A leaner Caleb Swanigan making his return, but things are a bit different now

A leaner Caleb Swanigan making his return, but things are a bit different now

It was exactly 345 days since the reported trade that sent Caleb Swanigan to Sacramento to the reported trade that sent Biggie back to Portland. 

Swanigan, a 6-9 forward out of Purdue, was selected by the Trail Blazers in the 2017 NBA Draft with the 26th overall pick.

Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard is happy to see Biggie return to Portland. 

“It’s pretty cool,” Lillard said after Saturday’s loss to the Thunder. “I think his time here – he was young, he really wanted to play, wanted to help, but it didn’t work out, so I know he was frustrated by that."

Swanigan played in 45 games before being traded to Sacramento for Skal Labissiere at the 2019 trade deadline.

But, before he departed Rip City he developed special bonds with his teammates, especially the younger players.

On a night where Gary Trent, Jr. went off and scored a career-high 30 points against OKC, he also reminisced about playing alongside Swanigan.

The two had a pregame routine.

“My rookie year, I played Biggie basically one-on-one before every game. I’m glad to have him back… For the new teammates, too, I can’t wait to meet them, as well,” Trent Jr. said.

Much has already been made about Swanigan’s story.

At just 22 years old, there's no question, Biggie has been through a lot.

Growing up, Swanigan moved between Utah and Indiana while spending part of his youth in homeless shelters.

The power forward has discussed how he developed bad eating habits in high school that caused him to gain a lot of weight making it harder to play basketball.

He then got let go by the team that took a chance on him after just 45 games.

Watching the young fella go through that, Lillard believes that situation has most likely helped Swanigan grow as a player and as a person.

“At the time he probably felt like he needed a change and felt like he was going to go somewhere and get more opportunity. In SAC it didn’t work out,” Lillard said. 

I think he’ll come back and it’ll be refreshing for him to be back in a good environment, somewhere where he has been so it’ll be comfortable, and we dealing with all these injuries, so it’s going to be a lot of opportunity here for him. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on Caleb Swanigan

This season, Swanigan appeared in just 10 games with Sacramento. He has spent a majority of his time with the G-League’s Stockton Kings where he averaged 8.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game in 19.7 mintues.

According to NBCS Kings Insider James Ham, the Blazers will be getting back a leaner Swanigan. Biggie is as much as 40 pounders smaller than he was when he left Portland.

With Saturday’s trade not being made official until Tuesday, it’s still unclear whether Swanigan will be in Portland's long-term plans or if he may be included in any future dealings.

But for right now, Lillard wants to set the record straight about his teammates' attitude, which can seem gruff, at times.  

“Biggie’s a really good dude," Lillard said. "Just misunderstood sometimes, but I think it’s a great opportunity for him especially because he’s been here before and we actually need big bodies.”

That they do.

Portland announced Sunday that they have recalled center Moses Brown from the G-League’s Texas Legends.

The Blazers host the Warriors Monday night before the trade of Swanigan, Trevor Ariza, and Wenyen Gabriel becomes official Tuesday. 

CJ McCollum worried about stops, not buckets

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USA Today Images

CJ McCollum worried about stops, not buckets

It was a vision of what could have been: A glaring sight during Friday’s home contest against the New Orleans Pelicans.  

Smack dab in the middle of Portland’s bench sat Zach Collins, Mario Hezonja, Jusuf Nurkic, and Damian Lillard – all in suits, not suited up. 

Just out of view, sat Rodney Hood, who was watching from the second row of the bench wearing a boot on his left foot. 

Thinking about what this season could’ve been with a healthy Nurkic, Collins and Hood is something many have thought about over the past few weeks, but now, adding Lillard to the injured list, and his status is still relatively unknown, the Blazers looked to CJ McCollum Friday night. 

McCollum had no problem taking over the starting point guard duties. He can get his teammates involved when asked to do so, and he has every bit of confidence in running the team. 

It was just that the Pelicans were knocking down threes from all over the perimeter and in transition. 

New Orleans defeated Portland 128-115, but that wasn’t without a fight from McCollum and the Blazers.  

Stepping into his new role for the foreseeable future, McCollum was particularly active in finding the open man, especially early on. He had seven assists in the first quarter.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with how the 28-year-old shooting guard managed the game. 

“I thought CJ had a very good game. In the offense he picked his moments to try and score, obviously double-digit assists, I thought he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Coach Stotts said postgame. 

With confidence in his voice, McCollum echoed a similar message in the locker room, but he would like to take better care of the ball from here on out. 

McCollum led all scores with 27 points on 10-of-22 shooting, to go along with tying his career high in assists with 10. 

Portland as a team shot 45.7 percent for the game. 

That’s not the problem and McCollum knows it. 

“I did a decent job. I had like five turnovers –too many turnovers, but outside of that, I thought offensively wasn’t the problem. Defensively was the bigger problem. We figure out ways to score, we always have, we’ve just got to tighten up at the other end.”

I think we competed, but I think just some lapses defensively. We fouled a lot in the first half. I think they shot like 28, 29 free throws in the first half which is too many easy points, so we’ve got to tighten that up but overall, I thought we competed. Just didn’t play well enough defensively to win. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum 

New Orleans shot an efficient 53.6 percent from the field, including an impressive 52.9 percent from behind the arc

With Lillard expecting to miss three to five games with a right groin strain, it’s not just putting a strain on McCollum, even though his teammates are recognizing that it is McCollum who will have to overcome the most.

As the season has progressed, so has Lillard and Hassan Whiteside’s pick and roll action. 

McCollum had a good connection with the Blazers starting center early on Friday night, but those two will need to continue to develop a good two-man game with Lillard out. 

Whiteside finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, good for his 42nd double-double of the season. 

The Blazers 7-footer mentioned after the loss that a lot of the play calling now falls on McCollum, even though coach Stotts said pregame that he would help in facilitating some of the plays more with Lillard out. 

“I know it’s going to be tougher for everybody,” Whiteside said when talking about not having Lillard for the next handful of games. “It’s going to be tougher for me, it’s going to be tougher for CJ because we’ve been playing a lot through [Lillard] and he makes a lot of decisions out there, but like I said, we’ve got to come out here and keep competing. We’ve got the first one under our belt, let’s move on to Detroit and get a win there. That’s a must win.”

Keep competing along with running opponents off the three-point line and getting back in transition to limit easy fast break buckets -- those are just a few of the Blazers’ action items while their five-time All-Star is sidelined. 

And with that, the 19-39 Detroit Pistons might be just what the doctor ordered for Portland. 

New Orleans outside shooting upstages Zion as Blazers fall at home

New Orleans outside shooting upstages Zion as Blazers fall at home

A whole lot of people came to see rookie sensation Zion Williamson Friday night in Moda Center as his New Orleans Pelicans hit town to meet the Trail Blazers.

Williamson gave them a 25-point show, hitting 10 of his 17 shots on the way to 25 points. It wasn’t spectacular, though, as he claimed only four rebounds, hit just half of his 10 free throws and finished with a zero in his plus-minus column, while his team posted a 128-115 win over the Trail Blazers.

The more spectacular show was the New Orleans outside shooting. The Pels were 18-34 from three-point range and every time Portland mounted any sort of rally, somebody stepped up to knock down a three to kill the momentum.

“That’s always tough,” Carmelo Anthony said. “You play a whole possession of defense and they get an offensive rebound or a kick out for a three. We make a run and they silence that with a three. Those are always momentum killers, right there.”

The starting New Orleans guards, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, were a combined 7-11 from three-point range, Brandon Ingram was 3-4 and Josh Hart 3-3. The Trail Blazers never led in the game and were tied just once.

And while the Pelicans were firing away at a 52.9 percent pace from the outside, Portland just couldn’t keep up, hitting 10 of 27 -- meaning the Blazers were beaten by 24 points from the three-point line.

The Trail Blazers didn’t defend well enough to win and it would be difficult to blame their offense for this loss.

The Pels got pretty much what they wanted, when they wanted it. The game was as close as it was only because New Orleans managed to make just 20 of its 33 free throws.

It was Portland’s first full game after Damian Lillard’s groin injury and the Trail Blazers were very short-handed even before that happened. But with Lillard out, nothing is going to come easy.

“I know it’s going to be tougher for everybody,” said Hassan Whiteside, who had 19 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Trail Blazers. “It’s going to be tougher for me, tougher for CJ -- because we’ve been playing a lot through (Lillard). And he makes a lot of decisions out there,

“But like I said, we’ve got to come out here and keep competing. We’ve got the first one under our belt, let’s move on to Detroit (Sunday night in Moda) and get a win. That’s a must-win.”

At this point, you could call all of them must-wins.

There are only 25 games left in the season and nobody knows how many of those will be played without Lillard. Portland still trails Memphis by four games in the loss column for the final playoff spot and must hold off the Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs in their rearview mirror.

It’s not going to be easy.

Instant Analysis: Short-handed Blazers can't slow down Zion, Pelicans

Instant Analysis: Short-handed Blazers can't slow down Zion, Pelicans

With no Damian Lillard (groin strain) Friday night, Gary Trent Jr. got the starting nod as CJ McCollum shifted to point guard with Portland hosting the New Orleans Pelicans.  

And the Pelicans were red hot against the Blazers both inside and out.

New Orleans started the game hitting 12 of its first 16 shot attempts (5-of-6 from three).

Behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram’s 10 points each, the Pelicans scored 40 first quarter points.

New Orleans didn’t cool down until early in the third quarter. Portland cut the lead to seven midway through the third after the Pelicans had led by as many as 19 points.

Just when it looked like the Blazers could be within striking distance, the Pelicans went on a 12-0 run to close the third quarter. The Pelicans took that momentum into the final period to run away with the win. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: PELICANS 128, TRAIL BLAZERS 115

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s loss:

1. McCollum steps into new role

Following Thursday’s practice, CJ McCollum discussed how he would have to get his teammates involved and be able to manage the game with Lillard sidelined. McCollum was very active in finding his open teammate Friday night. He had seven assists in the first quarter. He also had as many points in the first 12 minutes. McCollum and the rest of the Blazer wings made a conscience effort to get the ball down low to Carmelo Anthony. Melo took advantage of smaller defenders, bodying them up on the block. He found success down low and at the free throw line.  

2. Pelicans don’t cash in on free throws

After not blowing the whistle that much to start the game, the Blazers started racking up fouls midway through the first quarter. By halftime, Portland had committed 18 personal fouls. Yet, the Pelicans weren’t able to convert from the free throw line. Their 10-point lead at the break could’ve been much larger.

New Orleans went 16-of-28 from the charity stripe in the first half.  Zion Williamson had 19 points at the half, but he went just 5-of-10 from the line.

3. Portland struggled to get stops

The Trail Blazers were able to put up plenty of points on the board. It was on the other end of the ball where the Blazers struggled.

When Portland would make a run, the Pelicans would knock down a corner three or rack up second chance points, or find a way to get a timely bucket.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers continue their three-game homestand Sunday night when Portland hosts the Detroit Pistons. The Blazers and Pistons will tip-off at 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

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

Carmelo Anthony welcomes Zion Williamson to the NBA with mean jab step

Carmelo Anthony welcomes Zion Williamson to the NBA with mean jab step

It was a match-up everyone was anticipating all night: Carmelo Anthony vs. Zion Williamson. 

The veteran vs. the rookie, the Hall of Famer vs. the young buck, the Pelican vs. the Blazer. 

Friday night was filled with high-flying dunks, punctuated by this one from New Orleans' rookie. 

But, Carmelo's move on Williamson was NASTY!

The move had the internet buzzing!

The Pelicans are on their way to beating the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center, but Carmelo will have this one on Zion. 

Maybe, one day, we'll see Zion hit a future rookie star with this move. 

Social media comes out in full support of courtside server whose tray of drinks spilled

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NBCSNW

Social media comes out in full support of courtside server whose tray of drinks spilled

Remember that one time LeBron James accidentally knocked over a server courtside of the Blazers-Lakers game earlier this season? 

Well, she's back in the news... 

Her name is Katy Stevens and has been a courtside server for over 10 years. 

She's got a tough job. Avoid the ball, avoid the players and avoid the referees.

Unfortunately, despite her best efforts the referee didn't avoid her!

WATCH

After it happened, the internet was quick to jump in to her defense

That referee deserves a flagrant foul for all of the drinks lost. Kudos to the ball boys for jumping into action.

Stay strong, Katy! We've got your back!

 

No, Zion Williamson is NOT 30 years old...

No, Zion Williamson is NOT 30 years old...

Something stood out pregame ahead of the Trail Blazers-Pelicans game and it centered around Zion Williamson. 

Selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Williamson has been taking the NBA by storm since returning from injury.  

And while discussing his allcoades in just 10 games in the NBA, ESPN's Mike Breen had a slip of the tongue in remembering how old the rookie is... 

WATCH

Williamson is actually just 19 years old. He doesn't turn 20 until July. 

The internet was quick to point out Breen's error. 

Mike Breen is one of the best in the business, he likely misread his stat sheet. Honest (but funny) mistake.

The Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans is also airing on NBC Sports Northwest where Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd likely didn't make the same mistake.  

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Gary Trent Jr. will get the start vs. Pelicans

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Gary Trent Jr. will get the start vs. Pelicans

Before the Trail Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 7:30p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his team needs to be much better in transition and make sure they don’t turn the ball over too much to give New Orleans more transition opportunities.  

Coach Stotts also described Zion Williamson as ‘dynamic,’ but mentioned that the Pelicans ‘have a lot of good shooters.’

Stotts added that Gary Trent Jr. will get the start with Damian Lillard (right groin strain) out.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Damian Lillard (right groin strain), Mario Hezonja (left ankle sprain), Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for Friday's game vs. New Orleans.

PELICANS INJURY REPORT:

Darius Miller (right Achilles surgery), Kenrich Williams (lower back soreness), Josh Gray (Two-way) and Zylan Cheatham (Two-way) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

Friday's game will be the fourth and final matchup between the Trail Blazers and the Pelicans during the 2019-20 season. New Orleans leads the season series, 3-0.

-- LAST MEETING: New Orleans beat Portland, 138-117, in New Orleans on Feb. 11. CJ McCollum led Portland with 20 points (7-17 FG, 4-8 3-PT, 2-2 FT), one rebound and three assists, while Zion Williamson paced the Pelicans with a career-high 31 points (10-17 FG, 11-14 FT), nine rebounds, and a career-high five assists.

-- Portland and New Orleans have split their last 10 meetings, 5-5. The Trail Blazers swept the 2018-19 season series, 3-0.

-- CJ McCollum has scored at least 20 points in each of his last five outings against the Pelicans, going 14-of-35 (40.0%) from 3-PT range over that five-game span.

-- Hassan Whiteside recorded 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with 14 rebounds, three assists and one block against the Pelicans on Feb. 11. Whiteside has recorded a double-double in each of his last four games against New Orleans.

-- JJ Redick had 20 points (5-10 FG, 4-7 3-PT, 6-6 FT), two rebounds and two assists against Portland on Feb. 11. Redick is averaging 18.0 points (50.0% FG, 50.0% 3-PT, 91.7% FT) in three games against Portland this season.

-- Brandon Ingram missed the Pelican's last game against the Trail Blazers with a right ankle sprain, but on Dec. 23 put up 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals against Portland. He is averaging 20.0 points (36.8% FG, 30.0% 3-PT, 100% FT), 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.00 steals in two games against the Trail Blazers this season.

Talkin’ Blazers Podcast: Why it’s now or never for Blazers young guns with Damian Lillard out

Talkin’ Blazers Podcast: Why it’s now or never for Blazers young guns with Damian Lillard out

Channing Frye is back from All-Star weekend and ready for the Portland Trail Blazers to return to action. He joins co-host and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon each Friday on the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast.

This week, the Trail Blazers return from All-Star break and host Zion Williamson and the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, and as the injuries are piling up in Portland, more minutes and more opportunities are coming for Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel.

With 26 games left on the schedule, the Blazers currently sit 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

Damian Lillard has been ruled out of the contest with a groin injury.

How should the Blazers handle Dame’s injury?

Channing Frye weighs in: 

Whether they like it or not, this is going to be a big showing us what you’ve learned all season… I think Gary Trent Jr has taken the most advantage of his time. Do I expect him to be amazing? Heck no. When you’re thrown into those situations, you don’t need to win the game, just don’t lose it…

This is time for those guys to put up or shut up. — Channing Frye

You can listen to the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast below:

How to watch, stream Blazers vs. Pelicans tonight at 7:30pm

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USA Today Images

How to watch, stream Blazers vs. Pelicans tonight at 7:30pm

That’s a wrap on the 2020 NBA All-Star break. The Trail Blazers (25-31) are back at it Friday night when Portland hosts the New Orleans Pelicans (23-32).

After Thursday’s practice, Damian Lillard, who suffered a groin strain in the final minutes of Portland’s loss to Memphis on Feb. 12th, said he would miss at least three to four games starting with Friday’s contest.

The good news for Friday’s game: Blazers forward Nassir Little is making his return. Little suffered a left ankle sprain while trying to block a shot from Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar with 37.9 seconds remaining in the Blazers 127-99 loss in Denver on Feb. 4.

You can watch all the action between the Blazers and Pelicans game 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? Tonight's Warriors game is the first game of the "Blazers Pass Season!"

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

6:30pm Blazers Warm-Up

7:00pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:30pm Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans

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

Plus, we’ll have 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

"Just play hard. That's the biggest thing. Play hard, try to execute, keep the game close and win it down the stretch. Protect home court and just make sure I'm putting guys in the best position to succeed. Dame does a lot for us offensively - calling plays, facilitating and scoring -  I'll have to do a little bit more of that. At the same time, one person isn't gonna replace his production. We gotta all be better." - CJ McCollum on stepping up while Damian Lillard is sidelined