Without a blockbuster at the deadline, did the Portland Trail Blazers get any better?

Without a blockbuster at the deadline, did the Portland Trail Blazers get any better?

The 2019 NBA trade deadline came and went, and the Portland Trail Blazers failed yet again to make a big-time move. General Manager Neil Olshey was on the horn trying to get a big deal done, and he told NBC Sports Northwest’s own Dwight James that he had the green light to push forward on a couple of trades that never happened.

Now, Blazers fans will have to settle in with what Portland did get in Rodney Hood and Skal Labissiere.

Hood is the obvious choice to make a big impact this season. The Blazers are already weak at the wing position, particularly with Maurice Harkless struggling to find his footing. Jake Layman has played well in his stead, but is more of an offensive weapon than anything else.

Hood is a bit of a reclamation project after a couple of seasons where he saw his progression sputter. Although he’s a career 37 percent 3-point shooter, he’s shied away from his long-range game this year. In Utah, Hood generally shot around 46 percent of his field goals from beyond the arc. In Cleveland this year, that had dipped to 33.5 percent

The real question with Hood will be if he can limit some of his poorer tendencies. Cleveland was not good for his development, and he often relied on a lot of dribble-heavy possessions before taking long 2-pointers. As is the case with any mid-range player, Hood will need to take smart long jumpers to make himself valuable.

It’s clear that Hood has the kind of skillset that plugs into the Portland offense. As a mid-range shooter, Hood attacks from the same general part of the floor that CJ McCollum already inhabits. Both like to hoist floaters in the lane and take elbow jumpers. Hood is also pretty effective on slow post-ups from the wing or stop-and-spin moves around five feet that, after watching tape, feel sort of Brandon Roy-ish, at least in their aesthetic. That should help teammates put Hood in the right position early on, since they already know how to help McCollum.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts will try to get Hood take a few steps back, behind the arc, to help Portland's bench keep up their 3-point onslaught.

I also have my reservations about Hood as a defender. Yes, he’s taller than a lot of the other guards on this roster, but even at 6-8 he’s not a small forward. His most successful years with the Jazz saw him play a majority of his minutes at SG, and so how Stotts arranges him with Seth Curry, Harkless, and Layman will be interesting.

Labissiere is a long-term project, one with very little downside. He’s raw, but is at least a shooter. Labissiere has been buried on the Sacramento Kings’ bench all season long, and has seen action in 13 games this year.

The knock on Labissiere is one that’s endemic to his age. The Kentucky product is a step or two slow, particularly on defense, which is common for just about every NBA big man during their first few years. Olshey told Dwight that he thinks Labissiere fits better with the Blazers’ style of play and I have to agree with him. Portland has made a clear switch to stretch the floor by any means necessary this season, most obviously on the front line with the boost in the minutes of Meyers Leonard. Labissiere at least makes more sense than Caleb Swanigan, an earthbound, low-post type of hustle player who seemed like he wasn’t super excited to be on ice for all but 145 minutes this season.

Analyzing Labissiere statistically this season would be a bit dishonest given his lack of playing time, but looking at his previous two years lends us something. Labissiere shot well from 3-point range in 2017-18, and was in the 71st percentile for his position, according to Cleaning the Glass. The real worry is that his at-rim percentage wasn’t great. The long-term goal for him is to find a way to be multi-faceted on offense. So many young guys seem to find a groove and never move out of it, particularly when they're shooters.

Labissiere could also be an impactful player defensively, but his instincts will need to develop. Yes, he’s athletic, but too many people get caught up on “wingspan” which includes the width of players' shoulders. You block or alter shots vertically, so standing reach is far more important since it’s a measurement of actual height.

In that department, Labissiere measures the same as Meyers Leonard — 9 feet — which is three inches shorter than Zach Collins. Leonard has grown to learn how to at least alter shots, and Labissiere has a good block percentage for his position. Still, you worry about him hunting and giving up dump-off, so there’s some work to do there.

Portland got better in the short term by adding both Hood and Labissiere, and didn’t give up anyone of importance to do it. Yet again, Blazers fans are left wondering if they’ll ever see a blockbuster trade that does something, anything to shakeup this roster. Meanwhile, Olshey has made another smart, low-risk move that could end up paying off this spring. 

If it doesn’t, the Blazers will be where they always are, which is where they’ve always been.

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

Terry Stotts provides update on Jusuf Nurkic's recovery from the 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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USA Today Images

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:

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

It was just four days ago that Damian Lillard suffered a right groin strain and then suggested that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker should be his replacement for the NBA All-Star Game.

And that’s exactly what the league decided to do.

Despite not participating, Lillard was still introduced alongside Booker before Sunday’s game.  

Before action tipped off, TNT’s Allie LaForce spoke with Booker about how Lillard had mentioned that he was one of his favorite players to watch.

Booker feels the same way.

It’s a mutual respect thing. Obviously, Dame is one of my favorite players to watch too. So, I want to go out there and do what he would do – get a few buckets and hopefully get the win. -- Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker said pregame

This season, Booker is averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds.

Lillard spoke with the media on Saturday about how much of a fan he is of Booker’s game.

“I watch a lot of their games, just because I like to watch him play.”

The 2018 NBA Three-Point Contest Champ will now have Lillard on the bench cheering him on in tonight’s All-Star Game. 

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

The 2020 All-Star weekend is full of fun, excitement, drama and music. 

Five-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who would not be able to participate after suffering a groin injury, would still be involved in the weekend in a way that no other has done before...

Perform on stage.

This isn't the first time Dame D.O.L.L.A. has taken the stage, but it was memorable in more ways than one. It was what he was wearing that stood out alongside his music and musical guests: a leather jacket with the words "Mamba Forever" on the back.

This tribute to the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant isn't the only way the All-Star weekend is celebrating their lives: Team LeBron and Team Giannis will be sporting jersey No. 24 jersey or No. 2 jersey during the All-Star game.

 

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

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USA Today Images

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

The original participants of the 2020 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest included: Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings; Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks; Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls; Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets; Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards; Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets; Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat; and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

But, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns replaced Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, who was forced to withdraw from the Three-Point Contest due to a right groin injury.  

It’s really unfortunate that Logo Lillard wasn’t participating, especially this year because of the new format.

The NBA put a new twist on things adding two new shots from 6 feet behind the 3-point line. The "Dew" green balls worth three points each.

The two rounds had 27 shots instead of 25 that took 70 seconds instead of 60.

The additional shots from the wing were known as the "MTN DEW zone".

The new shots from deeper range would have most likely helped give Lillard an edge, all of Rip City knows that.

In Lillard’s last 10 games, he is averaging an impressive 47.2 percent from behind the arc. 

But, Booker did Lillard proud with the ‘Dew’ green ball. Booker was the fourth participant to shoot in the first round and he was the first player to hit both of the ‘Dew’ deep three-balls. He put up 27 in the first round and 26 in the second round.

Booker, along with Hield and Bertans, were the three to move on and face off in the Final Round.

And boy, the Final Round did not disappoint.

It came down the final Money Ball.

Here are the results of the Second and Final Round:

Bertans: 22 points

Booker: 26 points

Hield: 27 points

This is the first time the Hield has taken home the 3-point hardware.

Now, here's to hoping they bring back the ‘deep’ three-ball for  next year’s competition, and Lillard will be a participant. 

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Rip City has been anticipating this performance since it was announced last week that Damain Lillard would be performing on the music stage during NBA All-Star Weekend. 

Chicago’s Native rapper Common introduced DAME D.O.L.L.A.

“I’m proud to present not only an NBA All-Star, but this is an artist… Show some love to my guy, DAME D.O.L.L.A.,” Common yelled proudly into the microphone.  

DAME D.O.L.L.A performed ‘Money Ball’ featuring Jeremih followed by, ‘Run it up’ featuring Lil Wayne as Lillard became the first NBA player to perform on the NBA Saturday Night musical stage.

'Money Ball' can be found on Dame's latest album "Big D.O.L.L.A," while 'Run It Up' is on "Confirmed."

Lil Wayne didn’t make his way to the stage until midway through ‘Run it Up.’ Between Lillard and Lil Wayne’s presence on the stage, it looked like the performance brought the house down at the United Center.

Lillard also paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a ‘Mamaba Forever’ jacket on stage.

After the show, Lillard took to the Trail Blazers Twitter account to share his thoughts on being on the big stage in Chicago, but not the typical big stage he is used to performing on during All-Star weekend.

All-Star Saturday-- it was a blast. It was a great time. I hope everybody enjoyed the show. I felt great out there and it was a great time. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on his Dame D.O.L.L.A. performance