Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

For the past couple of weeks, the NBA and NBPA have discussed placing social justice messages on the back of jerseys rather than their last names.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has chosen the statement of “How Many More?” to be worn on the back on his jersey.

The personalized statements on NBA uniforms are part of the NBA’s efforts to deliver social justice messages and not detract from the current movement while play resumes. The players had a total of 29 different messages they could choose from, such as "Black Lives Matter" or "I Can't Breathe." The statements are designed to support either a social or charitable cause.

The reported list of approved social messages includes:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

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

Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum informed the media on Monday of his uniform statement.

I chose ‘Education Reform’ because I’m big on education. I think that's really important and something that we lack especially in certain communities, black communities, people of color and communities where kids are at a disadvantage.

I think there needs to be more light on that. So that's kind of been my focus and will continue to be my focus. Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that needs fixing in this world, but historically I focus on education. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

Jusuf Nurkic has reportedly chosen to wear "Equality." Rookie Nassir Little has chosen "Black Lives Matter."

The Blazers have discussed how they plan to continue the social injustice conversations while in Orlando.  

Both Lillard and Blazers coach Terry Stotts have voiced their thoughts on the opportunities that will arise once all 22 NBA teams are in the Orlando bubble.

Obviously there will be a lot of eyes on us in Orlando. So I do agree with the fact that it’s an opportunity for us to make statements with the amount of people that’s going to be watching -- whether that’s together, before games, during games, after games, TV commercials, whatever that might be, I do see some opportunities in that.  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Professional athletes all over the country have been participating in nationwide protests, while also using their social media platforms to be active in social justice messaging following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

All 22 NBA teams will arrive in the Orlando bubble by late Thursday evening.

Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

Gary Trent Jr. was relaxing in the Florida sunshine when we caught up with him Tuesday afternoon. Well, he admitted he was sweating a little, too.
But we had a lot of fun talking with him about his shooting prowess, his background as a player, his brief football career, his father’s influence and even a crazy statistic that he couldn’t believe we came up with.
(Hint: It ranked him alongside Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum and Klay Thompson).
I really enjoyed talking to the Trail Blazers’ emerging young talent, and I think you will have a good time listening to him in the videoes linked below.

Gary Trent is the 3-and-D player the Blazers have longed for

Gary Trent Jr. is a physical defender, and he learned it on the gridiron

Trent stepping up wherever the Blazers need him

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

 

 

Eye on the 8: A look at Western Conference teams vying for playoffs

Eye on the 8: A look at Western Conference teams vying for playoffs

It’s time for another ‘Eye on the 8’ with your one-stop-shop for everything surrounding the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference as we take a look at the Trail Blazers road to the postseason as well as the other teams vying for a playoff berth. 

Through the first full weekend of NBA restart games, the Trail Blazers and Spurs are closing the gap on the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West, while Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans continue to lose ground.

[You can listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast here with special guest Bill Walton]

   

The NBA's play-in games if necessary will be played on Aug. 15-16.

Which it looks like the play-in games are definitely going to happen.

How do the play-in games work??

If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage, then the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage will earn the eighth and final playoff spot and no Play-In Game(s) would be needed.

Here’s a look at how each team who is battling for the final playoff spot out West is stacking up against each other heading into Monday’s slate of games:

Portland Trail Blazers

Seeding Games Record: 1-1

Overall Record: 30-38 (.441)

Current Title odds: +7500 

The Blazers were riding high after their win over Memphis, but the question now is: Will the Blazers run out of gas in these seeding games? Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are averaging over 43 minutes per game.

Schedule:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Grizzlies – Blazers WON, 140-135
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Celtics – Blazers LOST, 128-124
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Rockets 
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Nuggets 
  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. Clippers  
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. 76ers 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Mavericks 
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Nets 

San Antonio Spurs

Seeding Games Record: 2-0

Overall Record: 29-36 (.446)

Current Title Odds: +100000

Heading into the NBA restart, Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento were all three-and-a-half games behind the Grizzlies.

But now, after teams have played at least two games, the San Antonio Spurs have entered the conversation.

With the Spurs being discarded as a team not to make a push for the play-in games, DeMar DeRozan said not so fast.

Schedule:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Kings – Spurs WON, 129-120
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Grizzlies – Spurs WON, 108-106
  • Tuesday, Aug. 3 vs. 76ers
  • Thursday, Aug. 5 vs. Nuggets
  • Saturday, Aug. 7 vs. Jazz
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Pelicans
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Rockets 
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Jazz 

DeRozan was clutch in Sunday’s contest against the Grizzlies, knocking down two go-ahead free throws with a second left.

Through two games, DeRozan is averaging 20.5 points and 8.5 assists.

Two games in, and the Spurs have now jumped the Blazers for the ninth spot out West and are only two games back of Memphis.

San Antonio has been to the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, matching the longest streak in NBA history.

The Spurs are without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge who was second on the team in scoring (18.9 points) and first in rebounding (7.4).

Memphis Grizzlies

Seeding Games Record: 0-2

Overall Record: 32-35 (.478)

Current Title odds: +50000

The Trail Blazers and Spurs have already exposed how young and inexperienced this Grizzlies team is, especially when it comes to playoff experience.  

Schedule:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Blazers – Grizzlies LOST, 140-135
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Spurs – Grizzlies LOST, 108-106
  • Monday, Aug. 3 vs. Pelicans
  • Wednesday, Aug. 5 vs. Jazz
  • Friday, Aug. 7 vs. Thunder
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Raptors
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Celtics
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Bucks

New Orleans Pelicans 

Seeding Games Record: 0-2

Overall Record: 28-38 (.424)

Current Title Odds: +5000

New Orleans has struggled out of the gate in Orlando.  

But, we know the NBA would love to get a LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson matchup in the first round. New Orleans was without their rookie superstar until last week when he returned to the Bubble after he left Orlando for a family emergency. 

Zion has been on a minutes restriction in the first two games, averaging 14.5 minutes per game. In the Pelicans' loss to the Clippers Saturday, Zion finished with seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes of action.

Schedule: 

  • Thursday, July 30 vs. Jazz – Pelicans LOST, 106-104
  • Saturday, Aug. 1 vs. Clippers – Pelicans LOST, 126-103
  • Monday, Aug. 3 vs. Grizzlies
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Kings
  • Friday, Aug. 7 vs. Wizards
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Spurs
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Kings
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Magic

The Pelicans have given up 54 points off turnovers in their first two games.

Phoenix Suns

Seeding Games Record: 2-0

Overall Record: 28-39 (.418)

Current Title Odds: +50000 

The Suns just barely made it to the NBA restart and now they’re making some noise in the bubble.

Schedule:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Wizards – Suns WON, 125-112
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Mavericks – Suns WON, 117-115
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Clippers
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Pacers
  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. Heat
  • Sunday, Aug. 10 vs. Thunder
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. 76ers
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Mavericks 

Phoenix proved they can come from behind and beat a playoff team when the Suns rallied to beat the Mavericks Sunday thanks to their 36-point third quarter. In the win, Devin Booker finished with 30 points.  

Sacramento Kings

Seeding Games Record: 0-2

Overall Record: 28-38 (.424)

Current Title Odds: +125000

Sacramento was playing its best basketball of the season once they returned from the All-Star break. They won seven of 10 games to insert themselves just 3.5 games back of the eighth seed.  

But the NBA’s seeding games has been more of a challenge for the Kings. Maybe the long layoff has proved to be too much for Sacramento.

Schedule:

  • Friday, July 31 vs. Spurs – Kings LOST, 129-120
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Magic – Kings LOST, 132-116
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Mavericks
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Pelicans
  • Saturday, Aug. 7 vs. Nets
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Rockets
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Pelicans
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Lakers 

In the Kings' bubble opener, point guard De’Aaron Fox scored a career-high 39 points and Sacramento still wasn’t able to get past the Spurs.

----

Make sure to keep it locked here at our website and follow us on social media as we keep you up-to-date on all the Western Conference teams making a push for the playoffs.  

We’ve got our eye on that eight seed! 

Trail Blazers could have done a lot of other things with 6.8 seconds left Sunday

Trail Blazers could have done a lot of other things with 6.8 seconds left Sunday

Just one more look back at that Trail Blazer possession with 6.8 seconds to play Sunday and no timeouts left.

But keep in mind, even if Portland would have somehow managed to hit a three-pointer there, it would just merely have tied the game and still left the Celtics a chance to win it. And the Trail Blazers weren't getting many defensive stops when they needed them. But I firmly believe that getting a three there was a must. Without a timeout, getting the ball back, advancing it up the court and then scoring is too difficult.

But a few things to point out:

  • Damian Lillard could have taken more time before unloading the ball. I realize there was concern about being fouled before taking a three, but you have to live with that. It didn't appear Boston had any interest in doing so or they would have gotten him immediately.

  • I understand Jusuf Nurkic is now shooting threes with some degree of accuracy, but I’m not sure I would have had him on the floor in that situation. Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons, who has yet to play a minute in Orlando, might have been more of a threat from distance.

  • That said, if Nurkic had just stayed behind the three-point line, he’d have had a wide-open shot at a three, or Gordon Hayward would have had to leave Gary Trent open to contest Nurkic’s shot. Which would have meant Trent -- probably the team's best three-point shooter these days -- would have had an open look.

  • It didn’t seem as if the Trail Blazers had a play ready after Hayward made his two foul shots to push the Boston lead back to three. There were still three seconds left, which should have been enough time to get off a decent shot. Three seconds usually means two dribbles and a shot, so it wasn’t necessary to throw a pass the length of the court. Hitting Lillard (or Trent or CJ McCollum) somewhere near halfcourt and giving one of them a long three would have been cool.

But, of course, they don’t give you do-overs. What happened, happened. And getting a stop or not having so many scoreless possessions late in the game would have helped, too.

The big thing now is to not let that game cost them the next one. There were big minutes played by key players and in a loss, that seems to have a bigger impact than in a win.

The schedule doesn’t get easier, either, with Houston up next.

In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t going to be easy.

Trail Blazers push for the postseason isn't getting easier

Trail Blazers push for the postseason isn't getting easier

Down 24 with less than four minutes before halftime, the Trail Blazers looked like they were headed for a demoralizing blowout. Portland’s porous defense had few answers for a hot-shooting Boston Celtics team that appeared primed to run away with one.

Yet despite the early onslaught from Jayon Tatum and the rest of the Celtics rangey wings, the Blazers didn’t buckle. Instead Damian Lillard donned his cape, emerging from the halftime locker room as the hero that has saved the Blazers hopes on countless occasions. 

The heroics just weren't quite enough. Lillard scored 22 of his team-high 30 points in the final two quarters and not only brought the Blazers back from a massive deficit he even propelled them to a late lead before the Celtics regrouped and held on for a win. Portland had four possessions to tie or take the lead inside the final two minutes and came up short on all of them.

“We dug ourselves a deep hole against a really good team,” Lillard said. “Any time you do that your chance of winning is going to be pretty slim. I think we showed we’re here for business by how we responded, and how we gave ourselves a chance to win. At this point that’s all we can ask for. We didn’t play a very good first half, and we could’ve easily have folded and laid down and just said, ‘It’s a bad day.’ But we didn’t do that.”

If the win over Memphis on Friday was a glimpse of what might be possible for the Blazers playoff push, Sunday’s loss to the Celtics was a sobering reminder of how difficult their path forward remains.

Heading into the NBA restart in Orlando Lillard was vocal that all he wanted was for his team to have a legitimate chance. They got that, and on Sunday Lillard tried his best to make sure the Blazers didn’t waste the opportunity.

After winning their first seeding game Friday, the Blazers were in control of their own postseason destiny. But with their loss Sunday and a San Antonio victory, Portland has now slipped to tenth place in the West with more obstacles between them and a playoff berth.

The loss to the Celtics was a clear illustration of the Blazers flaws and as well as their strengths. Lillard was magnificent, Jusuf Nurkic continues to be an anchor on both ends and Gary Trent Jr. seems to get better each time he steps on the court. And yet there they were down 24 unable to slow down one of the best teams in the league. With games looming against Houston, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia, the schedule isn’t going to soften up.

This team has the talent to forge a path to the postseason, and Sunday was evidence of the challenges that path will no doubt pose.

Trail Blazers' spectacular second-half offense betrayed by their defense

Trail Blazers' spectacular second-half offense betrayed by their defense

All that energy expended making a comeback from a 24-point deficit Sunday in Orlando was wasted.

In the end, the Trail Blazers’ defense undermined a terrific offensive performance in the second half and Portland dropped a 128-124 decision to the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics came out on fire, hitting 11 of their 18 threes, many of them wide open, and just about ran the Trail Blazers out of the building.

"We dug ourselves a really deep hole in the first half,” Damian Lillard said. “The reason we came up short was we had to work so hard to get back in it.”

But Boston was solid on offense all game, finishing up at 54.5 percent from the field and a crazy 60 percent from three. That sort of Portland defensive disaster just isn’t going to beat many teams without a heroic effort from the Blazer offense. And that almost happened.

Portland put together a big-time, second-half show at the offensive end -- 38 points in each of the final two quarters, fueled by a 13-23 effort from three-point range -- and took the game down to the final seconds.

At that point, a couple of bad things happened to the Trail Blazers, who had a four-point lead with four minutes to play. Portland allowed the Celts 10 free throws in the final four minutes and they made nine of them. And then there was that crucial decision with 6.8 seconds to play, Portland trailing by three and out of timeouts.

Coach Terry Stotts made it clear after the game that with no timeouts left, his team was looking for a three-point field goal. But the ball was inbounded to Lillard, who had carried his team through much of the second half. And Boston swarmed him.

Lillard had plenty of time and could have probably dribbled out of trouble and gotten off a three-point shot, but he saw Jusuf Nurkic flash wide open in the lane. He passed to Nurkic, who hit a layup, but there were just 3.4 seconds to play and the Blazers, with no timeout left, still trailing by a point.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward hit two free throws and Nurkic’s halfcourt heave in the general direction of Lillard went untouched out of bounds.

It seemed, after a comeback win over Memphis Friday, the Blazers were headed for another exhilarating triumph. But it didn’t happen. The Blazers just couldn't get stops when needed.

There were heroes aplenty for Portland: Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists. Nurkic had 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Gary Trent was huge with 21 points and a 7-11 effort from three.

And again, Stotts used just eight players and rode his two guards hard. Lillard played 44:02 and McCollum 41:08.

And the Houston Rockets, three-point gunners of the highest order, await Tuesday.

''If anything, we'll take away (that) we played extremely well in the second half against a really good team,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ''We know what’s at stake. We don't have any time to have a hangover after a loss.''

Hangovers are a problem. But so is that Portland defense -- as it has been all season. And if it doesn’t get better, the Trail Blazers are going to have to do what they often did during the season’s first segment:

Just hope the other team has a poor shooting night.

How the Trail Blazers comeback stalled out, point to final possession

How the Trail Blazers comeback stalled out, point to final possession

Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic has said numerous times having Damian Lillard on the court is how and why the Trail Blazers will be able to snag the eighth and final playoff spot in this NBA restart.

Lillard is also the reason the Blazers should never be counted out of a game.

He proved that once again Sunday when Portland squared off against the Boston Celtics.

After Lillard and the Blazers as a team got out to a slow start offensively, and then it was the exact opposite for Boston, the Blazers found themselves down 19 at halftime.

[You can listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast here with special guest Bill Walton]

  

But after the Blazers put on their rally caps behind Lillard, Nurkic, and Gary Trent Jr., the Blazers had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. It was Portland’s second to last possession where the Celtics knew the plan, just as anyone who watches Trail Blazers basketball knows:

Get Damian Lillard a three.

With 6.8 seconds remaining in the game and Portland down three, Boston pressured Carmelo Anthony on the outbands play, but aimed their attention at Lillard and the three-point line as all five defenders stayed above the key to take away the long ball. 

Lillard found a wide-open Nurkic rolling to the hoop to cut the lead to one with 3.4 seconds; however, with no timeouts left that didn’t allow Portland to have another real good opportunity to win the game.

No, the Trail Blazers weren’t looking for a quick two in that situation, but that’s how the play unfolded as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained postgame.

“We were hoping to get a three, but they jumped out on Dame and he just made a reaction pass to Nurk, but yeah, of course, we were looking to get a three,” Stotts said.

To think that the Blazers even had a shot at winning this one is what both Nurkic and Lillard were focused on following the 128-124 loss; especially since midway through the third quarter the Blazers still found themselves down 20. 

“We showed what we’re capable of doing,” Nurkic said after finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. “The encouraging thing is we had a chance to win the game and we started slow… We had some great shots we didn’t make… I feel happy how we competed in the second half."

After hitting just two buckets for the entire first half, Lillard put the Blazers on his shoulders as he has done time and time again.

The Trail Blazers starting point guard finished the game with a double-double of 30 points and the most assists in the NBA restart thus far with 16.

He was pleased with the way his team never even thought about throwing in the towel.

We dug ourselves in a big hole against a really good team. Anytime you do that your chance to win is gonna be pretty slim, but I think we showed that we’re here for business by how we responded and how we gave ourselves a chance to win. At this point that’s all we can ask for. We didn’t play a very good first half, but we could’ve easily folded and laid down… But we didn’t do that. We came back, take the lead, and fought to the very end of the game, just came up short. I think the reason we came up short is because we had to work so hard to… get back into the game. That took a lot of out of us. And down the stretch, I just thought they did a better job. -- Trail Blazers all-Star Damian Lillard postgame  

Lillard also had the tough task of working to slow down Boston’s forward Jayson Tatum after Tatum had his way with the Blazers in the first half.

Tatum finished with 34 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Coach Stotts gave credit to Lillard’s second half defense and couldn’t help but also praise his point guard for his second half performance overall. 

Obviously, we rode Dame in the second half. Offensively he was outstanding. He carried the burden. He wanted to play the whole second half. I thought he was very aggressive with Tatum. I thought he got into him, contested his shots, tried to make it difficult for him, so much so that they were running some plays to get switches to get Dame off of him. What Dame did on both ends of the court is pretty commendable. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Not only did the Celtics get hot early from three, Trail Blazers starting power forward Zach Collins also picked up three fouls in the first quarter, which quickly disrupted Portland’s rotation.

Even though it’s easy to talk about how impressive it was to see Portland charge back after such a slow start, the Trail Blazers know they can’t continue this trend. If Portland is going to be the team to battle Memphis for that final postseason spot out West, especially with the Spurs moving past the Blazers in the standings to take hold of the No. 9 seed  after San Antonio defeated the Grizzlies Sunday, the Blazers' second half defense and intensity must be there from the jump. 

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers big comeback to Boston Celtics falls short

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers big comeback to Boston Celtics falls short

During the Trail Blazers scrimmage games before their seeding games tipped off, the concern was how well Portland’s perimeter defense would look once the games mattered.

After beating the Memphis Grizzlies Friday and defending the three better than they showed in the scrimmages, the Blazers struggled to slow down the Boston Celtics from long distance, especially early on.

Boston started out the game hitting 8-of-12 from three in the first quarter as the Celtics took a 37-24 lead.

The C's also clamped down on the defensive end, slowing down the Blazers in the first half. At the break, Boston held a 67-38 lead.

Despite the Celtics running away with this one in the first half, Jusuf Nurkic continued his hot play inside and out throughout the game.

The Trail Blazers didn't quit. Portland chipped away at the Celtics lead in the third quarter and were right back in it heading into the fourth.

Damian Lillard’s experience took over in the second half and thus that meant the Blazers took the game back even after being down by 21 points midway through the third quarter. Yet in the final seconds, Boston was able to hold off the Blazers comeback.

FINAL BOX SCORE: CELTICS 128, TRAIL BLAZERS 124

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's second seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider: 

Great comeback but all it did was use up energy for the Tuesday game… Just did not defend well enough to win.

 

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

The Celtics got hot early from three and were in a groove offensively throughout the day. There has been a lot made of the Blazers’ struggles defensively, particularly on the perimeter, which was on full display against a good shooting team in the Boston Celtics. Zach Collins picked up three fouls in the first quarter which also disrupted Portland’s rotation. 

And then on the other end, the Celtics were able to disrupt Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum early on. The Blazers backcourt made just two shots each in the first half. We all know if opponents are going to exploit Portland’s defense, the Blazers need Lillard and McCollum’s high-scoring performances in all of these seeding games in order for the Blazers to make it to the play-in games.

Lillard knows that as well.

With Lillard running the show; nobody should ever count out the Blazers. Period. Plus, we all know that the NBA is a game of runs and that’s what we saw Sunday afternoon. But in the end, Boston answered Portland's comeback.   

Mike Richman, Reporter

 Damian Lillard rescued the Blazers from the a near-certain blowout, dragging his team back from a 24-point deficit. But in the final minutes the Celtics just made more shots -- and enough free throws -- to send the Blazers to a tough loss. A moral victory or sorts, but it still lands in the loss column.  

You can listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast here with special guest Bill Walton:

  

Up Next: The Trail Blazers face the Houston Rockets for a 6:00p.m. tip-off Tuesday. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.

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

Meyers Leonard stands for national anthem, doesn't think kneeling is disrespectful

Meyers Leonard stands for national anthem, doesn't think kneeling is disrespectful

With the NBA's restart in Orlando, many players wanted to ensure that the league's return didn't do anything to stop the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

To agree to play, the NBAPA negotiated that the games will be used as platforms to promote social justice activism with phrases on jerseys, "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts, and the same slogan written on the court. 

In addition, many have begun kneeling during the national anthem in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. A gesture that began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers and Grizzlies kneel in solidarity of social justice pregame

However, former Portland Trail Blazer and Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard stood for the anthem while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt ahead of the Heat's first game in Orlando, Saturday morning. 

Leonard's brother, Bailey Leonard, joined the US Marine Corp in August 2008 and served in Afghanistan at least twice. 

“Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told The Associated Press prior to the game. “I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.”

I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people. I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into Black and white. There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true.

I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone,” he added. “I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.

A few hours before the game, Bailey texted Meyers: “Stay true to you. Stay the course. I love you. Your family loves you. Your community loves you.”

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

One day after the game, Leonard told Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes that he doesn't believe that kneeling for the anthem is disrespectful, and instead called it "powerful." 

The former Trail Blazer talked with current Portland players Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and former Blazers Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh before making his final decision, per Mark Spears of ESPN.

Meyers stood for the anthem with the support of his Miami Heat teammates, including team captain Udonis Haslem.

“[Him] being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,” Haslem told the Associated Press. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t he doing it their way?’ Well, he’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.”

Andre Iguodala also respected his choice.

“On the one hand, we’re saying, ‘We want you to see things from our perspective,’” Iguodala said. “But by saying that, I also have to see things from his perspective. And I can see where he’s coming from.”

Leonard, along with his wife Ellie, pledged to donate $100,000 to a fund that will help pay fees that Floridians leaving jail must pay to vote. 

“Because I’ve listened to Udonis and am constantly inspired by him, every single one of those dollars will go to Overtown and Liberty City, where he grew up,” Leonard told the AP, referring to two of Miami’s historically Black neighborhoods. “Those two parts of Miami were most heavily impacted by COVID-19 and voter suppression.”

Meyers was the second NBA player to stand for the anthem in the NBA's restart, after Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac who did so without wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirt. Additionally, on Friday, San Antonio Spurs head coach and Air Forde graduate Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Becky Hammon stood for the anthem as well.

“I did feel a little bit of a load lifted off my shoulders when they did that,” Leonard told AP. “Each of those individuals had their own personal reasons, just as I do.”

While at Illinois, Bailey surprised Meyers four hours ahead of his home game against the Michigan Wolverines in a video that went viral. Bailey hadn't seen Meyers play in-person for over two years before that game. Later, the Big Ten Network produced a segment on the brothers. 

How to Watch, stream Blazers vs. Celtics, coverage begins at 10:00am

How to Watch, stream Blazers vs. Celtics, coverage begins at 10:00am

The Trail Blazers are looking to start off their eight seeding games with two straight wins when they face the Boston Celtics Sunday.

Portland beat Memphis in an overtime thriller, 140-35 Friday in big thanks to CJ McCollum’s 33 points and the Blazers sharing the wealth on the offensive end. As a team Portland finished with 27 assists.

You can watch Sunday’s Blazers-Celtics game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers. Our coverage starts at 10:00a.m with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 11:30a.m. and the Blazers Pregame Show at 12:00p.m.

Or if you can’t get to a TV, stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

Plus, for full coverage of Portland’s first seeding game make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

Portland’s Eight Seeding Games Schedule:

  • Sunday, Aug. 2 vs. Boston Celtics 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 vs. Houston Rockets 
  • Thursday, Aug. 6 vs. Denver Nuggets 
  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. LA Clippers  
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks 
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets 

Injury Reports: 

Blazers guard Jaylen Adams (low back pain) is questionable for Sunday’s game vs. Boston. 

The Celtics have no injuries to report. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast as special guest Bill Walton joins hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]: 

Quote of the Week:

The Trail Blazers played their first game in over four months in a 140-135 overtime win against the Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the eighth spot in the Western Conference. 

With seven more seeding games to go, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed after Friday’s win that they are already in postseason mode:

This is playoff basketball for us. We have that pressure on us. You can't shy away from it when you are in our position. -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers road to the playoffs, NBCSNW to carry all eight games 

Top Game Notes:

  • All-Time: Celtics lead, 68-47
     
  • Last Meeting: The Celtics defeated the Trail Blazers at Moda Center on Feb. 25, 118-106.
     
  • Jusuc Nurkic had 16 points (5-10 FG, 6-6 FT), six rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in his last outing against Boston on Feb. 27, 2019. In his last four games against the Celtics, Nurkic has averaged 14.8 points and 9.5 rebounds.
     
  • CJ McCollum has scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games against Boston. He has reached double figures in all 11 of his career games against the Celtics.
     
  • In his last six games against the Celtics, Damian Lillard has averaged 25.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists. He made at least two three-pointers in each of those six games.
     
  • Hassan Whiteside recorded 18 points (8-12 FG, 1-1 3-PT, 1-3 FT), 19 rebounds, three assists and one block against the Celtics on Feb. 25. • Carmelo Anthony had 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting (2-6 3-PT, 2-2 FT) to go with two rebounds, one assist and one steal against Boston on Feb. 25.
     
  • Jayson Tatum has averaged 21.4 points (51.3% FG, 57.1% 3-PT, 92.9% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in six career games against Portland. His scoring average against the Trail Blazers is his third-highest against any opponent.
     
  • Jaylen Brown scored 24 points (8-19 FG, 3-7 3-PT, 5-5 FT) to go with seven rebounds and two assists at Portland on Feb. 25. He has scored in double figures in four of his six career games against the Trail Blazers. 

 

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