Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter had a decision to make in February.

Cut loose by the lowly New York Knicks (“They thought I was too old,” he said), Kanter was being pursued by several teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And while a good many players might have chosen Hollywood, sunshine and LeBron James, Kanter picked Portlandia, rainy days and Damian Lillard.

And with the way things have turned out with the two teams this season, he’s one very happy man about that choice.

“Now is the fun time,” he said. “The playoffs. Win or go home. It’s amazing. I’m super blessed. I could have been going on vacation yesterday.

“I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and said, ‘I should feel very blessed to be with this team and this organization.’ It means a lot because this one of the classiest and one of the best organizations I’ve ever been a part of.

“If I went to LA, I probably would have gone nuts.”

It was a very close call, he said. A difficult decision.

“It was between Portland and LA,” Kanter said. “I didn’t know. It was 50-50. But then Dame texted me. And Neil (Olshey) texted me. This team wanted me.”

And it was a very fortuitous move by the Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg March 25 and Portland had a seasoned, experienced (583 regular-season NBA games and 27 playoff games) pro to start at center.

And it’s not as if Kanter hasn’t had some huge games at Moda Center in his life.

His NBA high game was the 33-pointer he had for the Thunder on April 6, 2016 in Portland. And he broke Dirk Nowitzki’s one-game scoring record with a 34-point, 13-rebound game while playing for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit at Moda in 2010.

But now he’s in a Portland uniform matched up against his former Thunder teammates.

It’s safe to say that nobody in a Blazer uniform knows more about the team’s first-round playoff opponent than Kanter.

Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder through two and a half seasons with them, ending with the 2016-17 season.

During that time there were countless practice matchups with the OKC center, Steven Adams, whom he backed up.

Still friends to this day, Kanter fondly remembers those days going against Adams.

“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kanter said. “Obviously me and him were going against each other for two and a half years. He is very athletic. He has a very high basketball IQ. He reads the game very well.

“He is very important to them on defense. I think he’s their backbone.

“We know each other’s game. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do. But I think the next step is who is going to be more focused and who is going to bring the most effort.”

As a former member of the enemy team, Kanter said he might have some inside information about the Thunder.

“It’s my ex-team and I know a lot of the guys and know their games.  I said a couple of things to the assistant coaches,” he said. “But I think they already know those things. Everybody’s doing a really good job of scouting the other teams.”

Sunday afternoon, in Game 1 of the series, we will find out.

Instant Analysis from the Trail Blazers preseason finale with the ‘irregulars’

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USA Today Images

Instant Analysis from the Trail Blazers preseason finale with the ‘irregulars’

DENVER – That’s a wrap on the 2019-20 preseason for the Trail Blazers.

With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both out for load management on Thursday night, along with Hassan Whiteside out due to a left ankle injury, the young Blazers stepped up vs. the Nuggets.

Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons shouldered a lot of the offensive load for the Blazers.

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

1 -- Trail Blazers' role players played most of the game.... and did not back down at all. Kent Bazemore, Anfernee Simons, Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja all had their moments.

2. Skal Labissiere did a solid job in a backup center role behind Zach Collins, who was solid.

3. Denver seemed to want this game a lot more than the Trail Blazers. Those playoff losses hurt for a while. The Nuggets finished the preseason 4-0.

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

Trail Blazers in action vs. Nuggets, follow us on social for live updates

Trail Blazers in action vs. Nuggets, follow us on social for live updates

Portland will wrap-up its exhibition season on Thursday night with a stop in Denver.

The Blazers have decided to hold Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum out of Thursday’s game for load management.

As Portland (2-2) gets set to face Denver (3-0) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT, we will have you covered! Our Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes is in Denver, and since the game is not on TV, you'll want to make sure you follow along on social.

This will be the second meeting between these two in the preseason.

In their first meeting back on October 8th at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland went deep into its bench with 17 players on the active roster seeing the floor. The Blazers got out to a slow start with Denver leading 27-22 after one quarter. Both Lillard and McCollum only saw action in the first half and then were shut down for the rest of the game.

The Nuggets took that game, 105-94.

How to Listen to the Game:

Catch all the action on Rip City Radio 620 with Travis Demers and Michael Holton

Quote of The Week

Damian Lillard on Wednesday night in Utah discussed how nice it is to have the twin towers Hassan Whiteside and Zach Collins:

“Just having them back there for support, and knowing how well they do what they do, it’s a great feeling as a perimeter guy.”

Quick Links

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

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

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

VIDEO: Locker Room Report -- The Trail Blazers' twin towers

VIDEO: Hassan Whiteside injures left ankle

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Expect to see a lot of the young guys tonight

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Expect to see a lot of the young guys tonight

Dwight Jaynes is on site in Denver as the Blazers prepare for their preseason finale. 

We caught up with Head Coach Terry Stotts during pregame and he gave a brief description on what his rotation will look like tonight with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum out for load management, and Hassan Whiteside out due to a left ankle sprain.

Stotts wouldn’t go into detail, but did say, he “will probably” go light on the other rotation players as well.

So, now the question is:

With no Lillard, no McCollum, and no Whiteside tonight in Denver... Will Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins drop 40 points apiece? Or could any of the training camp players impress tonight? We'll see!  

And, since the game is not on TV, you'll want to make sure you follow along on social and catch all the action on 620 Rip City Radio with Travis Demers and Michael Holton.

Quick Links

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

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

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

VIDEO: Locker Room Report -- The Trail Blazers' twin towers

VIDEO: Hassan Whiteside injures left ankle

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

The Bridge Podcast with Trail Blazers TV Analyst Lamar Hurd

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NBCS NW

The Bridge Podcast with Trail Blazers TV Analyst Lamar Hurd

On this edition of The Bridge Podcast, Justin Myers and Lamar Hurd, the TV Analyst of the Portland Trail Blazers, go into the contrast of growing up in Houston and going to college at Oregon State.

They also dive into Lamar's transition from being a college basketball player to the broadcast booth and his relationship with Kevin Calabro.

Get the behind the scenes of your favorite broadcasting team with this fun interview with Lamar Hurd.

Countdown to Tip-Off: The Lakers (and NBA) got their first dosage of rookie Damian Lillard in 2012

Countdown to Tip-Off: The Lakers (and NBA) got their first dosage of rookie Damian Lillard in 2012

We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-20 NBA season by looking back at each of the victories in the 18-game home-opener win streak. Here is a look at what happened back in 2012 when the Portland Trail Blazers and rookie Damian Lillard faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the home opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2012? Let’s paint the picture:

- LeBron James was the reigning MVP

- The Miami Heat, lead by their big four of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Ray Allen, would go on to win back-to-back NBA titles (2011-12, 2012-13).

- Kyrie Irving had just won Rookie of the Year

- Anthony Davis was the No.1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft (selected by the New Orleans Hornets)

- The Blazers had the No. 6 pick and drafted Damian Lillard (Weber State). They also drafted Meyers Leonard (Illinois) at No. 11 and Will Barton (Memphis) at No. 40.

- Carmelo Anthony was the league's leading scorer

As for the Blazers home opener...

NBA, meet Damian Lillard; Damian Lillard, meet the NBA. 

The Blazers opened up their home schedule and the 2012 season with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a combined 63 points from Bryant and Dwight Howard, it wasn’t enough to overcome all five Blazers starters reaching double figures. Rookie Damian Lillard recorded a double-double in his regular season debut combined with Nicolas Batum’s sharp shooting prevailed the Blazers over the Lakers 116-106.

Notable stats: 

Los Angeles -

Dwight Howard – 33 points, 14 rebounds

Kobe Bryant – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists

Portland –

Damian Lilllard – 23 points,11 assists

Nicolas Batum – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals

Wesley Matthews  – 22 points, 4 steals

LaMarcus Aldridge – 19 points, 3 rebounds

J.J. Hickson - 13 points, 10 rebounds

The Blazers would finish the season 33-49, good for the eleventh-best record in the Western Conference and would miss the playoffs for back-to-back seasons.

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

After treating Wednesday’s game vs. the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City as a dress rehearsal, the Trail Blazers announced on Thursday that both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will not play in Denver.

The two stars are out for ‘load management.’

Portland will also be without Hassan Whiteside who had tweaked his left ankle in the Blazers win over the Jazz on Wednesday.

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

You can expect a lot of Anfernee Simons and the rest of the young training camp roster to get plenty of run in Denver.

Thursday’s game is the final exhibition contest of Portland’s preseason schedule and since the Blazers will be hosting the Nuggets on opening night, it’s best to save your stars and your plays for the regular season.

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

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USA Today Images

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

The wait is over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what you might have missed:

Quotables:

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

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

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

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