It's time for Trail Blazers to find a consistent rotation

It's time for Trail Blazers to find a consistent rotation

MEMPHIS – What are we to make of the Trail Blazers’ recent misadventures? I will attempt to address that as best I can.

Without the help of the team, which always seems to think everything is just fine.

The Trail Blazers followed a familiar script Wednesday night, jumping to a big lead, then squandering it and then coming back to make it a game.

Only to implode in the final minutes and lose 92-83.

But let’s take a dive into the bigger picture. There are obvious issues having to do with lineups, substitutions and why things are going wrong late in games.

First, it’s getting more difficult by the day to figure out this team’s starting lineup and bench. Coach Terry Stotts has always been a bit quirky with that stuff but this season it’s been more than that.

Maurice Harkless was given a precautionary night off to rest and in his place as a starter came Jake Layman. Which is the way this team opened the season, rather successfully, I might add.

But very often a player will reach the starting lineup for a game or two and then not play AT ALL in a following game. Layman did that for quite a spell. Seth Curry did once, too.

The bench was outscored again, this time 38-15 but it’s important to point out, the bench is different from what it was earlier in the season. Curry, a staple earlier who played down the stretch of Tuesday’s game, did not play at all Wednesday.

I’m not sure what you say to a player when you do that to him, but it certainly doesn’t breed confidence or consistency.

Nik Stauskas usually gets a few minutes here and there and very few three-point shots – which is his standout attribute.

Portland, in fact, ran a play for Stauskas to shoot a three to open the fourth quarter (which he made) but he finished the game with just two three-point attempts.

And seriously, this guy is a home-run hitter, not a bunter. I’m not clear why – on a team struggling to find three-point shooters – he isn’t getting more of them.

Stotts, speaking of three-point shooters, had Meyers Leonard up in the second half at the scorer’s table to go in the game but then pulled him back and inserted Caleb Swanigan – who had played only 106 minutes all season.

Stotts, at that point, appeared frustrated and just about at wit’s end.

In the final four minutes of the game, Portland stuck almost exclusively with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum going one-on-one and drawing a crowd when they did.

I understand they are the go-to players and have no problem with them taking all the big shots but I can tell you it’s much more efficient to move the ball around and move bodies before getting it to them – complicating the chances of a double-team. And too, wide-open shots for other players are often better than contested shots for good players.

Stotts was asked after the game if enough of his players touched the ball on offense the last two games:

“Two different games,” he said. “You know, with Houston, a lot of switching, which leads to a lot of one-on-ones. I think Dame and CJ are our two best options. That being said, I think we run a lot of sets where Nurk touches it, CJ and Dame, Evan, so… I don’t know. The answer to your question is yes.”

I would say late in the game Wednesday that wasn’t the case. Nurkic got a shot off an inbounds play and when Lillard was trapped in a corner but mostly it was the Dame and CJ Show against most of the Memphis defenders.

And that didn’t work.

Players do not normally play well when used in inconsistent patterns. Consistent minutes maximize consistent play. It’s why most coaches set up a playing rotation that sticks with players through good and bad and allows them to become comfortable in their role – and not looking over their shoulder at the bench after their first missed shot.

I do not think the Trail Blazers have found that rotation yet. But somehow, they better.

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

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We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

The original participants of the 2020 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest included: Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings; Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks; Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls; Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets; Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards; Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets; Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat; and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

But, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns replaced Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, who was forced to withdraw from the Three-Point Contest due to a right groin injury.  

It’s really unfortunate that Logo Lillard wasn’t participating, especially this year because of the new format.

The NBA put a new twist on things adding two new shots from 6 feet behind the 3-point line. The "Dew" green balls worth three points each.

The two rounds had 27 shots instead of 25 that took 70 seconds instead of 60.

The additional shots from the wing were known as the "MTN DEW zone".

The new shots from deeper range would have most likely helped give Lillard an edge, all of Rip City knows that.

In Lillard’s last 10 games, he is averaging an impressive 47.2 percent from behind the arc. 

But, Booker did Lillard proud with the ‘Dew’ green ball. Booker was the fourth participant to shoot in the first round and he was the first player to hit both of the ‘Dew’ deep three-balls. He put up 27 in the first round and 26 in the second round.

Booker, along with Hield and Bertans, were the three to move on and face off in the Final Round.

And boy, the Final Round did not disappoint.

It came down the final Money Ball.

Here are the results of the Second and Final Round:

Bertans: 22 points

Booker: 26 points

Hield: 27 points

This is the first time the Hield has taken home the 3-point hardware.

Now, here's to hoping they bring back the ‘deep’ three-ball for  next year’s competition, and Lillard will be a participant. 

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Rip City has been anticipating this performance since it was announced last week that Damain Lillard would be performing on the music stage during NBA All-Star Weekend. 

Chicago’s Native rapper Common introduced DAME D.O.L.L.A.

“I’m proud to present not only an NBA All-Star, but this is an artist… Show some love to my guy, DAME D.O.L.L.A.,” Common yelled proudly into the microphone.  

DAME D.O.L.L.A performed ‘Money Ball’ featuring Jeremih followed by, ‘Run it up’ featuring Lil Wayne as Lillard became the first NBA player to perform on the NBA Saturday Night musical stage.

'Money Ball' can be found on Dame's latest album "Big D.O.L.L.A," while 'Run It Up' is on "Confirmed."

Lil Wayne didn’t make his way to the stage until midway through ‘Run it Up.’ Between Lillard and Lil Wayne’s presence on the stage, it looked like the performance brought the house down at the United Center.

Lillard also paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a ‘Mamaba Forever’ jacket on stage.

After the show, Lillard took to the Trail Blazers Twitter account to share his thoughts on being on the big stage in Chicago, but not the typical big stage he is used to performing on during All-Star weekend.

All-Star Saturday-- it was a blast. It was a great time. I hope everybody enjoyed the show. I felt great out there and it was a great time. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on his Dame D.O.L.L.A. performance

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Despite not being able to participate in the 2020 All-Star festivities, there was still cause to celebrate in Chicago.

That's because Damian Lillard popped the question over the weekend!

The Trail Blazers five-time All-Star asked his longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson at a private party filled with family and friends. 

The two have been dating since their college days at Weber State.

Lillard’s mom, Gina Johnson, shared videos on her Instagram of what looks like a star-studded engagement party.

From the IG videos it was fun to see a few of Lillard’s former teammates are in attendance. Evan Turner and Tim Frazier are in on the celebration, while Lillard’s close friend and mentor, former Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool is there as well. Chicago rapper Common was also in attendance.

And, can you say Relationship Goals?

Kay’La proudly showed off her new cushion cut diamond in the IG videos.

CJ McCollum, who proposed to his longtime girlfriend in September 2018, has joked with Lillard over the year, asking him when he was going to pop the question and Lillard would always just smile.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was a great option.

The happy couple welcomed Dame Jr. on March 29, 2018 and ever since then they have been melting Rip City’s heart with their Instagram posts.

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Happy Valentine’s Day ppl. ❤️

A post shared by Damian Lillard (@damianlillard) on

Dame Jr. has even made his way to Blazer games and warmed up during pregame.

Can you imagine Dame Jr. in a little tuxedo for the wedding? Those pictures will undoubtedly be adorable.

From everyone at NBCSNW congrats on your engagement, Dame and Kay’La! 

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Friday’s Rising Stars game started out with plenty of fastbreak dunks and some crazy three-point attempts as the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend is officially underway.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Pacers big man Myles Turner joined TNT’s Brian Anderson to call the game.

During the first quarter, Mitchell shared his thoughts on if he likes the new addition of the Coaches Challenge.

In explaining why he isn’t completely on board with the new addition to the game, he made sure to add that there was plenty of talk about during their controversial game against the Trail Blazers, which was exactly one week ago today.

Oh yes, Blazer fans remember.

With under 14 seconds to go and a chance to tie the game, Damian Lillard went hard to the rim.

It was clearly a goaltend on Rudy Gobert, but there was no call.

Lillard was furious, asking for a replay, but with no call on the court, no review could take place.  

And thus, Mitchell explained just that during the TNT Rising Stars broadcast.

I’m 50-50 on it. I’m not going to lie to you. I think the biggest thing with the Challenge is, I think the rule -- there’s more you can add to the rule. We had a game against Portland that got a lot of attention just because the whistle may not have been [blown]... I think you should still be able to challenge that. I think that’s something that the league may need to take a look at. -- Donovan Mitchell on Coaches Challenges

“It’s a tough job for the refs,” Mitchell added.

Of course, nothing can help change the results of that Blazers-Jazz game from last Friday; but hey, Rip City – now you know at least Mitchell is advocating for a change on national television. 

We have Allen Iverson to thank for the Damian Lillard and Pusha T collab

We have Allen Iverson to thank for the Damian Lillard and Pusha T collab

The NBA All-Star events are underway in Chicago.

Friday afternoon, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard made an Adidas Basketball appearance while in Chi-Town for the release of the latest colorway of his Dame 6 signature shoe.

Despite not participating in Sunday’s All-Star game or Saturday’s 3-point contest due to suffering a right groin strain, Lillard is still making the most of the weekend.

The 29-year-old teamed up with longtime rapper Pusha T for this latest Adidas Dame colorway.

Lillard, Pusha-T and Pharrell were all part of the promotional launch.

 

With the release date coinciding with NBA All-Star Weekend, Lillard met with fans to autograph his new sneaks at Friday’s Adidas event.

To promote the new show Adidas put together a short music video with Pusha T rapping about Lillard featuring Pharrell.

There are plenty of lyrics that will put a smile on Trail Blazers fans faces.  

“Because he will hit the game winner. Bye-bye, it was nice to know ya.”

“My handles can’t be trusted.”

“No playin' kicks, in my Dame 6, I showed them all what they wasn't.”

At Friday’s event in Chicago, Pusha T explained how the collab all began.

It was a commercial that I saw years ago with Allen Iverson… It was Allen Iverson and Jadakiss and I was like, ‘man, I want to redo that, but I want to do it with Dame. -- Pusha T on the newest Dame 6 collaboration  

If you’re looking to go down memory lane, here’s the IA and Jadakiss commercial:

The Lillard collabs continue this weekend in Chicago.

The five-time All-Star will still perform as scheduled during All-Star Saturday night despite his strained groin.

Dame D.O.L.L.A will be joined on stage by Lil Wayne and Jeremih.  

Keeps those star-studded collaborations coming. 

Dame D.O.L.L.A. will perform with Lil Wayne and Jeremih

Dame D.O.L.L.A. will perform with Lil Wayne and Jeremih

The show must go on. 

After Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports confirmed yesterday that Damian Lillard will still perform as scheduled during All-Star Saturday night despite his strained groin, now we know who will be joining him: Lil Wayne and Jeremih. 

Dame D.O.L.L.A. and Lil Wayne have collaborated on multiple tracks in the past including one per album: "Loyal to the Soil" on The Letter O, "Run It Up" on Confirmed, and "Sorry" on Big D.O.L.L.A

Lillard's latest album, Big D.O.L.L.A.  also had a track that featured Jeremih: "Money Ball".

The musical act will, unfortunately, be Lillard's only performance of the weekend after he strained his groin at the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday evening, causing him to drop out of the three-point contest and All-Star game.

Hopefully, we get our dream of a Shaq and Dame D.O.L.L.A. rap battle too.

[RELATED: Make Damian Lillard vs. Shaq rap battle during All-Star Weekend happen] 

It won't be his first time performing live since Dame D.O.L.L.A. put on a concert in 2016 for Rip City. 

You can watch the music video for "Money Ball" here to get a taste of what you'll see on Saturday.

We got shooters! The Schonz dishes up best pick up lines for Valentine's Day

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@TrailBlazers

We got shooters! The Schonz dishes up best pick up lines for Valentine's Day

Shooters always shoot: The Schonz knows what's up. 

If you’re feeling just a little bit lonely on Valentine’s Day, legendary Trail Blazers announcer Bill Schonely has cooked up some of the sweetest Valentine’s Day pick-up lines to make your Feb. 14 a slam dunk!

Here are a few of our favorites:

- “Hello, I’m a thief. I’m ready to steal your heart.”

- “Are you a Beaver? ‘cos DAMMMM.”

- “Do you like raisins, how would you like a date?"

- “Life without you is like a broken pencil…pointless”

- “You’ve got to make your free throws.”

And of course Valentine's Day wouldn't be complete without the perfect pick-up line from us to you: "We've fallen for you and we can't get up."

Catch the brilliant video from our friends at the Trail Blazers below and Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at NBC Sports Northwest! 

REPORT: Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard out 1-2 weeks with groin strain

REPORT: Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard out 1-2 weeks with groin strain

Portland just got a bit of positive news. 

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Damian Lillard's MRI confirmed a right groin strain, but his timeline for recovery will only be 1-2 weeks. 

7:00pm UPDATE: The Blazers announced that Damian Lillard (right groin) will be re-evaluated in one week.

Because of the timing with All-Star break, Lillard could miss up to four games while healing up from the injury. Portland is slated to play the Pelicans, Pistons and Celtics at home, and Pacers in Indiana over the next 14 days. 

Lillard suffered the injury at the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter in the Trail Blazers 111-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. He drove to the basket, but came up limping and was holding his groin after the play. The Trail Blazers later announced he had suffered a groin strain and would undergo an MRI to determine the severity. 

Following the game, the Trail Blazers star, who was selected to his fifth All-Star Game and was selected to play on Team LeBron, told reporters he would not take part in the All-Star game or the 3-point contest. He asked the NBA to send a deserving player like Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker to the game instead. Booker was announced as Lillard's replacement for both the game and 3-point contest on Thursday. 

Lillard is coming off back-to-back Western Conference Player of the Week nods and is averaging 29.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.0 steal in 54 games this season. Portland will certainly miss Lillard's presence on the court while he heals up, but it's good to know he will be back on the court in just a few games. 

Jusuf Nurkic’s impending return brings Trail Blazers optimism

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USA Today Images

Jusuf Nurkic’s impending return brings Trail Blazers optimism

Mar. 25, 2019 – The day that is always remembered in Rip City as the day that the Bosnian Beast Jusuf Nurkic went down.

The Blazers were hosting the Brooklyn Nets. The game went to overtime.

Portland won the game and secured a playoff spot with the win.

But, that’s not what anyone ever does or will remember about that game.

With just 2:22 remaining in OT, Nurkic came crashing down. He was lying on the baseline holding his left leg, while Nets players ran the other way not wanting to look at the gruesome injury.   

Now with nearly 11 months gone by, the Bosnian Beast has been working hard on his rehab. He has said he is working to get both his body and mind right. And, he warned that everyone needs to get ready for a ‘Double Beast.’ 

“I’m not expecting myself to just do the rehab,” Nurkic said in mid-December. “I want to get better, so I want to get better as a player, better as a person. I see a lot of things differently from the court, from the bench, and in the locker room… I’ve been there, like a totally different person to see the different perspective and I feel like I can help even more.”

I feel hungry… When I’m with the team I feel even more hungry. I lost some weight and I feel great, more explosive, more quick. I just feel like when the day comes, I’m going to be the double beast.

 

So when will the Double Beast make his triumph return?

Following Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that there is still no timetable on Nurkic’s return.

There has never actually been an official timeline or any targeted date set by the team; however, the talk around the league has been that Nurk would be back soon after the All-Star break.

That assumption was mostly based on looking at the injury and basing it on other players who have suffered such an injury.

Just look at Paul George.

Aug. 1 2014, George landed awkwardly at the bottom of the basket after fouling James Harden during a Team USA scrimmage. That’s when he suffered a compound fracture of both bones in his lower right leg.

On Apr. 5 2015, George made his return to the Pacers line-up for the first time since sustaining his leg injury.

Eight months later.

But, of course, with Nurkic’s rehab, it’s a bit different after taking into account Nurk is 7’0” and 290 pounds.

Plus, the Blazers want to make sure he is completely healthy and confident before making his return.

And now with the unknown severity of Damian Lillard’s right groin injury, the future of the Blazers may seem bleak.  

That’s not how the players feel though, because they are optimistic about the Bosnian Beast getting back on the court and finishing out the season strong.

After Wednesday’s loss to the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum discussed how much they need the big fella back.  

I look forward to having him back. Like I always tell him, ‘whenever you’re ready – no one knows when you’re going to be ready, but you...' We'll have open arms whenever he decides to come back. It’s obvious we could use him... We’ve been down a lot of bodies and gone through a lot this season, and obviously we don’t know what is going to be the timetable for Dame, so as soon as we can have him back the better.  -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

For the last month, Lillard and Carmelo Anthony have echoed those sentiments of them being eager to get Nurk back. 

With Nurk’s possible return lingering and the fight that Lillard is ready to put up, the Blazers are not out of the playoff chase.

Portland is five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

But, don’t think for a second that Lillard has already put this season aside.

It’s far from over. Believe that. It’s far from over. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

The 29-year-old says he is ready to average over 40 points or whatever the team needs from him.

“If that’s what it takes. If that’s what it takes, I’m with it and I know that I can," Lillard said. "I know a lot of people have talked about-- ‘Man he is on a run right now’ and all these things, but don’t think that it’s over. Do not think that that’s it. Teams have been giving me more attention and I kind of backed off and try to make the right plays because of the attention I’ve been getting, but it’s a long way to go. We have a lot of home games and a lot of winnable games. Just know that I’m not going to go away.”

With the Trail Blazers favorable schedule, which includes 15 of their final 26 games at home, along with the likely return of Nurk, Lillard’s determination, and throw in the possible return of Zach Collins in March – there’s no way the Blazers can be counted out.