Jake Layman

Which Blazers do you want to see on the Summer League roster?

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USA Today

Which Blazers do you want to see on the Summer League roster?

Summer League starts for the Trail Blazers on July 7, and as usual, the roster for the annual event will be made up of the Blazers 2018 draft pick(s), undrafted free agents, NBA veterans looking to latch onto a roster, and current Trail Blazers.

So, which Trail Blazers players do you want to see in Sin City? Here are the most likely candidates to represent the Blazers and why they should be in Las Vegas:

Caleb Swanigan: Last Summer League – 8 games, 16.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.3 apg

            Swanigan burst on the summer league scene and made an instant impact with his energy and hustle on the boards. Swanigan had the second most rebounds per game of any player at the event and was an All-NBA Summer League First-Team selection. However, his success in Las Vegas didn’t translate to the NBA regular season. Swanigan played in just 27 regular season games, averaging 2.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per contest. More than any other Blazer, Swanigan needs to be in Las Vegas. Swanigan needs the chance to once again show what he can bring to the table and convince not only the coaching staff, but also himself, that he can succeed in this league. 

Jake Layman – Last Summer League - 8 games 13.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 apg

            Layman had a successful summer league outing in 2017, but like Swanigan, it didn’t translate to a lot of playing time in the regular season. Layman was kept buried at the end of the bench and appeared in just 35 games, averaging 1.0 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.3 assists per game. Layman will be entering his third season in the league in 2018, and like Swanigan, needs to show something special at summer league or it could be another season of nothing but garbage time minutes.

Wade Baldwin – Last Summer League W/Memphis - 6 games, 14.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.7 apg

            Baldwin had a great summer league for the Grizzlies last year, but he spent most of the regular season in the G-league before Memphis waived him. One team's trash is another team's treasure, and Baldwin has appeared to find a home with the Blazers. He played in just seven games for Portland, but showed great potential on defense and brought good energy to the floor. His best game – a 15-point outburst against his former team on March 28. A strong showing in Vegas could convince the Blazers that Baldwin is a capable backup point guard should they lose Shabazz Napier in free agency

Zach Collins – Last Summer League - 3 games, 6.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.7 apg

            By all accounts, Zach Collins had a very poor summer league last season. However, just like success in Vegas doesn’t always lead to success in the regular season, failure in summer league doesn’t always lead to failure in the regular season. Collins started the year with DNPs, but ended the season as a key part of Portland’s rotation. Right now Collins is 50/50 on whether or not he will be in Vegas, but judging by his late-season run, he will be well entrenched in the Blazers rotation no matter what. Collins has little to gain at Summer League outside of getting a few more games under his belt. The risk of injury may not be worth the minimal gain. 

 

 

 

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

It wasn't surprising that the Trail Blazers lost another game Monday night. The fifth straight defeat came in Oakland to the Golden State Warriors, a team that has beaten Portland like a snare drum recently.

Yes, the Warriors were without all-stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green and others -- but they still had enough to handle the Blazers with relative ease.

Portland staged a fourth-quarter comeback, mainly due to Damian Lillard's heroics. Lillard was playing with yet another new lineup combination down the stretch, this one consisting of Jake Layman, Zach Collins, Noah Vonleh and Pat Connaughton. Later, CJ McCollum came on for Layman, but this was the group that played most of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, starters Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard, who helped stake their team to a lead after the first quarter, didn't appear in the final period. Just as Shabazz Napier -- who had put together a nice run of off-the-bench performances -- rode the bench for the entire game. Napier has not played in the last two games and has seen just eight minutes of action in the last three. This after Napier had played at least 14 minutes in all of the previous 14 games. Leonard's playing time has been odd, too -- he went four straight games without playing, then in his last 12 games has played a streak of 4, 22. 17, 4, 0, 0, 0, 8, 16, 3, 20 and 18 minutes.

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Injuries have complicated Coach Terry Stotts' rotations recently, but Portland hasn't been crippled by injuries the way some other teams have. Stotts has said previously that he is more comfortable when he finds a set rotation but so far this season, it just hasn't been there.

I think it's become a problem for this team because players -- in any sport -- usually need a consistent role in order to perform consistently. Players need to know what's going to be expected of them every game.

But Stotts' job isn't easy. He has too many players who bring similar skills, too many who defend well but can't shoot and a roster that's unbalanced. His best two players -- McCollum and Lillard -- basically play the same position and he doesn't have any consistent scoring on the wings. In the middle, he has a center who hasn't played anywhere near what we saw from him during his sneak preview last season.

I don't know the answer to all this but I know the roster isn't going to change much. It's locked in. I think at some point the coach is going to have to make rotation choices and stick with them. I think, too, he may need to define who his shooters are and make sure they get more shots than the ones who can't make shots.

And hope that his team stays together long enough to get things straightened out.

Trail Blazers lucky that loss to Kings was by only four points

Trail Blazers lucky that loss to Kings was by only four points

My first thought Friday night after watching the Trail Blazers' latest debacle, that 86-82 loss at Sacramento, was that Portland had lost a game it should have won. But I must correct that appraisal ever so slightly. The Blazers lost to a team they should have beaten -- but they certainly deserved to lose the game.

In fact, it's difficult to figure out how they kept it so close. Check it out:

  • The Blazers shot 37 percent against a team not known for its defense.
  • The Blazers allowed one of the worst rebounding teams in the league to get a 44-44 draw on the boards.
  • The Blazers got only 12 points out of their starting front court.
  • The Blazers made only 7 of their 25 three-point shots.
  • The Blazers got only 22 points off their bench.
  • The Blazers turned the ball over 18 times.
  • The Blazers got only four points to go with four turnovers from Jusuf Nurkic.
  • The Blazers had ZERO (0) fastbreak points. Again.
  • The Blazers got only 28 points in the paint and made just 14 of their 38 shots in that area.

Just how in the world could you expect Portland to beat even one of the worst teams in the league with stuff like that going on?

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And I haven't even mentioned that wacky lineup Coach Terry Stotts put on the floor in the second quarter that featured no starters along with Jake Layman and Meyers Leonard. I have no problem with either of those guys playing, by the way -- but just not together and not without a couple of starters out there helping them get their shots. Leonard and Layman came into the game having played a total of just 17 minutes apiece for the ENTIRE SEASON. Not that I think either of those players can't help this team -- they can at least make shots, as can Pat Connaughton, a career .404 shooter from three-point range who isn't getting enough looks right now.

Within a week, the local squad has lost to Brooklyn and Sacramento. But at least they got those losses the old-fashioned way -- they deserved them.

So here we are, headed into a Saturday night rematch with the Kings. Portland should win, of course. But the Blazers better make sure they deserve to win.

Anthony Morrow: Nothing wrong with Blazers adding another shooter

Anthony Morrow: Nothing wrong with Blazers adding another shooter

The Trail Blazers this week announced that they've signed veteran Anthony Morrow to a training camp contract. Not a big deal, most likely. You need extra players during camp and the exhibition season. There are always free agents added for camp.

But Morrow interests me more than the average camp addition.

I've always had a weakness for wild-card scorers -- either terrific one-on-one players or three-point gunners. I've never cared if they can defend or rebound or pass. It's just that I've seen many times in the NBA the value of that streak shooter or instant-offense player off the bench. Morrow is a career 41.7 percent shooter from three-point range. Folks, that's more than pretty good.

Is there a place for him in a starting lineup or even a regular rotation? No, I doubt it. But there are nights in the NBA when stuff just isn't working. Offensive players aren't scoring and a team is slowly drifting out of a game. Morrow is the kind of player who can get you back in the game. I've see him do it. Put him in, run some stuff to get him a sliver of daylight from three-point range and he'll likely knock down some shots.

What more could you ask from a 10th man off your bench?

And the best thing about Morrow is that he'd be cheap. This isn't Ryan Anderson making $20 million per season. This is a minimum-salary guy.

Now understand, Morrow is very likely a longshot just to make the Portland roster. The most obvious reason he's even in the Portland training camp is to put some pressure on Pat Connaughton and Jake Layman. The Trail Blazers would love to see either of those young players develop into a dependable outside shooter. This team needs more wing shooters with range. Perhaps the presence of Morrow will be a subtle push for those players.

Either way, I like the idea of seeing another shooter in camp. The way the game is being played in the NBA these days, you just can't seem to have enough long-range gunners.

Trail Blazer summer-league team represented the franchise well

Trail Blazer summer-league team represented the franchise well

LAS VEGAS – Before the start of the annual Las Vegas Summer League tournament, I made the offhand remark that when it was finished, every team but one would tell you the truth -- that winning a summer-league championship is about as big a deal as a single melting ice cube on a typical 113-degree day here.

The other team – the one that won the tournament – would tell you, though, how meaningful and important it was. That it is a sign of good things to come.

But I didn't expect the Los Angeles Lakers to take it to the extreme, with Magic Johnson telling the assembled crowd and a national television audience, “The Lakers are back.”

Sorry, I don’t buy that. Especially with the Lakers, They have a long way to go to be “back” – that is, at the point when they were “Showtime” and the most popular team in the NBA.

Johnson knows better than anyone that summer league stuff is mostly meaningless and no guarantee of future success (or failure).

Portland’s summer-league experience was a little different than most teams here. The Trail Blazers were not loaded with a crop of youngsters who will someday be wearing a Portland uniform.

Sure, you’you'll be seeing more of Jake Layman, Caleb Swanigan, Zach Collins and (maybe) Pat Connaughton. But the Trail Blazers’ march to the championship game was fueled by some very tough and experienced free agents here playing for a job.

It would be nice to say that a few of those guys will be in training camp this fall trying to win a roster spot with Portland, but barring a trade that frees a couple of roster spots, that isn't’t likely to happen.

The free agents wearing Portland uniforms likely played well enough to earn invites to teams that offer a much better chance of them earning a spot. The Trail Blazer roster is, for right now at least, on lockdown.

So what does this fun run to the last night of the tournament mean for the Portland franchise? I’m glad you asked.

I think it was important. First, the franchise showed it could make some shrewd moves in bringing in experienced free agents who could help its roster players in important ways – like getting them the ball where they needed it, on time, and were unselfish enough to defer to those players when necessary. The group followed orders and played hard.

Of course the summer also showcased the Portland coaching staff, which I’m more impressed with every season. Jim Moran was the head coach and looked very comfortable in that position.

But all the assistants have input in the summer and they did a terrific job of instituting the Portland system and getting the most out of the players they had.

This Portland team played to its strengths, which meant pounding the ball inside with Swanigan and Jarnell Stokes. And this was a physical group that did that very well.

I think the showing of this team was good for the franchise, reflecting favorably on its organizational abilities and system. And it was especially good for Swanigan and Layman, who showed they could handle the responsibility of being important players. Both improved with each game.

I believe Swanigan will earn rotation minutes with sheer effort and versatility. He is a willing banger and a very good passer who chases every rebound.

Of course doing those things against veteran NBA players is a lot different than doing it in summer league.

And come on, Magic, you know that as well as anyone. I love the guy but for now, the only thing "back" with the Lakers is Johnson himself.

Trail Blazers win again, move into Summer League "Final Four"

Trail Blazers win again, move into Summer League "Final Four"

LAS VEGAS -- "Final Four."

Let's just call it that for the Portland Trail Blazers, who defeated the San Antonio Spurs 94-87 Saturday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center to advance to the semifinals of the Summer League tournament. The semis will be played Sunday and the finals Monday night in the same venue.

VIDEO: Coach Moran all smiles after the win

The Blazers, who came into the tournament as the 16th seed, got 23 points from Jake Layman, who was 1-8 from the field in the first half, and 16 from Caleb Swanigan in a game when Portland dominated the rebounding department 48-31, which included a 21-6 edge on the offensive boards.

VIDEO: Coach Moran evaluates the Free Agents

Behind 14 first-half points from Swanigan, Portland led by seven at halftime and took a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter but couldn't hold onto it. Derrick White's three-point play late in the period left the sore tied at 65 going into the fourth quarter.Layman warmed up in the fourth quarter, however, and hit three three-point goals to give Portland an 84-74 lead with four and a half minutes left in the game.

VIDEO: Jake Layman on the free agents

Surprising Trail Blazers win, move into tourney quarterfinals

Surprising Trail Blazers win, move into tourney quarterfinals

LAS VEGAS -- Free-agent guards Nick Johnson and RJ Hunter held the fort down while two key starters battled foul trouble and the Portland Trail Blazers' summer-league team stunned the top-seeded Toronto Raptors 91-85 in front of a sparse crowd in Cox Pavilion that for some reason elected not to watch the Lonzo Ball Show across the hall in the Thomas & Mack Center.

With the win the Trail Blazers move into a quarterfinal tournament matchup against San Antonio Saturday afternoon at 1pm.

VIDEO: Swanigan looking forward to rematch vs. Spurs

Portland led through much of the first half and was still within five points with seven minutes to play in the third quarter, when Jake Layman drew his fourth foul. With Caleb Swanigan already on the bench with four fouls, the Trail Blazers appeared to be in trouble. But Johnson kept them within 68-67 heading into the final period with a couple of three-pointers.

And behind Johnson and his running mate at guard, RJ Hunter, Portland jumped to a 79-71 lead with 6:18 to play in the game.

Johnson's 17 points led the Trail Blazers and Swanigan chipped in another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Blazers open summer-league tourney with win over Chicago

Blazers open summer-league tourney with win over Chicago

LAS VEGAS -- Jake Layman had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals Wednesday night as the Trail Blazers opened the tournament portion of the Las Vegas Summer League with an 88-77 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Layman had struggled in his previous summer league games and got off to a slow start against the Bulls Wednesday night. He was 0-3 from the field in the first period but caught a little run in the second quarter that netted him 10 points. In the third quarter he finally got the Blazers the lead with a dunk, a steal and a layup. He had 20 points heading into the fourth quarter and the teams were tied at 61.

Portland also got nice efforts from Jarmell Stokes, R.J. Hunter, Nick Johnson and Antonius Cleveland, who contributed down the stretch of the game.

The Trail Blazers move on to a second-round matchup vs. Toronto Thursday night at 7 that will be telecast on NBA-TV.

Trail Blazers lose game, and Zach Collins, Pat Connaughton to injury

Trail Blazers lose game, and Zach Collins, Pat Connaughton to injury

LAS VEGAS – The good news for the Trail Blazers: Caleb Swanigan continues to impress at the Las Vegas Summer League.

The bad news: Both Zach Collins (right quadriceps contusion) and Pat Connaughton (left hamstring strain) were injured Tuesday after playing only 11 minutes in the Blazers’ 99-85 loss to San Antonio.

Swanigan, whose relentless effort has been eye-catching throughout Portland’s first three games, has been the standout player for the Blazers in Las Vegas, his effort and activity as impressive as his statistics.

On Tuesday, the 26th overall pick had 19 points and 13 rebounds while hitting 8-of-13 shots. His offensive arsenal on Tuesday included a three-pointer, an offensive rebound putback, a mid-range jumper and a layin in transition, and he continued to be active and agile on the defensive end.

Swanigan, who has had double-doubles in two of the three games, is averaging 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds at Summer League. 

How would Swanigan describe his mentality when he steps on the floor?

"Just balls to the wall, that’s my biggest thing … pardon my French, but play hard, man,'' he said.

Summer League hasn’t been as memorable for Collins, Connaughton or Jake Layman, the four players who will be, or are in contention to stick, with the NBA club.

Collins came up lame in the second quarter and went to the bench, where he slammed a towel to the ground in frustration. At halftime he limped to the locker room, then was the last to return to the court, where he didn’t take part in warmups. Shortly after, the team announced he would miss the rest of the game with a bruise to his upper right leg.

Collins finished with four points and four rebounds while making two of three shots. In three Summer League games, the No. 10 overall pick  averaged 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while hitting 6-of-23 shots.

"I don’t know if I got hit, or pulled something,  or what,'' Collins said. "I just know it hurts"

Collins said he was feeling discomfort in the leg after Sunday's game, and said that same discomfort "flared up" on Tuesday.

"Which kind of sucks because I felt like I was getting into a little but of a rhythm offensively, fianlly,'' Collins said. "Then, my leg gave out.'' 

Connaughton, who is trying to show the Blazers he deserves a $1.4 million contract before the July 25 deadline outlined in his contract, had his best game shortened when he pulled up lame in the second quarter. Connaughton had seven points, two rebounds and three assists in 11 minutes, hitting 3-of-6 shots, including 1-of-3 from three-point range.

The Blazers (1-2) did not say how long Collins or Connaughton would be out, but Collins said his hope is to return at some point in Vegas.

"If I'm good to to go, I'm going to play,'' Collins said.

Meanwhile, Layman continued to struggle with his shot on Tuesday. After going 1-for-13 on Sunday against Boston, Layman went 1-for-9 against the Spurs, finishing with three points and three rebounds. Layman in three games has made only 6-of-30 shots.

San Antonio (2-1) was led by guard Bryn Forbes who had 35 points on 11-of-26 shooting.

Poor shooting dooms Trail Blazers in loss against Boston

Poor shooting dooms Trail Blazers in loss against Boston

LAS VEGAS – There wasn’t a lot of happy faces around the Trail Blazers on Sunday after few, if any, played well during Sunday’s 70-64 loss to Boston at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Portland missed its first six shots, fell behind 11-0, and skidded to the finish from there while shooting 27.9 percent in a game that was stop-and-go because of a litany of fouls.

Blazers’ top draft pick Zach Collins didn’t have the rebound offensive performance he hoped for after sputtering in his debut, but he once again showed signs of being a reliable and sturdy defender. Collins had five points, five rebounds and two blocks while making 1-of-6 shots from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line.

Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers’ other first round pick, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds while making 4-of-12 shots.

It wasn’t any better for the Blazers’ roster holdovers, Jake Layman (1-for-13) and Pat Connaughton (5-for-11), who hit his last three shots. 

Boston got off to a quick start thanks to two of their prized youngsters. Second-year player Jaylen Brown hit his first two three-pointers and No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum continues to impress as a polished and NBA-ready rookie. Brown had 13 points and eight rebounds while Tatum finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.