Portland Trail Blazers to play multiple scrimmages ahead of resumed season

Portland Trail Blazers to play multiple scrimmages ahead of resumed season

With the NBA set to resume at the end of the month in Orlando, Florida, one of the primary concerns will be the rust of many players who haven't played a competitive game since March.

To make the NBA's return have a high quality of play with little time for players to get into a rhythm, the NBA has announced that teams will participate in inter-squad scrimmages from July 22-28, ahead of the NBA's resumption on July 30.

The Blazers will play three scrimmages:

  • Thursday, July 23 vs Indiana at 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Sunday, July 26 vs Toronto at 3:00 p.m. PT
  • Tues, July 28 vs Oklahoma City at 3:00 p.m. PT 

The Pacers will be without star Victor Oladipo who decided to opt-out of the NBA's return in Orlando citing injury concerns. 

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Blazers TV analyst Lamar Hurd].

Portland will resume the NBA season officially on July 31 vs the Memphis Grizzlies, who the Trail Blazers trail for the eighth seed by 3.5 games, at 1:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports NW. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Teams are expected to arrive in Orlando from July 7-9 where a training camp will continue leading up to the season's restart. 

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers can't hold off Clippers in offensive clinic

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Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers can't hold off Clippers in offensive clinic

If you love a ton of scoring, you’d love this game!

The Portland Trail Blazers squared off against the Los Angeles Clippers who decided to rest their MVP Saturday morning.

The Clippers initially listed Patrick Beverley (left calf; strain) and Montrezl Harrell (not with the team) as out for Saturday's game. L.A. then added Kawhi Leonard to the injury list Saturday morning citing left knee soreness and load management. For the Blazers, Portland was without Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain).  

Despite an unusually early 1:00p.m. Orlando time tip-off, the Blazers got off to a quick start. Portland jumped out to a 15-8 lead thanks to their ball movement and player movement. Portland’s two starting 7-footers, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, got things rolling from deep as both bigs hit from long distance in the first quarter.  

Lou Williams gave the Clippers instant offense off the bench. In his first seven minutes, he led all Clippers at the end of the first 12 minutes with 12 points.

At the end of the first quarter, the Blazers held a 37-34 lead.

With Saturday’s game the start of back-to-back for Portland, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts extended his rotation and did so early on. For the first time since the NBA restart, Damian Lillard was the only starter on the floor near the end of the first quarter. Nine Blazers saw significant minutes in this one and made big contributions, particularly early on.

In Saturday's high scoring game, the Blazers took a 75-69 lead at halftime.

Paul George led the charge on both ends for L.A. George finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, despite the Blazers sending two players at him. He also had two steals on the day.  

With both teams exchanging buckets in the third, the Clippers stayed within striking distance. L.A. was down 96-95 heading into the final period.

FINAL BOX SCORE: CLIPPERS 122, TRAIL BLAZERS 117

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's fifth seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider:   

The wrong time to give away a game. One of the worst losses of the Stotts era. Dame missing two was hard to believe.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

Since the Blazers and Clippers are two of the best three-point shooting teams in the bubble, we knew this had the possibility of being a very high-scoring one. And it didn’t disappoint. At the break, both teams were shooting around 60 percent from the field and over 50 percent from three. With no Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell or Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers were clearly missing their top defensive players.

Damian Lillard did a little bit of everything on the offensive end as he continued to put the team on his back, per usual. But in the restart, it’s been obvious that Lillard now sees the No. 8 seed as a reality and he’s ready to secure that play-in spot.

While Gary Trent Jr. continued his hot shooting from three. But what fans probably enjoyed even more than that was watching Trent Jr. get under Paul George’s skin at the other end.

It also should be noted that the Blazers' ball movement was on point. Whether it was Jusuf Nurkic finding Lillard or CJ McCollum finding Nurkic, Portland was sharing the wealth Saturday. The Blazers hot shooting slowed down in the second half. Plus they couldn't get enough stops down the stretch or convert at the line in crunch time. 

Chris Burkhardt, Reporter/Producer 

Just Be Great! Win, lose, it doesn't matter, the rise of Gary Trent Jr. this season has been remarkable. I don't think fans outside the Northwest understand why Rip City has fallen in love with Trent Jr.

Not since Wes Matthews went down with an achilles injury in 2015, have the Blazers had a true three and D guy. Allen Crabbe tried. Moe Harkless tried. Al-Farouq Aminu tried. Numerous others have tried, but none were truly what Portland needed.

But this season, and specifically in the bubble, Trent Jr. has been that guy. It doesn't matter who is guarding him, or who he is guarding, Trent is gonna bring it.

Portland may be watching the birth of a star in the making right now, and if not, at least this ride is a fun one to be on.

[Richard Jefferson joined host Channing Frye on the Talkin' Blazers Podcast this week. Listen here]: 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers take on the Philadelphia 76ers at 3:30 p.m. (PT) in Portland’s second night of a back-to-back this weekend. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.

Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the day and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers continue to be a problem, are punking Paul George

Trail Blazers continue to be a problem, are punking Paul George

There’s just something about whenever the Portland Trail Blazers face a team Paul George is on. We can’t put our finger on it…

*1.3 seconds later

Oh yeah, that “bad shot” last season in Game 5 of the playoff series vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.

We all know about Dame's "bad shot" and the wave, but the Trail Blazers seem to have it out for Paul George no matter what team PG13 is on.

Dame destroyed the OKC era that featured George and Russell Westbrook with that game-winner that ultimately sent George to the Los Angeles Clippers.

New team, same PG13 trolling.

The Trail Blazers are currently facing the Clippers on NBC Sports Northwest in Portland’s quest for the eight seed in the Western Conference. 

And let’s just say, punking Paul George is a full team affair:

Wenyen Gabriel, Gary Trent, Jr, and Anfernee Simons have now gotten in on the action. 

And social media is LOVING IT!

Stream the game here or download the MyTeams app!

Trail Blazers Injury Update: Hassan Whiteside is OUT vs. Clippers

Trail Blazers Injury Update: Hassan Whiteside is OUT vs. Clippers

Update at 8:35a.m. on Saturday: Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) is out for today’s game vs. the LA Clippers.

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Trail Blazers backup center Hassan Whiteside was  initially listed as doubtful for Saturday's game vs. the LA Clippers.

Whiteside is dealing with a left hip strain. The Blazers big man started feeling pain in his left hip during Thursday's game against the Denver Nuggets. 

Portland's head coach Terry Stotts gave an update on Whiteside following Friday's practice: 

He started noticing it at the beginning of the game last night. I talked to him today, he really didn’t notice before the game but… early in his minutes last night it started bothering him. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

 

Whiteside played just 13 minutes in Thursday's contest, which is the fewest minutes he's played since the league's return to play. 

Whiteside has been adjusting to life coming off the bench for the Trail Blazers during the NBA restart now that Portland has a healthy Jusuf Nurkic back in the fold.

Through four games in the bubble, Whiteside has averaged 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 16 minutes per game.

This isn’t Whiteside’s first injury he has suffered since the restart either. The 7-footer missed the team’s first scrimmage with an Achilles strain.

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

You can catch Saturday’s Blazers-Clippers game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 10:00a.m. Our coverage starts at 7:30a.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 9:00a.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame Show’ at 9:30a.m.

You can also stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, for full coverage of the scrimmage make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

Kawhi Leonard OUT for Clippers vs. Trail Blazers

Kawhi Leonard OUT for Clippers vs. Trail Blazers

LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will not play vs. the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday due to left knee soreness and load management. 

The team says Leonard will play on Sunday night against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Leonard, who has made the term “load management” an NBA vernacular, routinely does not play in back-to-back games. 

The Clippers were already shorthanded entering Saturday's game without Patrick Beverley (left calf strain) and Montrezl Harrell, who is not with the team due to personal reasons stemming from the passing of his grandmother.

Leonard has averaged 26.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists this season.

The Clippers are currently No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, while the Trail Blazers, currently sitting 9th in the West, look to inch closer to Memphis’ foothold of the 8th and final playoff spot. 

During his pregame media interview, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed what it means for his team to have Leonard out.

“Obviously he’s an MVP, he’s a defensive player, he’s a scorer, he’s a key to their team, so it goes without saying that they’re a better team with him, but I think the thing for us is what we learned against Denver is we really struggled against their second unit, that they rested some of their players, and their second unit came in and really made it difficult for us. So, I think without Kawhi we can’t let our guard down. We have to have the same focus whether he’s playing or not. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said pregame  

Saturday's game will mark the third and final meeting between the Trail Blazers and the Clippers this season. The Clippers lead the season series, 2-0. 

You can catch Saturday’s Blazers-Clippers game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 10:00a.m. Our coverage starts at 7:30a.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 9:00a.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame Show’ at 9:30a.m.

If you can’t get to a TV, stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

How to Watch & Stream Blazers vs. Clippers, coverage begins at 7:30am

How to Watch & Stream Blazers vs. Clippers, coverage begins at 7:30am

It’s time to wake up with the Trail Blazers!

In Portland’s first leg of a back-to-back this weekend, the Blazers will square off against the LA Clippers in Portland’s fifth seeding game Saturday.

The Blazers are coming off a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets Thursday. In the win, the Trail Blazers knocked down 23 three pointers, a franchise-high. Damian Lillard connected on 11 three pointers. Gary Trent, Jr. went 7-of-10 from beyond the arc as Portland improved its seeding games record to 3-1. 

As for the Clippers, LA is now 2-2 following Thursday’s 126-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 29 points.

Saturday will be a clash of opposites.  

The Trail Blazers lead the league in points per game over the last four contests in the bubble with 124.8, while the Clippers have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game over that span at 108.5.

You can catch Saturday’s Blazers-Clippers game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 10:00a.m. Our coverage starts at 7:30a.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 9:00a.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame Show’ at 9:30a.m.

And, don’t forget to wrap up your Trail Blazers-Saturday with ‘Blazers Outsiders’ for some postgame fun!

Or if you can’t get to a TV, stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

Plus, for full coverage of Portland’s fifth seeding game make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

Portland’s Remaining Seeding Games:

  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. LA Clippers  
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks 
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets   

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast as special guest Bill Walton joins hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]: 

  

Injury Reports:

The Clippers listed Patrick Beverley (left calf; strain) and Montrezl Harrell (not with team) as out for Saturday's game. LA added Kawhi Leonard to the injury list Saturday morning. He will not play vs. the Trail Blazers due to left knee soreness and load management. 

For the Blazers, Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) is out.

Quote of the Week:  

Following Thursday's win, Damian Lillard thought back to a conversation he had with Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes at the end of May when Lillard said he wouldn't play when the NBA returns unless Portland has a chance to compete for a playoff berth.

Four games in and now everyone sees why.

Months ago when I said, ‘if we don’t have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t want to play,’ because I knew that if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot it would look something like it looks right now because we’re a more healthy team, more rested, and I knew what our team was doing – guys was getting conditioning in and we stayed in contact. As soon as we opened our facility, guys were there every day. I knew that once we got here, we would be one of the teams that could take advantage of it. So far we have.  -- Damian Lillard said postgame Thursday

Top Game Notes:

  • All-Time: Trail Blazers lead, 147-80
     
  • Saturday's game will mark the third and final meeting between the Trail Blazers and the Clippers this season. The Clippers lead the season series, 2-0.
     
  • Last Meeting: The Clippers defeated the Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Dec. 3, 117-97. Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 26 points (11-13 FG, 4-12 FT), nine rebounds, one assist and one steal in 30 minutes off the bench while CJ McCollum had 20 points (9-17 FG, 2-6 3-PT), three rebounds, three assists and one block to lead Portland.
     
  • Damian Lillard has averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.00 steals in two games against the Clippers this season. He has made at least three three-pointers in five of his last six games against the Clippers, shooting 38.5% from deep in that span.
     
  • CJ McCollum has averaged 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in two games against the Clippers this season. He has scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games against the Clippers.
     
  • In two games against the Clippers this season, Hassan Whiteside has averaged 17.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 1.50 blocks.
     
  • Anfernee Simons had 17 points (5-13 FG, 3-8 3-PT, 4-6 FT), two rebounds and two assists against the Clippers on Nov. 7. He is averaging 14.0 points per game in two games against LA this season.
     
  • Paul George had 25 points (9-14 FG, 6-7 3-PT, 1-2 FT), four rebounds and three assists against Portland on Dec. 3. He missed the first game against the Trail Blazers this season with a shoulder injury.
     
  • In two games against the Trail Blazers this season, Kawhi Leonard has averaged 19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.50 steals and 1.00 blocks. He has scored at least 25 points in five of his last seven games against Portland. 

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[RELATED]: Damian Lillard foreshadowed his 'hot hand' vs. Denver days earlier 

[RELATED]: Blazers shoot down shorthanded Nuggets: 'We did what we needed to do' 

[RELATED]: Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

[RELATED]: Big Z’s Bubble Week 3 -- Zach Collins answering your Qs: Biggest bubble surprises, his pregame playlist & more

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard & the Blazers are proving why they deserved a shot at the playoffs 

[RELATED]: Jusuf Nurkic posterizes Bol Bol and social media goes nuts!

Richard Jefferson: Blazers - Lakers would be 'most anticipated 1st-round matchup' in years

Richard Jefferson: Blazers - Lakers would be 'most anticipated 1st-round matchup' in years

The NBA is approaching the beginning of the postseason in the coming weeks and one former NBA Champion wants to see the Portland Trail Blazers make it in. 

Richard Jefferson joined host Channing Frye on the Talkin' Blazers Podcast this week to discuss the Blazers' hot start in the bubble that has them trending towards becoming the favorites to earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

If Portland can get into the postseason, they will play LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and Jefferson cannot wait.

If the Lakers and [Blazers] meet in the first round, that will be the most anticipated matchup that the NBA has seen in years. - Richard Jefferson

It's easy to see why.

Not only do the Blazers and Lakers franchises have history and bad blood due to many critical meetings in the postseason, but the teams, as constructed now, could create an epic series.

The Portland Trail Blazers are not a typical eight seed with the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins to the starting lineup. 

Last season before Nurkic fractured his left tibia, the Trail Blazers held a +11.3 net rating when he shared the floor with Damian Lillard. For reference, the 2016-17 Warriors in Kevin Durant's first season had a +11.4 net rating that year. 

On the Ringer NBA Show this week, Kevin O'Connor said that the Blazers should be viewed as a third or fourth seed caliber team heading into the postseason. The Blazers with a healthy Lillard, Nurkic, and CJ McCollum can put up a fight against anyone. 

Especially given the fact Damian Lillard has put together a career season as the best point guard in the NBA this season, even earning MVP votes despite the injury-riddled Blazers having a losing record. 

Here's what ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote about why he gave Lillard a fourth-place vote for MVP.

The word "valuable" nudges voters to consider roster context, and injuries decimated Portland; the Blazers played almost the entire season without their projected three-man starting frontcourt. Lillard within that MASH unit averaged 29 points and eight assists... The Blazers were roadkill without Lillard. These were his game-by-game scoring totals from one scintillating two-week stretch starting in mid-January: 34, 34, 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, 51... Availability matters. Lillard led the league in minutes per game. He is one of its steadfast cultural touchstones.

Now, that projected three-man starting frontcourt is healthy with Collins, Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony starting games inside the bubble. 

With Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic all feeling healed and rested ahead of the restart, they are confident in their chances of capturing the eight seed. Now, halfway through the seeding games, they have made up all but one game they trailed against the Grizzlies while defeating Memphis, Houston, and Denver. 

Additionally, who could forget the last matchup between the Lakers and Blazers? When Lillard exploded for 48 points on 17/30 from the field to lead the Trail Blazers to a 127-119 victory, despite the team not playing Carmelo Anthony who didn't travel with the team.

Add in that former Lakers starter and defensive stalwart Avery Bradley opted out of the bubble, who is going to guard Lillard in the postseason? Lillard could keep the Blazers in the series himself. 

"It would be a great matchup," added Jefferson.

Don't believe the Blazers could put up a fight? LeBron James himself who called Portland a dangerous team to face in the postseason.

You got a Dame Lillard who can go for 50, a CJ McCollum that can score 40, a Carmelo Anthony that if he gets hot, which we know in the postseason could go for 35/40 as well... When you have that type of experience with Portland, they can make things happen. - LeBron James

The respect given to Portland by LeBron aligns with what NBC Sports Northwest Portland Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes heard in February that the Lakers "don't want any part of Portland in the postseason," due to the size of Portland and the stellar play of Lillard.

The Blazers will continue their pursuit of the eighth seed on Saturday, August 8 against the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:00 a.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest. 

Damian Lillard: 'Our work is only beginning'

Damian Lillard: 'Our work is only beginning'

The Trail Blazer are now halfway through their eight seeding games and instead of the mindset of holding onto the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings, the Blazers have set their sights on climbing to the eighth seed and in turn only having to win one of the play-in games to secure their postseason spot.

Portland, who is now 3-1 in the NBA restart, has had a lot of success with their big lineup now that Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are both healthy.

[RELATED]: Eye on the Eight -- How Portland can grab the eight seed on their off day

Along with the Blazers’ rebounding margins, their hot shooting by Damian Lillard, and the emergence of second-year player Gary Trent Jr., Lillard feels the team is definitely trending in the right direction.  

And really, it can’t be overstated just how valuable a confident Gary Trent Jr. has been for the Blazers in the restart.  

Or as Lillard put it, “Facts a million.”

Those are some serious numbers that the young fella is putting up. Trent Jr. is averaging 62.9% from deep, which is the second-highest among those who have attempted at least 20 threes in the bubble.

[RELATED]: Gary Trent Jr. and the Blazers bubble numbers are insane

But just as Lillard as said he is extremely proud of Trent Jr.’s growth and the success the team has had thus far, Lillard also emphasized after Friday’s practice that the Blazers have their eyes set on one thing:  

We just came focused on being in that play-in game, and I think we started to realize that getting the eighth seed and having only to win one game in a play-in situation was more of a reality... But, our work is only beginning. It’s only four games in and four left and it’s still a really deep race. There’s a lot of teams competing for it, a lot of teams playing well. So, we’ve got to just continue to move onto the next game, handling business.  -- Trail Blazers five-time All-Star Damian Lillard

Just as a lot has been made about Trent Jr.’s play in the NBA restart, the Blazers aren’t overlooking what they’ve got in the new and improved Jusuf Nurkic, who hasn’t played in 16 months. Yet, looking at his conditioning and current physical state, nobody would guess that he had been out for more than a year rehabbing a broken left leg.

“He moves well for somebody to be that size," Lillard said. "Really light on his feet, quick, good touch, just a very unique guy of that size.”

Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts added that Nurk is playing at a level he’s never seen him play before.

I do think he’s playing better… He’s always had an appreciation for team play, obviously and his passing. You can tell the things that we missed -- we missed his passing, his screening, just that he’s a dynamic big man. His commitment to winning is important. I think his three-point shooting is going to be there -- it looks good. I think it’s just a matter of time before he starts that. I will say this, I think physically he looks really good. He’s not thin, he’s strong, he’s moving really well… I do think he’s playing at a level as well as he’s ever played for us.  -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

One of the things holding Nurkic back early in his career had been his limited minutes. Nurk's conditioning wasn't where it needed to be to play major minutes when he first arrived in Portland.    

But that’s not the case now.

Through the four games in the bubble, Nurkic is already averaging 32.3 minutes per game to go along with some stellar numbers. The Bosnian Beast is posting 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.0 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game.

Nurkic could even see increased minutes on Saturday with backup center Hassan Whiteside now listed as doubtful. Whiteside is dealing with a left hip strain.

The Trail Blazers work continues in a matinee contest Saturday. 

The Blazers and Clippers tip-off at 10:00a.m. on NBC Sports Northwest.

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at the Blazers race for the 8 seed

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at the Blazers race for the 8 seed

Halfway through the seeding games in Orlando, the Portland Trail Blazers are 3-1 and have made up significant ground on the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed. 

After entering the bubble 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies and facing the hardest seeding game schedule of the teams fighting for the eighth seed, the Blazers are now just a half-game behind Memphis. 

While the Blazers prepare to take on the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:00 a.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest Saturday morning, the Blazers can actually move ahead of Memphis today if one game goes the Blazers way.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

But first, the standings are as follows. UPDATED AFTER WINS BY SAN ANTONIO, NEW ORLEANS AND MEMPHIS PLUS A SACRAMENTO LOSS.

8. Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule: Toronto, Boston, Milwaukee 

9. Portland Trail Blazers (1.0 game behind) Remaining schedule: Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Brooklyn

10. San Antonio Spurs (2.0 games behind)  Remaining schedule: New Orleans, Houston, Utah

11. New Orleans Pelicans (2.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: San Antonio, Sacramento, Orlando

12. Phoenix Suns (2.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Miami, OKC, Philadelphia, Dallas

13. Sacramento (3.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers (Eliminated from the eighth seed)

If Memphis loses to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, then the Blazers will tie the Grizzlies and will win the tiebreaker based on conference record. 

Moving into the eight seed would be huge for the Blazers. Not only does it give you more separation from the ten seed and gives Portland a chance to play its way into the postseason, but it would make it so the Blazers only need to win one play-in game rather than two. 

Notable games Friday, August 07.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

San Antonio WON 119-111. 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder 

Who do you want to win? OKC. Memphis won 121-92.

Line: OKC -3

Sacramento Kings vs Brooklyn Nets

Who do you want to win? Brooklyn. Brooklyn won 119-106.

Line: SAC -4

New Orleans Pelicans vs Washington Wizards

Who do you want to win? Washington. New Orleans won 118-107.

Line: NOP -6

Note: Zion Williamson will not play due to rest. 

Best Case Scenario: MEM, SAC, NOP all lose. Portland enters the eight seed tied with Memphis, 1.0 game lead on San Antonio, 1.5 game lead on Phoenix, 2.5 game lead on Sacramento and New Orleans.

Worst Case Scenario: MEM, SAC, NOP all win. Portland remains in ninth, 1.0 games behind Memphis. 1.0 game lead on San Antonio, 1.5 game lead on Phoenix, Sacramento and New Orleans.

This will be updated throughout the day. 

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a known commodity, one of the best backcourts in basketball. Even Jusuf Nurkic, an underrated player for sure, has a following.

But Gary Trent Jr.? Where has he come from?

And why was the most Bubblicious player during the NBA restart so far, not taken until the second round of the 2019 NBA draft?

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, the man who engineered a trade to grab Trent with the seventh pick in the second round of that draft, tried to explain it Friday.

“People forget, he was one of the top 10 players in America in his class coming out of high school, which was an elite class,” Olshey said. “He’s a guy that for systemic reasons, where people catch inertia -- either positive or negative -- around the draft, slipped way beyond what people would have thought his draft status would have been, given the hype and reputation and body of work that he entered Duke with.

“If you look at the Duke team, they were loaded. They came into the season with five guys projected to go in the first round. I think Gary had been on the radar for so long and such a high profile guy, that even though he was only a freshman, so much was expected of him, and I think he had a really good year -- i think he averaged 15 a game and shot 40 from three -- but i think he underwhelmed relative to expectations.”

It happens frequently. And it’s because there are so many metrics out there now with which to judge players. So many ways to judge them, that it's almost easier to find reasons not to draft someone as to draft him.

“So many things that factor in,” Olshey said. “Height, weight, measurements that have nothing to do with playing basketball. The combine isn’t reflective of NBA basketball.  Workouts down to 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. Guys lose sight of what they liked about a player when they were actually watching him play five-on-five, real competitive basketball. And they start using inconsequential data points. It’s paralysis by analysis.”

Olshey wanted to take Anfernee Simons in the first round because he knew there were several teams behind the Blazers who would snatch him up. But then there was a chance Trent would last into the second round.

“With Gary there was this kind of reverse heat, Olshey said. “There was an overcorrection accruing on Gary.  We felt if we could get back into the 30s, we would have a chance to get him.

“And with the exception of Will Barton, a lot of our second-round picks have been guys we bought into or traded to get. Allen Crabbe, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman.

“We weren’t looking to get into the second round, but once he started falling, we got very aggressive. And you know (late owner) Paul Allen on draft night -- more is always better. Two future seconds and cash to get him (from Sacramento). We valued him as a first-round pick. We signed him to a full, three-year contract right out of the gate. We immediately gave him what we thought the value of a first-round pick would be.”

So Trent arrived in Portland as the guy who was selected after Anfernee Simons, who got most of the attention from the media as a kid who didn’t even attend college. Trent had a ways to go, just to get on the floor.

“What he needed to do is find his identity,” Olshey said. “He was a lot stronger than guys in high school and he was able to bully his way to the rim. What it resulted in for us was a lot of inefficiency. He was taking a lot of long twos. He was getting himself in trouble with a lot of over-penetrating into the lane and i think what he’s done is listen to all of us and he’s simplified his style of play to fit into what we need out on the court. Which is defensive energy, toughness, three-point shooting, moving without the ball, getting to the rim with opportunity for free throws.

“The scope of his game has narrowed and it has simplified things for him to where he can really just excel at what we need him to do to balance the floor when he’s out there with either Dame and CJ or in place of one of them.”

But did the Trail Blazers envision Trent turning into a shooter of this magnitude? Especially this quickly?

“You know what I saw,” Olshey said. “Right now, he’s on fire and I hope it continues. But I knew he was a really good shooter. What I had confidence in, was that he was a really good game shooter.

“You put him in a gym and there are four or five guys on our team who will outshoot him on the shooting gun. He’s a gamer. That’s the one thing Gary always did when we tracked him from high school. I saw him play seven times at Duke, he played great in the combine had a great workout with us and the one thing about Gary is, when the lights come on, he’s fearless.

“A lot of it has to do with his pedigree and the success he’s had at those different levels. But what I knew he could do is make game shots.

“So what’s interesting with him is, he needed an opportunity to get on the court. Because when you watch him just in drills and at practice, he’s not as dynamic a shooter as he is, once he gets into the flow of the game. All those psychological intangibles start coming into play when you get into that make-or-miss kind of format.”

And defense, which a general manager from a team that passed on Trent told me is what made teams hesitate about drafting him. "We didn't see a commitment there," the GM said,

Trent said this week that "100 percent" his defense is what got him on the floor for this team.

"First and foremost, it was his commitment to getting better defensively," Coach Terry Stotts said. "He didn't get to play much his rookie season but he really committed to being a better defender and getting a few minutes on the court that way. He's always been a scorer, but defensively, finding out what you can get away with, learning NBA defense, learning NBA personnel, locking in on game plans, learning from the guys who are playing, in a year that you don't play, you really have to utilize that time to get better, knowing the NBA game. I think he's improved in all those areas."

And up above, you have to believe Paul Allen is smiling.

“It was very hard for Paul to get excited about the obvious,” Olshey said. “He literally created the tech sector. He was always about discovering something nobody else saw. He loved the narrative around Nurk. He loved the surprises. He loved the unknowns. He loved young players and seeing them grow.”

And he would have loved the Gary Trent Jr. Story.