with his free throws.

Throw in Melo’s ability to come up with a big play at either end and that’s a recipe the Blazers must use moving forward, especially if Portland is going to continue a trend of close games in the bubble during the home stretch of seeding games.

With Sunday’s win, the Blazers still have a shot at reaching the No. 8 seed depending on their own results and if the Grizzlies take care of business or not.

There's no doubt that these final moments of the seeding games is giving everyone that 'rush' feeling. 

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

It seems as if players and coaches are getting restless in the bubble and they can’t help but pop off. 

A day after Damian Lillard and Paul George sparred on social media over the LA Clippers’ taunting antics, it appears Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was caught on a hot mic taking a shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference and the team the Trail Blazers would face if they clinch the eight-seed. 

WATCH

“The Lakers don’t wear these, but I do…”

In fact, all the Trail Blazers do. 

And Stotts isn’t wrong, either. 

The photos in the above tweet may seem selective, but LeBron James and company are constant violators of the NBA’s mask policy. LeBron takes it a step further and has done his media availabilities while sitting on a freaking throne!

NBA protocols in place state mask requirements outside of in-game play. The NBA even sent reminders to teams about the mask protocol for availabilities, which the Lakers, outside of head coach Frank Vogel, has been regularly ignored by Lakers players. 

Sure, the banter was playful, but there was obviously something that drove Stotts to say what he said. And, there was something. 

It will add a bit of intrigue into the Blazers potential first-round matchup with the war of words starting early. 

His comments were mostly harmless, but anything can become bulletin board material. And with all the time players have on their hands to engage in social media squabbles, we’ll have to wait and see where Stotts comments go. 

Trail Blazers deficiencies highlighted in win, look to expedite improvements

Trail Blazers deficiencies highlighted in win, look to expedite improvements

Carmelo Anthony put his arm around Damian Lillard as they walked off the court, sharing a private moment after pulling out a season-saving win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Anthony declined to reveal the details of the chat, but considering how close the Trail Blazers came to blowing their playoff chances over the weekend, it’s safe to say it was a moment of catharsis for the Blazers captain and their most decorated veteran.

“That was a moment between me and him,” Anthony said, electing to keep the specifics private. “It was all great things I can tell you that.”

A day after Lillard missed two late free throws to cap off a full team meltdown against the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers found themselves back in another too-close-for-comfort scramble against a playoff opponent yet again missing most of its star power at crunch time.

The Sixers were without All-Star Ben Simmons, and then lost All-Star Joel Embiid to a foot injury early in the first half, and yet Philadelphia held a two possession lead with under six minutes left in the game. Lillard more than made up for his missed free throws on Saturday, scoring 15 of his 51 points in the final 5:30 to keep the ninth place Blazers in the playoff hunt.

Lillard and Anthony certainly had plenty to discuss as they left the court. A loss would have dropped the Blazers into tenth place in the West, behind the San Antonio Spurs and into a virtual tie with the hard-charging Phoenix Suns, who remain unbeaten at Disney World. 

“Definitely coming into tonight after yesterday I knew how important it was to win the game for one,” Lillard said. “So it wasn’t really so much my performance yesterday and I wanted to perform a certain way today. It was like, ‘We let one slip that we shoulda had yesterday and I’m a big part of why it got away from us.’ So tonight I was like, ‘That’s not going to happen.’”

In many ways this was a predictable offensive performance from Lillard. After an off night, he put up 51 and delivered down the stretch. He is talented enough that a scoring binge like that can feel expected and inevitable.

But the more troubling and probably equally predictable performance came from the Blazers defense that yet again allowed a team missing its top options to light up the scoreboard. The signs were there against Denver last Thursday when the Nuggets were missing 80 percent of their typical starting lineup and still managed to hang 115 points on the Blazers defense. Then on Saturday, the Clippers rested Kawhi Leonard and pulled Paul George at crunch time only to pull out a win behind Landry Shamet and Rodney McGruder.

The trend continued Sunday when Josh Richardson got loose for 32 points and hit 6-of-10 three-pointers. The Blazers have the third worst defensive rating among the teams 22 teams in Orlando, but the advanced stats don’t do justice to the obvious. The Blazers’ transition defense is sloppy, they too often get caught scrambling in rotations and give up open jumpers or simply don’t put up enough resistance as opponents get clean drives to the rim. This problem isn’t new and isn’t going to vanish in the remaining games in Orlando. This is more team identity than it is small sample size mishap. They were a bad defensive team before the season was put on hold, and even with a revamped frontline the defense is still a major weakness.

When Richardson's final three-point attempt missed and the clock expired during the scramble for the rebound, the Blazers could exhale. Two more wins, regardless of quality or defensive execution, and they will likely find themselves in a play-in round, completely in control of their own destiny in their quest to land the final playoff spot in the West.

At this stage in the season, winning by any means is more important than inspiring confidence, but the Blazers flaws are too obvious to ignore. But perhaps Anthony summed it up best when he described his postgame chat with Lillard  “all great things I can tell you that.”

No matter how much the struggles, winning has a way to heals all wounds.

Jusuf Nurkic not sitting the second game of a back-to-back is exactly who he is

Jusuf Nurkic not sitting the second game of a back-to-back is exactly who he is

It had been 14 months since Jusuf Nurkic played in a real basketball game. 

Since that gruesome leg injury back in March 2019, all of RipCity has been eagerly awaiting the return of the Beast, even if it is all the way across the country in the NBA bubble.

Nurk doesn’t look like he has skipped a beat either, averaging 19.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks through six games in Orlando, Florida. He is also currently averaging 32.4 minutes per game… Nurkic has put in a ton of work rehabbing, working out, and getting back to game shape since the injury, but Sunday was his first take of back-to-back games since the 2018-2019 season…

Should Jusuf Nurkic have even been on the court on Sunday vs. the Philadelphia 76ers after playing 24 hours earlier on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers?

Here’s the main reason: most players who are coming off a rather large injury - this one kept Nurk out for an entire year - typically don’t play the second game on back-to-backs. The physical toll of playing an NBA game is already high for any player, but for someone coming off a substantial injury, we can only imagine.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

But the Trail Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside who is nursing a hip injury, couldn’t afford to not have the Beast on the court which would have meant only Zach Collins and Wenyen Gabriel available for head coach Terry Stotts.

Conditionally, I think I’m fine but as much as I prepared myself the past 14-plus months, I was not prepared for the back-to-back. I didn’t even know if I wanted to play but - Whiteside was injured - after that loss I couldn’t afford to not play. Tried to fight, tried to fight through and glad we won this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses. — Jusuf Nurkic

Behind Damian Lillard’s 51-piece chicken McNugget outing, Portland (4-2) scraped by Philadelphia 124-121 picking up another huge win and moving one step closer to locking up that eight seed in the Western Conference now just 0.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

I feel great. You can’t describe something, that back-to-back feeling. You been sore, you been bumped… flying around… nothing to do with injury just more different pain. I’m tight though. — Jusuf Nurkic

Well, at least he feels great.

Partly what makes Nurk lethal in the league is the partnership he and Damian Lillard have both on and off the court. 

Here’s what Lillard had to say on Nurk after Sunday’s win:

He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I didn’t really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now. -- Damian Lillard  

Plus, the Blazers would have missed out on Nurk’s incredible floor vision and passing ability like this play:

Nurk finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks against Philly. Not too shabby for someone who had a 14-month period of not playing a game. 

The Blazers continue their pursuit of the eight seed with just two games remaining on the regular season schedule: vs. Dallas on Tuesday and vs. Brooklyn on Thursday.

Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest or stream the games on the MyTeams app.