Warriors vs. Trail Blazers just not what it once was, this time around

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers just not what it once was, this time around

Sitting in the relatively quiet Moda Center Wednesday night, one couldn’t help but notice the difference.

A year ago, a Golden State Warriors-Portland Trail Blazers game was an event. A happening. And the buzz in the arena was always palpable.

But a year later, it’s not the same. Injuries have torn big parts of these teams away, leaving them nothing close to the way they were just a year ago. The Warriors, of course, were hit the worst – losing Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, who departed via free agency after a playoff injury.

And as Portland closed out its 122-112 win over the Warriors in front of what was announced as a sellout crowd, you understood that all those empty seats were surely sold.

But a lot of people just chose not to show up and use them.

And a Moda game against the Warriors almost always featured a huge number of Golden State fans, wearing their jerseys, T-shirts or just blue and gold colors, screaming their lungs out for their team.

“I grew up a Golden State Warriors fan,” Damian Lillard said. “And my family didn’t have the most money. And we were able to get season tickets. It wasn’t a sold-out arena. Steph and Klay and Draymond have done a great thing and turned it into a real championship organization and a great organization. (And) Steve Kerr. And then they have had some bad things happen.

“Usually, when we played them here, it looked like a Golden State (home) game. And all of a sudden, there ain’t none of those people showing up to support the team. I mean, that was just weird to me.”

Portland had a 13-point lead late in the first quarter, two 10-point leads in the second quarter and a nine-point lead in the third, but Kerr’s Warriors wouldn’t quit. They worked the offensive boards for 27 second-chance points but Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 61 points to go with Hassan Whiteside’s 23 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony’s 17 points to pull Portland to the win.

“An emotional rollercoaster ride,” McCollum called it. “I go out and approach it the same way, as if Steph and Klay are out there. Those guys play hard. They’re NBA players, quality guys who are still trying to prove themselves in the league.

“You’ve got to play the game. Not the record, not the schedule – not anything. You’ve got to play the game. And tonight, we did that for the most part and at times, they outplayed us.”

And they did it without Steph and Klay. Just as Portland did it without Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood.

And frankly, it was not the same without them.

Damian Lillard will watch from the sideline as the Trail Blazers start the post-All-Star break run

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USATI

Damian Lillard will watch from the sideline as the Trail Blazers start the post-All-Star break run

The Portland Trail Blazers already had a rough road to get to playoffs. 

With 26 games left on the schedule, the Blazers currently sit four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

The same Memphis Grizzlies that beat the Blazers last week in the team's final game before the All-Star break. 

The Blazers didn't only lose that game that night, they lost Damian Lillard. 

With 3:45 left in the game, Lillard went up for a layup but came down awkwardly and in a noticeable amount of pain. It was unclear what the injury was at first, but it was declared after the game that it was a right groin strain. 

The injury kept Lillard from playing in the All-Star Game this past weekend, and now it appears it will keep him on the sideline for a few more games. 

Lillard did not practice with the team on Thursday and told the media that he would not play tomorrow against the Pelicans and possibly beyond. 

When asked how long he anticipates being out, Lillard said "If I had to guess I would say at least 3-4 games. Maybe five games."

Already behind the 8-Ball, the Blazers now have to start the "second half" of the season without the face of their franchise. 

For Lillard, it's just about getting the groin back to 100%. Being able to cut, run, and explode without pain or without fear of re-aggravating the injury. 85% healthy isn't enough to hit the court. It's just not worth the risk.

I feel alright. I've been doing rehab since Thursday last week. It's gotten a lot better but I think it's just one of those things where you start feeling better right away, but I think that last 15-10% is what takes some time. That's what takes the longest. - Damian Lillard

Without Lillard leading the charge, the Blazers will likely lean on fellow star CJ McCollum to shoulder the loud. 

"Everybody has to do a little bit more," said Head Coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously, CJ (McCollum) will be counted on to be the primary playmaker and run the offense when he is out there." 

Stotts would not disclose whether or not McCollum or Anfernee Simons would end up getting the start at point guard, but it doesn't take a basketball expert to know that McCollum will be the head of the Portland monster for the next week, and McCollum knows it. 

Just play hard. That's the biggest thing. Play hard, try to execute, keep the game close and win it down the stretch. Protect home court and just make sure I'm putting guys in the best position to succeed. Dame does a lot for us offensively - calling plays, facilitating and scoring -  I'll have to do a little bit more of that. At the same time, one person isn't gonna replace his production. We gotta all be better. - CJ McCollum

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Blazers have a 25% chance of ending the season in the eight spot, and just a 2% chance of climbing all the way to seven. Meanwhile, the team they are chasing, the Memphis Grizzlies, have a 44% chance of securing the eights seed.

On the bright side, the Blazers still have two games against the Grizzlies remaining on the schedule, both of them at home. Needless to say, they're both huge games. A chance to drastically close the gap, as long as they stay afloat without their captain in the meantime.

Right now, it's just one game at a time, and it starts on Friday against the Pelicans. 

Nassir Little to return, Mario Hezonja out for Portland against New Orleans

Nassir Little to return, Mario Hezonja out for Portland against New Orleans

The Portland Trail Blazers will not be at full-strength coming out of the All-Star break but will welcome one player back from an injury.

At post-practice media availability on Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said that rookie Nassir Little will return to the rotation Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Forward Mario Hezonja and guard Damian Lillard both will be out.

Little suffered a left ankle sprain while trying to block a shot from Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar with 37.9 seconds left in the Trail Blazers 127-99 loss in Denver on February 4, 2020. The X-Rays came back negative after the incident. 

After the game, Little told media he tweaked it that morning but decided to play through it. 

The 25th overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft has averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 39 appearances for the Trail Blazers.

 

Damian Lillard expected to miss a minimum of three to four games with groin injury

Damian Lillard expected to miss a minimum of three to four games with groin injury

The All-Star break is coming to a end and the Portland Trail Blazers are back at practice ahead of their game Friday vs. New Orleans. 

The biggest question at practice Thursday would be the health status of point guard Damian Lillard, who suffered a groin strain in the final minutes of the Trail Blazers loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on February 12th. 

The All-Star told reporters that his condition is improving, but that he will miss at least three to four games, but it could extend even longer.

"You start feeling better right away, but I think it's that last 15% that takes so long [to heal]. Right now, it's just continuing rehab."

Head coach Terry Stotts joined Dan & Nigel in the Mornings on Rip City Radio 620, which is simulcast on NBC Sports Northwest where he discussed Lillard's injury.

With groins, you just don't know. It could be a week, it could be a month. Who knows? 

Lillard was able to get an early jump on the rehab process during the All-Star Break. "We were fortunate one of our H & P people were in Chicago to be able to give him treatment."

"You can't just say you're going to play through it because it could be bad," Lillard added. "I've been doing all the training and rehab I can do, and I'm sore as hell. But, I've got to take time off."

The Trail Blazers will face the New Orleans Pelicans (23-32) Friday at Moda Center, followed by games vs. the Pistons (19-38), Celtics (38-16), at Pacers (32-23) and will finish February on the 29th at the Hawks (15-41). 

Anfernee Simons, who is recently coming off a concussion injury, is the likely replacement while Lillard remains out. CJ McCollum said Thursday he anticipated playing more point guard in Lillard's absence. Head coach Terry Stotts said the rotation will be a game-time decision. 

Proclaiming February 19th as Rip City Day!

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Proclaiming February 19th as Rip City Day!

Rip City, Baby!

Those words have become synonymous with the Trail Blazers and now it'll be etched in history as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will proclaim Feb. 19, 2020 as "Rip City Day" during Wednesday’s city council meeting.

It will honor the Portland Trail Blazers 50th season, but also pay homage to the person who uttered those words 49 years ago. 

The phrase "Rip City" came almost unintentionally by way of iconic Blazers announcer Bill Schonely.

It was in a game vs. the LA Lakers on February 18th, 1971, when Jim Barnett sinked a shot from deep. In what would have been a three-pointer now, the crowd roared and Shonely shouted, "Rip City! All right!"

Schonely will be in attendance during Wednesday’s declaration. So will Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. The proclamation is scheduled to be read by Wheeler at 10:30 a.m. at Portland City Hall.

Read the full proclamation here: 

City council declared June 12th as Portland Trail Blazers Day last year to commemorate the Trail Blazers Western Conference Finals appearance. Soon, even Damian Lillard will have his own day, according to a tweet from Mayor Wheeler!

It's a momentous occasion for the Trail Blazers, Schonley and Rip City!

Terry Stotts provides update on Jusuf Nurkic's recovery from right calf strain

Terry Stotts provides update on Jusuf Nurkic's recovery from right calf strain

Rip City was abuzz nearly a month ago when Damian Lillard revealed that center Jusuf Nurkic participated in a "full speed, contact, up and down" practice.

"He looked good to me," Lillard added. 

Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula on March 26th, 2019.

However, as Nurkic was ramping up basketball activity ahead of a return to the NBA court, Nurkic suffered a right calf strain in practice, which Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had described as a "setback" in media availability before a home game against the Utah Jazz on February 1st. 

Tuesday, Stotts joined Dan Sheldon and Nigel Burton on Rip City Mornings for Trail Blazers Tuesdays and gave an update on Nurkic's recovery from the calf strain.

Well, we wait for the staff to clear him that's always [the protocol], the medical people always take precedent and when they [clear him] it'll be a gradual process back into it as always. It's been over a week since we left Portland so we'll see how he's feeling when we get back. But it's always the same procedure coming back; the medical staff gives their opinion of what he can do and ramp it up to where he was before he hurt his calf.

Although, Nurkic cannot undergo full contact, full speed practices as he had been before the setback, he's still at the practice facility, often rehabbing. 

"He's there every day. It's not like he hangs out at home and just says 'okay I'm ready now,'" said Stotts. "You know he comes in and just because he's not on the court he's getting treatment, he's in the weight room...doing cardiovascular weight training, he's doing everything except on the basketball court doing basketball activities." 

Hopefully, Nurkic's recovery progresses as planned and he can return to the court soon. 

You can listen to the full interview here.

Terry Stotts remains uncertain how long Damian Lillard may be out with groin strain

Terry Stotts remains uncertain how long Damian Lillard may be out with groin strain

The Portland Trail Blazers limped into the All-Break with the majority of the roster nursing some sort of injury. 

Damian Lillard was added to that list in the final minutes of the team's loss to the Grizzlies on February 12th when he suffered a right groin strain. 

The injury forced Lillard to remove himself from the Three-Point Competition and All-Star Game in Chicago and put his playing status in question for the Blazers return to the court on Feruary 21st vs. New Orleans. 

Lillard was still able to join in the All-Star festivities, performing on stage with Lil' Wayne and Jeremih. He even got engaged!

Head coach Terry Stotts was on Rip City Mornings with Dan and Nigel on Tuesday and he gave us an update on his star guard.

With groins, you just don't know. It could be a week, it could be a month. Who knows? - Terry Stotts

Stotts didn't put a timetable on Lillard's return, but he did say that he would be at the team's practice facility either Tuesday or Wednesday to be re-evaluated. However, Coach Stotts doesn't expect Lillard to practice Wednesday when the Trail Blazers return to practice. 

On the bright side, it appears Lillard got a very early jump on the rehab process. Said Stotts, "We were fortunate one of our H & P people were in Chicago to be able to give him treatment."

With team staff members on-site, the Blazers and Lillard wasted no time getting his body back to 100 percent. 

The Blazers start their post-All-Star break schedule at home Friday when they host the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Hopefully, fans heading to Moda Center are greeted by a healthy Lillard in the starting lineup. 

Tipoff is set for 7:30pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the NBC Sports My Teams App. 

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Moses Brown and Jaylen Hoard are headed back to the Lone Star State. 

The Portland Trail Blazers completed two-way transfers of both players to the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, as announced on Monday. 


Brown, the 20-year-old center out of UCLA, has played in nine games for Portland, averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. With the Legends, Brown has averaged 14.9 points while shooting 63.8 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from the free-throw line. He’s also adding 7.6 rebounds and 1.41 blocks for the Legends. 

Hoard has averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 13 games with the Trail Blazers this season. The 20-year-old rookie has been averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 16 games for Texas. He’s been a hot hand for the Legends as of late, posting a double-double 27 points and 16 rebounds in the Legends victory over Agua Caliente on Feb. 7.

It's perfect timing for both players to get some extra work in. The Trail Blazers and the rest of the NBA are on All-Star break. Portland's will return from the break and host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. 

Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

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Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game was an overall experiment from the league with its new format.

And it seemed to work.

Both teams were playing a little bit of defense and the fourth quarter was way more competitive than it has been in recent years.

The new format looked like this:

Each of the first three quarters begin with the score of 0-0 and lasted for 12 minutes.  At the start of the fourth quarter, the game clock was turned off and a final target score was set of 157.

The final target score was determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points.

Team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were laying it all out on the line.

It came down to the free throw line with Anthony Davis hitting 1-of-2 to help Team LeBron secure the win. 

FINAL: Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155

Team LeBron had to score 33 points in the final period to get the win.

About halfway through the 33-point flurry, NBA fans started posting on Twitter about five-time Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. They knew what time is was...

Fans were letting the world know that the game would’ve already been over if Lillard had been healthy enough to play.

 

One fan even mentioned, Lillard would’ve ended the game just like he did in the postseason against the Thunder.

Oh snap.  

As King James attempted a Logo Lillard game-winner, but with no success, fans were quick to say Dame would’ve had that one.

It wasn’t just fans in Rip City that wanted Damian Lillard out on the court.

Fans from all over the country were posting about how Lillard Time would've been spectacular down the stretch of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

NBA fans sure missed them some Logo Lillard.

This season, Lillard is averaging 29.5 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from deep.

This fan even went as far as to say that Lillard should've still won the MVP honors.

Even though Lillard was reppin’ Team LeBron from the bench and didn’t get a chance to get on the floor, it was clear that social media was missing Dame Time.

Fingers crossed the All-Star Game will have the same format moving forward for Lillard to shine once again and prove social media right. 

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend did not go as Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had planned.

He was going to participate in the three-point contest.

He was going to get buckets and try to help Team LeBron get the win against Team Giannis in the All-Star Game.

But, with a strained groin injury that Lillard suffered in the last game before the break, his All-Star weekend turned into him focusing on getting healthy and performing his music in front of thousands.

Lillard admitted that his weekend in Chi-Town has been a lot more chill now that he’s injured.

In a sit-down interview with Trail Blazers Digital Content Manager Amara Baptist, the 5-time All-Star gave his thoughts on the weekend, an update on his health and how the Trail Blazers are ready for a final playoff push.

“Just to be able to lay low, be with my son, be with my family has been cool,” Lillard told Baptist.

Lillard said he feels ‘pretty good,’ just four days after suffering a right groin strain in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and has been getting treatment and training while he has been in Chicago.

“It’s obviously sore, it’s a legit injury,” Lillard added.

The Trail Blazers team captain didn’t get to showcase his basketball talents this weekend, but he did get to share his musical talent with the world, performing on the NBA Saturday Night stage.

“It was cool just because being selected for the three-point shootout and the All-Star Game, and then not being able to play because I’m hurt, but still having a side of me or a talent that could be put on display was pretty cool,” Lillard said.

“Being able to share my music on the stage in front of that many followers and viewers, I thought that was real cool. I was excited about that, like it was my All-Star.”

In his 8th season, Lillard has been putting up historic numbers.

He’s been on a scoring tear.

In his last 10 games, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points, 9.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He is also shooting just under 50 percent from the  field, while hitting 47.2 percent from three.

Lillard admitted that it was tough not to compete in the All-Star Game this weekend.

I think we work so hard to be acknowledged for what we do. And this is like a reward that you don’t get to participate in… I realize that my health is first and my priority is my team if I want to come back and try to give us a chance to make a playoff push, then I can’t risk that by going out here and tweaking my groin a little bit more, making it worse than it is. Not only for this season, but going forward. I had to make a business decision, I guess. Obviously, I can even feel it, I know it wouldn’t be right to do from the standpoint of the future and the rest of the season it didn’t make sense.”  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Now it’s all about the homestretch of the season. Portland does have a favorable schedule, too, with 15 of their final 26 games at home.

Lillard knows he and his team must come together and be on the same page.

I think the urgency just has to be there. I think in our last 12, 13 games, we’ve played with a mentality, an edge that we need to win games, and I think that’s why we’ve won more games than we have been winning, especially against the better teams in the league -- home and on the road. So, I think we just have to continue that. I think coming out of the break you’re going to start seeing teams who are struggling to stay in that race, just fade away. -- Damian Lillard

After having that look in his eye Wednesday night following the loss to the Grizzlies, Lillard said, “It’s far from over. Believe that. It’s far from over.” 

Lillard added to that message this weekend:

“I think we’ve got to be that team that continues to fight through because we’ve been here before, so I just think it comes down to the urgency and how much it means to us, and I know it means a lot to our team. I gotta get healthy and we just have to come correct, our mentality has to be right. We’ve got to be on the same page, we’ve got to play with that purpose,” Lillard said.

The 29-year-old also mentioned that getting Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) and Zach Collins (left shoulder) back from injuries will only help them in the postseason.

“Once we get in [the playoffs], I’m pretty sure we’re the last team that anybody wants to see.”

*Mic Drop.

*Wave.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW HERE: