Opening night could be a Moda Center circus

Opening night could be a Moda Center circus

TUALATIN – It’s probably going to be the biggest three-ring circus of an opening night that the Trail Blazers have ever staged.

There is just so much going on to make the event unlike any other home opener –- maybe any other regular-season game – in the 49-year history of the team.

Consider:

  • The Trail Blazers are working on a 17-game win streak in their home openers.
  • Portland also has a 15-game win streak against Thursday night’s opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • This will be the first home opener in three decades that the team will play without Paul Allen as its owner. Allen passed away Monday after losing a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
  • The game will be telecast nationally via TNT.
  • And oh yes, a fellow by the name of LeBron James will be playing his first regular-season game as a Laker.

James’ appearance has led to the an unprecedented amount of credential requests from national media. The media sections will be packed.

Even with all those special things going on, it’s important to point out that opening night is always something special for players. In any sport, every team is undefeated before the first game. And those teams have an optimism and even a confidence they may not have later in the season. Even the downtrodden teams don’t know how really bad they are until they play a few games.

“First day of school, that’s a good way to put it,” said Damian Lillard. “I remember my first day of first grade, of kindergarten, I was excited to go to school. Put that new outfit on.

“Same thing in the NBA. I think regardless of how many years you’ve done it, there’s nothing like opening night. The energy’s there, everybody’s expecting it to be their year and it’s another opportunity to go at it.”

The Trail Blazers may go into the game at full strength, which did not happen for any of the preseason games. Maurice Harkless, who missed all of the preseason games, says he’s “probable” for the opener – the same listing he had for the final three exhibition games.

Harkless would be a big help against the Lakers for his defense. The Trail Blazers usually match Al-Farouq Aminu against James but having Harkless in the lineup would allow the two to switch on screens, if necessary, and also give Aminu a rest off James.

If Harkless can go.

If not, it’s anyone’s guess who will fill the small forward spot. Jake Layman had a big preseason as the fill-in but has started only two games in his career. This would be a very big stage for him.

Because of TNT, the game is scheduled for a 7:30 start and special tributes to the team’s late owner will take place throughout the game.

The Trail Blazers will wear a patch on their uniforms bearing Allen’s initials, “PGA.”

“I think everybody in the league is ready to open the season,” said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. “It’s time. There’s a lot going on, a lot of anticipation – I think that’s a good thing.”

Blazers apply for disabled player exception for Rodney Hood

Blazers apply for disabled player exception for Rodney Hood

After suffering a season-ending Achilles injury one week ago vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers have applied for a disabled player exception for Rodney Hood.

[RELATED]: Rodney Hood undergoes successful surgery to repair torn Achilles

[RELATED]: Rodney hood sends heartfelt message to Rip City

A disabled player exception allows a team over the salary cap to acquire a replacement for someone who's been ruled out for a given season. The maximum salary of the replacement player will either be 50% of the injured player's salary or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. The lower number of the two is granted and does not count toward the salary cap.

Will the Blazers make a trade, a free agent signing perhaps?

Our Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes predicts what the Blazers may do:

In the wake of Monday night’s nasty home loss in Moda Center to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the season-ending injury to Rodney Hood, a lot of people seem to think the Portland Trail Blazers need to make a move. A trade, a free-agent signing – SOMETHING. But here’s what I think they will do: Nothing. And I think that’s the right course of action, too.

In Hood’s absence, Kent Bazemore has stepped into the starting role and has averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, as well as turned up the defensive intensity. 

Up next: The Blazers (10-16) face the Phoenix Suns (11-13) on Monday, December 16 in Phoenix, AZ.

Carmelo Anthony hopes jersey is retired in Denver, but what number would it be?

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USA Today Images

Carmelo Anthony hopes jersey is retired in Denver, but what number would it be?

DENVER -- Move over Hoodie Melo, it was vintage Melo on Thursday night.

The Denver Nuggets fans in attendance were treated to show with Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony back in town.

The 10-time All-Star finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-5 from deep in the Blazers 114-99 loss to the Nuggets.

Anthony was excited to back playing in the Mile High City for the first time since he returned to the NBA after his one-year hiatus.

It was back to the city where it all began.  

“It’s always fun, Melo said. "It’s always fun coming back. I wish we could’ve won, but it’s always fun outside of the actual game. It’s always fun coming back, being in the city and just being around and playing."

Anthony suited up for Denver for 7 1/2 years before being traded to New York.

The 35-year-old was well received Thursday night during the Blazers introductions despite the No. 3 overall pick for the Nuggets in the 2003 draft, being dealt to the Knicks after he had publicly said he wanted to be traded to New York.  

The Nuggets explored an Anthony trade since he refused to sign a three-year contract extension worth nearly $65 million they offered him in the summer of 2010.

But, Nuggets fans seemed to have settled their differences with Melo.

And now there’s just one thing missing in Denver, at least according to Anthony:

The No. 15 hanging from the rafters.

The former Nuggets forward believes it would be fitting to have his number retired in Denver.

This is where it should be retired to be honest with you, just my opinion… I think that the history is here, it’s where it all started. -- Carmelo Anthony after Thursday’s game in Denver

Unlike the Blazers organization not allowing players to wear Brandon Roy’s No. 7, Denver has not made such arrangements. Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic currently wear No. 15.

Melo joked that could be a problem.  

“Maybe not because Jokic got 15 now. We’ll see, man. We still got time,” Melo laughed.

Whether it's Denver, New York, or both, teams will have time to figure out the retirement of Anthony's number.

The time is now, though, for the Trail Blazers and Melo as they continue to look for just their second win of the season against a team with a winning record. 

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers loss to the Nuggets

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers loss to the Nuggets

A career night from starting center Hassan Whiteside wasn't enough to lift the Blazers to victory in Denver. 

Whiteside scored a career-high 33 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, becoming the first Blazers player since Buck Williams to grab 10 or more rebounds in 10 straight games. 

In his return to where it all started, former Nugget Carmelo Anthony dropped 20 points in the arena he used to call home.

Despite great efforts from the starting unit, the Blazers bench couldn't offer much help. They were outscored 46-9, with all nine points coming from Anfernee Simons. 

To top it all off, the Nuggets torched the Blazers from deep, hitting 18 three-pointers on the night. They really were the difference. 

Final Score in Denver: Nuggets 114 - Blazers 99

QUOTABLES:

Nassir Little on his back spasms:

It’s been tight. Just warming up, I just jumped and it was just off.

Damian Lillard on Nuggets hitting so many 3s:

We just didn’t have enough pressure on the ball. We let them get too comfortable out there. They’re a passing team. If we had had more energy and effort, like I said after the last game, we could have limited what they do. But we were back on our heels

Hassan Whiteside on Blazers rough night:

There’s stretches when we look amazing and then there’s stretches where they go on big runs… They was hitting threes, they was making us pay, and we would over help, and that’s pretty much what happened. 

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Whiteside showcases dunks, blocks and... three-pointers?!

When it rains threes for Denver, it pours on for the Blazers

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

Hassan Whiteside's big night leaves Trail Blazers pondering

Hassan Whiteside's big night leaves Trail Blazers pondering

DENVER – Staring off into the distance sat a Trail Blazers big man who looked deep in thought after Thursday’s game.

It was Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside, sitting there with his knees wrapped in ice and both feet ankle deep in a bucket of ice – that’s the norm for the Trail Blazers 7-footer.

But something was different. 

After the Nuggets defeated the Blazers by 15 points, Whiteside sat alone looking as if he was searching for answers. Pondering. 

In the first and third quarters in Denver, it was really all about Whiteside’s dominance at both ends of the floor.

Despite the big fella going off for a career-high 33 points, he was trying to figure out why his team didn’t come away with a win.  

There’s stretches when we look amazing and then there’s stretches where they go on big runs… They was hitting threes, they was making us pay, and we would over help, and that’s pretty much what happened. -- Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside postgame

Whiteside’s 13-point first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.  

He also hit his first and only three-attempt this season, punctuated with a dab (or three).

Trail Blazers fans may have been surprised to see him hoist up three, but Whiteside was ready for the moment.  

“I shoot them all the time [in practice]. So, when it is a situation like that I feel comfortable…. I hate when people always saying, "why you working on that? You don’t do it in a game." Well, maybe that’s why you work on it.”

It's obvious that Whiteside has put in the work this season, and he and Damian Lillard have put in the work together on the offensive end.  

Whiteside's performance didn't go unnoticed Thursday. 

Lillard, who shot just 2-for-9 from three, gave his big man props.

He had a great game. They put a lot of attention on the ball and he was coming open all night and he scored early, and all throughout the game he made those short floaters, he made some jumpers, made free throws, I thought he played a good game. -- Trail Blazer point guard Damian Lillard on Whiteside

“He looked good." CJ McCollum added. "He finished around the basket. He rebounded. I thought he took advantage of how they were guarding him in the pick and roll and he capitalized."

Whiteside is putting up career numbers across the board this season from points to rebounds to blocks. He became the first Blazer with 10+ rebounds in 10 straight games since Buck Williams Thursday night.

He believes the success has been there in the first part of the season because of Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and his teammates believing in him.  

“I got a coach playing me,” Whiteside said. “Coach has been playing me and letting me play out there. My teammates trust me and I worked on it all summer."  

Trust can go a long way.

But, now Whiteside and the rest of the Trail Blazers are pondering why they haven’t been able to put together a consistent game on both sides of the floor even if they are trusting each other. 

What beat Blazers?: Defense? Rebounds? Bench? 3-point shooting? Or just effort?

What beat Blazers?: Defense? Rebounds? Bench? 3-point shooting? Or just effort?

If you knew ahead of time that Hassan Whiteside was going to outscore All-NBA center Nikola Jokic 35-20 and Carmelo Anthony would outscore Blazer killer Paul Millsap 20-6, wouldn’t you figure that the Trail Blazers would have a shot at defeating the Denver Nuggets, who were on a three-game losing streak?

Well, no. But I think you would have thought they wouldn’t lose by 15.

But that’s what happened in Denver Thursday night, when Portland was drubbed 114-99.

And like so many NBA games, it all turned on three-point shooting. The Trail Blazers shot a solid 47.7 percent from the field but just 30 percent from three (9-30) while Denver connected on 50 percent of its threes (18-36). In other words, the Blazers were outscored by 27 points from distance

That’s especially lethal when you’re getting pounded 15-7 on the offensive boards.

It was a game the Trail Blazers were in on all the way to the end of the third quarter, when they went into zombie mode. With 2:47 left in the period they trailed just 79-78. But the Nuggets rattled off the final 10 points of the quarter and never looked back.

Part of that can be blamed on the Portland bench, which played a total of 62 minutes and scored just nine points – all of them by one man, Anfernee Simons.

But the starters could be blamed, too. The Trail Blazers got a solid 62 points from their starting frontcourt of Anthony, Whiteside and Kent Bazemore but a combined 28 from their starting guards, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who were averaging 48.8 per game coming into this one.

“I know Whiteside hurt us,” Denver Coach Mike Malone said. “But when you can hold that backcourt, Portland’s starting backcourt, to 28 points (and) only three free-throw attempts… I thought our defense on Dame and CJ was terrific.”

And while holding down Portland’s guards, the Nuggets were piling up the threes at the other end.

“A lot like Game 1 (of the season) they made 18 threes and they made 18 threes tonight,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “To me, that was the difference in the game. Some of it was on us as far as leaving shooters and not contesting as much and some of it was on them for moving the ball and finding the open man.”

Lillard said, “We just didn’t have enough pressure on the ball. We let them get too comfortable out there. They’re a passing team. If we had had more energy and effort, like I said after the last game, we could have limited what they do. But we were back on our heels.”

This Trail Blazer season is going south fast. Energy and effort have been an issue recently and you have to worry about it becoming a chronic problem.

The Halloween candy was still in the wrapper the last time Portland beat a team with a record above .500. The Trail Blazers are now 1-9 vs. teams with a plus-.500 record – and that win was on Oct. 27.

 


Listen to this week’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast here:

 

     

 

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

DENVER – It wasn’t until the third quarter when Trail Blazers PR announced that rookie forward Nassir Little would not play in Thursday’s game versus the Nuggets due to back spasms.

Through the first three quarters, it looked as though Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was electing to give Mario Hezonja the minutes Little had been taking up.

But, after the Blazers’ 114-99 loss to the Nuggets, Little explained how the injury came about and how ultimately he ended up not playing:

It’s been tight. Just warming up, I just jumped and it was just off. -- Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little 

Little has been dealing with a tight back for the past week, but Thursday during warm-ups was the last straw.

“I told the trainers during the game—no way,” Little said of being able to play against Denver.

Little was grimacing as he leaned down to put on his socks and shoes in the locker room postgame.

In 18 games played this season, he is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game.

The Trail Blazers forward said his pain level was “at a nine” when his back flared up initially as he went up for a lay-in. “It was immediate.”

Little sounded optimistic though saying he hopes not to miss too much time. The 19-year-old will begin treatment Friday morning and NBCSNW will follow-up with the Trail Blazers rookie throughout the weekend to see what his status will ultimately be for Monday night's game vs. the Phoenix Suns. 

 

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

DENVER  – Nuggets fans showed up in force Thursday night, but it's not certain if it was for their team, or Carmelo Anthony.

Either way, it was as close to sold out as the Pepsi Center gets for a Nuggets game. It even looked like there were more fans in the stands on Thursday than there were during last year’s postseason.

In Anthony’s return to Denver, he looked like vintage Melo, but also showed off his defense coming up with a couple of steals. 

It was a hard fought battle between two teams that are continuing to deepen their division rivalry. 

But, down the stretch, Portland wasn’t able to get stops. The Nuggets took a 2-0 series lead in their 111-99 win over the Trail Blazers. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 99

Here are three quick takeaways from Thursday’s loss: 

1.  Vintage Melo, Whiteside with multiple dabs

After Thursday’s shootaround, Melo talked about how special it was to be back where it all started for him. He then showed Denver that he could still be special. The 10-time All-Star finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-5 from three. 

But, the first and third quarters were really all about Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside. 

Whiteside’s 13 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.   

The Blazers 7-footer was also 1-for-1 from three in the first quarter. With the three-pointer also came a celebration from Whiteside with not one, not two, but multiple dabs.  Whiteside’s energy was contagious at both ends especially in the first and third quarters. 

2.  Nuggets go off from three

If it wasn’t for Denver’s hot shooting from three, the Nuggets would’ve had a tough time staying in the game early on. After three quarters, Denver was shooting 14-of-30 from deep and held an 11-point lead heading into the final period. The Nuggets shared the wealth too. Five players scored in double figures. 

3.  Blazers moving more without the ball, but couldn’t get stops in crunch time

Kent Bazemore made it hard on the Nuggets defense, especially in the first half. Whether he was cutting hard to the basket or running the baseline, he was on the move and his teammates were able to find him.  Bazemore made sure to convert too. And he wasn’t the only one making Denver work. The Blazers as a team were moving and cutting all night. Portland’s offense was clicking, but ultimately they weren’t able to get stops at the other end of the court when they needed them. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers will visit the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. Tip-off is set for 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!

Jusuf Nurkic savagely trolls Nuggets announcer with t-shirt

Jusuf Nurkic savagely trolls Nuggets announcer with t-shirt

Trail Blazers fans have gotten to see all that big man Jusuf Nurkic's fashion has to offer this season. 

Since suffering a grueling injury last season, Nurkic has been returned to the Trail Blazers sidelines to support the team. 

With that, he's had the opportunity to express himself through his clothing. 

Thursday night, in the first game that he's traveled since his injury, Nurkic made one thing very clear: He has a long memory. 

Nurk's shirt displayed a leg, pointing to a shin with text saying "Kick him in the shin."

During Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets last season, Denver radio analyst Scott Hastings grumbled that someone should "kick him in the shin" when referring to Jusuf Nurkic, who was, as Hastings describes, "playing tough guy" over on the Blazer bench. The comment was met with laughter by his radio partner Jason Kosmicki. 

With Nurkic on the road for the first time since that injury, and the game being in Denver, the timing couldn't be more perfect.

It appears the Bosnian Beast got the last laugh.  

Did Nuggets fans cheer or boo Carmelo Anthony in his return to Denver?

Did Nuggets fans cheer or boo Carmelo Anthony in his return to Denver?

It's the first time since the 10-time All-Star returned to the NBA since his one year hiatus to the city where his NBA career started. 

The question on everyone's mind, though, was how he was going to be received...

We got the answer.

Carmelo Anthony played for Denver for 7 1/2 years before being traded to New York. After going 17-65 the year prior, Melo led the Nuggets to a playoff berth in his rookie season in 2003-04. It was the Nuggets' first appearance in the playoffs since the 1994-95 season. Melo scored a total of 13,970 points while in Denver and represented the Nuggets three times in the All-Star Game.

Melo's time in Denver eventually soured when in the 2010–11 season speculation began that Anthony had requested a trade. It led to some tumultuous times before the trade to the Knicks eventually occurred in February of 2011. 

Nuggets fans were a scorned fanbase for a while. It was understandable.

However, since Melo's return to the NBA, he's received nothing but love. 

Thursday night was no different. 

Prior to the Blazers taking on the Nuggets, Melo told reporters that if there was a window in returning to Denver, he "Probably would’ve done it."

A lot of things came into play when it comes to that, kind of out of my control at that time, the timing was off. Similar to Portland, the timing has always just been off. All of the sudden that window of opportunity was there. -- Carmelo Anthony

Despite the fact that he's still with another team, it appears Nuggets fans have settled their differences with Melo.