Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

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Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

With the clock winding down, Damian Lillard measured Paul George and stepped into a 37-foot game winner to push the Portland Trail Blazers into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

It was bedlam. In a single moment, Lillard transformed from All-Star to something more. A superstar? Maybe. A legend in Portland? For sure.

As his teammates stormed the court, a photo was taken which captured a deadpanned Lillard staring into the lens as his teammates piled on.  

“That was the craziest shot I’ve ever seen in person,” Skal Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “It was great, just the atmosphere and the moment, the magnitude of the moment. It was the last game of the series and being against OKC. It was just a great shot.”

Labissiere’s huge smile lights up the picture. He’s in the upper right hand corner embracing his star guard.

One of the biggest moments of the 2018-19 playoffs and somehow Skal Labissiere makes the picture? This is the NBA life. One moment you can be wasting away on the Sacramento Kings' bench preparing for a 13th straight year without a postseason appearance and the next thing you know, you are in the Western Conference finals.

The 7-footer was dealt at the trade deadline from Sacramento to Portland in a swap for Caleb Swanigan. While he hasn’t found a spot in the rotation quite yet, the Haitian-born big was in desperate need of a career reboot.

Selected by Sacramento with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere played 106 games in a Kings uniform before the trade. With the focus shifting to young players like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, the 23-year-old center was a spare piece.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been learning a lot from all the veterans here and the coaches. I’ve been learning a lot - the culture, the game, the guys here, they welcomed me with open arms. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve been here.”

Labissiere played in just nine games for the Blazers as they fought for playoff positioning down the stretch. In the season finale against his former team, the smooth shooting big dropped in 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes, reminding the Kings what could have been.

While things didn’t go as planned for Labissiere in Sacramento, he has no ill-will towards the franchise. If anything, he was gracious for the experience.

“Thank you for everything,” Labissiere said of his two-plus years in Sacramento. “Thank you to Vlade (Divac), Vivek (Ranadivé) for taking a chance on me on draft night. Even coach Joerger, giving me a chance to play in my rookie year and after the (DeMarcus Cousins) trade and in my second year in the league, just believing in me and cheering for me.”

Even when he wasn’t playing major minutes, Labissiere said he appreciated the cheers he received from the fans. He’s starting over in Portland with the hopes that he can find a permanent spot in the league.

He’s also getting an incredible experience of playing deep into the playoffs. He’s made three appearances in the postseason so far, but he’s taking it all in and trying to absorb as much as he can from the opportunity.

“This is a first time for everything, so I’m very excited to be here, just getting to experience this, even though I’m not playing a whole lot,” Labissiere said. “I’m still watching and learning how the guys approach every game and just supporting. Hopefully at some point I’ll get out there and be able to help the team, but as of right now, I’m satisfied with just learning and watching from afar.”

There’s a lot you can learn about the game of basketball by sitting back and watching. There is also a lot you can learn by walking into a new environment.

“I could tell when I first got here just the closeness of this group,” Labissiere said. “Everybody is for each other. They all care about winning, no matter what it takes. Whatever they have to do, sacrifice, as far as their roles, they’ll do it just for the betterment of the team.”

[RELATED: Damian Lillard playing through pain, team playing with pride]

Labissiere has a guaranteed contract next season in Portland and a summer to show that he can fit into the system and be part of the Blazers' family. For now, he’s trying to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

He isn't the only former Kings player still alive in the postseason. Seth Curry, George Hill, Eric Moreland and DeMarcus Cousins are all still playing as the playoffs inch towards the Finals.

Former Trail Blazer Greg Oden and new coach Jannero Pargo square off in Big 3 opening weekend


Former Trail Blazer Greg Oden and new coach Jannero Pargo square off in Big 3 opening weekend

This weekend kicked off Week 1 of  the Big 3, a 3 on 3 league that features none other than former Trail Blazer great Clyde Drexler as commissioner. 

In Game 1 of Week 1, the Triplets defeated the Aliens 50-40. Why do we care? The game featured former Trail Blazer Greg Oden (Aliens) and new Trail Blazer coach Jannero Pargo (Triplets).

Oden finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and one assist. 

Pargo chipped in six points, three rebounds and two assists for the Triplets who were led by Joe Johnson ((27 points, 16 rebounds). 

The 3 on 3 league, which features a 4 point shot, has a number of well-known names playing for it and some with Northwest ties including Jermaine O'Neal, Bonzi Wells, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry, and Gary Payton (coaching).

Trail Blazers add South Dakota State's Mike Daum to summer league roster

Trail Blazers add South Dakota State's Mike Daum to summer league roster

The Trail Blazers have added another name to their Las Vegas Summer League roster and this time it is South Dakota State's Mike Daum

Daum started all 33 games for SD St. last season and averaged 25.3 points and 11.7 rebounds on the season. According to the team site, he was the only Division I player to average 25 and 10 on the season. 

The 6'9'' forward will bring a high level of scoring ability to a Trail Blazer's summer roster that already features Anferenee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., and Nassir Little on the perimeter. 

The Blazers tip-off their summer league in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6th at 12:30pm vs. Detroit. 

We will have full coverage of the NBA Summer League from Dwight Jaynes, Jamie Hudson and the NBC Sports Team as we follow not only the Trail Blazers but also your local Pro Ducks and Pro Beavs throughout the event in Las Vegas. 

Plus we'll have loads of interviews with GMs, media, and players over the course of the 10 day event. 

Damian Lillard on Nassir Little: He's a steal

Damian Lillard on Nassir Little: He's a steal

The Portland Trail Blazers selected UNC forward Nassir Little with the No. 25 overall selection on Thursday night.

Over the weekend, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard posted a live video to his Instagram giving his first thoughts on the rookie.

“He’s a steal for sure. That’s a steal for us… His pull-up going left is crazy,” Lillard said.

Lillard went live on his IG while grabbing sushi for lunch.

As NBA fans all around the country asked him questions, he not only talked about Little, but he also joked about his new diss tracks on Kings power forward Marvin Bagley, saying “there’s no beef” between the two.  

Lillard also gave major props to the New Orleans Pelicans on their trade with the Lakers that sent Anthony Davis to LA.

“Zion Williamson with that group, I like what New Orleans has got going,” Lillard said.

Lillard expressed how he feels the Pelicans will benefit from the Lakers trade in having Lonzo Ball run the show now.

Lillard said of Ball, he’s a “good defender, he can pass the hell out of the ball… I think he’s gonna be real good.”

While Lillard continues to train and workout this offseason, to drop diss tracks, and to go live on Instagram, the Trail Blazers newest addition will have his first press conference on Monday morning at 10am. Check Monday afternoon for the latest from Little’s press conference.

Happy Birthday to Trail Blazer legend Clyde Drexler!


Happy Birthday to Trail Blazer legend Clyde Drexler!

One of the greatest Trail Blazers of all time, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler is celebrating his 57th birthday today. Ball is Life tweeted out an awesome old-school highlight package of Drexler in action:

Our Trail Blazer Insider Dwight Jaynes also weighed in on the celebration praising Drexler (and teammate Jerome Kersey) for their in-game dunking abilities

Drexler was a 10-time NBA All-Star during his career and played twelve years with the Trail Blazers but won his NBA Championship in 1995 as a member of the Houston Rockets. A Dream Team member, and Hall of Famer, Drexler now serves as the commissioner of the Big 3 three on three league. 

Report: Trail Blazers to add former NBA player Jannero Pargo to coaching staff

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Report: Trail Blazers to add former NBA player Jannero Pargo to coaching staff

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Trail Blazers are adding former NBA player Jannero Pargo to their coaching staff.

Pargo went undrafted in 2002, but after playing in the D-League and overseas, he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bulls in 2009. Pargo spent time with the Bulls, Hawks, Wizards, and the Bobcats over his seven-year career.

In October of 2017, Pargo was named as an assistant coach for the G-League’s Windy City Bulls.

Now at the age of 39, Pargo will get his first opportunity on an NBA coaching staff. Portland had a coaching vacancy with David Vanterpool taking an associate head-coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves.   

Jannero’s brother Jeremy Pargo played at Gonzaga from 2005-2009. Jeremy is currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Premier League and EuroLeague.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA Summer League Schedule announced, title defense begins!


Portland Trail Blazers NBA Summer League Schedule announced, title defense begins!

The NBA released the schedule for the Las Vegas Summer League which will take place on the UNLV campus from July 5th through the 15th. 

Last year's champions, your Portland Trail Blazers, will have pool play games at the following times:

GAME 1: 12:30 pm - Saturday, July 6th vs the Detroit Pistons (Thomas and Mack)
GAME 2: 7:00 pm - Sunday, July 7th vs the Houston Rocket (Cox Pavilion) 
GAME 3: 3:00 pm - Tuesday, July 9th vs the Utah Jazz (Cox Pavilion) 
GAME 4: 5:00 pm - Thursday, July 11th vs the Oklahoma City Thunder (Cox Pavilion)

Following pool play, the Top 8 teams will be bracketed into a tournament to declare the Summer League Champion. Teams that don't make the tournament will play one consolation game. Consolation games will start on July 12th, while the tournament quarterfinals will start on July 13th.

The championship game will be played at 6:00 pm on Monday, July 15th inside Thomas and Mack Center,

 While the Blazers have not released their official summer league roster yet, we know from exit interviews that the following roster players will join the team in Vegas this year:

Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., & Skal Labissiere

We can also expect 2019 first round draft pick Nassir Little and recent two-way signee Jaylen Hoard to be in Las Vegas. According to reports, NBA Free Agent Jarnell Stokes will also be joining the squad. 

We will have full coverage from Las Vegas throughout the event from Dwight Jaynes, Jamie Hudson and the rest of our NBC Sports team!

Trail Blazers missed “this infusion of energy” on draft night without the late Paul Allen

Trail Blazers missed “this infusion of energy” on draft night without the late Paul Allen

He was the owner of the Trail Blazers and Seahawks.

He was the co-founder of Microsoft.

He was a humanitarian and philanthropist.

But for the late Paul Allen, one of the biggest joys in his life was being a part of the NBA Draft process in Portland.

For recent Portland Trail Blazers fans, they will remember the Blazers late owner sitting on the baseline near the Blazers bench at Moda Center with his pinwheel baseball cap propped atop his head.

What fans may not remember is Mr. Allen sitting in the Blazers draft room each and every year, deliberating over every possible scenario, constantly trying to help build for the future of the team.

Allen passed away from cancer on October 15th, 2018 at the age of 65. Just three days before his team tipped off the regular season at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.  

June 20th, 2019 marked the first NBA Draft with no Paul Allen in Portland’s ‘war room’ in over 30 years.

After the Trail Blazers selection was locked in at No. 25 with Nassir Little out of North Carolina, Portland’s General Manger Neil Olshey spoke with the local media.

Olshey spoke on the emotions of a draft day without Allen.

“It’s hard. Look, as ecstatic as he would’ve been sitting courtside with us going to the Western Conference Finals and seeing that plan that was put in place four years ago when we kind of reset the roster, nothing made him happier than being in this room tonight,” Olshey said with a smile.

Allen was known for watching plenty of game film and diligently doing his homework on potential prospects.  He was all about making sure to draft the right player.

Olshey couldn’t help but think about how different this draft was in comparison to previous “energetic” Paul Allen infused drafts.

“It really was a different experience for us today without Paul [saying] ‘can we get him?  Oh get him!  Move up!  Can we buy a second [round pick]?  Go ahead buy a second, give them $4 million, give them $5 million,’ and no matter what the plan was going in, Paul always said he was an ‘all of the above’ guy. ”

Paul’s sister, Jody Allen, who now owns the Trail Blazers, was kept up-to-date on this year’s draft prospects and the Blazers draft board of whom they liked in this year’s class.

“We sent our stuff to Jody last night and said this our order, this is how we’re going to go, we’re locked in at 25 if we don’t make a move and we played it by that script,” Olshey said.

But draft day definitely was not the same for Olshey and his staff because there was no Paul Allen going through his typical draft day routine.

“Paul would come, he’d stop at the Pancake House and he’d have his pancakes and apple fritter, and he’d get here around 10am. We’d find a bunch of guys to get in the room, we’d sit here and watch film with him. He loved watching tape,” Olshey said.

“Then he would get bored with us and he’d shoot off to Powell’s [Bookstore] for a couple of hours. He had his routine and it was just fun and it kept us engaged,” Olshey added.

Allen purchased the Trail Blazers in 1988. He was just 35 years old. He became the youngest team owner in the four major professional sports leagues.

Allen’s had been enjoying the draft process ever since.

Olshey and his staff definitely felt Allen’s absence.

“It was different and I think everybody in the room felt a huge void. It just didn’t have the same energy,” Olshey said.

Allen’s energy was missing.

“You spend two months working on it after the season and you’re battling and you’re grinding out the board and you’re watching tape… After all, you do your board, right?  And then there was always this infusion of energy when Paul came in and you had to almost start from scratch because he liked the action,” Olshey said.

Olshey summed it up simply with, “It just sucks, the way things have gone over the last nine months [getting to the Western Conference Finals], he deserved [to see] that.”

In the end, this 2019 draft ended with Portland snagging a projected lottery pick at No. 25.

There’s no doubt Mr. Allen would be pleased.

In former McDonald's All-American, Nassir Little is a classic Neil Olshey acquisition

In former McDonald's All-American, Nassir Little is a classic Neil Olshey acquisition

The Portland Trail Blazers need shooting and defense on the wing next season. Nassir Little won’t give them that. At least, not yet.

Little was the 25th overall selection by Neil Olshey and the Blazers front office on Thursday night. Many felt as though Portland would use that pick in a trade to address their needs, but nothing materialized.

The biggest news of the night was the diss track that Damian Lillard dropped in the middle of the draft. A weird beef has been simmering between Lillard and Marvin Bagley after the Sacramento Kings forward said he was the best rapper in the NBA. With Lillard’s new single “MARVINNNNNN???” playing on repeat, now we’re set on trying to analyze what to make of Little and his role with this franchise.

For starters, Little is a freak athlete. At 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs, he checks all the boxes. Little’s a classic Olshey draft selection: he has a high pedigree and upside, but disappointed in his one season at UNC. Most importantly, it became obvious he couldn’t shoot. Again — at least not yet.

Little shot 27 percent from 3-point range last year. His percentage on 2-pointers wasn’t that high, either, and shot selection was a weakness of his. Any good NBA staff can coach that out of a guy who’s willing to listen, which Little seems to be.

It's not as though Little doesn’t bring something to the table. He had an offensive rating of 110 last season, and scored 21.5 points per 40 minutes. Little also found himself at the free-throw line often. He posted a rate of .365 free throws per field goals attempted. For reference, No. 1 overall pick and fellow forward Zion Williamson had a .467 free throw attempt rate.

But this is nitpicking, trying to find the silver lining and the dark cloud all at once. In reality, Little is not a player that is going to help the Blazers this season. He's far more in the vein of Zach Collins than Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. He won't be expected to come in and contribute right away. He's more of a project, a long-term solution to an age-old problem in Portland.

To that end, Little seems reasonable. The Blazers only had the 25th pick in the draft. The most probable trade scenario for them would have been a package surrounding Evan Turner, Moe Harkless, or Meyers Leonard coupled to No. 25. That didn't materialize, and Portland is no worse for wear. It was never a strong bargaining position to begin with. If anything, the Blazers needed to make a trade to get starting wing talent, and that package isn’t very enticing.

If we’re looking into our crystal ball, Little projects more as a replacement for Al-Farouq Aminu than for Moe harkless. Perhaps he could connect the distance between both? Little is an athletic and willing defender who doesn't seem to have the best feel for his own offensive game, although he is willing to attack and push both in transition and off the dribble.

Portland fans shouldn’t be too upset with this draft. The season ended well, and the odd cap situation the roster sits in right now is difficult to work themselves out of. Fans understand where this team is, and there’s a ceiling that has kept them from making waves.

There’s no big, meaningful takeaway here. That’s exactly how Olshey does it, anyway. Thursday’s draft slots into the modus operandi for Portland’s GM. Olshey just keeps doing what he can to keep the Blazers in the playoffs while assembling cheap, highly-rated talent with bargain-hunting measures. 

That’s the reality of trying to team build here in Portland. Whether you think Olshey is blowing smoke about that, it is the truth. The newest Blazer was both the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American all-star game and the No. 2 overall prospect out of high school, according to Rivals. Portland’s snatching of a prospect like that without a lottery pick is par for the course in Olshey’s Rip City.

Mistah F.A.B. explains Dame just 'ran Town business' on Bagley

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Mistah F.A.B. explains Dame just 'ran Town business' on Bagley

Mistah F.A.B. heard Damian Lillard’s Marvin Bagley diss track, and knew exactly what the Trail Blazers star was doing.

“Dame’s just telling business, man, he’s just representing,” the Oakland-based rap impresario told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock on Thursday. “… That’s Dame Dolla, man. He just straight ran Town business.”

“Town business” meant Lillard answering Bagley’s morning challenge with afternoon heat, and F.A.B. explained what had to be in the Oakland native’s mind as he recorded, then dropped the song that also dropped jaws across the NBA.

“You just go in battle mode, man,” F.A.B. said. “You want to make sure you come with some bars, you want to make sure that you respond -- each bar’s pointed, but you get your point across. He got his point across, man.

“He talked about how he felt, you know what I mean? He was like, Big Bank take Little Bank. I’m a couple hundred mil. This is a field day. Basically like, c’mon, man, you don’t want these bars. You don’t want this problem.”

F.A.B. said he knew Lillard had the goods “when I first heard him rap,” and his eyes really opened when he saw the Blazers star’s now-famous freestyle on Sway’s SiriusXM Radio morning show in 2015.

F.A.B. believes Lillard might be the best athlete rapper ever, and has pointed advice for anyone who might challenge him again.

“You just better make it count. You got to make it count,” F.A.B. said. “Battle rap is like sports in a way -- on any given night, anyone can be beat. All it takes is for one battle, one bar, and somebody could steal the whole momentum of the crowd and whatnot, you know? … You just got to come correct.”

Most people believe Bagley didn’t do that Thursday, and F.A.B. sees the quality of Lillard and his Oakland upbringing.

“Dame’s just cool. Dame’s a real class act, man,” F.A.B. said. “He’s just so professional. It’s a reflection of how he was raised, his parents--  he’s got great parents, good structure. He really comes from that life, though. He don’t got to do nothing extra, you know what I mean? When you really come from the life that a lot of people be trying to exaggerate [about], to be, to make it seem like they’re really from, then they do the most. …

“He got it honest, though. His job, man, was just to go play basketball and change the narrative, and that’s what he did, man. That’s why he’s so humble, so respected. He know where he come from.”