Trail Blazers path to the playoffs takes another step forward

Trail Blazers path to the playoffs takes another step forward

Safety has been and will continue to be the forefront of all the decisions leading to a return for the NBA. Safety for the players, coaching staff, spectators, media, etc. 

But what about the families of the players and coaching staff? With talks of the NBA resuming play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort in Orland, Florida, it was reported today by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne that family members may be able to join players in that Orlando bubble.

“Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at Walt Disney World Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league's bubble decreases, sources said,” reported by Shelburne and Wojnarowski.

The safety measures and coronavirus testing for the players will be the same for family members.

Here is the latest conversation on a potential timeline for return, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania:

Additionally, it was also reported that a potential playoff picture would include 16 teams plus the four Western Conference bubble teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs.

More teams from the Western Conference compared to the Eastern Conference.

“Commissioner Adam Silver has calls set with the league's general managers on Thursday and the board of governors on Friday, where officials are continuing to discuss variations of plans that include a play-in tournament, pool play bracket and regular-season games moving into the playoffs.

The NBA has yet to formally rule out the idea, but teams have become increasingly skeptical of the league bringing back all 30 teams to complete the season,” sources told Shelburne and Wojnarowski.

Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

Hassan Whiteside isn't one of the league's best defenders, according to NBA coaches

Hassan Whiteside isn't one of the league's best defenders, according to NBA coaches

The Trail Blazers defense has struggled at times this season, but one person has been a standout from day one: Hassan Whiteside. 

Whiteside, who came over in an offseason trade with the Miami Heat, has done an incredible job filling in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic all season.

His very first night as a Blazer was a 16 point, 19 rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets on opening night. 

From there, he just kept climbing. 

Whitside is statistically having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 16.3 points and career-highs of 14.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

Whiteside is the league's second-leading rebounder, trailing only Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons (15.2 rpg).

But where he is most untouchable is defensively at the rim. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

Whiteside leads the entire league in blocks per game at 3.1. That is nearly a full block more than the two players tied for second, Anthony Davis and Brook Lopez (2.5 bpg). 

Whiteside has 187 blocks on the season, compared to 147 for Lopez and 138 for Davis. Both Lopez and Whiteside have played 61 games, while Davis has played 55. 

Regardless, you think the league's second-leading rebounder and leading shot-blocker would be recognized for their defensive prowess, right? You'd be wrong. 

Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic anonymously polled 33 NBA coaches, some head coaches, some assistant coaches, to get their expert opinions. 

The coaches had to vote for the first-team and second-team all-league defensive teams, while 23 of the coaches also voted on Defensive Player of the Year. 

The only rule was they had to vote for two guards, two forwards, and one center for the all-league teams. 

So, where did Whiteside fall?

He fell all the way out of the coaches consciousness. 

Whiteside did not earn first of second-team All-League Defense, he also was not named Defensive Player of Year. 

The really surprising part, however, is that Whiteside didn't even receive a single vote for any of the lists. 

How can the league's leading blocker not even receive a vote for All-League defense? 

According to the coaches' vote, Rudy Gobert was the Center on the first-team, and Bam Adebayo was the Center on the second team. Other centers receiving votes included Brook Lopez, Joel Embiid, Myles Turner, Tristan Thompson, Steven Adams, Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen, and Domantas Sabonis. 

[READ THE ENTIRE LIST HERE]

As for the Defensive Player of the Year, the coaches picked Rudy Gobert, with Brook Lopez and Bam Adebayo being the only other centers to receive votes. 

Here is how Whiteside compares to those three centers:

HASSAN WHITESIDE: 16.3 ppg, 14.2 rpg (10.2 drpg), 3.1 bpg

RUDY GOBERT: 15.1 ppg, 13.7 rpg (10.3 drpg), 2.0  bpg

BAM ADEBAYO: 16.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg (8.0 drpg), 1.3  bpg

BROOK LOPEZ: 11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg (3.8 drpg), 2.4  bpg

Whiteside averages more points (though that doesn't matter for defense), rebounds, and blocks than the three centers that made the list. The only category any of those centers beat Whiteside in is defensive rebounds, where Gobert averages 0.1 more per game... 0.1! 

When averaged out to a per 36, Whiteside leads in all categories.

HASSAN WHITESIDE PER 36: 18.7 ppg, 16.4 rpg (11.8 drpg), 3.5 bpg

RUDY GOBERT PER 36: 17.9 ppg, 14.5 rpg (10.2 drpg), 2.6 bpg

BAM ADEBAYO PER 36: 17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg (8.3 drpg), 1.4 bpg

BROOK LOPEZ PER 36: 14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg (5.1 drpg), 3.3 bpg

However, Whiteside lags behind all three of those players in overall defensive rating: Lopez (99.1), Gobert (106.8), Adebayo(107.7), Whiteside (112.2)

More telling is that his individual defense hasn't led to overall improvements in team defense.

The Bucks lead the league in defensive efficiency (101.6), Utah is 11th (108.8), and Miami is 14th (109.2). The Blazers fall near the bottom, ranked 27th (113.6).

While the Blazers' struggles on defense aren't Whiteside's fault, the numbers show he isn't necessarily helping either.

As for the coaches, they value how a player impacts and changes the team defense over a player's individual numbers. Based on individual numbers alone, Whiteside should be in the conversation with those other centers, not an afterthought.

Again, how does the league's leading shot-blocker not even receive a vote for all-league defense? 

Luckily for Whiteside, the Blazers have at least eight more games for him to put on a defensive show.

Damian Lillard is working out paranoid, but it's not what you think

Damian Lillard is working out paranoid, but it's not what you think

The four-month mark is quickly approaching. 

Yes, it's been nearly four months since the United States and the NBA world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, as the Trail Blazers along with 21 other NBA teams look to resume the 2019-20 season in the ‘Orlando bubble,’ there are still so many question marks, concerns, and so much preparation still to be done.

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is ready to help his team make the jump from the nine spot out West to that eighth and final playoff spot.

He's been happy with his teammate's commitment to staying in shape. 

“I think that just from being in the gym and being around our team that it’s pretty obvious that guys have stayed active,” Lillard said during a Wednesday zoom call. “Everybody’s in pretty good shape. I think the only change… is that it’s real now. At first, it was kind of up in the air. ‘What’s going to be the format? Are we going to be involved?’… Once we knew that it was confirmed that we was coming back -- everybody started getting prepared."

Watching the coronavirus cases spike all over the country, but particularly seeing the numbers rise in Florida, is a cause for concern for the NBA.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on a conference call earlier this week that the league is closely monitoring the situation in Florida and is working closely with health officials. Silver added that he and the league have not ruled out the possibility of the restart getting shut down or the chance of it not being completed. 

Lillard discussed the safety measures the NBA is taking and mentioned that he can’t grade Commissioner Silver and the league just yet. 

Not until they get to Orlando.

It’s a risk obviously. The fact that we’re going to be in a bubble, I think that it kind of knocks it down and limits the chance of us being exposed to everybody else outside of the bubble in Orlando. You know, which is causing the numbers to rise. So, I think it is a safer situation, but I also don’t think it’s possible for them to protect us 100 percent. I think everybody is going there understanding that…I’ve seen people staying inside their houses the entire time and then they go to the grocery store, come back home and basically do nothing and they still come in contact with it, so we’ll see when we cross that bridge, but I do not think there is a way to protect us 100 percent. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

With only one back-to-back, here's how Portland’s regular season schedule shakes out:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Memphis Grizzlies (1:00p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Boston Celtics (12:30p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Houston Rockets (6:00p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Denver Nuggets (5:00p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. LA Clippers  (10:00a.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3:30p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks (2:00p.m. Pacific Time)
     
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets (TBD)

Will there be a balancing act of feeling out how players’ bodies will react once games begin after such a long layoff?

For Lillard and the Blazers, there’s no time for that.

“This is basically an eight-game season,” Lillard explained. “And we starting off behind, so we gotta come in there and hit the ground running… We don’t have time to ease our way in. We don’t have time to try and figure stuff out. We gotta come in assertive and aggressive and just go after it. If we fail, we fail. But we got to at least go out there with that mentality of ‘We don’t have time just kind of ease into it.’”

Lillard continued, “It’s eight games, man. Everybody’s going to be rested. We can’t feel it out.”

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

The Trail Blazers team captain is solely focusing on his team and not what other teams like Memphis and New Orleans must do to snag that final playoff spot in the West.

Portland currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies. Sacramento and New Orleans are also 3.5 games behind Memphis.

I feel good about our chances,” Lillard said of making the postseason. “Like I said, getting [Jusuf Nurkic], getting Zach [Collins] back, we’re a different team with those guys. Everybody’s coming back rusty… It’s a neutral site. I feel like it’s fair. I really didn’t look at the schedule of who we play and all that stuff to make me feel any way. The only thing I asked for was the opportunity to make it [to the postseason] and we’ve been given that, so you know, we’re going to show up and do what we got to do. 

Blazers coach Terry Stotts also discussed his team's slate of games, saying, “We’ve got to come to play. We’ve got Memphis right off the bat -- that’s a must-win. Obviously, we’re playing a lot of good teams on our schedule and the advantage to that is we are in ninth place now, so we’ve got to hold serve. I think we all feel like we have a good chance to get into the playoffs.”

Lillard reiterated what so many around the NBA have said over the past few weeks leading up to a resumption of play:

Teams are going to be on an even playing field.

Lillard said confidently, “I think it really helps that everybody is coming back rusty, for one. Nobody’s been playing.”

In 58 games played this season, Lillard was putting up MVP-type numbers, averaging 28.9 points, 7.8 assists, and 4.3 rebounds.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lillard took his family to Phoenix to get away for a couple of weeks, but since then, he has trained at his home gym and in recent weeks at the Blazers' practice facility. 

Lillard’s training has changed over the past few months.

He admitted with a big smile on his face that he would “probably be tired as hell” if he played in a game right at this moment; but, he said he “could play in a game.” He just didn’t say, yes or no when asked if he was in game shape.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t ready to start training camp next week in Orlando.

Lillard said he “feels good.” He has been working out with a sense of paranoia.

But, it’s not as if this feeling of Lillard's is due to the safety measures of the virus, even though he has acknowledged there is risk while working out and playing basketball during the pandemic. 

No, Lillard has a paranoid feeling because he’s trying trying to keep his body right to prevent injuries.

It was on Feb. 12 in Memphis, when the Blazers point guard suffered a right groin strain as Portland limped into the All-Star break. Lillard returned on Mar. 4 and played in four games before the NBA was suspended.  

Now almost five months after suffering the groin injury and having more time to rehab, rest, and get his body right, Lillard sounds like a point guard who is ready to lead his team to the playoffs.

And, he is also ready to lead his conditioning with little paranoia. 

“I feel pretty good,” Lillard said Wednesday. “Usually when I’m preparing, I’m doing conditioning, I’m lifting and doing individual workouts, like I have been doing. But, I think all this time I’ve been doing it like a little bit paranoid. I don’t want to be coming back and feeling like a bunch of bruises and putting myself in a position where I can get hurt. So, it’s been like -- lifting for power, lifting for agility, lifting for injury prevention --training while I’m in a vulnerable position to where I’m strong in the position... I’ve been doing conditioning at the end of my lifts to where my body is weak and I’m running on a treadmill with the incline at 40, where it’s basically like running straight up a hill.”

Lillard added, “I usually do that training in the morning. I come on to the court at the facility after that. My time has been 10:30 the whole time and then at night time… Our strength trainer for the team [Ben Kenyon], come to the house, six o’clock every night and we do some conditioning and some jump rope, treadmill, some core. So, I’ve been doing a lot, almost paranoid like. 

“I don’t want to be the guy that when it’s time to come back I’m a step behind. Or I’m not feeling good or my body is aching from the lack of activity or stuff like that, so I’ve been on the move.”

Lillard and the Blazers will continue to be on the move when they head to Orlando next week. Teams will travel to Florida beginning July 7 with training camp to follow.

Carmelo Anthony fishing in Bend or boating on Lake Oswego, is comfortable here

Carmelo Anthony fishing in Bend or boating on Lake Oswego, is comfortable here

It has not been a banner 50th anniversary season for the Portland Trail Blazers. In fact, given all that has happened with injuries, games lost that could have been won and, of course, the pandemic, it’s been a disappointment wrapped in a catastrophe.

But one thing, for sure, stands out as a positive:

The signing of Carmelo Anthony.

The Hall of Famer-to-be has averaged 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range. He has made clutch shots and, most of all, been a positive influence on the locker room.

This from a player who was without a team until Nov. 19. And someone a lot of people did not think was a good chemistry guy.

“The perception of Carmelo is so … off,” said Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ president of basketball operations. “I mean, he’s a hooper.

“When we talked back in the fall and we were struggling -- we had lost Zach, Nurk’s timeline had been extended -- we realized we needed to do something and Carmelo just wanted to play.

“But he wanted an organization that was going to be honest with him about his role. What could he expect? What’s expected of him?”

The Blazers told him that right from the start, Olshey said.

Then they stuck by it.

“When you have spent seven or eight months living up to what you said -- his role was what we said it was going to be, our style of basketball, how he was treated -- we have lived up to what we told him the environment was going to be like.”

And Anthony has thrived, on and off the court.

“I have to say, he has not only totally bought into the team and the Trail Blazers,” Olshey said, “he’s out in Bend with his son, Kiyan -- a father and son trip -- they were out fishing. He loves the environment, he lives by the lake (Oswego) and I see him out on the water, he and Kiyan and La La (his wife). They really bought in and they love it up here.”

Coach Terry Stotts did not know Anthony prior to his arrival, but he’s said all season how important it was to bring him to Portland.

“I keep saying how fortunate we were that Carmelo came to Portland to begin with,” Stotts said Wednesday. “This has been a tough season, but Melo has been terrific. One more example of who he is as a person.

“When the pandemic broke out, nobody wanted to be in New York, obviously. He and his family are doing well here, he seems very comfortable with where he’s living and the routine that he has -- as much as you can in a pandemic.

“But his leadership, his voice of reason, his demeanor, I think has been very beneficial for everyone.”

Olshey is in the business of trying to recruit free agents to play in Portland and he knows his players, in this strange season, have seen a side to the city and state they don’t normally witness.

“We always talk about, we need to sell guys on basketball -- make sure the basketball is good,” Olshey said. “And then the longer they are a part of this community and this lifestyle, the more they buy into it.

“It’s very hard from the outside. They don’t spend a lot of time here. They come in and play a game and then they leave. 

“One of the hidden blessings of this for the guys on our roster, is they finally got the summer here. It’s one of the things we talk about here, no matter how late we go into the season, it’s still 58 degrees and raining, except the odd day.

“Then it breaks and all of a sudden, it’s glorious. But those guys have moved on at that point.

“It’s been terrific now that Carmelo and Hassan (Whiteside) and Rodney Hood have gotten the opportunity to see what it’s like here in the offseason. The irony is that guys were running all over to spend their offseason and you couldn’t find a more beautiful place than Oregon in the summer.”

And really, a year ago, who would have expected to see Carmelo Anthony and his family cavorting on Lake Oswego in the summer?

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been tasked with getting his team’s roster ready for its return to play in Orlando. And he’s been, as a member of the league’s competition committee, a part of the NBA preparations to go there.

So now, as teams grow closer to embarking on this unprecedented journey to a bubbled-up end of a season, how does he feel about going there himself, amid social unrest and global pandemic?

“It’s two-fold,” he said Wednesday. “On one hand, I’m excited to see our guys play again. You know, the season ended so abruptly, we were just getting healthy. We were three days from getting ‘Nurk’ (Jusuf Nurkic) back and Zach (Collins) was on the horizon -- he was about three weeks out from returning. At that point, Trevor (Ariza) was in the starting lineup, so the exciting thing is to see the guys out playing basketball again.

“I missed basketball.”

But at the same time...

“I don’t think anyone can be cavalier about the health risks,” he said. “Our players and our traveling staff have tested negative over the course of our two weeks of mandatory testing. But, it’s a concern, and we have family members concerned about us going into the environment. I do think there will be diligence down there.

“I do think Adam’s (Commissioner Adam Silver) model of trying to make it the safest place in the country, i think the league will do everything in its power to do that. But I can’t tell you that people aren’t concerned about their health.

“And, more than anything, we are used to being away from our families for intermittent periods of time, but certainly not for weeks and months at a time. And certainly not during a major pandemic and a climate of social unrest in our country.”

How does Olshey feel at this point about the league’s chances of pulling this off? Does he think the NBA will manage to crown a champion in Orlando?

“I do,” Olshey said. “I think the league, the players and the players association are resolute. That’s where they’re going.”

And what about his team’s chances of making some noise down there?

“I think one of the things that’s understated is that guys aren’t going to give up,” he said. “We’ve had guys back in this gym since May 8. They’ve stayed in market and they’ve continued to work out with no end in sight for part of that.

“And then they’re going to go to work out for three weeks in Orlando and live in a hotel without the freedom and independence that they’re used to. They’re not doing that to go through the motions and get a paycheck. We’ve had between 90 and 95 percent participation at our practice facility since May 8.

“Guys have stayed. They are dialed in. They are locked in. They’re ignoring whatever the strength of schedule we’re going to face down there. And they’re going down with the mindset that Day One, this is playoff basketball for us.

“We’re training and preparing and we’re going to give it our best shot. One of the things that has been consistent with this group is that this is a group of closers. We’ve always been better the second half of the year. It’s a testament to the character of the guys we have and our coaching staff not burning guys out and keeping them engaged and I think you will see that when we get to Orlando.”

But it won’t be easy. They’re going to have to be ready to handle tough, must-win games immediately.

“We’re going to have to get off to a fast start,” Olshey said. “It’s baptism by fire. We’re three and a half games behind Memphis and we get them on opening day.”

And there is a very small margin for error -- with the virus and the games.

Kevin Calabro: The Trail Blazers 'have taken great care of us'

Kevin Calabro: The Trail Blazers 'have taken great care of us'

Kevin Calabro decided to just step away from the microphone for a while. Not retire, just step away.

“It was a very tough decision,” Calabro said Wednesday. “But all these years of travel, of being away, this is a good time to bring the focus back to my family.”

Calabro, the television voice of the Trail Blazers for the last four seasons, probably couldn’t have picked a better time to take a break.

The NBA is getting ready to deal with a return-to-play scenario that includes the Trail Blazers playing eight games in empty arenas in Orlando, Fla. Media broadcasting those games on a local or regional level will be doing so from studios or arenas in their home city.

Even next season, there is real doubt about the possibility of broadcasting games -- or having fans present -- at NBA game sites.

That makes working those games more of a challenge and, frankly, less fun.

Calabro and his wife, Sue, have maintained a residence in Portland but their home base is still in Seattle. That commute can be difficult in the winter.

Calabro made it clear that he wasn’t leaving because of any problems with the Trail Blazers.

“It has nothing to do with the Trail Blazers,” he said. “They have taken great care of us. That’s what has made the decision so difficult.

“It was just time to do it.”

And this isn’t retirement.

“I’ll always work,” he said. “When I decided I wasn’t going to follow the Sonics to Oklahoma City, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I did a talk show and I even did a year of soccer. I got freelance opportunities -- it was good.”

Calabro even did hockey play-by-play for a season right after college. He’s a great pro able to broadcast just about anything, with what Blazer sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam calls “the best pipes in the business.”

He won’t lack for opportunity.

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

There’s no doubt that without starting small forward Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, that’s going to create some problems for the Trail Blazers as they head to Orlando for their eight regular-season games in the restart of the 2019-20 season.

We are now less than a month away from the season resuming. Wednesday, Damian Lillard and Coach Terry Stotts shared their thoughts on Ariza opting out of returning to play to instead commit to a one-month visitation window with his 12-year-old son.

“I have a great respect for the decision that he made,” Stotts said. “It wasn’t an easy one for him, but I’ve told him this -- the decision he made to be with his child, I thought was very commendable and totally respected that.”

But what about that gaping hole now at the three?

Lillard was straightforward when talking about losing Ariza.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard knows it won’t be easy to replace him.

It’s a big loss. I don’t think there’s any way around it. It’s not a situation where you just say, you know, ‘Somebody has to jump in and step up’ even though that’s the truth. It’s just a loss for us but I respect his opinion. If I was in his position I would have done the same thing.

I think this season we dealt with a lot of adversity. So I think we got to look at that as it’s a blow to our team, but we’re also getting [Jusuf Nurkic] and Zach [Collins] back, and that’s going to be a big help for us. Hopefully, we’re able to move forward and still get done what we want to get done. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

The Trail Blazers traded for Ariza on January 21 from the Sacramento Kings for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks. He was instilled as the team's starting small forward. Wenyan Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan were also involved in the deal.

In 21 games played with the Trail Blazers this season, Ariza averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

With Zach Collins now “100 percent cleared to play,” according to Stotts, having a healthy Collins back from shoulder surgery is definitely one big positive that came out of delaying the season.

Coach Stotts mentioned that he is exploring a big lineup of Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Collins at the four.

Plus, we can't forget about the other options for the Blazers at the three spot:

  • Gary Trent Jr.
  • Nassir Little  
  • Mario Hezonja

“It’ll be by committee,” Stotts explained. “The obvious thing is Carmelo will play some three. Gary Trent will play some three. Nas and Mario will have to make the most of their opportunities when they’re out there.”

Stotts is still optimistic that by adding a healthy Nurk and Collins, a void will be filled at the defensive end.

Not having Trevor, obviously, it’s gonna fill a hole. He’s our best perimeter defender. We’re going to have to make due… We’re going to lose his defense and his three-point shooting, but we gain Zach and Nurk, so hopefully we’ll be better defensively even though we lose Trevor.  -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

Lillard; however, is still uncertain how things will shake out at the small forward spot.  

“I’m not sure," Lillard said. "I mean, Nas has gotten a lot of experience this season. GT has gotten a lot of experience this season. But, I could see Melo probably being the three. I could see Melo playing the three to start games. You know, I could see us having a pretty big lineup out there.”

But with three weeks of training camp after a more than three-month layoff, the Blazers are eager to get the resumption of play underway.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

The Trail Blazers currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Sacramento and New Orleans are also 3.5 games behind Memphis.

Stotts said the team will have to “hold serve” once the short slate of games tip-off.

But, it’s apparent the Trail Blazers are all-in for the return to play in Orlando.

The fact that we are approaching it like every game is a playoff game, the rotation will be a little bit shorter. -- Terry Stotts    

The goal from Stotts and Lillard is understood:

The Blazers are determined to fight for their playoff lives once they get to Orlando.

It’s basically an 8-game season and we’re starting behind. -- Damian Lillard

Lillard added he “feels good” about the Blazers chances to make the postseason.

Teams will travel to Orlando from July 7-9. Portland will tip-off its first of eight ‘regular-season’ games on July 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Caleb Swanigan opts out, will not join Trail Blazers for NBA restart

Caleb Swanigan opts out, will not join Trail Blazers for NBA restart

The Portland Trail Blazers will be without Caleb Swanigan as the NBA resumes its 2019-20 regular season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Per Trail Blazers president of basketball operations and general manager Neil Olshey, Swanigan will not join Portland when the NBA restarts. He has decided to withdrawal his name from the NBA’s return to play, citing personal reasons. 

Swanigan joined the Trail Blazers’ big man rotation for a second stint in February when he, along with Trevor Ariza and Wenyen Gabriel, were traded from the Kings in exchange for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks. 

The 22-year-old power forward is averaging 3.0 points, 1.5 assists and 0.1 steals in 20 games with one start for Portland. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

The Blazers will be allowed to sign a replacement for Swanigan’s spot on the roster. Beginning Wednesday, July 1 until August 14, teams in Orlando will continue to be allowed to sign replacement players for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or decides to sit out. 

Swanigan isn’t the only Trail Blazer to opt out of participation in the NBA’s restart to the season. Forward Trevor Ariza announced in June that he will not join his team in Orlando because of a one-month visitation window he has with his 12-year-old son. 

The Trail Blazers signed Jaylen Adams from the G-League to replace Ariza. Jaylen Hoard, a two-way player for Portland, will also be in Orlando when play resumes. 

[RELATED: Trevor Ariza is a no-go, where does that leave the Trail Blazers in Orlando?]

Teams will travel to the Disney campus on July 7. The Trail Blazers are currently 3.5 games back from the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

A Kevin Calabro memory: Sitting down with TV voice of the Blazers on The Scoop Podcast

A Kevin Calabro memory: Sitting down with TV voice of the Blazers on The Scoop Podcast

Now that NBCSNW has learned that Portland Trail Blazers Television Play-By-Play announcer Kevin Calabro is stepping down after four years with the Trail Blazers, we are reminiscing about some of our favorite Calabro moments and calls.

One of my favorite memories was sitting down with Calabro on The Scoop Podcast back in Jan. of 2019.

We took a trip down memory lane to when Calabro used to call the Seattle SuperSonics games, which he did for 20 plus years. We discussed how he misses those battles between the Sonics and the Trail Blazers.

I really looked forward to the I-5 rivalry and that became super heated when the Sonics got [coach] George Karl in 1992-93, because the first thing that George came in and did was he really wanted to ignite the rivalry between the Blazers and the Sonics, and the Sonics and the Utah Jazz… I remember some classic battles that the two squads had… Nothing like it. -- Kevin Calabro on The Scoop Podcast

We also talked camping, golfing, and traveling all over the country!

Thanks for the memories, the phenomenal calls, and the advice and insight, Calabro!  

You will be missed in Rip City.

[RELATED]: Social media reacts to Kevin Calabro stepping down as Blazers TV voice

Trail Blazers Television Studio Host Jordan Kent will be filling the role of play-by-play broadcaster for the remainder of the 2019-20 season set to tip off on July 31 in Orlando.

Listen to the entire Scoop Podcast with Kevin Calabro right here

Social media reacts to Kevin Calabro stepping down as Blazers TV voice

Social media reacts to Kevin Calabro stepping down as Blazers TV voice

Kevin Calabro is saying so long.

NBC Sports Northwest learned Wednesday that the Portland Trail Blazers play-by-play broadcaster was stepping down. 

NBCSNW has confirmed that Jordan Kent will handle play-by-play duties in Orlando during the NBA's eight-game resumption. John Canzano of The Oregonian was the first to report news of Calabro’s departure.

Calabro joined the Trail Blazers in June 2016 after spending 21 years as the longtime voice of the Seattle SuperSonics. He opted not to move with the team when they departed to Oklahoma City. He became a regular postseason play-by-play announcer for ESPN Radio, Turner Broadcasting and NBATV and a member of the Westwood One Radio announcer team for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament before joining the Blazers.

While Calabro’s time on the Trail Blazers sideline was short, fans will always remember him for his legendary calls, including the Damian Lillard “bad shot” over OKC.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

Calabro will surely be missed in Rip City. Fans on social media took a moment to thank Calabro and wish him well in his future endeavors.