'Nurk and The Turk' haul Trail Blazers to an old-school win

'Nurk and The Turk' haul Trail Blazers to an old-school win

The Trail Blazers went old school Thursday night in Brooklyn against the Nets.

Portland went inside to its centers. Over and over and over.

And over again.

Remember when having a low-post center who could score was a big deal? Well, the Trail Blazers turned back the clock Thursday night.

Two Blazer centers combined for 45 points and 21 rebounds as Jusuf Nurkic made 10 of his 15 shots and grabbed 12 rebounds and Enes Kanter, born in Turkey and making his Portland debut, hit eight of his nine shots, scored 18 points and hauled in nine rebounds in just a little under 20 minutes.

The Blazers finished with 66 points in the paint.

“He basically played the way we expected him to play,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said of Kanter. “I don’t know if you could have asked for a better first game from him.”

In a league dominated by three-point shooting, playing a power game with a big center is a real throwback. But high-percentage shots still have extreme value, particularly late in close games and when the shooters can also make free throws if fouled …

And, of course, on nights when the three-ball isn’t falling – like Thursday night for Portland.

“They are going to change the dynamic for a lot of teams in how they guard us,” CJ McCollum said. “They will be able to get a lot of attention, draw fouls and get us in the bonus a little bit earlier and present some different challenges for a lot of teams.”

The Trail Blazers made just 7 of 32 heaves from distance, with Damian Lillard and McCollum combining to hit only 3 of 15.

But Nurk and The Turk mopped up the mess, collecting a total of eight offensive rebounds.

“Obviously, our two big guys really dominated inside,” Stotts said. “They were a big part of our offense.

“We’ve been good, offensively, all season. And I think now we’re improved. Nurk has always been good on the pick-and-roll and Enes is good on the block.”

“Defensively, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Portland is stockpiling centers. Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard – who have each had good moments this season – did not get into the game and newcomer Skal Labissiere is plopped down at the end of the bench, where he is expected to stay with the four others ahead of him.

“He was tremendous,” Nurkic said of Kanter. ”If he can continue to play that way, it will be huge.”

McCollum said of Kanter: “He’s a monster, man. I’ve seen his work ethic the last few summers, living in New York and living in the same building.”

Kanter, who had been with the tanking Knicks prior to making his escape, was excited.

“The last time I got a win, I think it was two months,” he said. “First, it was amazing, man. I didn’t know any sets. We just went over them yesterday and it was like smoke coming out of my ears. I didn’t know any of them.

“But when you play with guys like Dame and CJ, they make the game so easy for themselves and for everybody else around them. That’s what made it so special.

“Winning is fun again. I hope it keeps getting better and better.”

Photos released from Nurkic's return to full contact practice

Photos released from Nurkic's return to full contact practice

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Jusuf Nurkic participated in his first full contact, full speed practice. 

But, as the old saying goes... pics or it didn't happen!

Well, Thursday, we got them!

Until Wednesday's practice, Nurkic had only been going through individual workouts. He looked spry and did not show any favoring of his injured leg.

Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula on March 26th, 2019, had surgery and has been rehabbing ever since. 

It's a welcomed sight for the injury-riddled Blazers.

Nurk practiced full speed, contact, up and down, seeing him out there – like being himself and not looking like he was struggling – seeing Zach [Collins] out here right now, seeing how well Trev [Ariza] looked in practice – it just felt good. It was like… almost like a pick me up. I feel good about it. -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkc  

[RELATED: The ultimate Jusuf Nurkic rehabilitation highlight reel]

There is still no official word on his return to an NBA game, but this development is encouraging.  

“He’s been progressing to this point, Terry Stotts added, though trying to downplay its significance. "I guess, it’s a milestone, but it’s just part of his progression... It was hopeful that this week would be an opportunity for him to ramp up his workouts, but as far as anything else beyond that -- it’s too early to say.” 

Now as Rip City awaits the Bosnian Beasts return, everyone is wondering will it be soon?

“I do” Lillard said of getting the sense that Nurkic is nearing his return.

Lillard added, “I’m not involved in the situation…. I’m not a doctor, I’m not inside his body, but he looked good to me.”

“I’ve seen him doing contact stuff, but he really looked good.”

 

From one legend to another: Carmelo Anthony congratulates Derek Jeter on Hall of Fame

From one legend to another: Carmelo Anthony congratulates Derek Jeter on Hall of Fame

Carmelo Anthony has been a longtime fan of Derek Jeter.

He was in the stands at Yankee Stadium when Jeter knocked in the game-winning run in his final game in pinstripes. Jeter later served as a mentor to Anthony, then a member of the New York Knicks, who was seeking advice on dealing with the ins-and-outs of being a high-profile athlete in the Big Apple.

So when the Yankees icon was elected to the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday as part of the 2020 class, Anthony took a moment to congratulate Jeter on being enshrined as one of the game’s best.

“You know and I know, as well as the world knows, it was only a matter of time,” the Trail Blazers forward said. “Keep inspiring, keep motivating, keep paving the way, I appreciate you.”

Anthony wasn’t the only “legend” to pay tribute to Jeter. Actor Larry David, rapper Nas, eight-time MLB All-Star Mike Trout and others congratulated Jeter on his special moment.

Damian Lillard believes making an impact off-the-court is part of his legacy

Damian Lillard believes making an impact off-the-court is part of his legacy

Damian Lillard is a one the NBA’s premiere superstars. He’s a former Rookie of the Year, four-time NBA All-Star, a global ambassador for the Special Olympics, an aspiring rapper with two albums and a lethal shooter from the logo.

While winning championships and receiving accolades for his work on the court is important, Lillard believes having an impact on people is more significant.

In the final chapter of “DAME TIME: The Damian Lillard Story,’ the Trail Blazers franchise player shows how his leadership on the court can have an impact on those off the court.

“It’s always been about respect and treating people like people,” Lillard said in the video. “At 29, I’m consumed by impacting other people. I got a beautiful son. I got a great family. If you had to make a list of things you want, I feel like I have it. I can be like this and there’s people out there that need it.”

He continued: “I’ve learned so many things that other people could apply and help em. Not just like I know everything, but there’s so much that I can give to help other people.”

Lillard’s assists in the community extend beyond the court. In 2019, he was one of 10 players nominated for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his efforts in supporting high school students in the Portland community. The RESPECT program Lillard started to encourage students to “Show Up, Work Hard and Be Kind,” exemplifies his spirit to be a role model in the community.

It is something Lillard holds close to his heart and wants to be part of his legacy when his days on the basketball court are long gone.

“My legacy I would say is that people remember would remember me for being a more solid person than a player,” Lillard said. “Of course you want all the accolades and all the recognition for your career, but I want people for like my legacy to look back and say ‘for him to have been who he was as a player, it was unbelievable for him to have been the kind of person he was.’”

Zion Williamson ties rookie record previously set by... Jake Layman?

Zion Williamson ties rookie record previously set by... Jake Layman?

There was some serious hype surrounding New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson as his made his debut Wednesday night.

It really wasn’t until the fourth quarter, though, when he really showed he was worth all the hype.

But here’s the thing…

Zion reached a special feat in NBA history, which was held by a former Portland Trail Blazer.

With his 17-fourth quarter points, Williamson became the first rookie to score that many points in his rookie debut since Jake Layman did in back in 2016.

Fear the Turtle, Zion!!

Layman made his NBA debut on November 1, 2016, scoring 17 points in eight minutes off the bench in the Trail Blazers' 127-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Layman hit five three-pointers in the game, while Williamson knocked down four threes in the Pelicans 121-117 loss to the Spurs Wednesday night.

Layman became the first Trail Blazer ever to make five three-pointers in a debut, and finished one shy of the franchise record in a quarter.

As for the Pelicans overall No. 1 pick, Williamson scored 17 points in just 3:08 minutes of work in the final quarter. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the loss.

Now everyone in Rip City can brag about Layman when NBA fans hype up Zion's 17 points in a quarter.

Been there, done that.  

WATCH: Jake Layman did what Zion Williamson did, but FIRST

WATCH: Jake Layman did what Zion Williamson did, but FIRST

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson made his much anticipated NBA debut Wednesday night. 

And he balled out...

Williamson finished with 22 points on the night, but it was his fourth quarter performance that had everyone buzzing!

His 17 points in a quarter tied a record with a Trail Blazers rookie... and it wasn't set by Damian Lillard.

Jake Layman?!

Layman made his NBA debut on November 1, 2016, scoring 17 points in eight minutes off the bench. He also hit five three-pointers in the game, becoming the first Trail Blazer ever to make five three-pointers in a debut, and finished one shy of the franchise record in a quarter. 

And of course, we had to bring back the highlight from that game. 

Enjoy!

Social media is having way too much fun with the Zion Williamson, Jake Layman shared record

Social media is having way too much fun with the Zion Williamson, Jake Layman shared record

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson made his much anticipated NBA debut Wednesday night. 

And he balled out...

Williamson finished with 22 points on the night, but it was his fourth quarter performance that had everyone buzzing!

His 17 points in a quarter tied a record with a Trail Blazers rookie... and it wasn't set by Damian Lillard.

Jake Layman?!

Layman made his NBA debut on November 1, 2016, scoring 17 points in eight minutes off the bench. He also hit five three-pointers in the game, becoming the first Trail Blazer ever to make five three-pointers in a debut, and finished one shy of the franchise record in a quarter. 

Of course, the internet went crazy!

We will always remember the Jake Layman game... He is the OG...

Trevor Ariza hopeful Rip City doesn't hold Rudy Fernandez foul against him

Trevor Ariza hopeful Rip City doesn't hold Rudy Fernandez foul against him

Trevor Ariza wasn’t going to try to run from history. He remembers that play from 2009, when he was trying to chase down Portland’s Rudy Fernandez in the open court, hit Fernandez in mid-air and sent him crashing to the floor with an injury to his back.

Fernandez, who left the game on a stretche, missed the next two games.

Ariza expressed some hope that people would not hold the play against him as a new member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“It wasn’t intentional,” he said Wednesday in his introductory meeting with the local media. “It was a basketball play. It wasn’t a dirty play, just a play on the ball.”

Acquired from the Sacramento Kings in a deal announced Tuesday, Ariza, who addresses the play in the video above, is expected to take over as the Trail Blazers’ starting small forward Thursday night when Portland plays host to the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Trail Blazers get "raw" talent and "energy" with Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swangian

Trail Blazers get "raw" talent and "energy" with Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swangian

Injuries always seem to make way for young players.

The Portland Trail Blazers now not only have a myriad of injuries they are dealing with at the moment, but now they have two young, eager big men ready to prove themselves.

The Blazers and Kings trade become official Tuesday with the Blazers acquiring forwards Trevor Ariza and Wenyen Gabriel and forward/center Caleb Swanigan from Sacramento in exchange for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second round draft picks.

Most fans know what they’re getting in 15-year veteran Trevor Ariza, but what about the other two?

For Swanigan, he is, of course, back in familiar territory.

The 6-9 forward out of Purdue was selected by the Trail Blazers in the 2017 NBA Draft with the 26th overall pick before he was shipped to the Kings last season at the trade deadline.

Damian Lillard couldn’t help but talk about how strange it was to see Biggie back at the Blazers practice facility.

“When I walked in, he was up there, he was getting tapped and we both acknowledged that it was kind of weird, like, I don’t even think it’s been a full year of him being gone, so it was weird, but it’s good to have him back, another chance,” Lillard said.

Now that Swanigan is in his third season, he has a new perspective on things. 

“The biggest thing with me is that is just growth off the court a lot of things.” Swanigan said. “Just making sure I’m handing my body and other things that I’m doing right… That’d be the biggest thing I’ve grown in.”

The backup big man has now played in 55 NBA career-games while averaging 0.7 points on 37.6 percent shooting to go along with 1.0 rebound.

After just one day back of practicing with the Blazers, he isn’t sure how to feel.

I really don’t know what my reaction is. I’m still taking it in, like it’s different, but it’s the same, so it’s like I’ve been here before, but at a different time… It was good seeing the guys. Still seeing some familiar faces was nice to see. The coaching staff, of course, is the same, so that’s fun. -- Caleb Swanigan on being back in Portland

The 22-year-old isn’t ready to make any claims about this Blazers 2019-20 season.

“All you hear about is the injuries. So, it’s hard to really give them a judgment when you don’t know what guys they really had out there. I’ve been watching a little bit, but each game has been a different group of guys, so it’s hard to get a feel for what it is,” Swanigan said. 

Just as Lillard mentioned the day the trade was reported, there could be a lot of opportunity for Swanigan, Biggie is ready to bring that same liveliness that Blazers fans fell in love with him during the 2017 Summer League Championship run.   

Swanigan believes he can provide “energy, the same thing as before.”

After seeing Swanigan back in a Blazers practice jersey, there is one noticeable difference: Swanigan’s leaner stature.

He said he has lost “about 30 pounds” since he was last in a Trail Blazer uniform after changing his lifestyle to daily early workouts along with eating right.

As for Wenyen Gabriel, a lot of fans don’t know what to expect from the young fella.

Lillard wasn’t sure either.

“I didn’t know much about him, but you can tell he’s really talented,” Lillard said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s long, athletic, just raw, you can tell there’s a lot of ability there, so it’ll be interesting to see.”

Wednesday, Gabriel showed his excitement of making his way to Portland.  

“When I find out it was Portland, I was pretty happy. I’m excited because there’s opportunity up here right now, and the fact that they wanted me involved in this trade, I felt like, you know, there was some value in that,” Gabriel said.

The 22-year-old went undrafted in 2018 after declaring for the NBA draft last summer following his sophomore season at Kentucky.

The former Wildcat says he hasn’t been informed of his role with the Blazers yet, but he’s going to make sure to stay ready.

“I’m just going to focus on what I can control right now and then just be ready to go out there and be ready to play tomorrow,” Gabriel said.

With all the injuries, Gabriel feels there is a real opportunity with this current roster.

“The type of player I am—I’m long and athletic. I can shoot the ball well so; I think I can help space the floor… Very versatile on defense and offense, so I think I bring a lot of different things to the table and we’ll see what the team needs from me,” Gabriel said.

The Massachusetts and New Hampshire native already knows a couple of the young Trail Blazers too.

Gabriel played against Gary Trent, Jr. in high school and said he knows Anfernee Simons through summer camps.

“To know some familiar faces out here, definitely helps the transition,” Gabriel said.

Of course, there are never any guarantees in the NBA, and for the two newest young players, it’s not for certain they will even see much of the court with the Blazers.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts offered up this about the young forwards, “With Caleb, he remembers a lot of the things that we did and, so I think for him – getting him on the court will be pretty easy… And, Wenyen is a young player and we’ll see where that goes.”

Thursday night will be the first time to see the new guys as the Trail Blazers host the Dallas Mavericks.  

Trail Blazers transfer Jaylen Hoard back to G League

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers transfer Jaylen Hoard back to G League

The Portland Trail Blazers announced Wednesday afternoon that they have transferred two-way rookie forward Jaylen Hoard back to the G League’s Texas Legends.

Now that Portland has officially completed its trade with Sacramento, which brought in forwards Trevor Ariza and Wenyen Gabriel along with big man Caleb Swanigan, Hoard will be better served getting more playing time with the Legends.   

Hoard is approaching his total of 45 days spent with the team. Per league rules, that is the total allotment of days that a two-way player can spend with its NBA team.

Hoard has played in 12 games with the Trail Blazers, averaging 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.3 assists.

As for his time with the Legends this season, Hoard has averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in nine games.