Keeping the faith: How Bazemore and Tolliver will be missed

Keeping the faith: How Bazemore and Tolliver will be missed

Thinking back to last July when Kent Bazemore first spoke with the media: He was dressed in a suit for his official press conference as a Trail Blazer -- a bright-eyed veteran forward who was eager to have a fresh beginning.

Anthony Tolliver had just finished a workout before addressing the media on a warm summer day. He discussed his excitement to join a team that was coming off a Western Conference Finals run. He was ready to help the Blazers space the floor and provide leadership off the bench.

It didn’t pan out the way these two had hoped, to say the least. Although, their eventual trade was prognosticated.

And while it was expected that Baze and AT wouldn’t be in Portland very long, based on their contracts, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty that their teammates are going to miss about them.

Reports of the two being traded surfaced Saturday afternoon, nearly four hours before the Blazers tipped off their final game of their three-game trip with Portland visiting OKC.

For many of Rip City faithful, they will miss Bazemore’s chase down blocks and the energy he brought on the defensive end.

Yet, fans may not know exactly what will be missed when it comes to Bazemore and Tolliver in the eyes of the Blazer players themselves.

While reminiscing about the past four months, the Blazers mentioned how they will miss the way Tolliver carried himself as a journeyman in the league.

They will also miss the way he connected them to their faith.  

Tolliver was a big advocate of attending chapel.

The chapel sessions usually last about 15 minutes. For some players, such as Tolliver, attending chapel service has become a staple in their pregame routine.

All 30 NBA teams have volunteer chaplains who meet with the teams an hour before every game inside every arena. There’s no requirement that players attend, though more did this year.

Directly following Saturday’s loss to the Thunder, all eyes were on Trail Blazers floor general Damian Lillard as he spoke about the move.

For Lillard, it’s all about staying neutral when a trade comes down the pipe. He’s the face of the franchise. He has to remain steadfast, diplomatic.

Strong.

But now, thanks to Tolliver, Lillard has his faith to lean on more. 

I’m always in the middle when the moves happen because I develop friendships and relationships with my teammates... Me and Baze spent a lot of time around each other, interacted a lot even before he was brought to Portland… It’s sad to see him go.  

Same thing with AT.

AT has been a big part of me taken a step forward in my faith. Being in Chapel and sending scriptures and stuff like that – so, he’s had an impact on me and our team in that way and how he is with the younger players – showing them how to be a true professional. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on losing Bazemore and Tolliver   

While a handful of Blazers addressed the media about the trade, Jusuf Nurkic and Mario Hezonja took to Twitter to thank their now former teammates and wish them luck.


The two veterans, who are about to embark on their new life in Sacramento, may have had the most impact on the young Blazers just like Lillard said.

On a career night for Gary Trent Jr., he discussed how difficult it is to lose teammates to a trade.

The second-year player believes there are two big things he will truly miss: The energy and faith...

AT and Baze were great teammates. I learned a lot from Baze. Same with AT. With AT, with his presence, having a bible study for the team, we’re going to miss that type of stuff. Baze, with his energy. Me and Baze was always joking around, playing around every day with each other. But, it’s a business, at the end of the day, and teams are going to have to do what they have to do. We all know, we all signed up for that. I wish nothing but the best for them. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr.

Just because every professional athlete knows and says “it’s a business,” doesn’t mean they have to be okay with it all.

And from the sounds of it, it doesn’t ever seem to get any easier.  

Seventeen-year veteran, Carmelo Anthony has witnessed his fair share of trades.

He said he “was shocked” to get the text about the move, but offered up an explanation on how he deals with teammates coming and going:

“I say it’s a part of the game… Because you start to build friendships and relationships and bonds with guys, and at any given moment something like that can actually happen. I’m more talking about everything outside of basketball. I think the front office had to do what they had to do -- I don’t question that, but from our standpoint as players and guys who got a chance to kind of bond and build a friendship that’s a tough one,” Melo said.

It’s all part of the game, fair or foul.

Still, it’s part of Lillard’s approach of ‘staying in the middle’ when it comes to trades is about making sure he’s not just focusing on losing teammates.

“You’ve got new guys coming in and you don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it’s a business and make guys who are coming in not feel welcome – that’s why I’m always in the middle, because I’m always going to welcome new teammates, but it’s always sad to see guys you’ve got a relationship with [go].”

As Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers welcome in Trevor Ariza and Wenyen Gabriel, while also welcoming back Caleb Swanigan, it’s about starting anew right now.

The second half of the season is about to ramp up for the Blazers, Lillard is looking forward to what Ariza could bring to this team.

"I think he can really help us. I think the situation that we in 18-26 I think; it’s not where we planned on being. Things haven't been working out, we haven't been winning a lot of games and his experience, his skill set --3 and D, he can guard, pretty much four positions… And his size, it gives us something we could really use,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers will still have to wait at least one more game to start figuring it out with their new pieces. The trade will not become official until Tuesday.

Portland hosts Golden State Monday night at 7:00pm on NBCSNW.

Miami Heat throws shade at Hassan Whiteside with social media post

Miami Heat throws shade at Hassan Whiteside with social media post

When Hassan Whiteside got traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on the second day of 2019 free agency, he took to his Instagram to announce his pleasure with the move.

'WE GOT SHOOTERS."

Of course, Whiteside was referring to guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, and more which looked much more promising than Whiteside's previous stop, the Miami Heat, which ranked 20th in three-point percentage that prior season. He seemed hyped to have more open space in the paint to operate created by the spacing from playing with one of the league's elite backcourts.

Well, that prior season may have been an anomaly in Miami because in their first season since trading Hassan Whiteside, the Heat are tied for first in the NBA in three-point percentage at 38.3%. (In Whiteside's defense the Blazers are sixth which isn't shabby at all.)

Part of the Heat's newfound success from distance has been the emergence of second-year player Duncan Robinson who's shooting a scorching 44.8% from beyond the arc, good for fourth in the NBA. 

The Miami Heat decided to give a shoutout to their sensational sophomore by comparing him to NBA legend Ray Allen who shot 41.3% from three in 2012-13 for Miami...and also threw some shade towards Whiteside in the process.

"We (always) got shooters" is obviously a reference to Whiteside quote, and while it may just be referring to how over they had elite shooting this season and with Ray Allen. It also can be shading the Portland center by saying the franchise has always had shooting and he shouldn't have acted liked he didn't have any when he got traded. 

NBA planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition with 'high-profile players'

NBA planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition with 'high-profile players'

Yes, the NBA is talking about horse and no, they're not referring to Hassan Whiteside. 

They're talking about the schoolyard game of H-O-R-S-E where players shoot a shot and if they make it, their opponents need to shoot the same shot to avoid getting a letter. Get five letters and you lose. The last player standing remains. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA and ESPN are planning to put on a game of H-O-R-S-E between NBA players involving several "high-profile players" and players would shoot in isolation in separate gyms. 

Given that the NBA will be on hiatus for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, the basketball community will take anything close to professional basketball they can get. Getting to see some of the best shooters in the world go head to head in a game of H-O-R-S-E is better than nothing and a welcome sight.

Plus, perhaps one of the "high-profile players" could be a Blazer like Damian Lillard who is famous for his deep range i.e. Logo Lillard. Watching Dame warm up from that distance is something you don't see every day and would make him a force in the competition. It'd be great to see him bomb away from deep after having to sit out of the Three-Point competition due to a strained groin, especially after the contest implemented a new deeper shot with green "Dew" balls. 

Also, this wouldn't be the first time the NBA has held a game of H-O-R-S-E. In 1977-78, the NBA and CBS aired multiple games during the regular season and postseason to crown a champion between 32 players. Eventually, Paul Westphal defeated Rick Barry in the finals.

The NBA tried it again over the 2009 and 2010 All-Star Weekends where Kevin Durant won both games, defeating Joe Johnson and O.J. Mayo in 2009 and Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi in 2010. 

It's reported that details for the newest edition are still being finalized.

Donald Trump wants fans back in arenas in time for NFL, CFB season

Donald Trump wants fans back in arenas in time for NFL, CFB season

President Donald Trump had a conference call with the heads of numerous leagues Saturday, including NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NFL commissioner Rodger Goddell to discuss the next steps in the coronavirus pandemic.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski, Trump told the panel that he wants to see fans returning to arenas and stadiums by August and September, which would allow the NFL and NCAA College Football seasons to start on time with fans in attendance.

The report also clarified that it's unclear if medical experts find that to be a realistic timeline or if it's just Trump's desire.

Adam Silver stated that he wants the various leagues to help lead the economy back to normalcy once they received the "all-clear" from public health officials. The NBA was the first sports league in the United States to suspend their season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11th. 

The President also brought up the idea of leagues lobbying for tax credits to allow for the deduction of tickets and concessions from taxes to incentivize fans to return to games during the current economy. 

The call had representation from higher-level executives from the 12 major sports leagues in the United States: The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, Major League Soccer, WNBA, WWE, the PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

Real talk: Only game we will have for next several months is the waiting game

Real talk: Only game we will have for next several months is the waiting game

Some real talk about the resumption of sports in these times:

It should not be at all surprising that the NBA would be considering cancelling the remainder of this season. In fact, I expect Major League Baseball will soon be considering the same thing.

It’s because so many things have to be accomplished before it would be safe (and sane) to restart:

  • China’s pro league thought it could begin its season anew by simply taking players’ temperatures to gauge whether they are carrying the virus. That apparently doesn’t always work with asymptomatic people. China gave up on the restart. Real tests with results within an hour are needed. And then, of course, players and staffs would have to be in strict quarantine throughut the schedule -- which could prove difficult.

  • A vaccine is not likely in the offing, but would obviously open the door to a return. But that could take years -- or maybe never. It is not on the immediate horizon.

  • A medical treatment for the virus, something that could at least keep people from dying, is a much more viable solution, but such things require clinical trials that could take several months. This is the most probable road out of this hell, but not easy. Scientists are working on it all over the world and we’re rooting for them.

  • Without a treatment or a vaccine, there is no way crowds should gather for anything such as sporting events. Any restart would have to include a ban on fans for what I believe could be several months. And the idea of bringing the whole NBA together in one spot to finish the regular season or playoffs is the best idea, if they are determined to try something. But I’m not sure you could expect to isolate that many people in one spot for a great length of time. Somebody is going to go off the ranch or behind the lines and then you have a possible big problem.

I will reiterate, fans at events are just a non-starter. Totally isolating this virus is nearly impossible. All it takes is one infected person showing up in a big crowd and the whole war is on again. This deadly virus is extremely contagious.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I believe the NFL season is at risk, too, until there is readily available, reliable testing and a valid treatment for those carrying the virus.

And these leagues are going to have to accept the reality that the only game being played for months will be the waiting game.

And that’s likely to go into overtime. Or extra time. Or extra innings.

Damian Lillard's game winner vs. Houston wasn't the original play call

Damian Lillard's game winner vs. Houston wasn't the original play call

While it happened in the blink of an eye, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard remembers nearly every detail about one of the biggest shots of his career. 

It should. "The shot" changed his life forever. 

On the latest episode of the Ledlow & Parker Podcast, Damian Lillard played a game called "Game Time: Dame Time" where hosts Candance Parker and Kristen Ledlow quizzed him on how well he remembers the best game-winners of his career, including his shot in Game 6 against the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

He (nearly) got a perfect score knowing all of his teammates on the floor, who was guarding him, who hugged him first when the shot went through the net, and what he yelled into the mic in the post-series celebration. His only miss was how much time was on the clock when the ball left his hand, and he was only a tenth of a second off. 

After playing the game, Lillard spoke about why that shot brings chills every time he watches it. 

I just get chills now when I see that one because that was my second year and that was like my first playoff series. And I just remember the play was for us to just spring towards half court and we'd try to lob it over the top so LA could get a tip in to force overtime. But when I was walking on the court Mo Williams was like 'F- that, go get the ball. You go to the ball. Just run to the ball.' and I was walking to my spot and I just wasn't worried... If we would have lost that game we was going back to Houston for Game 7...and I wasn't worried about that. I was just like 'we ain't going back.' Like, I never felt like we was going back so when I see it now I'm like 'how was I not like more concerned?' It's werid. 

The hosts went on to quiz him about his game-winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder as well in Game 5 from this past postseason.

As you can see, Lillard has made a career out of being the calm in the storm, the stone cold assassin. 

Because when the clock is winding down, we all know what time it is: Dame Time. 

Report: NBA preparing scenarios to cancel the 2019-20 season

Report: NBA preparing scenarios to cancel the 2019-20 season

The NBA has been working diligently on various scenarios on how they will proceed with the league now being suspended for over three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the NBA has been looking to China and how they are handling the progress of resuming play with the Chinese Basketball Association.

Some things that have happened this week have turned it south about what could happen. A big factor was what happened in China where they halted the return of their league and one of the big reasons is because they really believe that they just tested the players temperatures all the time that it would work and the Chinese are finding that asymptomatic carriers are causing maybe a second wave in that country and they have just slammed the breaks on sports. The talks between the players union and the league this week -- I have talked to both sides of this issue --  and it is clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down. – ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during Friday’s SportsCenter  

Of course, a lot can change over the next several weeks and months as Windhorst also pointed out the NBA is not ready to make any decision on the 2019-20 season, but are trying to prepare for all of the what-ifs.

It was back on Mar. 18 when NBA commissioner Adam Silver laid out three scenarios in which the NBA returns:

“I’d say I’m looking at three different things here,” Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.

“One is -- Of course, when can we restart and operate as we’ve known -- 19,000 fans in buildings, that’s one set of criteria.

Then option two is – Should we consider starting without fans and what would that mean? Because presumably if you had a group of players and staff around them and you could test them and you could follow some protocol, doctors, health officials may say it’s safe to play…
And then, the third option that we are looking at now, and I would say all suggestions are welcome, is that… Are there conditions in which a group of players could compete and maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or just for the good of the people?” 

Another issue for the NBA will be looking ahead to the 2020-21 season and not letting this hiatus drastically affect next year.

CJ McCollum an advocate of health over pay amid threat of cuts

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USATI

CJ McCollum an advocate of health over pay amid threat of cuts

NBA players could be taking a hit in the pocketbook as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA has proposed that players take a 50 percent pay reduction beginning with their next paycheck. However, the National Basketball Players Association has countered with a proposal of 25%, starting in mid-May.

On the Hoop, Adjacent Podcast with David Aldridge and Curt Gowdy, Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum was asked about the prospect of losing money. 

McCollum knows it's a possibility, but is more concerned with making sure people are safe during these trying times. 

Everything is on the table, you have to figure out a solution to a problem we've never had before. Financially, obviously, there are implications to not playing basketball. Not playing basketball for the rest of the year means we lose 23.5% of games played regular season and a complete playoff run. Not to mention the issues we've had with a certain owner and China... This is a year where Adam (Silver) has been put to the test and Adam has responded admirably. He's done a tremendous job of being in front of, essentially, everything. This is the point where we have to discuss, bunker down, and come to an agreement on a solution going forward. A lot of money is at stake. A lot of people's lives are at stake right now. I think it's more important that we worry about health as opposed to basketball. I think going forward that should be the approach. Health over everything. Figuring out how to keep the most amount of people safe going forward and then we can figure out the logistics of what everything else looks like later. - CJ McCollum

You can listen to the entire podcast HERE.

At this time the league and it's players would still prefer to restart the season at some point, but the reality is setting in that it just may not be feasible. 

Jamal Crawford would love a LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers reunion

Jamal Crawford would love a LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers reunion

Jamal Crawford has had a long, lucrative career in the NBA. 

The Seattle native made his debut in 2000, and has played for eight different teams in his 19-year career. 

One of those eight teams was the Portland Trail Blazers. 

On Friday, his former Blazers teammate LaMarcus Aldridge tweeted out a Flashback Friday photo of the two. 

Crawford saw the tweet and responded as any good teammate would.

But that's not what got the attention of Rip City. What got the fan's attention was Crawford's response to Pinwheel Empire. 

Pinwheel Empire said something a lot of Blazers fans have thought for a while, that it "would be awesome to see both of you back in Portland."

Crawford's response, "I would love that."

The reunion is easier said than done, but is still not all that far-fetched. 

Aldridge currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, but has been open about wanting to potentially return to Portland. 

While Crawford currently sits on the free-agent market, having not played since the end of 2019. 

Crawford may be 40 years old, but he still has plenty left in the tank. 

The last time he stepped on the court, the Phoenix Suns' final game of the season last year, he dropped 51 points on the Mavericks. Just one point shy of tying his career-high. 

Crawford still has elite handles and is a walking bucket. It's surprising he hasn't landed on a roster this season.

Perhaps he makes his return in the 2020-2021 season.

If he does, we know of at least one place he'd like to do it. 

 

Payton Pritchard doesn't win Naismith Trophy, but he's still worth celebrating

Payton Pritchard doesn't win Naismith Trophy, but he's still worth celebrating

Just two weeks ago, Payton Pritchard became the first Citizen Naismith Trophy finalist in Oregon men's basketball history. 

It's an achievement the kid out of West Linn should be extremely proud of. While he didn't take home the Naismith Men's National Player of the Year honors on Friday, there's a lot for Pritchard to celebrate. 

Pritchard has carved his name in Oregon history. Just this season, he joined Gary Payton (Oregon State, 1989-90), Damon Stoudamire (Arizona, 1994-95) and Jason Terry (Arizona, 1998-99) as the only players in conference history to lead the league in both scoring and assists.

He capped off his career at Oregon as the school record holder in assists (659), wins (105), games played (144), and games started (140). 

Pritchard re-wrote Pac-12 record books, too. He became the only player in conference history to record 1,900 career points, 600 career assists and 500 career rebounds. 

As 2020 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pritchard was one of just three players nationally to average at least 20 points per game along with four rebounds and five assists.The Oregon guard was named the Ducks’ first consensus first-team All-American in 80 years after leading his team to an outright Pac-12 regular-season title, the Ducks' third in five years.

Pritchard has also inspired thousands of kids to put in work no matter what their circumstances are. His "Payton Pritchard challenge," took off on social media, prompting thousands to attempt the challenge themselves. 


Pritchard didn't take home the Naismith trophy, and that's OK, he still has an opportunity to add the esteemed Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award to his collection. He is also one of five finalists for the prestigious nod, which will be announced next Tuesday.