Is there better news for Trail Blazer fans than Nurkic, Collins in the gym?

Is there better news for Trail Blazer fans than Nurkic, Collins in the gym?

It was a day full of optimism at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility Wednesday.

Sure, new players Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel were on hand for their first practice with their team.

But that was not the headline news.

Everywhere you looked, there were positive signs in regard to injured players.

There was Zach Collins, going through on-court drills with a basketball -- shooting short jumpers and even left-handed layups -- as he recovers from a torn labrum. No full workout with the team yet, but on the court and even shooting with his (injured) left arm.

At the other end of the court, there was CJ McCollum working out with coaches -- running full speed as he shot and went through defensive drills -- as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

But most of all, there was news -- big news -- of Jusuf Nurkic going through a contact practice, albeit mostly halfcourt, as he recovers from his broken left leg.

Nobody was willing to say how soon Nurkic could be back playing in games, but just the news of him playing full speed in practice is reason for optimism.

He is a difference maker.

Coach Terry Stotts didn’t get specific about how Nurkic did on the floor but teammates spoke highly of how he played. Stotts did point out that this section of the schedule has been pinpointed for a while as a good spot for his return, because the team has two days off between three different home games.

And maybe not coincidentally, it’s also prior to the NBA trade deadline of noon, Pacific time, Feb. 6. So if the Trail Blazers were inclined to deal Hassan Whiteside and his expiring contract, theoretically Nurkic would be ready to play or very close to ready.

Don’t take this wrong. McCollum is the only one of the three injured players whose return to active duty is believed to be imminent.

But with serious injuries the likes of the ones Nurkic and Collins suffered, this sort of progress is what fans have been waiting to hear about.

Media, too. Win or lose, this team is a lot more fun to watch with those players on the floor.

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

CJ McCollum OUT vs OKC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Too many.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blazers are now without:

Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture)

Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon)

Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation),

Skal Labissiere (left knee inflammation)

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

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

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

They can't catch a break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While the newest Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony, added,

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

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

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

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

Gary Trent, Jr. getting the worst of Trail Blazers' illness

Gary Trent, Jr. getting the worst of Trail Blazers' illness

DALLAS – It was a very unusual scene in Dallas Friday night. 

Following the Trail Blazers 120-112 loss to the Mavericks, two members of the Dallas Fire & Rescue team were seen directly outside of the Blazers locker room in a separate room that is designated for players to receive treatment.  

The only real noise heard throughout the extremely small visiting locker room was that of coughing.

But, it became apparent after surveying the locker room that Gary Trent, Jr. was the player in the treatment room.

The back-up shooting guard left Friday’s game at the 10:05 mark of the fourth quarter when he went back to the locker room with assistant athletic trainer Jessica Cohen.

Just before leaving the game, Trent Jr. was seen coughing and holding his chest on the bench.

The Trail Blazers announced midway through the fourth quarter that he would not return to the game due to an illness.

Heading into Friday’s game, Trent Jr. was not listed on the injury report with any type of illness; however, his teammate Damian Lillard was the latest player to be listed as questionable with an upper respiratory infection. Both CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside have already caught the bug and have also missed one game each due to the illness.

It was after midnight in Dallas before Trent Jr. made his way out of the treatment room.

Everyone besides Trent Jr. and Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had left the arena.

After talking with Trent Jr., it’s apparent he's got something more than what's going around this Trail Blazers team.

This is a brutal bug.

Trent Jr. looked lethargic as he walked slowly down the hallway. Weak.

He looked as if he was going to fall asleep before he got to the team bus, but, despite not having much energy, he gave an update on his health.

He was gracious enough to talk with NBCSNW as he walked to the team bus.

I just had it [for] a day or two. The team, everybody’s been sick here and there, so I guess it just caught me, but I just got an IV and [I'll] get some rest, I’ll be fine.  – Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. said postgame

The main issue for Trent Jr. and the rest of the Blazers right now is they are now on their way to Oklahoma City to play in the second leg of a back-to-back. 

Trail Blazers PR said there will be an update on Trent Jr. at 1pm CT Saturday when the team is required to provide injury updates.

While Trent Jr. was receiving an IV postgame, CJ McCollum was talking with the media about his left ankle sprain.  

McCollum says he isn’t sure the severity of his ankle, which he rolled during the second quarter of Friday’s loss.

“I was getting treatment during the game. It’s wrapped up. I’m not sure… Usually the second day is the worst, so we’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” McCollum said.

There also won’t be an update on McCollum until Saturday afternoon.

Between injuries and illnesses, this team is focusing on sticking together.

“Some teams go through a lot of things throughout the year, so we’re just going to show how battle tested we are, how good we can be, when things are going down like this – players are getting hurt, getting sick, we’ve just got to stay together, fight together, and it will all work out,” Trent Jr. said.

With is glazed over eyes, Trent Jr. remains positive.

That's all this team feels like they can do at this point: Rest, cold medication, and stay positive. 

Sick, wounded Trail Blazers buried under a pile of three-point field goals

Sick, wounded Trail Blazers buried under a pile of three-point field goals

The Trail Blazers were adding 2+2 most of the game Friday night. The Mavericks were multiplying by 3. Portland shot 51.8 percent from the field against Dallas but were outdone by higher mathematics in a 120-112 loss at Dallas.

The Mavs made only 43.8 percent of their shots from the floor. But unfortunately for Portland, a furious third and fourth-quarter comeback fell short because Dallas made 20 three-point shots to just nine for Portland. That's giving up 33 points from behind the arc -- way too many for the wounded Trail Blazers to overcome. It didn't help, of course, that CJ McCollum played only 11 minutes after suffering what appeared to be an ankle sprain and Gary Trent had to return to the locker room in the fourth after feeling sick.

On top of that, Damian Lillard, who led the Blazers with 34 points and 10 assists, came into the game fighting the team's ever-present upper-respiratory illness and had to play 40 minutes. Hassan Whiteside made nine of his 10 shots, had 18 rebounds, 21 points and five blocks.

"We came out and had a good start of the game," Lillard said. "The amount of fight it took to make it a game, we ran out of gas at the end. Obviously, anytime you are a little bit sick it's going to have an affect on you on the floor. I ran out of gas at the end."

This loss was almost entirely the result of the lack of long-distance firepower -- and how well Dallas shot from long range. Portland outscored Dallas a whopping 62-30 in the paint, but you can't multiply any of those points in the paint by three.

After trailing by 17 points late in the third quarter, Portland cut the lead to four halfway through the fourth quarter and trailed by only six with 3:41 left. But the Blazers got nothing after that but a meaningless three-pointer by Anfernee Simons with 26.2 seconds to go. But the strange thing was, Dallas scored only five during that span.

The Blazers were 1-6 from the floor with two turnovers over that disastrous final 3:41.

And this beaten-up bunch gets no rest, as a Saturday night contest in Oklahoma City is at hand.

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers lose McCollum to ankle sprain, lose to Mavs

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers lose McCollum to ankle sprain, lose to Mavs

DALLAS – It looked as though the Trail Blazers had some carryover from Wednesday’s win over the Houston Rockets, as

Portland jumped out to a 12-2 lead over the Dallas Mavericks Friday.

Dallas started the game 0-for-5.  

It wasn’t until four minutes into the game that the Mavs hit their first field goal when Luka Doncic drained a 27-foot three-pointer.

Despite Portland losing its starting shooting guard to an ankle injury early in the second quarter, the Blazers were down single digits heading into the final period.

It came down to the wire, but with timely stops and big-time threes, the Mavs were able to hold off the Blazers.

FINAL BOX SCORE: MAVERICKS 120, TRAIL BLAZERS 112 

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s loss

1. McCollum leaves game with ankle sprain

Portland was forced to call a timeout at the 7:53 mark of the second quarter following CJ McCollum's hard take to the basket.

McCollum appeared to step on Mavericks' power forward Max Kleber’s right foot during his attempted lay-in at the 8:04 mark of the quarter.

 

Shortly after McCollum went back to the locker room with the team’s trainers, Blazers PR announced he would not return to the game due to a left ankle sprain. McCollum played just 12 minutes.  

Blazers backup guard Gary Trent Jr. also left the game early in the fourth quarter. The reason was not immediately known.

2.  Lillard plays through it

Damian Lillard was listed as questionable before the game tipped off with an upper respiratory infection.

But, it was hard to tell Lillard was dealing with the cold that has been going around the Blazers locker room.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard notched 11 points in the first 12 minutes of action. Lillard had it going from deep and down low. Heading into the fourth quarter, Lillard was 12-for-19 from the field with 32 points.   

3.  Doncic being Doncic

Just as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said during his pregame interview, everything for the Mavs goes through Luka Doncic. The second-year player had his way from downtown against the Blazers.

Doncic started the game, attacking the rim, which then almost always resulted in him finding a teammate open under the hoop. He was on fire from deep too. He hit his first four three-point attempts and went 8-of-12 for the game.

Dallas fans on the concourse were proudly chanting “All-Star Luka” during halftime when Doncic had already recorded 23 points and five assists.

With Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) and Ryan Broekhoff (left fibula fracture) both out against the Blazers, it was Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. who picked up the slack on offense.

Up Next: Portland will play in its second leg of this current back-to-back when the Blazers visit Oklahoma City on Saturday. The Blazers and Thunder tip-off at 6:00p.m. PT.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the players!

WATCH: CJ McCollum goes down in Dallas with ankle injury, will not return

WATCH: CJ McCollum goes down in Dallas with ankle injury, will not return

DALLAS – The Portland Trail Blazers have announced that CJ McCollum will not return to tonight's game versus the Mavericks due to a left ankle sprain. 

The Trail Blazers called a timeout at the 7:53 mark of the second quarter following McCollum's hard take to the basket.

After McCollum attempted the lay-in, he was seen hobbling on his left ankle. McCollum appeared to step on Mavericks power forward Max Kleber’s right foot.

McCollum headed to the locker with the team’s trainers.

Damian Lillard entered the game for McCollum.

The Trail Blazers starting shooting guard scored four points to go along with two assists in 12 minutes of play.

McCollum becomes the second Trail Blazers starter to suffer a significant injury in Dallas this season. 

Zach Collins dislocated his shoulder in Dallas at the beginning of the season, which led to surgery. 

We'll have more on CJ's injury after the game. Stay tuned!

 

At peace, Carmelo Anthony moved past Rockets -- then beat them

At peace, Carmelo Anthony moved past Rockets -- then beat them

HOUSTON – To say that Carmelo Anthony has made a difference on this Trail Blazers squad would be an understatement.

November 19th, at least for this season, will go down as the unforgettable day the Trail Blazers took a chance on the 17-year veteran.

Now, through 27 games with the Blazers, Melo is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Wednesday night, Anthony got his first chance to play against the team that he last played for a year ago.

A team that took a chance on him, but didn’t seem to really give him a shot after parting ways with Melo after just 10 days.

But, did the 35-year-old get up a little more or have any extra emotions playing against the Rockets?

Nope.

You know why?

Because of the time he had off to deal with and process all those added emotions.  

I kind of got past all of that -- the time that I was off, the time that I did have to kind of think about that situation. And, I had dealt with every emotion that you could think about -- trying to figure out why, questioning myself at the beginning -- working so hard to get past that and kind of be at peace with that. – Carmelo Anthony said postgame  

Even though Anthony's time in Houston was short-lived, he was still greeted with cheers from Rockets fans during pregame introductions. However, the ovation was not nearly as loud as many other arenas Melo has visited this season.  

He did, though, give Blazers fans more to cheer about with his efficient play on the offensive end and his effort on the defensive side of the ball.

In the win, the future Hall of Famer finished with a double-double, 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Houston media had asked Blazers head coach Terry Stotts pregame if Melo had surprised him at all. Stotts replied saying, “the fact that he was out [of the league] for so long and came in and was able to play 30 plus minutes of production -- NBA minutes was probably the most surprising thing.”

But, by the looks of it and the sounds of it, the Rockets organization and the media seem really surprised to see what Melo has been able to do with the Blazers this season.

After Wednesday’s win, Coach Stotts made sure to make it known that his veteran forward was out there doing what the team needed, not anything else.

“Melo’s been great for us and I know there are different venues – I don’t know how he particularly feels about Houston, the Rockets and all of that, but he’s about the right things. He’s about winning, he wants to win. I think for him being a part of a win like this is probably more important regardless of who it’s against,” Stotts said.

Coach Stotts was spot on.

After the win, Melo downplayed the possibility of there being anything extra to the game. “Just getting the win,” he said.

Anthony added, “I thought everyone contributed to this win.”

That statement by Melo is not in the least bit surprising.

Since Anthony signed with the Trail Blazers he has done nothing but prove he wants to help this team succeed, he wants to share his knowledge, and he wants to prove he can still contribute.

Melo is a bona fide superstar.

And, as that new saying goes: Real recognizes real.

Lillard recognizes his fellow superstar returning to play against Houston and how that might change Anthony's view of Wednesday's matchup.

Melo been around a long time, so I’m sure that there was some feelings like – this is the last team I’ve played for, it didn’t end on a high note -- So, I’m sure he wanted to beat them, but before the game, during the game he wasn’t overly emotional -- like ‘I want to kill them’, he was like – 'let’s win the game.' He had a great game. He did what he needed to do to help us win the game and that was that. – Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said postgame 

As Lillard and Melo look for some carryover from Wednesday’s win, they will also look to lead this team together.

More often than not it is either one of them or both of them having a teaching moment with a young Anfernee Simons or Gary Trent Jr. on the bench or during a stoppage of play.

The Blazers are on the outside looking in at the playoffs at the moment.

But, don’t think for a second these two superstars aren’t game planning together on how to change the narrative of this 2019-20 season. 

Great effort, even better decision-making in win over Rockets

Great effort, even better decision-making in win over Rockets

HOUSTON – The Trail Blazers are building off a win.

Even though Portland has compiled winning streaks this season, the Blazers haven’t discussed, in-depth, how they learned from the previous game and had their minds right.

They hadn’t done that... until now.

Heading into Wednesday night’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, some thought the Blazers were in for a long night. It already was because of the 8:30pm local time tip-off.

Instead of following the narrative of -- the Blazers are having a rough season; the Rockets should roll just like they did last time against Portland -- the Blazers had other ideas.

The Blazers held off the Rockets down the stretch, defeating Houston 117-107 Wednesday night

Trail Blazers team captain Damian Lillard, who led the Blazers in scoring with 25 points, was not only pleased with his team's effort, but also mentioned how, as a team, they had their minds right. 

With the Blazers playing three games in four days starting in Houston, the Blazers elected not to have a shootaround earlier in the day. Instead, they elected for a more relaxed team meeting. 
From the sounds of it, the team meeting was something this team really benefited from in Houston.  

We just had good fight, we had good energy, and a good presence about us, I think.  Even in our meeting today, we kind of talked through stuff. Before the game, it was pretty quiet. You can tell, coming off the win against Charlotte – we came into this trip wanting to start off on the right foot and I thought our effort on the floor showed that. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said postgame 

This game could easily be looked at as the Blazers best defensive performance thus far.

But for Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, he couldn’t help but emphasize his team’s decision-making overall.

“[Houston] made their run, hit some threes, but we kept our composure, made good decisions at the offensive end, it was a good win,” Stotts said postgame.

It’s no secret that Portland has had its fair share of issues on defense, but the Blazers were able to come together on that end of the floor on Wednesday. They limited James Harden to just 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

The Blazers defensive effort was strong for the entire game.

Lillard felt Wednesday’s game was a very complete game, which has been hard to come by for the Blazers this season. 

“In the first half we played well," Lillard said. "It wasn’t like we went into the half down and then had a big second half. It was like we just kept putting quarters together, quarter after quarter after quarter, and I think if we can sustain that and approach every game that way, we’ll have a great chance in a lot of these games."

Coming off the win over the Hornets, where Portland allowed Charlotte to get back in the game in the second half after the Hornets hit four quick three-pointers, that could’ve easily happened again against the Rockets.

But, it didn’t .

As CJ McCollum put it, “when you get a lead, you have to hold onto it, try to extend it. We did that tonight.”

The Blazers biggest lead was 17.

And, as many point to what Portland was able to do on the defensive end, holding the Rockets to just 39.6 percent from the floor, Coach Stotts was also happy with what his team was getting on offense.

“I was pleased with our offense all night. I thought our passing; we did a good job of passing. We tried to attack certain matchups... I was pretty pleased with the shots that we were able to get,” Stotts said.

There are nights when every single player from one to eight is on the same page, and that’s what happened Wednesday night.

Having Anthony Tolliver and Gary Trent, Jr. step up and make timely three-pointers is what the Blazers have been looking for from the second unit.

For veteran Carmelo Anthony, who returned to play against the team that he last played for (even if it was just 10 days), believes that he and the Blazers wanted this game more.

“We had a great game plan," Melo said. "We stuck to it, guys was on the same accord. We were locked in defensively, we’re locked in offensively and we stuck to it tonight.  This was a game that we felt like we could come in here and get and we did that."

Anthony finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting night to go along with 12 rebounds.

Even though he wouldn’t come out and say that this win over his short-lived former team felt better than other victories, the Blazers as a team showed in the locker room how much this win meant.  From Jusuf Nurkic in the locker room making jokes to the tone of the postgame interviews – everyone knows how big of a win it was in Houston.

As Lillard said, it’s now time to have some real carryover.

Next up the Trail Blazers face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Friday night on NBCSNW. 

Belief, not hope is what drives Carmelo Anthony

Belief, not hope is what drives Carmelo Anthony

The Portland Trail Blazers are entering the second half of the of the 2019-20 season Wednesday night in Houston.

It’s been a season of expect the unexpected with a multitude of injuries and the signing of future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony.

In the Trail Blazers 41st game, Portland claimed victory over Charlotte. Monday night’s 115-112 win was Anthony’s 26th game with Portland, and it was also the night Melo where he reaffirmed he can play defense, too.

With 36.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the 35-year-old sacrificed his body, diving to the floor. 

Melo anticipated the bad pass from Terry Rozier and it was that effort that sealed the game.

It’s his mindset that could also seal the deal for the Blazers making the playoffs.

More on that later.

As for Monday night’s steal that eventually had Anthony on his backside on the baseline, it was a play that the veteran realized was a must.

I knew I had to make it. I saw them looking for that pass in the corner, [I] made a great play, got my hand on the ball, but I couldn’t really control it, but my thing was just to keep it inbounds and just try to get in. My teammates did a great job of getting control of the ball – made my hustle play look even better. -- Melo

And it was Anthony’s effort, his sacrifice, that had his teammates buzzing after the win.

Damian Lillard said, “It was huge. Obviously, we were in a scramble situation and just trying to come up with a stop and come up with the ball. That was just a great play by him. First of all, seeing it as it developed and then making that type of save and hustle play to secure a possession, I thought that was huge.”

While CJ McCollum said, “Melo with a clutch save down the stretch.”

And, Blazers Coach Terry Stotts added: 

Big time play. To track it down and save it, he might have gotten fouled on it. The plays that we made in the fourth quarter, they may have gotten on their run, but we made some big time plays defensively. It’s plays like that that win games. -- Stotts

 

Even though he wasn't with Portland during training camp and for Portland's first 15 games, Anthony’s teammates know what kind of teammate they have in Melo.

Fellow veteran forward Anthony Tolliver, who was also key in securing a victory Monday night with his 16-fourth-quarter points, described what it’s like playing alongside the future Hall of Famer.

“Melo is a consummate professional. I know he had a bad reputation I don’t know where it came from. The dude is amazing. He’s a blessing to our team. He’s been amazing since he’s been here. One of the best teammates I’ve ever had. I’m glad he’s with us,” Tolliver told Trail Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam.  

Anthony is averaging 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds so far this season.

Recently, there’s been a lot of chatter on social media in regards to NBA fans needed to apologize to Melo for believing that he was “washed up.”

And then there’s the Rockets…

With just 10 days total as a Houston Rocket last season, Anthony clearly wasn’t given the chance to show he’s still got game.

And after sitting out an entire year, working on his craft, and working on himself, the 17-year veteran sure seems to be enjoying life despite the Blazers' losing record.

He’s back. He’s playing the game he loves. He doesn’t view this season as his farewell tour.

He also has faith. 

And, if there’s anything that Melo has learned over the past year is how to keep the faith.

But, don’t get that confused with hope.

After Saturday’s loss to the Bucks, Melo said definitively “we know” what type of group we can be.  

I believe. I try not to hope. I try to keep hope out of it, but my expectation is the same as when you asked me the first day that I got here -- one day at a time, take it from there, and I still believe that. -- Melo

As Trail Blazers fans struggle to come to terms with their team sitting on the outside of the playoff picture with a record of 17-24, Anthony isn’t letting that hang over his head at the halfway point of the season.

 

We know who we are; we know what type of group we are… I know for a fact that the guys that are in this locker room know who we are, know what we want to be, know what we want to do, know what we want to accomplish. -- Melo

Because remember there’s a difference between hoping and believing.

Melo continued, “We believe. At the end of the day -- we believe. In spite of whatever situation we are in, we believe and we gotta win games, we gotta put games together, no matter who is gonna be out there.”

The Trail Blazers now tip-off the second half the season in Houston with a three-game road trip that also includes stops in Dallas and Oklahoma City.

The Blazers won’t stop believing.

Will you?   

Their journey continues Thursday night in Houston at 6:30pm on NBCSNW.