Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard cashes in as Blazers take it to Knicks

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Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard cashes in as Blazers take it to Knicks

It was bounce back time for the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night with the New York Knicks in town.

Portland was looking to get back on track and what better team than the Knicks, who have the worst record in the league.

After taking a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Blazers never looked back. Portland’s biggest lead on the night was 32. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 115, Knicks 87  

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s win:  

1.  Dame dialed-in 

After discussing how the Blazers did not have a sense of urgency during Sunday’s loss to the Thunder, Damian Lillard came out on fire, hitting his first four shots. With 17-first quarter points, it looked like Lillard was making a statement. Besides Lillard and Hassan Whiteside, Portland’s starting unit didn’t have an efficient shooting night for the second game in a row. But, Lillard led his team to a victory after knocking down eight of his 12 three-point attempts.  

2. Knicks feast in the paint early

Through the first two quarters, the Knicks scored 28 points in the paint to the Blazers’ 16. Midway through the second, Portland threw a 2-3 zone at New York. The Knicks didn’t know how to handle the zone. Since Portland was able to build such a large lead early on, the Blazers didn’t need to go back to the 2-3. Coach Terry Stotts also played both Whiteside and Skal Labissire on the court at the same time. It was a night of different looks for Portland.  

3. Whiteside large and in charge

Hassan Whiteside started out the third quarter with a bang, gobbling up rebounds and taking it hard to the rim. The Blazers starting center also made his presence felt on the defensive end with five blocks on the night. Whiteside finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, to go along with his 15 rebounds.  

Up Next: The Trail Blazers now head out on a two-game road trip. First up, Portland will make a stop in Denver on Thursday night. The Blazers and Nuggets will tip-off at 6:30pm.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Portland Trail Blazers release statement following Kobe Bryant's passing

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Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers release statement following Kobe Bryant's passing

The Portland Trail Blazers have released a statement on the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

The Trail Blazers tweeted out a photo of the 18-time All-Star stating, “Our prayers are with the Bryant family & the other families affected, Lakers & all who knew & loved Kobe.”

News broke Sunday that Los Angeles Legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. He is believed to be one of at least four people traveling in the private helicopter and reports suggest there are no survivors. TMZ first reported the news.

The Trail Blazers host the Indiana Pacers tonight at 6:00pm.

We will have the latest from Moda Center has the NBA and players pay their respects to the Black Mamba.  

Moses Brown transferred to Texas Legends

Moses Brown transferred to Texas Legends

Well, it happened again. 

The Portland Trail Blazers transferred two-way center Moses Brown back to the Texas Legends, the team announced Sunday. 

Two-way players are only permitted to be with an NBA team for up to 45 days while spending the rest of the season in the G League.

Brown, 20, has played in seven games for the Trail Blazers this season, averaging 1.4 points (44.4% FG, 50.0% FT) and 1.6 rebounds. In 17 games with the Legends, Brown (7-1, 245) has averaged 14.8 points (65.5% FG, 47.8% FT), 7.6 rebounds and 1.29 blocks.  

Trail Blazers and Pacers find familiar footing, must exercise patience

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Trail Blazers and Pacers find familiar footing, must exercise patience

The anticipation is growing.

Portland is eagerly awaiting Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic’s return to game action. It’s been 10 months since Nurkic sustained compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula

This week, Nurkic participated in his first practice at full speed and full contact.

He is one step closer.

Saturday after practice, Nurk’s teammates discussed how they’re very excited to have him back on the court.  

It’s the same for the Indiana Pacers.

But, Portland will luck out hosting the Pacers Sunday night.

According to reports, Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo is targeting next week to make his 2019-20 debut.

The Pacers lost Oladipo for the 2018-19 season last January 23 after suffering a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee.

Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard mentioned what it will be like for the Pacers when they get Oladipo back.

“You’re just adding star power. He’s an NBA All-Star, a dynamic player, and when you add that to equation it obviously takes their team to another level,” Lillard said after Saturday’s practice.

“I’m just happy he won’t be coming back against us,” Lillard added.

Yes, the Blazers are lucking out for sure.

But, they also know what the Pacers have been going through watching Oladipo work so hard to get back on the court after seeing firsthand what Nurk has gone through.

Oladipo and CJ McCollum have a special bond entering the league at the same time with both of them being drafted in the summer of 2013.  

As Oladipo has been rehabbing, McCollum has tried to help him through this last year.  

It’s tough. It’s a grind. I talk to Victor, I sent him some bible verses and some books while he was hurt, just try to keep his spirits up. I think it’s the same thing with Nurk. You have to continue to do things that make you happy. You have to keep your perspective and understand that it gets better. There’s going to be a time where you can’t do things, but then it’s going to be a time where it’s going to come back around full circle, and that appreciation and love for it will still be there -- it will probably grow, that’s what usually happens when it’s taken away from you. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum on Victor Oladipo   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained how the media attention ramps up once a player who has been rehabbing for months is nearing his return and coaches and teammates have to deal with the media’s questions about the injured player. 

“When a player gets closer to getting back obviously there’s more interest in it,” Stotts said. “But still that’s minimal to what the player had to endure with is rehab.”

Stotts continued, “the long-term injuries, like Oladipo, or Nurk, or Rodney Hood, even to an extent Zach Collins, it’s much more difficult on the player. We as players and coaches have to move on and prepare for the season, for the next game, but to have a long-term injury really is trying for that person because of the mental approach to rehab, not seeing an end in sight, I think that’s really difficult.”

Yes, the Blazers will just miss Oladipo’s debut, but they know that the Pacers have been able to pull together this season and still hold a winning record. Indiana is coming off a 129-118 win over the Golden State Warriors improving to 30-16 on the season.

And Lillard discussed just that.

“Their just a really solid team. They’ve got a lot of guys that contribute and do things that make them go. It’s not just like one person is out there doing everything and I think that balance is just presents a problem. They compete hard, they’ve got a great balance, they defend, they’ve got guys capable of having big nights and they’ve been steady, so I think when you’re dealing with a team like that, it’s important for you to have that same type of effort.”

CJ McCollum echoed those same sentiments.

“They’re a very good team… They defend well, and offensively they’ve got a lot of weapons.”

CJ McCollum is going to add this non-Browns player's jersey to his collection

CJ McCollum is going to add this non-Browns player's jersey to his collection

Being a sports fan is hard. 

Being a Cleveland Browns fan is even harder. 

This is Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum’s reality.

After years as bottom dwellers of the NFL, the Cleveland Browns were looking poised to have a breakout season. 

And that didn’t happen. 

No amount of Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jr., Landry Jones and Nick Chubb was going to save the Browns from themselves. 

After finishing 6-10 and losing their final three games of the season, Cleveland fired head coach Freddie Kitchens.

“It’s sad,” McCollum said on his Pull Up Podcast. “There’s a lot of loyal fans out there like myself— we’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of coaches, we’ve been through a lot of quarterbacks. It’s just frustrating. I always say I’m going to give them another year, I’m going to give them another year. I mean it, but at some point, 

Now, the revolving door has swung to Kevin Stefanski, the Vikings offensive coordinator, to try and get Cleveland over the hump. 

McCollum isn’t going to give up his fandom of the Browns anytime soon. The Canton, Ohio native probably never will, no matter the continued heartache his favorite NFL team may put him through. 

There is, however, a jersey he’s going to add to his collection who is not on the Browns. 

While CJ is picking the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, he’s not running out to buy a Patrick Mahomes jersey. 

And while his season was electric, McCollum won’t be sporting a Lamar Jackson jersey, either.

Talking with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the Pull Up Pod, CJ said the jersey he would defect from the Cleveland Browns for is Seahawks QB Russell Wilson 

“I am going to get a Russell Wilson jersey because the Seahawks are so close, the ownership is shared. I’m going to have to do it. It’s just something I’m going to have to do.”

Wilson finished this season with 4,110 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions. He added 342 yards and three more scores as a runner. 

His jersey is a top-15 seller. 

Maybe the two players can do a jersey exchange.

You can listen to the full Pull Up Podcast here

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Pacers tonight at 6:00pm

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How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Pacers tonight at 6:00pm

The Trail Blazers (19-27) host the Indiana Pacers (30-16) Sunday night in game number three of Portland’s current four-game homestand.

Good news for Trail Blazers fans: CJ McCollum (left ankle sprain) was not listed on the Blazers injury report for Sunday’s game. McCollum has missed the last three games. 

You can watch all the action between the Blazers and Pacers in action on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

3:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

5:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

5:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

6:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Pacers

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

Plus, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

Quotable: 

“It’s like old times, it was fun. Still got good chemistry. Good to see him getting up and down the court, getting hit, getting fouled, blocking shots, making the right reads, he sets some good screens… It’s good to see him out there, because I feel like I can feel the excitement from him being able to get back out there playing after so long.” -- CJ McCollum on Jusuf Nurkic returning to the practice court  

 

Trail Blazer fans are going to have to wait, but teammates have 'Nurk Fever'

Trail Blazer fans are going to have to wait, but teammates have 'Nurk Fever'

He isn’t even playing in games yet, but Jusuf Nurkic is making his mark on his teammates. He’s practicing.

And even practice is better when Nurk is around.

“It’s like old times, it was fun,” CJ McCollum said after Saturday's workout. “Still got good chemistry. Good to see him getting up and down the court, getting hit, getting fouled, blocking shots, making the right reads, he sets some good screens.

“It’s good to see him out there, because I feel like I can feel the excitement from him being able to get back out there playing after so long.

“I know the process is tedious. I haven’t been through what he's been through but It’s a lonely road. No one knows what it’s like to go through rehabbing by yourself, being by yourself and not traveling. For him to be around, it’s great.”

Obviously, Nurkic will not be playing in games anytime soon. Caution is the byword with his rehab.

“He looks great,” McCollum said. “But it’s moreso 'feel' than anything. I always tell him, take your time. No one knows when you’re ready, but you. It’s your body. No one has to rehab when you get hurt. No one has to live with what you have to live with, So make sure you’re ready mentally and when you are, you will know.

“I think he looks great, but it’s moreso about him feeling like he’s ready.”

More than the personality, the Trail Blazers play a different game when he’s on the court.

“Well, he looked good,” Damian Lillard said. “He’s looked really good, so it’s definitely encouraging. 

“I’m really excited. The playmaking ability, the amount of things we can do with his skillset, to be less predictable and harder to deal with, is definitely exciting to know he’s getting closer.”

“There’s a difference with him because he’s a unique player,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “His passing is the first thing that stands out. We did a lot of three-on-three, emphasizing some passing and dribble hand-offs and things like that, but his style of play, we miss that, because he is a unique player.”

Is he as fun to play with as he is to watch?

“Absolutely,” McCollum said. “He really and truly enjoys the game. He plays with energy. He’s Infectious with his demeanor and with the way he carries himself. He doesn’t have a false bravado about him, but he celebrates. When he blocks a shot he lets you know -- similar to Whiteside. Whiteside plays with that, too.

“It's something that the fans miss. Something they thrive off of and I’m sure they will be excited when that time comes."

But his teammates enjoy him even when he’s not playing.

“His swag is unbelievable,” McCollum said. “Hollywood. I’ve been calling him Hollywood for a long time. He’s got that European swag. The flow is there. The comb-over he had with the Pat Riley look a while ago with the slicked-back hair.

“You have to be confident in yourself in this league. If you don’t believe in yourself, this league will swallow you whole.”

“There’s no question his personality is a part of the team,” Stotts said. “But you can tell his personality on the bench, with his attire. Everybody enjoys him, whether he is playing or not. Everybody enjoys his personality.”

Nurk Fever is back. But it’s still in quarantine.

CJ McCollum eyeing Sunday return, had a moment of reflection this week

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CJ McCollum eyeing Sunday return, had a moment of reflection this week

Update (4:23pm): CJ McCollum is NOT listed on the Trail Blazers injury report heading into Sunday's game vs. Pacers

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As the Trail Blazers worked on their offensive sets and went over what the Pacers run offensively during Saturday’s practice, shooting guard CJ McCollum made his return to the practice court.

McCollum has missed the last three games with a left ankle sprain. He was happy to get back on the court with his teammates Saturday.

“I felt pretty good. It was good to get back out there, get hit by some screens, and move around a little bit. I’m glad we were able to get a practice in and get some stuff done,” McCollum said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts emphasized that they won’t make a decision on McCollum’s availability against the Pacers until game day.

“He looked good. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We’re hopeful that he’ll play, but that won’t be decided until tomorrow,” Stotts said. 

McCollum added, “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow -- get in my workout in the morning like I normally do and see how I feel. If I feel how I feel now -- [I'll] probably." 

Friday marked one week since McCollum rolled his left ankle on a lay-up attempt against the Dallas Mavericks early in the second quarter.

The Blazers are currently 19-27 on the season, which puts them in 11th place in the Western Conference standings. Portland is 18-24 with McCollum in the lineup.

At this point in the season, the seven-year shooting guard realizes that his ankle most likely won't be back to 100 percent.

“[It’s] as good as it’s going to be,” McCollum said. “I feel good. I’m moving well. I can cut now. Last game I did some testing and it just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t able to do some of the things I wanted to do, chasing, cutting on it. So, I’ll do some more testing on it tomorrow, but if I feel how I feel now, and I’m pain free on most of my movements like I am now, I like my chances.”

This season, McCollum is averaging 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three.

McCollum says he has been going through treatment of “a lot of compression, no ice,” while his rehab has consisted of balance and resistance work, especially early on. McCollum added he has also been doing a lot of stretches and going through mobility work.

Now, as he nears closer to his return, McCollum is testing “tolerance stuff,” which includes lunges, squats, and getting back in the weight room.

“It’s been a little process. I always say rehab is harder than playing in a game because it’s just so time consuming and tedious work, working on stuff that you don’t normally work on, some of those little muscles and stuff around the body. I’m glad the process is almost over.”

But, McCollum hasn’t just been rehabbing over the past week he always has been reflecting.

Something he says he doesn’t do often.  

The 28 year-old posted to his Instagram Friday to share how he is keeping life in perspective.  

McCollum wrote, “I don’t reflect much but perspective is everything. Seven years ago, I was wearing this book bag in a boot. Getting Starbucks for LA, Mo-Gotti and wings for D Wright. I still remember the DNPs, I still remember the stress and doubt from rehab among other things, I still remember the struggle. Thank the lord that struggle is over. Happy Friday. Keep your perspective as you strive to become a better version of you.”

After Saturday's practice, McCollum admitted that it was his older brother Errick who sparked the deep thoughts.

I just kind of live in the moment and set goals and continue to try and achieve them, but sometimes it’s good to reflect.  My brother and I had a good talk. He’s 32 now. He’s birthday was on the 22nd and he’s married. He found out they're having a boy. So, we just had some time to reflect, talk about somethings. When you get hurt, you have time to sit back and really evaluate your situation and your previous circumstances and time. It was just a moment where I was just sitting there, looking out the window, like ‘I live a good life’ and I need to keep that perspective. – Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said after Saturday’s practice

With McCollum reflecting on his life in the NBA, there’s no doubt that Rip City has been reflecting on the severity of McCollum’s ankle and how it could’ve been much worse.

This has been a season of serious injuries for the Blazers. 

And, that in itself can force anyone to sit back and reflect.

With the Blazers hosting the Pacers Sunday night, hopefully it's a night to reflect on McCollum’s return.

The transformation of Damian Lillard to Dame D.O.L.L.A.

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The transformation of Damian Lillard to Dame D.O.L.L.A.

Damian Lillard is having a record setting week as the Trail Blazers floor general. He’s averaging 44 points in his last four games.

But, let’s pause for a moment on his basketball game and appreciate his rap game.

Lillard has released Chapter Six of the Adidas Hoops documentary series on YouTube, which focuses on himself as a rap artist.

The Trail Blazers All-Star starting releasing the seven-part series of The Damian Lillard Story back on December 12th with Chapter One titled, ‘Dame Time’ which is centered around Lillard’s clutch mindset.   

Fast Forward to Chapter Six and fans get an inside look of how a young Lillard was spitting bars back in his high school days of AAU basketball. 

Rapping was a way for Lillard’s AAU team to come together. It was a way to bring teammates closer.

Lillard discussed the difference between his game on the court and his rap game.  

The way I play is more like a silent assassin. Like I come to play, I come to take people out, but I don’t say a whole lot. I don’t talk trash and I’m just trying to like, take the life out of whoever I’m playing against - like at every opportunity I get. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard  

But, when Lillard becomes Dame D.O.L.L.A. and steps in the recording studio, things change.

“As an artist I’m like, ‘yeah, I am quiet on the court, and I don’t talk trash, and I don’t try to pretend like I’m just the toughest person in the world,’ but then when I’m rapping I’m like – yeah, I’m really from the neighborhood. I really grew up around people that’s really out here living a hard life.”  

Lillard says he allows his music to show that there is more to him than just basketball.    

WATCH the entire episode of Chapter Six here:

Influx of new officials has helped make NBA officiating even more inconsistent

Influx of new officials has helped make NBA officiating even more inconsistent

When Damian Lillard went public with his comments about officiating, and specifically, the remarks from third-year referee Ray Acosta toward him, after Thursday night’s loss to Dallas in Moda Center, it was a bit uncharacteristic.

Lillard usually does most of his complaining about calls on the court to the officials themselves, rather than to the media. Neither course is likely to be effective, however.

But I would say this in his defense, officiating in the NBA this season is at a low point and there are reasons why.

No. 1 is that due to injuries and retirements, the league is lacking experienced referees. There has been a big influx of new officials over the last few seasons. I cannot recall a time when I’ve seen so many names on the list of game officials that I’d never heard before.

I’ve talked to a few former NBA officials and they all tell the same story -- young officials are being put in positions that they aren’t able to handle, because they just don’t have enough experience. Even the crew chiefs are often unprepared for the games they are assigned.

An attempt to reach the NBA Referees Association for comment Friday morning got no immediate response.

This is one of the toughest jobs in sports and learning the craft takes time. It isn’t just knowing what to call, it’s knowing what not to call.

And then there is the whole problem of handling emotional situations on the court with players and coaches.

It’s tougher these days than it used to be, too, because it’s obvious referees’ powers to control the combatants have been taken away. I’m seeing coaches and players get away with behavior on the court that surely would have brought ejection and/or suspension a few years ago. Technical fouls are becoming rare these days.

Coaches routinely wander 5-10 feet onto the court during live-ball situations to complain about calls or non-calls and players seem to whine about every call.

With no penalty in most cases.

I think that comes from the league office, which has gone soft on the players and coaches. But my goodness, the officials of yesteryear could not have functioned in an environment like the one today.

Compound the difficulty of officiating in the NBA with the pressure of calling the game differently from player to player, and you have an impossible job.

Frankly, LeBron James and James Harden and other perceived superstars play under a different set of rules than the average player. Rookies -- unless they are anionted as future saviors of the league, such as Zion Williamson -- get NO calls. But watch, Williamson will soon get away with traveling on offense and assault and battery on defense before the whistle blows, just because of who he is.

He is being perceived as the next Lebron so you aren’t going to see him get tagged with the kind of phantom calls that you might see whistled on the likes of Nassir Little.

The game is called differently in the final quarter than it is earlier (try to get a defensive three-second call in the final minutes of a tight game!) and called differently in the playoffs than in the regular season. Then there is the old cliche of referees not wanting to decide a game in the waning moments by making a call -- when, in fact, they decide games by NOT making calls.

How in the world are inexperienced officials supposed to know how to do their job amid all the inconsistency?

Frankly, they don’t.