The Portland Trail Blazers officially sign Nassir Little

The Portland Trail Blazers officially sign Nassir Little

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 1, 2019) – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed rookie forward Nassir Little, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

The 25th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Little, 19, joins the Trail Blazers after playing one season at North Carolina, where he averaged 9.8 points (47.8% FG, 26.9% 3-PT, 77.0% FT), 4.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 18.2 minutes in 36 games.

Little (6-6, 220) led the Tar Heels in bench scoring and finished fourth in voting for the 2018-19 ACC Sixth Man of the Year award. In three NCAA Tournament games, Little averaged 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 17.0 minutes.

After leading Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) to consecutive state championships as a high school junior and senior, Little was named the MVP of the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game and a co-MVP of the 2018 Jordan Brand Classic.

Little will wear No. 9 for the Trail Blazers.

HBO's 'The Scheme' is entertaining but doesn't answer the big questions

HBO's 'The Scheme' is entertaining but doesn't answer the big questions

It was September of 2917 and a news conference in New York led me and a lot of others to believe that the lid was about to be blown off college basketball and perhaps even the NCAA itself:

“All of those charged today contributed to a pay-to-play culture that has no business in college basketball,” Bill Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said at the Sept. 2017 news conference announcing the arrests of (Christian) Dawkins and nine others. “Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to others … We have your playbook.”

Well, that playbook stayed on the FBI’s shelf, it seems. And a documentary called “The Scheme,” which made its debut Tuesday night on HBO, didn’t answer the questions I’ve been looking to answer for all these months:

-- Why did the FBI choose to target college basketball and spend a boatload of taxpayer money on an investigation, apparently just to find out what most of us already knew -- that the sport is full of cheating.

-- And why didn’t any of the high-profile coaches ever get charged with a crime, or even be brought to court to testify? In the end, Dawkins, a former runner for agent Andy Miller, took the hardest fall.

The documentary runs two hours, which felt maybe 30 minutes too long, but was interesting.

Of particular interest was the recording of a phone call, said to be involving Dawkins and Arizona Coach Sean Miller, in which the coach asks Dawkins what it will take to get then-high school star Nassir Little to Arizona. And Miller doesn’t seem at all worried that the University of Miami is also bidding for the current Trail Blazer forward at the same time.

It was obvious from the phone conversation that whatever money was to be paid to deliver Little was going to be paid to his AAU coaches in Orlando. Little ended up going to North Carolina. Little and his father signed sworn affidavits that they were never approached with offers of money from Miami.

Miller has totally denied any involvement and retains his job at Arizona.

That, by the way, is one of the stinkiest things about the way a lot of business is done in college basketball. The AAU coaches, the “advisors” and hustlers get paid for influencing recruits, but often the players don’t see that money or even know about the deal. They just get exploited.

For many years I heard the tale of a high-profile recruit from Portland landing at an out-of-state university and that the college did not recruit him through his high-school coach. It was done with the AAU coach, who pushed the player to that university and then showed up the next several summers as a "guest instructor" at the college's basketball camp -- at an exorbitant amount of money.

The documentary is an entertaining watch, but leaves behind those big questions. Why didn’t coaches get dragged into court to explain their “playbook?” And with all the serious crime going on in the world, why did this waste of taxpayers’ money happen in the first place?

REPORT: NBA is considering withholding pay from players if regular season games cancelled

REPORT: NBA is considering withholding pay from players if regular season games cancelled

The NBA and other professional sports leagues have been considering various scenarios as to what could play out over the next few months as we all work together to see how quickly we can flatten the curve of COVID-19.

The NBA has also been looking at different financial considerations during this uncertain time.

Last week, reports surfaced that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and roughly 100 of the NBA's top-earning league executives took a 20 percent pay cut in base salary last week and will continue to take a reduction in pay through the coronavirus pandemic.

In the latest report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, details emerge on how the league and the National Basketball Players Association are discussing scenarios that could include withholding up to 25 percent of players' remaining salaries in a league escrow.  

That would only happen if the regular-season games were eventually canceled, according to Wojnarowski.

The collective bargaining agreement states that players lose approximately 1 percent of salary per canceled game, based on a force majeure provision, which covers pandemics. Once there is a cancellation of games, the provision is automatically put in place.

The force majeure would also be put into use for next season as well, protecting against a huge drop in the salary cap and luxury tax.

The league is reportedly not going to making any announcements anytime soon on whether or not games will be canceled.

Damian Lillard is trying to 'keep that edge' during NBA hiatus

Damian Lillard is trying to 'keep that edge' during NBA hiatus

There really was no way to fully prepare for such sheltering place protocols ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This unprecedented time in the world still feels very surreal at times.

For the Trail Blazers leader Damian Lillard, he is working on keeping sharp and focused during the NBA suspension.

I’ve been running in the morning. I’ve been getting lifts in. I’ve been doing as much core as you can possibly do. I’ve been in the steam room. Talking to other guys around the league, talking to my teammates… Talking to my coaches, just trying to stay connected. Trying to stay connected to that environment and to people who share that space with me, and I think that’s the best way to at least keep that edge because it’s kind of starting to feel like postseason, like the season is over. So, we’ll see.  -- Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard

Lillard has not been tested for COVID-19, but says he is following public health officials protocols and self-isolating, along with the NBA’s guidelines during this time and is not exhibiting any symptoms.

“I haven’t been able to get into the training facility," Lillard said. "At the moment, they don’t want us in the practice facility. They don’t want us training with any of our coaches or anything like that. They also don’t want us training at a third-party gym or with a third-party trainer, so it’s basically like if you don’t have a gym at home, you can’t train. So fortunately for me, I have a gym at home, so I’ve been able to kind of continue and get work done."

The only players allowed to enter the Trail Blazers practice facility at the moment are the players who are still rehabbing from injuries, including Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic and Rodney Hood.

Lillard has thought about the players around the league who aren’t able to continue to train and workout in a home gym.

“People who don’t have that and at some point are going to be expected to come back as a professional athlete and perform on call, that makes it tough,” Lillard added.

“When we do come back, everybody is gonna have a little bit of rust to shake off.”

But, don’t think for a second that Lillard hasn’t been keeping busy when he’s not training in his home gym.

The eight-year vet, has been taking this time to connect with people and share memorable moments with his son, Dame Jr.

“We watching Mickey Mouse together and then we playing, and I’m teaching him stuff. I get to be more hands on with him and it’s constant. I really appreciate it,” Lillard said.

“I appreciate the stillness… Being home all day and I’m not missing anything,” Lillard added.

As the Trail Blazers point guard reflects, while enjoying the time at home with his family, he his optimistic that the season will restart and is in favor of some type of play-in tournament for the playoffs.  

And now… We wait for the decision on the season.

But more than anything, Lillard wants “for everybody” to be murmuring this statement once 2019-20 postseason play begins, and the Blazers have made it to the playoffs for the seventh straight year:

“How did they still end up here? Like how? How did that happen?”

Here’s to hoping we all get that chance to hear from those perplexed NBA fans.  

Damian Lillard suggests NCAA Tournament format if NBA play resumes

Damian Lillard suggests NCAA Tournament format if NBA play resumes

With so much up in the air right now, Trail Blazers All-Star point guard is all for experimenting if the NBA is able to resume its 2019-20 season.

Even an NCAA single-elimination tournament?? 

Maybe.

This past December, reports surfaced that “play-in tournaments” to decide the final two playoff teams in both the Western and Eastern Conference was an idea that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was tossing around.

Earlier in the season, the NBA sent out a proposal to teams for a possible 78-game regular season, along with an in-season tournament for all teams, plus, a possible play-in tournament and more.

And that was well before anyone knew the league would be on a hiatus due to a global pandemic.

The Trail Blazers held a video press conference Tuesday afternoon, where Lillard explored the idea of a play-in tournament.

When the season does come back, I feel like it’s only right that teams get a chance to make a playoff push, like ourselves, give us a chance to get in. Or, some type of tournament style where it’s fair… It’s obviously gonna be a different situation than it has ever been, so maybe they should do something that has never been done. Or something that is going to make this year very unique like it already has been. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Lillard also mentioned he hasn’t heard anything about when or if the NBA is going to restart, but he added, “It’s kind of starting to feel like postseason, like the season is over. So, we’ll see.”

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard would not be a fan of starting NBA seasons later than usual

The proposed ‘play-in tournament’ from the NBA back in December called for the regular season to end on a Saturday, exactly one week before the start of the playoffs; as opposed to ending it on Wednesday which has been the case for years.

The top six teams in each conference would be secured to make the playoffs, while teams in the seventh through 10th spots would play against each other like so:  

The No. 7 and No. 8 teams would play and then that winner would clinch the No. 7 playoff seed. The teams holding the ninth and 10th-place spots would also play. The winner of that game would play the loser of the No. 7 and No. 8 game to determine the No. 8 playoff seed.

From there, the first two rounds of the playoffs would be played as usual.

Lillard is all for some type of play-in tournament for this season, because, as we all know, he wants to make sure his team has a shot at making the playoffs.

But, he is also not opposed to experimenting even more than just a play-in tourney.

 “They should do something like the NCAA tournament with every team. Single-game elimination, all the way up until maybe the Conference Finals or something like that, and then it's a three-game series, just so we don’t got to start the season off track next year,” Lillard said.

The five-time All-Star truly believes the time to really experiment is now.

“They could get creative. If there was any time for them to get super creative and people will be tuned in and excited about it with everything that’s going on, I think this is the time.” 

Damian Lillard would not be a fan of starting NBA seasons later than usual

Damian Lillard would not be a fan of starting NBA seasons later than usual

There are many ideas about when, or even if, this NBA season will finish and then, when the next season would start.

There has been talk of this season resuming sometime around June and playoffs pushing into August, which could theoretically mean a late start to next season.

It’s even rumored that Commissioner Adam Silver has always wanted to push the season’s start to Christmas Day, thus avoiding direct competition with the majority of the football season. That would mean the upcoming 2020-21 season could be used as a test for such a plan.

But don’t count the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard among those who would like to start next season late. In a video conference with media Tuesday, Lillard said that he is against moving the season and believes most other NBA players would be, too.

“I don’t think so,” Lillard said. “I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer.”

And a lot of players want their extended time off to be in the summer, not the fall and winter.

 “You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect.”

Silver would likely need the players association to go along with a major change like this one -- something the players might do in an emergency situation like this year just to get this season completed … but as for a permanent change?

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Damian Lillard contributed $100,000 to COVID-19 relief fund

Damian Lillard contributed $100,000 to COVID-19 relief fund

On March 17th, the Trail Blazers announced a plan to assist those affected by COVID-19.

“To assist game night employees impacted by the NBA’s postponement, Jody Allen and the Portland Trail Blazers are committing more than $1.4 million towards COVID-19 relief effort. This includes paying part-time Rose Quarter employees for nine postponed Trail Blazers games.”

Last week, the Portland Trail Blazers also announced their latest efforts in assisting those who need help most during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team announced that the organization along with the players, and the Trail Blazers Foundation, are now establishing ‘a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support local nonprofits serving the community.’

 

On Tuesday, Damian Lillard revealed during a video press conference that he donated $100,000 to the Blazers' COVID-19 Relief Fund. 

Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the first to announce on social media that he has pledged $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff in order to aid in offsetting costs related to employees’ loss of earnings. While, Kevin Love also donated.  

$100,000 through the Kevin Love fund to support the arena staff employees in Cleveland.

"It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier. Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together!" -- Giannis Antetokounmpo wrote on his Twitter

The NBA announced earlier in March that it launched the "NBA Together" campaign to contribute and raise more than $50 million to support people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It's a coordinated effort between the NBA, WNBA, G League and NBA 2K League, with more than $30 million already committed by the leagues, teams and athletes.

The program features four pillars—Know the Facts, Acts of Caring, Expand Your Community and NBA Together Live—to help increase knowledge about the coronavirus and help those affected by the disease.

"The phrase 'bigger than basketball' is often used when discussing the efforts of a player or team to make a positive impact in their community," the release said. "The response to this global pandemic is the epitome of 'bigger than basketball' as the NBA looks to do its part to help people across the globe come together and work through these tough times."

---

CORRECTION: The original title misappropriated Lillard's donation and has been updated for accuracy. 

Hassan Whiteside to play in NBA 2k players only tournament

Hassan Whiteside to play in NBA 2k players only tournament

It was announced late Monday that the NBA would be partnering with 2k Sports to hold a special players-only NBA 2k Tournament

Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond were the first names announced, but we had no idea who the other 12 would be. 

Here in Rip City, speculation started that Hassan Whiteside could be among the entrants. 

Those with an eye on social media may have noticed what Whiteside said about the tournament on Instagram.

Still, nothing was official... until now.

The Boardroom announced the full list or participants on Tuesday, confirming our suspicions - Whiteside is in!

As the No.3 three seed, the Blazers center will have a first-round matchup against No.14 Pat Beverley.

It's well-known in the Blazers locker room that Whiteside is a big fan of NBA 2k. In fact, he often boasts about beating Gary Trent Jr.

Whiteside knows 2k so well, that he even imitates it in real life.

View this post on Instagram

That LAG spike🥴😂 #nba2k

A post shared by Hassan Whiteside (@hassanwhiteside) on

Other entrants include Derrick Jones Jr., Trae Young, Harrison Barnes, Rui Hachimura, Devin Booker, Michael Porter Jr., Zach Lavine, DeAndre Ayton, Montrezl Harrell, and Domantas Sabonis.

The tournament will air on ESPN, but the details of the event are still being finalized. 

CJ McCollum and all of Rip City react AGAIN to Trail Blazers Game 7 win over Nuggets

CJ McCollum and all of Rip City react AGAIN to Trail Blazers Game 7 win over Nuggets

All the emotions resurfaced for this classic game.

Game 7 of last year’s playoffs between the Trail Blazers and Nuggets had a little bit of everything!

And as all the postseason feelings came rushing back, it was fun to relive this comeback win with Rip City Faithful. 

Heading into the final game of the series, here is how things played out:

Game 1 Mon. April 29 DENVER 121, Portland 113

Game 2 Wed. May 1 Portland 97, DENVER 90

Game 3 Fri. May 3 PORTLAND 140, Denver 137 (4OT)

Game 4 Sun. May 5 Denver 116, PORTLAND 112

Game 5 Tue. May 7 DENVER 124, Portland 98

Game 6 Thurs. May 9 PORTLAND 119, Denver 108

The win in Denver was in big thanks to CJ McCollum, who posted 37 points and nine rebounds to lead the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years.

McCollum got it done on both ends too.

We can’t forget about that chase-down swat!

The Trail Blazers shooting guard’s crucial chase-down block on Jamal Murray in crunch time helped turn the tide as the Blazers beat the Nuggets 100-96.

McCollum hit the Blazers first three pointer of the game about four minutes into the second quarter. Portland started the game 0-for-10 from deep.

He was the only Blazer scoring at ease early on.

During tonight's replay of the game, The Trail Blazers shooting guard was live-tweeting the second half on the Trail Blazers’ Twitter, because as CJ put it: “The first half was a snoozefest.”

McCollum’s second half play-by-play was as fantastic as his play in Game 7.

The pull-up jumper to put the Blazers up three with just under 12 seconds remaining in the game was just what McCollum wanted – he got to his spot.

AND... McCollum was out there spitting the truth on Twitter as well:

Plus, he broke the news that he and his fiancée Elise are officially adopting their puppy that they have been fostering for the last week. 

It’s really no surprise this series went to seven games. Denver won the regular season series against Portland in 2018-19, 3-1. All four games were decided by single digits.

And even though it was the CJ McCollum takeover game, Evan Turner was also clutch down the stretch.  ET came up big from the free throw line in the final seconds, while scoring 10 of his 14 points for the game in the fourth quarter.

Turner was fresh after not playing that much in the series, but was given extra minutes after Rodney Hood went out with a knee injury.  

 

ET had scored just four points in the first six games of the series before his clutch Game 7 performance.

What a night it was! To be heading to the team’s first WCF appearance in 19 years was a pretty overwhelming feeling for all of Portland, but especially for the leader of Rip City, Damian Lillard.

There really were so many great memories from that night. And Meyers Leonard even reminded us what the celebration was like in the locker room.

It was also a nice chance to trash talk Denver Nuggets fans once again:

Now, here’s to hoping the NBA resumes and the Trail Blazers are given the chance to get back to the playoffs.

Damian Lillard and his mom bring us the content we need right now

Damian Lillard and his mom bring us the content we need right now

Technology is a wonderful thing.

It allows us to be entertained and stay connected on the daily, but has never been as useful as it has in the past few weeks. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people into self-isolation and social distancing. No big get-togethers. No big family parties.

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, he's just like the rest of us - stuck in his house going stir crazy.

And just like us, he turned to technology to entertain himself. In doing so, he entertained all of us.

Lillard was on Instagram Live having a chat with his mom. 

Lillard, at the request of his mom, played some E-40 and the two started an impromptu karaoke session.

It was wholesome, sweet, and funny all wrapped into one. 

In these tough times, we have to find joy wherever we can. 

On Monday, Lillard and his mom made it easy for all of us. 

Hear it all in the video above, and be sure to put it on repeat.