Iman Shumpert

Some reasons the Trail Blazers signed a point guard rather than a small forward

Some reasons the Trail Blazers signed a point guard rather than a small forward

The Trail Blazers signed a replacement player for Trevor Ariza Monday -- point guard Jaylen Adams -- and a whole lot of Portland fans seem upset about it.

Ariza, who opted out of going to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption of the season, is a small forward. Why a point guard? Who will play small forward? And what about bringing former Trail Blazers such as Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner back to fill that spot? Or what about signing some of the “name” players who are out there?

Well, I think I can help you with some answers here, based on logic and the experience of being around this franchise for a few days.

Let me make some points and you can pick out what you need. First, the small forward position:

  • The idea of Crabbe or Turner is a non-starter. Turner is still on Minnesota’s roster. He played in only 19 games this season and just one after Jan. 1.

  • Crabbe played in 37 games this season and started just once. He had a miserable season. And he's one of those players who seems to need the ball a lot, which isn't going to happen here.

  • Those “name” players people are talking about? The likes of Iman Shumpert and Gerald Green? Shumpert isn’t good enough to help and Green is hurt.

  • Veteran players who finished last season without a team would be going to Orlando in search of long-term employment -- a chance to showcase for a deal next season. That means they’re going to want playing time and if they don’t get it, that will be a problem.

  • There has never been a time I can remember where team chemistry and togetherness will be tested like it will be in Orlando. Players will have very little freedom of movement and contact with family or friends. Their stress level is likely to be off the charts. Adding players with excess baggage is not something a lot of teams will be willing to do. Not sure the Trail Blazers -- or many of the other teams in Orlando -- want to take chances with players who might be a disruption.

  • If this team gets eliminated quickly in the seeding games, which is a possibility, don’t be surprised if the team’s core players see their minutes cut down so that the coaches and front office can see the others play. They certainly wouldn’t be interested in watching over-the-hill vets looking for a contract from another team.

  • There has been an open transaction window since June 23 and if a veteran player hasn’t been signed by now, odds are he’s not valued by any of the 22 teams.

And now for Adams and the reasons for signing him:

  • Again, if the Trail Blazers can’t hang in the race for the final playoff berth, I would expect Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s minutes to be drastically cut -- or see them even shut down. Why risk injury if the team is out of the running? If that’s the case, help is needed at point guard.

  • I don’t expect Anfernee Simons to play 48 minutes in the absence of Dame and CJ, so Adams would be there to back up.

  • There is nothing wrong with getting an early look at one of the G-League’s best players prior to next season.

  • Adams will also help lighten the load for the starters during the three-week camp leading up to the seeding games.

And so, who do I expect to see playing small forward, with Ariza absent?:

  • Depending on matchups, I would expect Carmelo Anthony to get those minutes, alongside Zach Collins and either Jusuf Nurkic or Hassan Whiteside. I would also expect Gary Trent to get time at small forward, where he has spent time previously this season.

  • The league seems to grow more positionless each season and all sorts of big and small lineups are possible with what this team has on its roster.

  • Terry Stotts likes to stick with a tidy rotation in the postseason -- eight players, if possible. I think those eight would obviously include Lillard, McCollum, Collins, Nurkic, Whiteside, Anthony, Trent and Simons -- with Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja used for specific matchups. There is not much room there for additions unless somebody else opts out.

Carmelo Anthony stole "3 to the Dome" celebration from Blazers legend

Carmelo Anthony stole "3 to the Dome" celebration from Blazers legend

The celebration has become an iconic part of Carmelo Anthony's game. 

Anytime he hits a deep ball, he holds out three fingers and touches them to the side of his head. The celebration has become known as "3 to the Dome"

However, it now appears the celebration isn't of his own creation. In fact, it came from another Portland Trail Blazers icon: Rasheed Wallace. 

Wallace came out of retirement in 2012 to play for the New York Knicks. The face of the franchise at that time? Carmelo Anthony. 

Also on that Knicks squad was a young Iman Shumpert. 

Shumpert sat down for Inside the Association with host Shams Charania to talk all things hoops. During the interview he told a story about how Melo stole "3 to the Dome" from Sheed:

(Answer starts at the 6:24 mark)

People don't realize, Melo doing to the three to the head, how that started was Rasheed Wallace. He always had a three-point celebration. He stared the three to the head, and then Sheed got hurt. But Sheed started this. It was funny as hell, Melo, of course... once the God do it, everyone gonna run with it. Everybody was like, "Yo, the Melo three to the head." - Iman Shumpert. 

Shed started, Melo ran with it. But the story doesn't end there. Being the veteran leader that he was, Sheed didn't even take Melo to task. Said Shumpert, "Sheed comes in one day... Sheed walks in and he says, "Hey, Melo, I'm not even gonna charge you for that."

"3 to the Dome" has become loved in Rip City, where you see it all over social media and could see fans doing inside Moda Center when Melo made a three-pointer. 

As Shumpert puts it, is had the same cultural impact on New York at the time.

Little kids is doing for their games, all the little street ballers at Dyckman and Rucker, everybody doing it. - Iman Shumpert.

The world can thank Sheed for this Melo icon. If Melo does this celebration every time he hits a deep ball, then anytime an opposing team misses a free throw he better start yelling "ball don't lie." Sheed might even let him use that one for free, too. 



Should the Blazers sign up for the Iman Shumpert free trial?

Should the Blazers sign up for the Iman Shumpert free trial?

The Brooklyn Nets have waived guard Iman Shumpert to comply with the NBA's restraint of rostering 15 players ahead of forward Wilson Chandler's return to the team. Chandler's 25-game suspension for PED usage ends on Sunday. 

Now off of a team, Shumpert still desires to play.

Shumpert has averaged 4.2 points in 18.2 minutes per game for the Nets this season. The 6-foot-5 wing can still play at an NBA level. The Nets only released him out of necessity from their guaranteed contracts limiting roster spots. 

Given his release, teams will get the opportunity to put in a waiver claim for his services. Should the Blazers?

I think yes. 

In wake of letting Aminu walk, trading Harkless, Zach Collins' dislocated shoulder and Rodney Hood’s season-ending Achilles injury, the Blazers wing rotation needs upgrading. That much is clear if the Blazers want to remain competitive in the Western Conference until Collins and Nurkic return. With Hood’s injury, Hezonja has been reinserted into the rotation, and I believe Shumpert would be an upgrade over him. 

ESPN’s Bobby Marks said the Blazers are an option to claim Shumpert but the acquisition would increase Jody Allen’s tax bill.

However, given the open roster spot and the non-guarantee on Shumpert’s deal, the Blazers could add Shumpert without hurting any future roster flexibility until Shumpert’s deal becomes guaranteed the first week of January. 

Yes, his shooting splits have been bad: 32.4 percent overall, 24.2 percent from beyond the arc and 57.1 percent from the free throw line, but he’s a low risk solution to replacing Hezonja’s minutes with a more capable player. Hezonja's shooting splits are slightly better at 36.1 percent overall, 32.3 percent from beyond the arc and 81.2 percent from the free throw line. So if Shumpert proves to be worse than Hezonja, then the Blazers can cut him before his deal guarantees in January. 

Why not sign up for Shumpert’s free trial?

Iman Shumpert vs. Jusuf Nurkic: "Dirty screens" and a conversation that will have to wait until April 10th

Iman Shumpert vs. Jusuf Nurkic: "Dirty screens" and a conversation that will have to wait until April 10th

SACRAMENTO – It was a rare scene outside of the Trail Blazers locker room on Monday night.

The Golden 1 Center is constructed in a way that has the Sacramento Kings locker room on the opposite end of the court as the visiting team locker room.  

After the final horn sounded and Sacramento took a 115-107 win over Portland, Kings shooting guard Iman Shumpert was seen outside of the Blazers locker room.

Shumpert wanted to “have a conversation” with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, but he was not allowed in by team security.

The conversation never took place, at least not in the arena, but what led to the need for Shumpert to talk with Portland’s lead security guard to get to Nurkic?

For one, “dirty” screens.

Nurkic set hard screens at the top of the key to get Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum open to drive the lane. In turn, Shumpert hit the deck.

“I know in the first quarter, Nurk was setting screens and he was saying Nurk was setting some bad screens, basically. He was hot about it. He was mad about it and I didn’t see the screens so I don’t really know, but from what I heard he thought Nurk was setting some dirty screens,” Lillard said.

Shumpert seemed to take exception to the hard screen on the court and that was only beginning.

The Kings shooting guard would not give specific details on what led to the chippiness between he and Nurkic, but he did say we could all review the game film to get a better look.

“Y’all got the TV, you all can watch it. Review the game tonight,” Shumpert said.

“Some stuff happened out there that we needed to have a conversation about,” Shumpert added.

Shumpert was hit with a technical foul at the 10:23 mark in the third quarter.

Then almost two minutes later in the game, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was charged with a technical foul for arguing with the referees on a non-foul call when he felt that CJ McCollum got hit while going up for a lay-in.

Immediately following the game both Lillard and Coach Stotts were seen talking to Shumpert on the court.

The only comment Coach Stotts would make in his postgame interview about the combative play on the court, was this:

“I think everybody felt like it was a chippy game, no question.”

Shumpert was barking at Nurkic throughout the game and even when Shumpert was not in the game, he was yelling from the bench.
Outside of the locker room after the game, the Blazers team security told Shumpert that Nurkic was still showering and he would not be able to come out of the locker room and speak to him at that moment.

Shumpert made his way back to his own locker room and was able to calm down before talking with the media.

“The game is over. I just wanted to have a conversation with the man. Nothing malicious, nothing crazy. I didn’t go over there and bombard the locker room. I’m sure everybody realizes we’re big enough to rush the locker room. We’re athletic enough to get in there. I didn’t go in there and bully into the locker room.  I just wanted to have a conversation,” Shumpert said.

When Nurkic was asked about Shumpert he had this to say, “I’m not worried about him. He’s going into retirement soon. I just said what I said. I’m not worried about a guy who’s going into retirement soon.”

Shumpert claimed he sustained minor injuries to his hand and shoulder and was upset that he will not be able to play with his daughter.

Anyone who has followed Shumpert over his eight-year NBA career knows that he can be an emotional player who feeds off of other people's energy.

It was not just Nurkic’s screens that were getting Shumpert hyped on Monday night. 

Shumpert admitted he fed off of Portland’s team security, which had spoken with the Kings guard as the game became tense.

“He was a little passionate and you become part of the game… I’ll take whatever energy you give me. I was having a tough time shooting the ball and you know, he talked to me enough I made the next three. That’s what we needed at the moment… After that we rolled,” Shumpert said.

Shumpert went 2-for-9 from the field. His only baskets were from three as he finished with six points.

Being a guard, Lillard said after the loss that he understands what Shumpert was going through, but he in no way feels Nurkic had any intention to be dirty.

“I think all of us guards feel that way, you know, bigs trying to give their guard an advantage, so they might lean into it sometimes, but I don’t think there was anything dirty there,” Lillard said.

Shumpert postgame just wanted to make sure we all knew this…

“Like I said, it’s for two men to have a conversation. It’s not for everybody to be a part of. Nobody to hype up or anything like that. It’s for two men to have a conversation that’s it,” Shumpert said.       

The conversation -- to be continued…

Portland hosts Sacramento in the third and final meeting of the season on April 10th.

That’s a long time to wait. But that’s probably not too long to forgive and forget.

Breakfast with the Blazers: Olshey may not be done with roster

Breakfast with the Blazers: Olshey may not be done with roster

Good morning, and welcome to Breakfast with the Blazers, which will hopefully become a daily item on the Trail Blazers as you ease into your day with a cup of coffee and/or your first meal. This spot will allow you to catch up on what happened last night, or look ahead to what is pertinent today with the Blazers.

This morning, we look at one item from yesterday’s Media Day interviews that flew under the radar: Blazers’ president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said he is still actively trying to improve the roster by using the team’s $12.9 million trade exception acquired in the trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn.

Olshey said that over the summer the Blazers “tried to keep up in the arms race as best we could” – presumably referring to pursuits of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony – but in the end they didn’t want to part ways with “pieces of our roster we felt were irreplaceable.’’

As a result, Olshey admitted the Blazers did not accelerate their ascension in the West as quickly as hoped.

“But things are not over yet,’’ Olshey said. “We have the biggest trade exception in the league; we are still aggressive.’’

A trade exception is valuable in acquiring a player from a team that is looking to dump salary by absorbing the contract without having to give anything back in return. In other words, the Blazers can acquire a player making $12.9 million without having to give up anyone. The Blazers get a good player, the other team gets cap relief.

The $12.9 million trade exception was acquired because the Blazers sent out more money with Crabbe’s contract (about $19 million) than they got in return from Brooklyn in the form of Andrew Nicholson’s contract (about $6 million). Nicholson was later waived.

The Blazers have until July 2018 to use the exception, and it could be something that it utilized quickly, such as if Cleveland needs to move salary to sign Dwyane Wade, the Blazers could facilitate by absorbing Iman Shumpert and his $10.3 million contract.

Or it could be used later in the season, perhaps after a team that thought it would be a contender falls out of a race, or decides to go in a different direction. The point is, Olshey still has a chip he can play in improving the roster.

For reference, here are examples of some players who could be absorbed using the $12.9 million: Denver’s Kenneth Faried ($12.9 million); Washington’s Marcin Gortat ($12.8 million), Sacramento’s Zach Randolph ($12.3 million), Charlotte’s Kemba Walker ($12.0 million), Orlando’s Terrence Ross ($10.5 million), Detroit’s Jon Leuer ($10.4 million).

Certainly, none of those names are as impactful as a Paul George or Carmelo Anthony, but they could be pieces that improve the roster, even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold, which owner Paul Allen has made clear he does not fear.

“I think back in February,’’ Olshey said. “Who would have thought the impact Jusuf Nurkic would have had?’’

In other words, stay tuned. Olshey is still at work.

Some Blazers links:

I wrote about how belief is the key word as Blazers start practices.

I also wrote about some of the top stories from media day, including the maturation of Lillard and McCollum and the emergence of Caleb Swanigan.

Joe Freeman from The Oregonian touched on the top stories from media day, including Lillard becoming a vegan.

Mike RIchman from The Oregonain wrote about  Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss and Bad Boy aspirations for Blazers.

David MacKay at Blazer's Edge revisits Meyers Leonard path to working out with trainer Drew Hanlen.