Three things for Trail Blazers fans to look forward to as the regular season wraps up

Three things for Trail Blazers fans to look forward to as the regular season wraps up

Portland fans might naturally be down about the state of this Trail Blazers team. CJ McCollum doesn't look like he's ready to return in time for the start of the playoffs (if at all) and of course, Jusuf Nurkic is out with a broken leg.

Nurkic was arguably the second most important player on the Blazers this season. While some might have had Portland moving into the second round as a dark horse candidate this year, those hopes seemed dashed once Nurkic fell in the second quarter of that game against the Brooklyn Nets.

But this season has also been a wonder, and Terry Stotts has once again lead this squad to more than 50 wins. It's the third time in Stotts’ time with the team that Portland has crossed that mark, and fans are still showing up and cheering their hearts out as the season comes to a close.

For that reason, it only seems fair to point out what we can look forward to as the Blazers move into the postseason.

Here's three things to be excited for as Portland moves toward Game 82.

Terry Stotts keeps coming up with wrinkles

Stotts has made himself a coach of the year candidate this season simply by being more amenable to change. The sometimes hard-headed Stotts has expanded his lineup over the course of the year, not just from necessity of the roster but also because the team needed to expand past where it’s been in seasons past.

Stotts has gone deep with this rotation, particularly in the addition of Jake Layman, Seth Curry, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood. His rotating bench squad that has worked its tail off to become a productive contributor of the bottom line for Portland, and Stotts has nurtured that expertly.

Even Stotts’ tired old Flow offense has received some tweaks this season. CJ McCollum is in a new role this year as a more pure shooting guard with the first unit, and Evan Turner is now the de facto point guard on the bench.That's culminated in additional options off of the same types of sets, like we saw with this Pistol series that helped the Blazers get a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves (not to mention Turner’s first triple-double).

Perhaps nobody would say it, but with Stotts’ as attachment to wiley veterans and his shortened rotation, there was some question about whether he could adapt to the growing expectations for this team as he approached eight years in Rip City. Stotts has done his duty in that regard, and fans should be happy to have him back next year and beyond.

That is, if he wants to come back

The bench mob

First, let's just point out that this bench squad is as deep as the Blazers have seen in some time. Portland has always been a top-heavy team, and the problem with that has been the issues that come with starting two small scoring guards as the main stars.

Although some of the advanced statistics haven't individually improved all that much for guys like Turner, others including Layman, Curry, Hood, Kanter, and Collins have all contributed in a way that is extremely useful for Portland when viewed in the aggregate.

No longer is this team susceptible to big swings when its stars check out, which is even more of a wonder given that Stotts decided to pair Damian Lillard and McCollum together more often this season. In fact, when that plan was announced at the start of the year, it seemed like a potential weak point for opponents to attack.

Instead, this bench mob is the ultimate team unit and just about anyone can score at any time without there being much of an ego about when, or who.

Plus, these guys are just fun dudes to watch and to cheer for. You have to love them, and that's something that Portland fans have clung tight to over the past decade-and-a-half. Turner’s the cut-up, the bench celebrations are great, and everyone roots for their teammate without an air of perfunctory obligation.

Portland fans love to root for their bench players. For perhaps the first time in a while, these Blazers backups are worthy of their praise.

Damian Lillard is a damn monster

Lillard’s advanced statistics as an individual haven't jumped all that much. In fact, according to Cleaning the Glass, he isn't really separating himself within his peers at his position. 

Lillard’s usage, shooting, VORP, PER, points, free-throw rate — all of these things look pretty similar to last season, give or take a few ticks up or down. 

But if you've watched Lillard this season, you know just how big of a impact he’s had.

This team would not be what it is without Lillard, which goes without saying. But I think we’ve ventured into the territory of not understanding just how special it is to watch this guy play each and every night. Indeed, looking at some of his on/off numbers tells the story a bit clearer on Lillard.

The Blazers are up 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor over last season, and a whopping four free-throw attempts per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood, per pbpstats.com. That could have something to do with McCollum as well, but the point is that Lillard has a significant impact that can't be underrated.

Winning games is nice, but the amount that Lillard has stepped up his game and the fact that he is a guaranteed lock for the All-Star Game each and every season from here on out speaks to just how special it is to have a player like him in Rip City.

This season could feel much bleaker than this, but the combination of smart coaching, a bench that has bought in, and a legitimate superstar should keep Portland fans coming back to watch this team in the postseason no matter what happens or what their odds may be. 

How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

The Trail Blazers are on the ropes. Reeling from a haymaker thrown by the Houston Rockets, Portland needs to find the power to get up from the mat before the ref counts to ten.

The Blazers are just 5-9 on the season and injuries have left them thin at power forward. Enter Carmelo Anthony.

The 10-time NBA All-Star officially became a member of the Trail Blazers Tuesday morning and hopes to make his Blazers debut and return to the NBA on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. A team in desperate need of a jolt has reached out to a future Hall of Famer with nothing to lose.

Anthony hasn’t played in over a year, but he is just what the Blazers need. Since Zach Collins went down with a dislocated shoulder, the Blazers have struggled to get any real production at the four.

Mario Hezonja has had some nice moments but hasn’t really put a full game together. Anthony Tolliver has struggled to find his shot and wasn’t signed to play 20 minutes a night. While rookie Nassir Little has shown some flashes, he has also made a lot of rookie mistakes. But, the biggest thing the aforementioned players are lacking is scoring punch. It may sounds cliché, but in the current NBA, getting stops isn’t as important as making sure the other team can’t stop you. You have got to score more points to win. With Anthony, the Blazers are showing offense is the focus.

Those who are anti-Melo may argue that he only averaged 13.4 points in 10 games with the Rockets last season, far off his career average of 24.0. Well, the Hezonja-Tolliver-Little trio has combined to average just 11.2 points per season. If Anthony is the same Anthony we saw last season, it doesn’t matter. It’s still what the Blazers need. One guy to fill the production of three. That’s an upgrade.

Anthony also gives the Blazers a shooting threat on the floor with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s someone they can pass the ball to and have confidence he can hit the open shot. Just by being on the floor, defenses will have to remain honest. It’s a rare skill when you don’t have to score a bucket to make the defense adjust to you. Anthony can do just that.

The biggest questions with Anthony are how does he fit in the lineup and how does it affect the rotation, particularly with Nassir Little. Little has slotted in as the starting power forward spot in recent games and has played well. Well enough, at least, to remain the starter, for now. He’s good on the glass, decent on defense, and has shown some explosion on the offensive end. He has earned a spot in Stotts’ rotation with or without Anthony.

How Anthony’s role impacts Little remains to be seen, but given how Stotts has used the rookie lately, you would have to assume those two will be 1-2 on the power forward depth chart, with Hezonja and Tolliver getting spot minutes.

All of this should culminate in Anthony sparking the Blazers. Portland has four games remaining on this road trip, with Milwaukee being the only team that has a winning record. If Anthony shows up, shows out, and fits like a glove, then this could be a stretch of games that change the season. Or, at least, a stretch of games that get the ship back on course.

With Melo, fans should expect to go 3-1 and return home next week with a chance to return to .500 on the season. Who do they play when they get back to Moda? The Oklahoma City Thunder – the last team Anthony played a full season for.

This has the potential to be the start of a storybook, and Melo has a chance to be the story’s hero.

Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Get your fire emojis ready! On Tuesday morning, the Blazers unveiled their new city edition uniforms. A blast from the past collides with accents of the present to create the perfect new Trail Blazers look. 

According to the Trail Blazers, "Portland's newest uniform combines the team's first two uniforms (70-71 through 74-75) along with some modern design accents and vintage coloring."

The uniform features Rip City across the chest and a classic black and red piping through the uniform. The red is lighter than the modern red, while the white is a slight off-white to help create that vintage look. 

Fans on social media loved the new combo:

[VIEW THE ENTIRE PHOTO GALLERY HERE]

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

If ever it was no surprise that somebody was going to have to sit out a game because of back spasms, it’s tonight with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The man has been carrying this team on his back all season, leading the league in minutes – and those were some pretty stressful, high-usuage-rate minutes, at that. No wonder Damian Lillard has back spasms.

You don’t believe in load management? Well, you probably don’t believe in flu shots, either, right?

It’s the same thing. You don’t have the flu when you get that shot -- you get the shot to keep you from having the flu. Same with load management. You are healthy enough to play in a game, but rather than stress your body another night, you rest. You rest to prevent injuries – which is easier than trying to treat the injury once you get it. And you stave off fatigue that comes from piling game on top of game.

The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a six-game road trip that offers too much travel, too many games and are tonight playing the second of back-to-back games. Lillard should probably sit this game out even if his back wasn’t hurting.

More and more, people are coming to realize that the density of the schedule combined with a lack of sleep that occurs because of the crazy cross-time-zone travel leads to fatigue. And fatigue leads to injuries.

The Trail Blazers, for whatever reasons, have refused to rest healthy players over the years. Part of this, I’m sure, is because the players themselves wish to play. And the team wants to win every possible game in order to make the playoffs. But that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to step up and protect players from themselves. Particularly a player such as Lillard, who knows how important he is to his squad.

Will resting players cause losses? Yes, of course. Not all the time, but sometimes. But would you rather lose a player for three months because of a severe injury, or just lose a game or two here or there?

And when I think back about the troubles this team has had keeping franchise players healthy, I believe more than ever that load management could have been an answer.

Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy – would any of them have lasted a little longer with a lighter load? Maybe sitting out a game here and there or playing with a limit on minutes? I think that’s possible.

Obviously, there is no way to prove any of those players – or Lillard – would have profited from load management, but I’d certainly favor giving it a try.

And at some point, the league is going to have to explore shortening the schedule. This is too much and players are paying a price for it.

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

The Blazers had an unlikely name pop up on today's injury report: Damian Lillard.

Per Trail Blazers PR, Damian Lillard is dealing with back spasms and is out for tonight's matchup against the Pelicans. 

Lillard played 35 minutes in last night's loss to the Rockets, scoring just 13 points. For the season Lillard is averaging 28.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.,9 rebounds -  all career highs. 

With Lillard out, the Blazers will likely lean on second-year guard Anfernee Simons to shoulder the load at point guard. Simons has been a key bench contributor this season, averaging 11.3 points and 1.3 assists per game. 

Tonight's game also marks the potential debut of newly signed forward Carmelo Anthony. Without Lillard on the court, this could be a perfect opportunity for Anthony to debut in a big way. The Blazers will certainly need his scoring touch. 

The Blazers tipoff against the Pelicans at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the NBC Sports My Teams App.

Carmelo Anthony will wear #00... he explains why

Carmelo Anthony will wear #00... he explains why

After days of reporting, after players and coaches directly and indirectly talking about him, after he posted a video on Youtube about his decision, after joining the team in New Orleans Monday night, the Trail Blazers officially, officially, officially announced Carmelo Anthony to the roster Tuesday morning ahead of their game vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. 

The release stated Anthony would wear jersey #00. The #00 was last worn by Enes Kanter last season.

Anthony sported the #15 through his college days at Syracuse and in his early years with the Denver Nuggets. He was forced to switch numbers once he joined the Knicks because the number 15 was retired by the Knicks in honor of Earl Monroe and Dick McGuire. Melo chose to wear the #7 in New York, which he continued to wear with the Rockets and Thunder. 

There was some intrigue as to whether Anthony would try and wear #7 with the Blazers, which hasn't been sported since Brandon Roy last wore it in 2011. 

Tuesday's release cleared that up. 

Anthony took to Instagram to explain the reasoning behind the jersey selection. 


One should be concentrating on clues that the universe is dropping for them to take up a quick reaction.
Divine power is seeking my undivided attention.
I had to achieve the tranquility of spiritual maturity through the guidance of the Universe.
I WILL ALWAYS BE 7️⃣
#007
#GRA7EFUL
#STAYME7O

Melo cites the ∞ symbol as the reasoning behind the decision, a symbol that is "without end," and "can never be given an exact value."

These all sound well and good as reasons, but one has to wonder how much internal influence there was behind his decision when Melo is hashtagging words (#007 #GRA7EFUL #STAYME7O) with his old number in it. 

Carmelo Anthony with team in NOLA, plan is to play him against Pelicans

Carmelo Anthony with team in NOLA, plan is to play him against Pelicans

The Carmelo Anthony experience in Portland is finally here. It was reported last week that the Trail Blazers had agreed to a deal with Anthony, and on Tuesday the team made it official.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Anthony’s deal is a one-year, non-guaranteed, and worth $2.15 million. The deal becomes fully guaranteed if he remains with the team beyond January 7th. 

Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star, met the Trail Blazers in New Orleans prior to their game against the Pelicans. Portland has four games remaining on its current six-game road trip, and Anthony can help right away.

On Tuesday, Coach Stotts joined Rip City Mornings with Dan and Nigel to discuss his newest addition.

Stotts said that the team has a meeting at noon and that the plan is to get Anthony on the court against the Pelicans.

Stotts didn’t indicate whether or not Anthony would start, but he did talk about what Anthony brings to the Blazers:

I think everybody’s pretty optimistic. The guy is one of the best scorers in the history of the league. He’s a matchup problem. There will be an adjustment period going forward integrating with our team, but guys don’t forget how to shoot and he still creates problems for the defense.

You can hear Coach Stotts’ interview with Dan and Nigel in the video above.

 

It's official: Trail Blazers sign Carmelo Anthony

It's official: Trail Blazers sign Carmelo Anthony

News broke on Thursday evening that the Trail Blazers were planning to sign Carmel Anthony to a one-year non-guaranteed deal. 

The team has been hurting at the power forward spot, a position Melo can play naturally. With a sub-par start to the season and injuries across the frontcourt, the timing was right. 

The Trail Blazers released the following as part of a statement announcing the deal:

PORTLAND, Ore. (November 19, 2019) – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed veteran forward Carmelo Anthony, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

“Carmelo is an established star in this league that will provide a respected presence in our locker room and a skill set at a position of need on the floor,” said Olshey

Anthony, 35, holds career NBA averages of 24.0 points (44.9% FG, 34.7% 3-PT, 81.1% FT), 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.02 steals in 1,064 games (1,056 starts) over 16 seasons with Denver, New York, Oklahoma City and Houston.

A 10-time NBA All-Star, Anthony (6-8, 240), has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the 2012-13 NBA scoring champion. As a member of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team, Anthony has won three Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016) and one bronze medal (2004). Originally selected by the Denver Nuggets with the third overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, Anthony attended Syracuse where he won the 2003 NCAA Championship as a freshman.

Among all-time NBA leaders, Anthony ranks 19th in points (25,551), 21st in field goals (9,137) and 41st in three-pointers (1,362). He is one of 11 players in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 6,900 rebounds and 3,100 assists.

He will wear No. 00 for the Trail Blazers.

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Pelicans tonight at 5:00pm

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USA Today Images

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Pelicans tonight at 5:00pm

NEW ORLEANS – In their second leg of a back-to-back, the Portland Trail Blazers (4-9) visit the New Orleans Pelicans (4-9) on Tuesday night.

Portland will be looking to bounce back after Monday night’s 132-108 loss to the Rockets.

For the Blazers, they know that anything can still happen this season and there’s still plenty of basketball to be played.

You can watch the Blazers-Pelicans game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

2:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

4:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

4:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

5:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

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

Quotable

“It’s a long season. A lot can happen and you’ve got to move onto the next one. In some ways you’ve got to have a short memory. Winning two nights ago in San Antonio was a big win for us and we knew this would be a tough one coming in, but the thing is, you never know when you’re gonna get on a roll, and all it takes is one or two games to get on that roll.” -- Blazers head coach Terry Stotts after Monday’s loss

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, Blazers know a lot can happen and happen quickly

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, Blazers know a lot can happen and happen quickly

HOUSTON – The proof was in the pudding-- there was one team that seemed to be clicking on all cylinders, and there was one team that was is still trying to find its way.

The Rockets took it to the Blazers 132-108 at the Toyota Center on Monday night.

“I think at every point in the season you come across teams, and some teams are playing well, some teams are not playing so well,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “That’s how every season is. I think right now they’re just in a stretch where they’re playing really well, and we’re still finding our way. They played their game, and did a lot of things they wanted to do, and we didn’t take a whole lot away from them. That was the story of the game.”

But what about the story of the Trail Blazers 5-9 start to the season?

It may very well have to do with continuity.

Think about this for a moment – the Blazers have a total of nine new players on their roster, including their two, two-way players. Now, Carmelo Anthony is about to enter the fray.

Portland took pride in its continuity over the last handful of seasons and said many times that team’s familiarity had helped lead them to success. They talked about their maturity as a unit.

It’s ironic the Blazers were playing in Houston on Monday night.

Last season, the Rockets started out the season 1-5.

Houston kept with it, though, because like everyone says: It’s a long season.

The Rockets finished with the fifth best record in the league, 53-29.  They eventually lost to Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.

Fifty-three wins, after going 4-7 through their first 11 games.

The Blazers currently stand at 5-9 on the season, which is tied for 12th in the Western Conference standings with the San Antonio Spurs.

Nearly every Trail Blazer has referenced how much being on the road will continue to help them become more familiar with each other.

That takes time, and luckily for the Blazers, they still have that time.

Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts offered up this message postgame:

“It’s a long season. A lot can happen, and you’ve got to move onto the next one. In some ways, you’ve got to have a short memory. Winning two nights ago in San Antonio was a big win for us and we knew this would be a tough one coming in. But, the thing is, you never know when you’re gonna get on a roll, and all it takes is one or two games to get on that roll.”

We'll see if the Blazers will begin that roll Tuesday night when Portland is back in action against the 4-9 New Orleans Pelicans.