Who will start if Maurice Harkless can't go tonight for Trail Blazers?

Who will start if Maurice Harkless can't go tonight for Trail Blazers?

Five questions I keep being asked, with my attempts at answers, on the morning of Game 3:

WHO WILL START IF MAURICE HARKLESS CAN’T GO?: A great question because Terry Stotts is one of the most unpredictable coaches you’ll ever find when it comes to his lineups.

If you just want to move up the most effective bench player capable of handling the position, you would plug Rodney Hood into that spot. In this series, Hood has been borderline spectacular off the bench.

But do you want to take Hood away as the No. 1 scoring option for that bench unit? And he gets many more opportunities to score as a reserve than he would as a starter, when Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Enes Kanter are getting a majority of the shots

Throughout his tenure as the Portland coach, Stotts has been reluctant to mess with his bench unit when a starter is out. More often, he has reached down past the rotation players and plugged in a player who hasn’t been part of that rotation.

That would likely mean Jake Layman, who started the second half of Game 2 when Harkless, fighting an ankle sprain, wasn’t available after halftime of Game 2. Layman had not played at all in Game 1 of the series.

My hunch would be Layman would get the start. And I do believe it’s possible his movement on offense would be a help in the halfcourt. And his activity on the boards might be a boost on the other end.

WILL THE PORTLAND DEFENSE BE THE SAME IN GAME 3?: It might change. And it probably should. Yes, the Blazers did a great job of holding down the Nuggets’ shooting percentages by packing the middle and swarming Nikola Jokic off the dribble. But keep in mind, the Blazers were fortunate to get away with that defense Wednesday night.

Denver people, by its own calculations, had 17 uncontested three-point shots – many of them from the easiest spot on the floor, the corner. The. Nuggets, by their count, made just three of their 17 open threes. In the first quarter Denver missed corner threes time after time.

It would be wrong to believe that will continue. While the Nuggets were only a middle-of-the-road three-point shooting team during the regular season, even average teams make those shots on a fairly consistent basis.

The Trail Blazers are going to have to do a better job of contesting the threes.

WILL OFFICIATING CHANGE IN GAME 3?: I believe it will. The league and its referees are constantly perusing video of these games and they had to see the number of times Jokic hacked Portland shooters. I wouldn’t expect him to continue to get away with that.

I would also assume they’d be watching his time spent in the lane more closely. He camps in there.

SHOULD PLAYERS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED FOR THIS GAME?: I would say definitely. The NBA rulebook makes no mention of players leaving the area of the bench to participate in an altercation during a timeout being exempt from penalty:

Rule 12 (A, Section VII, c): During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their (bench.) Violators will be subject to suspension, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.

As you can see, there’s a word missing in the online version of the rulebook, which is included here in parenthesis. As you can also see, there is no mention of players being exempt from the rule during a timeout.

And another consideration in this case is that Jamal Murray dashed on the court to actually START the altercation. And he did so under the false assumption that Enes Kanter intentionally did harm to one of his teammates. In fact, Kanter was pushed into that player by Jokic – a full, two-handed push, which, by the way, should have been Jokic’s sixth foul.

For me, the fact that Murray misread the situation and caused a fracas without real provocation should count for something, too.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO THE BLAZERS TO WIN THESE TWO HOME GAMES?: Critical, I would say. They have taken away Denver’s homecourt advantage but losing a home game would mean Portland would need another win at Denver to capture the series. That would be difficult in a Game 5 situation and VERY difficult in a Game 7.

Why the Portland Trail Blazers are the most “dangerous” & “scary” team for the NBA restart

Why the Portland Trail Blazers are the most “dangerous” & “scary” team for the NBA restart

The NBA ‘bubble’ is in full force and the resumption of the season is just 15 days away.

As videos from player's rooms, Disney’s campus and practice are beginning to surface, the excitement and anticipation for the season are building along with them.

And if you’ve been following along the Trail Blazer's storylines, it should warm your heart while striking fear in the rest of the NBA.

The Trail Blazers might just be that dark horse team to watch for.

Chris Haynes believes so.

The Yahoo Sports NBA Insider joined Bill Simmons to discuss life in the bubble and the upcoming season restart.

If Portland gets the play-in game, I think they win it. And if Portland is in this thing, Bill, to me, they’re the most dangerous team in this league. I think if they get in, even if it’s the Lakers at the No. 1 seed, Portland has the potential to take the Lakers to the distance. And if they happen to get by the Lakers, you could see them in the Finals, man. — Chris Haynes

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

Speaking of the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James would rather not see the Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs either.

[RELATED]: LeBron James thinks the Portland Trail Blazers would be a tough 8th seed to beat

You got a Dame Lillard who can go for 50, a CJ McCollum that can score 40, a Carmelo Anthony that if he gets hot, which we know in the postseason could go for 35/40 as well... When you have that type of experience with Portland, they can make things happen. - LeBron James

LeBron is not wrong.

The Trail Blazers will be near full strength (minus Rodney Hood who is recovering from a torn Achilles) with the return of big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. It’s been quite some time since Rip City has seen the Bosnian Beast and Big Z suit up and it’s such a welcomed sight. 

[Jusuf] Nurkic is back. Zach Collins is back. Dame and CJ, they have been ultra-motivated. I’m being dead serious, they are ultra-motivated. That’s the scariest team out there. — Chris Haynes

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers projected starting 5 should scare opposing NBA teams

Lillard did mention last week that he “forgot what it was like” to play with Nurk and Collins back on the court. We think the rest of the NBA also forgot what it was like to play against them. 

The NBA might be in for quite the surprise come July 31. 

Damian Lillard receives ALL THE BIRTHDAY LOVE

Damian Lillard receives ALL THE BIRTHDAY LOVE

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is celebrating his 30th birthday in a unique situation!

Despite currently living in the NBA's Orlando bubble to gear up for the resumption of the 2019-20 season, Lillard’s teammates have still been making the most of his birthday situation.

Lillard’s teammates are reportedly ready to throw him quite the birthday bash!

 

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

Besides celebrating in the bubble, Lillard has been receiving plenty of well-deserved birthday wishes on social media.

Here are just a handful of some of our favorite birthday posts from his teammates: 




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wholesome 🤗

A post shared by Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) on



[RELATED]: Damian Lillard’s door was decorated for his birthday & something's off

His teammates, of course, aren’t the only ones to share their birthday wishes.

Former teammates showing love

Family sending their good wishes

[WATCH]: For Damian Lillard's birthday, here's some goosebumps

Fans, of course, are sending birthday love too!



Damian Lillard pairing up with Portland based VIZN Gaming

Damian Lillard pairing up with Portland based VIZN Gaming

As a 5x NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year recipient, game changer, rap-game changer, one of the biggest faces of Adidas, a role model, a father, a soon-to-be husband, and the leader of the Trail Blazers, it’s fair to say that Damian Lillard has done a lot in his 30 years on this Earth.

Now you can add video gaming entrepreneur to his resume. 

Lillard has partnered with a Portland based startup company, VIZN Gaming, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports.

VIZN Gaming is set to introduce a first in the industry UltraVRTM technology.

The new gaming company is looking to help gamers convert their favorite video games into 3D virtual reality.

With virtual reality’s popularity on the rise, Lillard is getting into the game now.

VR offers a simulated experience that can feel like a real life experience or completely different from the real world.

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

The NBA has dabbled in VR as well.

A fan can have the experience of a lifetime being courtside during live games on NBA League Pass. All a fan has to do is download the free NextVR app, available on Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Gear VR, Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality headsets and subscribe to NBA League Pass, League Pass Premium, League Pass VR, or single game subscription and BOOM you will be immersed in the game and sitting courtside just like we all dream about. 

Don't forget, though, you'll need a VR headset that's compatible with one of the platforms listed.

[RELATED]: NBCSNW to air Trail Blazers scrimmages from Orlando, beginning July 23

Here's to hoping Lillard releases his own real life VR game so we can all know what it feels like to hit a ‘bad’ 37-foot shot.

Damian Lillard’s door was decorated for his birthday & something's off

Damian Lillard’s door was decorated for his birthday & something's off

It’s Damian Lillard’s 30th birthday, and his bestie CJ McCollum isn’t playing when it comes to celebrating his backcourt mate.

In a photo shared by the NBA Twitter account, McCollum throws up peace signs in front of Dame’s decked out hotel door. There are balloons, streamers and of course, they are in Trail Blazers red and black. 

But NBA Twitter soon discovered there was something off with the photo. The words “Presidential Suite,” were missing from the door.

People were perplexed by the photoshop. 

Honestly, it makes since. Lillard deserves his privacy just like any professional athlete or celebrity, and are you really surprised that the five-time NBA All-Star would want to be as comfortable as possible in Orlando? 

Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what Dame D.O.L.L.A’s luxurious accommodations inside the NBA bubble look like. 

Lillard's milestone birthday will also get the presidential treatment. According to ESPN, the Trail Blazers guard will have champagne flowing and his favorite, chicken wings and short ribs. 

It looks like there will be quite a celebration on Wednesday night. 

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

Damian Lillard celebrates 30th Birthday with a very lit bubble celebration 

Damian Lillard celebrates 30th Birthday with a very lit bubble celebration 

When it’s Damian Lillard’s 30th birthday, the Trail Blazers All-Star does it up right.

While in the Orlando bubble gearing up for the NBA’s return to action, Dame will receive the birthday boy treatment while his teammates throw him a bash to remember. 

Per ESPN, the liquor will be flowing with Crown and bottles of Cristal on hand. Some of Dame’s favorite foods including lemon pepper wings and short ribs will be cooked up. He does have this one request though…

Then the short ribs better be coming from my grandmother. -- Damian Lillard

We can’t help but wonder “what other surprises too,” means. Will Dame D.O.L.L.A. have an exclusive performance in quarantine like he did when he turned 26? Who will be the first to get wine drunk…CJ or Melo? 

What we do know so far is that not everything that happens in the bubble, stays in the bubble. We hope there’s receipts.

Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum (and others) also went all out with these door decorations in Trail Blazers colors, while several others took to social media to show the five-time NBA All-Star some love.

“No way I could pull these decorations off by myself,” McCollum tweeted. “Thanks for the help … It turned out nicely.”

  

https://twitter.com/24Bazemore/status/1283454444324233216?s=20
You love to see it.

Dame’s blessed Rip City with a lot of clutch buckets and bars over the year, we hope his 30th year of life is his most successful year yet. Happy Birthday!

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

Hassan Whiteside ranks world's best chefs & SpongeBob SquarePants is involved

Hassan Whiteside ranks world's best chefs & SpongeBob SquarePants is involved

Observing Hassan Whiteside in the NBA bubble has been… interesting. 

On one hand, he’s competitive and serious on the court. He’s dialed in in the Trail Blazers pursuit of a playoff run. 

Then, he gets to his room and all bets are off. 

He’s a marathon Warzone player:

He’s testing out filters on his phone:

And now, we can call him Chef Whiteside with the pot, boy!

Whiteside took to his Instagram story to let people know that if he had a kitchen in his room, he’d be whipping up a masterpiece. 

WATCH


The streets keep asking me— Whiteside how you living’ in a bubble. If I had a stove, I’d be in here cooking crazy. If we had an NBA cookout, I’m first team, for real. -- Hassan Whiteside

Then, Whiteside laid out his top chefs and where he’d rank himself. 

Here’s the list:

  • Gordon Ramsey
  • Bobby Flay
  • His chef now: Chef Kiara “Kitchen Killa” Hardy
  • Spongebob
  • Whiteside himself
  • Chef BoyarDee

Yes, SpongeBob Squarepants is included in his list, as was the man who makes Beefaroni… 

“Did you see what that Krabby Patty did to Squidward?!” Whiteside said. “He’s in front of me. He makes a fine burger.”

Once this is all over, we’ll get Chef Whiteside to concoct his finest cuisine. But, until then, we’ll just have to take his word for it. 

Anfernee Simons eager to shake off sophomore slump, get fresh restart

Anfernee Simons eager to shake off sophomore slump, get fresh restart

Trail Blazers fans know the athleticism, raw offensive talent, and high-flying dunk capabilities that second-year guard Anfernee Simons brings.

This is a young man who can score-- There’s no doubt about that.

A recent social media post from an account dubbed ‘Timeout’ made the rounds on Instagram and Twitter saying that Simons could be the best-kept secret.

Well, Anthony Simons is indeed a secret.

But for Anfrenee Simons, he knows what he can bring to the Blazers. He is using this restart to get better and continue to learn from the Trail Blazers backcourt star duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

In his first media interview since the resumption of the 2019-20 season, the 21-year-old shared his personal goals for the restart during a Zoom call Tuesday.  

“I think I’m in pretty good shape,” Simons said. “I think we did a good job of individual workouts and kind of getting our conditioning up and obviously the first couple of practices helped out a lot with my conditioning... I’m just taking this as a good opportunity to get better. Come into practice and compete against Dame and CJ. Challenge them and help them challenge me as well. I’m coming in trying to work on different aspects of my game that will help the team win in different situations.”    

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

As NBA Fans around the world learn more about Ant, Trail Blazers fans have already had a glimpse at the future of the Trail Blazers.

April 10, 2019 was a breakout game the Trail Blazers knew was in their rookie all along. Simons notched a career-high in all three major categories. He finished with 37 points, nine assists, and six rebounds . 

It was the then 19-year-old who led the Blazers to a thrilling 136-131 comeback win over the Kings after being down by as many as 28 points.

Simons’ fellow rookie Gary Trent Jr. added 19 points on 8-of-19 shooting.

Now, as the two work on their game in the Orlando bubble together, Trent Jr. shared some insight on Simons’ character.

“Ant’s a great player. He’s a hard worker. Any time he’s on the floor, any shot he shoots I think is going in. I work with him day in and day out. Like you said, we were rookies together, so I’ve seen his work ethic from day one. He’s a hard worker. He’s gonna come in and prove himself… So, if he does have a big game, I’m not surprised at all… He works on his craft,” Trent Jr. said.

[RELATED]: NBCSNW to air Trail Blazers scrimmages from Orlando, beginning July 23

Both Trent Jr. and Simons could see extra minutes coming their way now that the Trail Blazers are without small forward Trevor Ariza.

“I think the biggest thing is with Trevor being out, that opens up perimeter minutes,” Blazers Coach Terry Stotts said Tuesday. 

Coach Stotts, who keeps the Blazers rotation close to the vest, will look like along with expected minutes for each player close to the vest, added that he is reluctant to say that Simons will get be one of those players to earn extra minutes, but Stotts did say, “There’s going to be opportunity for someone, whether it’s Ant, Gary, Mario [Hezonja], for those minutes to be taken advantage of.”

But at the same time: 

Perimeter minutes may be hard to come by.

“I’m approaching this as every game is a playoff game, a must win game. The rotation will be a little shorter. I think Dame and CJ’s minutes will be extended, so that kind of takes away from some of the opportunities that are gonna be available on the perimeter, especially at the 1 and the 2.”

[RELATED]: Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts expects every game to be 'must-win' in Orlando 

Even if social media outlets believe Simons is one of the best-kept secrets in the league, there were high expectations in Rip City for the second-year player.

Simons can score at ease and has an impressive offensive skill set-- we know that. But this season, his game was inconsistent and his confidence seemed to waver at times. He has also noted he is still a work in progress on the defensive end too.

Simon's strength is, undoubtedly, scoring and when he wasn’t doing that this season it made fans question the expectations placed on him in the offseason.

In 65 games played during the 2019-20 season, Simons averaged 8.8 points on 40.2 percent shooting in 21.5 minutes of work. He shot 33.8 percent from behind the arc and 82.6 from the free throw line, while adding 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

Just like it’s no secret that Simons didn’t have the season many had hoped for, he feels that this restart could ultimately be the fresh start he needs and wants.

That time off is obviously kind of the [same] time of the offseason. I got time to get a little bit better. Obviously it was quarantine, but when we came back for those couple months of working out – it’s kind of re-locking in and working on things that you need to work on that obviously you struggled with in the season before everything happened. So, I think coming in now it’s time to focus on the things that you struggled at and come back in and refocus on that and work hard at that. -- Trail guard Anfernee Simons

With that confidence, focus, and ability to lock in again, Simons could potentially prove to those national social media outlets during this restart – the secret is out -- IT’S ANFERNEE SIMONS; get it right.  

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts expects every game to be 'must-win' in Orlando

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts expects every game to be 'must-win' in Orlando

The Trail Blazers have been at it for four days now in Orlando, working toward their eight-game schedule as the NBA resumes its shortened season at the end of July.
So how is that going? How does this team look?

“The one thing we talked about as a coaching staff is that this is not a training camp,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “It’s not a new team. This is not a training camp.

“Everybody remembers things. Yes, we are tweaking some things because of the addition of Nurk and Zack, but they were part of the team, have been part of the team, for two or three years or whatever. So even though we thought it would be approached like a training camp, it’s really not.

“In some ways we’re ahead of where I thought we would be, just because of the continuity of bringing back everybody we had in March, when the season was postponed.”

The team recently has practiced later in the day, which has never been a favorite thing for players and coaches. But Stotts said that will change.

“We’re going to have a couple of morning practices, we’re going to have a couple of afternoon practices,” he said. “I think the fact that we came from the west coast, they kind of planned for us to have the later practices. But we’ll move them around.”

Stotts is going to approach these games as if each one is a playoff game. And Portland fans know what that means -- a tighter playing rotation with longer minutes for the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

“I’m approaching this as if every game is a must-win game -- a playoff game,” the Trail Blazer coach said. “The rotation will be a little shorter. I think Dame and CJ ‘s minutes will be extended.”

Stotts’ practice plans have reflected the idea that this isn’t a training camp. How often has the team scrimmaged?

“A fair amount,” Stotts said. “In fact, today’s practice was strictly scrimmaging. We got loose, got some shots and then scrimmaged.

“When we say scrimmaging, today was really game-like conditions, but we’ve done other scrimmages where we just go down and back.

“Not as many drills as you’d have in a training camp.”

Stotts has time for some reading -- he’s started a new book -- then there is his walking regimen, Netflix and Amazon Prime, and coaches meetings.

But other activities? Well, he left his golf clubs at home.

“I purposely did not bring my clubs so I wouldn't be tempted to play,” he said.

Obviously, this is not a vacation.

NBCSNW to air Trail Blazers scrimmages from Orlando, beginning July 23

NBCSNW to air Trail Blazers scrimmages from Orlando, beginning July 23

The Trail Blazers and 21 other teams will be back in action before we know it as the NBA prepares to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida in its pursuit to crown a champion.

NBC Sports Northwest, the official TV network of the Portland Trail Blazers, will air all three of Portland’s scrimmages as well as all eight of the Blazers regular season games.

Blazers Scrimmage Schedule live on NBCSNW:

  • July 23 vs. Indiana @ 12:30PT
  • July 26 vs. Toronto @ 3:00PT
  • July 28 vs. Oklahoma City @ 3:00PT

The broadcast team will consist of play-by-play announcer Jordan Kent, analyst Lamar Hurd, and Courtside Reporter Brooke Olzendam. They will be broadcasting the action on NBCSNW, while Travis Demers and Michael Holton will handle the call on the Trail Blazers Radio Network.

The scrimmages will also be streamed on NBCsportsnorthwest.com and MyTeams App.

The NBA's restart plan is slated for July 30th to continue a season that was halted March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Trail Blazers first game will be on July 31st vs. the Memphis Grizzlies.

Seeding games will take place from July 30-Aug. 14. Play-in tournaments are scheduled for Aug. 15-16. The NBA playoffs will begin Aug. 17.

The 22 teams in Orlando will include the 16 clubs who are currently in a playoff spot -- eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference -- and six additional teams within six games of the No. 9 seed in their respective conference.

Each team will play eight "seeding games" to determine playoff seeding in each conference. 

Portland currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies in the eight-spot. The Trail Blazers have the 5th toughest schedule among the 22 teams competing and the toughest among the teams vying for the 8th seed. Here’s how the Blazers schedule stacks up against the other playoff hopefuls.

The Trail Blazers schedule is tough, but they are hopeful with the return of Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic in the lineup.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers projected starting 5 should scare opposing NBA teams

Both Trevor Ariza and Caleb Swanigan did not make the trip to Orlando to join the team due to personal reasons. 

The Trail Blazers have signed Jaylen Adams from the G-League in response.

Make sure to keep it locked at our website for the latest updates from Orlando ahead of Portland's first scrimmage.

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