Maurice Harkless vs. Jake Layman: No debate, no rift

Maurice Harkless vs. Jake Layman: No debate, no rift

Maurice Harkless found himself healthy enough to play and back in the starting lineup Friday night vs. the Pelicans. This meant Jake Layman headed back to the bench. Then, Layman exploded for 20 points in the second quarter

Which begs the on-going question: Which of the two should be in the starting lineup?

While debated heavily on social media among fans and written about in the media, there really has not been any discussion internally with the team of Harkless coming off the bench this season even when he is coming back from injury. But with the emergence of Jake Layman, some are still wondering who should start at small forward. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained the decision to put Harkless back in the starting lineup after missing the last five games.

“Just from a rotation standpoint, I think we all feel like Moe and the starters is good. I think Jake provides some energy, like he did tonight off the bench,” Stotts said.

“The way Jake was going I had every intention of brining him back at the end of the second quarter, but Jake had it rolling, but I thought, that’s the best I’ve seen [Harkless] play in a long time. The way he started the game, made some dynamic plays. We really needed his minutes in the second half with foul trouble. Played him at the four. But, I thought he looked really good,” Stotts added.

It could be easy to think that Harkless and Layman are competing for the same role and that could bring some rift between the two.

That could not be further from the truth.

Harkless embraced Layman with a hug and was one of Layman’s biggest cheerleaders from the sideline after Layman went on the flurry and ended up scoring 20 points in the second quarter.

“I love watching Jake when he gets like that, man. He gets like that, it’s just like nothing nobody could do. We see it all the time in practice and just for him to be able to be out there, do it in front of everyone, it’s pretty cool and I’m happy for him,” Harkless said postgame.

Layman had joked how his teammates kept encouraging him to shoot once they saw he was in the groove in the second quarter.

“He looked a little tired out there, but we were getting on him like ‘you’ve got to shoot’… That second quarter was a whole lot of fun to watch,” Harkless said.

The Blazers realize it’s not about competing with each other for a spot on the team, it’s about competing together as a team to win.

“At the end of the day it’s about who can give us the best chance to win. When Moe’s healthy, he helps us a lot and then when he’s not, Jake has to be prepared to play more minutes and step up and I think that he’s done a great job staying ready all season, being in and out of the rotation, different roles, he’s been ready to play regardless,” McCollum said.

Whether you are for Harkless starting or Layman starting, just know, these two forwards are starting to really help the Blazers make a big push in the standings as we all start thinking about the postseason. 

Throwback to 2012 NBA Draft -- License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

USA Today Images

Throwback to 2012 NBA Draft -- License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

Since it’s NBA Draft week, we thought we’d throw it back to when the draft process all began for Trail Blazers' All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

Lucky for Trail Blazers fans, Nate Jones of Goodwin Sports Management put together a four-part series titled “License to Lillard,” where fans could watch the pre-draft process and get to know the Weber State point guard.

“I’m just dreaming. Pursuing my dream. Follow me on my journey to the NBA,” Lillard said in episode one.

Going to a smaller school at Weber State helped motivate Lillard to prove what he can do.

“I wasn’t recruited by the bigger schools, it just automatically put a chip on my shoulder,” Lillard said.

Portland fans might notice the Oakland native sporting his hometown team, wearing Golden State Warriors basketball shorts while working out. 

Lillard told the story of when he was growing up, he was always working on his game and even though he didn’t have a hoop in his backyard, he did have a basket on a tree at his grandmother’s house that he used often at a young age.

Follow Lillard’s journey training hard, getting stronger, and becoming more explosive before the Trail Blazers took a chance on him in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Also, find out how Lillard overcame breaking his right foot during his junior season (2010-11). Lillard had played in just nine games for the Wildcats before suffering the foot injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. He would go on to receive a medical redshirt season. This was his first major injury.

“It was kind of hard on me… I think that helped me get as mentally tough as anyone… Right now I think I can do anything,” Lillard said.


License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

Get to Know: Talen Horton-Tucker from Iowa State

Get to Know: Talen Horton-Tucker from Iowa State

The Trail Blazers hosted their final round of pre-draft workouts today at the practice facility in Tualatin. Horton-Tucker is a 6’4’’ Guard/Forward from Iowa State. He was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and a Big 12 All-Freshman team selection for the 2018-2019 season. He was second among Big 12 freshmen in scoring at 11.8 ppg.

Horton-Tucker’s strengths include a well-balanced combination of power and skill as he is built like a power forward but has skills like a guard but is still working to develop his three point range. Also a benefit, Horton-Tucker has the build and athleticism to guard multiple positions.

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

June 14, 2019

Dear Scoop Journal,

This is my first journal entry since the Trail Blazers season ended and it seems fitting to write down my random Trail Blazers/NBA thoughts today since the season came to an end last night with the Toronto Raptors taking home the 2019 NBA Championship.

Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it, with all the injuries for the Warriors, and the celebrations in Toronto, here are my latest Blazers and NBA thoughts:

*Everyone I talk to today, I want to ask them this question: How bad did you wish you were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night in Toronto? (Toronto knows how to celebrate a championship!)

*First off, Congrats to Toronto and the Raptors fans on earning their first NBA Championship! I know I’m not alone in thinking Blazers fans are happy for their fellow northern neighbors.

*It’s so hard not to think about what it would be like here in Portland for the Blazers to win a title in the modern NBA era. Rip City will go absolutely crazy when the next championship happens here. This is something I think about often. Obviously, I can’t wait for that day!   

*There were so emotions for Golden State fans on Thursday night. It was the last game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors had just lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles a couple days before Game 6, and then Klay Thompson goes out with what we all later learned was a torn ACL.

*Injuries are the worst part of the game. You hate to see players go down with these horrific injuries.  

*And not to mention, Thompson and Durant will both become free agents this offseason. This summer is going to be very interesting and next season could now be wide open.  

*I saw a Blazer fan tweet this out on Thursday night and I think this is how every non-Warrior fan was feeling:

*For now, NBA fans wish for a speedy recovery to all the players who went down with major injuries this season.

*Let’s now shift our focus to the NBA Draft. Thursday evening can’t come soon enough. Who will the Blazers pick at No. 25? Or will Portland trade the pick in a package deal? We’re about to find out!

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

The 2018-2019 NBA season has come to and end. The Toronto Raptors have dethroned the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dubs in six games. 

This is the first NBA Championship for the Raptors and "Jurassic Park". 

Several players of the Portland Trail Blazers took to social media following the game to congradulate the World Champs:

The end of this NBA season can only mean that the NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League are just weeks away.

We are about to head into the crazy that is the NBA offseason with so many major players up in free agency. To the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard. For the Warriors, injuries to All-Stars Kevin Durant and now Klay Thompson (ACL tear in game six) will be something to watch next season and what Golden State will do.

CJ McCollum recognized Thompson's heart, coming back into the game and shooting two free throws on a torn ACL.

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

The Blazers have the 25th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and have already held three pre-draft workouts, but will they actually end up using the pick?

So far the players they have brought in point to no, but workouts don't always tell the story.

Remember the Blazers drafted Zach Collins without ever bringing him in for a workout.

So what will the Blazers do on June 20th? Our Blazers Outsiders discuss in the video above.

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Now that the season is over and it looks as if the Golden State Warriors are going to have to make a miracle move not to look like a mediocre team next season, the talk turns to the Western Conference and the most basic of questions:

Who’s next?

As the runner-up to Golden State in the playoffs this last season, the Trail Blazers would certainly be a logical choice. And that means there’s pressure on Portland to make the Big Move to push it over the top – something that might duplicate what the Raptors did when they acquired Kawhi Leonard.

And the trade that is being tossed around the most, of course, is for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. And I would advise those wishing for the Trail Blazers to pull that one off to slow down and be a little more realistic.

The Blazers would probably be willing to go all-in on Davis but they just don’t have the chips to tempt the Pelicans. Or, more correctly, other teams have more to offer.

And let me say first, if you think the Trail Blazer brass hasn’t already thought of this and hasn’t already engaged in some discussions with New Orleans, you’re probably off base. I would assume by now a whole lot of teams have not only knocked on David Griffin’s door, but have been rebuffed.

There’s a reason the Lakers continue to be the most-talked-about destination for Davis. No, not LeBron -- although that's certainly a factor in Davis wanting to be there. They have the most to offer. Los Angeles could send the Pels two previous No. 2 picks in the draft along with the current No. 4 pick – as well as Kyle Kuzma. The Blazers would be offering high-salaried players who could provide cap room in one more year but I would also assume a team welcoming Zion Williamson doesn't want to think about cap space NEXT year.

It wants talent now.

So if Davis doesn’t land in Portland it doesn’t mean the team didn’t give it a shot. Those guys in the front office know exactly what’s out there for them in the West and are more excited about that prospect than you are.

And I do think the Trail Blazers will pull something off – and it will probably prove to be better than you thought it was going to be. That’s the way a lot of Neil Olshey’s moves have turned out over the last several seasons.

Who could they get? I have no idea. But I certainly didn’t know Jusuf Nurkic and a pick could be had for Mason Plumlee – and I had no idea Nurk would prove to be the player he’s become. I also didn’t expect Rodney Hood and Enes Kantor to show up here for the stretch run last season.

Olshey’s plan all along has been to prepare this franchise for the time when the Warriors drop off. The Warriors didn’t just drop off, though, they fell down in a heap due to injuries.

But the Blazers are closer to a Western Conference title now than they’ve been in a long time. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are in their prime and Jusuf Nurkic – when they get him healthy – is a force at both ends of the court.

Portland could still use more three-point shooting and a rim protector until Nurkic heals and to back him up after that.

You can play with one of those online digital trade machines all you want, but I’m not sure you really know which players to plug into it.

So my best advice would be to be patient and see what happens.

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

The 2018-19 NBA season started out rocky for CJ McCollum. Terry Stotts wanted him to be handcuffed with Damian Lillard in the starting unit to start the year, and that led to some growing pains for McCollum. Where before he had free reign, the inclusion of Lillard in more of his minutes required McCollum to be more ingenious and efficient.

Things didn't start out that great for McCollum. He struggled to shoot the ball, particularly in November and into December. It was clear that he was trying to play within the confines of someone else's game, and McCollum didn't angle to his own strengths.

That changed, particularly after the All-Star break, when McCollum's offensive rating shot up to 120. He was more useful in the passing game, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, it was clear the Blazers could rely on McCollum yet again.

He was huge in the first round, particularly in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. McCollum scored 33 points while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He was a +25 in Game 4 of that series, and in Game 3 against the Nuggets in the next round, he scored 41 points en route to a 2-1 Blazers series lead.

McCollum’s penultimate performance came in Game 7 when he hit a clutch jumper in with  2 seconds to go against the Denver Nuggets. His shot sealed the win vs. Denver, and pushed Portland to the Western Conference Finals.

So how should we feel about McCollum? Adaptation and fearlessness are the two things that defined McCollum’s season. He could have very well folded under the pressure of a new role earlier in the season. The same could be said about how he could have given up in tougher games in the playoffs when Lillard was struggling and he had to take over. But instead, McCollum rose to the challenge and became something more. In doing so, he earned the praise we lumped onto him after he signed his massive new contract in 2016.

National talking heads like to put on a show about the Blazers. They watch some highlights, check out some stats, and make a big show about sending some respect out west to the Blazers for both Lillard and McCollum. But the amount of minutes that folks on the East coast actually watch this team is minimal. Believe me, I lived there, and if you talked about staying up late to watch West Coast basketball people would look at you as if you were crazy. 

Yes, both of Portland stars deserve this praise. But the lack of understanding about what kind of players they are, and the kind of lip service that's been paid to them has created a gap between perception and reality.

In particular, because he's the second banana, it seems sparse what many on the other side of the Rockies could tell you about McCollum — other than the fact that he's a scorer. And to be honest, up until this season, it wasn't clear that there was another level to McCollum game other than that fact. The national understanding of McCollum game was accurate, whether it was obtained honestly or not.

But this season has changed how we should think about CJ McCollum. His adaptability — to operate differently after five seasons within the geometric dance of an NBA offense — is admirable. It was a test of character that McCollum passed, and it may have also been the thing that gave McCollum the chutzpah to handle adversity in the playoffs the way he did this season. 

Before 2018-19, CJ McCollum was “smooth” “crafty” and “shifty”; a second-tier scorer on a second-tier team, standing in the shadows cast by a light shining brighter than himself in Damian Lillard. Now? McCollum is finally the star that so many Portland Trail Blazers fans have ascribed him to be. 

Blazers Pre-draft Workout: Late-bloomer KZ Okpala is looking to showcase his versatility

USA Today Images

Blazers Pre-draft Workout: Late-bloomer KZ Okpala is looking to showcase his versatility

TUALATIN – The Portland Trail Blazers held their third pre-draft workout on Thursday morning at their practice facility. Portland’s fourth and final workout will take place this Sunday.

The Blazers hold the No. 25 pick in this year’s draft, to be held on Thursday, June 20.

Portland brought in six hopefuls on Wednesday, David Crisp (Washington), Matur Maker (Slovenian League), KZ Okpala (Stanford), Samir Sehic (Tulane/Vanderbilt), Jaylin Walker (Kent State), and Cameron Young (Quinnipiac).

Stanford forward KZ Okpala, whose full name is Chikezie Okpala, is the biggest standout from Wednesday’s group.

Okpala is projected to be a mid to late first round pick, which could mean he is available for the Blazers at No. 25. Okpala has been linked to the Nets and Jazz in several Mock Drafts.

At 6’9”, 215 pounds, Okpala is the definition of a ‘3 & D’ guy.

Okpala talked with the media after his workout, discussing what stood out to him about the workout with the Trail Blazers saying, “The energy. Everybody was playing extremely hard, we’re competing, that was the biggest thing.”

While attending Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California, Okpala only played the guard position despite his huge growth spurt. He even brought the ball up when he grew to 6’8”.

“It’s just a blessing, Okpala said. “Nothing more than a blessing. [I was] 5’10” coming in as a freshman [in high school] and now I’m 6’10” almost. I’ve got guard skills, that helps with my versatility for sure.”

 “Whatever position coach needs me to play, I can do it,” Okpala said. 

With his size he looks to be a lock for the modern NBA and that is what Okpala is looking to showcase.

“Versatility, that I can handle it for my size, get downhill, get to the middle, I have a quick first step, play-make, can shoot it, and then defensively I think that’s where I can come in on a team and make an impact right away just because I think I can really get after it, Okpala said. “I can guard 1 through 4. I’m just confident on the defensive end and the offensive end.”

During his sophomore year of college, Okpala earned 2018-19 All-Pac-12 First Team selection.

At Stanford, he averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He played in 29 games his sophomore year, while averaging 46.3% from the field, 67.1% from the free throw line, and 36.8% from three-point range in 32.7 minutes per game.

The sophomore forward spoke with the Blazers team physiologist during the NBA Combine last month, which may show that Portland has had some interest in the young fella.

Okpala has been very busy during the pre-draft workout process.

“I’m getting up there. I think [this] is my ninth. I think I have a couple more… I just take it one day at a time really,” Okpala said. “It’s been so exciting, every place I go, the atmosphere, just meeting all the staff and front offices it’s been a blessing."

The 20-year-old also said he grew up watching the Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“What they did in the playoffs is amazing, Okpala said. “I know the culture out here is incredible.”

The Scoop: Happy Trail Blazers Day!

USA Today Images

The Scoop: Happy Trail Blazers Day!

The Scoop livestream presented by Toyota of Portland is back for the summer! On Wednesday afternoon, Jamie Hudson took fan questions live on Facebook and made sure to get all of Rip City up-to-date on all the happenings surrounding the Trail Blazers.

The two big topics of the day:

Wednesday morning ahead of the Portland City Council Session at City Hall, the Trail Blazers organization was honored by the city.

Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts, along with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, and Senior Vice President of Venue Operations Chris Oxley sat in front of Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Nick Fisher, and the rest of the City Council while Wheeler proclaimed June 12th, 2019 "Trail Blazers Day".

Plus, it was announced on Wednesday that Damian Lillard has been named the winner of the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award. The award is given annually to an NBA player, coach or staff member who has shown “outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

Other Scoop topics include:

-Damian Lillard working out with former Blazer Tim Frazier

-Jusuf Nurkic’s rehab progress

-Trail Blazers vacations

-Pre-draft workouts for Portland

Watch the FULL EPISODE right here:

Scoop Summer Show

Happy Trail Blazers Day!!! The Scoop brought to you by Toyota of Portland is back for the Summer! Let’s get you up-to-date on all the Rip City happenings and NBA reports right now on The Scoop…

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Wednesday, June 12, 2019