Dwight Howard

Trail Blazers began season with six centers -- and now it's down to one

Trail Blazers began season with six centers -- and now it's down to one

And then there was one. Just one -- for right now, at least.

One Trail Blazer center left. And the team started training camp with five of them. Six, actually, if you want to count G-League rookie Moses Brown.

Saturday night, just 2:37 into what turned into a 128-120 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Skal Labissiere suffered an injury to his left knee and departed the game. Ironically, Labissiere was starting at power forward alongside Hassan Whiteside, as Coach Terry Stotts attempted to get more size in the game to counter the Lakers’ starting duo of Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee.

Results of Labissiere’s MRI are “pending,” according to Stotts.

Portland began the season with Zach Collins, who has served as a backup center previously, as the starting power forward but he was lost due to dislocated left shoulder. Veteran Hall of Fame center Pau Gasol began the season on the injured list and later retired. And Jusuf Nurkic, the expected starter when he returns from the broken leg he suffered last season.

Leaving Whiteside. Period. Depending on Labissiere’s status, Brown could be recalled from the G-League to fill a backup role.

But playing basketball without size in the frontcourt is a very difficult task, particularly against teams with plenty of size, such as the Lakers.

Portland stayed in the game until late in the third quarter, when Los Angeles got serious about going to Davis on lob passes or getting the ball deep to Dwight Howard. The Lakers finished with a 60-40 edge in points in the paint and that was the difference in the game.

“I mean, it’s tough any time you lose a teammate to an injury,” said Damian Lillard, who had 31 points and nine assists. “Just because you don’t know how serious it could be or how much time he’ll miss. It’s a guy who’s been in our rotation all season. It hurts even more, especially with us already dealing with so many injuries.

“I don’t care who’s on the floor or what we’re dealing with as far as injuries or what we’re up against – I mean, we’re all professionals. People pay a lot of money to come see us play and we get paid a lot of money to show up and do our jobs and perform. So, I think it’s obvious what we’re up against. We’ve got three of our starters out with tough injuries and we’re playing with guys who it’s their first year getting a lot of minutes… Everybody knows that, but it does us no good to use it as a crutch or make an excuse…”

Anthony Tolliver, a forward who got backup minutes at center, responded with his best shooting night of the season, hitting four of his five three-point shots. And Anfernee Simons had 14 points and six rebounds off the bench. Whiteside had 19 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.

But in the end, everything came down to the little things:

Portland is now too little. There aren’t enough big men. Which makes interior defense difficult. And at this point of the season, very little can be done about it.

Western Conference Update: Lake Show bringing back an old friend in Dwight Howard

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Western Conference Update: Lake Show bringing back an old friend in Dwight Howard

What a summer it has been in the NBA.

Many people believe the West got considerable tougher.

And the Los Angeles Lakers got a lot of attention, per usual.

Now in late August, the Lakers are been talked about yet again.

Without DeMarcus Cousins in the mix for LA due to a torn ACL, the Lakers had been looking for its replacement candidate. In a revamped West, any injury has a ripple effect across the conference where just a few wins can mean the difference between home court advantage, the right match-up or a deep playoff run. 

Friday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers had found their man. Dwight Howard is heading back to Los Angeles.

The Lakers are being cautious though as Howard has expressed he has been working on fixing his bad habits.

One thing is certain, the Lakers organization is looking at this upcoming season as a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs, if not win it all with the Warriors dynasty seemingly coming to an end.   

[RELATED]: How the DeMarcus Cousins injury affects the Trail Blazers' chances in the Western Conference

There has also been so much buzz around Rip City. Could this be the year, Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers bring home the Larry O'Brien Trophy?

The Western Conference showdown this season could definitely be one for the record books. 

The Blazers are scheduled to take on the Lakers three times this season. The first meeting is set for Friday, Dec. 6 at Moda Center.

A fun player matchup to watch between Portland and LA will be Howard against Trail Blazers new big man Hassan Whiteside.

In their eight, regular season games played against one another, the two are tied at four wins each.
In their most recent matchup on Nov. 10, 2018, Howard finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, while Whiteside had 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Howard could prove to still be a useful big for the Lakers, or he could prove to bring more drama to La La Land.

Either way, now that Superman, who played for the Lakers from 2012-2013, is heading back to LA to now play with LeBron James, NBA fans are saying bring on the popcorn.

More frustration for the Blazers after they lose late leads to Atlanta in regulation and overtime

More frustration for the Blazers after they lose late leads to Atlanta in regulation and overtime

A season of frustration continued to slip away from the Trail Blazers on Monday when Atlanta forged two comebacks that eventually resulted in a 109-104 overtime win at the Moda Center.

Hawks forward Paul Millsap forced overtime with a finger roll at the regulation buzzer, then the Hawks overcame a seven-point deficit in overtime, sealing the victory when Damian Lillard fell and coughed up the ball with 6.4 seconds left on a drive with the Blazers trailing by one.

The Blazers (23-32) lost their third consecutive home game and fell two games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and into a tie for ninth with Sacramento.

Millsap, who scored the overtime-forcing basket after taking an inbounds pass with 2.2 seconds left, finished with 21 points and nine rebounds and five assists. Atlanta (32-23) won after losing its last game in Sacramento at the buzzer.

Portland looked like it was headed to a gritty win when Maurice Harkless scored on a tip-in with 34.6 seconds left, beating Dwight Howard to a rebound off a missed free throw by Ed Davis. The hustle play gave the Blazers a 97-94 lead, but after a Howard free throw, and a McCollum miss, the Hawks rebounded and called timeout with 2.2 seconds left, setting up Millsap’s left-handed finger roll.

In overtime, Portland scored the first seven points – an Ed Davis inside basket, a long three-pointer by Lillard and a floater by McCollum, but the Blazers missed their final eight shots.

Aminu had 14 points and 15 rebounds – his third straight game in double figures – and McCollum scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, when Portland overcame a one-point deficit.

It was the first game after the Blazers traded starting center Mason Plumlee to Denver for Jusuf Nurkic. Meyers Leonard started at center and finished with two points, six rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. He missed his first five shots and finished 1-for-7 from the field.

Ed Davis played backup center and recorded 11 points, 13 rebounds and three assists before fouling out with 2:24 left in overtime after playing 27 minutes.

Atlanta took a 75-74 lead into the fourth quarter after Mike Muscala scored a layin off an inbounds pass with 0.4 seconds left in the quarter.

The Blazers led 48-42 after both teams struggled from the field. Atlanta shot 33 percent and the Blazers 32 in a lackluster first half. The Blazers made only six field goals in the second quarter, but two of them were three-pointers by Aminu to start the quarter and push the lead to 34-21.

Portland closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 28-21 lead. The run was capped by a three-pointer from Pat Connaughton at the buzzer, which came after Ed Davis grabbed and offensive rebound and fired a pass to Connaughton on the wing.

Next up: Blazers at Utah, 6 p.m. Wednesday (KGW)


Olshey always has a plan -- we just don't know it yet

Olshey always has a plan -- we just don't know it yet

The news that the Trail Blazers are hot on the trail of free-agent forward Chandler Parsons was a bit surprising last night. When healthy, Parsons is a very promising player but he's had his last two seasons prematurely end because of injuries to his right knee. And the first of those injuries required what was called "hybrid microfracture surgery," which is indicative of cartilage damage.

And while I ponder that possible signing, I'm thinking about the sort of planning that went into Portland's decision to go after Parsons. We know, of course, that General Manager Neil Olshey has had months to plan his strategy for free agency -- and months to know how important this chase is for the long-term future of his franchise. All that cap space he's been building comes due this summer. Next year, a big new contract for C.J. McCollum will be added and this team will never in the foreseeable future have the kind of room it has right this minute.

This is his chance. And I wouldn't bet against him pulling off some sort of "Wow -- I can't believe he did that" move.

We also know that Olshey loves to work in the background. He's one of those magicians who doesn't make a big production out of his sleight of hand until the end of the show. You don't know he has your wallet until he pulls it out to pay the bill at the end of the night. And right now, I have no idea what he's up to except I'm pretty certain we haven't seen the end of his show this summer.

Parsons, yes. But there's more here. There has to be. Everyone knows this team needs a rim-protecting, rebound-gobbling big man. Is he using Parsons' friendship with Dwight Howard to try to lure him to Portland? Is he after someone below the radar -- Bismack Biyombo, for example? Or maybe Festus Ezeli?

I don't think we'll know until Olshey is finished.

The one thing I do know from watching the first few hours of free agency is that baseball genius Bill Veeck was right about a half-century ago when talking about the salaries of players. And he's been proved right countless times over the decades:

"It isn't the high price of stars that is expensive," he famously said. "It's the high price of mediocrity."



Celtics, Hawks secure one-on-one meetings with Howard

Celtics, Hawks secure one-on-one meetings with Howard

It's been reported that free-agent center Dwight Howard has already set up meetings with the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks.  Howard is believed to be a possible target for the Trail Blazers. Negotiations can begin Friday with free agents and their representatives.

The Trail Blazers, of course, like to operate behind the scenes and their history under Neil Olshey is to keep their free-agent recruiting underground. This year's free-agent moratorium has been shortened from its previous eight-day period to five days. From July 1-6 teams can negotiate with players but not sign them.

Howard opted out of his contract in Houston, a deal that would have paid him $23.2 million for the coming season.



Howard looking for "winning," "environment" and maybe $30 million a year -- you in?

Howard looking for "winning," "environment" and maybe $30 million a year -- you in?

Dwight Howard opted out of the final season of his contract in Houston and he may be pretty expensive. But what he's looking for may match up with the Trail Blazers, who are said to be interested in signing him:

Howard will look for a combination of "environment" and "winning," according to a person familiar with his thinking.

The Trail Blazers can do a pretty good job of providing Howard with a calm, stable environment and have, with him, a good chance of winning a lot of games. He could, in fact, be the last piece of the puzzle.

But Howard won't be cheap. He opted out of a deal that would have paid him $23.3 million for next season and will likely expect more next season in a new deal. The same story says a max deal for him would start in the range of $30 million a year.

Understand there's no guarantee that Howard, at this point of his career, is going to be able to command $30 million a year. But it's possible. And the question of the day is -- if Portland could clear that much cap room, would Howard be worth that much to the Trail Blazers? If not, what would you pay him?

Which rumored free agent has strongest possibility of joining Blazers?

Which rumored free agent has strongest possibility of joining Blazers?

The Portland Trail Blazers haven't been known to land big free agent targets. Some think it rains too much. Others don't see it as a big enough media market. Whatever the reason, the Blazers head into the offseason with a ton of cap space and a young core of players to build around. 

So, with all the names out there from Kevin Durant to Dwight Howard, among others, who is the target that carries the most weight?

Dwight Jaynes and Jason Quick weigh in in the video above.