Stotts, Blazers' newest dilemma: What to do with resurgent Mo Harkless?

Stotts, Blazers' newest dilemma: What to do with resurgent Mo Harkless?

SACRAMENTO – A developing subplot in the Trail Blazers season has been the reemergence of Maurice Harkless over the past week.

In what has largely been a disappointing season for the one-time starting small forward, Harkless has recently flourished while being reinserted into the rotation because of injuries.

Last Sunday, he hit all five three-point attempts in Boston en route to a 19-point, 8-rebound performance. And late in an overtime win against Charlotte on Thursday, he made a key block and a flushed a game-clinching dunk off an offensive rebound. He then scored 15 points Friday at Sacramento, and was a key element in the Blazers putting away the Kings in the fourth quarter.

Coach Terry Stotts, who through the first two months of the season went through a somewhat trying exercise in reaching a nine-man rotation, now has an intriguing decision ahead of him: What to do with Harkless?

“Let’s just talk about tonight,’’ Stotts said Friday when asked about his dilemma.

Harkless started the first 19 games of the season, but drifted into anonymity and eventually onto the bench amid poor shooting and energy-less play. To his credit, he remained ready after his demotion. He was the driving force in a December victory at the Lakers, scoring 22 points, and he was a boost with 19 points in a January home win over San Antonio.

This latest development was spurred first by a toe injury to Shabazz Napier, creating an opening in the Boston game, then a calf injury to Evan Turner, which has pushed Harkless into the starting lineup as Turner missed one game and has been on a minutes restriction the past two games.

Stotts started the season with Harkless in the starting lineup because he liked the defensive versatility he provides while paired with power forward Al-Farouq Aminu. The two long and lanky forwards can switch defensively on pick-and-rolls, and when energized, Harkless has athleticism unique to the Blazers.

Plus, with Harkless in the starting lineup, it allows Turner to assume an offensive role off the bench that is more suited to his strengths. With Turner on the second unit, he can be more of a ball-handler and initiator, and it puts less pressure on him to be a spacer alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

So, what does Stotts do?

On Friday at least, the coach conceded that he will probably extend his rotation from nine to 10, at least for the time being. Most coaches -- particularly late in the season -- like to limit their rotations to nine players in order to give them adequate playing time to establish a rhythm. If Harkless forges a regular spot back in the rotation, it will likely have to come at the expense of Napier, the team's third guard.

 “Moving forward I’m sure (Harkless) will be playing,’’ Stotts said. “Evan with the minutes restriction, you know, kind of makes it a little easier on me. Now, I assume Evan’s minutes will be going up, so they will have to come from somewhere. ‘’

This development almost mirrors how Harkless broke onto the scene in Portland two seasons ago. Lost and out of the rotation in February, he flourished as a spot starter in place of the injured Noah Vonleh and became a key element to the team’s late season push.

Now, Lillard is seeing some of the same things from Harkless.

“We get those sprint backs, those block, the deflections, the finishing in the paint, the offensive rebounds, knocking down 3s … when we get that from Mo we are a completely different team,’’ Lillard said. “I literally get excited when I see him doing those things. That’s why I will be the first guy to tell him: ‘We need you like this all the time. Nobody else on our roster can do what you do, and what you bring to the table.’’’

Harkless on Friday said nothing has changed for him, except the opportunity.

“I think it’s just being back in the rotation,’’ Harkless said. “It’s hard to not know if you are going to play, how much you are going to play, then get thrown out there for six minutes. It’s tough to play like that and be consistent.’’

For the immediate future, at least, it sounds like Stotts will give him another shot. What he does with it might determine the course of the Blazers rotation, and season.

“I will be ready to play, whatever role it is,’’ Harkless said.

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has had an up and down season for the Blazers, literally.

The two-way player has been called up and had numerous stints with the Blazers, and has been sent back down numerous times to play with the G-League's Texas Legends. 

In fact, the Blazers sent Hoard back down to the G-League on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, his first game back with the Legends, Hoard exploded. 

Hoard had a career night, scoring 34 points and pulling down 12 rebounds in the Legends' 144-140 victory over the Oklahoma City Blue. 

Hoard played his college ball at Wake Forest, as did Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul.

With the Thunder on an off night, the former Demon Deacon star was on hand to support a fellow Wake Forest alum. 

Hoard has averaged 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 12 games with the Trail Blazers this season. In the G-League, he has averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with the Legends prior to tonight's outburst. 

Trail Blazers in action vs. Dallas Mavericks, follow for live updates

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Trail Blazers in action vs. Dallas Mavericks, follow for live updates

Thursday’s game between the Trail Blazers and Mavericks is the third of four meetings this season. The regular season series is currently tied, 1-1.

The Trail Blazers are without CJ McCollum for the third straight game as he continues to deal with a left ankle sprain.

For full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team, follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

How to Listen to the Game:

Catch all the action on Rip City Radio 620 with Travis Demers and Michael Holton

Quote of The Week

“Nurk practiced full speed, contact, up and down, seeing him out there – like being himself and not looking like he was struggling – seeing Zach [Collins] out here right now, seeing how well Trev [Ariza] looked in practice – it just felt good. It was like… almost like a pick me up. I feel good about it." -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkc 

Quick Links 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: CJ McCollum to miss third straight game

The NBA All-Star voting results are in: Where did Dame and Melo end up?

Damian Lillard believes making an impact off-the-court is part of his legacy

VIDEO:   Ariza describes what type of player the Blazers are getting

VIDEO:   Swanigan and Gabriel looking forward to new opportunities

VIDEO:   Nurkic returned to "full speed, contact" practice

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

 

WATCH: Fans give Trevor Ariza a warm welcome to Rip City

WATCH: Fans give Trevor Ariza a warm welcome to Rip City

The Trail Blazers pulled off a trade with the Kings on Monday, sending Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel. 

On Thursday, the newest members of the Blazers made their debuts.

The biggest name of the three is Ariza, and he was instantly thrust into the starting lineup. 

During pregame intros, Rip City made sure to show him the love. 

For his career, Ariza holds averages of 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. 

Portland is the ninth team he has played for, having previously played for the Knicks, Rockets, Wizards, Hornets, Kings, Suns, Magic, and Lakers.  

 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: CJ McCollum to miss third straight game

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Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: CJ McCollum to miss third straight game

Portland and Dallas are set to tip-off on national television at 7:30pm tonight in their third of four meetings this season.

Before Thursday’s game got underway, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that forward Trevor Ariza would be inserted into the starting lineup.

Portland announced this afternoon that CJ McCollum will miss his third game with a left ankle sprain.  

HEAR FROM TREVOR ARIZA HERE:

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Hassan Whiteside (groin contusion) is available; CJ McCollum (left ankle sprain) is out for tonight's game vs. Dallas.

MAVERICKS INJURY REPORT:

Ryan Broekhoff (left fibula fracture) and Dwight Powell (right Achilles tendon rupture) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

-- Thursday’s contest will mark the third of four meetings between the Trail Blazers and Mavericks during the 2019-20 season. The season series is tied, 1-1.

-- LAST MEETING: The Mavericks beat the Trail Blazers, 120-112, in Dallas on Jan. 17. Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 34 points (13-25 FG, 3-10 3-PT, 5-7 FT) to go with 10 assists and two steals while Luka Doncic paced the Mavericks with 35 points (11-23 FG, 8-12 3-PT, 5-8 FT), eight rebounds and seven assists.

-- RECENT PARITY: Portland and Dallas have gone 10-10 over the last 20 matchups between the two teams, dating back to the 2014-15 season. • Damian Lillard has scored at least 28 points in each of his last 10 meetings with the Mavericks, including scoring 30-plus points in five of the last six matchups. In two games against Dallas this season, Lillard has averaged 31.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists.

-- Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points (8-16 FG, 1-4 3-PT, 5-6 FT) and hauled in five rebounds against Dallas on Jan. 17. Anthony has scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games against the Mavericks.

The NBA All-Star voting results are in: Where did Dame and Melo end up?

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USA Today Images

The NBA All-Star voting results are in: Where did Dame and Melo end up?

The 2020 NBA All-Star game is slated for February 16.

This evening, the fans All-Star voting results were announced.

The dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony came in the top six in voting for their respective category in the Western Conference.

Melo ranked sixth in frontcourt voting, while Lillard came in third for the guards out West.

This year’s All-Star game will have the same format as the last couple of seasons with captains drafting their teams early next month.

The top All-Star Game vote getters in each conference are automatically chosen as captains.

The two captains and the entire 10-starter pool of players was announced today:

Dallas Mavericks G Luka Doncic

Houston Rockets G James Harden

Los Angeles Lakers F Anthony Davis

Los Angeles Clippers F Kawhi Leonard

Atlanta Hawks G Trae Young

Boston Celtics G Kemba Walker

Philadelphia 76ers C Joel Embiid

Toronto Raptors F Pascal Siakam

Lakers LeBron James and Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo will serve as the NBA's All-Star Game captains for the second-straight season.

A quick breakdown of how it all works:

-- Fan vote (50 percent)

-- Current players' selections (25 percent)

-- Media representatives (25 percent)

The league's 30 NBA head coaches will now pick the seven reserves from their respective conferences.

Here are the important dates to keep in mind:

-- The reserves will be announced on Thursday, January 30.

-- The draft will be held at 4:00 p.m. PT Thursday, February 6 on TNT.

-- The All-Star game will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PT on Sunday, February 16 in Chicago's United Center.

Photos released from Nurkic's return to full contact practice

Photos released from Nurkic's return to full contact practice

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Jusuf Nurkic participated in his first full contact, full speed practice. 

But, as the old saying goes... pics or it didn't happen!

Well, Thursday, we got them!

Until Wednesday's practice, Nurkic had only been going through individual workouts. He looked spry and did not show any favoring of his injured leg.

Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula on March 26th, 2019, had surgery and has been rehabbing ever since. 

It's a welcomed sight for the injury-riddled Blazers.

Nurk practiced full speed, contact, up and down, seeing him out there – like being himself and not looking like he was struggling – seeing Zach [Collins] out here right now, seeing how well Trev [Ariza] looked in practice – it just felt good. It was like… almost like a pick me up. I feel good about it. -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic  

[RELATED: The ultimate Jusuf Nurkic rehabilitation highlight reel]

There is still no official word on his return to an NBA game, but this development is encouraging.  

“He’s been progressing to this point, Terry Stotts added, though trying to downplay its significance. "I guess, it’s a milestone, but it’s just part of his progression... It was hopeful that this week would be an opportunity for him to ramp up his workouts, but as far as anything else beyond that -- it’s too early to say.” 

Now as Rip City awaits the Bosnian Beasts return, everyone is wondering will it be soon?

“I do” Lillard said of getting the sense that Nurkic is nearing his return.

Lillard added, “I’m not involved in the situation…. I’m not a doctor, I’m not inside his body, but he looked good to me.”

“I’ve seen him doing contact stuff, but he really looked good.”

 

From one legend to another: Carmelo Anthony congratulates Derek Jeter on Hall of Fame

From one legend to another: Carmelo Anthony congratulates Derek Jeter on Hall of Fame

Carmelo Anthony has been a longtime fan of Derek Jeter.

He was in the stands at Yankee Stadium when Jeter knocked in the game-winning run in his final game in pinstripes. Jeter later served as a mentor to Anthony, then a member of the New York Knicks, who was seeking advice on dealing with the ins-and-outs of being a high-profile athlete in the Big Apple.

So when the Yankees icon was elected to the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday as part of the 2020 class, Anthony took a moment to congratulate Jeter on being enshrined as one of the game’s best.

“You know and I know, as well as the world knows, it was only a matter of time,” the Trail Blazers forward said. “Keep inspiring, keep motivating, keep paving the way, I appreciate you.”

Anthony wasn’t the only “legend” to pay tribute to Jeter. Actor Larry David, rapper Nas, eight-time MLB All-Star Mike Trout and others congratulated Jeter on his special moment.

Damian Lillard believes making an impact off-the-court is part of his legacy

Damian Lillard believes making an impact off-the-court is part of his legacy

Damian Lillard is a one the NBA’s premiere superstars. He’s a former Rookie of the Year, four-time NBA All-Star, a global ambassador for the Special Olympics, an aspiring rapper with two albums and a lethal shooter from the logo.

While winning championships and receiving accolades for his work on the court is important, Lillard believes having an impact on people is more significant.

In the final chapter of “DAME TIME: The Damian Lillard Story,’ the Trail Blazers franchise player shows how his leadership on the court can have an impact on those off the court.

“It’s always been about respect and treating people like people,” Lillard said in the video. “At 29, I’m consumed by impacting other people. I got a beautiful son. I got a great family. If you had to make a list of things you want, I feel like I have it. I can be like this and there’s people out there that need it.”

He continued: “I’ve learned so many things that other people could apply and help em. Not just like I know everything, but there’s so much that I can give to help other people.”

Lillard’s assists in the community extend beyond the court. In 2019, he was one of 10 players nominated for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his efforts in supporting high school students in the Portland community. The RESPECT program Lillard started to encourage students to “Show Up, Work Hard and Be Kind,” exemplifies his spirit to be a role model in the community.

It is something Lillard holds close to his heart and wants to be part of his legacy when his days on the basketball court are long gone.

“My legacy I would say is that people remember would remember me for being a more solid person than a player,” Lillard said. “Of course you want all the accolades and all the recognition for your career, but I want people for like my legacy to look back and say ‘for him to have been who he was as a player, it was unbelievable for him to have been the kind of person he was.’”

Zion Williamson ties rookie record previously set by... Jake Layman?

Zion Williamson ties rookie record previously set by... Jake Layman?

There was some serious hype surrounding New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson as his made his debut Wednesday night.

It really wasn’t until the fourth quarter, though, when he really showed he was worth all the hype.

But here’s the thing…

Zion reached a special feat in NBA history, which was held by a former Portland Trail Blazer.

With his 17-fourth quarter points, Williamson became the first rookie to score that many points in his rookie debut since Jake Layman did in back in 2016.

Fear the Turtle, Zion!!

Layman made his NBA debut on November 1, 2016, scoring 17 points in eight minutes off the bench in the Trail Blazers' 127-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Layman hit five three-pointers in the game, while Williamson knocked down four threes in the Pelicans 121-117 loss to the Spurs Wednesday night.

Layman became the first Trail Blazer ever to make five three-pointers in a debut, and finished one shy of the franchise record in a quarter.

As for the Pelicans overall No. 1 pick, Williamson scored 17 points in just 3:08 minutes of work in the final quarter. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the loss.

Now everyone in Rip City can brag about Layman when NBA fans hype up Zion's 17 points in a quarter.

Been there, done that.