How should you feel about the Portland Trail Blazers this season?

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How should you feel about the Portland Trail Blazers this season?

Portland Trail Blazers fans are split. There's a faction who feels much the way they did after beating the Denver Nuggets in the second round, advancing to the team's First Western Conference Finals appearance in 19 years. Those fans, they like to say, we're just happy the team made it that far. Yet another section of the Rip City faithful is disappointed the team went out in yet another playoff sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

So how should you feel?

As with many things in the NBA, recency bias seems to play a larger factor than perhaps some of us would like to admit. Emotions get woven into current events, which then cast an unfair light backwards onto what has already come to bear.

At its core, this Blazers team is one that had many adaptations over the course of the 2018-19 NBA season. CJ McCollum was tethered nearly full-time with Damian Lillard. Maurice Harkless tried to get healthy all year. Evan Turner was the mastermind of the second unit. Jusuf Nurkic took on a larger role in the offense, both as a screener and a passer. The bench was much more productive than it was in seasons past, and saved the Blazers in countless regular season games.

This team is also the squad that just got swept by the greatest team ever assembled, one missing perhaps its best player. It's reasonable to be upset with how Portland showed up against Golden State. It's also reasonable to understand the myriad contextual factors that led to those losses, and appreciate this team for how good it was. 

The Blazers were very good, and they got swept. They can be both. They were. They are.

At times, when they were playing together, these Blazers looked absolutely unstoppable. Lillard and McCollum were additive, not taking chunks away from the team basketball delivered by the chemistry that developed top to bottom over the course of the year. The your-turn-my-turn offense was gone, and the defense was more collaborative outside of just a pick-and-roll guard defender and a helpside big man.

They weren't some flash in the pan, and we saw real growth in Portland this season. It started with coach Terry Stotts, who went deeper into his bench and played a longer rotation throughout the year. Whether it was by choice or by function of the roster, Stotts needed more shooting and more dynamism than he had in seasons past. That allowed players like Jake Layman, Nik Stauskas, and Zach Collins to add their contributions at different stretches over the season.

As the year went on, we very clearly knew who this Blazers team was. Yes, it was still Lillard's show, but the rest of his supporting cast looked as though they were the missing piece he had needed for years. The Blazers, as top-heavy as the rest of the Western Conference, were suddenly thick, some eight or nine or ten players deep.

It will get lost in the jumble of history when folks, particularly those who didn't watch this team all year, write about Portland in the years to come. From a distance, you can already see how this season will fade into a short, one line narrative:

Nurkic broke his leg with three weeks left in the season, and despite the best efforts of some fill-in guys, the Blazers couldn't keep things going against the champions.

But that isn't a very good or even accurate understanding of who Portland was, or why it succeeded in the postseason this year. What will get lost is that Portland was able to grab the third seed in the West because of its bench and another MVP candidate season from Lillard. But here’s the rub: that's the same thing that kept this squad going in the postseason even after Nurkic went down. The success of the Blazers in the regular season was the success of the Blazers in the postseason.

Without stopping to understand just how crucial this chemistry was to this team, you’ll miss the best story about Portland this year. Yes, McCollum adapted to his new role. Lillard came out with some new tricks, particularly some up-and-under moves near the rim. But this season was about feeling a swell of confidence for the Blazers when substitutions were made. It was the strong play of the Portland rotation that allowed them to adapt to a catastrophic loss like Nurkic’s broken leg when other, less congealed teams would have crumbled under the heat.

That takes us back to the question of how we should feel, and it starts with how Portland consumes basketball. Rip City is a unique place in the NBA. The Blazers are both a team that has been excellent over the past two decdes, but also not catastrophically frustrated when they aren’t championship contenders. The Blazers or one of the NBA's best franchises from a winning perspective, certainly under the ownership of Paul Allen.

A friend of mine, John, has been championing the idea that “The Blazers are going to win the championship” on Twitter for several years. It's a kind of irrational, feel-good confidence that folks inside the Portland sphere have come to expect. It’s fun, but it doesn’t mean much. What John’s perpetual tweeting of #TBAGTWTC really represents is a tongue-in-cheek poke at the shift in American sports culture to the “championship or bust” model.

The Blazers are not championship contenders at this moment, but throughout the history of Allen's ownership of this team, they've also tried very hard not to go in the other direction; to bust. Without that kind of all-or-nothing thinking, it's much easier for ask to understand how Blazers fans should feel about this season. We land somewhere in the middle, with confidence and happiness for all of the things that did go right, while at the same time understanding it's okay to be disappointed it didn't keep going.

In one month or two months or six months time, I think Portland will see this Western Conference Finals run for what it really was: A magical, fairytale story that wasn't about just the stars, and it wasn't just about the coaches, and wasn't just about the injuries. It was about the bench, and the individual performances, and guys stepping up to will each other forward, well past where they should have gone.

This season in Portland was about camaraderie. It was about brotherhood. It was about being a team that become more than the sum of its parts by banding together. In some small way, it was about resisting the inevitability many have felt in the face of a league dominated by the Warriors. On paper the Blazers had no right to be in the WCF. On the court, they earned every square inch of parquet hammered into each other. From baseline to baseline, stanchion to stanchion.

Feel how you want about this Blazers season coming to an end. I know how I’m going to feel. Proud.

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Nassir Little looking to earn respect before Blazers training camp starts

Nassir Little looking to earn respect before Blazers training camp starts

With just over two weeks until the Portland Trial Blazers preseason slate tips off, the question remains -- what will Portland’s rotation look like this season?

If you include two-way player, Jaylen Hoard, the Blazers have added seven new additions to the squad.

What about Blazers rookie Nassir Little? Could we see him get some run?

Over the last two weeks with the players returning to Portland to get acquainted with each other before training camp gets underway, Little has been focusing on what his teammates think about him before the season gets started.

“To earn their respect on the court as a rookie has been big for me. I’m excited to keep going with that,” Little said at his first official meet and greet over the weekend.

[RELATED]: Introducing Nassir Little: Make your own legacy

At just 19 years old, Little recognizes that he has a lot to learn from the guys who have been around the organization the longest, especially Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He also has been fighting the shell shock of it all.   

“It’s been good,” Little said. “For me, walking in and seeing Dame in the building, and then CJ, and then Pau Gasol, just guys I watched growing up it’s been surreal.”

Gasol’s rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies was in 1998.

Little was born in 2000.

Think about that for a second…

[RELATED]: The Bridge Podcast with Nassir Little

Even though Little has yet to play his first real minutes in a Trail Blazers uniform, advice has been in pouring in from Trail Blazers veterans.

“It all starts over,” was one piece of advice given to Little.

“All the stuff in the past is in the past, but now I have another chance to earn my [reputation] and try to contribute early on, on a good team,” Little added.

[RELATED]: Blazer pick Nassir Little thinks he can "shock a lot of people in the NBA"

As the Trail Blazers embark on their 50th Anniversary season, Little acknowledged this is a great season to start his career in Rip City.   

“I came in at the right time,” Little said. “A lot of people are excited. Looking forward to making a lot of noise this year.”

Yes, a lot of people in Portland are excited about this season and celebrating the past 50 years. Imagine the excitement when Little starts making a lot of noise.

Trail Blazer rookie Nassir Little already "paying it forward"in the Portland community

Trail Blazer rookie Nassir Little already "paying it forward"in the Portland community

Through a sea of trading cards and autographed jerseys and posters hung on the wall, sat a young Portland Trail Blazer who was eager to tip-off his first official meet and greet.

An hour before The SportsRoom on SW Hall in Beaverton, Oregon opened its doors at 1:00pm on Sunday, roughly one hundred Blazer fans stood in line eager to mingle with Trail Blazer rookie Nassir Little.

The line wrapped around the building with fans both young and old.

As the doors opened, Little told his agent, with a big smile on his face, he was ready.

There was excitement exuding from Little. He looked just as happy to meet the fans, as they were to meet him.

The Rip City faithful standing in line, made comments about how cool it was to be able to have a photo and autograph opportunity from a Trail Blazer. One young fan, added he thought this was the first Trail Blazers meet and greet in Beaverton. 

“It was pretty awesome, being face-to-face with an NBA player, it was sweet,” Trail Blazers fan Xavier Judge said.

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” is what Little told Trail Blazer fan William Onwall.

There Little was sitting at his very own meet and greet, and he was thanking the fans for coming out to see him.

“This was my first [meet and greet],” Little said after meeting the hundreds of Blazers fans that made their way to The SportsRoom. “I’m excited how it turned out. It was cool to meet some fans and get some support out here.”

Fans were eager to share some nice words with the Blazer rookie. One fan even said, “hey, how about you win rookie of the year?!”

Other fans told Little, “nice to meet you, [I’m a] big fan, honored to meet you."

"You know, that’s really humbling for me,” Little said. “All the hard work I’ve put in to have people appreciate that it means a lot.”

This particular event was also near and dear to the 19-year-old’s heart because of where it was held.

Little grew up collecting trading cards, and in fact, he still has “albums of cards back home.”

For the North Carolina Tar Heel star to hold his first big-time event as a professional athlete at a sports collector shop was very special to Little. 

“I had signed jerseys from some of my favorite players, and just kind of being able to pay that forward, that’s really important,” Little said.

Putting it simply, Little describes the Trail Blazer fans base as “nice.”

“People in Portland are just nice, it’s kind of crazy how nice they are, but I love it,” Little said with a big smile.  

He also already understands the Portland community is an extremely tight knit group who has been welcoming him with open arms.

“From ladies to kids two years old, and then you’ve got older people. So, it shows how wide the fan base is, and how much people are interested in basketball out here,” Little said.

Chris Tinder, who is the current owner of The SportsRoom, was pleased to have such a big event in his shop.   

The SportsRoom has been open since 1984, which makes it one of the oldest sports card shops in the Portland metropolitan area. Over the years, it has changed hands a few times. Tinder and his wife have been the proud owners of The SportsRoom for the past year and a half. Tinder says he is the fifth or sixth owner of the sports shop. 

“Loyal” is how Tinder describes Trail Blazers fans.

“Very loyal… We’ve been underdogs the last few years and we keep just going further and further in the playoffs… I think the sky is the limit with this team and where we could go,” Tinder said.

“I’m excited to see what this kid can bring to the team,” Tinder said of Little.

As for Blazer fan Jeannie Pastega, she has been a Trail Blazer fan since the team brought home the hardware in 1977.

She believes the organization is due for another Championship.

Jeannie grew up in Portland. She has always been a big fan of Trail Blazer players for what they do on the court, as well as what they do in the community.

Little is off to a good start in Jeannie’s book.

“He’s a fabulous young man, a very nice young man. I hope he has a lot of success with the Trail Blazers,” she said after Little autographed her copy of Beckett Basketball Magazine.

I think it is fair to say that all of Rip City agrees with Jeannie. Let's all hope there is a lot of success in Little's future. 

"Concerned Browns Fan" CJ McCollum in the house for Sunday Night Football

CJ McCollum Twitter

"Concerned Browns Fan" CJ McCollum in the house for Sunday Night Football

The Cleveland Browns came up just short on Sunday Night Football when trailing by seven, a fourth down redzone play got picked off in the endzone, giving the Rams the 20-13 win. 

Trail Blazers guard and Canton boy CJ McCollum was in the house for the big game. 

He even hopped on the Browns' official twitter account before the game for some pregame hype. 

As QB Baker Mayfield attempted to drive the Browns down the field in the two-minute drill, their star WR Odell Beckham Jr. didn't get any looks. CJ was having none of it. 

There were indeed a few curious play calls down the stretch with no real urgency to get Beckham the ball in crunch time. But let's be real, as a Browns fan, CJ's got to be used to this by now, right?

NBARookieWeek: Rookies dancing at Trail Blazers Fan Fest is the best

NBARookieWeek: Rookies dancing at Trail Blazers Fan Fest is the best

The Trail Blazers Fan Fest has become a fun tradition for Rip City to watch the Blazers intra-squad scrimmage and get their first look at the roster.

A fan favorite just might be the Blazers rookies taking center court and dancing in front of their teammates, the coaching staff, and all the Blazers faithful.

The Trail Blazers tweeted out a great throwback video on Friday in honor of the NBA’s Rookie Week.

It’s hard to decide who has the best moves and who has the worst moves, but one thing is certain:

It’s always fun watching a young Damian Lillard, or a young Zach Collins, or a little bit younger Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr strut their stuff.

This year’s Fan Fest is set for Sunday, October 6th.

To help tip-off the Trail Blazers 50th Anniversary Season, this year’s Fan Fest will be held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

You can catch all the action of Fan Fest including the rookie dances on the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers, NBC Sports Northwest.
Doors will open at 4 p.m. Fans can download their free digital tickets online at

Damian Lillard commits to Team USA for 2020 Summer Olympics

Damian Lillard commits to Team USA for 2020 Summer Olympics

Damian Lillard took a quick two-day trip to Sydney, Australia earlier this week as Adidas’ Global Ambassador.

In his limited time in Sydney, Lillard sat down to do an interview with to talk Olympics, his music, filming Space Jam 2 and more.

After NBA stars, including Lillard, pulled out of the recent FIBA World Cup this summer, people are now focused on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In his recent interview, Lillard confirmed he does want to play for Team USA for the 2020 Olympics.

“I plan of being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said.

Team USA is one of eight teams that have already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The remaining four teams will earn berths during qualifying tournaments in July.

Lillard now joins Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who have pledged to represent Team USA already, along with Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.

One thing is for sure – it’s a good thing the Olympics weren’t this summer.

Lillard has had busy offseason.

The 29-year-old had been filming alongside LeBron James for Space Jam 2 earlier this summer.

Lillard couldn’t give away any spoilers for Space Jam 2, but he is happy with the end result.

“I think people are really going to enjoy it… I’m proud of it, I can say that,” Lillard said.  

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard also released his third rap album.  

Dame D.O.L.L.A. has continued to make a name for himself in the music industry.

Lillard has always been interested in pursing a rap career.

“When I made it to the NBA I just continued to do it and the platform I have as a player just shined a light on the music and it’s taken off now,” Lillard said.

“It’s real music,” Lillard added while mentioning how he is blessed to have worked with artists such as Lil Wayne.

“It’s pretty cool, I work with Wayne on all my albums. Just having him as a mainstay on all my albums is pretty cool, it’s been a pleasure and an honor because he’s one of the best to ever do it,” Lillard said.

“A lot of mainstream artists can’t get him on, so the fact he does it for me is a blessing.”

Everything you need to know about new Trail Blazer Anthony Tolliver… Off the court

Everything you need to know about new Trail Blazer Anthony Tolliver… Off the court

BIRTH NAME: Anthony Lamar Tolliver

BIRTHDAY: June 1st, 1985

AGE: 34


Before Fame

Tolliver played 4 years of college basketball at Creighton. He was one of four players from his Kickapoo High School team to play Division I basketball.

Fun Facts

Tolliver grew up with six sisters. Yep, Anthony is the only boy of the family. 

Tolliver’s mother was a teacher for 31 years.

While with the Pistons, Tolliver discussed how he spent his NBA money as a rookie:

"I put my first pro paycheck in the bank and let it sit there. During my rookie season the only thing I bought was a Chrysler 300."

Not All About Basketball Nets

For the past few years, Tolliver has pledged to support and help send nets to save lives.

‘Nothing But Nets’ is a global grassroots campaign to raise awareness, funds, and voices to fight malaria.

Both Tolliver and Steve Blake joined the ‘Nothing But Nets’ campaign earlier this year and hope to raise awareness and funds, as well as encourage fans, to help protect refugees and their families from malaria.

Tolliver pledged to donate and help out the ‘Nothing But Nets’ organization back in 2016. He wrote:

“To me, it is inexcusable to accept that depending on the zip code you were born in, or the country you live in, your destiny is already pre-determined by the level of access you have to health care. I serve as a Nothing But Nets ambassador because it shouldn’t matter where you are born — no child should die from a mosquito bite. I know that even with just a little help, I can help kids across the globe with an opportunity to live another day and have another birthday just by sending a bed net and protecting them from malaria.

Imagine that — something as simple as sending a bed net can protect a child from a deadly, but preventable disease.”

All The Love For Portland

Tolliver is happy to be in Rip City:

“Free agency was a bit of a whirlwind. I was really looking for an opportunity to go to a team where I was valued and wanted. They made that very clear. I haven’t had free agency go this quickly in my entire career. But I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity to play for a contender and play with guys like Dame and CJ and there are a lot of great players on this team.

“And also, kind of watching the playoffs last year, how they got double-teamed a lot and that’s literally how guys like myself can excel.”

^^^ Tolliver told the media at his introductory press conference.

Wedding Date

In 2011, Tolliver married Jessica Svoboda. They met at Creighton University, during their freshman orientation. The couple has two kids together.

The Proposal

Jonah Ballow, a reporter of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011, sat down with Tolliver for the ‘Wolves Hot Seat.’  Tolliver answered 10 rapid-fire questions, including the biggest change in his life since his proposal to his longtime girlfriend:

“I spent a lot of money,” Tolliver said with a big smile.

Watch the throwback video to hear more from a younger Tolliver:

Bleacher Report ranks Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum top backcourt in the NBA

Bleacher Report ranks Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum top backcourt in the NBA

It’s hard to believe the NBA season is just around the corner.

NBA training camp tips off in less than two weeks.

We have seen the various predictions of where teams are expected to land in the Western and Eastern Conference, but what about individual play?

What about the NBA’s top duos?

Bleacher Report ranked the top 10 backcourts, and they put the Trail Blazers duo of point guard Damian Lillard and shooting guard CJ McCollum at the top.

Greg Swartz, author of the article, had this to say of the star tandem:

"With no Curry and Thompson to look up to (for now), the Trail Blazers backcourt can finally stake its claim as the NBA's best.

Coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals, Lillard and McCollum combined for 46.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.9 assists during the regular season while turning the ball over just 4.2 total times per game.

In six years together, Portland has never had a losing record, reaching the postseason every time.

Following a 53-win season and the third seed in the West, Lillard almost single-handedly dismantled the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise with a now-iconic shot and pose to end the first round, leading to Paul George requesting a move and a subsequent trade of Westbrook to the Houston Rockets.

In their 16 postseason games, both Lillard and McCollum proved why they deserve to be called the NBA's best. Lillard averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals and shot 37.3 percent from deep on nearly 10 attempts per game. McCollum was right behind with 24.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and he drilled 39.3 percent of his three-pointers."

Coming in second on the Bleacher Report list is Golden State Warrior’s Stephen Curry and D'Angelo Russell. (That’ll take some getting used to).

Houston's new backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook came in at No. 3.

Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in Utah ranked No. 4.

Denver's Jamal Murray and Gary Harris round out the Top 5.

Read more here.

Everything you need to know about new Trail Blazer Hassan Whiteside... Off the court

Everything you need to know about new Trail Blazer Hassan Whiteside... Off the court

BIRTH NAME: Hassan Niam Whiteside

BIRTHDAY: June 13th, 1989

AGE: 30


Before Fame

Whiteside played college ball at Marshall University, where he was a Conference USA Freshman of the year and Second-team All-Conference USA.

Fun Facts

If Whiteside wasn’t a basketball player, he told the Miami Heat, he would be a NASCAR driver.

Math was his favorite subject in school.

His first big purchase as an NBA player was a 2010 Escalade.

Football Father

Whiteside’s parents are Hasson Arbubakrr and Debbie Whiteside. His father played in the NFL from 1983 to 1984 for the Vikings and the Buccaneers.

Pushing Through Adversity

To say Whiteside has bounced around, and in and out of the league, would be an understatement.

After the Sacramento Kings selected him as the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 draft and later waived him, Whiteside floated through the D-League and overseas.

He made a stop in Lebanon in 2013, but just two games in, his teammates started a fight with the opposing team and the season was canceled. So Whiteside went to the Chinese NBL.

Here’s a quick look at the various teams Whiteside has played for at one time or another:

2012–13    Sioux Falls Skyforce

2013           Rio Grande Valley Vipers

2013           Amchit Club

2013           Sichuan Blue Whales

2013–14   Al Mouttahed Tripoli

2014           Jiangsu Tongxi

2014           Iowa Energy

2014–19   Miami Heat

2014          Sioux Falls Skyforce

Quickly Becoming A Portlander

Just days after the reports came out that Whiteside was signing with the Portland Trail Blazers; Whiteside started giving back to his new community.

In a series of videos shared on Instagram, Whiteside was seen handing out Voodoo doughnuts to people on the streets, while shouting, “Go Portland, Go Blazers! We got shooters!”

"You get some Voodoo Doughnuts. I got like three dozen," Whiteside said. "Giving them out to the city! We giving them out to the city, man. We sharing love, man. More love, man. We don't do the hate, my man. Less hate, man.”

Love For Koi Fish

In an interview with The Ringer back in October of 2018, Whiteside shared more about his personal life.  

A big part of his everyday life is his fishpond. It’s easy to see Whiteside’s love of fish, particularly Koi fish from reading the article.

Here is an excerpt from The Ringer article by Haley O’Shaughnessy:

We’re crouched down in his front yard in Miami Beach, sweating into a pond of 40 koi fish. “Come here, OGs,” Whiteside says, touching the water. Like him, they’re strikingly oversized, a group of orange and black and white koi all longer than my forearm. His Snapchat followers (who he also talks to, several times a day) know them well. “They’re more famous than me, man,” he says, wiping water off on his worn-in brown tank top. Whiteside’s been in Miami since the Heat signed him in November 2014, but his drawl—the kind that acts as a thickening agent for vowels and turns “man” from one syllable to two—comes from Gastonia, North Carolina, his hometown.

All 40 fish have a name. Whiteside names everything: The planter in the backyard (Man of Ultimate Wisdom), the bust made of Canadian pennies in the living room. Every name has an explanation, and every explanation has deeper meaning. Which he shares with me, one by one. (The bust is Penny. Name. Sure, a penny itself is worthless, but thousands of pennies together aren’t, especially the Canadian penny, because it’s discontinued. Explanation. Isn’t that beautiful? And, Whiteside smiles, what’s more beautiful than the human body? Meaning. Deep.)

So yes, to answer my question, the fish are individuals. Together he calls them the OGs. He knows what I’m thinking, but it’s short for Old Guys. “They can live to be 140. Don’t matter how much shit they swim through,” Whiteside explains as we walk the stairs of his all-white waterfront home, “they keep swimming.”

Throwback To A Day In The Life Of Hassan Whiteside

Seven years ago, the Sacramento Kings posted a video to their Youtube page as they followed Whiteside around for a day.

From breakfast to working out at the Kings practice facility to figuring out what goes in his protein shake to taking a tour through his condo to getting a haircut to checking out a fish store for his growing aquarium – it was an all-access look.

Check out Whiteside's routine in Sacramento with this throwback video: