From Damian's Camp: Lillard, now older and wiser, is 'working smarter, not harder' this off-season

From Damian's Camp: Lillard, now older and wiser, is 'working smarter, not harder' this off-season

BEAVERTON -- With basketball drills in full swing, one excited camper yelled out, ‘he’s right there,’ as Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard walked through the gym high-fiving the campers on Tuesday afternoon.

This week marks the second session of Lillard’s annual basketball camp held at the Beaverton Hoop YMCA.    

With two camps each a week long; Lillard’s camp focuses on teaching the over 300 boys and girls between the ages 6 to 16 the basics of game action as well as life skills off the court.

“Obviously you want them to have fun,” Lillard told the media during his camp on Tuesday. “Learn some things on the court, learn some moves, get comfortable doing certain things, just foundation type basketball, but the most important thing is the lessons that we try to teach them with each camp coach -- learning to follow instructions, learning to be able to execute what somebody’s telling you, just take the direction and instill those things in them.”

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During Lillard’s camp, he provides hands-on instruction daily, while all hoopers will have the chance to get a picture and autograph to take home.

Lillard wants each camper to, “meet a new friend,” and learn how to “treat people the right way, be kind, just stuff like that, that they can take back to school and they can take home.”

Lillard’s annual camp has been held at the Beaverton Hoop since 2015 with previous camps held at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Through the years, the annual camp has continued to grow.

“The first year I did it was kind of just on the fly,” Lillard said. “We didn’t know how many kids would show up… We didn’t know what we wanted to do, what direction we wanted to go in. Each year we’ve added things… The camp coaches went from coaches who wanted to work a camp to people who had college experience playing.”

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Despite the camp running from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily, Lillard is still finding time to get his workouts in early.  

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard celebrated his 29th birthday on Monday. As he gets older, he has realized that it is a necessity to change up his offseason workout plan.

“Work smarter, not harder,” Lillard said. “I always try to just go, go, go. I workout two times [a day] and then I’ll be ready to do more stuff because I always tell myself you’ve got to put your body through it, you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to do all these things, but what I’ve learned so far this summer is that I trained for like two weeks, I was doing a bunch of conditioning and I was on the court a lot and then I was in Mexico for five days, then I came to Vegas and then I went to LA to do some stuff. Then it was 10 days and I hadn’t trained at all, then last Monday I started working out again here and I felt great.”

“I was like I need to start giving myself a break more often than I do because I felt better after 10 days of nothing and hanging out with all of my cousins and stuff, I felt better. So, I think that’s the thing that I’m picking up more now. The older I get, the rest I need to give my body and I actually felt better when I did it,” Lillard added.

With Lillard gearing up for his eighth NBA season, he is making sure to “treat his body right,” but he also anticipating this upcoming season more than those in the past.

“I think probably [there’s] more anticipation now than probably any other time... Probably after my rookie year when we had a solid year and the next year we knew were going to be good, I was really excited… We ended up having a good season and then after everybody left, coming back with the new group, I was excited. But this year, it’s even bigger changes it seems like, we’re pretty much bringing in a whole new team… I’m excited to see what it’s going to be,” Lillard said.

Lillard is just like everyone in Rip City -- excited to see what’s going to happen this season.

 

Terry Porter and Trail Blazers fans share a mutual, everlasting love

Terry Porter and Trail Blazers fans share a mutual, everlasting love

The hour-long Trail Blazers documentary ‘Rip City Revival’, which aired Sunday night on NBA TV, featured interviews from Blazer greats Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter & Buck Williams.  

It was a history lesson, and a time to reflect, while hearing from the players who led the 1989-92 Blazers squad to so much success.

That Portland team made it to three straight Western Conference Finals appearances along with a pair of NBA Finals appearances.

It became the must-see event in the city. – Terry Porter on ‘Rip City Revival’

“You look at the Trail Blazers team -- it’s a bunch of blue collar guys.” Buck Williams added. 

The Trail Blazers selected Drexler as the 14th overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft from the University of Houston. The following year, Portland drafted Jerome Kersey 46th overall from Longwood College. Then came Porter as the Trail Blazers’ No. 24 overall pick in the 1985 draft out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Neither Drexler, nor Porter had very much knowledge when it came to Rip City and they admitted so in the documentary.

Before I got to Portland I didn’t know much about the city. At the time I was 21 years old, had really never left Houston other than to play in games and coming back… I had zero expectations. -- Clyde Drexler on being drafted to Portland

It’s probably safe to say then that the Trail Blazers fan base, and Portland as a city, exceeded Drexler’s expectations.

When the Milwaukee Bucks passed on Porter and drafted Jerry Reynolds instead, even the Bucks told Porter they would draft him, he wasn’t sure what to think. Porter was forced to ponder his future while attending the Bucks Draft Watch party.

Luckily for Porter, he didn’t have to wait long after Milwaukee’s 22nd pick.

“I didn’t have a clue where Portland was, Portland Oregon,” Porter laughed. “I had no idea where it was. And, I’m sure most of the fan base in Portland didn’t know where Stevens Point, Wisconsin was, either. So we were even when it came to that.” 

The love between Porter and Rip City is even, as well.

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

Both Porter and Drexler emphasized how special and supportive this Trail Blazers group was as a team. Porter shared his thoughts on how extraordinary Trail Blazers fans were back then, especially during the playoffs. 

“When we were going through our playoff run when you came in the city, buildings in the city had ‘Rip City’ or ‘Go Blazers’ on the windows. People wearing gear all the time,” Porter said.

“It was just a vibe, an excitement about the city.”

Now as so much time has passed, wanting to win for the fans weighs heavy on Porter's mind.

When you have a fan base like we had during that three or four year stretch, you wanted to reward them, you wanted to reward them so badly for all their hard work and their support -- give them something that they could cling to and have a championship. There’s nothing like that for a city. -- Terry Porter

As Buck Williams put it, “one piece is missing.”

That has always been one of the biggest takeaways from this Trail Blazers era – there was no Championship.

However, unlike other NBA fans around the country, Trail Blazers fans always have and always will celebrate this memorable squad.  

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

 

'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

NBA-TV presented its Trail Blazer documentary Sunday night. It was called “Rip City Revival” and it certainly wasn’t a “Rip City Revelation.”

For people new to this team, fans who weren’t around back in the early 1990s when Portland made its two runs to the Finals, this was a cursory history lesson.

For those who were around, or the ones looking for something new or a little deeper, it was incomplete. 

Nothing new. No revelations, no scoops and no real insight. No controversy, either.

And there was no mention of the One True Fact of that team’s three-year run: The 1991 team that lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals was without question the best of those three Trail Blazer teams.

That team had dominated the NBA during the regular season, beaten the Chicago Bulls in both games between the teams that season.

But there was a stumble in the first round, Portland needing five games to beat Seattle in a best-of-five series that shook the team’s confidence. And then the Lakers rocked them in the first game of the conference finals, stealing the homecourt advantage.

The Bulls, in Jordan’s first trip to the Finals, had little trouble with the Lakers, but I believe the Trail Blazers would have won that series.

But they couldn’t get there.

I would like to have seen at least a little time spent talking about Rick Adelman and his coaching staff, who designed an offense that made the most of the team’s talent and coached one of the most overachieving groups I’ve ever covered. They also fostered the culture that allowed those teams to grow so close-knit. It was a very joyful team -- a pleasure to be around.

Geoff Petrie's name wasn't even mentioned, but he played a role as general manager in putting the team together, just as he did a few years later with Adelman in Sacramento.

I will say this, though, at least the documentary provided a few favorable clips of Portland and Clyde Drexler vs. the Bulls in the 1992 Finals, rather than the total Michael Jordan one-man wrecking crew video shown recently on ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”

And the tribute to Drazen Petrovic, Kevin Duckworth and Jerome Kersey was very worthwhile.

All in all, it told a story -- not the whole story, but provided a nice picture of a wonderful team with some very popular players who have their own special place in the team’s history.

Nassir Little shares impassioned message, "Change is coming!!"

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USA Today Images

Nassir Little shares impassioned message, "Change is coming!!"

The death of George Floyd has impacted many aspects of life and the NBA is no different.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, lost his life Monday after a white police officer held Floyd down on the ground with his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes.  

Four police officers connected to the death of Floyd were fired.  The officer who held Floyd down, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Since Floyd's death, there have been protests, riots and looting in Minneapolis where the incident occurred and all across the country.

On Saturday, the Trail Blazers released a joint statement from the organization and its players to express their sympathies to not just Floyd's death, but that of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, both of whom are black and tragically lost their lives recently.

We are devastated and frustrated by the most recent senseless acts of violence in the long continuum of racial injustice in our country. The Trail Blazers organization and players grieve the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have lost their lives in this increasingly familiar manner. This unprecedented moment has challenged us to not be silent but to use our voices, our time and our energy to be genuine allies to those who endure these injustices directly. Now is the best time to support one another and condemn all prejudice, racism and injustice in our society, country and world. We will continue to utilize our resources to unite and show up in impactful ways.

Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little took to Twitter on Sunday to share his thoughts, announcing that, ‘change is coming!!’

Little, who was the No. 25 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, also tweeted out ‘what it feels like being black in America.’

Portland’s rookie wasn’t just tweeting his own thoughts, but he was also very active sharing others tweets as well.

Just as the Trail Blazers said, now is the best time to support one another and condemn all prejudice, racism and injustice in our society, country and world.

Enes Kanter continues to fight for civil rights, speaks at Black Lives Matter protest

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WCVB-TV Boston

Enes Kanter continues to fight for civil rights, speaks at Black Lives Matter protest

To the shock of no one, Enes Kanter is standing up for civil rights. 

The former Portland Trail Blazer and current Boston Celtic attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Boston Sunday afternoon, and even took the microphone to say a few words. 

"Listen everybody, my name is Enes Kanter and I play for the Boston Celtics," said Kanter.

"First of all, I want to thank you all for what you're doing... I really, really appreciate it. The second thing I want to say, man; we need change and change cannot wait, you know? 

"I get emotional, but we are on the right side of history, man. You know what? Black lives matter, right? Let's go." 

He would tweet out a video of the speech, courtesy of WCVB-TV Boston, with the caption "BE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY."

He later took part in an "I can't breathe" chant: The last words of George Floyd whose death in police custody sparked nationwide protests and riots against police brutality.

This isn't the first time Kanter has stood up for what he feels is right.

Kanter, a Turkish native, has been an outspoken criticizer of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to the point the Turkish government revoked his passport in 2017 and has accused him of being a terrorist by issuing an international arrest warrant. 

"There are thousands of people getting killed, raped. It’s really sad to see all this," said Kanter when he returned back to the United States after being detained in Romania while on a world tour for his charitable foundation. 

"My friends’ family are in jail. I hope the world is watching this. I want people to do something about it. A lot of people are awaiting help. (We need to) Definitely do something against the Erdogan government. I love Turkey, I love my country, but I’m just trying to speak up and be the voice of the innocent people.”

The revoked passport has caused Kanter to not travel for road games against the Toronto Raptors. 

Kanter's own parents were forced to publicly disown him through a Turkish publication back in 2016. 

“As soon as they are in contact with me, they’d put them in jail,” Kanter said in 2017.

Kanter told E:60's Jeremy Schaap last season that if he were to return to Turkey, he would be killed. Former NBA-player and current Turkish government official Hedo Turkoglu called Kanter a "terrorist organization supporter" during the same episode. 

The Turkish government even shut down a free summer basketball camp Kanter was going to hold in New York last summer by having the Turkish Consulate in New York threaten the Islamic Center of Long Island if it hosted Kanter’s event.

If Kanter will continue to stand up to the Turkish government, you best believe he will keep that same energy spreading his values here in the United States, as well. 

Trail Blazers documentary 'Rip City Revival' premieres tonight on NBA TV

Trail Blazers documentary 'Rip City Revival' premieres tonight on NBA TV

NBA TV is set to premiere ‘Rip City Revival,’ an hour-long documentary celebrating the Portland Trail Blazers' 50th Anniversary, featuring Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter & Buck Williams. The special focuses on the team's 1989-92 era, highlighted by three straight Western Conference Finals appearances.

‘Rip City Revival, revisits Portland’s impressive 1989-92 era, on Sunday, May 31, at 5 p.m. PT on NBA TV.

The Trail Blazers special will include interviews with Drexler, Porter and Williams, among others. The documentary will also reflect on the tragic losses of their Trail Blazers teammates Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth and Drazen Petrovic. 

In a recent USA Today interview, Drexler told USA TODAY Sports that he didn’t watch the Michael Jordan documentary ‘The Last Dance,’ as he previewed ‘Rip City Revival.’

"I didn't watch it. I lived it," Drexler said while laughing. "Hopefully down the road, I’ll get some opportunities to [watch it]."

Drexler spoke fondly of his time in Portland, though, especially when he talked about his former teammates.

I loved playing with those guys. They don’t get enough credit. That’s why I love 'Rip City Revival.' It talks about them and their contributions to the team. We were a real team. -- Clyde Drexler on his time in Portland

 

Drexler added, "To make it to the Finals back then, you had to be really, really good. We were fortunate always to be in the mix in those three years and have an outstanding chance to play for a title. If you’re in team sports, that’s all you can ask for. This is not an individual sport like tennis or golf."

Drexler was selected 14th by the Trail Blazers in the 1983 NBA Draft from the University of Houston. The following year, Portland drafted Jerome Kersey 46th overall from Longwood. Then came Porter as the Trail Blazers’ No. 24 overall pick in the 1985 draft out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

The NBA TV documentary touches on Porter and Kersey’s connection with both players making it to the next level after playing at small schools.

From 1989-92, Portland averaged 60 wins while surpassing Western Conference foes such as the Magic Johnson-led Lakers, the Utah Jazz, the Spurs and the Seattle SuperSonics.

Catch ‘Rip City Revival’ Sunday, May 31, at 5 p.m. pacific time on NBA TV.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

Trail Blazers release joint statement condemning prejudice, racism and injustice

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IMAGN

Trail Blazers release joint statement condemning prejudice, racism and injustice

The death of George Floyd has affected many aspects of life and the NBA is no different.

This past Monday, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, lost his life after a white police officer held Floyd down on the ground with his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes.  

Four police officers connected to the death of Floyd were fired.  The officer who held Floyd down, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Since Floyd's death, there have been protests, riots and looting in Minneapolis where the incident occurred and across the country.

Outrage is being felt across the country, which has prompted athletes and coaches and organizations across the country to weigh in on the matter. 

On Saturday, the Trail Blazers released a joint statement from the organization and its players to express their sympathies to not just Floyd's death, but that of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, both of whom are black and tragically lost their lives recently.

We are devastated and frustrated by the most recent senseless acts of violence in the long continuum of racial injustice in our country. The Trail Blazers organization and players grieve the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have lost their lives in this increasingly familiar manner. This unprecedented moment has challenged us to not be silent but to use our voices, our time and our energy to be genuine allies to those who endure these injustices directly. Now is the best time to support one another and condemn all prejudice, racism and injustice in our society, country and world. We will continue to utilize our resources to unite and show up in impactful ways.

Well said, Trail Blazers. Well said... 

Where do Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rank on Forbes list of highest paid athletes

Where do Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rank on Forbes list of highest paid athletes

Forbes list highest-paid athlete is not Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum.

It is actually Roger Federer, which the magazine says is $106.3 million in total earnings.

For a tennis player, Federer seems to be doing just fine bring in the money.

Our Portland Trail Blazers superstars both made the cut in the top 100 of this list.

CJ McCollum made the list at No. 84 at $23.8 million, making most of his profits with his three-year, $100 million extension in 2019 that will kick off in the 2021-22 season, as well as his endorsement deal with Chinese sneaker brand Li Ning, that he signed back in 2017.

Damian Lillard comes in at No. 30 at $37 million, with most of his profits coming from his recently signed four-year, $196 million supertax contract extension and his Adidas signature shoe line, which is among the company’s top NBA sellers.

Lillard roughly makes about $14.5 million a year from endorsements alone.

Overall, Lillard and McCollum are with 34 other NBA players in this top 100 list.

Notable NBA players on this list include: Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 18 ($47.6); James Harden at No. 17 ($47.8); and Russell Westbrook at No. 12 ($56).

There are just three NBA players that just made the 10 list. LeBron James lands fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million in salary. Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Kevin Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Now, most of the time, these Forbes lists have a reputation for being just a little off the mark.

With that said, it is still something to talk about and debate about during these times.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

Ever Wonder why the Trail Blazers logo looks the way it does?

Ever Wonder why the Trail Blazers logo looks the way it does?

Editor’s Note: This is the final article of a three-part series, as we explore more about the Trail Blazers logo with the Blazers Brand Team including, Director of Brand and Retail Marketing Todd Adams, Vice President of Brand Strategy Ryan Flaherty, and Trail Blazers Art Director Mario Milosevic.

This is a piece of history we can get behind.

Over the years, Portland Trail Blazers players fans have worn the Trail Blazers’ pinwheel logo with pride whether the logo was red and black or red and white, slanted, or straight up and down.

But, have you ever wondered why the Trail Blazers logo looks the way it does?

The logo actually runs in the family… to a certain extent. 

Harry Glickman, one of the founders of the Portland Trail Blazers, who was also the team's president from 1987 to 1994, looked to his cousin, Frank, for help in creating the Trail Blazers timeless pinwheel logo.

The graphic interpretation represents two five-on-five basketball teams coming together at center court to square off against each other.

It's a symbol of the Portland Trail Blazers and their opponent.

That’s something no other NBA team can say.

Portland Trail Blazers current Art Director Mario Milosevic, who has been with the Blazers since 2005, was the one to revamp the latest Blazers logo in 2017. He knows how important the logo is to the overall look and feel of the team and is always mindful of that in any redesigns.

The original logo is so iconic that it is really hard to change it, like some other teams who have updated their logos and they would have a drastic change. For us, when we did the last re-brand, we had focus groups where we wanted to learn more about what our fans thought of the logos, about the current logo. And, we learned that nobody wanted us to change the logo. So, that’s what we did. We basically didn’t change it much. We just updated, made it a little more modern and it still has that original shape that everybody is familiar with. -- Trail Blazers Art Director Mario Milosevic

The Trail Blazers have had six different logos over their 50-year history, but the main concept of the pinwheel hasn’t changed over years.

The original logo designed by Frank Glickman was the cornerstone of the franchise from 1970 to 1990.

In 1990, the Trail Blazers went with a more dominant and clean look by placing “Blazers” to the right of the pinwheel in large, bold letters.

Plus, to honor the tradition of the 1990’s design, the Blazers reversed the color scheme of the logo to feature the red on top.

The team kept this logo until 2002. Between 2002 and 2004, the Trail Blazers changed their logo two different times.

But now, in the most recent redesign, the revamped logo, which was revealed in May of 2017, returned to the franchise's primary color scheme of white, black and red.

Each of the lines follow the same path to the center of the pinwheel, but are now connected for an added symbol of teamwork.

How did the connected lines that have now been established to represent teamwork come about?

That goes back to the focus groups. 

The Trail Blazers did a study with about 50 photos and nearly thirty to forty people were asked to pick the one photo “that they felt represented the Trail Blazers to them.”

On the table laid pictures of:

  • Bill Walton
  • The Pinwheel logos
  • Team huddles
  • Brandon Roy
  • Damian Lillard

And that's just to name a few of the photos. 

Ryan Flaherty, Vice President of Brand Strategy for the Trail Blazers, explained how the process of his particular focus group ultimately helped decide the teamwork rebrand of the pinwheel.

“Like 99 percent of the people specifically all picked the same exact photo out of all those photos -- they picked the same one, which was a team huddle shot that you couldn’t even tell any of the players on the team.” Flaherty said. “So, when we asked them why, obviously -- it was all about this city and this region and our fans really look at teamwork and team play as being the most important and never individual performance or individual heroes. They really think it makes a team to be successful.”

An elderly woman participating in the focus groups even used some colorful language when she initially thought the Blazers were changing the pinwheel logo.

“She wanted to make it clear that we should not change it,” Flaherty said with a smile.

What the Trail Blazers organization has truly learned over the years is that fans are never looking for the Blazers to shy away from the original pinwheel look. 

“We are careful when we tweak that logo, that we keep it in the same family. We have a good family of those pinwheels… Just modernize it to keep it current,” Trail Blazers Director of Brand and Retail Marketing Todd Adams added.

The pinwheel is a unique NBA logo.

Portland is a unique NBA city.

It’s a perfect match.

I think our logo is so unique compared to every other sports teams’ logo that typically features a mascot or an animal or some type of representation of the city, ours was a little bit part psychedelic 70s, artistic interpretation of the… five-on-five of two teams coming together at center court for competition. -- Trail Blazers Vice President of Brand Strategy Ryan Flaherty 

Another interesting note about the most recent redesign is that the angles of the lines on the pinwheel are exactly 45 degrees. According to the team's website, this shift in design is to represent "the 45th Parallel North that leads on a path to the Northwest region."

And you thought the pinwheel just looked cool, didn’t you? 

To learn more about your hometown team's look and design, check out the video at the top of the article.

A group-play scenario for NBA playoffs may prove to be a non-starter

A group-play scenario for NBA playoffs may prove to be a non-starter

The NBA is apparently mulling two options to kick off its postseason July 31 in Orlando, where the Magic Kingdom will turn into the Magic Bubble, as teams gather to find a resolution to the 2020 season.

The options being explored seem to be a World-Cup style group stage, where several teams play a round-robin in one of several pools before the best two or three in each pool advance to a playoff bracket. Or a simple play-in tournament, where borderline teams -- likely just in the Western Conference --  try to steal the eighth seed from Memphis.

I believe the play-in tournament is the most likely scenario -- it seems to be the option that is fair to the most teams and also the format most likely to get the most votes from league governors.

I believe the idea of pool play, or any other scheme that includes teams that are firmly entrenched among the top eight teams in each conference, is not going to get enough votes to pass.

And it appears in this NBA, while Commissioner Adam Silver has power, he doesn’t have David Stern-like power, where he can simply ramrod whatever proposal he wishes down the throats of the owners.

I just don’t think upper-echelon teams will vote to be thrown into a pool with teams such as New Orleans and Portland that could knock them out of the postseason before it even gets to a bracket.

And it’s not fair.

I don’t believe teams such as Denver, Boston, Toronto, the Clippers and the Jazz, which have had solid seasons and earned the right to enjoy a first-round playoff matchup against a lower-seeded team, should have to jeopardize their season in a pool where one bad game might eliminate them.

For the NBA, any sort of play-in should involve the teams in the Western Conference -- the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Spurs and Kings -- that were breathing down the neck of eighth-seeded Memphis.

I do not believe the Grizzlies, given their schedule and the way they had been playing, were going to be able to hold onto that seed.

Just let 20 teams play four or five games in Orlando to get ready for the postseason, then throw Nos. 9-12 in the West into a sudden-death tourney -- win or go home -- for the right to meet Memphis in a best-of-three series for that eighth spot.

Fair to all concerned, with a nod to the Grizzlies for holding the eighth seed. And those win-or-go-home games will be must-see television.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if some form of tournament will be set up that puts not one but two of the 16 playoff berths up for grabs.

That would give the league’s new darlings, New Orleans and Zion Williamson, not only two chances to make the field but an opportunity to escape a first-round matchup with the league’s other ratings monster, LeBron and the Lakers. This from ESPN's Brian Windhorst:

"One of the things I've been hearing as I've talked to people in the league is, the league is gonna set up this playoff plan to make sure Zion Williamson is involved. ... Paranoia is at the top of the list with anything in the NBA. ... They're always paranoid about everything—'the league is screwing me, and they're helping that guy.' In this case, there's a number of different reasons why the league would want to have 20 or 24 teams, a number of different reasons to get extra games. But most of those scenarios include making sure, having Zion Williamson in the postseason."

And if you think that’s not a factor, you haven’t studied this league very long, The NBA will manipulate matchups, schedules and maybe even games to get what it wants. Don't believe me... well, all I'm going to say is that if you want to defeat New Orleans in a play-in tournament, you better have a pretty big lead going into the fourth quarter.

Certainly, the Trail Blazers should be locked into whatever format is used, simply because they have a one-percentage-point lead over New Orleans. If the Pelicans are in -- and they will be -- Portland has to be there, too.

Whatever happens, the hype machine is going to be running at full speed because the NBA has suffered through a season of ratings declines and this is a chance to salvage something better.

And don’t overlook the fact that the Trail Blazers, with Jusuf Nurkic and Zack Collins presumably healthy, have a great chance to be a much better team than their seeding would be and thus a Cinderella team in the postseason.

We should know the format of this thing next week.