Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazer bench combine with Lillard to throttle Houston

Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazer bench combine with Lillard to throttle Houston

Certainly it was Damian Lillard’s night. The red-hot Portland guard posted his first career triple-double topped by 36 points, but there was much more to the Trail Blazer story Wednesday night.

The oft-maligned Portland bench, led by Gary Trent and Nassir Little, chipped in 13 points in a 41-24 Trail Blazer blitz in the second quarter that turned the game around after an agonizing first five and a half minutes.

The Blazers needed more than two minutes to score their first points of the game and five and a half minutes to make their second field goal, but things got a whole lot better in that second period.

Trent, getting regular minutes in the rotation recently, went 2-2 from three-point range, had two assists and two steals in the quarter -- finishing a plus-16 in that period. Little was also plus-16 and made his only shot.

Lillard had nine in that quarter and Trevor Ariza got six, along with a team-best plus-17 for the quarter.

Ariza’s presence in the starting lineup has made a world of difference for Portland, with not only his added size but his basketball intelligence.

“Somebody like Trevor, who knows the game, you don’t have to tell him multiple times what to do,” said Carmelo Anthony, who moved into 17th place (passing Kevin Garnett) on the all-time NBA scoring list at the 9:14 mark of the second quarter. “He just knows how to play the game.

“He knows how to play off people. For the younger guys, seeing that stuff really helps. You can’t teach it. He just knows.”

Ariza, who made nine of his 13 shots, half of his six threes, and chased James Harden all over the court most of the game, finished with 21 points and more alert plays at both ends of the court than you could count.

He credited his teammates for his ease with fitting into the team’s suddenly very solid starting lineup.

“The players,” he said. “These guys have a very high IQ and are very talented and all I have to do is catch the ball and shoot it, or get the ball and put it in the basket, or rebound and make simple plays.”

Hassan Whiteside also played a big role in this one, as Coach Terry Stotts stayed with his big man even when Houston went to smaller lineups.

“I thought Dame did a nice job of finding him and he was able to finish around the basket,” Stotts said. “Those were some big plays that he made -- the finishes and the ‘and-ones.’ He did a nice job with that.”

Whiteside had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots and a team-high plus-18. And it appeared Harden wanted no part of him at the basket.

“Yeah, that’s my job,” Whiteside said. “I feel like I’m the best at doing it. Just protecting that paint.”

Whiteside pointed to Ariza as a difference-maker.

“He’s the ultimate three-and-D guy,” Whiteside said. “He’s out there playing amazing defense -- doing a great job.”

And suddenly, Lillard is getting enough help to make this team competitive.

Harden finished with 18 points, going 5-18 from the field and 2-8 from long range.

The Trail Blazers meet the Lakers in Staples Center Friday night -- a game that probably no team in the league wanted to play. It's the Lakers' first home game since Kobe Bryant's death.

Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. has started a bathroom photo shoot trend

Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. has started a bathroom photo shoot trend

People are getting in on the long flight challenge.

Trail Blazers second-year player Gary Trent Jr. made headlines with his unique photo shoot from the team’s plane last week.

As the Blazers embarked on a six-hour flight from Portland to the Orlando bubble to restart the 2019-20 season, Trent Jr. took it upon himself to take advantage of some extra time on his hands.

And now we know GT is always ready for a photo shoot.

Even from an airplane's lavatory. 

View this post on Instagram

Long flight 👺🤣✈️

A post shared by G Trent (@gtrentjr) on

Teammates Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons all called out GT on the situation.

“Bra this why I had to wait to use the damn bathroom?” -- Damian Lillard

“Bruh something wrong with you.” — CJ McCollum

“That 3rd photo got me weak.” — Anfernee Simons

Gary defended his photo shoot saying he will “flick up anywhere.”

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

While his teammates and others on social media poked fun at the youngster's photos, others liked his style!

NBA fans from all over the country are using the hashtag #LongFlightChallenge to show their support for Trent Jr.’s bathroom photo shoot.

View this post on Instagram

some jawns #longflightchallenge

A post shared by Wesley Kirkwood-Jacobson (@wesley.l.k.j) on

Trent has shared even more photos on his Instagram stories over the past few days.

The photos just keep coming! 

These are some well-thought-out photo shoots. Props to everyone involved!

Trail Blazers Wenyen Gabriel's Uber-good deed is incredibly heartwarming

Trail Blazers Wenyen Gabriel's Uber-good deed is incredibly heartwarming

It all started with an Uber ride a few months ago. And a wallet accidentally left in the car.

Young Trail Blazer forward Wenyen Gabriel realized he’d left his wallet in that car, but when he tried to reach someone who could locate the car or its driver, he had no luck.

“I remember that day,” Gabriel said by phone from his hotel in Orlando, where the bubble-bound Blazers are getting ready to resume a season that's been long postponed by the pandemic. “First of all, we had a nice conversation while I was in the car. He was a real genuine person. I don’t talk to every Uber driver I get, but we had a nice conversation.

“I said bye at the end -- he was really nice to me. And then I realized I forgot my wallet. I kept trying to contact him, but I couldn't get in touch with him. I don’t know what the issue was with Uber, but I just couldn’t get in contact with him.”

Losing a wallet or, these days, a phone is a very unsettling experience. And Gabriel was very unsettled.

“I remember I had a game that day and I was in my bed -- I usually take a pregame nap, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I was just hoping it came back.

“But to no avail. I couldn't do anything.”

The driver of the Uber found the wallet, though. And because he had taken Gabriel home, knew exactly where to take the lost item.

“He came back,” Gabriel said. “I have this long stairway all the way around to get to the door to my apartment complex. He had to walk all the way to the door and up some steps. He is pretty handicapped, so by the time he got to my door, he was breathing heavily.

“He had struggled to get up there."

The Uber driver, Jon Barnard, has a couple of knees wrecked by osteoarthritis, the result, he says, of cross country and basketball in high school and college. “Walking can be difficult for me,” he said.

“I asked him if I could sit for a few minutes and catch my breath and rest my knees,” Barnard said. 

While Barnard rested, the men chatted.

“I tried to give him some money, but he just wouldn’t take it,” Gabriel said. “I tried to force him to take it, but he wouldn't. So I had to beg him to take the money.”

Finally, Barnard says he finally relented.

“He gave me $100 for returning his wallet,” Barnard said. "I didn't want to mention the wallet because it's not about me. It's about him."

It was certainly a generous reward. And Gabriel, a 23-year-old rookie from Sudan who played only 17 games for Portland after arriving in a trade Jan. 21, isn’t exactly a wealthy man.

Soon after that Uber ride, the world faced the global pandemic and the NBA stopped. But Gabriel couldn’t get that driver off his mind.

“The coronavirus came after that and I knew he was an at-risk person,” Gabriel said. “He was such a kind person that I believed in him. I didn’t want him driving an Uber anymore.”

Barnard can finish the story.

“The rest of the story is that Wenyen deposited $2,500 in my personal account,” Barnard said. “He was not seeking any publicity. His gift has allowed me to not have to drive. In this time of unrest, I thought it would be a positive story.

“I think the Trail Blazers should know about it.

“What makes it more special to me is that Wenyen is not one of the super-high paid guys on the team. But he still helped me.

"Number 35, I'll be a fan forever."

So Barnard is enjoying some time off to quarantine. And "Number 35" is playing very well in Orlando, according to Portland Coach Terry Stotts.

"He's terrific," Stotts said of the 6-9, 220-pounder. "He's a great young man and from a basketball standpoint, he's got good size, good length, he's very active and athletic. He can hold his own in the paint. He's working on his perimeter game. He's a tireless worker. I've been very impressed with him."

Gabriel was reluctant Monday to talk about his good deed. This is old school, by the way. Two men doing a random act of kindness for the right reasons and not running around bragging to people about it. Not even wanting to reveal the story or get public recognition for it. With athletes, it happens much more often than people might realize. And the stories should be told because they often inspire other acts of kindness.

“There was something that made me want to do that,” Gabriel said, thinking back to that moment. “There is no exact real reason why I did it.”

It was the same reason Barnard brought the wallet back:

Good people do good things.

Trail Blazers big man depth provides unparalleled internal competition

Trail Blazers big man depth provides unparalleled internal competition

Having a plethora of bigs is always a good problem to have for any NBA team.  

It’s a ‘problem’ that the Trail Blazers haven’t encountered this season.

Portland relied on Hassan Whiteside for a majority of the year, which was to be expected with Jusuf Nurkic still rehabbing his broken left leg until Mar.

But, nobody anticipated the Blazers other 7-footer Zach Collins would suffer a shoulder injury during the third game of the season that ultimately required surgery on Nov. 5 and meant four months of rehab for Collins.   

[RELATED]: Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went

Now during the resumption of the 2019-20 season, Whiteside is not only getting help down low, he’s getting better and is also looking to make everyone else in the frontcourt better.  

Competition breeds excellence, right?

Yep. 

The Blazer bigs came to play.

No horsing around.

(Even if Whiteisde says he has horse-like tendencies on the court and does a mean horse impersonation.) 

The battles between these three, plus 23-year-old 6’9 rookie power forward Wenyen Gabriel, who the Blazers acquired mid-season during a trade with Sacramento, has meant the competition on the block is fierce.

Collins, who has always taken pride in his defense since before his Gonzaga days, explained how having so many big bodies out there has locked down the paint. 

Practice is real physical in general. I think a lot of guys came in [in] shape and they’re ready to trust their bodies and get physical and actually get down and play really good defense. And on the offensive end a lot of guys – we were able to work on our game for a long time and no defense, so everybody is coming back a little bit more polished and real physical and really competitive. Obviously, with me and Nurk back there’s more bodies in the paint so it’s harder to score. It’s just been really competitive and tough to score down there. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins

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

Whiteside already had time to develop chemistry with Collins after the two went through training camp together last fall and played in the first three games of the season alongside each other. He believes the bigs’ chemistry is coming along. Plus, playing two bigs at all times is something he and many of his teammates are looking forward to that could lead to many favorable mismatches.

The way the Blazers play [with] two bigs – it’s easy. It’s not a thing of spacing or anything. Both of us can shoot the ball if we need to, but with Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum] and them guys running around, running flow, running different actions, I think it’s great. -- Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside on the bigs chemistry

Whiteside admitted that a lot of players were sore after the first practice on Saturday.

Bodying each other up, fighting for a rebound, getting up and down the court as a big man in the NBA is not something that can truly be simulated during a four-month quarantine.  

“Just getting your body back to used to pushing guys and wrestling guys for rebounds, and coming off pick and rolls, and just different things – running up and down,” Whiteside said. “You can’t substitute that at your house. You can try to try to stay as the best shape as you can, but it’s not like the real thing.”

But, what is the real thing with the Blazers right now? -- The battles down low.

Now that Whiteside and Nurkic could see time on the floor together, as Blazers Coach Terry Stotts has already noted, the two will seemingly elevate each other’s game.   

Whiteside is up for the challenge. 

Pushing Nurk around is not an easy feat. He got thirty, forty pounds on everybody. I got to push him around and Zach and just wrestling with them guys. Those are great scoring guys. It’s really good. -- Hassan Whiteside

Coach Stotts has not only been pleased with his big men’s physicality and competitive nature, but he also noted that by playing Carmelo Anthony at the three, Portland will not only be a bigger team than we saw this season, but there could definitely be plenty more post ups.

“I’d say they’re relatively physical just by nature of all the big bodies out there,” Stotts said. “There’s limited space on the court and those three guys out there a lot, you throw in Wenyen, Melo, who is a physical player and he’s playing the three… We’re gonna be a different looking team, but yeah, it’s not dirty or anything, but it’s like I said, a lot of big bodies.”

Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went

Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went

Hassan Whiteside led the NBA in blocked shots and rebounding and shot 61.8 percent from the field for the Trail Blazers in the pre-pandemic part of the season. And he’s going to be a free agent next season.

He seemed to be a prime candidate for sitting out the remainder of the season -- protecting those stats, staying healthy and knowing that with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back, his playing time may be shortened.

Was it a tough decision to finish the season?

“Wasn’t difficult for me,” he said Monday in an Internet media conference from Orlando, where his team is getting ready to finish the season. “I just knew it had to happen, I wanted to be here for the team and just finish the season out right.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I’m used to facing adversity. I’ve played everywhere. I played overseas, I played in China, I played in the G- League. I mean, I’ve played everywhere.”

And because of injuries to Nurkic and Collins, he was the only seven-footer on the team for most of the season. Now, he’s suddenly one of three. How will it go if he finds himself on the floor with Nurkic, something Coach Terry Stotts said is possible? 

“I don’t know,”  he said. “I haven’t really thought too much about it. Me and Nurk have been playing a lot on the court. It’s been me and Zach, me and Nurk out on the court,

“I didn’t think that much into it. I’m just excited those guys are back. We’ve got a lot more size down there now. We switched up the defense a lot.  It’s a lot different down there.

“I’ve got to actually pump fake in practice.”

Whiteside has always been a center, but playing alongside either Collins or Nurkic may force him out on the floor a little more than he’s accustomed.

“My chemistry is a little better with Zach,” Whiteside said. “I had a training camp with him and two or three games. I’ve never played with Nurk. The way we play, though, it’s easy.”

Defensively, expectations are high, especially at the rim, that this team will be much improved with the added size.

“It’s a relief,” Whiteside said. “It’s good to have all those guys back there. It breeds confidence in you as a defender. You can be a lot more aggressive in the pick and rolls. There’s a lot more rim protection behind me. The paint will be locked down more.”

Whiteside can be a funny follow on social media and he’s spending time with video games and his social accounts, Oh, and learning a new language.

“Trying to learn Spanish now,” he said.

And how is that going? How much does he know?
“Piquito,” he said. “I’ve learned a little bit.”

And he’s trying to make sure, in this sequestered environment, that he gets enough to eat.

“It’s tough when you're a bigger guy,” he said. “I gotta have a lot of food.”

And now that Collins and Nurkic are back, he’s not the only one who needs a big meal.

NBA's collective voice will further discussion towards social equality

NBA's collective voice will further discussion towards social equality

Say their names!

With a nationwide outcry against systemic racial injustice in the USA, police brutality and the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmed Arbury, NBA players across the nation have taken action on social media and been seen demonstrating in protests around the country.

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard was among the thousands of people in Portland last month participating in a peaceful protest throughout the city.

Lillard was first seen in a Twitter video from KOIN 6 photographer Richard Roberson protesting outside of Revolution Hall in SE Portland.  

Rodney Hood, Nassir Little, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent, Jr. have also taken to the streets of Portland in protest. 

The NBA world is using its voice to provoke change and that conversation continues Monday night with “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” a roundtable discussion with athletes and former athletes for a conversation on race and sports in America hosted by Golf Channel’s Damon Hack. 

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables include:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Below, you can find an excerpt of Barkley and Curry discussing the way they are treated by white America as famous, Black athletes.

DAMON HACK: "It’s interesting. You guys have all played at the highest level.  You’ve had people that would cheer for you when you were in uniform. But if you were walking down the street and not wearing your uniform and you had a hoodie on, they might look at you a little bit different.

How do you navigate that?"

CHARLES BARKLEY:  "The notion that rich and famous Black people are treated like regular Black people, that’s not right.  We get treated great.  But I always worry about how we treat poor Black people.

You know, there’s a great thing and Spike Lee, who I really admire and respect in that movie, “Do The Right Thing,” that’s a perfect illustration [of] what Ozzie is talking about, what I’m talking about, when the guy says, you know, you hate Black people. He says, yeah, I hate Black people. He says, who is your favorite entertainer. He says Michael Jackson. He says, who is your favorite jock. He says, Michael Jordan. He’s says, they’re Black. And he said, well, they’re not “Black.”

And that’s the disadvantage that us four we’re at a disadvantage because White people treat us great. And, like I say, I’m not worried about how they treat us because it really comes down to economics, too, at some point, because rich Black people aren’t treated like poor Black people. And that’s the thing we’ve got to really engage conversation.

How can we get more Black people and poor White people also, but they’re in the same boat, give them economic opportunity.  That’s what America’s really got to grapple with."

When the NBA returns on July 30th, players will have the option to replace their name on the back of their jersey with a social justice campaign approved by the league. 

Damian Lillard has chosen the statement of “How Many More?” 

CJ McCollum will wear “Education Reform.

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 NBA’s collective voice will hopefully foster deeper conversation and hopefully change as well. 

Race and Sports in America: Conversations airs Mon., July 13 on NBCSNW, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel at 5 p.m. PT.

Two NBA players test positive for COVID-19 since entering the bubble

Two NBA players test positive for COVID-19 since entering the bubble

In a press release sent out Monday afternoon, the NBA announced that of the 322 players who have arrived in the NBA bubble since July 7, two players have tested positive for COVID-19.

Those two players were not cleared from quarantine and have since left the bubble campus to self-isolate in their own homes or in isolation housing.

Players have been tested daily since teams arrived in the bubble from July 7-9.

A total of 19 players had tested positive since July 1 when the NBA began its protocol of daily tests.

The league did not disclose the names of the two players; however, earlier in the day, Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook announced that he had tested positive for the Coronavirus prior to the Rockets leaving for Orlando.

He has been in quarantine and once he is cleared by physicians he will join the team in the bubble at a later date.

In Westbrook’s social media post he added that he is “feeling well.”

As of right now, it sounds like there are even more participating players who have yet to enter the bubble.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, Nuggets guard Gary Harris along with forwards Michael Porter Jr. and Torrey Craig have not made the trip to Orlando. 

Two players also inadvertently broke the bubble protocol.

Houston's Bruno Caboclo and Sacramento's Richaun Holmes have reportedly been told to isolate for eight days after breaking the NBA's quarantine rules.

Caboclo reportedly broke quarantine by leaving his hotel room before he was allowed to do so during the league's initial quarantine period, according to ESPN.

As for Holmes, he posted a statement on his Twitter announcing that he "accidentally crossed the NBA campus line to pick up a food delivery."

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

NBA Bubble: Meyers Leonard chugs beer, Hassan Whiteside is a captain

NBA Bubble: Meyers Leonard chugs beer, Hassan Whiteside is a captain

The NBA’s three-week training camp is underway in Orlando, Florida! And players are already losing it.

Life in the Orlando Bubble for the participating 22-teams has consisted of three-hour time slots to practice, workout, take advantage of the weight room, and get extra shots up.

But outside of team meetings and those three-hour time slots in the gym at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on the Disney World Resort Campus, the players are keeping themselves entertained.

And by doing so, they’re keeping us all entertained.

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

This season has been chalk full of jokes, horse noises, and off the wall comments from Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside.  

It’s good to see he still has his sense of humor in the bubble.

And, we all better watch out because Whiteside is the captain now…

 

As for former Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard, who is now with the Miami Heat, he has been playing his video games per usual, but he has also shown off another skill.

Leonard posted a video of himself chugging a Coors Light beer in the bubble. Does this make him even more of a Legend now?

Well, I guess it makes Leonard the “king of the bubble.”

Apparently, the NBA competition right now is beer slamming since scrimmages don’t start for another two weeks.

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony has evolved into 'Skinny Melo’-- and he’s taking over social media

Pelicans guard JJ Redick got in on the beer-chugging action. Redick posted a video of himself shotgunning a Bud Light while sitting in an ice bath after Sunday’s practice.

Leonard also challenged his NBA colleagues to beat his time. His first challenger is Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson.

Our guess is that the beer competition will continue, as will the use of Instagram and Snapchat filters.

But, what will the NBA players do next in the Bubble?

You know we will keep you posted here at NBC Sports Northwest.

Bring on more of these social media videos! 

Carmelo Anthony has evolved into 'Skinny Melo’-- and he’s taking over social media

Carmelo Anthony has evolved into 'Skinny Melo’-- and he’s taking over social media

While some NBA fans out there have been worried that their favorite players might return to the court out of shape and even gain too many lbs following a four-month layoff, Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony did the exact opposite.

In various photos and videos circulating the interwebs, NBA fans are taking notice of a slimmer Melo.

Clearly, Anthony took advantage of quarantine and worked on his body. Maybe it’s because he knew he would be earning a lot more small forward minutes instead of being the stretch four for the Blazers with Trevor Ariza not returning for the restart.

Melo is looking like a more finesse player with this physique; a perfect look for the three, even if he has been pitching the idea lately that the NBA is positionless.

Fans even think the 17-year veteran looks 10 years younger now and former players took notice as well.

Now think about a finesse and younger version of Melo.

Pair that version of the future Hall of Famer with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, the Blazers’ two 7-footers who are both going to be healthy after very lengthy rehabs.

Okay, now do you see why Trail Blazers fans are stoked to see a skinny Melo?

Look out NBA restart, the Trail Blazers look ready to go!

Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:

Terry Stotts got his daily walk Monday in Orlando -- and it was a steamy one

Terry Stotts got his daily walk Monday in Orlando -- and it was a steamy one

Yesterday, Terry Stotts said he hadn’t yet had a chance to work in his daily walking routine to the NBA bubble in Orlando.

But Monday morning he got 5.6 miles in -- but had to do laps in order to get there. And Florida in mid-summer isn't exactly a moderate climate.

Stotts said he did four laps of .65 miles from one end of his track to the other. At 90 degrees, no less.

“It’s been a long time since I have sweat that much,” he said via text message. “Definite humidity. I don’t know the number.”

And not as entertaining as his usual walks around his Portland-area neighborhood, or the walks he does around cities on Trail Blazer road trips.

Was it an interesting tour at Disney World?

“No,” was the simple answer.