Pat Connaughton invited to NBA Slam Dunk contest, likely snubbing Anfernee Simons

Pat Connaughton invited to NBA Slam Dunk contest, likely snubbing Anfernee Simons

When you think of Pat Connaughton, a few things come to mind.

He's a former Trail Blazer (now with the Milwaukee Bucks) who has high energy, unique athletic abilities and is willing to do the little things to help his team win. Things that don't necessarily set off alarms when Connaughton's name is spoken? Dunk contest participant.

Well, that'll soon change. 

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Connaughton has received an invite to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk competition at All-Star weekend. Perhaps Connaughton's 44-inch vertical leap measured at the NBA Combine will come in handy?

This will be Connaughton's first time participating in the dunk competition. Aaron Gordon, Dwight Howard, Derrick Jones Jr., each competed in previous years with Howard's last appearance coming 11 yeas ago. Considering the fact the dunk contest has been limited to four participants each of the last five years, this is likely the finalized group. 

So, what that means Trail Blazers fans is that Anfernee Simons will not be playing. 

The sophomore guard recently told NBC Sports Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes he would participate in the contest, if he was invited. 

"I'm going to be online vouching for [Simons' invite] too...He should definitely be in it," All-Star guard Damian Lillard said. 

Trail Blazers Twitter launched a Simons to dunk contest campaign in effort to get the 20-year-old into the event, but it appears the NBA is not ready for dunks like these...

Maybe next year, Ant.

Carmelo Anthony, Jordan Brand announce full-ride scholarships for 32 students 

Carmelo Anthony, Jordan Brand announce full-ride scholarships for 32 students 

Carmelo Anthony knows what it is like to struggle. 

The Portland Trail Blazers forward grew up in West Baltimore with drugs and violence in the neighborhood. His father died of cancer when he was two, leaving his mother Mary to support her family with little means to do so.  

But Anthony found his safe place under the basketball hoop.

Hard work, skill and determination earned him the opportunity to commit and eventually play at Syracuse University, where he emerged as one of the best offensive talents in the game.

Now, the future NBA Hall of Famer, is using his presence to enact change. Anthony, an ambassador for Jordan Brand, helped named 32 Wings Scholars on Wednesday. Each student will receive a four-year scholarship to the university of their choice or any post-secondary education program.

Melo congratulated the 32 recipients from New York City, Chicago, Charlotte and Portland in a touching video. 

“Congratulations Class of 2024 Jordan Brand scholars, welcome to the family,” Melo said.

Anthony became Jordan Brand’s first signature athlete in 2003, but has recently shifted his focus to the Wings Scholars program. In addition to his work with Jordan Brand, he established the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, which has helped support disadvantaged youth and families in need.

Earlier this year, the Trail Blazers veteran gifted a Maryland mom a new car after finding out her previous car had broken down, making it tough for her not only to commute to work, but to watch her daughter play basketball.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon. 

The Trail Blazers, no doubt, will get their chance to fight for playoff berth

The Trail Blazers, no doubt, will get their chance to fight for playoff berth

When the NBA finally figures out what the end of the 2020 season will look like when it gets together, likely in Florida's version of the Magic Kingdom, rest assured the Trail Blazers will have some way, some path, to competing in the playoffs.

It will happen.

This league is smart enough to know that as many of its superstars and their fan bases as possible need to be a part of the NBA’s grand reopening. This is going to be happening in the middle of the summer in an unprecedented time of other sports also launching at approximately the same time -- with no fans present at any of the games. And at least in the NBA, no home games for any team.

Television ratings will be everything. And that’s going to be a dogfight between MLB, the NHL and NBA -- with the NFL looming. Anything that can be done to bring eyeballs to games should and will be done by all the leagues.

That means compelling players and matchups. Storylines. Proven ratings-getters. It also means games that count. Real games. And if teams not currently in the top 16 in the league standings aren't given a chance to somehow play their way into the postseason, they won't be playing meaningful games.

They shouldn't even be there.

The NBA is not shy about attempting to make its product as relevant as possible. It has always done everything possible -- above board and maybe sometimes not above board -- to bring fans the matchups the league thinks people want.

Damian Lillard drew a line in the sand Tuesday, telling the league that if his team doesn’t have a chance to play its way into the playoffs, you won’t see him on the court.

And you can bet the league office listened. But I would also wager that the NBA already knew that not only Lillard, but many of the league’s best and most important players feel the same way. I do not believe the NBA wants any part of a situation that leaves Lillard, or other great players, on the sidelines.

If teams aren’t competing for a playoff berth at some point, they’re just playing exhibition games -- and the best players don’t bother much with non-counting games.

So there will be a mechanism for several teams -- not just the Trail Blazers, who should be rejuvenated by the presence of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins -- but several other teams on the fringes of a playoff berth to have a shot at the playoffs.

The league wants Damian Lillard to play meaningful games. That translates into TV ratings.

Something else does, too -- and it plays into Portland’s playoff chances. Obviously, LeBron James is a ratings monster and the NBA was hurt all season by James playing on the west coast, making his games difficult to watch in the east. Ratings suffered.

And the league’s new ratings monster is Zion Williamson. Everyone knows this and you can’t talk to many people around the league who don’t believe that Zion makes a playoff/play-in scenario a necessity.

And guess what? The Trail Blazers have one more loss than Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans but also one more win and thus, if league standings are frozen now and used to determine playoff eligibility, Portland is one single, scant percentage point ahead of the Pels in the standings.

I don’t see any way the entire remainder of the schedule will be played -- there isn’t enough time. Something will be done based on the standings as they sit now.

So if Zion is in, the Trail Blazers are in. It’s that simple. You can’t put New Orleans in without putting Portland in. 

The league needs Zion and Dame -- and I just can’t see any way they will be left out.

It won’t happen. They will get their chance. Maybe not a great chance, but a chance.

Blazer5 remains undefeated after a wild series against Bucks Gaming

Blazer5 remains undefeated after a wild series against Bucks Gaming

Blazer5 Gaming improved to 3-0 on the season following a 2-1 victory over Bucks Gaming on Tuesday.

However, Game 1 was equal parts historic and controversial.

Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser put on a performance for the ages. 

He scored 31 of Blazer5's 33 points in the first quarter, setting an NBA 2K League single-quarter scoring record. 

Nasser's performance gave Blazer5 a 21-point lead after the first quarter, but he was just getting started. 

Nasser scored another 13 points in the second quarter, and by the end of third quarter he had 71 points. 

With one quarter left to play, Nasser was just 14 points away from breaking the single-game NBA 2K League scoring record. To make it more impressive, the record 84 points were scored in a double-overtime game, and Nasser was about to do it in regulation.

But Bucks Gaming decided to game the game, and prevent Nasser from setting the record. 

The Bucks began to hold the ball, not trying to score at all, opting instead to willingly take shot clock violations. In doing so they limited the number of possessions Blazer5 had down the stretch, thus hurting Nassers chances of breaking the record. The tactics didn't sit well with fans or players around the 2K League.

When it was all said and done, Blazer5 picked up the 105-62 victory in Game 1, and Nasser scored 77 points, a league record for points scored in regulation.

But you gotta play an entire series, so there was still work to be done. 

Bucks Gaming, despite there unprofessional finish to Game 1, should be given credit for the way they bounced back in Game 2. 

They looked nothing like the team that lost by 43 in Game 1. Instead, they rebounded in a big way to upset Blazer5 and force a decisive Game 3.

In Game 3, Blazer5 took care of business, leading most of the way and picking up the 71-65 victory to win the series and improve to 3-0 on the season.

No matter how the series played out, no one can get past what happened in Game 1. 

History for Nasser was robbed by petty gaming tactics from Bucks Gaming. Lucky for Blazer5 and Nasser, the entire league was watching. 

Bucks Gaming may have unintentionally made itself the arch-enemy of the entire league. 

As for Blazer5, they once again showed why they are one of the best teams in the league and are nearly unstoppable when the reigning MVP gets going.

Can they keep the hot streak going and improve to 4-0?

We'll find out on Wednesday when they take on Knicks Gaming,

You can catch all the action on the NBA 2K League's Twitch and YouTube channels at 4pm.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon. 

 

Blazer5 Gaming remains undefeated after a wild series against Bucks Gamings

Blazer5 Gaming remains undefeated after a wild series against Bucks Gamings

Blazer5 Gaming improved to 3-0 on the season following a 2-1 victory over Bucks Gaming on Tuesday.

However, Game 1 was equal parts historic and controversial.

Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser put on a performance for the ages. 

He scored 31 of the Blazer5's 33 points in the first quarter, setting an NBA 2K League single-quarter scoring record. 

Nasser's performance gave Blazer5 the 21-point lead after the first quarter, but he was just getting started. 

Nasser scored another 13 points in the second quarter, and by the end of third quarter he had 71 points. 

Sitting on 71, Nasser was just 14 points away from breaking the single-game NBA 2K League scoring record. To make it more impressive, the record 84 points were scored in a double-overtime game, and he was about to do it in regulation.

But Bucks Gaming decided to game the game, and prevent Nasser from setting the record. 

The Bucks began to hold the ball, not trying to score at all, opting instead to willingly take shot clock violations. In doing so they limited the number of possessions Blazer5 had down the stretch, thus hurting Nassers chanced of breaking the record. The tactics didn't sit well with fans or players around the 2K League.

When it was all said and done, Blazer5 picked up the 105-62 victory in Game 1, and Nasser scored 77 points, a league record for points scored in regulation.

But you gotta play an entire series, so there was still work to be done. 

Bucks Gaming, despite there unprofessional finish to Game 1, has to be given credit for the way they bounced back in Game 2. 

They looked nothing like the team that lost by 43 in Game 1, Instead, they rebounded in a big way to upset Blazer5 and force a decisive Game 3.

In Game 3, Blazer5 took care of business, leading most of the way and picking up the 71-65 victory to win the series and improve the 3-0 on the season.

No matter not the series played out, no one can get past what happened in Game 1. 

History for Nasser was robbed by petty gaming tactics from Bucks Gaming. Lucky for Blazer5 and Nasser the entire league was watching. 

Bucks Gaming may have unintentionally made itself the arch-enemy of the entire league. 

As for Blazer5, they once again showed why they are one of the best team in the league and are nearly unstoppable when the reigning MVP gets going.

Can they keep the hot streak going and improve to 4-0?

We'll find out on Wednesday when they take on Knicks Gaming,

You can catch all the action on the NBA 2K League's Twitch and YouTube channels at 4pm.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon. 

 

 

Brandon Roy vs. Carmelo Anthony: Merry Christmas in May!

Brandon Roy vs. Carmelo Anthony: Merry Christmas in May!

Wasn’t it crazy seeing former (but at the time future) Trail Blazer Arron Afflalo in a Denver Nuggets jersey!?

What? Was Afflalo not the one who came to mind?

Okay, but for real, it’s a trip to think about Carmelo Anthony’s NBA journey, especially witnessing him in his prime with the Nuggets.

For Trail Blazers fans watching the 2009 Christmas Day Game between the Blazers and Nuggets on NBCSNW Tuesday night, who would’ve thought that 10 years later Melo would be a Trail Blazer?  

This Trail Blazers Classic Game was an instant classic for both Brandon Roy and Carmelo Anthony.

The B-Roy vs. Melo showdown was extra special in front of a sold out Rose Garden crowd. (86th consecutive sell out).

And boy, were Trail Blazers fans giving it to the Nuggets forward!

Melo picked up his fourth foul with just under eight minutes remaining in the third, and that ignited the Blazers crowd. It also helped that Martell Webster drained a corner three, but it’s funny to think about how much a fan base can give an opposing star player so much grief and now show him so much love.

Roy carried the Blazers in the scoring department, helping Portland beat Denver, 107-96.

Heading into this Christmas game, the Blazers were 13-2 in Christmas showdowns.

Roy went 9-of-14 from the field to score 25 points in the first half and continued his scoring tear in the second half.

It seemed as though Melo was prompted to drive it hard to the hoop or make sure he scored on the baseline following any Roy bucket at the other end. 

Roy’s 41 points in the win was a franchise Christmas record.

The Trail Blazers guard learned from his Christmas Day game experience the year before when he went 8-for-20 from the field in a 102-94 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Melo finished with 32 points. At that point of the season, he was the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 30.3 points per game.

After more than 10 years since this game was played, Rip City shared its emotions thinking about how much they miss watching B-Roy.

Seeing Roy in his fourth season in the league battle it out against Melo in his seventh season, makes it hard to not think about Roy still playing in the league today. 

During the Trail Blazers 2009-10 season, Roy averaged 21.5 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds.

Anthony averaged 28.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.

Roy’s 41 points on Christmas tied him for 5th in the NBA for points on Christmas Day since 2000. 

The two players were, of course, critical scorers and leaders for their teams.

At 35 years old, Melo brought what felt like Christmas cheer to the Trail Blazers this season.

Now as we eagerly await the NBA’s decision on if/when the 2019-20 season will resume, and what the 2020-21 season could look like, just imagine the Trail Blazers hosting the Denver Nuggets next season with Melo still wearing a Blazer uniform.

That would be fun!  

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

Damian Lillard wants to play for something and have a fair shot at it

Damian Lillard wants to play for something and have a fair shot at it

Early Tuesday morning, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard told Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes that he would not play when the NBA returns unless Portland has a chance to compete for a playoff berth.

If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there. — Damian Lillard

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard is sending a message to the NBA -- give us a shot at playoffs

He added further context to those comments later on in the day during an appearance on Basketball Jones with Mark Jones, reiterating that he wants to play but only if the team can finish the playoff race they were in before the coronavirus suspended the season on March 11.

Obviously, we are professional basketball players so we want to play. A lot of us haven't been training. You know, preparing for that because we started the season so of course, we want to finish it. But, like right before we had this break, right before COVID-19 hit we were in the middle of a playoff race. You know, a pretty tight playoff race not just with us but the 10th, 11th, and 12th place teams in the Western Conference are within striking distance. You looking at 15, 16 games remaining and you have an opportunity to close in. So now with these things happening you just hope that when we do come back and play that you have an opportunity to still be in pursuit of that. Instead of just coming back and playing just to play. That's not what anybody wants. - Damian Lillard

Portland's franchise player's message remains clear: If the NBA wants him to play again this season the league needs to give Lillard something to play for.

Who can blame him and the franchise? 

Lillard signed a four-year, $196 million supermax extension with the franchise last offseason following Portland's deepest playoff run since 2000. That extension will not even kick in for another two years until the 2021-22 NBA season. Having invested over $250 million in Lillard over the next six seasons, why would Portland play him if the team cannot make the postseason? 

Especially when Lillard suffered a groin strain in the Blazers' final game before the All-Star break that forced him to miss three games. He did return to the lineup before the season's suspension, but the Blazers would be smart to have him sit out any remaining games that don't matter in the grand scheme. 

"We want to play but we want to play for something," Lillard went on to say. "I'm still training and preparing to play but we just want to play for something." 

Lillard had been averaging 28.9 points and 7.8 assists in 36.9 minutes per game in 58 appearances.  

The NBA announced this past Saturday that they have entered negotiations with the Walt Disney Corporation to play out the rest of the 2019-20 season at its ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

[RELATED]: NBA in talks with Disney to resume season late July in Orlando

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

Michael Jordan's laugh from 'The Last Dance' had Gary Payton heated

Michael Jordan's laugh from 'The Last Dance' had Gary Payton heated

‘The Last Dance’ documentary not only brought us a 10-part series diving into the Michael Jordan era of the Chicago Bulls franchise, but some of the internet’s newest viral moments and memes to date.

One of those memes sparked from the producers of the documentary sharing a video of Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton discussing what it was like to guard Michael Jordan or more so “bothered him” during the 1996 NBA Finals between the Seattle SuperSonics and Chicago Bulls. Jordan watched the video listened and laughed and Payton’s explanation: “The Glove. I had no problem with The Glove.”

Here’s what Payton had to say Payton on “The Opinionated 7-Footers” after that part of the documentary aired:

You know I was hot. I was thinking about calling him at the time. I’d be like, “Yo, OK, now you want to hindsight and lie in front of everybody? Alright. It’s all good. I’m glad he said that, because I wouldn’t expect nothing else from him. I wouldn’t expect nothing else from Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. That’s why we’re talking about it. — Gary Payton

Of course, the 1996 Finals MVP was awarded to Michael Jordan who averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists while Payton averaged 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game during the series that ended with another Bulls ring.

Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 Finals series before Seattle won the next two forcing a game six back in Chicago. The Bulls then claimed their fourth title with an 87-75 victory over Seattle in the Windy City.

From one competitor to another, there is a certain respect level there.

But you know what, that’s what I expect out of Mike. Because I would’ve said the same thing. I would’ve said the same thing. You know me, B. I’m not going to admit to nothing, man. I’m not going admit to somebody that D’d me up or did nothing. I’ll always tell you that any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person, and that’s John Stockton to me. So, that is just the way the game goes. — Gary Payton

Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk adds, “Payton and Jordan were great trash talkers. Jordan isn’t required to provide an accurate assessment of Payton’s defense. Jordan was just trying to hype up Jordan and diss a rival. Payton understands the game. He doesn’t need to turn it into something bigger. He’ll just dish it right back with a line about John Stockton being harder to guard than Jordan."

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

Damian Lillard is taking a calculated measure by speaking up now

Damian Lillard is taking a calculated measure by speaking up now

Our Dwight Jaynes caught up with Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes to discuss his latest conversation with Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard.

Tuesday morning, Haynes posted about his latest interview with Lillard in which the 5-time All-Star said he would not be playing in games if his team doesn’t have a shot at the playoffs.  

When the NBA season was suspended on March 14, the Trail Blazers (29-37) were currently in the ninth spot out West, sitting 3.5 games behind the eight seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Portland was slated to play Memphis twice at home.

If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there. — Damian Lillard

Haynes believes the teams would also be on board with Lillard’s thinking if there is no way to make it to the postseason. 

“Think about it Dwight, if the Blazers were indeed mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the team would sit the players, the star plays down and just go young. So, that would be the case anyways,” Haynes told Jaynes.

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard is sending a message to the NBA -- give us a shot at playoffs

According to NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk, the NBPA has been reaching out to players to receive feedback on particular scenarios for the NBA's return.

Could Lillard’s comments help persuade Commissioner Adam Silver and the league to return to play with a mini play-in tournament to determine playoffs?

Haynes believes that could be the case.

I think there’s a calculated measure to voice his opinion in this timing right now because at the end of the week, Adam Silver will rule on how the NBA is going to move forward with this season. Will there be some type of play-in style tournament? Will there be just a top 8 from each conference going to the playoffs? Will there be 1-16 regardless of conference type of a seeding? I do think Damian Lillard made a calculated decision to say this right now, but he’s not the minority. There’s a lot of star players who feel that way. He’s just the first. Dame’s just the first one to say this publicly. -- Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes

Lillard is still prepared to get back to work with his team; however, for this NBA superstar it’s all about competing and getting the opportunity to continue the Trail Blazers postseason streak.

“If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team,” Lillard said. “I'm going to do all that [expletive] and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games. If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect." 

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

How to watch: Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets 2009 Christmas Day Game

How to watch: Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets 2009 Christmas Day Game

This Trail Blazers Classic Game was an instant classic for both Brandon Roy and Carmelo Anthony.

It was a battle between the two that not many will ever forget.

And now we are celebrating Christmas in May!

Yes, Merry Christmas to Rip City!

Tonight at 6:30pm on NBCSNW, re-watch the Christmas Day Game of 2009 when Brandon Roy dropped 41 points in the Trail Blazers 107-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

The B-Roy vs. Melo showdown was pretty special in front of the sold out Rose Garden crowd.

It’s even more special to Trail Blazers fans now that Anthony is a Trail Blazer.

Roy’s 41 points was a franchise Christmas record. The Trail Blazers guard learned from his Christmas Day game experience the year before when he went 8-for-20 from the field in a 102-94 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

The 2009 Christmas game gave Rip City hope when all seemed lost with Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez’s injuries. Unfortunately, injuries continued to pile up for the Blazers, but on Dec. 25, 2009 this was an extremely enjoyable Christmas gift in Portland.

Melo finished with 32 points for the Nuggets. At that point of the season, he was the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 30.3 points per game.

In the win, Steve Blake added 17 points with 14 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

Here’s just a little taste of what you will see tonight at 6:30pm:

The Trail Blazers hold a 14-4 overall record for Christmas Day games. Their last Christmas battle came in 2018 when they fell to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, 117-96.

Starters for 2009 Christmas Day Game:

DENVER

Kenyon Martin

Carmelo Anthony

Nene

Chauncey Billups

Arron Afflalo

PORTLAND

LaMarcus Aldridge

Brandon Roy

Andre Miller

Martell Webster

HOW TO WATCH: Trail Blazer vs. Nuggets from Dec. 25, 2009

WHEN: Tuesday, May 26 at 6:30pm 

Channel: NBC Sports Northwest, Channel 737 (Portland), 617 (Seattle)

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here.  

Or stream the game on your phone with the 'MyTeams' App -- available in the App Store for iPhones and on Google play.