Lillard, already an icon in Portland, didn't "pretend" his way to supermax

Lillard, already an icon in Portland, didn't "pretend" his way to supermax

LAS VEGAS – The Trail Blazers spent some of Saturday making things official, tying up loose ends and taking care of business, as they say, now that the free-agent moratorium is over.

The supermax contract extension for Damian Lillard was announced. Rodney Hood’s re-signing was announced. Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver signed their deals. Draft pick Nassir Little signed his contract. And the trade that brought Hassan Whiteside to Portland was officially announced.

What’s the record for most press releases sent out in the span of three hours?

Lillard was on hand for a media availability that announced his deal, a four-year extension that kicks in after two more seasons and is expected to pay him in the neighborhood of $196 million. Lillard earned that contract on the court, but he backs it up off the court.

“I’ve been in the league a long time,” said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. “It’s a players’ league and the best teams are a reflection of their best player. If you’re fortunate enough to have a great leader as your best player, it just makes everything that much better for the coaches, the players, the franchise, the city – whatever – Dame has embodied that.”

He’s become an icon in Portland, an honest face of a franchise that is trying to do things right on the court and off. Lillard is beloved in Portland and recognized wherever he goes in the city. And it’s fine by him. He understands and accepts that role.

“It doesn’t bother me because I am who I say I am,” Lillard said. “I didn’t pretend my way to my first extension and I didn’t pretend my way to this one. If I was pretending, then if I was doing anything out of the ordinary, I would be like, ‘Damn, people are going to notice.’ If they see me in public, I am who I say I am. So, it’s not an issue at all.”

His leadership is said to be among the best in basketball and he has become the guardian of the team’s well-regarded culture. And so when the Blazers swung a deal for Whiteside, whose reputation as a tough player for coaches to deal with is well known, Lillard didn’t bat an eye.

“Anytime you do something outside something that you typically do, it’s going to be a challenge,” Lillard said “I’ve played with Robin Lopez, Nurk, JJ Hickson and guys like that who just kind of are more on the laid-back side … they aren’t going to say a whole lot, just do what they do. Hassan is outspoken, people have said things like that about him, that he’s given them a hard time, things like that. But I think once you come to an environment where it’s just not like that, you look around and say, ‘Nobody else is causing problems. Everybody else is working hard.' It makes it more uncomfortable to be the one guy doing it. People have said those things but I think he’ll come to a place like this and those things can change.

“Maybe he comes here and realizes it’s a better situation for him. He may behave. I don’t see it being an issue, because I’ve known him for a while and we’ve known each other for a while. I’ve already had a conversation with him. When you’re mad when the game’s not going your way, if somebody did something, if the coach said something to you, we have to talk. We’ve pretty much had that conversation already.”

Hood also had a media availability after signing with Portland for the taxpayer mid-level exception. Hood likes the city, his teammates and the situation with the Trail Blazers and said he could have gotten more money from another team, but knew he’d be happy in Portland.

"I think I'm making pretty good money,"  he said. "Not Dame money, but good money. I'm happy."

He was a valuable player off the bench for the team last season but the starting forward spots are wide open this season, with the departure of Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Does he expect his role to be different this season?

“I don’t personally know,” he said. “It may be bigger and it may be the same. I don’t expect any decrease. I haven’t talked to the coach yet. Probably be a little bit more, but whether I start or come off the bench, I don’t know.”

Nassir Little loses starting spot but finishes with his best game yet

Nassir Little loses starting spot but finishes with his best game yet

Something you don’t see very often… a young rookie loses his job to a veteran, a someday Hall of Fame player, and then goes out that night and outplays him.

Seriously outplays him.

And that was just about the only Trail Blazer highlight during a dismal 115-104 loss at New Orleans. The Trail Blazers were undressed in the second half at both ends of the court in the debut of Carmelo Anthony in a Portland uniform.

Anthony got off to a decent start but ran out of gas in the second half (1-7 from the field after halftime) while rookie Nassir Little – who had been starting -- went 5-6 from the field, including 2-2 from three-point range, had 11 rebounds, two blocked shots and 12 points.  Anthony scored 10 points but managed to hit only 4-14 from the field, had five fouls and five turnovers.

And really, you can’t blame Anthony, but taking a guy who hasn’t played in a year and throwing him into the starting lineup without as much as a practice with the team is probably not likely to be voted Idea of the Year.

“Nassir continues to play well,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “I’m glad to see him hit a couple of threes. He plays with a lot of energy.”

Little has been playing hard and instead of shrinking from the challenge of playing behind Anthony and his big-time credentials, or pouting about the situation, he responded with his best game of the season.

“I think I had a pretty good game,” Little said. “I had my first double-double. I made shots and rebounded the ball well, so it was pretty solid.”

His teammates were impressed.

“He’s just bringing energy,” Rodney Hood said. “He doesn’t care if he’s starting or not starting. He’s been a great boost to us since he’s been in the lineup.”

CJ McCollum said, “He was great. He’s kind of figuring out the NBA lifestyle, on and off the court. I think he’s finding his sweet spot between work and rest.”

The Trail Blazers led after one quarter and at the half, but were beaten by 10 in the third quarter and offered barely a hint of a fourth quarter rally, perhaps because they were without Damian Lillard (back spasms) and on the second of back-to-back games. Portland shot 48.7 percent in the first half and 39.1 in the second half.

Oddly, Portland had a terrific night from three-point range but wasted it. The Blazers were 16-29 (55.2 percent) from three but only 8-13 from the foul line while the Pelicans hit 20-24.

Instant Analysis: Carmelo Anthony still shaking off the rust as Blazers can’t shake Pelicans

Instant Analysis: Carmelo Anthony still shaking off the rust as Blazers can’t shake Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS – It was a night with national media in the building to catch Carmelo Anthony in New Orleans as he made his debut for the Trail Blazers against the Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Pelicans fans gave a nice applause to Melo as he was introduced. NBA fans all around the league were happy to see the future Hall of Famer back on the court. 

Anthony started alongside backup point guard Anfernee Simons in place of the injured Damian Lillard (back spasms).

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

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

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

With Melo being inserted into the starting lineup, rookie Nassir Little came off the bench, but Little played down the stretch due to Anthony’s minutes restriction.  
FINAL BOX SCORE: Pelicans 115, Trail Blazers 104

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday's loss:

1. Initial Melo observations

-- Is still looking to dominate one-on-one

-- Will take a few games to get back in game shape

-- Puts a little extra zing on his passes and sometimes the Blazers weren’t ready for it

-- Is going to need to get used to having NBA officials calling fouls on him again

-- Is still shaking off the rust (careless turnovers, fouls)

--A practice with the team will be helpful (several miscues on both ends)

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

2. McCollum taking it upon himself

CJ McCollum was very active on the defensive end against the Pelicans. He was getting deflections, getting in passing lanes, and sacrificing his body to take potential charges. With no Lillard, McCollum took it upon himself to shoulder a lot of the scoring load. McCollum was dialed in from three early on. He struggled to hit from deep in the final quarter though.

3. Future is bright in New Orleans

The Pelicans have a fun brand of basketball despite dealing with a number of injuries. 

On Tuesday night New Orleans was without Lonzo Ball (right adductor), Jahlil Okafor (left ankle), Derrick Favors (left lower back), Josh Hart (left ankle) and Zion Williamson (right knee).

But between Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick, and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans have some athletic wings. Rookie Jaxon Hayes showed he has a lot potential at center with his length and mobility. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest.

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


Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Carmelo Anthony to start in debut

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Carmelo Anthony to start in debut

NEW ORLEANS – The national media in the Big Easy is in full force. Tuesday night in New Orleans marks Carmelo Anthony’s debut with the Trail Blazers.

Portland and New Orleans tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest.   

After reports surfaced on Twitter prior to the game, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that Anthony will be starting tonight. He also mentioned during his pregame media availability that he feels Melo will remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. 

[RELATED]: How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

Even though the Blazers will be adding Melo into the mix tonight, Portland will be without Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard is dealing with back spasms.

Coach Stotts said Lillard’s back was bothering him last night in Houston.


How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

The Trail Blazers are on the ropes. Reeling from a haymaker thrown by the Houston Rockets, Portland needs to find the power to get up from the mat before the ref counts to ten.

The Blazers are just 5-9 on the season and injuries have left them thin at power forward. Enter Carmelo Anthony.

The 10-time NBA All-Star officially became a member of the Trail Blazers Tuesday morning and hopes to make his Blazers debut and return to the NBA on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. A team in desperate need of a jolt has reached out to a future Hall of Famer with nothing to lose.

Anthony hasn’t played in over a year, but he is just what the Blazers need. Since Zach Collins went down with a dislocated shoulder, the Blazers have struggled to get any real production at the four.

Mario Hezonja has had some nice moments but hasn’t really put a full game together. Anthony Tolliver has struggled to find his shot and wasn’t signed to play 20 minutes a night. While rookie Nassir Little has shown some flashes, he has also made a lot of rookie mistakes. But, the biggest thing the aforementioned players are lacking is scoring punch. It may sounds cliché, but in the current NBA, getting stops isn’t as important as making sure the other team can’t stop you. You have got to score more points to win. With Anthony, the Blazers are showing offense is the focus.

Those who are anti-Melo may argue that he only averaged 13.4 points in 10 games with the Rockets last season, far off his career average of 24.0. Well, the Hezonja-Tolliver-Little trio has combined to average just 11.2 points per season. If Anthony is the same Anthony we saw last season, it doesn’t matter. It’s still what the Blazers need. One guy to fill the production of three. That’s an upgrade.

Anthony also gives the Blazers a shooting threat on the floor with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s someone they can pass the ball to and have confidence he can hit the open shot. Just by being on the floor, defenses will have to remain honest. It’s a rare skill when you don’t have to score a bucket to make the defense adjust to you. Anthony can do just that.

The biggest questions with Anthony are how does he fit in the lineup and how does it affect the rotation, particularly with Nassir Little. Little has slotted in as the starting power forward spot in recent games and has played well. Well enough, at least, to remain the starter, for now. He’s good on the glass, decent on defense, and has shown some explosion on the offensive end. He has earned a spot in Stotts’ rotation with or without Anthony.

How Anthony’s role impacts Little remains to be seen, but given how Stotts has used the rookie lately, you would have to assume those two will be 1-2 on the power forward depth chart, with Hezonja and Tolliver getting spot minutes.

All of this should culminate in Anthony sparking the Blazers. Portland has four games remaining on this road trip, with Milwaukee being the only team that has a winning record. If Anthony shows up, shows out, and fits like a glove, then this could be a stretch of games that change the season. Or, at least, a stretch of games that get the ship back on course.

With Melo, fans should expect to go 3-1 and return home next week with a chance to return to .500 on the season. Who do they play when they get back to Moda? The Oklahoma City Thunder – the last team Anthony played a full season for.

This has the potential to be the start of a storybook, and Melo has a chance to be the story’s hero.

Trail Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Trail Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Get your fire emojis ready! On Tuesday morning, the Blazers unveiled their new city edition uniforms. A blast from the past collides with accents of the present to create the perfect new Trail Blazers look. 

According to the Trail Blazers, "Portland's newest uniform combines the team's first two uniforms (70-71 through 74-75) along with some modern design accents and vintage coloring."

The uniform features Rip City across the chest and a classic black and red piping through the uniform. The red is lighter than the modern red, while the white is a slight off-white to help create that vintage look. 

Fans on social media loved the new combo:


Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

If ever it was no surprise that somebody was going to have to sit out a game because of back spasms, it’s tonight with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The man has been carrying this team on his back all season, leading the league in minutes – and those were some pretty stressful, high-usuage-rate minutes, at that. No wonder Damian Lillard has back spasms.

You don’t believe in load management? Well, you probably don’t believe in flu shots, either, right?

It’s the same thing. You don’t have the flu when you get that shot -- you get the shot to keep you from having the flu. Same with load management. You are healthy enough to play in a game, but rather than stress your body another night, you rest. You rest to prevent injuries – which is easier than trying to treat the injury once you get it. And you stave off fatigue that comes from piling game on top of game.

The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a six-game road trip that offers too much travel, too many games and are tonight playing the second of back-to-back games. Lillard should probably sit this game out even if his back wasn’t hurting.

More and more, people are coming to realize that the density of the schedule combined with a lack of sleep that occurs because of the crazy cross-time-zone travel leads to fatigue. And fatigue leads to injuries.

The Trail Blazers, for whatever reasons, have refused to rest healthy players over the years. Part of this, I’m sure, is because the players themselves wish to play. And the team wants to win every possible game in order to make the playoffs. But that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to step up and protect players from themselves. Particularly a player such as Lillard, who knows how important he is to his squad.

Will resting players cause losses? Yes, of course. Not all the time, but sometimes. But would you rather lose a player for three months because of a severe injury, or just lose a game or two here or there?

And when I think back about the troubles this team has had keeping franchise players healthy, I believe more than ever that load management could have been an answer.

Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy – would any of them have lasted a little longer with a lighter load? Maybe sitting out a game here and there or playing with a limit on minutes? I think that’s possible.

Obviously, there is no way to prove any of those players – or Lillard – would have profited from load management, but I’d certainly favor giving it a try.

And at some point, the league is going to have to explore shortening the schedule. This is too much and players are paying a price for it.

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

The Blazers had an unlikely name pop up on today's injury report: Damian Lillard.

Per Trail Blazers PR, Damian Lillard is dealing with back spasms and is out for tonight's matchup against the Pelicans. 

Lillard played 35 minutes in last night's loss to the Rockets, scoring just 13 points. For the season Lillard is averaging 28.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.,9 rebounds -  all career highs. 

With Lillard out, the Blazers will likely lean on second-year guard Anfernee Simons to shoulder the load at point guard. Simons has been a key bench contributor this season, averaging 11.3 points and 1.3 assists per game. 

Tonight's game also marks the potential debut of newly signed forward Carmelo Anthony. Without Lillard on the court, this could be a perfect opportunity for Anthony to debut in a big way. The Blazers will certainly need his scoring touch. 

The Blazers tipoff against the Pelicans at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the NBC Sports My Teams App.

Carmelo Anthony will wear #00... he explains why

Carmelo Anthony will wear #00... he explains why

After days of reporting, after players and coaches directly and indirectly talking about him, after he posted a video on Youtube about his decision, after joining the team in New Orleans Monday night, the Trail Blazers officially, officially, officially announced Carmelo Anthony to the roster Tuesday morning ahead of their game vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. 

The release stated Anthony would wear jersey #00. The #00 was last worn by Enes Kanter last season.

Anthony sported the #15 through his college days at Syracuse and in his early years with the Denver Nuggets. He was forced to switch numbers once he joined the Knicks because the number 15 was retired by the Knicks in honor of Earl Monroe and Dick McGuire. Melo chose to wear the #7 in New York, which he continued to wear with the Rockets and Thunder. 

There was some intrigue as to whether Anthony would try and wear #7 with the Blazers, which hasn't been sported since Brandon Roy last wore it in 2011. 

Tuesday's release cleared that up. 

Anthony took to Instagram to explain the reasoning behind the jersey selection. 

One should be concentrating on clues that the universe is dropping for them to take up a quick reaction.
Divine power is seeking my undivided attention.
I had to achieve the tranquility of spiritual maturity through the guidance of the Universe.

Melo cites the ∞ symbol as the reasoning behind the decision, a symbol that is "without end," and "can never be given an exact value."

These all sound well and good as reasons, but one has to wonder how much internal influence there was behind his decision when Melo is hashtagging words (#007 #GRA7EFUL #STAYME7O) with his old number in it. 

Carmelo Anthony with team in NOLA, plan is to play him against Pelicans

Carmelo Anthony with team in NOLA, plan is to play him against Pelicans

The Carmelo Anthony experience in Portland is finally here. It was reported last week that the Trail Blazers had agreed to a deal with Anthony, and on Tuesday the team made it official.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Anthony’s deal is a one-year, non-guaranteed, and worth $2.15 million. The deal becomes fully guaranteed if he remains with the team beyond January 7th. 

Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star, met the Trail Blazers in New Orleans prior to their game against the Pelicans. Portland has four games remaining on its current six-game road trip, and Anthony can help right away.

On Tuesday, Coach Stotts joined Rip City Mornings with Dan and Nigel to discuss his newest addition.

Stotts said that the team has a meeting at noon and that the plan is to get Anthony on the court against the Pelicans.

Stotts didn’t indicate whether or not Anthony would start, but he did talk about what Anthony brings to the Blazers:

I think everybody’s pretty optimistic. The guy is one of the best scorers in the history of the league. He’s a matchup problem. There will be an adjustment period going forward integrating with our team, but guys don’t forget how to shoot and he still creates problems for the defense.

You can hear Coach Stotts’ interview with Dan and Nigel in the video above.