Trail Blazers' bench becoming one of league's best

Trail Blazers' bench becoming one of league's best

One of the early season storylines during the Trail Blazers’ 3-1 start has been the emergence of a deep and effective bench.

Led by Evan Turner, Ed Davis and Pat Connaughton, the Blazers’ bench has the top offensive rating in the NBA (115.8), the third best net rating, and the third best plus/minus behind Toronto and the LA Clippers.

Never was the bench more on display than during Tuesday’s home opener against New Orleans, when the starters struggled and needed big games from Davis, Turner and rookie Caleb Swanigan to pull out a 103-93 victory.

“Our bench has been huge,’’ starter Maurice Harkless said. “Especially on a night like tonight, when nobody really had it going. Ed, Caleb, and Evan kept us in the game the whole time, whether they were scoring, rebounding, defending. Especially Ed. But this is going to have to be a collective effort. We need everybody.’’

Turner has been the catalyst and could be establishing himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate as the league’s top reserve. Through four games Turner is averaging 13.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and amassing a solid ratio of 17 assists to six turnovers … all while playing solid defense.

“It’s starting with ET; he’s leading the show and playing well,’’ Davis said.

The same, of course, could be said of Davis, who was probably the Most Valuable Player of Tuesday’s win over the Pelicans with his 12 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.

It has been a resurgent return from shoulder surgery for Davis, whose 9.3 rebounds is second behind Miami’s Kelly Olynyk among bench players, and his play is backing up a vow he made to Lillard last spring.

Lillard on Tuesday recalled shaking Davis’ hand after the Blazers were swept by Golden State in the playoffs last spring. Davis, in street clothes and still recovering from March shoulder surgery, assured Lillard the team would be better fortified next season.

“He shook my hand and said ‘You are going to see a different me next year,’’’ Lillard recalled. “It was already in his mind. We already saw in his mind what he was going to do to impact the team this year.’’

Lillard said Davis throughout the summer was a mainstay in the weight room workouts, during which he made sure everyone could see the work he was putting in.

“We started calling him Shirt Off Ed,’’ Lillard said. “He’s in there doing push ups, pull ups and working out hard ... I just saw the commitment, I saw that he was trying to take action.’’

Throw in some solid shooting from Connaughton, who is 9-of-18 on three-pointers, and an effective outing Tuesday by Swanigan (five points, eight rebounds, three assists) and the bench is starting to rival what Lillard thought was the best reserve unit in his six seasons – the 2014-2015 group of Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland, CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson.

“There are so many guys we have been able to count on – not just tonight,’’ Lillard said. “Each game we’ve played, from preseason up to now, guys have come in and we’ve been able to have faith that the game is going to be fine. When you are actually doing that in games over a period of time, you see you are a deeper team.’’

And the bench figures to get deeper.

Power forward Noah Vonleh is nearing his return, and could be back as early as next week, further enhancing – or complicating – coach Terry Stotts’ options.

“People other than the coach say it’s a good problem,’’ Stotts said of his depth. “There will be tough decisions to make.’’

But a week into the season, the bench and the depth have been a blessing for the Blazers. In the opener, Connaughton was a spark early and finished with 24 points. In Indiana, Turner exposed Victor Oladipo on the block while scoring 17 and helping create separation. And against Milwaukee, Turner again was effective, dishing out a team-high seven assists.

But never did the bench come through more than Tuesday, and never was it more needed. With Lillard struggling through a 3-for-16 night and McCollum not catching fire until late, scoring 16 of his 23 in the fourth quarter, the Blazers leaned heavily on a 43-30 advantage in bench scoring.

“One of the positives after four games is we’ve had different guys have a game,’’ Stotts said. “If you go through each game, we’ve had different guys  -- whether it’s a starter or bench player -- come in and contribute, and I think that’s a sign of a good team.’’

Today's Blazers' links:

NBC Sports Northwest's Dwight Jaynes writes that juggling a talented roster can be tough.

The Blazers' Casey Holdahl writes about Shirt Off Ed.

KATU has the story of Meyers Leonard offering well-wishes to a hit-and-run victim.

The New Orleans Advocate notes the Blazers' broadcast crew offended some in the Bayou. 

Seth Curry scrimmages 5-on-5 for first time in 10 months

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Seth Curry scrimmages 5-on-5 for first time in 10 months

Over the weekend, Portland Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry posted a video to his Instagram account of him proving he is healthy and ready to go with the caption that reads, “first time playing 5-on-5 in 10 months.”

Curry missed the entire 2017-18 season, after dealing with stress fracture in his lower left leg with the Dallas Mavericks. He eventually had surgery on his left leg in early February. 

In Sunday’s Instagram video, Curry shows of his range and his mobility.  

This offseason, Curry signed a two-year, $5.6 million deal with Portland that also includes a player option on the second year.

The 27-year-old has played for Memphis, Cleveland, Phoenix, Sacramento and Dallas before making this current stop in Portland in his 4 years in the league.

Jimmy Butler mentioned as trade deadline candidate for Portland to keep an eye on by B/R

Jimmy Butler mentioned as trade deadline candidate for Portland to keep an eye on by B/R

It's the middle of August, so NBA news is a little slow but Bleacher Report put out a fun article about one player each team should be looking at when the trade deadline approches next season.

For the Trail Blazers, they picked Minnesota forward Jimmy Butler:

Jimmy Butler may be unhappy in Minnesota, and although adding him at the deadline creates a risk he'll bounce after opting out of his deal, it's possible Portland is ready to gamble. Ideally, the Blazers could build a package around Evan Turner and a first-round pick, but that'll only work if Butler makes it perfectly clear he's not going to re-sign with the Wolves.

Also within the article are mentions of CJ McCollum (for Detroit) and Evan Turner (for Sacramento):

"CJ McCollum and Turner for Griffin and Stanley Johnson works under the CBA, and it'd swap Griffin onto a roster that at least needs forwards. McCollum's arrival would signal the departure of Reggie Jackson, which would also be fine."

In regards to Turner to Sacramento...
"In this scenario, the Blazers are attaching a future first-rounder to Turner in a swap that brings back Kosta Koufos' expiring $8.7 million salary."

You can read the full breakdown of every team at Bleacher Report. 
 

CJ McCollum: I'm Trying Jennifer

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USA Today

CJ McCollum: I'm Trying Jennifer

Social media was its usual self on Wednesday, blowing up after a video surfaced of Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum talking about superteams on China Central Television (CCTV). Asked about his thoughts on players like Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins joining the Warriors to chase rings, McCollum said "I would never do anything of that nature. I think it's disgusting. I'm not built like those guys, I was raised differently. 

Seems innocent enough, but this is where social media took over. McCollum responded to a tweet, saying "Y’all stay bringing up old stuff. Yall got me out here looking like a bitter ex. 1 of the best teams ever assembled W/ 2 players you could argue are top 15 greatest to lace them up. 4 hall of "famers w/ another one on the way. I’m happy stop making me look like a scorn man sheesh"

Of course, NBA fans had to troll McCollum. Enter Jennifer. She tweeted back at McCollum "Win a playoff game then talk." His response has since gone viral - 

"I'm trying Jennifer."

Rip City fans went wild. People were asking about making shirts, banners, and anything else. It almost became a rallying cry. Even McCollum himself had fun with it.

Ask and you shall receive. 

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley posted a blog today listing out "NBA Sidekicks Who Could Star in Different Situations."

On his short list was none other than Portland Trail Blazer CJ McCollum. Buckley writes:

Inside the lines, though, McCollum can mostly go step-for-step with his higher-profile backcourt mate. Because McCollum plays the Robin role for the Portland Trail Blazers, the volume edge goes Lillard's way. But McCollum has had the higher field-goal and three-point percentages each of the last three seasons, and his career slash line comfortably wins both of those levels.

You can read the full story, and the full analysis of McCollum's potential in the B/R story. Of note, McCollum was the only Western Conference player to make the list. 

Over his five year NBA career, McCollum is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assits per game while shooting an impressive 40.8% from three and 84.2% from the free throw line. 

Blazer fans love them some Damian and CJ backcourt action and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has repeatedly said he will not break up the backcourt, which seems to sit just fine with fans and Lillard and McCollum who have developed into quite the dynamic duo for Portland. 

 

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

After any professional team has its regular season schedule released, it’s time for the analytics gurus to shine with the various stats and information out there about when, where, and how a team will play a game on any given day. While I am not a stat nerd, the NBA did some of the work for me so let's dive into some interesting stats that were pointed out in a document sent over by the NBA along with the team's schedule as well as some various observations from our first day of analyzing it. 

A COMPARISON OF BACK-TO-BACK GAMES
Overall the NBA has one fewer back-to-back game on average for all 32 teams. 
As for the Blazers, with their 12 total back-to-back contests, they have three less than last season. 
Breaking down those 12 back-to-backs includes three pairs where no travel is involved, five pairs with short travel (under 750 miles) and four pairs with longer travel (over 750 miles).

FRIST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 6   AWAY: 4

LAST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 4   AWAY: 6

A BREAKDOWN OF “TIRED” & "FRESH" GAMES
The Blazers will have 10 total games (same as last season) that will be “tired” games.

On the flip side, the Blazers have 8 "fresh" games for a Net rating of -2 (last year they were -1)

*Team is considered “tired” if it plays the day before and its opponent does not.
*Team is considered “fresh” if it did not play the day before and its opponent did.

LONGEST HOME STAND
11 days, 6 games from November 1st through November 11th

LONGEST ROAD TRIP
13 days, 7 games from February 21st through March 5th

The Trail Blazers will travel the most miles in the season with a total of 54,333 miles in distance traveled.

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

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NBCS NW

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

Schedule Links:
Read - Jamie Hudson breaks down the key parts of the season
Watch - The road trip that could define the season

The Full Schedule:

Thu. 18-Oct-18 L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 20-Oct-18 San Antonio 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 22-Oct-18 Washington 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 25-Oct-18 at Orlando 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 27-Oct-18 at Miami 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 29-Oct-18 at Indiana 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 30-Oct-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Thu. 1-Nov-18 New Orleans 7:30 PM (TNT) 

Sat. 3-Nov-18 L.A. Lakers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 4-Nov-18 Minnesota 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 6-Nov-18 Milwaukee 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 8-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 11-Nov-18 Boston 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 14-Nov-18 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (ESPN)

Fri. 16-Nov-18 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 18-Nov-18 at Washington 3:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 20-Nov-18 at New York 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 21-Nov-18 at Milwaukee 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 23-Nov-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 25-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 28-Nov-18 Orlando 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 30-Nov-18 Denver 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)
 

Sun. 2-Dec-18 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 4-Dec-18 at Dallas 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 6-Dec-18 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 8-Dec-18 Minnesota 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 11-Dec-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 12-Dec-18 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 14-Dec-18 Toronto 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 17-Dec-18 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 19-Dec-18 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 21-Dec-18 Utah 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 23-Dec-18 Dallas 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 25-Dec-18 at Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN) 

Thu. 27-Dec-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 29-Dec-18 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 30-Dec-18 Philadelphia 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Tue. 1-Jan-19 at Sacramento 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 4-Jan-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sat. 5-Jan-19 Houston 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 7-Jan-19 New York 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 9-Jan-19 Chicago 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 11-Jan-19 Charlotte 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 13-Jan-19 at Denver 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 14-Jan-19 at Sacramento 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 16-Jan-19 Cleveland 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 18-Jan-19 New Orleans 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Mon. 21-Jan-19 at Utah 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 22-Jan-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 24-Jan-19 at Phoenix 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 26-Jan-19 Atlanta 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 30-Jan-19 Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)
 

Tue. 5-Feb-19 Miami 7:30 PM (TNT)

Thu. 7-Feb-19 San Antonio 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sun. 10-Feb-19 at Dallas 12:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 11-Feb-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 13-Feb-19 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 21-Feb-19 at Brooklyn 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Feb-19 at Philadelphia 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Feb-19 at Cleveland 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Feb-19 at Boston 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Fri. 1-Mar-19 at Toronto 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 3-Mar-19 at Charlotte 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 5-Mar-19 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 7-Mar-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 9-Mar-19 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 12-Mar-19 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 15-Mar-19 at New Orleans 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 16-Mar-19 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 18-Mar-19 Indiana 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)

Wed. 20-Mar-19 Dallas 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Mar-19 Detroit 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Mar-19 Brooklyn 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Mar-19 at Chicago 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 29-Mar-19 at Atlanta 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 30-Mar-19 at Detroit 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Mon. 1-Apr-19 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 3-Apr-19 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 5-Apr-19 at Denver 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sun. 7-Apr-19 Denver 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 9-Apr-19 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 10-Apr-19 Sacramento 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

The Hammer is showing off this summer

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USA Today

The Hammer is showing off this summer

Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard has been putting in a ton of work on the court this offseason and doing some serious damage to innocent rims around the country. Just check out this clip that Chris Grenham uploaded to Twitter. Marcus Smart with the full-court pass to Leonard, and The Hammer finishes the alley-oop in style.  BOOM SHAKALAKA

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

The countdown to the 2018-19 NBA season is on!

News is starting to trickle out about the NBA schedule and the Portland Trail Blazers will be playing in a couple of big events this season.

The Blazers longest active win streak over any one team in franchise history will be on the line on Day One of the regular season...

Yes, Portland’s season will start off with a bang!  The Blazers welcome in LeBron James and the LA Lakers to tip-off the regular season on Thursday, October 18th.  Blazer fans will be the first to see what LeBron can do with a young Lakers team that now also includes Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaValle McGee.

Last season, Portland split its series vs. LeBron and the Cavs, with each team winning at home.

And get ready for this Blazers fans — The Trail Blazers have a Christmas Day Game! Portland will travel to Utah to face the Jazz on December 25th.

This marks the first Christmas Day game for both teams in several years. Portland hasn’t played on Christmas since 2010, while the featured game for Utah dates all the way back to 1997.

Historically, the Blazers have had a lot of success on the December holiday, with a 14-3 overall record.  However, in the most recent X-mas matchup, Portland lost at Golden State, 109-102.

Just something to keep in mind, the home team is 142–75 in Christmas games.

So now that the ‘big games’ have been released, you only have to wait a few more days for the entire 2018-19 regular season slate.

Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

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Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the Portland Trail Blazers will be a part of the Christmas Day slate with Portland traveling to Utah.