Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (left knee) had missed a total of 10 games before returning on Sunday night to face the Nuggets. Portland went 8-2 during that span.  

With the Nuggets now guaranteed to finish no worse than third in the Western Conference standings, Denver decided to rest Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Jamal Murray on Sunday.

Even though, Denver was without three starters, the Nuggets kept it close throughout.  Denver took care of the ball and despite being the smaller team down low, they were able to keep up with the Blazers on the glass. Portland eventually was able to pull away and snag a 115-108 victory behind McCollum's passing and Damian Lillard's key three-pointer in the last three minutes of action.  

With the win, the Blazers snapped a six-game losing streak to the Nuggets.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 115, Nuggets 108

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers seventh consecutive home win:

1. McCollum back and on the attack

Trail Blazers fans at Moda Center gave CJ McCollum a warm welcome back during introductions.

It looked as though McCollum had not missed the last 10 games. He was still as aggressive as you expect from him. From media row, McCollum was getting up and down the court just fine, which is always the biggest concern when a guy misses that much time.

Rodney Hood subbed in for McCollum at the 3:16 mark of the first quarter. In his first stint, McCollum went 3-of-6 from the field for nine points and dished out 2 assists in nine minutes of work.

McCollum returned at the 8:58 mark of the second quarter and when he got his name called off the bench, he sprinted to the scorer’s table to get back in the game. That sprint made you forget about any kind of knee injury. 

McCollum played a surprising 14 minutes in the first half. He had nine points, four assists, and two rebounds at halftime.

Despite the good first half, McCollum looked rusty in the second. Only time will tell how long until McCollum hits his full game stride again. 

The 27-year-old finished with 25 minutes of work. He had nine points, six assists, and six rebounds in the win. 

2.  Getting more shooters back on the court

Not only did the Blazers get McCollum back, Seth Curry returned from a one game absence as well after dealing with left tibia soreness. The Blazers had missed Curry’s shooting in Friday’s loss to Denver. Curry had been playing so well with McCollum out and just because the Blazers got their starting two-guard back, it did not effect Curry’s minutes or his shot.

Through the first two quarters, Curry had had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-2 from three.

His shooting from deep and his midrange game has been on point lately. There’s no doubt his scoring is going to be a necessity in the postseason. Having another weapon like Curry off the bench is what the Blazers were missing last season when Portland got swept by New Orleans.

Al-Farouq Aminu was also very aggressive on the offensive end. Chief notched a new season-high with 23 points.

3. Short-handed Nuggets hang around

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blazers had a five point lead. The Nuggets relied on Gary Harris and Trey Lyles on the offensive end. You’ve got to give the Nuggets some credit; they never once looked like they didn’t believe they could win.

Denver’s head coach Mike Malone said before the game, even though they were resting their stars, that did not mean they weren’t looking to get the win and “play the right way.”

Sunday’s performance by Denver showed just how deep this team is this season. For Portland, the game showed this squad could be a little worn out right now.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers will finish the regular season with a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Portland travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Tuesday at 7:30pm. You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest with our pregame coverage starting at 6:30pm. The Blazers then host the Kings at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

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Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

June 14, 2019

Dear Scoop Journal,

This is my first journal entry since the Trail Blazers season ended and it seems fitting to write down my random Trail Blazers/NBA thoughts today since the season came to an end last night with the Toronto Raptors taking home the 2019 NBA Championship.

Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it, with all the injuries for the Warriors, and the celebrations in Toronto, here are my latest Blazers and NBA thoughts:

*Everyone I talk to today, I want to ask them this question: How bad did you wish you were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night in Toronto? (Toronto knows how to celebrate a championship!)

*First off, Congrats to Toronto and the Raptors fans on earning their first NBA Championship! I know I’m not alone in thinking Blazers fans are happy for their fellow northern neighbors.

*It’s so hard not to think about what it would be like here in Portland for the Blazers to win a title in the modern NBA era. Rip City will go absolutely crazy when the next championship happens here. This is something I think about often. Obviously, I can’t wait for that day!   

*There were so emotions for Golden State fans on Thursday night. It was the last game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors had just lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles a couple days before Game 6, and then Klay Thompson goes out with what we all later learned was a torn ACL.

*Injuries are the worst part of the game. You hate to see players go down with these horrific injuries.  

*And not to mention, Thompson and Durant will both become free agents this offseason. This summer is going to be very interesting and next season could now be wide open.  

*I saw a Blazer fan tweet this out on Thursday night and I think this is how every non-Warrior fan was feeling:

*For now, NBA fans wish for a speedy recovery to all the players who went down with major injuries this season.

*Let’s now shift our focus to the NBA Draft. Thursday evening can’t come soon enough. Who will the Blazers pick at No. 25? Or will Portland trade the pick in a package deal? We’re about to find out!

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

The 2018-2019 NBA season has come to and end. The Toronto Raptors have dethroned the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dubs in six games. 

This is the first NBA Championship for the Raptors and "Jurassic Park". 

Several players of the Portland Trail Blazers took to social media following the game to congradulate the World Champs:

The end of this NBA season can only mean that the NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League are just weeks away.

We are about to head into the crazy that is the NBA offseason with so many major players up in free agency. To the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard. For the Warriors, injuries to All-Stars Kevin Durant and now Klay Thompson (ACL tear in game six) will be something to watch next season and what Golden State will do.

CJ McCollum recognized Thompson's heart, coming back into the game and shooting two free throws on a torn ACL.

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

The Blazers have the 25th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and have already held three pre-draft workouts, but will they actually end up using the pick?

So far the players they have brought in point to no, but workouts don't always tell the story.

Remember the Blazers drafted Zach Collins without ever bringing him in for a workout.

So what will the Blazers do on June 20th? Our Blazers Outsiders discuss in the video above.

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Now that the season is over and it looks as if the Golden State Warriors are going to have to make a miracle move not to look like a mediocre team next season, the talk turns to the Western Conference and the most basic of questions:

Who’s next?

As the runner-up to Golden State in the playoffs this last season, the Trail Blazers would certainly be a logical choice. And that means there’s pressure on Portland to make the Big Move to push it over the top – something that might duplicate what the Raptors did when they acquired Kawhi Leonard.

And the trade that is being tossed around the most, of course, is for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. And I would advise those wishing for the Trail Blazers to pull that one off to slow down and be a little more realistic.

The Blazers would probably be willing to go all-in on Davis but they just don’t have the chips to tempt the Pelicans. Or, more correctly, other teams have more to offer.

And let me say first, if you think the Trail Blazer brass hasn’t already thought of this and hasn’t already engaged in some discussions with New Orleans, you’re probably off base. I would assume by now a whole lot of teams have not only knocked on David Griffin’s door, but have been rebuffed.

There’s a reason the Lakers continue to be the most-talked-about destination for Davis. No, not LeBron -- although that's certainly a factor in Davis wanting to be there. They have the most to offer. Los Angeles could send the Pels two previous No. 2 picks in the draft along with the current No. 4 pick – as well as Kyle Kuzma. The Blazers would be offering high-salaried players who could provide cap room in one more year but I would also assume a team welcoming Zion Williamson doesn't want to think about cap space NEXT year.

It wants talent now.

So if Davis doesn’t land in Portland it doesn’t mean the team didn’t give it a shot. Those guys in the front office know exactly what’s out there for them in the West and are more excited about that prospect than you are.

And I do think the Trail Blazers will pull something off – and it will probably prove to be better than you thought it was going to be. That’s the way a lot of Neil Olshey’s moves have turned out over the last several seasons.

Who could they get? I have no idea. But I certainly didn’t know Jusuf Nurkic and a pick could be had for Mason Plumlee – and I had no idea Nurk would prove to be the player he’s become. I also didn’t expect Rodney Hood and Enes Kantor to show up here for the stretch run last season.

Olshey’s plan all along has been to prepare this franchise for the time when the Warriors drop off. The Warriors didn’t just drop off, though, they fell down in a heap due to injuries.

But the Blazers are closer to a Western Conference title now than they’ve been in a long time. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are in their prime and Jusuf Nurkic – when they get him healthy – is a force at both ends of the court.

Portland could still use more three-point shooting and a rim protector until Nurkic heals and to back him up after that.

You can play with one of those online digital trade machines all you want, but I’m not sure you really know which players to plug into it.

So my best advice would be to be patient and see what happens.

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

The 2018-19 NBA season started out rocky for CJ McCollum. Terry Stotts wanted him to be handcuffed with Damian Lillard in the starting unit to start the year, and that led to some growing pains for McCollum. Where before he had free reign, the inclusion of Lillard in more of his minutes required McCollum to be more ingenious and efficient.

Things didn't start out that great for McCollum. He struggled to shoot the ball, particularly in November and into December. It was clear that he was trying to play within the confines of someone else's game, and McCollum didn't angle to his own strengths.

That changed, particularly after the All-Star break, when McCollum's offensive rating shot up to 120. He was more useful in the passing game, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, it was clear the Blazers could rely on McCollum yet again.

He was huge in the first round, particularly in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. McCollum scored 33 points while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He was a +25 in Game 4 of that series, and in Game 3 against the Nuggets in the next round, he scored 41 points en route to a 2-1 Blazers series lead.

McCollum’s penultimate performance came in Game 7 when he hit a clutch jumper in with  2 seconds to go against the Denver Nuggets. His shot sealed the win vs. Denver, and pushed Portland to the Western Conference Finals.

So how should we feel about McCollum? Adaptation and fearlessness are the two things that defined McCollum’s season. He could have very well folded under the pressure of a new role earlier in the season. The same could be said about how he could have given up in tougher games in the playoffs when Lillard was struggling and he had to take over. But instead, McCollum rose to the challenge and became something more. In doing so, he earned the praise we lumped onto him after he signed his massive new contract in 2016.

National talking heads like to put on a show about the Blazers. They watch some highlights, check out some stats, and make a big show about sending some respect out west to the Blazers for both Lillard and McCollum. But the amount of minutes that folks on the East coast actually watch this team is minimal. Believe me, I lived there, and if you talked about staying up late to watch West Coast basketball people would look at you as if you were crazy. 

Yes, both of Portland stars deserve this praise. But the lack of understanding about what kind of players they are, and the kind of lip service that's been paid to them has created a gap between perception and reality.

In particular, because he's the second banana, it seems sparse what many on the other side of the Rockies could tell you about McCollum — other than the fact that he's a scorer. And to be honest, up until this season, it wasn't clear that there was another level to McCollum game other than that fact. The national understanding of McCollum game was accurate, whether it was obtained honestly or not.

But this season has changed how we should think about CJ McCollum. His adaptability — to operate differently after five seasons within the geometric dance of an NBA offense — is admirable. It was a test of character that McCollum passed, and it may have also been the thing that gave McCollum the chutzpah to handle adversity in the playoffs the way he did this season. 

Before 2018-19, CJ McCollum was “smooth” “crafty” and “shifty”; a second-tier scorer on a second-tier team, standing in the shadows cast by a light shining brighter than himself in Damian Lillard. Now? McCollum is finally the star that so many Portland Trail Blazers fans have ascribed him to be. 

Blazers Pre-draft Workout: Late-bloomer KZ Okpala is looking to showcase his versatility

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Blazers Pre-draft Workout: Late-bloomer KZ Okpala is looking to showcase his versatility

TUALATIN – The Portland Trail Blazers held their third pre-draft workout on Thursday morning at their practice facility. Portland’s fourth and final workout will take place this Sunday.

The Blazers hold the No. 25 pick in this year’s draft, to be held on Thursday, June 20.

Portland brought in six hopefuls on Wednesday, David Crisp (Washington), Matur Maker (Slovenian League), KZ Okpala (Stanford), Samir Sehic (Tulane/Vanderbilt), Jaylin Walker (Kent State), and Cameron Young (Quinnipiac).

Stanford forward KZ Okpala, whose full name is Chikezie Okpala, is the biggest standout from Wednesday’s group.

Okpala is projected to be a mid to late first round pick, which could mean he is available for the Blazers at No. 25. Okpala has been linked to the Nets and Jazz in several Mock Drafts.

At 6’9”, 215 pounds, Okpala is the definition of a ‘3 & D’ guy.

Okpala talked with the media after his workout, discussing what stood out to him about the workout with the Trail Blazers saying, “The energy. Everybody was playing extremely hard, we’re competing, that was the biggest thing.”

While attending Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California, Okpala only played the guard position despite his huge growth spurt. He even brought the ball up when he grew to 6’8”.

“It’s just a blessing, Okpala said. “Nothing more than a blessing. [I was] 5’10” coming in as a freshman [in high school] and now I’m 6’10” almost. I’ve got guard skills, that helps with my versatility for sure.”

 “Whatever position coach needs me to play, I can do it,” Okpala said. 

With his size he looks to be a lock for the modern NBA and that is what Okpala is looking to showcase.

“Versatility, that I can handle it for my size, get downhill, get to the middle, I have a quick first step, play-make, can shoot it, and then defensively I think that’s where I can come in on a team and make an impact right away just because I think I can really get after it, Okpala said. “I can guard 1 through 4. I’m just confident on the defensive end and the offensive end.”

During his sophomore year of college, Okpala earned 2018-19 All-Pac-12 First Team selection.

At Stanford, he averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He played in 29 games his sophomore year, while averaging 46.3% from the field, 67.1% from the free throw line, and 36.8% from three-point range in 32.7 minutes per game.

The sophomore forward spoke with the Blazers team physiologist during the NBA Combine last month, which may show that Portland has had some interest in the young fella.

Okpala has been very busy during the pre-draft workout process.

“I’m getting up there. I think [this] is my ninth. I think I have a couple more… I just take it one day at a time really,” Okpala said. “It’s been so exciting, every place I go, the atmosphere, just meeting all the staff and front offices it’s been a blessing."

The 20-year-old also said he grew up watching the Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“What they did in the playoffs is amazing, Okpala said. “I know the culture out here is incredible.”

The Scoop: Happy Trail Blazers Day!

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The Scoop: Happy Trail Blazers Day!

The Scoop livestream presented by Toyota of Portland is back for the summer! On Wednesday afternoon, Jamie Hudson took fan questions live on Facebook and made sure to get all of Rip City up-to-date on all the happenings surrounding the Trail Blazers.

The two big topics of the day:

Wednesday morning ahead of the Portland City Council Session at City Hall, the Trail Blazers organization was honored by the city.

Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts, along with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, and Senior Vice President of Venue Operations Chris Oxley sat in front of Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Nick Fisher, and the rest of the City Council while Wheeler proclaimed June 12th, 2019 "Trail Blazers Day".

Plus, it was announced on Wednesday that Damian Lillard has been named the winner of the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award. The award is given annually to an NBA player, coach or staff member who has shown “outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

Other Scoop topics include:

-Damian Lillard working out with former Blazer Tim Frazier

-Jusuf Nurkic’s rehab progress

-Trail Blazers vacations

-Pre-draft workouts for Portland

Watch the FULL EPISODE right here:

Scoop Summer Show

Happy Trail Blazers Day!!! The Scoop brought to you by Toyota of Portland is back for the Summer! Let’s get you up-to-date on all the Rip City happenings and NBA reports right now on The Scoop…

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Portland City Council is committed to keeping Trail Blazers in PDX

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Portland City Council is committed to keeping Trail Blazers in PDX

The Portland City Council is determined to keep the Portland Trail Blazers in Rip City for the long-term.

Wednesday morning ahead of the City Council Session at City Hall, the Trail Blazers organization was honored by the city.
Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts, along with General Manager Neil Olshey, and Senior Vice President of Venue Operations Chris Oxley sat in front of Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Nick Fisher, and the rest of the City Council while Wheeler proclaimed June 12th, 2019 Trail Blazers Day.

“This is a proclamation honoring the Portland Trail Blazers. I’d like to thank coach Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey, Chris Oxley, and the Blazers staff for joining us this morning. I want to congratulate the Blazer players for having a truly incredible season this year,” Mayor Wheeler said.

Commissioner Nick Fish spoke to Stotts and Olshey directly, as well, showing his commitment to keep Portland an NBA city.

“I want to make a pitch for the future,” Fish said. “We were very lucky to have an owner of this team that invested freely in building great teams and keeping [them] here… We lost Mr. Allen to cancer. His sister is now running the team and obviously will be making some decisions about the team in the next few years about the direction of the team and her intentions."

“I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity too for the city to go on record of saying, we’ll do everything that we can within our power to keep the Trail Blazers here forever,” Fish added.

Commissioner Fish made sure to drive home his point that the city is determined to keep the Blazers in Rip City, adding, “there will be other cities competing for the Trail Blazers, there may be owners that have fancy ideas, but the Trail Blazers belong in Portland and the city is committed to keeping you here.” 

Mayor Wheeler then concluded the presentation to the Trail Blazers with a simple, but powerful statement:

“The Blazers are part of the DNA of this city.”

It’s obvious that Mayor Wheeler understands how much the Trail Blazers are rooted in this city and it’s clear the City Council is prepared to keep this team in Portland well into the future.

June 12th, 2019: It's Trail Blazers Day as the Portland City Council honors the organization

June 12th, 2019: It's Trail Blazers Day as the Portland City Council honors the organization

PORTLAND – Wednesday morning ahead of the Portland City Council Session at City Hall, the Trail Blazers organization was honored by the city.

Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts, along with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, and Senior Vice President of Venue Operations Chris Oxley sat in front of Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Nick Fisher, and the rest of the City Council while Wheeler proclaimed June 12th, 2019 Trail Blazers Day.

“This is a proclamation honoring the Portland Trail Blazers. I’d like to thank coach Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey, Chris Oxley, and the Blazers staff for joining us this morning. I want to congratulate the Blazer players for having a truly incredible season this year,” Mayor Wheeler said.

Mayor Wheeler addressed Stotts and Olshey directly in front of a packed house at City Hall in downtown Portland.  

“I want to thank them for re-energizing the city," Wheeler said. "I just have to say this on a personal note, the Blazers played hard right down to the final buzzer and people in this city noticed it, people in this city were inspired by it and I thank you.”

Wheeler also shared his gratitude for the Rip City faithful.

“I’d like to thank the Blazers fans throughout the city for supporting the Blazers on their journey to the Western Conference Finals.”

“We’re so proud to have a team like the Portland Trail Blazers here and their entire organization and this is a proclamation on behalf of the entire Portland City Council honoring you for the great things you do in this community, not just on the court, but beyond, in helping to serve young people and people throughout this community all throughout this year,” Wheeler said.

Portland’s Mayor then read the proclamation that included a brief history of the franchise, mentioning Blazer greats, Clyde Drexler, Bill Walton and Terry Porter, along with honoring the Blazers late owner Paul Allen.  

Wheeler finished the proclamation by stating, “Now therefore, I, Ted Wheeler, the Mayor of the City of Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses, do hereby proclaim June 12th, 2019 to be Portland Trail Blazers Day in Portland and encourage all residents to observe this day.”  

Before the Council took a photo to remember Trail Blazers Day, Olshey spoke to the public about how grateful he was for Paul Allen’s sister Jody Allen taking over the team this past season.  

“No organization has a greater owner right now than Jody Allen… Her motivating us everyday led to us acquiring Rodney Hood, it led to acquiring Enes Kanter, it helped us see it through when Jusuf Nurkic went down and the adversity we faced,” Olshey said.

Olshey went on, saying, “I want to thank her in front of this body for everything Jody has done for our organization.”

Portland’s GM also formally announced that Damian Lillard received the NBA’s prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award on Wednesday. The award is given annually to an NBA player, coach or staff member who has shown “outstanding service and dedication to the community.”

Coach Stotts finished the City Council address, by thanking them for the tremendous honor.

“I’ve been in the NBA for over 25 years… I’ve been to all the cities, know all the teams, and to be the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers in this city, with this fan base, we are very fortunate and as much as you appreciate what we do, we appreciate the city,” Stotts said.