Meyers Leonard’s special moment came in Western Conference Finals

Meyers Leonard’s special moment came in Western Conference Finals

Adversity.

That is one word that comes to mind when reflecting on the Portland Trail Blazers 2018-19 season.

This year’s Trail Blazers squad has been through a lot. From owner Paul Allen passing away just three days before the regular season started, to losing Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending leg injury with nine games remaining in the regular season.

The Trail Blazers have overcome a lot this season, but Portland was not able to overcome the willpower of the reigning champs, the Golden State Warriors, on Monday night. The Warriors took Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, 119-117 in overtime.

Portland did not go away quietly though.  

As the Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard put it immediately following Game 4; guys stepped up throughout all the adversity. 

“We lose our owner [Paul Allen]. We dealt with injuries, CJ [McCollum] missed a lot of games at a crucial stretch in the season, and we just kept answering the call, and that takes a group of guys to maybe go from not playing minutes, stepping up, giving us good minutes, trusting each other, leaning on each other. It takes a real group to be able to come together in those hard times on more than one occasion, and I thought we did that,” Lillard said.

On Monday night, Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard stepped up in a big way for the second straight game after starting for the second consecutive game.

Leonard injected much-needed energy into the team, and into the Moda Center crowd.

“I just went out there and played confident,” Leonard said.

Playing with confidence is something Leonard has not always done. He will be the first to admit, it has been difficult for him to be self-assured on the court throughout his career.

For anyone who has not followed Leonard’s seven-year NBA career, it may be difficult to fathom that there have been times over the past few seasons that Trail Blazers fans have booed Leonard.

But, chants of “Meyers Leonard” erupted midway through second quarter of Game 4 after Leonard had already scored 20 points on the night.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was happy for his big man.

“Again, he, in the first half, was outstanding, 25 points,” Stotts said. “And, he was playing with confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3, and again we needed him and he played well and I’m happy for him.”

Leonard had 25 points at the break and ended up finishing with a new playoff and regular season career-high 30 points. ‘The Hammer’ also pulled down 12 rebounds.

Monday night marked Leonard’s second double-double of his postseason career.

Another role player who had stepped up for the Blazers various times throughout the season and playoffs was Seth Curry.

Curry has preached all season long how his teammates know their roles and he continued to do so after the Blazers season had come to and end.

“Everybody worked hard, everybody did their job, everybody played their roles… Everybody in this locker room should be proud,” Curry said postgame.  

Curry also gave a lot of credit to Leonard.

“Meyers was great. He was great this whole series. He played with confidence. When he was left open, he knocked the shots down,” Curry said. 

“For a guy who didn’t play at times through the playoffs, to get his number called in the Western Conference Finals and show up like that says a lot about who he is,” Curry said.   

Leonard played a total of 61 regular season games this past season and played in 10 of the Blazers’ 16 postseason games.

But to quote Lillard, "it’s special" that Leonard was given his biggest opportunity in the Western Conference Finals.

“I think tonight was special.  I just remember in the first half, I looked up and in my mind, I remembered him just making a bunch of shots, and then I looked up and I was like, this dude got 25 points and I was like, he really killing right now,” Lillard chuckled.

“I think that just goes into what I said earlier, all season long, we have had things happen and guys have had to step up, and he’s a prime example of that,” Lillard said. “Not just this year, but over the last seven years, a lot of people have had a lot to say about him and what he doesn’t do and all those things… They get online and they say things and they don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors. They say things without knowing...knowing, but without taking into consideration that we’re people… They just beat you down, beat you down, beat you down, and I think he’s been through that.”

There’s no question, this Blazers team has a special bond and Leonard made sure to mention that postgame.

“Unfortunately our season is over, this is a very special team, guys that really care about each other and come to work every single day, ready to go,” Leonard said.

On the night the boos turned into ‘Meyers Leonard’ chants, the 2018-19 season’s playoff run came to an end. Yet, don’t forget the a confident Meyers Leonard could be the Blazers starting center for 2019-20 season with Nurkic not back from injury and Enes Kanter likely not on the roster.

Rip City might be chanting a lot more for Meyers next season.

Simons named to NBA Summer League second-team

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NBCSNW

Simons named to NBA Summer League second-team

The Blazers were unable to repeat as Summer League champions last week in Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a successful summer. 

Portland's Anfernee Simons averaged 22 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in Las Vegas. To make it more impressive, he did so in just three games. Unfortunately, Simons injured his ankle and did not play in the team's final two games. Despite the injury, the performance of the Blazers' second-year guard still turned heads.

On Monday it was announced that Simons earned a spot on the NBA Summer League Second-Team.

Simons was the only Blazers player to make one of the All-Summer League teams, but he wasn't the only player with Northwest ties to make the cut. 

Former Oregon Ducks star Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors joined Simons on the second-team, as did former Gonzaga star, Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura wasn't the only Gonzaga player to put on a show. Fellow rookie and former Bulldog,  Brandon Clarke of the Memphis Grizzlies was named to the Summer League First-Team and was also named Summer League MVP. 

Spalding launches Dame Time Challenge

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USA Today

Spalding launches Dame Time Challenge

If you don't already know, today is Damian Lillard's 29th birthday. In honor of the occasion, Spalding launched the Dame Time Challenge. The challenge simply asks that fans do their best Lillard impersonation by making shots from as deep as possible and posting the results on social media. 

The shots have come flooding in. So don't miss your chance to let Dame, Spalding, and the world see your best long-distance shot. While you warm up and get the camera ready, here are some of the best #dametimechallege videos out there right now. 

The best of Trail Blazers social: The whole world loves Moe Harkless

The best of Trail Blazers social: The whole world loves Moe Harkless

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, it may also be in the algorithm of artificial intelligence. As our friends over at Pinwheel Empire pointed out, the facial beauty network at South China University used its special software to rate the attractiveness of starters in the NBA.

While he may not be a member of the Blazers anymore, SCU's math said Maurice Harkless was the most attractive starting small forward in the league last season. In fact, he was one of the most attractive starter in the entire NBA.

Harkless responded simply,  "the people have  spoken."

But enough of Moe and his beautiful smile. Let's talk about the current Blazers. As is custom in 2019, many of the Trail Blazers players posted on social media this week. From proud dads, happy rookies, and happy birthdays, the Blazers players took to their favorite apps to talk about it. Here are some of the best Trail Blazers social media posts of the week.

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Dame Jr

A post shared by Damian Lillard (@damianlillard) on

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Mood

A post shared by anthony tolliver (@atolliver44) on

 

 

Looking back: Anfernee Simons top plays from NBA Summer League

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USATI

Looking back: Anfernee Simons top plays from NBA Summer League

LAS VEGAS - Damian Lillard is the now of the Trail Blazers, but the future of the Trail Blazers might be in his protege, Anfernee Simons. 

We've seen plenty of potential from the young guard, who dropped 37 points on Sacramento in the regular season finale. 

He also had a great summer league until an ankle injury prematurely ended his time in Las Vegas. 

Simons led the Blazers in scoring with 35 points in 25 minutes in Portland's third game of summer league. He was in position to tie the game vs. the Jazz, but instead injured his right ankle on his way to the rim on an attempt to hit a game-tying dunk or layup. Simons would sit out the remainder of the summer league due to the injury.

Simons would end summer league averaging 22.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in three games played

Summer League Head Coach Jim Moran has this to say about Simons:

“It was fun to watch him run the team... I was happy to see the growth from him, the confidence, picking his spots, getting guys involved. I thought he did a great job. We put the ball in his hands for the last play of the game when he got hurt, that’s the level of trust we have with him. He’s grown a lot.”

For now, let's enjoy the NBA's video of Simons' best plays from summer league:

Why didn't the Portland Trail Blazers utilize the fastbreak more in 2018-19?

Why didn't the Portland Trail Blazers utilize the fastbreak more in 2018-19?

The Portland Trail Blazers were not a good fastbreak team last year. They ranked just 18th in pace, getting out in transition 11 percent of the time and scoring 1.08 points per possession. That low scoring number ranked them in the bottom half of the league.

Their offense in total was of course very good. The Blazers had the third-best offensive rating in the league last season, and the eighth-best points per possession.

Like most teams, Portland's critical statistics — shooting percentages, assist percentages — went up in transition compared to its regular offense. But most importantly, players like Moe Harkless and Jake Layman thrived appeared to thrive beyond their regular production when they were on the break.

That begged the question of whether the way to utilize all of Portland’s assets was to push the pace.

In this week's video, we take a look at how guys like Layman, Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Meyers Leonard were excellent transition players for the Blazers this year. We also compare how Evan Turner, Seth Curry — and even Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum — may have had an effect on Terry Stotts' decision not to push the pace.

Watch the full video breakdown on Portland's transition game by clicking the video above.

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard shuts down Shannon Sharpe’s contract criticism

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard shuts down Shannon Sharpe’s contract criticism

FS1’s Shannon Sharpe thinks Damian Lillard shouldn’t have stayed in Portland.

On the “Undisputed” this week, Sharpe was overly critical of the All-Star guard’s four-year, $196 million supermax contract, saying Lillard will be quickly forgotten if he doesn’t win a championship.

“When’s the last time Dame Lillard took less than the max?” Sharpe said. “So, what Dame Lillard is gonna be is a guy that’s probably gonna make $400 million with no titles.”

He continued: “He’s gonna be one of the richest players in NBA history with zero titles,” Sharpe said. “Nobody remembers the guy who made a bunch of money playing sports, only if you won titles Dame. And if you don’t believe me, ask Kevin Garnett. At the end of the day, if you play a sport, it’s all about titles.”

Lillard caught wind of Sharpe’s criticism of his contract and fired back with this response.

At 28, Lillard still has plenty of time to win a championship with the Trail Blazers, but he has been consistent in his message: he’d rather be a good teammate and person than a ring chaser.

This offseason, Portland added key pieces like Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore to aid Lillard and the Trail Blazers in their journey for an NBA championship. 

From Summer League: Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin hands out off-season grades for the Trail Blazers

From Summer League: Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin hands out off-season grades for the Trail Blazers

We caught up with Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin at NBA Summer League to get his off-season grades for the Trail Blazers.

Helin is currently the lead NBA writer and managing editor at NBCSports.com.  

To start, he gave his grade on the Trail Blazers selecting Nassir Little at pick No. 25.

“This was a top 10 level talent… Give him a chance to develop.”

Helin likes the pick, but wants Blazers fans to keep in mind Little is going to need time to develop.

My Grade: I give the draft pick an ‘B+’ because with Little’s athleticism and the way the Blazers coaching staff has been able to develop shooters, I think Little could have a bright future in Rip City.  

For Helin’s grade on Little check out video here:


Next up, Helin gave his grade on Portland acquiring free agent veteran wing Kent Bazemore.

Spoiler alert: Helin is very excited about “this upgrade at a position in need.”

“Bazemore is loved everywhere he’s played.”

My grade: For Bazemore I have no doubt he’s going to be a great locker room guy and a consistent guy on the court. I give this free agent get an ‘A’. Bazemore will bring the energy every night. He’ll just probably have to adjust to playing big minutes on a winning team. Yeah, you bet he is excited for that adjustment.   

For Helin’s grade on Bazemore check out video here:

And lastly, Helin’s grade on the multi-team trade that now brings Hassan Whiteside to Portland might surprise you. He is not as high on this trade as some other national media members have been.

“It’s a placeholder trade until [Jusuf] Nurkic comes back.”

My grade: I give the trade an ‘A+’ since Portland finally got their guy they wanted three years ago in free agency. Plus, after listening to Whiteside at his introductory press conference on Thursday you can tell he was in need of a change of scenery. I see Whiteside fitting into coach Terry Stott’s system very well and heck, he’s going to be surrounding by shooters. “We got shooters,” to quote Whiteside himself. 

For Helin's grade watch here:

The Scoop Live from Las Vegas: Wrapping up NBA Summer League

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NBCS NW

The Scoop Live from Las Vegas: Wrapping up NBA Summer League

LAS VEGAS - That's a wrap on the 2019 NBA Summer League for the Portland Trail Blazers. After a consolation bracket win, the Blazers finished with a 2-3 record. 

Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little both missed time due to injuries but Gary Trent Jr. shined throughout the week. 

Jamie Hudson gets you caught up with the latest edition of The Scoop, live from the Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas, presented by Toyota of Portland

Summer League Scoop live from Vegas

That’s a wrap on Summer League for the Blazers. Let’s chat about tonight’s game and SL overall! The Scoop brought to you by Toyota of Portland starts now!

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Friday, July 12, 2019

Brian Wheeler will not return to radio for Trail Blazers for '19-'20 season

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Trail Blazers

Brian Wheeler will not return to radio for Trail Blazers for '19-'20 season

Today the Trail Blazers, via a release on their website announced that Brian Wheeler, the long time radio play by play voice of the Trail Blazers will not return to the airwaves next season. 

"Brian Wheeler has been an integral part of the broadcast team and Trail Blazers family since 1998 and his voice is synonymous with all the many great play-by-play calls over that 21-year span," said McGowan.  "We thank Brian for his contributions to the franchise and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. "

Wheeler took a leave of absence for the 2019 playoffs

No announcement has been made in terms of a replacement for Wheeler on the radio side. Travis Demers filled in for Wheels during the playoff run. 

More to come as information becomes available.