Fans got a glimpse at the future of Rip City in Anfernee Simons

Fans got a glimpse at the future of Rip City in Anfernee Simons

As the players left the locker room late Wednesday night, many of them had smiles on their faces knowing they had locked up the third seed in the Western Conference and were set to face the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

But for Blazers' rookie Anfernee Simons, this game meant he was walking out of the locker room with the final box score in his hand and an array of dazzling highlights to look back on.

“That was fun. That was probably one of the best times I had all season, just being out there, coming back and just winning, honestly,” Simons said.  

Simons notched a career-high in all three major categories; finishing with 37 points, nine assists, and six rebounds.

It was the 19-year-old who led the Blazers to a thrilling 136-131 comeback win over the Kings after being down by as many as 28 points.

“Dame told me to be aggressive the whole game, so that’s what I did,” Simons said.

Simons also made seven three-pointers, attempting 11. From the field, he went 13-of-21.

Lillard watched from the bench like a proud big brother.   

“Ant had a huge game. It’s kind of what we’ve been talking about all year, just his skillset, ability to shoot the ball, his quickness, athleticism,” Lillard said.

Being present and active in every possession was what Lillard wanted to see from the young buck.

“I was super proud of him because I told him, I was like you’re going to be out there a lot, so you’re going to have a lot of opportunity and don’t have those moments where you just float, you’re aggressive here and then you kind of passive and you’re just out there, being out there,” Lillard said.    

“I said you need to be making plays, you need to be attacking, be aggressive, shoot the ball, show what you can do, and he took that challenge. He had a huge game,“ Lillard added.

For the Trail Blazers’ main rotation players, Wednesday night was all about getting some much-needed rest. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts valued a night off for his regular players, and went with a six-man rotation against the Kings.

Portland started Jake Layman, Skal Labissiere, Meyers Leonard, and the rookies Gary Trent Jr. and Simons. Zach Collins was the lone sub.

The young squad put on show to complete the comeback.

The Blazers other rookie, Gary Trent Jr., finished with 19 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Trent was proud of his running


"Anfernee was exceptional," Trent Jr. said. “He was hoopin’, he was hoopin’ tonight. We’ve been working together this whole year so to finally see us translate on the court, it was a great feeling.”

Simons is now the 11th rookie in franchise history to score 30-plus points in a game, joining Damian Lillard on that list.

As you would expect, Simons was presented with the game ball in the locker room.

The 24th overall pick of the draft last year showed his worth and proved to Blazers fans he is the real deal.

Simons now joins a very short list of teenagers in NBA history to have scored 37-plus points while dishing at least nine assists.

The other two players on that list?

1. Lebron James

2. Kevin Durant

Not too shabby.

Lillard gets candid with Sports Business Radio

Lillard gets candid with Sports Business Radio

Damian Lillard held his annual basketball camp in Beaverton this weekend, and Sports Business Radio was able to catch up with him for a special edition of their podcast. Lillard was able to talk about how he goes the extra mile to make an impact on the community, this relationship with Adidas, dropping his third studio album, and the evolution of Dame Time. 

In case you missed it you can take a listen below. But make sure you listen to the whole thing, because the best part happens at the end. "What can I say. That was for Seattle." Take a listen and you'll get what we mean.

Do the Blazers need CJ McCollum to get better on defense?

Do the Blazers need CJ McCollum to get better on defense?

We know how well Damian Lillard played on defense in the 2019 postseason. It was as if the Portland Trail Blazers guard flipped a switch, with opposing guards unable to dribble without Lillard poking at the ball. He nipped at them incessantly. He became a hassle.

This was a change for Portland, who will be able to add a defensive presence at the guard position without needing to actually make an acquisition should Lillard's postseason bleed into next year. Lillard’s a wholly-formed offensive player, but his defense was always lacking. Forget adding additional range or new dribble moves in the offseason —  defense is what we want to see from Lillard as an offseason addition.

But what about CJ McCollum?

The long-standing knock against the Trail Blazers — and against the roster construction theory that Neil Olshey has put in place — is that they cannot survive with both Lillard and McCollum on defense. They aren't big enough, and their offensive impact is too similar and not great enough to outpace what issues seem to always form in the postseason. 

And frankly, this stands in staunch defiance of the numbers surrounding McCollum's defense… in the regular season. For his position, McCollum defended the pick-and-roll, spot-up, and hand-off play types well, according to Synergy. In fact, the only real area where McCollum struggled of any consequence was in isolation as opponents drove toward his left. 

Paired with some of McCollum’s more efficient defensive tendencies (like his propensity to shy away from fouling) the Lehigh product isn’t a statistical slouch on D. 

But his real problem came in the postseason. This year, his excellent marks against both the spot-up and pick-and-roll play type took a huge nosedive as the playoffs began. Teams ran McCollum around screens, and he wound up guarding spot-up shooters more often than any other action. Where before McCollum ranked in the 77th percentile vs. spot-ups in the regular season, in the 2019 NBA playoffs the Blazers star dipped to the 49th percentile.

Even worse was how he performed in the pick-and-roll, which accounted for 24% of the plays McCollum defended. Opponents in the postseason abused McCollum, and he finished the postseason ranked in the bottom fifth of defenders against the PNR with regard to points per possession.

Accounting for this is straightforward. First, The competition in the playoffs is by its very nature more difficult. Portland sees the best teams night in and night out in the postseason, and so McCollum ultimate ability laid bare. His regular season numbers had the benefit of him producing excellent nights against the entire NBA, which included lower quality opponents.

Second, the rotations McCollum faced in the postseason shortened. Teams go from nine or 10-man benches to seven or eight-man rotations. That meant that McCollum not only couldn't get away from higher-quality opponents, but he had to face them more often over the course of the game. It also meant that there was less of a chance McCollum would face 20 or 30 percent of his minutes each night against a team's backup shooting guard. That’s doubly true given Terry Stotts shortened his rotation as well, and both McCollum and Lillard were more handcuffed to each other than ever. 

Many times in the postseason, it was starters vs. starters, and McCollum suffered because of it.

Now McCollum appears to be in the same situation Lillard found himself up until this year. Portland's second-biggest star will face harsher criticism now that Lillard appears to be moving in the right direction. 

But that still doesn't answer our original question: Do the Blazers need McCollum to be better defensively? 

This depends on what the roster looks like at the start of the regular season next year. Olshey is looking to upgrade the wing both on defense and in terms of shooting. Fans may think that it’s the big men who back up the guards in the NBA, but in reality, wings help each other out rotationally with digs and stunts. A fresh new crop of defensive-minded swingmen could help McCollum out, particularly in the 2020 playoffs.

Still, the problem with Portland is still The Problem With Portland. McCollum is a smart guy, and one who fought to adapt to the new offensive rotation Stotts put upon him this year. He’s now a certified star. McCollum has the wherewithal to get better on defense in the postseason — he’s an athlete, he’s quick, and he’s smart. He can spend time with coaches and learn the same little tricks that Lillard has implemented. But will he?

There are no dire circumstances that require McCollum to be Tony Allen by October. But much like with Lillard, if the Blazers were suddenly able to add a defensive presence at guard without making a roster addition, it would make the idea of Portland returning to the Western Conference Finals all that more real.

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

Right from the start of his time in Portland, Meyers Leonard was misunderstood in Portland.
“A seven-footer out there at the three-point line launching bombs?”
“Why isn’t he inside at the post?”
“Why isn’t he in the paint where he belongs?”
Leonard was ahead of his time, of course. Big guys are shooting threes routinely these days and traditional low-post centers are not as common as they used to be. The NBA is all about threes, nowdays, like it or not.
Leonard’s playing time went up and down through his time as a Trail Blazer, even in his seventh and best season in a Portland uniform. The backup center shot 54.5 percent from the floor last year, 45 percent from three-point range and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line but still played in only 61 games and averaged just 14.4 minutes per game. Even in the playoffs, when he would show his value as a scorer, he did not play in five of the team’s 16 postseason games.
Throughout that final season as a Trail Blazer, though, Leonard seemed to finally win over the fans. They noticed his athletic ability, dunking skills and confidence in clutch situations. And they probably also took note of his sideline demeanor – even when he wasn’t playing, he was the first man off the bench to congratulate teammates and cheer good plays.
When he exploded in the final game of the conference finals against Golden State, it was a vindication of sorts for those who believed all along he deserved playing time on a team that so often struggled to find floor spacing and outside shooting. Those people who never understood how he could have been playing behind the likes of Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland.
Leonard played 40 minutes and 17 seconds in his finale in a Portland uniform. He made 12 of his 16 shots from the floor while missing just three of his eight three-point attempts. He had 25 points by halftime and 30 for the game, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing three assists with just two turnovers.
More than that, he gave the team what it had been lacking the entire series – somebody with the gravity to keep the floor spread for his guards to operate.
That game proved to be a fond farewell for a player the Portland fans were slow to take into their hearts. The fans chanted his name, cheered his every move and he just continued to do what he’d always done – shoot threes and play as hard as anyone on the court.
“The Hammer” as he was called, nailed it in his final game. And it was obvious how much that meant to him – not only how well he played but how he was embraced by the Trail Blazer fans.
But listen to him talk about it in the accompanying video feature as he reflects on growing up in Portland. See the emotion on his face and hear it in his voice – and understand how much this team and this city meant to Meyers Leonard.

Handing out grades for the Blazers at Summer League

USA Today

Handing out grades for the Blazers at Summer League

The Trail Blazers failed to repeat as summer league champions last week, finishing with a 2-3 record as the MGM Resorts Summer League. Of the 14 players on the summer league roster, only four were actually under contract with Portland: Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little, and Jaylen Hoard (two-way contract). 

How did those four do? Let's grade them!

Anfernee Simons - Grade: B
Simons had a great summer league showing, but it was unfortunately cut short by an ankle injury. Simons played in just three games, averaging 22 points in those games. His performance in Las Vegas earned him All-NBA Summer League Second-Team honors. However, I don't know if Simons showed the true jump we all wanted him to. Sure, he lit up the scoreboard, but we knew he could do that. Blazers fans really wanted to see how he ran the offense. In that regard, he still has a little work to do. He averaged just 1.7 assists, which is far lower than you want from your point guard.  Once his vision and control catch up to his scoring prowess, Simons will be a force. His biggest weakness is still on the defensive side of the ball, and Summer League showed he has a lot of work to do. All-in-all, it was a great three games for Simons, but he still has some holes to fill.

Gary Trent - Grade: B+
Trent Jr. gets a slightly higher grade than Simons simply because of expectations. We already knew what we had with Simons. He showed it in the final game of the regular season against the Kings. With Trent Jr., we really wanted to see that second-year jump. Trent was a force for the Blazers in five games in Las Vegas. He averaged 20.6 points per game and led the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game at 6.4, 2.6, and 1.4 respectively. He shot just 41% from the floor, which is far lower than the team wants from him, but boy his he a gunner. He has no fear and no hesitation when it comes to taking a shot. Give him the smallest of windows and he will jack it up. Like Simons, he needs to improve on the defensive end, but again, it was a pretty strong performance all-around. 

Nassir Little - Grade: D
Let's start off by first saying that the ceiling is very high for Little. He is an explosive athlete with the potential to change the game on both ends. However, right now he is as raw as they come. He averaged just 3.3 points in four games, which was the fifth-lowest PPG average on the team, and shot a poor 33% from the floor. Of players that averaged 15 or more minutes per game, he had the lowest PPG average. He often looked a step behind on both ends of the floor, struggling to get in the proper spots. For a player that was a projected lottery pick, you would have hoped to have seen better. However, when he did make the right play, it was electric. The kid has bounce and showed it off numerous times with some monster jams. What keeps this from being an F grade is his ability to push the tempo. What I really liked about his game was when he would grab the defensive rebound and quickly push the ball up the floor. It was Draymond Green-esque in that regard. If he can develop quickly and excel in this aspect, he could really change the offensive approach for the Blazers. Just imagine Little pushing the ball, playing point-forward, and finding McCollum and Lillard on the break! The future is still bright with Little, but his summer league was gloomy. 

Jaylen Hoard - Grade: C+
Hoard was the Blazer I was most impressed by in Las Vegas. He wasn't the best player on the floor, but for an undrafted rookie he looked solid. He had a good feel for the game, was in the right place at the right time, and never really forced the issue. He seemed to have a pretty good mind for the game. He is on a two-way contract and outperformed Little, the Blazers' first-round pick. He averaged 8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in five games. 
He didn't do anything exceptionally great, but he didn't do anything exceptionally poor either. While I don't think his ceiling is as high as Little's, he is much more polished as it stands right now. As a two-way player, I find him to be very intriguing. The Blazers have two roster spots open right now. If the Blazers feel they need help as SF/PF as the season progresses and can't find a guy on the open market, Hoard could be a candidate to get the full-time call-up. He still has learning to do, but the foundation is there. He reminds me a lot of Al-Farouq Aminu, but with better ball-handling skills. I'll take that on a rookie contract all day long. 

Damian Lillard wouldn't give any spoiler alerts on Space Jam 2 but says his role is "not a cameo"

NBC Sports Northwest

Damian Lillard wouldn't give any spoiler alerts on Space Jam 2 but says his role is "not a cameo"

Space Jam 2 is scheduled to be released in movie theaters summer of 2021.

Filming for the much-anticipated sequel has already began.

In mid-June, it was first reported that Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard would be joining LeBron James, along with Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, and other NBA and WNBA players to star in the new film.

The remake of the Michael Jordan Space Jam has had NBA fans buzzing and Rip City is excited to see Lillard play a part in the movie.

On Tuesday at his annual basketball camp, Lillard told the media that he spent a week in Hollywood for filming.

Lillard said shooting the movie was “different.”

He also quickly found out the movie directors and producers didn’t want him to have any facial hair for the movie.

"You all know I've always had a baby face, so this season I grew a beard out, it took me like six months to grow it,” Lillard said. “I show up on the set, they make me shave it off for the animation. That's why I look like this now. It was bare faced for the animation, 15-hour days… It was long."

Lillard added that he might have to "go back one more time" to film more, but it sounds like the bulk of Lillard’s shooting is done.

When asked what we can expect from Lillard in the movie, he wouldn't give much away, but he did speak on his role with a smile, saying, "it's significant, it's not a cameo."

Lillard was just six years old when the first Space Jam was originally released in 1996.

Early NBA win totals set for the 2019-20 season

USA Today

Early NBA win totals set for the 2019-20 season

The early pre-season over/under for each NBA team has been released and Blazers fans might not be too happy.

According to Todd Fuhrman, a former oddsmaker for Caesars, the Trail Blazers over/under is set at 44.5. According to these projections, the Blazers would be seventh in the jam-packed Western Conference, behind teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets.

The same Golden State Warriors that lost Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala in the offseason, and will likely be missing Klay Thompson for a large chunk of the season, and the same Denver Nuggets the Blazers beat in the Western Conference Finals. Odds will be odd.

This is not the first time that the Trail Blazers have been overlooked when it comes to early win predictions. The past two seasons, Portland has shattered the bookmaker’s estimated totals. Last year, the over/under was set at 42.5 wins, yet they ended up smashing the mark with 53 victories. The year prior (2017-18), the Blazers crushed the preseason expectation of 42.5 by winning 49 games. 

In fact, the Blazers have gone over their pre-season win projections five out of the last six seasons. The only season the Blazers finished lower was 2016-17. That season the oddsmakers put the over/under at 45.5, and the Blazers finished with 41 wins.  

It is well known that this team is not only used to being an underdog, but they thrive off of it. With the perceived evenness of the Western Conference, expect a third straight year of Portland hitting the over of this win mark.

Looking back: Gary Trent Jr.'s top plays from NBA Summer League

Looking back: Gary Trent Jr.'s top plays from NBA Summer League

Back in 1995, a young rookie by the name of Gary Trent made his debut for the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, in 2019, his son is looking to make a big jump and crack the rotation for the very same team his dad made his name with. Gary Trent Jr, the 37th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, played in just 15 games for the Blazers last season but hopes he can increase his role this season.  

Now in his second season in the NBA, junior hopes to continue to build upon his game and become an impact player for Portland. Last week in Las Vegas he had a chance to showcase some of his early offseason work.

In five games at the MGM Resorts Summer League Trent Jr. averaged 20.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.

Perhaps none was more impressive than the 31 point outburst against the Rockets where Trent Jr. went 7 of 8 from beyond the arc.

Summer League Head Coach Jim Moran said of Trent Jr.:

“I know he’s a scorer, I know he can shoot, he’s a talented player, but I think as a coach you’ve just gotta keep working on their weakness and I think right now just getting him to buy in more on the defensive end... But, I’m happy for him. He had some good games out here."

He had some good games indeed, and some incredible plays to boot. So let's take a look back and enjoy the NBA's video of Trent Jr.'s best plays from summer league:

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.”

[RELATED]: How Damian Lillard stacks up to other superstars in NBA2K20

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.”

[RELATED]: Spalding launched Dame Time Challenge

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.


How Damian Lillard stacks up to other superstars in NBA2k20

How Damian Lillard stacks up to other superstars in NBA2k20

The NBA2k20 Player Ratings have started coming out for the newest edition of the hit video game. 

Damian Lillard checks in at a 92 overall rating ranking him #10 so far out of the superstar player ratings that have been confirmed. 

Confirmed player ratings who rated higher than Lillard's 92 include:

Paul George, Joel Embid, 93

Anthony Davis, 94

Steph Curry, 95

Kevin Durant, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, 96

Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James 97

The top duos in the game do not include the Trail Blazer backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They include:

Lebron and Davis, Kawhi and PG, KD and Kyrie, and Harden and Westbrook.

More to come as additional ratings are made available for other Trail Blazer players.