It's still too early to call tonight's game a must win for the Trail Blazers

It's still too early to call tonight's game a must win for the Trail Blazers

DALLAS -- With the Trail Blazers, carrying a two-game losing streak and fighting for a playoff spot with at least four other teams, heading out for a rematch with the Dallas Mavericks tonight it would be easy to look at this game and call it a must win. A game Portland cannot afford to lose.

Well, given the state of the other teams fighting for that No. 8 playoff berth in the Western Conference, I don't think that's the case. There are still 30 Portland games left and it doesn't appear any team is going to jump out and take charge of this race. It's very likely going to come down to the final week of the season.

Now don't get me wrong, the Trail Blazers need every win they can get -- and every loss they can deliver to the teams they're competing against. But I'm not going to count them out of the playoffs after their 53rd game of the season.

The Mavericks, who hung a 108-104 defeat on Portland in Moda Center Friday, come into tonight's game after a loss last night in Denver, which jumped out to a 22-point halftime lead and cruised to an easy win behind Will Barton's 31 points. The Nuggets took the game inside against Dallas and got 50 points in the paint and held the Mavs to 30 percent shooting from three-point range -- a big key to beating Dallas, which is thriving on three-point shots. Yogi Ferrell, who tortured the Trail Blazers last Friday with 32 points, had only 15 vs. Denver.

With the win, Denver stayed two games ahead of Portland in the loss column. Dallas dropped a game behind the Trail Blazers. Sacramento and New Orleans are also within striking distance but none of these teams seems poised to make a big-time run. They are all riding the same roller coaster the Trail Blazers have been on all season.

But the Trail Blazer schedule gets easier down the stretch of the season, which could be a key to this whole thing.

And, of course, Portland needs to prove it can translate solid play into victories. The Trail Blazers did a reasonable job of controlling Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon but couldn't close the deal in the fourth quarter. That's been a problem this season.

Make no mistake -- tonight is a big game for Portland. There's a need to keep Dallas from capturing the season series, which stands right now with the Mavericks holding a 2-1 edge. But the road team has won all three games so far.

The Trail Blazers need this game -- at this point they need every game. They have little margin for error. But it's still too early to call it a must win -- or even to count them out of the playoffs if they lose.

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Melo's first game + Channing channels the Grinch

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Melo's first game + Channing channels the Grinch

Carmelo Anthony officially made his debut for the Trail Blazers. And while he didn't shoot the best from the field, Melo was able to score 10 points while knowing minimal plays. Dan and Channing break down what they saw. 

Plus, is there cause for concern with Damian Lillard's back spasms? 

And while this podcast was recorded before the Pau Gasol news, we still wanted to give you Channing's take on Pau focusing on his health:

I actually think this is really good. I think right now they have to take a step back as an organization and reassess what they have and what they need to get, and what they can get rid of. For me it’s really what’s best for Pau Gasol as a player and making sure that his body gets right.

As far as the organization, they need bodies. Guys are getting banged up, they’re beat up. And looking at it from that point of view, they need to get bigger guys that can play. They don’t have time to wait on somebody that may or may not come back. And especially at his age, he’s basically doing the same thing. He’s there. He’s on the bench, he’s talking to the guys, he’s coaching. So, having him around is going to be really beneficial to the young guys.

Listen to the podcast here:

Pow! The Pau Gasol Era in Portland ended before it even started

Pow! The Pau Gasol Era in Portland ended before it even started

One thing I will always remember about Pau Gasol is that his first name rhymes with Pow!

As in, a punch in the gut. The Pau Gasol Era in Portland ended before it started. And this was news this team just didn’t really need to hear at this time.

But the Trail Blazers were astute enough to have a prior-injury clause in his contract that allowed them to waive him without regard to future salary obligations if he missed 15 games, which came Tuesday night. With Portland’s salary cap situation, that could prove to be a big savings.

But it’s a disappointment. I don’t think there are many big men as fun to watch as he was. He could shoot threes, score at the low block, pass, even defend. A smart, complete player, headed to the Hall of Fame.

Pow!

And boy, did this team need him. Not only his talent -- no matter how much it was going to be affected by injury or age – his experience and his wisdom. Even for just a few minutes a game.

Now, there’s not quite as much to look forward to this season. Jusuf Nurkic will be back at some point, we think. We hope. Perhaps some of those expiring contracts will be moved. The current roster should get healthier.

But there will be no Pau Gasol. He just couldn’t make it back.

Pow!

Social media reacts to Pau Gasol: Best wishes in your rehabilitation, Pau!

Social media reacts to Pau Gasol: Best wishes in your rehabilitation, Pau!

To one of the most beloved NBA players of all time, best wishes in your rehabilitation, Pau Gasol.

After undergoing foot surgery last May, Gasol was signed by the Portland Trail Blazers with both parties not knowing exactly what his timetable for return might be.

Unfortunately, Gasol did not suit up for a single game with the Blazers this season. Now, he will focus all his time and energy on his rehabilitation.

There is a strong possibility that Gasol remains with the Portland Trail Blazers organization in a more coaching role, but said role has not be defined. 

“I am very grateful and flattered by their desire to find ways to continue to work together and I look forward to a good year with this great organization,” said Gasol on his latest Instagram post.

Here’s how the sports world reacted to the news:

 

 

Pau Gasol announces he will no longer be a Portland Trail Blazer

Pau Gasol announces he will no longer be a Portland Trail Blazer

Pau Gasol announced on his Instagram that he will no longer be a Portland Trail Blazer. The Blazers are waiving Gasol so the 39-year-old can now focus solely on his rehabilitation.

He has been rehabbing his left foot since having surgery to repair a stress fracture last May.

But according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski there’s a chance Gasol will not be leaving the Blazers organization.

Portland and the 2-time NBA champion are working on possible details for a coaching position with the Blazers.

Gasol was headed into his 19th season as an NBA player. He’s been in six All-Star games and won two championships. There is no question, he’ll be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Derrick Rose on Carmelo Anthony returning to the court: “He knows where he has to fit in”

Derrick Rose on Carmelo Anthony returning to the court: “He knows where he has to fit in”

To say Derrick Rose has been through a lot in his 12-year career would be an understatement.

With the injuries and experience, D-Rose, who is averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists with the Pistons this season, obviously knows what it takes to have a long career in the league.  

On the latest edition of NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk podcast, the former NBA MVP joins Will Perdue to discuss a variety of topics including his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony returning to the court as a Portland Trail Blazer.

In the very candid conversation, the 31-year-old speaks openly about how he has no doubt Melo will understand his role in Portland, and he knows how grateful Anthony must feel to have a shot to play basketball once more.

[RELATED]: A night that almost wasn’t for newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony

But does D-Rose have any advice for the newest Trail Blazer?

No, because Rose doesn’t believe that’s necessary.

"I think I don't need to give Melo no advice, he's an OG. He understands the league, he understands the game, he's an intelligent guy. He knows where he has to fit in. I don't think he's trying to steal no shine on that team. I know he probably feels very grateful to be back and I think anybody in that position is very grateful and you feel fortunate…. It's something we've been doing our whole lives is fighting and clawing to get where we're at and he's from Baltimore so he'll be able to figure it out easy."

Rose and Melo were teammates in New York during the 2016-2017 season, but of course, their friendship goes deeper than that.
In Anthony’s debut for Portland, he finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with four rebounds and one block in the Blazers losing effort to the Pelicans on Tuesday night.

[RELATED]: What's wrong with the Trail Blazers? Here are a couple of answers

As the Blazers and Anthony continue to figure each other out, be sure to check in at NBC Sports Northwest on follow us on social for the latest news and updates.

You can listen to the full Talkin’ Bulls podcast with Derrick Rose right here:

What's wrong with the Trail Blazers? Here are a couple of answers

What's wrong with the Trail Blazers? Here are a couple of answers

The question being asked today – and it’s a legitimate one – is “What the heck is going on with the Portland Trail Blazers?” And then… “Are they as bad as they look?”

I will attempt to answer the first question while answering with an affirmative “No” to the second question.

First, let’s remind you of the obvious: three of Portland’s top four best bigs are injured. The injury to Zach Collins was a critical blow because Pau Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic were – and still are – on the injured list. The Blazers do not have the inside game, at either end of the court, that they expected to have at some point this season.

Let's be real, Skal Labissiere and Nassir Litttle, critical rotation players right now, were not expected to have those roles at the start of the season.

Plus, Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Hassan Whiteside and Rodney Hood have all been playing in spite of nagging injuries. After many games the Portland locker room features enough ice to fill one of those ice-bag coolers at your neighborhood convenience store.

But the other mitigating factor has been the schedule, which has been brutal. After 15 games, the Trail Blazers have played twice as many road games as home games and no other team in the league has had 10 road games already. Only two other teams have played five more road games than home games. And Portland has already played two back-to-backs.

And it isn’t over yet. Most people already know that 13 of the team’s first 18 games are on the road.

But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Even with all the injuries and the worst schedule in the league, the Trail Blazers sit just three games out of the playoffs. And ahead of them, in the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference, are Phoenix and Minnesota – which I would categorize as “catchable.”

Are there things that need to be fixed? Of course. For one thing, people who have shot the ball well through their careers need to do that again. I believe there must be a little more discipline and ball movement on offense and better attention to halfcourt and transition defense. But those things have a way of working out with time – especially when the team gets some home games and more chances to practice.

It’s going to get better. And I think it’s reasonable to expect that.

A night that almost wasn’t for newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony

A night that almost wasn’t for newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony

Waiting for a turn, and then finally leaning in, anticipating the jump ahead.

That is how 10-time Al-Star, the 2013 NBA scoring champ, and the newest Portland Trail Blazers Carmelo Anthony is feeling about his latest opportunity.

But that’s also a description of a young elementary student waiting in line for his or her turn at double-dutch.

Which is another experience Melo has endured.

Over the last 375 days, Anthony has been waiting for a phone call that he thought may never happen.

He has been waiting in line to get back on the court.

Tuesday night he did just that. Melo finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with four rebounds and one block in the Blazers losing effort to the Pelicans.

But when the game was over and he stood in front of a large media scrum once more, there was pure joy and emotion on his face.

Double-dutch was something Melo experienced over the past year, but he wasn’t enjoying it.  

“It’s just been a rollercoaster ride, Anthony said after Tuesday’s game. “Like double-dutch almost – ‘we’ve got this team, and now we don’t got this team, and this team’s interested now’… There was one point I told my agent, just let me know when it’s first and goal when it’s time to go, don’t call me when it’s first and twenty, I don’t want to hear that,” Melo said.

The Trail Blazers offering Anthony a spot on their roster was the ‘first and goal’ that he had been waiting for and had nearly given up on.

“I think I came to a point where I was willing to accept it either way. If this was going to be it, I was going to accept, and I had to get myself mentally prepared for that, and I did to be honest with you,” Anthony said.

Melo continued, “I stayed with it… there was times that… I wanted to say just ‘forget it,’ move on in my life, spend more time with my family. I started getting more comfortable with that.”

Melo’s lowest point over the last year was a time where he thought he “was going to let go of the love of his life.”

One simple sentence made all the difference for Melo: “I just stayed with it.” 

Anthony last played in the league for the Rockets before being cut by Houston. It was on November 8th of last year when he played in his final game.

But yet, it wasn’t his final goodbye.   

When Melo got the call from the Blazers, he said Portland was very transparent with him, and they were up-front about his starting role and what they were looking from him from the get-go.

“Who knows. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen this year.  Anthony said.

After not playing for an entire year and searching for a team to give him another shot, Anthony now has a new perspective on his life, especially his basketball life.

“I come into this game with a totally different mindset, a totally different motivation,” Anthony said. “The way that I see just the game, the way that I see not just the game of basketball, just overall the way that I see it, the way that I approach it, it’s totally different.”

“Mentally, emotionally, spiritually… I’m able to see things clearly…so I can just go out there, and just play basketball now.”

What’s clear is this:  Portland expects Melo to bring them more offense and, in turn, help alleviate some of the pressure on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

He’s waited a long time for his turn in line. Now the whole basketball world is waiting to see how he jumps in.

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers loss to the Pelicans

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers loss to the Pelicans

The Blazers made a stop in NOLA to introduce their newest addition, future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony. Anthony hadn’t played in an NBA game since November 8, 2018 and the entire basketball world was ready to welcome him back to the court.

He wasted little time getting his first bucket and finished the night with 10 points, four rebounds and a block.

Unfortunately for the Blazers, Anthony’s debut was spoiled by the Pelicans. Portland was without Damian Lillard who was sitting out due to back spasms, and playing on the second night of a back-to-back caught up with them.

Portland had a slim one-point lead at halftime, but their legs went out from there. The Pelicans outscored the Blazers 35-25 in the third quarter and the Blazers simply ran out of gas.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Pelicans 115 – Blazers 104

QUOTABLES:

Rodney Hood on playing with Carmelo Anthony:

These are guys that I watched when I was a little kid, eleven o'clock at night, staying up and watching them play. I watched them on YouTube... I used to be in class watching his post-ups and how he played. It's just amazing to be out on the court with him.

Rodney Hood on what he saw from Anthony:

He got to his sweet spots. I felt like he hit it a few times when he was in the lane... we're going to continue to milk those mismatches and continue to lean on him for post scoring.

CJ McCollum on Anthony joining the team:

You have to be able to adjust on the fly. Like you said, he hasn't practiced with us. He walked through some plays by himself with the coaching staff this morning. He's trying to memorize five plays. We have 100 plays... it's a lot in the middle of a season. 

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Carmelo Anthony's Trail Blazers debut: Hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, and so much more

Carmelo Anthony's Trail Blazers debut: Hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, and so much more

NEW ORLEANS –Tuesday night had a different vibe in the air, even before future NBA Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony stepped foot in the arena.

Anthony wasn’t just making his debut for the Portland Trail Blazers, he was returning to the life he has always known. He was returning to the life he has always loved.

The excitement that exuded from him was also felt from peers, Pelicans fans, and those who work in and around the league.

It was a night of hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, getting acquainted with each other, and so much more for a player who hasn’t played in the league since November 8 of last year.

And most importantly for Anthony, he felt great.

“It felt great to be back into the flow of the game, be back on the court, be back to where I think I belong at, just be out there with the guys again, more so the routine – the team bus, team lunch… That’s the routine that I’ve been used to for 17 years now… As far as the game goes, it felt great to get back out there,” Anthony said postgame.

Portland dropped its 10th game of the season after the Pelicans came up with a big third quarter to take a 115-104 victory.

Anthony started alongside backup point guard Anfernee Simons in place of an injured Damian Lillard, who was out due to back spasms.

It didn’t take long for Melo to get on the scoreboard Tuesday.

At the 10:50 mark in the first quarter, he drained his first three-point attempt.

The Blazers hung around with the Pelicans even though they were working through adding a player, who has yet to practice with them.

Not only has Melo not be given the chance to run up and down on the practice court with the Blazers, but he feels he hasn’t been able to fully digest this new chapter in his life.

Instead, it's go-time for Melo.

“Going from just getting that phone call to really solidifying that and making it happen, and to coming here and playing my first game, not really having a chance to kind of take it all in and think about it, and reflect on it, it’s – you gotta go, there’s no time for that,” Anthony added.

Clearly, Anthony has been playing in several pickup games and his workouts have not included NBA referees officiating his game. In his first game back, it was obvious Anthony is going to have to get used to having fouls called against him again.

He admitted the game has changed in his time away from the court. "Within a year the game has changed. The physicality of the game has changed, the way that they call the game, the way that the game is played changed.”

The 35-year-old finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with his four rebounds, one block and five personal fouls.

Trail Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood believes Melo’s scoring output could’ve easily doubled if he had some calls go his way.

“It could easily turned to a 20-point night for him, if got a couple of those calls, get to the free throw line, and stuff like that, but he was real aggressive, real patient… He looks good, obviously he hasn’t played in awhile, and as he gets more acclimated he’ll get better and better,” Hood said postgame.

Not only did Anthony have zero practices with the Blazers under his belt, he also didn’t even get to run through shootaround with the team because the Blazers were coming off a game in Houston on Monday night.

Inserting a new player fifteen games into the season obviously presents its challenges.   

For Hood, it was all about feeling each other out.

“Sometimes it can be difficult, but you just feel it out. We turned the ball over a lot during that first few minutes, just trying to feel each other out, which it was expected, get some of the rust off. He’s going to be an integral part of our offense, so we’ve gotta continue to use him, get acclimated with him. Tonight was a great practice even though it was a game,” Hood said.

The Blazers and Melo will now try to get acclimated a little more and get set for Thursday’s tough test against the Bucks.