Game 3: Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

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Game 3: Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Trail Blazers head into Game 3 against the Thunder, up 2-0 after winning Game 1 and then blowing out OKC in Game 2. The Thunder will look to make it more of series tonight in front of their home crowd.

Before Game 3 tipped off, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan addressed the media.

Coach Donovan gave a lot of credit to Russell Westbrook and his work ethic, saying Westbrook always brings the “effort.”

“I think every coach wants this from their team – he gives effort, and I’ve said this befote there’s a comfort as a coach that you know your point guard is going to give everything he has while he is out there,” Donovan said.

The Thunder are looking to flip the script on this series now that they are back on their home floor.

“We have to play better all the way around,” Donovan said.

Hear from Coach Donovan right here:

Coach Stotts said big man Enes Kanter (right hand) is ready to play and his doing “fine” after suffering a contusion in his right hand in Game 2.

Stotts also discussed what this Blazers team has learned after getting swept in the playoffs last year.

“Well, we had to live with it through the summer and it’s been pretty much the narrative for eight months about our playoff failure and 10 straight losses… So, I think it’s given us a focus, a bit of a determination not to listen to the noise and really stay focused at the task at hand,” Stotts said.

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

Damian Lillard can now sign supermax extension -- but what is that?

Damian Lillard can now sign supermax extension -- but what is that?

When it was officially announced earlier today that Damian Lillard was named to the all-NBA second team, it meant a financial windfall to the Trail Blazer point guard. He is now eligible to sign a supermax contract extension with the team.

There are three ways to qualify for a supermax contract extension and only a player who has (or will have) completed eight years of NBA service by the end of his current contract is eligible to sign a supermax deal, which can only be offered by the team that drafted him or traded for his rookie contract:

  • Be named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season or both seasons before it.
  • Or, be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season or both seasons before it.
  • Or, be named NBA MVP in any of the three previous seasons.

The supermax is officially called the “Designated Veteran Player Extension." The provision allows teams to re-sign qualified players to maximum five-year contracts worth up to 35 percent of the salary cap with eight percent escalation in each subsequent year. Lillard still has two seasons (at approximately $62 million) left on his existing contract so the supermax would not kick in until that deal runs its course.

But when it does, he’ll qualify for 35 percent of the cap. Those four seasons are estimated to pay Lillard in the neighborhood of $190 million, and it could be higher, depending on the size of the cap. The team and Lillard have confirmed what Yahoo.com’s Chris Haynes reported earlier this week – that Lillard is going to be offered and will sign the deal when it is allowed to be extended, after July 1.

There are only four players who have received the supermax extension – John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and James Harden. But two other players, in addition to Lillard, became eligible with the announcement of the all-NBA teams: Kemba Walker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

This contract provision was added so that small-market teams would have a financial advantage in holding onto their best players. The team’s salary cap will not be affected until the supermax kicks in, so the Trail Blazers will have more roster flexibility over the next two seasons than they will later.

Lillard is the face of this franchise as much as any Trail Blazers has ever been. He's a leader, too, who keeps the team's culture focused and a man who does more than his share in the community.

There was never a doubt about this extension.

Twitter reacts as Damian Lillard receives Second Team All-NBA honors

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Twitter reacts as Damian Lillard receives Second Team All-NBA honors

You know what time it is. 

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been named to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2018-19 season. It is his fourth time Lillard has received All-NBA team honors, joining legend Clyde Drexler as the only players in franchise history to be named All-NBA on four occasions. Lillard is now eligible for a four-year, $191 million super max extension this summer. 

Here's a look at how Twitter reacted to the news of Lillard's latest accomplishment: 

Damian Lillard named All-NBA Second Team

Damian Lillard named All-NBA Second Team

The NBA announced its All-NBA Teams today. Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard made 2nd Team.

This is Lillard's second 2nd Team selection. Last year, Lillard earned 1st team honors and he has also been named to the 3rd team one other season. 

Lillard is joined on the 2nd team by Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. 

Lillard received eight 1st team votes, 87 2nd team votes and five 3rd Team votes. 

This now makes Damian Lillard eligible for a supermax deal this summer should the Trail Blazers and his agents choose to renegotiate a deal. 

The Trail Blazers put out the following press release on Thursday afternoon: 

PORTLAND, Ore. (May 23, 2019) – Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been named to the All-NBA Second Team by a vote of the media, it was announced today by the NBA.

Lillard averaged 25.8 points (44.4% FG, 36.9% 3-PT, 91.2% FT), 4.6 rebounds, a career-high 6.9 assists, 1.10 steals and 35.5 minutes in 80 games (all starts) for the Trail Blazers in 2018-19, helping Portland to a 53-29 record and the third seed in the Western Conference. He finished the year ranked ninth in the NBA in points per game, tied for 11th in assists per game, third in free throw percentage, sixth in minutes per game, fourth in free throws made and sixth in three-pointers made.

With career highs of 2,067 points and 551 assists, Lillard became the first player in franchise history to record at least 2,000 points and 500 assists in a season. He was one of four players in the NBA to average at least 25.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists this season (Booker/Harden/James) and joined Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only three players in NBA history to have at least 1,500 points and 400 assists in each of their first seven NBA seasons. 

Lillard was selected as an NBA All-Star for the fourth time in his career and was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week for the week ending March 31. On March 15, Lillard (12,209 career points) moved past LaMarcus Aldridge for second place on the all-time franchise scoring list and playing in the 548th game of his career on April 7, he became the third-fastest player in NBA history to reach 1,500 career three-pointers. 

This marks the fourth All-NBA honor for Lillard, who was named All-NBA First Team in 2017-18, Second Team in 2015-16 and Third Team in 2013-14. He joins Clyde Drexler as the only Portland players to be named to an All-NBA team four times. Lillard is the seventh Trail Blazer to be named All-NBA, joining Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Jim Paxson, Drexler, Brandon Roy and Aldridge.

Outsiders Blog: Is Zach Collins' future at PF or C?

Outsiders Blog: Is Zach Collins' future at PF or C?

In yesterday's exit interviews Trail Blazers second-year big man Zach Collins wasn't shy about the impact he thinks he can make for this team in the future.

When asked if he thought he could be a starter in this league, Collins said "yeah, absolutely" without hesitation.

During this playoff run, Collins came up big over and over again. He showed a great ability to challenge shots at the rim and was noticeably more comfortable and confident on the offensive end. 

Fans were starting to clamor for him to start over Al-Farouq Aminu at power forward. They liked the idea of Collins playing alongside Enes Kanter. Surely fans looked forward to next season and the potential pairing of Collins alongside Jusuf Nurkic, should Aminu, an unrestricted free agent not return. 

This idea makes sense. According to Basketball-Reference, per 100 possessions Collins played about two-thirds of his minutes his season at power forward. So it only seems natural to want to slot him alongside Nurkic or Kanter in the lineup.

However, Collins would rather play the five than the four. "I like playing the five personally because I'm involved in everything especially defensively... Personally, I would like to play the five, but we'll see."

This sounds great and all, but Collins has a Bosnian Beast sized hurdle in front of him if he wants to be the starting center. Nurkic has solidified himself as a key member of the Blazers "big three" and just last offseason he signed a four-year deal to remain with Portland as its star center.

However, Nurkic suffered a severe leg injury late in the season and is out for the foreseeable future. General Manager Neil Olshey said at exit interviews that there is no timetable for Nurkic's return, but conventional wisdom says he will miss the first quarter and perhaps the first half of the season. So the door is open for Collins to grab that starting center spot to start the season.

But what about after Nurkic comes back? If Collins wants to remain at center, he would have to be ok with being a backup. Is that something Collins is willing to do long term?

Said Collins, "there's been a lot of great role players in this league. If that's what my career's going to be defined as then that's fine. I've always wanted to be the guy, I've always wanted to be a starter, and I've always wanted to be a guy that plays a lot of minutes to help a team win. I won't stop until I get to that point."

Collins could end up being a sixth man caliber player as a career backup to Nurkic. Or, he could shift his focus to playing the four and be a career starter right next to the Bosnian Beast. 

Where he fits best within this lineup is up to Collins and the coaches. With the expected departure of Kanter, Collins will likely be the answer at center to start the 2019-2020 season. What awaits him beyond that remains to be seen. But if you ask me, I think the Blazers' future looks better him playing with Nurkic instead of backing him up.

The pairing of Collins and Nurkic would give the Blazers two defensive threats in the paint. It would give the Blazers two big men that can hit mid-range jumpers, and it would give the Blazers a power forward that can space the floor. Sure, you can look at the stats and say Collins only shot 33% from deep this season, but Aminu, Portland's staring power forward, shot just 34%. Three-point shooting aside, Collins is the future. It may be time to move on from Aminu and start the former Gonzaga star. If the Blazers bring Aminu back, it may still be time to move Aminu to the bench and give the starting job to Collins. The fact of the matter is, if Collins wants to start, which he says he does, he should be looking at the power forward spot. 

Olshey: "Everyone who comes through here has gotten better"

Olshey: "Everyone who comes through here has gotten better"

It was exit-interview day for the Portland Trail Blazers, the final chance for the media to interview the key players, coach and management of one of the most surprising teams in the franchise’s 49-year history.

There weren’t a lot of shocking happenings – other than President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey announcing that the team has extended the contract of head coach Terry Stotts. But that wasn’t much of a surprise, either, since Stotts had just engineered a run to the Western Conference finals for a team predicted before the season to win 42 games and miss the playoffs.

The pertinent video is on this website and I invite you to peruse it, but in the interest of time, let me hit a few of the highlights for you, in order of the players’ appearance:

CJ McCollum: “It was an incredible season based on what we went through. Expectations weren’t that high. It was a pretty incredible year.”

Meyers Leonard: “The last two games were what I know in my heart I can do. Heading into this offseason I feel very confident in what I’ve done. I’m happy to know I feel I gave the staff and the organization confidence in me. I’m going to come back next year ready for a more definite role.”

Evan Turner: “It was dope. We did a lot of great things this season. We went from being a playoff-caliber team to a potential championship-caliber team. We’re legit.”

Al-Farouq Aminu: “I’ve been here four years now. It’s the longest I’ve ever been at one organization. I don’t think you heard me complain too much.”

Damian Lillard: “People who might not have believed before, people who thought I was crazy for thinking we could push that far, now I’m sure a lot of people believe it more than they did before. We were coming off a sweep in the first round (last season). It’s a great feeling just to know, OK, we had a 15-plus lead in three of the four games. We know that we were capable of winning those games. And if those things go our way, we’re looking at going to the Finals.”

Maurice Harkless: “Overall, we have a lot to be proud of this season. We would have liked a better outcome. But that’s a huge accomplishment by us as a team.”

Enes Kanter: “It’s been an amazing experience. This team made me a better person and a better player. It was the best thing that ever happened in my career.”

Rodney Hood: “I’m not sure (about his free-agency). Obviously, we know it’s a business. We’ll see how everything works out this summer. I’m on the record with how much I love it here and I want to be back. I want to be embraced. That’s a big word that means a lot to me. Whether that equals to a dollar amount,  that’s what I’m looking for.”

Zach Collins: “(On whether he’d like to be a starter next season) Yeah, absolutely. I think this playoff run, not only for myself but for the team, it was a great experience. And now we’ve been there and we know what to expect. For me personally, going through that and being able to play a big role and help our team win a lot of games the playoffs, I’ve already learned so much, just in the last month in the playoffs.”

Anfernee Simons: “(The last game of the regular season) obviously gave me a lot of confidence. It was a good kick-start for the summer. (And in the summer league) I want to prove myself. I am young but I’m still able to play with the best of them. I can’t wait.”

Neil Olshey: “(On Stotts’ contract extension) We win every year. It’s year No. 7 – six straight playoff appearances. Two division titles. A trip to the conference finals. And we still have one of the youngest rosters in the league. But it goes beyond wins and losses. It’s alignment, partnership, Our young players develop. It’s a commitment to a longer-term view. One of the things I’m most proud of is everyone who comes through here has gotten better.”

Terry Stotts: “(On where he ranks on the list of Trail Blazer coaches) Doctor Jack (Ramsay)  is a Hall of Famer and Rick Adelman will be. I’m not going to touch those guys. They are idols of mine. I don’t even presume to be in that category. There have been a lot of great coaches here.”

Enes Kanter uses his platform for good, uses basketball as his escape

Enes Kanter uses his platform for good, uses basketball as his escape

TUALATIN – There are still many question marks surrounding Enes Kanter’s future.

The Trail Blazers center along with, Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, Seth Curry, and Jake Layman (restricted) will all become free agents this summer.

Portland owns Kanter’s non-Bird Rights, so a team will easily be able to offer him a lot more money this summer. 

One thing is certain:

Kanter has enjoyed his time in Rip City.

Since Kanter landed with the Trail Blazers in mid-February, he has shown his appreciation and love for the organization and the city. Kanter was an integral part in Portland making it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years. 

The Trail Blazers center started off Tuesday’s exit interview by saying, "signing here was the best thing that ever happened to me in my career."

“It’s been an amazing experience… This team, this organization, the whole state, not just made me a better basketball player, but made me a better person on and off the court… From day one, they opened their arms, they gave me a warm welcome. From the first week, I felt like I was part of this team for years,” Kanter said.

Kanter also said his experience in Portland will play into his offseason decision.

The 7-footer mentioned “winning” is one of his highest priorities when thinking about his offseason decision on where he will end up next season.

Over the last few months, Kanter has been extremely vocal about the Turkish government reportedly requesting an INTERPOL "Red Notice" for him back in January because of his alleged ties to exiled U.S. based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Kanter has openly supported.

Being a professional athlete, Kanter has used his platform to educate people on what is going on in Turkey.

 “I’m going to spend some of my time in Washington DC this summer because whenever I go there most of the senators just always sit down and talk about all the stuff that’s going on back in Turkey,“ Kanter said.  

Kanter added, “I’m trying to use this platform to be a voice of all those innocent people [in Turkey] that don’t have one.”

Because Kanter cannot travel outside of the United States, he is going to be keeping busy with youth basketball camps.

Along with his usual workouts and offseason training, Kanter will be hosting over 30 kids’ camps in different cities across the US. All for free.

Kanter feels he is able to give back by not charging families money to come to his camps.

Kanter discussed at exit interviews that life has been hard with his situation, and he does feel that he has been put on the earth for a reason. He is also thankful to have basketball in his life.  

"Basketball is like my escape...as soon as I step on the court, all I care about is my teammates, basketball and winning. But as soon as I wake up in the morning... The fight begins."

Kanter will continue the fight for people in Turkey and weigh all of his options this offseason. NBA free agency begins July 1st at 9:00pm pacific time.

Trail Blazers have extended Terry Stotts' contract

Trail Blazers have extended Terry Stotts' contract

During "Exit Interview" day at the Trail Blazers' practice facility, Neil Olshey was asked about the contract situation with head coach Terry Stotts. 

Olshey responded simply that he had already been extended. 

When asked when that happened, Olshey replied, "about 20 minutes ago." 

Based on the success of this season it is not surprising that Terry Stotts got an extension on his contract. 

More to come about Stotts' situation and the future of the franchise from Insider Dwight Jaynes and Reporter Jamie Hudson. 

Trail Blazers discuss future in exit interviews

Trail Blazers discuss future in exit interviews

The Portland Trail Blazers are officially on vacation. Following last night's loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Trail Blazers took part in annual exit interviews before heading into the offseason.

The players, coaches and staff talked about the team's most successful season in nearly 20 years, as well as what could happen with free agents Rodney Hood, Seth Curry, Enes Kanter, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jake Layman (restricted) this offseason. Here's a recap of videos from Tuesday morning's exit interviews. 

Portland guard CJ McCollum reflected on what was a trying season for the team. The Trail Blazers faced a lot this year: The loss of owner Paul Allen, McCollum suffered a setback before playoffs and Jusuf Nurkic sustained a season-ending leg injury. In hard times, on more than one occasion, the Blazers stuck together. 

Reports circulated early Tuesday that Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are expected to come to terms over the summer on a four-year, $191 million supermax contract extension. Lillard didn't have many thoughts on the subject when asked about it during exit interviews.

Many of the players were impressed by the play of rookie Anfernee Simons, including veteran forward Evan Turner. 

Simons shared some thoughts on what he learned in his first NBA season.  

Meyers Leonard finished the 2018-19 season on a high note. Leonard dropped "The Hammer" in Game 4, recording a career-high 30 points over the defending champs. His standout play earned him "MEY-ERS-LEON-ARD" chants in the team's final playoff game, unlike the "boos" he once heard echo throughout the Moda Center years before.

He's heading into this offseason with confidence. 

Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey had an update on Jusuf Nurkic's recovery. He said Bosnian Beast is on a "good trajectory" towards a return next. 

Olshey also had an update on Blazers coach Terry Stotts. According to Olshey, the Trail Blazers and Stotts have reached an extension on his contract. Details have yet to be revealed. 

Enes Kanter talked about his struggles off-the-court this season and why basketball has helped him get through it all. 

Rodney Hood gave his thoughts on free agency this summer and what it would mean to return to Portland next season. 

Watch all of the live streams of Blazer exit interviews here. 

Live Streams: Trail Blazer Exit Interview Day

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Live Streams: Trail Blazer Exit Interview Day

Check in here throughout the day for links to our live streams from the Trail Blazers Practice Facility. Key players plus Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey will stop by to talk to the media. 

CJ McCollum

Meyers Leonard

Evan Turner

Al-Farouq Aminu

Damian Lillard

Moe Harkless

Enes Kanter

Rodney Hood

Zach Collins

Anfernee Simons

Neil Olshey & Terry Stotts