Terry Stotts lays into Blazers after they nearly blow game vs. Charlotte

Terry Stotts lays into Blazers after they nearly blow game vs. Charlotte

After some sharp words from coach Terry Stotts, the Trail Blazers on Thursday received a message: It’s time to get serious about this season.

“I can’t call back exactly what he said,’’ veteran Ed Davis said. “But it had to do with we have big aspirations and we are not playing up to that.’’

After blowing a 17-point lead with seven minutes to go against a subpar Charlotte team, the Blazers were pushed into overtime, where some big plays from Maurice Harkless finally got them over the hump in a 109-103 victory.

Normally a mild-mannered coach who teaches through positive reinforcement, Stotts, players say, laid into his team afterward, and it left a mark.

“He knows we are capable of much more,’’ CJ McCollum said. “We haven’t played our best basketball. We have been pissing away games and not executing. We have to do some things better so we are not in those situations where … we could have lost tonight.’’

Often times this season, the Blazers players have been outwardly positive following wins with subpar play. Not Thursday.

“Unacceptable,’’ Davis said. “We want to be one of those elite teams and elite teams don’t play around at home, especially a game we are supposed to win and had control of the whole game.’’

In his postgame address to the media, the Blazers coach was terse, choosing to release one sentence answers through pursed lips in what probably stands as his most uptight and irritated session during his six seasons. 

Maybe it was because it’s that time of year. Or maybe it was because the Trail Blazers were so spectacularly awful in the fourth quarter. Or maybe Stotts had just had enough of  the up-and-down play.

Whatever the reason, he let the team have it.

Harkless said it was the most angry Stotts has been after a victory, and Meyers Leonard said “he was definitely upset with us” – but both Damian Lillard and Ed Davis said it wasn’t a notable tirade.

“It wasn’t like he was m’fing this, m’fing that – but it was like, ‘This is what it is: we are playing great basketball for three quarters then we (poop) the bed in the fourth and give a team that is not supposed to be in the game a chance to win.’

Lillard said he has seen Stotts more angry, and he noted that the group even laughed at one point.

That humor came via Evan Turner.

According to the players, Stotts at one point realized he was harping after a victory. He caught himself, and said, “I don’t want to be …”

As Stotts started to search for the right word, Turner chirped from his corner stall.

“A Debbie Downer?” Turner asked.

“No,” Stotts said. “I need another one …”

“Negative Nancy?’’ Turner retorted?

As Stotts pondered Nancy, Turner added another one:

“Emotional?”

The last one busted up everyone in the room.

“It definitely helped lighten the mood,’’ Harkless said.

The win ended a three game losing streak and pushed the Blazers’ home winning streak to nine, the longest home run in five seasons. Portland (30-25) is in sixth place in the West, one-half game behind Oklahoma City.

As the team boarded a plane later Thursday night for a flight to Sacramento for Friday’s game against the Kings (17-36), it was a group that knows time is running out to back up their own talk that they can be an upper-echelon team.

“We are at a point in the season where we have to start separating ourselves,’’ Davis said. “The games where we need to blow teams out, we need to do that, and tonight was that night.’’

Instead, they got a talking to from their normally laid-back coach.

“He gave us the same message we’ve been preaching all year: we have to be consistent,’’ Harkless said. “When we are consistent we are a pretty good team. But over the course of one game, we can go from really good to average, to good, to average … we just have to maintain.’’

Damian Lillard not focused on chasing rings, wants to do things the 'right way'

Damian Lillard not focused on chasing rings, wants to do things the 'right way'

Over All-Star Break, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard joined Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports on his Posted Up podcast. In the episode, Lillard revealed his thoughts on Anthony Davis wanting out of New Orleans, on the Blazers additions of Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter, why he hasn't demanded a trade out of Portland, and so much more. 

Let's take a look at what the four-time All-Star had to share. 

On addition of Rodney Hood:

"I think his ability to score, his size, and now you got different lineups you can play with, where he’s switching and guarding so many different positions that I know can help with our versatility and help with our different lineups.”

On adding Enes Kanter before All-Star break:

“Since he’s been in the league, he’s been one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, really good in the paint. He’s competitive and he was one of those personalities, you know and I think for every team, you need one of those guys.”

Thoughts on Anthony Davis requesting a trade and what he expects:

“I hope he gets what he’s looking for. We were same draft class. We’ve been in the league 7 years now, so he’s been there 7 years and he felt like he’s done his best. He’s given them what he’s wanted to give them and he’s ready to move on. You can’t be mad at him for that. Some people might have something to say about he’s going about it, or whatever, but he ready to move on.”

On how Paul Allen helped Lillard get his album recorded:

“He ended up letting me record my first album at his house. That summer I went back, we had to put everybody’s name on the list and all this stuff to see who’s going to be coming and all that. It was all set up.”

On how the team handled the passing of Paul Allen: 

“I think we’ve handled it pretty well. It’s been different because for us, he obviously comes to a lot of games, especially home games. We leave the court, we walk through the tunnel and before we get to the locker room, he’s usually the first person’s hands we shake…Now we walkin’ back there and it’s almost like you looking for him a little bit because you’re so used to it from all these years.”

The importance of not selling out for a championship:

“Even though it’s a tough position, having a lot of responsibility. Six, seven years of fighting, trying to get over the hump. Even though it’s hard, I don’t want to take my position for granted. I think it could be worst. I could be in worst situations where I’m not valued the way I am, where I’m not in the position to have the type of individual success that I’ve had, and also, each year as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to appreciate the other stuff. Obviously we all play to win a championship, I compete to win a championship. But I’ve learned its about so many other games: the relationships, the impact that you have on other people and their lives and the impact that you can have on their careers."

"I know in my heart I want to win a championship, but it’s more important to me to know, me and Chief we really friends, me and CJ we really friends. I could say alright I don’t want to be here, I want to go do this because I want to win and I could ruin stuff for other people…When my career is over, I’m going to know the relationships I’m going to have, I’m going to know the people who knew I was solid with them, regardless of if I was at the top or if I controlled all this stuff, I did it the right away."

On convincing free agents to come to Portland:

“It’s an underrated city. For a lot of people with social media and everything, there’s so many distractions for us now, more than any era in the NBA. In Portland, there’s less of that than a lot of other places. So for you to be the best version of yourself as a basketball player, it’s a good city. It’s a good environment, as far as our team, it’s a good organization, and I think that’s something that gets overlooked."

To listen to the full interview on Haynes' podcast, click here. 

Will to win: Damian Lillard’s rare gifts power the Blazers inside and out

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Will to win: Damian Lillard’s rare gifts power the Blazers inside and out

This is the second of a three part All-Star Break feature series. Check Wednesday for part 3…

Read part 1 on how this Blazers season will be defined on Portland's success in the postseason.

The Trail Blazers arrived at their Miami hotel late. It was a Saturday night in March 2017 and Portland had just come off a troubling road loss in Atlanta that dropped their record to 31-37.

Damian Lillard and Evan Turner stayed up late into the early hours of Sunday watching boxing and chatting. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez lost his perfect 46-0 record and then Gennady Golovkin went 12 rounds with Danny Jacobs. When the fights ended, Lillard and Turner were up until around 2 a.m., the conversation mostly steering far away from a bad loss just hours earlier.

The following day, Lillard lit up the Miami Heat for 49 points, dragging the Blazers across the finish line with his own heavyweight performance.

“That’s when I knew it was different,” says Turner, who has played alongside All-Stars Andre Iguodala, Rajon Rondo and Paul George during his 10 NBA seasons.

It was the first time Turner came to truly appreciate his teammate’s’ greatest strength. On the flight home, he came to a realization that Lillard’s will and determination set him apart from other star players Turner had played with in his career.

“Just when you watch him play. The only thing I can say is it’s his will,” Turner says. “I don’t know if he’s born with it or if it’s from his Dad or anything, but it’s a will. That’s the only thing you can really say.”The deep three-pointers are obvious. The scoring binges are easy to count on the scoreboard and the stat sheet. But what separates Lillard is an authentic and unflappable belief in himself and his teammates. 

Sometimes that plays out in more subtle ways.

Earlier this February, the Blazers trailed Miami by eight with the clock running under 30 seconds. Terry Stotts had instructed his team not to foul. But Lillard wasn’t ready to accept defeat and watch the clock run out. He committed a foul with 15 seconds left.

“I’m like ‘Bro, we can’t win,’” Turner recalls thinking. “But in my head I’m like ‘Let me stop’ because that dude truly believes in winning in any situation.”

It can come off as corny or even out of touch in interviews. After tough losses, Lillard will insist his team was ‘right there,’ a few bad bounces away from pulling out a win. When asked about title contenders, Lillard will scoff if a reporter doesn’t include the Blazers among those likely to be competing for a championship. Even more tangibly, Lillard won’t finalize promotional trips in the summer that are scheduled for early June, earnestly believing that the Blazers will still be playing.

When Lillard discusses games, he will often circle back to some version of the phrase “our minds were in the right place.” Lillard’s mindset and his ironclad will are perhaps his best attributes. The “You Know What Time It Is” branding on his adidas signature shoes is born out of that attitude. He refuses to accept games have been decided and has the requisite ability to change outcomes in the waning seconds.

It’s why when talking about the postseason, Lillard laughs when asked if there will be lingering effects from Portland’s disheartening playoff sweep at the hands of New Orleans.

“I’m one of those people that I believe you gotta go through [stuff],” Lillard says. “You gotta experience that stuff. That’s just what it is. I look at it as a time that we had to go through it. Everybody’s had their time where they’ve had to go through that failure, or that struggle, whatever you want to call it. It’s how you use that, and how you bounce back from it. That’s all it is to me now.”

He points out that Pelicans have completely unraveled since they beat the Blazers in the playoffs last April, while Portland is right back in the mix, yet again eyeing home court advantage in the postseason.

“When we get to playoffs that’s where it comes from here,” Lillard says, tapping his heart.  “That’s when you’re like, ‘Alright that’s not happening again. We’re coming with it and having a better performance.’”

Lillard’s intangible skills have been praised countless times before. His leadership holds the Blazers together and helps to seamlessly incorporate new additions to the locker room. But his unmatched will and uncommon determination are at times under appreciated. The Blazers’ franchise player genuinely believes his team can compete for a title this season, and for a few of his teammates that belief is contagious

“I honestly believe up until the last second that we have a chance,” Turner says. “Because the dude is gold.”

The Blazers have added depth this season, they’ve found a better role for Turner and coaxed more consistency out of Jusuf Nurkic. But the constant is the play and unwavering belief of Lillard, the guy that taps his heart when talking about the playoffs and taps his wrist at crunch time.

Life without Ed Davis: How has Zach Collins filled in this year?

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NBCS Northwest

Life without Ed Davis: How has Zach Collins filled in this year?

This is the second of a three part All-Star Break feature series. Check back Wednesday for part 3…

Read part 1 of this feature series on whether Zach Collins has hit his sophomore slump

Portland Trail Blazers fans were upset when GM Neil Olshey didn’t match the Brooklyn Nets’ offer for Ed Davis back in July of 2018. Davis, a fan favorite, was an integral defensive and rebounding presence on a team that lacked both. The move felt like a headscratcher at the time, particularly considering the measly $4.4 million Davis commanded from Brooklyn. He would have cost the Blazers more than that thanks to their cap situation, but the sentiment held — Rip City wanted Davis back.

Talk from Olshey turned to how he was sure that Zach Collins, hot off an impressive rookie season, could fill the shoes left by Davis. That raised some eyebrows, especially considering how bumpy the development of some big men can be. Progression isn’t linear, and the worry was that Collins could hurt Portland’s chances in the playoffs if he didn’t meet the task.

At this juncture in the season, Collins remains one of the more interesting storylines on the Blazers. His progression has indeed seen some peaks and valleys, although I’m not entirely sold on his being in the midst of a sophomore slump. Collins has played well, albeit with his incredible October setting expectations for him too high.

Meanwhile Davis is having another great year for Brooklyn, continuing his impressive marks in offensive rebounding percentage, PER, and true shooting percentage. 

So, the question looms — has Collins filled the role left by Davis?

To start, it’s important to understand how the Blazers have used these players differently. Olshey’s big sell this summer was that Portland wanted more shooting out of the minutes provided by Davis. To that end, Collins has been a bit streaky, particularly when it comes to the 3-point line. However, when Collins has shot the ball well from deep, his offensive rating has skyrocketed.

That’s the primary difference in terms of understanding comparative statistics between Davis and Collins. Last season in Portland, Davis was a better player from both an offensive and defensive rating perspective compared to Collins’ marks this year. However, their relative value over a replacement-level player is quite similar, as is their PER.

Collins’ 3-point shot is the biggest reason for this unbalanced set of statistics between the two. While it’s true that Collins has been up-and-down from month-to-month from deep, Davis has a range of five feet. That not only impacts how they score individually, but how they change the spacing of an offense as well.

To that end, Collins has done exactly what Olshey talked about. The Blazers were a team who, in 2017-18, were 11th in 3-point percentage and 16th in made threes per-game. That wasn’t enough for a squad who didn’t have a player down low in the role Jusuf Nurkic has had this season. For a team led by high-scoring, 3-point shooting guards, the Blazers weren’t good enough behind the arc.

Collins’ ability to stretch the floor also changed how Portland enacted their offense from a gravity perspective. Opposing teams now stay closer to him at the arc than before, and even a half step forward in the NBA can change not just passing angles to and from Collins, but how secondary assists flow through him in kind of a butterfly effect.

Where Davis still reigns supreme is on the defensive side of the floor and on the glass, where the current Net bests the young Blazer. It would be too much credit to say the Portland front office saw this season’s offensive onslaught coming up behind them in their rearview mirror, but given this team’s flaws on offense, those kinds of secondary opportunities were in fact less valuable than they would be for another team.

That’s really what’s at the core of this Davis vs. Collins comparison, and for that I do have to give Olshey credit. There’s no doubt that both Davis and Collins had good seasons last year, and I still maintain Davis is the better overall NBA player. But context matters in the NBA, and the simple fact is that if Collins was going to continue to develop into a floor-spacing defensive presence, he fit better than Davis ever would. 

Because of the nature of the market and summer free agency, Blazers fans like to harp on Olshey for not being a risk taker. Ditching Davis in the face of a luxury tax bill felt a bit too heavy on the accounting side in July. But Olshey did take a risk in choosing Collins over Davis, one that would have fans clawing at his front door if Collins had regressed to start the season.

Davis was a true fan favorite, a man in the vein of Brian Grant or Andre Miller. For that, Oregon will always love him. But what Portland tries to do on offense and defense is tilted in favor of Collins’ skillset over Davis, and a fair comparison doesn’t exist between the two because of Collins’ better contextual fit with this team. Yes, Collins took the minutes left by Davis when he left for Brooklyn. But he’s more of an upgrade on potential than a replacement.

Well, as long as he keeps producing.

Trail Blazers know their year will be defined by the postseason

Trail Blazers know their year will be defined by the postseason

This is the first of a three part All-Star Break feature series. Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for parts 2 and 3…

Dikembe Mutombo’s celebration on the floor of the Seattle Center Coliseum remains the iconic image from one of the NBA’s biggest upsets.

After pulling off a stunning first round victory over top-seeded Seattle, the Denver Nuggets center lay on his back underneath the basket, clutching the ball over his head and screaming.

Terry Stotts, who an assistant on that Seattle team, still doesn’t like revisiting that debacle, or the image of an elated Mutombo rolling on his back.

“Look, I’m still upset that we lost to Denver in 1994,” Stotts freely admits two decades later.

The present day Portland Trail Blazers understand their coach’s preference. Ten months ago, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans emphatically ushered the Blazers out of the playoffs. The Blazers don’t want to revisit that either.

It’s not that they’re refusing to face a painful memory of postseason failure. It’s more that they’ve moved on.

“We haven’t really discussed anything (playoffs related) in detail since preseason,” CJ McCollum says.

The Blazers know their recent playoff history, which includes 10 straight playoff losses while getting swept out of consecutive postseasons. They certainly haven’t forgotten the sweep at the hands of the Pelicans last April, but like Stotts and the '94 playoffs, the New Orleans series isn’t a topic of conversation amongst the Blazers.

“It does nothing for us to just hold on to it like, ‘Oh we’re so motivated,’” Damian Lillard says. “You come back, have a good season and when the postseason comes then you have a better performance. It’s that simple.”

There is no redemption narrative fueling this Blazers team internally, but there is a quiet acceptance that this team and this season will be defined by what happens in the playoffs. No amount of regular season bifurcating would calm Rip City’s collective angst like postseason success.

“We’re at the level where most likely there’s a good chance (our season) will (be defined by the playoffs),” Stotts says. “Like a lot of teams, when you’re in the playoffs every year, then it ends up being defined by the playoffs.”

The Sonics loss in 1994 had all the makings of a legacy defining defeat. Seattle recovered to make the Finals two seasons later, and quickly a 67-win team losing to a No. 8 seed became a footnote and not a headline. There is no greater remedy for postseason agony than a deep playoff run.

The Blazers find themselves at a similar crossroads to that 1994 Sonics squad. Should the team suffer another early playoff exit this spring, there could be an organization wide shake up this offseason. This iteration of the Blazers is on the verge of being remembered more for what it didn’t accomplish than what it did.

It’s a reality many of the players accept even if they don’t agree. Whatever happens in the postseason will define this group good or bad. A potential 50 win season, or another division title and a handful of other individual accolades will quickly get lost if the Blazers find themselves at home once the second round of the playoffs begin.

“Naturally,” Evan Turner says. “This business is what have you done for me lately.”

Read part 2 on how Damian Lillard's rare gifts power the Blazers in and out. 

Is Zach Collins in a sophomore slump?

Is Zach Collins in a sophomore slump?

This is the first of a three part All-Star Break feature series. Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for part three…

Much like the Portland Trail Blazers, Zach Collins started the year incredibly hot. As the season got underway in October, the young forward from Gonzaga appeared ready to fill the shoes left by Ed Davis in his second year in the league.

But it feels like Collins has taken a step back since then, and he’s seen his playing time get a little spotty over the past few months. Some of his numbers are down, particularly when it comes to 3-point shooting and plus/minus.

So what’s really happening here? Is Collins experiencing a swoon? The answer lies with a couple of key indicators, the first being 3-point shooting.

Compared to the beginning of the season, Collins has struggled from the 3-point line as of late. However, there isn't a real difference in how teams are closing out on him from the arc. He's continued to get shots up from deep, but he's lost some confidence.

From a development standpoint, this isn't a big deal. This is only his second year in the league, and the first where Collins has been expected to be a good 3-point shooter. It's reasonable to think that pressure wore on him a bit.

Still, Collins’ offensive impact hasn’t been as great when he’s not shooting the ball well. In fact, there’s a direct correlation on a monthly basis between his offensive rating and 3-point percentage.

The biggest thing that’s made Collins seem worse this season is his shift in blocks per 100 possessions. As the season started, he felt like a black hole on defense, swatting away more than four shots per 100 possessions.

But that’s trickled down to between 1.5-2 blocks per 100 possessions in recent months, which is a real problem considering that Collins still fouls a considerable amount at 6.6 per 100.

The net result is that Collins appears to be struggling on defense because he’s racking up fouls at the same rate but not coming away with blocks to show for it.

In recent months teams have neutralized Zach in a couple different ways. Teams are still putting him in the pick-and-roll, but dribblers are now staying away from him or passing around him.

They've also been marooning him on the 3-point line on defense, stuck to guard smaller 4s and 5s who might shoot from deep. That's made it harder for Collins to help down low, cutting into his chances to rack up blocks.

But does this mean Collins is in a sophomore slump? It's easy to get caught up in his varied playing time and his fouling out, but I'm not so sure the numbers suggest that's the case. 

Collins' percentages at protecting the rim are still very good. He has not seen a dip in defensive field goal percentage inside of six feet despite the reduction in blocks. He’s also a positive defensive box plus/minus player. The reality is that teams got a deeper scouting report on Collins, and started to plan for him as a defender.

Collins has a lot of good things going for him. He's improved his 3-point average, and he's stopped shooting midrange jumpers. For example, last season Collins shot a whopping 30 percent of his field goals from 16 feet to the 3-point line. This year he has reduced that number to just six percent.

You might call it a sophomore slump, but the perception and expectations set for Collins in October may be skewing our view of  how “poorly” he's played recently. He’s a second year big man, and expectations need to be tempered accordingly. I think Collins will get back on track, and I expect to see more progress from him next year.

Read part 2 of this feature series on how Collins has filled in following Ed Davis' departure.

Rapid Reaction: Highlights from Damian Lillard's 4th All-Star Game

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USATI

Rapid Reaction: Highlights from Damian Lillard's 4th All-Star Game

It was classic exhibition All-Star Game material in Charlotte tonight (read: no defense, lots of threes and some jaw dropping plays) as Team LeBron took on Team Giannis.

Damian Lillard, playing in his fourth All-Star Game, was a member of Team LeBron and saw early action with six minutes in the first quarter. He hit a three pointer and snagged a board and a single assist.

Lillard got some more run in the second quarter and nailed another pair of three pointers include a sweet fadeaway from the left wing and the shot below. 

Lillard saved his best for the third quarter where he hit three DEEP three pointers to help Team LeBron rally back to tie the game. 

In the fourth quarter, Lillard got some key minutes late as Team LeBron pulled away, although he didn't have any standout moments in the quarter. Lillard finished the game with 18 points on 6 of 17 shooting (all from three), with six rebounds and five assists. He also had the best +/- of anyone on Team LeBron at +20 and got the walk-off interview with TNT. 

The game was what it was, but it is the weekend experience that the players enjoy. Check out some of the top moments from Damian's All-Star Weekend as he documented the trip on Twitter.

This was Lillard's 4th All-Star Game appearance. Last year in 2018, he logged just under 21 minutes while scoring a Team Steph high of 21pts (tied with DeMar DeRozan) on 9/14 shooting plus three rebounds and two assists. 

In 2015, Lillard scored 11 points in just under 17 minutes of time for the West and in his first All-Star game in 2014 Lillard scored nine points in just under nine minutes of playing time. 

In non-Blazer news, this might have been the play of the night:

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum & Terry Stotts weigh in on the impressive James Harden streak

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USATI

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum & Terry Stotts weigh in on the impressive James Harden streak

It was probably the biggest story of the first half of the NBA season – Houston’s James Harden and his streak of five straight 40-point games and then, his ongoing run of 31 straight 30-point games.

And the most interesting facet of that 40-point streak was that almost none of his baskets came after an assist from a teammate.

The man was playing one-on-one against the whole league for weeks and making it work:

A while back, we had the opportunity after a practice to talk with Portland Coach Terry Stotts and the Trail Blazers’ two highest scorers, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, about Harden’s streak and the idea of basically doing it with one-on-one play -- virtually monopolizing the ball.

Of course, the Rockets were without injured starters Chris Paul and Clint Capela much of that time, too. And there was the feeling by many that Harden’s heroics were the only way Houston could win.

“It’s an amazing stat,” Stotts said. “To have that many points unassisted is obviously an indication of how they’re playing and how they need to play at this point. And it’s a case of good a player he is and how good of a one-on-one player he is.”

Lillard is a big scorer and appreciates the difficulty of scoring at that level for an extended period of time.

“You’ve got to respect it for what he is doing,” Lillard said. “It takes a great player to accomplish what he is doing. To have 20 points in an NBA game is an accomplishment… but to average over 40 or 30, that is crazy.”

McCollum is a terrific one-on-one player himself and knows how hard it is to carry the burden that Harden has carried.

“That’s a skill,” McCollum said. “That’s a skill to be able to create quality shots, create space. And a unique skill to do it essentially every possession.

“He gets to that spot before anybody else.  You’ve got to be in elite shape to dribble the ball as much as he does, come off screens, play at the top of the lane and still get step-backs. He’s special.”

But what about his teammates? A lot of them are relegated to standing around, watching him go one-on-one.

“Depends on the position you play,” McCollum said with a smile. “It would be tough. You have to be able to shoot, obviously. Be able to go a lot of possessions without touching the ball, because he handles the ball and facilitates – decides who scores and when they score.”

But, says McCollum, there’s another side to the coin.

“You also get one-on-one coverage, you have a lot of opportunities to attack angles and gaps because of the amount of attention he draws. He attracts double-teams and triple-teams. Everybody is always aware of where he’s at on the court.
“There’s positives and negatives to playing with everybody but with anybody, but as an NBA player you can figure it out – figure out how to be productive.”

Stotts approached the question of Harden’s teammates from a coach’s point of view.

“The biggest thing is everybody accepts their role and understands that with Chris Paul out and Capela out, that’s what they have to do to win games,” Stotts said.  “I’m sure they’re fine with it.”

Lillard, a player who takes seriously his role with the Trail Blazers as the one responsible for getting his teammates going, had some concern about Houston’s “other” players.

“The other side of it is the people who are playing with him,” Lillard said. “Those are the people you have to ask. When it’s unassisted, the ball is in his hands all the time. NBA players, you know they want to shoot, they want to have the ball and they want to have a chance. 

“You have to respect what’s he’s doing. You can’t take nothing away from him – especially if his teammates are OK with it and they’re winning games.”

A question that begged to be asked is if there are any other NBA players – given the green light to continually go one-on-one for entire games – who could duplicate Harden’s feats.

“Kevin Durant – for sure,” Lillard said. “If KD played that exact same way I think he’d do the exact same thing.”

McCollum chuckled when asked the question.

“Like that?” he asked. “I think I can score a lot but 50 or 60? You’ve got to be elite. There are guys out there who could be productive, but I don’t know if they could be as good as James Harden. He’s very elite in his own right.

“I think there’s some guys out there who can score a lot of points in that situation.”

What about Durant?

“He could do that on any team …  if he wanted to.” McCollum said.

Stotts took his time with his answer about other players being able to hamdle that load Harden is carrying.

“Umm, there are some great players,” he said. “I’d say probably. I’m not going to name names but there are players out there – I don’t know if they’d be that efficient –- but there are players, maybe a handful of players, who’d like to try to see if they could.”

I think we all could agree with that. How about Durant’s chances?

“Durant?” Stotts said. “I think it would have to be a perimeter player. Durant, Steph -- if he got on a roll -- the thing is to be able to do it every night.

“LeBron is probably in that category. Probably some other guys as well. The thing about what James (Harden) is doing is that he’s doing it every night. It’s not a one-night phenomenon.”

And, as far as the 30-point streak is concerned, it’s still climbing.

Damian Lillard does it all at 2019 NBA All-Star Game festivities

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Damian Lillard does it all at 2019 NBA All-Star Game festivities

The NBA All-Star game isn't until Sunday evening, but Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has already had quite the schedule in Charlotte. 

From a friendly half court shooting contest with NBA All-Star Captain LeBron James to spending time with Special Olympics athletes at the NBA Cares Special Olympics United Basketball Game, let's take a look at what your Blazers All-Star has been up to. 

Damian Lillard began All-Star Weekend with a run in with the one and only, J.Cole, who will headline the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday. Dame D.O.L.L.A. has been a fan of the rapper since 2008, and has even hinted at a possible collaboration with him in the future. Lillard also served on a panel at the annual Technology Summit to share his perspective on the tech industry and pop culture. 

Up next on the Blazers All-Star's agenda: Lots and lots of one-on-one time with the media. Lillard took the podium on Saturday to talk about why he thinks Portland would be the perfect city for a future All-Star Game, how he's able to have an impact on others through social media and what players' characteristics he wouldn't mind incorporating into his own game. He also chatted with Raptors forward Danny Green, who called dibs on the Portland guard's next album. 

Lillard was chosen as a coach for the 8th Annual NBA Cares Special Olympics United Basketball Game, where he had the opportunity to spend time with 12 Special Olympics athletes from around the world. He shared some photos from the game that kicked off a week of All-Star festivities. 

Team LeBron spent some time practicing ahead of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. In a post on Twitter, the NBA's official account caught an exchange between Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Lillard. The two players traded half court baskets and man, wouldn't it be amazing to see a LeBron-Lillard shootout in real life. 

Lillard competed in the MTN Dew Three-Point Contest and despite missing many of his shots early on, he came in clutch in his final two racks and hit a buzzer-beater to reach 17 points. He did not advance to the next round. 

Next up on Damian Lillard's list: Taking the floor for #TeamLeBron in the NBA All-Star Game, and hopefully exchanging jersey's with former teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge. Tip off for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game is set for 5:00 p.m. 

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the NBA 3-Point Contest

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the NBA 3-Point Contest

Damian Lillard and Seth Curry represented Portland in the NBA 3-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend on Saturday.

While Seth was focused on beating the "other Curry" from behind the arc in his hometown of Charlotte, Lillard, who competed in the competition in 2014, just wanted to beat his Trail Blazers teammate. 

Seth Curry made his 3-Point Contest debut, coming into the competition shooting 46.5 percent from the arc in Portland. Lillard was named an All-Star for the fourth time and is knocking down 2.8 three-pointers per game and 37.1 percent from downtown.

Here's a few quick takeaways from the 3-Point Contest:

Seth vs. Steph didn't exactly live up to the hype: Heading into All-Star Weekend, the talk around the NBA was a Curry brothers shootout. While Seth came in with the league's highest 3-point percentage and even got an endorsement from father Dell Curry in advance of the competition, little bro just couldn't hang in the 3-Point Contest. Seth got going late, knocking down nearly all of the balls in his fifth rack, but only scored 16 points in the first round and did not advance. Meanwhile, Steph Curry cleared the money ball rack to close for 27 points in the first round, the most of all scorers, and advanced to the second round. He ended up making it to the finals, but lost to Nets small forward Joe Harris. 

Prior to the game, Steph told the media that the two brothers had a friendly wager: whoever loses has to buy the Curry family tickets whenever the two play against each other for the rest of their career. Darren Rovell of The Action Network says it could cost Seth as much as $195,000. Bad news for Seth: it's time to pay up. 

Dame can't get out of the first round: Lillard's second attempt at the 3-Point Contest probably didn't go as planned. The Blazers All-Star, who previously scored 18 points in the 3-point shootout in 2014, scored one basket less in his second appearance. He finished with 17 points, one of which was an insane buzzer beater (but did you really expect anything less?) and failed to advance to the second round. 

NBCS Northwest Blazers reporter Jamie Hudson made a good point though: The racks needed to be back a little further. 

Joe Harris won it all: Wait--who? My favorite moment of the 3-Point Contest was NBA Twitter asking who Joe Harris was. Harris, a guard for the Brooklyn Nets, dominated the 3-Point challenge on Saturday night, and now everyone knows who he is. In the first round, he scored 25 points, making his last eight shots and making all five of his money rack shots. In the championship round, he faced off against Curry and upped his scored to 26 with a perfect money ball rack to close out the round.