The unpredictable pick and roll between Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic

The unpredictable pick and roll between Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic

A two-man game can be very entertaining to watch and very effective.

The pick and roll between Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard and big man Jusuf Nurkic has been a key piece of the Trail Blazers offense this season and in Portland’s 121-118 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night, the duo was dialed in early.

But what is it that Lillard enjoys most about the two-man game between him and Nurk?   

It’s not predictable as, I guess, just a straight up pick-and-roll because I can hit him and get the ball back. He can roll. I can flip to CJ. There’s so many other options. I can hit him, cut backdoor, he can throw it to me, not throw it to me, go into something else. There’s so many different actions that we can get into out of it, so that’s why I think it’s going really good.     

The Lillard and Nurkic connection obviously depends on how the opponents defend the pick-and-roll. 

“It’s nothing new, I guess. Sometimes it’s just how they guard it, you know our guards… They try to blitz (double team) them most of the game, so I just try to make the play,” Nurkic said.

Nurkic's found his teammates early and often, in the pick and roll, and out of other action. The big man had some impressive passes to Lillard cutting to the hoop starting with a dish to Lillard at the 7:19 mark in the first quarter.

Nurkic finished with six assists to go along with his 10 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes of action.  It was Nurkic's 16th double-double of the season.

“I’m just try to do my role and try to affect the game in many ways… I try to take advantage,” Nurkic said.

It may seem that Nurkic is looking to pass more, but to Lillard, Nurkic's passing has come from his increased playmaking role. Lillard also compares the Bosnian Beast to former Trail Blazer Mason “Plumdog Millionare” Plumlee. 

“We’ve been running a lot of our motion down actions, playing through him at the top, just cutting and screening for each other and he’s, we’ve always known he’s a really good passer. I think now he’s just been in a position to… a playmaker position more often lately. Kinda like how Mason was. You know, he’s been in the position to make the pass or go into a handoff or off a pick and roll, he get it and then they pull over and then he’s finding the next guy… His passing ability has really shown because of that,” Lillard said.

Case and point, at the 5:13 mark in the 2nd quarter, when two crisp passes went back and forth from Dame to Nurkic, then back to Lillard again down low for a lay-in.

Lillard led all scorers with 33 points and also dished out seven assists.
Lillard returned the favor to Nurkic at the end of the second quarter. With 4.6 left in the first half, Lillard found Nurkic for the dunk.

Nurkic was looking at a potential triple-double at halftime with eight points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. But to Nurkic, it’s not at all about padding stats.  

“I’m not hunting anything, man. I’m in the flow. What happens, happens,” Nurkic said.

A seven-footer who dishes out six assists while playing in the flow of the offense should help Portland grab more wins this season and beyond. Keep an eye on his assist average of 2.6 per game. It could be on the rise.

Trail Blazers acquire Trevor Ariza from Kings -- remember him, Portland?

Trail Blazers acquire Trevor Ariza from Kings -- remember him, Portland?

The Trail Blazers made a move Saturday and it was all about two things -- a) obtaining a taller small forward in Trevor Ariza, who can shoot threes and b) cutting $12.3 million off their payroll.

Portland got Caleb Swanigan, the former Blazer who has been spending time in the G-League, and Wenyen Gabriel, a rookie power forward. The Blazers sent Anthony Tolliver and Kent Bazemore to Sacramento in the trade.

Ariza, a 34-year-old, 15-year veteran, has not seen a lot of action this season for the Kings, who are in the midst of a youth movement. He has played 32 games, averaging six points and shooting 35.2 percent from three-point range, just a tenth of a point above his career average. For Portland, he's a better fit than Bazemore at small forward at 6-8 and the Blazers are going to cut their tax bill approximately in half with the trade.

Ariza has not been a popular player in Portland since his hit on Rudy Fernandez, which got him ejected from a game in Moda Center in 2009.

Not a major deal for sure, but if Ariza can make some three-point field goals and improve the team's defense, it will be an upgrade. And Portland fans have always had short memories, right?

BREAKING: Blazers trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento

BREAKING: Blazers trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento

Breaking news in Rip City.

According to multiple reports, the Trail Blazers have agreed to trade Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to the Sacramento Kings for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. 

According to the reports, the trade saves Portland $12.3 million, cutting the luxury tax bill in half. 

Tolliver signed with the Blazers this past offseason, while Bazemore came over in an offseason trade with the Atlanta Hawks. 

Tolliver played in 33 games for the Blazers, starting nine of them. He averaged 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.9 rebounds per game. 

As for Bazemore, he was meant to be a key bench contributor for the Blazers, but was thrust into the starting role when Rodney Hood went down with an Achilles injury.

Bazemore played in 43 games for the Blazers, starting 21 of them.

He averaged 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. 

The key return here for the Blazers is Trevor Ariza. The 34-year-old has made his career on the defensive side of the ball, which is where the Blazers need the most help. Ariza has played in 32 games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is set to make $12.2 million this year and is under contract through 2021. 

With all the injuries up front, the Blazers need bigs, and they got two of them in Gabriel and Swanigan. Gabriel is a 6'9", 220lb forward in his first season in the NBA. He has played in just 11 games for the Kings, averaging 1.7. points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists.

As for Swanigan, he is someone Blazers fans know well. He was drafted by Portland in 2017 26th overall and played parts of two seasons with the Blazers before being traded to the Kings for Skal Labissiere. In seven games with the Kings this season he averaged 0.7 points, 1.0 rebound, and 0.3 assists. 

The Blazers are already depleted by injuries, and may not get the reinforcements before tipoff tonight in OKC. If Gary Trent (illness) is unable to play tonight, Portland would have just seven players available against the Thunder. 

Be sure to stay tuned to NBC Sports Northwest as we get more information on this breaking news. 

After trade with Kings: Will Blazers have enough players required to suit up vs. Thunder?

After trade with Kings: Will Blazers have enough players required to suit up vs. Thunder?

OKLAHOMA CITY – Just before 1:00pm CT, the Portland Trail Blazers announced their injury report, which included the status of CJ McCollum, who is out dealing with his left ankle sprain.

But, the injury report did not include Gary Trent Jr., even though the back-up shooting guard left Friday night’s game in Dallas in the final period due to an illness. He even received an IV after the game.

It seemed crazy to think that someone that ill could turn 180 degrees and be feeling so much better that he'd able to suit up and play the following day in Oklahoma City.

But, then the reports of a trade involving the Trail Blazers surfaced just before 4:00pm CT.

And then, it made so much more sense why Trent Jr. was not listed on the injury report.

The Blazers are reportedly trading Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan, leaving Portland with just eight players who are still with the team and "healthy" enough to suit up.

Since the trade hasn’t even been made official yet and the players will still have to pass physicals, the newest Trail Blazers will most likely not be with the team until the Blazers get back to Portland, Sunday at the earliest.

Eight players suiting up is the league minimum.

And that's where the Blazers are at, exactly. 

The eight players currently available on the Blazers active roster who are on this trip:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • Anfernee Simons
  • Nassir Little
  • Gary Trent Jr.
  • Mario Hezonja  
  • Jaylen Hoard (two-way player who is currently with the team)

The Trail Blazers have not called up their second two-way player Moses Brown, who is still with the Texas Legends.

Portland has already been short-handed this season, but Saturday night in OKC will be the absolute minimum.  

Wouldn't it be crazy if they were forced to put Jusuf Nurkic in uniform? It almost certainly won't happen. But, that's where things are at. 


Even at 2AM, Damian Lillard finds time for the fans

Even at 2AM, Damian Lillard finds time for the fans

Portland lost a tough game to the Mavericks on Friday in Dallas. They were injured, beat, and some of them were severely sick, but still, they pressed on. 

The team loaded the buses, left the American Airlines Center and headed straight to the airport. From there, they loaded the plane to head to the next road stop — Oklahoma City.

Once the team landed in OKC, it was a straight line to yet another night in a hotel. Business as usual, right? We've all traveled before, we know the drill. But for NBA stars, it's anything but normal.

Upon arriving at the hotel they were greeted by dozens of fans itching to meet their favorite NBA stars... Oh, I forgot to mention, it was two o'clock in the morning!

2AM, and there the fans were. Damian Lillard was tired and ready to rest up for the Thunder, but he had other business to tend to first. 

You see, Lillard is a special breed. Rather than shuffle past the throng of fans and sneak into his hotel room, he stopped to sign autographs and meet with the fans.

Every one of them. 

The moment was caught by Amara Baptist, Digital Content Manager for the Trail Blazers. 

This is just another moment on a long list that reminds us all that Rip City is lucky to have Lillard representing this town.

Dame is a perfect ambassador for the Trail Blazers and the NBA.

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

Back-to-backs are always tough in the NBA, but this one just got tougher for the Blazers - Star shooting guard CJ McCollum will not play tonight against Oklahoma City after suffering a left ankle sprain in Friday's game against the Mavericks.

With about eight minutes left in the second quarter, McCollum drove to the basket for a layup attempt. Everything played out as normal until McCollum came down for the landing. 

McCollum's left foot came down on the right foot of Maxi Kleber, rolling in the process. He immediately went to the locker room and did not return.

McCollum played just 12 minutes of action, scoring four points and dishing out two assists.

On the season, McCollum is averaging 21.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. 

It is not yet known who will start in McCollum's place. McCollum missed a game a few weeks ago while dealing with an upper respiratory ailment and Gary Trent Jr. got the starting nod.  

However, Trent Jr. left Friday's game with as well and his status is currently unknown, though he was not listed on today's injury report.  

Should Trent Jr. be unable to go, it is likely the Anfernee Simons will get the start. 

Stayed tuned to NBC Sports Northwest for the latest updates from OKC. 



Setting the record straight on some Trail Blazer misinformation

Setting the record straight on some Trail Blazer misinformation

Setting the record straight on some Trail Blazer misinformation that is on the verge of becoming fact to people who weren't there.

  • The whole idea that Trail Blazer fans quit going to games because they didn't like the "Jail Blazers" is not true. In fact, many times I watched those fans give standing ovations to J.R. Rider, Ruben Patterson and the rest -- as long as they were winning. There was no rebellion at all during those times -- as long as the team was playing well. The revolt came when it became obvious that the team, as it was assembled, was not going to win. Then, and only then, did the behavior became an issue.
  • Brandon Roy was a terrific Trail Blazer and it was a shame his career was cut short. But to give him credit for somehow changing the culture here is going a little too far. Paul Allen, and only Paul Allen, could do that. And he did, by parting ways with Bob Whitsitt in 2003 and putting a new emphasis on obtaining players of character.
  • I've never cared much about whose number hangs in the rafters of Moda Center. Retire Roy's number? Fine. But the whole idea that Carmelo Anthony couldn't wear Roy's No. 7 was silly. That's a Hall of Fame player, right there. And No. 7 has still not been retired. Melo should have been, out of respect, handed that number when he walked in the door -- and if they wanted to retire it later, fine. Bob Gross wore No 30 and so did Terry Porter. Both of them have their number retired.
  • Once and for all, and I think all the local fans seem to understand this, but the national media doesn't -- do not expect Portland to make a major trade strictly to save this season. Anything this franchise does will be with the future in mind. As it should.
  • "Recency bias" rears its ugly head on things like retired numbers. I hear people talk about who they think are worthy and they are usually only players they've seen play -- with the exception of Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas. Barely anyone mentions Geoff Petrie, the original Trail Blazer and a man who would average more than 30 points a game with the three-point line and today's defensive rules. I understand the bias, but really --history is your friend, even in sports.

With the Trail Blazers, you're "either injured or sick"-- and you can't catch a break

With the Trail Blazers, you're "either injured or sick"-- and you can't catch a break

DALLAS – How many times during this Trail Blazers season have people thought to themselves – not another one!?

Too many.

Most Trail Blazers fans have probably lost count, or at least, want to lose count.  

Between injuries and illnesses, the Blazers have dealt with some major adversity through their first 43 games.

During Blazers head coach Terry Stotts’ postgame interview in Dallas Friday night, after Portland lost to the Mavericks 120-112, Stotts started off with this statement:

“It seems like every time we play Dallas, we end up having one of these games. Very competitive, teams get leads, and then the other team comes back. Kind of what happened tonight.” 

But, that opening statement could’ve easily sounded like this:

“It seems like every time we play Dallas, we end up getting injured.” 

Friday night, CJ McCollum was the latest Trail Blazers to suffer an injury. McCollum left the game early in the second quarter due to a left ankle sprain.

The Blazers starting shooting guard received treatment in the locker room during the rest of the game. He said he couldn’t tell the severity of the injury in comparison to other times he has rolled his ankle, saying that, “usually the second day is the worst.”

McCollum added, “we’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow. I’ll get some treatment tonight, try to compress it and see how it feels.”

When losing McCollum’s scoring and play-making ability, Damian Lillard, who had a team-high 34 points in the loss, felt it was necessary to take over. But, not just in the scoring department-- overall as a leader, as well.

“I think that means our ball movement has to be better, and even smarter. Guys got to come in and be aggressive collectively to make up for that loss. Obviously, naturally, I just feel like I have to level up my play as well,” Lillard said.

So, for the people at home who have lost count…

The Blazers are now without:

Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture)

Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon)

Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation),

Skal Labissiere (left knee inflammation)

Pau Gasol (left team to focus on his rehab of left foot fracture)

And remember, Collins dislocated his shoulder in Dallas in the third game of the season.

Then CJ McCollum, Hassan Whiteside, Damian Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. have all been sick.

They can't catch a break.

Now, how the are Blazers coping with getting dealt another injury?

Lillard know as the team captain, he has to make sure this squad is staying positive. 

There’s no reason for us to point out the obvious – we know we’re facing injuries, but the games continue, the season goes on. So, I think it only does something negative for our mentality if we’re looking at like ‘we’ve got injuries,’ and looking for it as a crutch.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

That doesn’t mean Lillard hasn’t been frustrating with how the season has played out and having to deal with all the injuries.

“I mean, it sucks,” Lillard said. “We’ve been experiencing it all season long. Coming into the season without Nurk and then the last time we was here losing Zach. And then Rodney goes down, and then Skal, we just constantly got guys dropping.”

Lillard was not only trying to pick up the slack with McCollum out, but he was also dealing with an upper respiratory infection, something that has made its way around the team.

As Lillard sat there talking with the media after the game, he had three things in his locker that aren’t usually there: An inhaler, a bottle of Emergen-C, and what looked like a packet of some type of cold medication.

Lillard wasn’t the only one trying to shake this nasty cold. Gary Trent Jr. was forced to leave the game early in the fourth quarter due to illness. He then received an IV after the game.  

In Friday’s losing effort, Hassan Whiteside had another strong performance with 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting to go along with his 18 rebounds and five blocks.

Whiteside doesn’t recall ever being on team that has had to battle through this many ailments and injuries.

“I’ve never dealt with a team with this many injuries and illnesses, it’s crazy,” Whiteside said. “It’s tough… It’s a very talented team. I just hate that fans and the organization can’t see it healthy.”

While the newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony, added,

“It’s very unfortunate. If you’re not injured, you’re sick – it seems like that’s what’s going on with us right now. In sports, it’s next man up, whoever is next – gotta be ready.”

As the next man or in the Blazers case right now, the next men stay ready; McCollum is ready to “battle” through his ankle injury.

“It’s tough, it’s tough. Injuries are a part of the game obviously. It’s unfortunate that I was next up on the list, but I just have to try to battle and fight through it. This was a winnable game. Tonight, we played well and fought hard but came up short, so it’s back to the drawing board to get ready for tomorrow [in Oklahoma City].”

The Trail Blazers and Thunder tip-off at 6:00pm PT, just 23 and a half hours after Friday’s night start time in Dallas. 

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Thunder tonight at 6:00pm

USA Today Images

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers at Thunder tonight at 6:00pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Trail Blazers (18-25) conclude their three-game road trip with this final stop in Oklahoma City.

Both the Blazers and the Thunder (23-19) will be playing in the second night of a back-to-back when they square off Saturday night.

OKC is coming off a 115-108 home loss to the Heat, while Portland is coming off a 120-112 loss to the Mavericks.

You can catch the Blazers and Thunder in action on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

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

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

3:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

5:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

5:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

6:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Thunder

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

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


“Some teams go through a lot of things throughout the year, so we’re just going to show how battle tested we are, how good we can be, when things are going down like this – players are getting hurt, getting sick, we’ve just got to stay together, fight together, and it will all work out,” Gary Trent Jr. after Friday’s loss on dealing with an illness that has been going around

Damian Lillard laments poor officiating after loss vs. Mavericks

Damian Lillard laments poor officiating after loss vs. Mavericks

Damian Lillard is getting paid a supermax contract, but even he couldn't buy a call Friday night in Dallas. 

Officiating Friday night's game was Tony Brothers, Michael Smith and Eric Dalen.

Lillard hit the deck numerous times en route to scoring a team high 34 points. The Blazers lost CJ McCollum and Gary Trent, Jr. during the game, adding to their long list of injuries and illnesses. 

And ultimately, the short-handed Trail Blazers lost the game, 120-112.

After the game, the majority of the conversation steered towards the team's health. Officiating was not a point of discussion. 

It was after the team departed for Oklahoma City when the discussion about officiating began on social media. 

Lillard retweeted both of these comments. 

This isn't the first time Lillard didn't get the right side of the whistle in Dallas.

An L2M report revealed a foul should have been called on this drive by Lillard. Instead, the Blazers lost the game. 

Damian Lillard is a superstar and has earned respect around the league. It's time officials show that same respect.