Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

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Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

On the surface, it would appear this offseason brought little to no help to the Trail Blazers amid the NBA’s whirlwind summer of blockbuster trades and free agent acquisitions.

Aside from a salary-cap motivated move of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, and the drafting of 19-year-old center Zach Collins and Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers are largely the same group that went 41-41 and finished eighth in the Western Conference.

The Las Vegas betting line on Trail Blazers wins for the 2017-2018 season is 42.5 games, which would place them eighth in the West:

1. Golden State (67.5)

2. Houston (55.5)

3. San Antonio (54.5)

4. Oklahoma City (51.5)

5. Minnesota (48.5)

6. Denver (45.5)

7. LA Clippers (44.5)

8. Portland (42.5)

Of course, Las Vegas has been wrong before about the Blazers (remember 2015-2016 when the Blazers won 44 games after Vegas set the line at 26.5?), and it’s easy to get swept up in the headlines from an offseason that saw Chris Paul move to Houston, Paul George to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and Paul Millsap to Denver.

But behind the sexy headlines and tumultuous turnover, the Blazers have been  doing what has become a hallmark of this franchise: relying on improvement from within.

With that in mind, CSN this week will unveil five reasons the Blazers this season could exceed 42 wins and be better than people think:

Today: A full season of a more fit Jusuf Nurkic.

Monday: A healthy Ed Davis.


When it comes to explaining why center Jusuf Nurkic should be an object of optimism for the Trail Blazers’ season, pictures are more powerful than words.

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When the Bosnian 7-footer arrived in Portland last February, he was 309 pounds, unconditioned and mostly, unknown.

Today, one week from the start of Trail Blazers training camp, Nurkic is 275 pounds, fit, and one of the centerpieces of a team that has once again adopted an attitude of proving naysayers wrong.

Through a series of offseason workouts that were closely monitored by the team, Nurkic not only shed 34 pounds, he became more agile. In the process, the lost weight should take pressure off his lower extremities, which became a concern last season after he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula that kept him out of the season’s final seven games and all but one of the Blazers’ four playoff games.

Nurkic this month has been playing full court pickup games and is expected to have no medical obstacles or restraints when training camp starts on Sept. 26.

The prospects of what a slimmer, more fit Nurkic can accomplish is one of the reasons the Blazers could be better than Las Vegas, for one, has projected.

In 20 games after Nurkic was traded from Denver along with a first-round pick for Mason Plumlee, he averaged 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

More importantly, the Blazers went 14-6 in those 20 games, prompting a late-season surge into the playoffs.

And much of the noise during that run was made by Nurkic. If he wasn’t hitting big fourth-quarter shots at Oklahoma City, he was coming through in the clutch at San Antonio. And if he wasn’t dazzling with a rolling hook, he was delighting with a nifty inside pass. And when it seemed like he couldn’t have a bigger game than against Philadelphia, when he had 28 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists, he went and burned his former team in a crucial March game with 33 points and 15 rebounds.

He was so good that “Nurkic Fever” became a craze, memorialized on t-shirts and signs.

Can it get better?

Word is, his new physique has afforded him even more agility, which he has utilized to expand his offensive arsenal, which now includes step-back jumpers and more spin moves.

And now, with a full training camp and the familiarity of what is almost the same roster returning, it seems reasonable to expect bigger and better things out of the 23-year-old center.

CJ McCollum stands by estimate of players living paycheck to paycheck

CJ McCollum stands by estimate of players living paycheck to paycheck

First and foremost, CJ McCollum is just like you: He wants the NBA to resume more than anything.

“Obviously, you want to play," McCollum said during a Trail Blazers video conference Wednesday afternoon. "I want to get back out there and play in front of fans preferably, but I think we are in a position where we can't execute that right now, honestly. So, we have to wait and see how things go.”

The seven-year veteran has been vocal on social media about how guys around the league need to be smart with their money and look to other avenues outside of basketball to help their money grow.

In a recent interview on ‘The Boardroom,’ McCollum threw out an estimate of 150 of the total 450 NBA players live paycheck to paycheck

“I think a lot of guys are going to be hurting especially people on minimums or people that didn’t just budget correctly and didn’t expect this to happen. Maybe they loaned money or paid money to family. Maybe they’re taking care of multiple people and now there’s a work stoppage and for a lot of people in America,” McCollum said on 'The Boardroom.'

Wednesday, McCollum clarified:

A lot of people took that out of context. But, what I was basically saying is that I think there’s a lot of players based on what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced, the research I’ve done -- that either mismanaged money or aren’t in the position to make the right decisions financially because they’re the first generation of wealth. It’s hard to manage money when you’ve never had it before and everyone around you has never had it before. And, it’s not an excuse, it’s not like me saying -- ‘feel sorry for us, we make millions of dollars.’ It’s not saying, I’m struggling. It’s saying that a lot of players especially years two through four are still trying to figure themselves out. They’ve either hired a financial advisor or are in the process of hiring someone. -- Trail Blazers veteran CJ McCollum      

As for the 150 players living paycheck to paycheck, McCollum still stands by that number.

“I would say it was just an estimate, but I think it was an accurate estimate, honestly. I think players and not just players in the basketball realm, but athletes and people all across the world have to really take advantage of resources outside of what they’re doing with their day-to-day life… Really budget correctly.”

Yes, there are people out there who believe NBA players throw their money around at frivolous, unnecessary and materialistic crap.

But, as McCollum explained, there are players who have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle AND there are some who are trying to do what they think is best and that's help out family and friends.

I think a work stoppage, it affects everybody whether you have money or not. It affects people around you or it affects you directly, and I think as a professional athlete a lot of times during these times you’re helping people literally. And, I’m not saying it’s the wrong thing or right thing to do, but I’m saying that a lot of players [are helping out financially], especially now, they said 6 million people filed for unemployment last week. -- CJ McCollum 

The 28-year old continued, “I have family members that are struggling and are in a position where they need assistance and you have to do what you can when you can, but I think the biggest thing that I’ve heard from players is they’re worried about free agency. They’re worried about, obviously, when checks are gonna completely be stopped because they have to budget accordingly."

McCollum looked as though he was speaking from the heart when talking about how the entire world is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Everyone is going through it right now -- The pay may stop, but the bills don’t. The bills are continuing to come in and depending on what type of lifestyle you have, as I said on Twitter/Instagram the other day, some people have child support, some people have a certain lifestyle that they are accustomed to living, and it’s definitely gonna have to change.”

Since the end of March, there have been reports that the NBA is looking at different scenarios of cutting players’ wages.

This week, the league reportedly proposed that the players take a 50 percent paycheck reduction, while the Players Association countered that with a 25 percent reduction of paychecks starting the middle of next month.

A typical NBA contract has payments on the first and 15th of every month during the season, but different pay schedules can be worked out within individual contracts.

When McCollum was asked what would be fair for a player to be paid, he pointed out that a good majority of the season had already been played.

“I think fair is being paid for your services. So, that’s eighty percent or 90 percent whatever the case may be. I think that’s fair. We can figure out the rest of the numbers, but I think everyone can agree… If you worked and done something, you want to be paid for that work,” McCollum said.

As for not saving enough money for a rainy day (as my grandma would say), McCollum mentioned how some players may have made poor investments or some players just flat out don’t know how “to make their money grow.”

Here was his advice:  

“I just cautiously advise people to really save. To really plan accordingly, because at some point if we don’t continue to play, pay is definitely going to change or come to a halt,” McCollum said.

Damian Lillard says Dame range is now the half-court line

Damian Lillard says Dame range is now the half-court line

Everyone is finding creative ways to stay in contact and check-in with one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turner Sports broadcaster, Ernie Johnson, checked in on with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard for a Periscope interview Wednesday afternoon. 

The two chopped it up regarding a number of topics, including his daily routine and what it's like spending more time with Dame, Jr. 

And according to Lillard, he's fully on board with completing the season.

“If we are gonna come back, let’s come back and do it. If we come back, we are already gonna be further along into the year than we would have been. I think it is only right to play it out.”

But, one thing that stuck out during this interview is how Lillard said confidently that he can pull up “comfortably” from taking half-court and flirts with expanding his range when the season gets back going.

The only reason I haven't done it is because I don't want to push it that far consistently because that's just crazy. But, I can literally do it. I'm going to do it in one of these games. Watch.

We have seen Lillard taking shots that most NBA players would never take. But from half-court? If Coach Stotts is comfortable and says go for it, then why not? 

You can check out the full interview over at the NBA twitter page here.

Zach Collins still gets hate mail from Warriors fans after run-in with Klay Thompson

Zach Collins still gets hate mail from Warriors fans after run-in with Klay Thompson

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins joined Trail Blazers courtside reporter Brooke Olzendam on the latest episode of OlzenGRAM Live Wednesday to discuss quarantine life.

During the live IG video on the Trail Blazers Instagram account, the two discussed several different topics including Collins’ signature haircut and whether or not a hotdog should be considered a sandwich, which Collins had a tough time answering. He went back and forth, but ultimately, Zach decided a hotdog is NOT a sandwich.

Now that we got the important stuff out of the way, let's talk about how Collins does not back down from anyone. 

Brooke threw out a fan question, who wanted to know if he has a favorite “trash talking moment.” Collins smiled saying, “I know what people want me to say.”  

And, guess what?

He said it.

Yep, Collins’ favorite chippy moment came back in Feb. of 2019 when he was not about to back down from Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

“In that moment I probably said some things I shouldn’t have, but you know, I was in the moment, I was hyped. It was against the Warriors and everybody’s trying to beat them… We had been going on a run and I was just like, I didn’t care who it was -- you were getting it that night if you came up to me,” Collins said with a smile.

Collins didn’t reveal exactly what Klay said to him, but he admitted that after Thompson was jawing with him, he “went crazy for a second.”  

“[Klay] said something to me and I turned around and I saw red. I just went crazy for a second… I got a lot of clout from that. I got a lot of followers,” Collins joked.

It wasn’t just Rip City hitting Zach up on social media.

Enter, Golden State Warriors fans.

“I got a lot of hate mail from Warriors fans… I still get it to this this day. It went on probably the rest of the year.”

Not only is the Klay Thompson incident is favorite trash talking moment so far in his career, but he also learned something about Warriors fans:

“They’re passionate.” 

It sounds like Zach isn't looking for any more hate mail. 

CJ McCollum reveals how long it'd take to be ready to play in games again

CJ McCollum reveals how long it'd take to be ready to play in games again

It's been exactly 20 days since the NBA shutdown teams' training facilities and it's been nearly a month since the league was suspended. 

The only Trail Blazers currently allowed to enter the practice facility are those still receiving treatment during their rehab-- Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood. 

As players do their at home workouts and continue to try their best to stay in shape, it’s not the same as being able to go to team’s training facilities and get in their typical workouts.

During a Trail Blazers video conference Wednesday, shooting guard CJ McCollum described what he thinks the process would look like if in fact they are cleared to resume play this summer.

I think the first thing we would have to do is get in shape. Game shape -- obviously, we are all trying to workout. We’re trying to do what we can at home. Some people are going on runs, maybe riding bikes. I have a stationary bike… But, it’s not the same as physically getting up and down and playing on the basketball court so I think you have to take some time to kind of go through that process, that period of one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, five-on-five -- getting up and down full court, that’ll be very helpful. -- CJ McCollum

From playing one-on-one to three-on-three, McCollum believes that teams would then be able to transition that to getting back and competing in full court scrimmages.

But that’s the thing -- it will be a process.

It’s not as if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is going to clear players to return to their practice facilities and then bam!! -- We’ve got NBA games that week or even that following week or two.

There are players out there who have discussed how fortunate they are to have a nice home gym, like Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, and how they are still able to get in somewhat normal workouts. But, that’s not the case for many of the players, especially the younger ones.

“I think it would take us some time to say the least, especially depending on when we would end up starting,” McCollum said.  “This is like day 28, so that’s 28 days for most guys that haven’t shot a basketball, most guys haven’t been on a court in general unless you have one or are going outside, but it’s still not the same as playing an actual game or an actual practice.”

The 28-year-old also mentioned that it is his rhythm that he is more concerned about at this point.

McCollum and his teammates are in constant communication with Trail Blazers Sports Performance Specialist Todd Forcier.

“I told Todd the other day, I’ll stay close. I’m like a week away” of being in game shape.

Forcier has been assembling stationary bikes for a few of the players including Nassir Little and Zach Collins, who have limited workout access in their current living situations.

The Trail Blazers are doing their best to stay connected and stay in shape with Zoom video conferencing.  

A few of the players have been doing Zoom yoga classes that McCollum said he was missing Wednesday's class because of the Zoom press conference, but he’ll catch up on the workout later.

The Trail Blazers starting shooting guard reiterated that he knows he needs to stay within striking distance of being able to play an NBA game. That is why he is staying “at least one week away” from being able to get up and down the court effectively.

If we were to come back we wouldn’t be able to play a game for at least a few weeks, is my guess -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

McCollum does not have a basketball court at his home, but this quarantine has made him rethink that.

“It’s hard to train in a way that’s effective when you don’t have all the resources, and I’m not complaining about it, like this is the situation that I’m in, I’m cool with it, but to actually be able to shoot would be great. I thought about buying a court.”

Former Blazers big man Meyers Leonard is helping out his former teammate, though. The Leonards still own their house in West Linn and have already reached out to McCollum about him using their court.

“I’m actually thinking about going to Meyers’ house. Meyers has a court that they said I could use their little basketball court. So I’d be able to go get some shots up… Even if you go buy a court or whatever the case may be, it’s not the same as like the normal workouts you’ll go through, the normal stuff that I’ll be doing to kind of prepare for the season and for games,” McCollum said.  

“I haven’t shot a basketball in at least two weeks,” McCollum added.

Being able to get shots up for McCollum and the rest of the Blazers who don't have a basketball court at home would probably be more of a positive thing mentally than physically at this point in the hiatus. 

CJ McCollum on gathering teams in Vegas to play: 'You'd have to shut down the strip'

CJ McCollum on gathering teams in Vegas to play: 'You'd have to shut down the strip'

Major League Baseball is working on a plan to bring all its teams to the Phoenix area to begin a season in late May or June and the NBA is rumored to be thinking about doing something similar, perhaps in Las Vegas.

But would that work? Would it be safe?

CJ McCollum was asked about it Wednesday during an online news conference coordinated by the Trail Blazers. And he seemed to have some doubts about just how such a plan could be executed.

“I’m sure if there is a way to do it, they’ll figure it out,” he said. “I’m not sure if there is a way. But what I’m hearing is MLB is looking at certain cities, certain locations. Probably target cities that don’t have a stay-at-home ordinance. There’s probably seven to ten places left in the United States that don’t have a stay-at-home ordinance.”

But it would probably be a very large-scale operation for the city playing host to such an event.

“I think if you did it in Las Vegas you’d have to shut down the strip,” McCollum said. “I don’t know where you could find an area that’s completely isolated from outsiders. And that’s the problem that I think MLB and most sports are facing.”

And putting all those players in one spot for an extended period of time and expecting them to be alone?

“If you quarantine the players individually, you have to make sure they have interactions with no one, right?” he said.  “In a sense, family -- you don’t know where they would be traveling from.

“You’re basically isolating them because they could be asymptomatic carriers. Which could kind of disturb things and kind of throw off the balance of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

At this point, such a plan seems to require so much planning, followed by impeccable execution, it’s hard to imagine that it's workable.

“I don’t know how you do it, personally,” McCollum said. “I think we have people smart enough to figure things out if there is a way.

“I think one of these major sports organizations is going to figure it out.”

But what a puzzle it’s going to be.

Re-living Damian Lillard’s shot still gives us goosebumps

Re-living Damian Lillard’s shot still gives us goosebumps

During the Portland-Houston first round playoff series in 2014, three of the six games went to overtime.

The entire series was a classic in its own right, let alone adding in Damian Lillard’s incredible Game 6 buzzer-beater.

The Rockets had won the regular season series, 3-1 that year. Both teams scored over 100 points in each of the four games.

The big question is: How was this almost six years ago?

Game Summaries heading into Game 6:

GAME 1 - Portland 122, Houston 120 (OT)

GAME 2 - Portland 112, Houston 10

GAME 3 - Houston 121, Portland 116 (OT)

GAME 4 - Portland 123, Houston 120 (OT)

GAME 5 - Houston 108, Portland

One thing is certain: Rip City Faithful misses this 2013-14 team.

Whether it was LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez or Thomas Robinson, Blazers fans shared their thoughts on how much fun it was to watch this squad.

Lillard, along with Aldridge, helped guide the Blazers to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years.

Aldridge had a career season, winning three Western Conference Player of the Week honors, while also putting up career highs in several statistical categories including:

  • Points per game
  • Rebounds per game,
  • Free-throw percentage
  • Defensive rebounds
  • Double-doubles

Rewatching this game had Trail Blazers fans thinking about the what ifs.

What if Aldridge had stayed and not left for San Antonio in the summer of 2015?

What if…

But then, of course, there were all the feels once again with Lillard draining the three-point over Chandler Parsons with nine tenths remaining on the clock.

Lillard finished with 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Aldridge added 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Damian Lillard also gave Rip City their first taste of a game-winning three that nobody will ever forget.

This is the defender Carmelo Anthony "couldn't f*** around with"

This is the defender Carmelo Anthony "couldn't f*** around with"

Everyone is doing what they can to pass the time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Carmelo Anthony is no different. And while being stuck at home is less than ideal, Carmelo has been using his Instagram influence to kick back and drink wine with close friends.

In his latest Instagram live session, which he calls “#WhatsInYourGlass”, Carmelo was joined by entrepreneur, author, speaker, wine critic and Internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk aka “Garyvee”.

During this hour-long conversation filled mostly with talking about win and drinking it, too, Garyvee asked Melo a question that made him stop and think: “Who was the toughest defender you ever faced?”

His answer? Metta World Peace.

You could’t f*** around with him. You had to GO! You wasn’t-- like imma take time my time imma get into the game.. no. It become, for me, more mental than physical on how to beat him.

Melo also explained how he had problems with “smaller” guys on the court, too, and that the referees wouldn't call some flops that were going on in the game when he was trying to gain a position in the low post. Melo also revealed that ultimately the way to stopping a great player is team defense.

If you want the latest in Melo #WhatsInYourGlass content, head over to his Instagram page and give him a follow.

Anfernee Simons joins Jr. NBA at Home initiative

Anfernee Simons joins Jr. NBA at Home initiative

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons is the latest NBA player to get involved with Jr. NBA at Home.

The program is a free interactive digital content series that provides basketball drills featuring both NBA and WNBA players that can be completed individually as well as in limited space. The series looks to inspire youth around the world to stay active in a healthy and safe way.  

Simons demonstrated a seated dribbling drill for kids to do at home in their own living room.

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping families at home and kids unable to play with their friends and teammates, Jr. NBA at Home is hoping these videos will inspire youngsters to continue to work on their game and connect with the NBA.

So far, the NBA has published dozens of Jr. NBA at Home videos. Current NBA and WNBA players have rallied behind the initiative including Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari, Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd, NBA legend Muggsy Bogues, and now Simons is the latest player to get involved. 

Memories from Damian Lillard's "The Shot" game winner vs. Houston

Memories from Damian Lillard's "The Shot" game winner vs. Houston

Everybody remembers Damian Lillard’s “.9” shot. Just say “point-nine” to a Trail Blazer fan and you get a smile.

It was Damian Lillard taking “Dame Time” or “Lillard Time” (whichever you prefer) to a national level. And it was his first big moment on a truly national stage -- the clinching game of a playoff series.

But it’s difficult to understand the true dramatic impact of that shot without watching the entire rollercoaster of a game. And that opportunity will come tonight (6 o’clock) on NBC Sports Northwest.

It was May 2, 2014 and the Trail Blazers had been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round six straight times and hadn’t advanced to the second round in 14 years. The Rockets, with Dwight Howard and James Harden, were heavily favored to win the series.

But the Trail Blazers stunned everyone by going into Houston and capturing the first two games of the series on the road. But when the best-of-seven affair returned to Portland, the Rockets got a split in two games that went into overtime. Then Houston won a home game to send the series back to Portland.

For Trail Blazer fans, accustomed to seeing their team lose in the first round, the situation was dire. If their team couldn’t win a Game 6 at home to close out the series, could it possibly win a Game 7 in Houston?

Lillard made sure it didn’t go that far with his long three-pointer off an in-bounds pass with less than a second to play -- a dramatic moment that turned Moda Center into a cauldron of ecstatic emotion made only louder after Lillard grabbed the PA microphone and shouted “Rip City!”

Just prior to that, Chandler Parsons had put the Rockets up 98-96 with a reverse layup that froze the clock at “.9.”

And at that point, to all the world, the Trail Blazers seemed destined to make a trip back to Houston to fritter away what was once a 3-1 series lead and lose another first-round series.

But as he has done since his arrival in Portland, Damian Lillard made a difference -- as the horn went off ending the game.

It was the first time we’d seen such a thing in the playoffs. But it wouldn’t be the last.