This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

Now that the Trail Blazers have finished their season, it's a good time to step back and assess what we have learned about the team and where it's headed. A few thoughts on the morning after it all came to a crashing halt:

  • The biggest takeaway from this season was the impact of Jusuf Nurkic and what it means to the franchise's future. Before his injury, he had the look of a franchise center -- a player with the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor. This, as you know, was no small development. It's the most difficult position to fill in today's game.
  • It must also be pointed out how poorly this team played prior to his arrival. Before that blockbuster deal with Denver, the Trail Blazers were on their way to one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history. And they certainly were not going to be a playoff team. Nurkic carried them into the postseason. But those early struggles -- and the duplication of them after his injury -- should not be forgotten. Lessons were learned about this team and its players during that time and they should be used to help shape the future.
  • This franchise has three valuable building blocks -- guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nurkic. I believe that every other player on the roster is a possible trade piece.
  • Those three first-round draft choices could also be used in trades. In fact, I'd be surprised if Portland keeps all three.
  • That said, aside from the Trail Blazers' Big Three there isn't an awful lot to trade that would bring a talented veteran player in return. There are some high salaries for players who didn't have banner seasons and who may not be desirable to many other teams. The draft picks aren't exactly premium ones, either. Putting those pieces together and acquiring anything of value is not going to be easy.
  • What do the Trail Blazers need? Without a doubt, a forward -- either a power forward or small forward -- who can shoot and defend. Some deep playoff experience would be a big plus. There is not enough outside shooting on this team and it's time to deal with that problem. The frontcourt provided very little firepower. A proven scorer is a must and I doubt that player is available in the draft.
  • This team needs to add a veteran presence to the locker room and on the floor. And I'm not talking about a guy who isn't going to play much. Not someone just stealing another season in the league for the money, who isn't going to play much. Leadership on the court is going to be as critical as off the court. He wouldn't have to be a starter but I think it would be important that he contributes as a rotation player.
  • I would not expect an important player to come via the draft unless Portland finds a way to move up. This team's window of opportunity is growing near and waiting two or three seasons for a youngster to develop might not work. Ideally, a way would be found to add a savvy veteran. But again, that won't be easy.
  • This is a very important off-season for the franchise. Neil Olshey is going to have his hands full. It's time for this team to fill out its starting lineup with at least one more core player who can grow up with the Big Three. I would expect some major changes involving the roster. I'm not certain which of the other players has value to other teams but I wouldn't be surprised to see several of them move on to other teams. It's time for that.
  • For fans, this is no time to panic.  I believe this is potentially a very exciting time to be a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers. With three outstanding players as the foundation, this team can move forward with confidence to add a couple of new pieces that should clarify the squad's personality and eventual future.
  • It shapes up to be a very interesting off-season.

 

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley posted a blog today listing out "NBA Sidekicks Who Could Star in Different Situations."

On his short list was none other than Portland Trail Blazer CJ McCollum. Buckley writes:

Inside the lines, though, McCollum can mostly go step-for-step with his higher-profile backcourt mate. Because McCollum plays the Robin role for the Portland Trail Blazers, the volume edge goes Lillard's way. But McCollum has had the higher field-goal and three-point percentages each of the last three seasons, and his career slash line comfortably wins both of those levels.

You can read the full story, and the full analysis of McCollum's potential in the B/R story. Of note, McCollum was the only Western Conference player to make the list. 

Over his five year NBA career, McCollum is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assits per game while shooting an impressive 40.8% from three and 84.2% from the free throw line. 

Blazer fans love them some Damian and CJ backcourt action and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has repeatedly said he will not break up the backcourt, which seems to sit just fine with fans and Lillard and McCollum who have developed into quite the dynamic duo for Portland. 

 

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

After any professional team has its regular season schedule released, it’s time for the analytics gurus to shine with the various stats and information out there about when, where, and how a team will play a game on any given day. While I am not a stat nerd, the NBA did some of the work for me so let's dive into some interesting stats that were pointed out in a document sent over by the NBA along with the team's schedule as well as some various observations from our first day of analyzing it. 

A COMPARISON OF BACK-TO-BACK GAMES
Overall the NBA has one fewer back-to-back game on average for all 32 teams. 
As for the Blazers, with their 12 total back-to-back contests, they have three less than last season. 
Breaking down those 12 back-to-backs includes three pairs where no travel is involved, five pairs with short travel (under 750 miles) and four pairs with longer travel (over 750 miles).

FRIST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 6   AWAY: 4

LAST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 4   AWAY: 6

A BREAKDOWN OF “TIRED” & "FRESH" GAMES
The Blazers will have 10 total games (same as last season) that will be “tired” games.

On the flip side, the Blazers have 8 "fresh" games for a Net rating of -2 (last year they were -1)

*Team is considered “tired” if it plays the day before and its opponent does not.
*Team is considered “fresh” if it did not play the day before and its opponent did.

LONGEST HOME STAND
11 days, 6 games from November 1st through November 11th

LONGEST ROAD TRIP
13 days, 7 games from February 21st through March 5th

The Trail Blazers will travel the most miles in the season with a total of 54,333 miles in distance traveled.

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

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NBCS NW

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

Schedule Links:
Read - Jamie Hudson breaks down the key parts of the season
Watch - The road trip that could define the season

The Full Schedule:

Thu. 18-Oct-18 L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 20-Oct-18 San Antonio 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 22-Oct-18 Washington 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 25-Oct-18 at Orlando 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 27-Oct-18 at Miami 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 29-Oct-18 at Indiana 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 30-Oct-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Thu. 1-Nov-18 New Orleans 7:30 PM (TNT) 

Sat. 3-Nov-18 L.A. Lakers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 4-Nov-18 Minnesota 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 6-Nov-18 Milwaukee 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 8-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 11-Nov-18 Boston 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 14-Nov-18 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (ESPN)

Fri. 16-Nov-18 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 18-Nov-18 at Washington 3:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 20-Nov-18 at New York 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 21-Nov-18 at Milwaukee 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 23-Nov-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 25-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 28-Nov-18 Orlando 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 30-Nov-18 Denver 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)
 

Sun. 2-Dec-18 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 4-Dec-18 at Dallas 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 6-Dec-18 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 8-Dec-18 Minnesota 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 11-Dec-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 12-Dec-18 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 14-Dec-18 Toronto 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 17-Dec-18 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 19-Dec-18 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 21-Dec-18 Utah 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 23-Dec-18 Dallas 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 25-Dec-18 at Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN) 

Thu. 27-Dec-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 29-Dec-18 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 30-Dec-18 Philadelphia 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Tue. 1-Jan-19 at Sacramento 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 4-Jan-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sat. 5-Jan-19 Houston 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 7-Jan-19 New York 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 9-Jan-19 Chicago 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 11-Jan-19 Charlotte 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 13-Jan-19 at Denver 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 14-Jan-19 at Sacramento 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 16-Jan-19 Cleveland 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 18-Jan-19 New Orleans 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Mon. 21-Jan-19 at Utah 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 22-Jan-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 24-Jan-19 at Phoenix 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 26-Jan-19 Atlanta 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 30-Jan-19 Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)
 

Tue. 5-Feb-19 Miami 7:30 PM (TNT)

Thu. 7-Feb-19 San Antonio 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sun. 10-Feb-19 at Dallas 12:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 11-Feb-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 13-Feb-19 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 21-Feb-19 at Brooklyn 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Feb-19 at Philadelphia 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Feb-19 at Cleveland 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Feb-19 at Boston 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Fri. 1-Mar-19 at Toronto 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 3-Mar-19 at Charlotte 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 5-Mar-19 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 7-Mar-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 9-Mar-19 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 12-Mar-19 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 15-Mar-19 at New Orleans 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 16-Mar-19 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 18-Mar-19 Indiana 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)

Wed. 20-Mar-19 Dallas 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Mar-19 Detroit 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Mar-19 Brooklyn 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Mar-19 at Chicago 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 29-Mar-19 at Atlanta 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 30-Mar-19 at Detroit 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Mon. 1-Apr-19 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 3-Apr-19 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 5-Apr-19 at Denver 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sun. 7-Apr-19 Denver 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 9-Apr-19 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 10-Apr-19 Sacramento 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

The Hammer is showing off this summer

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USA Today

The Hammer is showing off this summer

Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard has been putting in a ton of work on the court this offseason and doing some serious damage to innocent rims around the country. Just check out this clip that Chris Grenham uploaded to Twitter. Marcus Smart with the full-court pass to Leonard, and The Hammer finishes the alley-oop in style.  BOOM SHAKALAKA

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

The countdown to the 2018-19 NBA season is on!

News is starting to trickle out about the NBA schedule and the Portland Trail Blazers will be playing in a couple of big events this season.

The Blazers longest active win streak over any one team in franchise history will be on the line on Day One of the regular season...

Yes, Portland’s season will start off with a bang!  The Blazers welcome in LeBron James and the LA Lakers to tip-off the regular season on Thursday, October 18th.  Blazer fans will be the first to see what LeBron can do with a young Lakers team that now also includes Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaValle McGee.

Last season, Portland split its series vs. LeBron and the Cavs, with each team winning at home.

And get ready for this Blazers fans — The Trail Blazers have a Christmas Day Game! Portland will travel to Utah to face the Jazz on December 25th.

This marks the first Christmas Day game for both teams in several years. Portland hasn’t played on Christmas since 2010, while the featured game for Utah dates all the way back to 1997.

Historically, the Blazers have had a lot of success on the December holiday, with a 14-3 overall record.  However, in the most recent X-mas matchup, Portland lost at Golden State, 109-102.

Just something to keep in mind, the home team is 142–75 in Christmas games.

So now that the ‘big games’ have been released, you only have to wait a few more days for the entire 2018-19 regular season slate.

Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

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USA Today Images

Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the Portland Trail Blazers will be a part of the Christmas Day slate with Portland traveling to Utah.

 

Al-Farouq Aminu with solid outing in NBA Africa Game

Al-Farouq Aminu with solid outing in NBA Africa Game

The NBA Africa Game took place this year in South Africa with a star studded lineup of Team Africa vs. Team World. 

The Portland Trail Blazers will represented by Al-Farouq Aminu, who is from Nigeria, who put up a solid stat line of 2 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals over the course of 20 minutes of playing time. 

In the end Team World would come away with the victory, led by 23 points from Danilo Gallinari. Joel Embiid led Team Africa in scoring with 24. 

Check out the game highlights above and you can see some of Aminu's highlights embeded below.

 

Summer Scoop: Countdown to NBA preseason

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NBCS Northwest

Summer Scoop: Countdown to NBA preseason

Jamie Hudson and Chris Burkhardt have the latest on the Blazers offseason after watching the recent sit-down interview between Brooke Olzendam and Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey had a lot to say to Blazers fans about this offseason. Plus, it's time to look at the biggest #RipCity trending topics and Jamie and Chris take questions from facebook as we all countdown to preseason NBA basketball. 

Summer Scoop

How’s everybody’s summer going? Who else is counting down the days until Trail Blazers basketball is back???

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Thursday, August 2, 2018

 

More than just his Mother: Damian Lillard’s leadership rooted in deep influence from his family

More than just his Mother: Damian Lillard’s leadership rooted in deep influence from his family

When you see or are around someone in your everyday life, it’s easy to take that person for granted, even if they mean a whole hell of lot to you.

Whether you are a Trail Blazers fan or a player on this current roster, you look to All-Star Damian Lillard as a leader but where did that leadership come from? Are leaders like Lillard born or made?

In a recent sit-down interview with Blazers sideline reporter, Brooke Olzendam, Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey had a lot to say to Blazers fans about this offseason. He also had a lot to say about how fans need to recognize what they have in this moment, especially as it relates to the leadership of Damian Lillard.

“I think when guys like Damian show up, when Meyers Leonard shows up, when CJ McCollum shows up we take it cavalierly because they’re our guys. We know they’re great guys. They hop on a flight… How many people like Damian, are going to fly commercial into Vegas to watch guys play Summer League? It’s pretty inspiring. I think what we forget is the impact it has,” Olshey said.     

After talking with Lillard Thursday morning, it is obvious he knows that he has a lot of people to thank in his life when it comes to learning to become a great leader. He also told me he believes it was not by chance that he became the man he is today.

“I think my leadership qualities came natural because serving others and wanting the best for them is just how I’ve always been even outside of sports,” Lillard said.

As a floor general in the 2017-18 season, Lillard averaged 26.9 ppg and dished out 6.6 apg, but more often than not, people on the national scene like to talk about how Lillard is the player who makes his team better and commands respect.

“It’s one of Dame’s great gifts. One of the things for Damian, being under recruited out of high school, playing at a low to mid-major school, having to stay for four years before he entered the draft, I think Damian really understands the path that guys have to take and he understands that it wasn’t that easy for him,” Olshey told Brooke.

Whether you believe or don’t believe that someone is born to become a true leader or not, Lillard acknowledges those in his life who have helped him along the way. It’s clear that the 28-year-old is forever grateful for many family members over the years.

“My leadership ability developed over time though just having to step up for a new young team and having guys look to me for more than just taking over a game. Major influences in my life that helped, I would say, my family because we were always taught to look after each other, share, want the best for each other, be unselfish, and there was so many of us,” Lillard said with a laugh.

Dame’s mother, Gina Johnson, has been prevalent in his life over the years. She’s often seen at Moda Center supporting her son on the court, but she’s also been seen often in the Portland community sporting her infectious smile.

“My mom is where I learned to be a great servant because she just does for everybody. Whether they deserve it or not... whether they will say thank you or not... and because of it everyone loves her not because she gives or does things for them but because they know she truly cares by her actions time after time... never waivers... nobody went a Christmas without at least one gift because of her,” Lillard said.

But what Trail Blazers fans might not know is, it wasn’t just Lillard’s mother who showed him the ropes of family values and earning people’s respect.

“I learned to not make things about me and it’s always better when everyone feels apart of things. My dad was always a great leader to me but just not a very vocal guy. And, my uncle Richard was too, but he was always vocal and my grandmother was like the perfect leader-- Loved on us but would get on our case, had our backs but always made us see the lesson in what we had done,” Lillard said.

So it would appear in the case of Lillard, a leader was both born with a natural instinct but also made from a collective influence of those who raised him.

“These types of people and things cut me out to be a leader of men,” Lillard said.

Olshey realizes what he got in the No. 6th pick overall of the 2012 NBA draft.

“I think what he tries to do is, when he identifies guys that have a like mindset, a like work ethic, guys that are committed to the organization that want to be players, Dame gets invested in them really quickly,” Olshey said.

Some Trail Blazer fans are frustrated by the recent playoff sweep. Sure, things aren’t always sunshine and roses, but in the offseason of Lillard’s sixth year in the league, make sure to wake up and smell those roses, because this is a guy who is talked about as going down as the best Trail Blazer of all-time. These type of players don’t come along all that often, especially in a smaller market.