What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

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What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers are down 0-3 to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. No team has overcome such a deficit, but the Blazers aren’t out of the NBA Playoffs just yet. 

Portland will look to keep its season alive on Monday night, as they face off against the Warriors on home court in Game 4. Here’s a look at What They’re Saying ahead of the Blazers must-win game. 

Damian Lillard knows the odds of an 0-3 comeback aren't in Portland’s favor, but the Trail Blazers guard told Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times he’s not giving up.

“You know, you look at the numbers and there’s a slim chance of you winning the series like that, but we’ve got a lot to play for. Obviously you never know when the first time it’s going to happen. We could be the first team to do it.”

On Skip and Shannon: UNDISPUTED, former NBA player Kendrick Perkins told moderator Jenny Taft that he felt the Blazers have overachieved in the NBA Playoffs, while the Warriors are focused on making a point.

“Portland has overachieved. They good where they at, making it to the Western Conference Finals. I think we’ve seen that after Game 7, Dame getting emotional…I think that this is more about Golden State proving to the world that they can win without Kevin Durant.”

If the Blazers do get swept on Monday night, there’s a lot basketball fans can still be thankful for in this series. The Curry brothers’ rivalry is on the list. For the Win’s Charles Curtis shared a thank you note to the Curry bros.

“There was that trash talk between Steph and Seth. There have been moments when they’ve stolen basketballs from each other or splashed a three in each other’s faces. But there’s also been the entertainment from their parents Dell and Sonya, who have worn half-Blazers and half-Warriors jerseys to root on both their kids.”

Shaun Powell of NBA.com says that while Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are further in the postseason than they’ve been in 19 years, Lillard and McCollum will have to pull off a jaw-dropping performance to extend their season. 

“So what’s left of the Blazers? Unless there’s a premium performance coming from Lillard and McCollum in Game 4, their season is likely done after Monday night. With Green and Stephen Curry looking nostalgic, the Warriors have that 2015 feeling when they won a title without Durant. The Warriors also know they’ll get nine days’ rest with a sweep, as if they need any further motivation.

At this point, all the Blazers have is their pride, with none bigger than Lillard’s.”

Game 4 tips off on Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Seven fits for the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency

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Seven fits for the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency

The Portland Trail Blazers are in a tough spot moving into this postseason. They have a significant amount of cap space committed to core players, including Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Navigating the NBA's endless list of CBA rules can be tiring, and general manager Neil Olshey and his front office staff have their work cut out for them.

The 2019 summer free agent class is going to be an epic one, but once again Portland will need to go hunting for value — they won't be in the running for the bigger names. For starters, Olshey will need to decide which of his four big free agents he wants to bring back. Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman and Seth Curry all need new deals.

Layman will likely return to Portland because he’s cheap. The Maryland product is a restricted free agent, and I'm not sure how much outside interest there will be i him given he's not quite a knockdown 3-point shooter just yet. Curry, returning from a leg injury last year, played to the level Portland wanted him to. Unfortunately, that also means he’s going to be too expensive for what the Blazers can afford.

The real question comes in Aminu and Hood.

Aminu had a descending deal that was smartly set up in 2015 by Olshey, but his performance this year was not up to par. As a starter with this roster, Aminu doesn’t cut it. He simply doesn't shoot the ball well enough, and he’s not a threat as a dribbler. This is an issue made worse when the other wings — Moe Harkless and Evan Turner — also struggled to shoot the ball.

Still, Portland has Aminu’s Bird rights, which means they can go above the salary cap to offer him a new deal. Even if the Blazers give Aminu a raise, having him on the team next year is better than scrimping a few pennies and replacing him with a minimum salary-level player.

Hood is where this whole thing gets sticky. If the team makes some expected moves — including re-signing Aminu — the Blazers will end up with the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to spend. That would mean $5.7 million for a player in the first year of his contract. But Hood is going to demand more than that in the open market, even if he gives the Blazers a discount. The former Utah Jazz first round pick is worth more than $8 million a season.

That’s a difficult mark for Olshey to reach, because at his best he’ll only be able to find a little more than that. There’s no reasonable way for the Blazers to have <em>real</em> cap space this summer, and so the full Mid-Level Exception is how Portland would give Hood a fair market contract. Now that Portland has traded Turner for Kent Bazemore, it might just make Hood expendable should he demand his full market value.

Portland should also have use of the bi-annual exception, since they didn’t use theirs last year. That gives them another $3.62 million to spend, probably on Curry’s replacement.

So we’re left with a lot of potential options but not much money to spend on them. As such, here are nine interesting players, at various mid-level exception levels, that Portland could benefit from in free agency.

Rodney Hood — Taxpayer MLE

Hood played well to end the season, adding several impressive playoff performances to his resume. He recovered from a disastrous postseason run in 2017-18, when he was dealing with the birth of twins. Hood has apparently re-discovered his love of the game in Rip City. He was a useful 3-point shooter, and at 6-foot-8 he’s big enough to defend at least three positions on the wing.

Stanley Johnson — Taxpayer MLE

Johnson is a younger small forward whose stock has dropped a bit since coming out of Arizona in 2015. He’s a poor 3-point shooter at this juncture, but a decent enough defender and shows flashes of being able to score enough to invest in. He’s a big body, and if the Blazers punt on Harkless he might be able to fill that gap defensively.

Reggie Bullock — Taxpayer MLE

Bullock is a career 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and at 6-foot-7 he can switch between a couple defensive positions. He’s a good defender, with good marks against spot-up shooting, hand offs, and isolation plays. He’s probably reached his limit on potential at age 28, but Portland needs to fill the gaps. Guys here don’t all have to be Blazers in five years.

Wayne Ellington — Taxpayer MLE

Ellington was floated as a potential target for Portland last year. He’s a good 3-point shooter, and excels in both spot-up roles and in hand off plays, two things the Blazers need from this cap space. Ellington also doesn’t get enough credit as a defender, but his Synergy statistics suggest he could be quite staunch for Portland.

James Ennis — Bi-Annual Exception

Ennis is a small forward who might fit with the Blazers in a limited role. That’s OK if he’s taking their bi-annual exception money, and even that might be too much to spend on the 28-year-old. He’s a decent enough shooter, although he’ll struggle on defense given too much to do.

Quincy Pondexter — Bi-Annual Exception

Pondexter finally had a year befitting of his natural talents with the San Antonio Spurs last year. He’s a shooter who plays two positions, and although he was impressive on both sides of the ball in 2018-19, those numbers are likely to be looked at as a product of the San Antonio system, especially at his age of 31. That should keep the market on Pondexter from being driven up, and Portland could be buyers.

Anthony Tolliver — Taxpayer MLE

Like Ross, Tolliver feels like a player who’s been floated in Portland circles for ages. He’s 34 years old, but as a career 37 percent 3-point shooter Tolliver is going to age into contracts if he still wants them. Tolliver ranked reasonably well for his age last season against the pick-and-roll according to Synergy. He also consistently plays more than 60 games a year, so he could contribute if the Blazers let Enes Kanter go.

Blazers give Jake Layman his qualifying offer, making him a RFA

Blazers give Jake Layman his qualifying offer, making him a RFA

The Trail Blazers want small forward Jake Layman to stay in Rip City.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Portland Trail Blazers have given Layman his qualifying offer which now makes him a restricted free agent, meaning any team around the league can give Layman an offer sheet, but the Blazers will be able to match the terms of that offer.

Layman played in 71 games this past season, averaging 7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 18.7 minutes played.

He shot 50.9% for the regular season, including 32.6% from three-point range.

UPDATE at 10:40am: Trail Blazers PR has confirmed this report, saying they have sent Jake Layman his qualifying offer. 

Introducing Nassir Little: Make your own legacy

Introducing Nassir Little: Make your own legacy

When we sat down with Nassir Little, he had just finished his first NBA photo shoot and was in his Trail Blazer uniform for the first time. His mother and sister were nearby, awaiting his one-on-one with us, then his first Portland news conference. It was his first real day as an NBA player – the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

It was a fun interview with a young man who has the vibe of a special person.

And a special player. I think Portland fans will fall in love with their team’s newest rookie. But of course, they always do, right?

Get to know your newest Trail Blazer, seven-year veteran Kent Bazemore

Get to know your newest Trail Blazer, seven-year veteran Kent Bazemore

The Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks are swapping veteran wings Evan Turner and Kent Bazemore.

Turner had just finished his third season with Portland and is entering the last year of his four-year, $70 million deal.

Bazemore, a 6'5" guard, is set to make $19.3 million. This deal is essentially a swap of high-expiring contracts. Turner is set to make $18.6 million next season.

With this move, Portland adds more shooting depth on the perimeter especially with Al-Farouq Aminu and Rodney Hood hitting free agency. Bazemore has averaged at least 11 points in each of his last four years with the Hawks.

The 29-year-old should fit in nicely with Blazers head coach Terry Stotts’ system, while Portland will certainly benefit from adding another three-point shooter. Over his seven-year NBA career, Bazemore averages 41.9% shooting from the field and 35.2% from deep.

Last season with Atlanta, Bazemore averaged career highs in all three major categories with 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

He will also be a valuable two-way player. At Old Dominion, Bazemore earned First-team All-CAA in 2012 and was a 2X Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. He also earned CAA All-Defensive Team three different times from 2010-12.

Bazemore went undrafted in 2012, but joined the Oklahoma City Thunder to play for OKC in the Orlando Summer League tournament. He then played for the Golden State Warriors in the Las Vegas Summer League. After his summer stint in Vegas, he signed with Golden State.

Bazemore has spent time with the Warriors, Lakers, and most recently with the Hawks from 2014-2019.

Check out the video above for more highlights from Bazemore's time in the NBA.

Terry Stotts: Kent Bazemore "will be an excellent addition to our roster"

Terry Stotts: Kent Bazemore "will be an excellent addition to our roster"

Portland Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts’ reaction to Monday’s trade of Evan Turner to Atlanta for Kent Bazemore:

“We are going to miss Evan and all that he brought to our team, both on and off the court. He was a high-quality person and player who positively impacted our team in many ways.

“Kent will add athleticism, scoring, shooting, and defense to our team. He will be an excellent addition to our roster and I’m excited for what he can bring to our team.”

Blazers get better long-distance shooting in Kent Bazemore trade

Blazers get better long-distance shooting in Kent Bazemore trade

Evan Turner is out and Kent Bazemore is in for the Trail Blazers, bringing an improvement in three-point shooting – a need for the team.

Portland acquired Bazemore from the Atlanta Hawks Monday in a straight one-for-one deal for Turner, a trade of two players with a year left on their contracts. Bazemore exercised his player option on his deal last week, a contract that reportedly will pay him $19,269,662. Turner’s final season with Portland would have paid him a reported $18,606,557.

“Kent’s skillset and ability to make an impact at both ends of the floor will be an excellent addition to our team and bolsters our perimeter prior to the start of free agency,” said Neil Olshey, Portland’s president of basketball operations.

Bazemore, who turns 30 on July 1, has played both small forward and off-guard, much like Turner, who will turn 31 in late October. Bazemore is known as a solid defender who has had two seasons in the top 20 in steal percentage. He is a career .352 shooter from three-point range while Turner sits at .296 for his career. Last season Bazemore shot 32 percent from three while Turner made 21.2 percent of his shots from distance.

Last season Turner averaged 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and had back-to-back triple-doubles during the season. Bazemore averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Bazemore played 24.5 minutes per game while Turner averaged 22 minutes.

Turner was a very popular player among his teammates and was solid at the foul line and defensively in late-game situations. He was also often the playmaker for the team's second unit.

Bazemore has shot 39.9 percent on corner threes for his career, 30 points higher than Portland free agent forward Al-Farouq Aminu has shot in his career from the same distance. Turner has shot .343 from the corner on threes.

 

 

Social media reacts to Evan Turner trade news

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Social media reacts to Evan Turner trade news

Evan Turner’s time in Portland has come to an end.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the 30-year-old forward-guard has been traded to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Kent Bazemore.

Following news of the trade, here’s a look at how fans, media and even Turner himself reacted on social media. 

View this post on Instagram

“And when I’m gone they gone remember me. Not for how I hoop but for my energy..” Pdx, it’s been real. I enjoyed the journey, team accomplishments, and vibe of the PNW To my teammates: we did a lot of great things together. We overcame a lot because we were a true team and we persevered together. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey. The sky is the limit Blazers organization: Thank you for allowing me to come to work in a positive environment! I was able to make a lot of bonds beyond basketball with the coaching staff and all the people behind the scenes. First class place that will only keep reaping the benefits of good karma. Last but not least, THANKS FOR THE CHEESE 🤑 #namingmydogneil

A post shared by evan turner (@evanturner) on

Report: Evan Turner traded to Atlanta

Report: Evan Turner traded to Atlanta

According to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to send Evan Turner to the Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore. 

Turner had just finished his third season with the Blazers and is entering the last year of a four-year, $70 million deal. 

Turner had one of the worst season's of his career last year, averaging just 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3,9 assist per game. In exchange, the Blazers are getting Bazemore, a 6'5" guard that averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game for the Hawks. 

This deal is essentially a swap of bad, expiring contracts. Turner is set to make $18.6 million next season, while Bazemore is set to make $19.3 million.

Stayed tuned to NBC Sports Northwest for all the latest updates. 

Nassir Little goes from supportive family to supportive brotherhood with Trail Blazers

Nassir Little goes from supportive family to supportive brotherhood with Trail Blazers

TUALATIN – When the Portland Trail Blazers held their introductory news conference for their sole draftee Nassir Little on Monday morning, Blazers general manager greeted the media alongside two special guests.

“Just want to welcome first, Nassir’s mom, April and his sister, Kamaria," Olshey said. "We were lucky enough to have them join us."

With his family in attendance, the North Carolina forward fielded questions from the local media.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Little said. “Just for me, just foremost, being in the NBA itself, and then for me looking at the roster, I think I have a real opportunity to come in right away and I’d be able to contribute and make another playoff run.”

There’s no doubt Little can make an impact as a rookie. "Ball handling" tops his list of areas to work on as he begins his NBA career.

The last few days for Little and his family has been a whirlwind.
“This is the point when you’re filled with hope," Little said. "You’re just so ready to, you know, play that first game, just kind of get situated here. You’re excited to be in a new city. So, it’s just been exciting. I’m just trying to embrace it."

As for Little’s first impressions of Portland, he said with a smile, “the people are really nice out here. Everybody’s like, ‘welcome to Portland, welcome to Portland!’ I’m from Florida and people are nice there, but it’s not like this.”

Both of Little’s parents have military backgrounds; yet Little was quick squash the generalization and assumptions about growing up with military parents.

“It’s not like what people think, Little said. “I wasn’t up at four in the morning with the bed made and all that type of stuff. No, they just kind of let us be kids for the most part. It was nothing really crazy like most people expect.”

Nassir’s father, Harold, played a major role in getting the 19-year-old to this point. Little said he couldn’t even begin to list all of the sacrifice his parents made for him.   

“They’ve done a lot from taking me to the gym everyday, taking me to practice, helping me eat the right stuff, they’ve done so much… They’ve been a huge part, they played a key part in helping me get here,” Little said.

Little did have the typical military upbringing as far as moving around. He lived in Hawaii, Virginia, England “for a little bit,” and Washington D.C.

At Orlando Christian Prep high school in Orlando, Florida, Little was committed to waking up at 4:40 a.m. for his morning workout before school. His day would consist of schooling and/or a second workout along with basketball practice. He did this workout routine for two years.  

“I’m a perfectionist," Little said. "I want to be as good as I possible when I put my time into it. Basketball’s fun when you’re good at it."

In his recent move to Portland, Little already has a friend here in Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons.

“It’s cool,” Little said of his friendship with Simons and already knowing a player on the roster. “It provides a sense of comfort. A guy I’m familiar with, a guy I played in high school with, and I think it’s just cool to see two guys from the same city kind of do big things and be in the same place.”

April has already posted on her social media how thankful she is that the Trail Blazers are taking a chance on her son.

On Monday morning, April got a glimpse at the Trail Blazers true brotherhood.

Sitting in the front row of the Trail Blazers media theater was Trail Blazers center Zach Collins, just three chairs down from April. Along the wall on the right side of the theater stood shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. and Blazers assistant coaches Jim Moran and Nate Tibbetts.

“CJ hit me up on Twitter. And, I just met all these guys over here today, so they’ve all been really welcoming and making me feel really a part of the team already,” Little said.

The 19-year-old laughed when Olshey called out Trent Jr. for tweeting at Little about how “Duke will always be the better blue.”

And there in lies a true brotherhood, if a North Carolina and a Duke basketball player can become brothers that shows the genuine camaraderie this Trail Blazers roster has had and continues to have. It shows how the Blazers organization values high character players. 

After the news conference was finished and the pictures of Little holding up his No. 9 Trail Blazers jersey with Olshey by his side were taken, Collins and Trent Jr. made their way over to introduce themselves to Little’s mother and sister.

That’s the high character that goes along way in the locker room and ultimately helps the chemistry on court.

That’s the Trail Blazers brotherhood at its finest.