LaMarcus Aldridge

The big-time players the Trail Blazers are probably NOT going after

The big-time players the Trail Blazers are probably NOT going after

Earlier this week, I wrote about what the Trail Blazers might do in the wake of the injury to Rodney Hood and the troubles the team is having winning games without its injured players.

I said I did not expect any moves to be made that were not long-term moves – trades that would help beyond this season.

It’s time to go more in-depth on that topic because there are rumors out there about players who do not fit into that category. Portland will be shopping the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside and possibly Kent Bazemore, in order to swing a deal for a major piece – perhaps the last big deal the team will be able to make for a few seasons.

So, quite obviously, that means acquiring players with more than this season left on their contracts. In other words, unless they get stuck without a better deal, they would probably not be looking to trade an expiring contract for another expiring contract.

If you look at their search in that context, you can eliminate several talented players who have been mentioned as possibilities by the national media.

Among those players whose contracts expire this season:

Danilo Gallinari

Gordon Hayward

Paul Millsap

Bogdan Bogdanovic

DeMar DeRozen

Otto Porter Jr.

Anthony Davis

Andre Drummond

Understand, too, that it appears Davis and Drummond are expected to stay with their current teams and most of the other players on that list would probably not commit to re-signing with Portland without first testing the market this summer. Porter is a player the Trail Blazers have coveted, but without a commitment to re-sign here that they could trust, it would be a gamble.

Trading the expiring contract of Whiteside is perhaps the team’s last best chance of landing a big-time starter for what this team expects to be a championship core. Would you do it for a player you cannot count on to be back next season? Especially with what’s going on this year. What was supposed to be a run at the Finals is looking more and more like a pipedream. But with the expected return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins next season and beyond, the hope of a big run is still alive.

That’s why the players with major seasons (and major money) left on their deals are the most likely targets. The most-often mentioned are Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Love has been mentioned frequently, but is a question mark. There was a report that Portland is his favored destination, but I have not been able to substantiate that and, in fact, have been told by people close to him that the report is not necessarily true. And the other concern with Love – who is obviously a terrific player with championship pedigree – are his injuries. Over his last three seasons, he has played 60, 59, and 22 games. At an average salary of $30.1 million over the next three seasons, his availability is a concern.

Griffin, also a spectacular player, has the same problem. Over the last six seasons, he’s played in an average of only 38 games per season.

Aldridge, more durable than the others, carries some concern at 34 years old, that his career would be nearing a decline – and he also has only one season left on his contract.

One other thing should be mentioned, too. There is a very good chance that Whiteside’s contract alone might not be enough to land any of these players. Some sweetening might be required to make a trade for players who have been all-stars.

Would the Trail Blazers include a first-round pick in a deal? Yes, I think they would. But would they be willing to throw in Collins? Anfernee Simons?

I don’t know. I do believe that over the next couple of seasons, any of the three players just mentioned would be better for them than the young ones. But after that, not so sure. If they include one of their promising young players, that would mean they are going all-in for the next couple of seasons in a search for a championship. And perhaps paying a price for it in the seasons after that.

Here's what I think the Trail Blazers are going to do -- and I support it

Here's what I think the Trail Blazers are going to do -- and I support it

In the wake of Monday night’s nasty home loss in Moda Center to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the season-ending injury to Rodney Hood, a lot of people seem to think the Portland Trail Blazers need to make a move. A trade, a free-agent signing – SOMETHING. But here’s what I think they will do:

Nothing.

And I think that’s the right course of action, too.

This team has been ripped apart by injuries. Last season’s No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the NBA, the Trail Blazers are now last in the league in that department. From first to worst in a few months. And why not? This team opened the season with thoughts of eventually having five seven-footers on its roster.

There was Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, Jusuf Nurkic and Pau Gasol. But Gasol never made it to the active roster and retired. Collins was sidelined with shoulder surgery and Nurkic still hasn’t made it back from his broken leg. Labissiere, who wasn’t even expected to play much this season, has become the backup center.

And the Trail Blazers have taken a big step back on the boards and in physicality. Offensive rebounding is critical to this team, because it’s often the only avenue for easy baskets. Portland doesn’t get a lot of fast-break baskets and now, without its big men, isn’t getting to the foul line enough,

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are having to carry a big load.

When Collins went down, Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, went out and got Carmelo Anthony – a nice addition. Anthony was a player with a presence and the team didn’t have to give up anything to get him.

The Trail Blazers had championship aspirations this season, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious those dreams won’t be realized this season without the big men.

This franchise would be stupid to sacrifice any of its future to obtain a role player just to attempt to improve its position this season.

With Nurkic, Collins and Hood back in the fold next season, the Trail Blazers would be smart to keep their vision long range – next season should be a nice reset.

In the meantime, there is still a chance that a major trade could be made that would make sense for the future.

Hassan Whiteside’s expiring contract has always been expected to be a trade piece at some point. Names such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have been mentioned and they would be difference-makers. But much more so next year than this, in all likelihood.

In regard to deals, it’s important to remember that NBA free agents cannot be traded for three months after they signed, or until after Dec. 15, whichever is later. And this season’s trade deadline is Feb. 6 and there is often a flurry of activity in the days leading up to the deadline as teams come to the realization that they probably won’t make the playoffs.

But Portland is not in a great space to make a deal with the Whiteside contract. The free-agent crop this summer is a weak one, with many of the top players expected to re-sign with their old teams. That would mean some teams would be reluctant to deal for a player who would provide cap space when there is not much to spend it on.

And there is a perception, too, that the Trail Blazers are desperate and other teams would want to squeeze more out of Portland in any deals.

So this is another situation when patience will be required. If the team doesn’t play any better than it did Sunday night against the Thunder, what would be the use of adding some marginal free agent who is sitting at home on his couch right now?

I would expect Nurkic to be back at some point this season, at least on a limited basis. Collins, I would assume, is more doubtful.

Better to allow the team’s younger players to grab that playing time, getting them ready for a bench role next season.

Instant Analysis: Blazers rally late vs. Becky Hammon & Tim Duncan led Spurs to save the win

Instant Analysis: Blazers rally late vs. Becky Hammon & Tim Duncan led Spurs to save the win

SAN ANTONIO – The Trail Blazers jumped out to a good start, like they have done in numerous games so far this season, but the difference on Saturday night vs. the Spurs was that the Blazers were able to come up with big plays in the finals seconds.

Of course, San Antonio made its run in the third quarter. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was hit with two technical fouls within seconds of each other in the third period.

With no Coach Pop, Becky Hammon became the first female acting head coach in the league since she is officially listed as San Antonio’s first assistant. Hammon and Tim Duncan worked together to handle timeouts. 

The move by Pop to get tossed looked like his way of lighting a fire under his team.

It worked until a loose ball foul on DeMar DeRozan meant two free throws for Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside sank them both and then came up with a big rebound in the final seconds.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 121, Spurs 116
Here are three quick takeaways from Saturday’s win:

1. Portland lets it fly from three

Multiple Blazers were getting in on the action from three-point range. Whether it was Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Mario Hezonja, there were plenty of made threes on Saturday night.

Rookie Nassir Little, who has been labeled as a guy that needs to work on his shot from deep, had one early from the corner. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave Little the starting nod at power forward for the second straight game.  Little also assisted on a couple of threes as well.

2.  Whiteside making his presence known

Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside went to work early on both ends. Whiteside forced LaMarcus Aldridge out of the paint. LA shot from three, and went to his fadeaway jumper more often than not as to not take it to the rim against Whiteside. On the other end of the ball, Whiteside started the game a perfect 4-for-4. He wasn’t as effective in the pick and roll in the second half.  

3.  CJ is back

After what he has called a slow start to the season offensively, CJ McCollum was cooking on Saturday night. He was efficient from three, and was able to score in a variety of ways. He looked like his old self, and the Blazers needed every bit of McCollum’s 32 points.

Up Next: Portland continues its six-game trip with game number two in Houston on Monday night. The Blazers and Rockets tip-off at 5:00pm PT.

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

 

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Instant Analysis: Spurs hold on, overcome extremely slow start to beat Blazers

Instant Analysis: Spurs hold on, overcome extremely slow start to beat Blazers

SAN ANTONIO – In the Blazers first second night of a back-to-back this season, Portland started the game with an extra pep in their step vs. the Spurs.

Through the first quarter, it looked as if the Blazers were going to steamroll the Spurs. Portland jumped out to a 23-4 lead after hitting a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range.

But, as goes the NBA, the Spurs went on a run to close out the first half, and the Blazers had to settle with six-point lead at the break after leading by as many as 19 points.

Chalk it up to the Spurs second half adjustments, to the Blazers playing on the road for the second straight night, or to the Blazers playing with different lineups, but one thing is certain: Portland struggled offensively in the second half.

By the fourth quarter, the Blazers looked like they were forcing a lot of their shots, and San Antonio took advantage of Portland’s lackluster offense. A late push by Damian Lillard helped Portland take the game down to the wire, and had the Spurs scrambling. But, San Antonio managed to hold on for the win. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Spurs 113, Trail Blazers 110
Here are three quick takeaways from Monday’s loss:

1. A team effort without Collins

Anthony Tolliver got the start in the place of the injured Zach Collins (left shoulder); just as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said pregame, filling Collins’ role would be by committee.

Fortunately for the Blazers, the Spurs have a small-ball starting lineup with LaMarcus Aldridge at center. Hassan Whiteisde, Anthony Tolliver, and Skal Labissiere all saw time guarding Aldridge. The combination of bigs did a solid job containing LA until midway through the fourth quarter.  

As for Collins, he will be ‘further evaluated’ when the team returns to Portland late Wednesday night.

2. DeRozan went to work in the second half

DeMar DeRozan was a tough cover for Portland. Once the Spurs All-Star wing knew the game was within reach, he went on the attack. Whether it was in a fastbreak situation or a half court set, DeRozan was scoring in bunches.

3. Rough night for Lillard

Damian Lillard wasn’t able to get much of anything going offensively. Lillard had a difficult time at the rim, where the Spurs would meet him with a block or he just wasn’t able to finish.

The Blazers All-Star point guard also racked up personal fouls and try as he might, he wasn’t able to get into any sort of a rhythm going until the final two minutes of the game when he hit two consecutive threes down the stretch to make it interesting again. It was just a little too late for Portland to come out on top. 

Up Next: The Blazers conclude their four-game road trip on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. The Blazers and Thunder tip-off at 5:00pm PT.

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

Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers beat Timberwolves in 2006 home opener

Countdown to Tip-Off: Blazers beat Timberwolves in 2006 home opener

We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-2020 NBA season by looking back at each of the home opener wins (the streak is now at 18). Here is a look at what happened back in 2006 when the Portland Trail Blazers faced the Minnesota Timberwolves in their home-opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2006? Let’s paint the picture:

  • Due to Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets played most of their home games in Oklahoma City for the second season in a row.  
  • Allen Iverson played for the Nuggets
  • Steve Nash was the reigning MVP 
  • The Heat were the defending champions
  • Chris Paul had just won Rookie of the Year
  • Andrea Bargnani was the No.1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft
  • The Blazers had the No.4 pick and drafted Tyrus Thomas. 
  • They would trade Thomas to Chicago that same night in return for LaMarcus Aldridge. 
  • They also traded Randy Foye to Minnesota in return for the rights to the No.6 pick. The Minnesota selection? Brandon Roy. The rest is history. 

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves jumped on the Blazers early, grabbing the 30-14 lead after the first quarter. It looked like the home-opener win streak could be in jeopardy. But the Blazers scratched and clawed their way back into the game. They outscored the Timberwolves in the second and third quarters, then held them to just 12 points in the fourth. The Blazers trailed 86-85 with under a minute to play before Juan Dixon hit a clutch three from the corner to give the Blazers the one-point lead with 6.2 seconds remaining. Minnesota had one last shot, but Kevin Garnett missed an eight-foot jumper and the Blazers claimed another victory. 

Notable stats: 

Minnesota -

Kevin Garnett – 20 points, 10 rebounds.

Ricky Davis– 16 points, 7 assists

Mike James – 19 points, 7 assists

Portland –

Brandon Roy – 16 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds

Travis Outlaw – 18 points, 15 rebounds

Zach Randolph – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assist

LaMarcus Aldridge: DNP, Inactive

The Blazers would go on to finish the season 32-50, an 11 game improvement on the previous season, but would once again miss the playoffs. 

Trail Blazers continue to wait on opponent as Spurs force Game 7 vs. Nuggets

Trail Blazers continue to wait on opponent as Spurs force Game 7 vs. Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets were looking to close out their series with the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. But behind a fourth-quarter flurry, the Spurs forced a Game 7, beating the Nuggets 120-103.

In the win, former Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists. All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan finished with 25 points, including 18 in the second half, on 12-of-16 shooting with seven assists and seven rebounds.

Aldridge is averaging 20.7 points per game in the series.

San Antonio shot 66.7% in the first quarter to start Game 6 with 34-24 lead. The Nuggets have struggled to come out strong all series. Denver won its first and only first quarter in Game 5.

The Spurs were able to hold of the Nuggets on Thursday despite Nikola Jokic scoring a franchise-record 43 points.

Now it all comes down to Game 7 in Denver. The winner on Saturday night will face the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference semifinals.

There have been plenty of questions regarding Denver’s lack of playoff experience and Game 7 could prove to be too much for the young squad. Especially considering, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has seen his fair share of win-or-go-home games in the playoffs.

NBC Sports Northwest Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes will have you covered in Denver for the Nuggets and Spurs Game 7 on Saturday night. Be sure to check back at our website, on social media, and on the MyTeams App on Saturday for articles and videos from the Pepsi Center as we gear up for the Blazers semifinals matchup.

With the Blazers getting set to face either the Nuggets or the Spurs, here’s a quick recap of what went down between Portland and Denver, and Portland and San Antonio during the regular season:

The Nuggets took the season series 3-1 over the Blazers, but all three of Portland’s losses were competitive and close ones. In the first meeting between these two, the Nuggets won by just one point. The other two games, in which Denver won, were both decided by nine points or less. In the final meeting of the season, and the Blazers only win over Denver, the Nuggets rested Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

San Antonio evened its series (2-2) against Portland in the last meeting of the season with a 108-103 win back on March 16th.  The previous three games were high scoring with the winning teams scoring at least 121 points.

Game One of the Trail Blazers conference semifinals versus the winner of Denver-San Antonio will tip-off on Monday.

Stay ahead of your Trail Blazers and get all you need to know this postseason. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more.  All you have to do is download the app,  log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now!

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the San Antonio Spurs

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the San Antonio Spurs

Saturday night marked the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the Trail Blazers and Spurs this season. Portland was looking to snap the Spurs’ seven-game winning streak.  

It was a close game throughout, but San Antonio prevailed with a 108-103 win. The Blazers finish the road trip, 3-0.
Portland didn’t just lose the game though, the Blazers also lost CJ McCollum to a left leg injury.
Final Box Score: Spurs 108, Trail Blazers 103

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers loss in San Antonio:

 

1.The Aldridge and DeRozan show early

Playing in San Antonio is always a difficult place to play. The Spurs entered Saturday’s game with a 27-7 home record and had won nine straight at home before Saturday’s game. A lot of the Spurs home success has to do with their superstars coming alive on the offensive end in front of the home crowd.

At the end of the first quarter, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 of the Spurs’ first 23 points. These are two tough matchups for any team in the NBA.

The Blazers started mixing up their defense on the two Spurs All-Stars with Jusuf Nurkic switching on to Aldridge. By putting a bigger defender on LA that slowed him down and since the Blazers kept Aldridge and DeRozan guessing on defense Portland was able to temper them after their hot start.

The second quarter could’ve been a time for the Blazers to fold, but they didn’t. San Antonio started the second on a 7-0 run, but after being down 11 points in the second quarter, the Blazers worked their way back into the game and went on a 14-1 run.

There might be something to playing a team that is also on the second leg of a back-to-back. You have to figure the Blazers mindset going into Saturday’s game was -- who can fight through fatigue better?

The Spurs just barely won that battle.

 

2. Blazers go through the Bosnian Beast

The Trail Blazers went away from their typical three-point shooting after struggling from long distance. Through the first two quarters, the Blazers were 3-for-13 from deep after starting the game 0-for-8.  

But what was working for them? -- Pick and rolls with Jusuf Nurkic.

At the break, Nurkic had a team high 12 points and eight rebounds. Even with Nurkic matching up with Aldridge defensively, he was still able to stay out of foul trouble early. Nurkic had just one foul at the end of the first half.
 

3. With McCollum out, Lillard and Hood takeover… But it wasn’t enough

CJ McCollum left the game in the third quarter.

At the 7:08 mark of the third quarter, Jakob Poeltl blocked McCollum 's driving lay-in, but McCollum’s legs then got tangled up with Poeltl’s and McCollum fell awkwardly to the ground.

McCollum was helped to the locker room and did not return.

As Blazer fans wrote on twitter, Damian Lillard was playing for McCollum after Lillard went on a scoring tear to end the third. Both Lillard and Rodney Hood kept the Blazers in the game. But San Antonio squeaked out the win with their team defense and hot three-point shooting.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers start a four-game homestand on Monday night when the Indiana Pacers make a stop in Portland. You can catch the game at 7:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage tips off at 6:00pm.

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Outsiders Blog: Would you welcome the L-Train back to Portland?

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USA Today

Outsiders Blog: Would you welcome the L-Train back to Portland?

It seems like it was yesterday and at the same time, it feels like it was forever ago that LaMarcus Aldridge called Rip City home. Aldridge, once the face of the franchise, left in 2015 to play with the San Antonio Spurs in his home state of Texas. 

At the time, Aldridge leaving felt like a bitter betrayal. He said he wanted to be the greatest Blazers player of all-time and then bolted in free agency. Fans felt played. Teammates seemed to be caught off guard. Reports started to surface that there may have been a rift between him and Damian Lillard. The whole situation just felt dirty.

But as the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. Now, some four years later, it appears Aldridge and Lillard have mended fences and according to The Athletic, Aldridge is open to returning to Portland. 

"I keep telling him (Damian Lillard) I’m going to come back and finish there," Aldridge said in a recent interview. "That’s something him and I have talked about — playing together again.”

So, the question is, would you welcome The L-Train back to Portland?

The Outsiders share their thoughts:

Chris Burkhardt: Don't let hurt feeling from 2015 cloud your judgment. This is a no-brainer. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. LaMarcus Aldridge is still a high-level player. He was an All-Star this season and can still change the game. As much as I enjoy Al-Farouq Aminu, I would take Aldridge over him 10 out to 10 times without thinking twice. A team with Lillard, CJ McCollum Aldridge, and Jusuf Nurkic as its core is pretty dang good if you ask me. I'm not thinking about this for the story or the reunion, I'm just thinking about basketball. If one of the best power forwards in the game wants to play for you, you welcome him on board.
Will it happen? Probably not. But I won't be upset if it does.

Alex Haigh: This is how I feel, and I think I've come a long way since 2015 when he ruined my life... I am so over that, that I think I'm ok with him coming back. As long as it benefits the team and as long as they aren't a dirty player, bring 'em in.

Jake McGrady: Under the right circumstances. If it's in free agency, he'll be 35-years old when his contract ends in San Antonio in 2021, at that point if we're able to get him on some sort of cheaper veterans deal... even if he were a backup he's still better than most of the power forwards in the NBA. To answer the question, yes. 

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Trail Blazers trying different combinations but unlock win over San Antonio Spurs

Trail Blazers trying different combinations but unlock win over San Antonio Spurs

It was a game that saw the Trail Blazers testing as many different combinations as a rookie safecracker trying to bust into a bank vault.

In the end, the Blazers found a combination that worked and it opened up a 127-118 Portland win over the Spurs.

In the first quarter, it appeared that former Trail Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge was going to single-handedly carve up Portland. Aldridge hit five of eight shots and scored 13 points in a period that ended with San Antonio holding a 34-31 lead.

But then the Trail Blazers got a little rougher. Meyers Leonard, who was accustomed to battling Aldridge in practice years ago, came in for Portland and got a little bit rougher, a little more physical with Aldridge.

Jusuf Nurkic picked up on it and followed suit. Aldridge would make just 2 of his last 11 shots and score only four more points the rest of the night.

“LaMarcus is a monster down there,” Leonard said afterward. “But I felt we were kind of trying to feel out the game – gauge whether we were going to double off the baseline, guard him individually, things like that.

“My job was just to come in and try to disrupt the game. Be physical. In the second half, ‘Nurk’ did a great job on him. Nurk had a really good second half and LaMarcus plays a lot of minutes. LaMarcus looked to be a little worn down in the second half and that's when shots end up being a little short.

“I try to always come in and be physical and disrupt his rhythm a little bit. On the first post up he bobbled it – maybe he traveled and maybe he didn’t, I don’t know. I just try to make it difficult for him and in the second half, ‘Nurk' was very, very good.”

Nurkic knew he had a battle on his hands with Aldridge.

“We are big guys,” he said. “He’s playing his game and I tried to make it hard for him.”

The Trail Blazers built a 21-point lead with 7:45 to play in the third quarter but the Spurs sprung Rudy Gay loose at the three-point line and they had it tied at 88 with two minutes left in the quarter. But Portland dug in and got the advantage back up to 17 about halfway through the final quarter.

CJ McCollum had 30 points and Damian Lillard 24 for the Blazers. Nurkic totaled 22. Newcomer Rodney Hood made his debut with 14 points, hitting six of his seven shots.

“We started off the game going back and forth,” Lillard said. “Both teams scoring and then kind of got on top of that, had a good second quarter, started the third well, too, and then they had a run.

“A lot of mistakes – losing guys, letting them get open shots, they just had a really good stretch. That happens. It’s a game of runs. They had their run but I was proud of how we handled that.

“We pulled out a good win.”

McCollum agreed.

“We never panicked,” he said. “We know they’re a good team – well coached, and they’re going to execute and play hard.”

Portland Coach Terry Stotts admitted that with the addition of Hood, his job of putting together a rotation and in-game substitutions has gotten more difficult.

“Honestly,” he said, “it’s going to be a challenge for everybody. It’s going to be a challenge for me, it’s going to be a challenge for the team. I mean, there are going to be nights whether it’s Mo or Chief or Zach or Meyers or Jake or Evan or – you go down the list.

“We kind of had a rhythm to what we were doing and that rhythm has been broken and everybody is just going to have to be patient, figure it out and one night it’s going to be one thing and maybe the next night it won’t. That’s just the way it’s going to be until it changes.

Portland finished with a crew of Jake Layman, Hood, Nurkic, McCollum and Lillard -- and Stotts liked it.

"They were really good tonight," he said. "Jake was all over the place. For Jake, he goes one for five from three, but he certainly had a big impact on the game. That lineup gives us a lot of spacing, a lot of mobility and the question will always be, can we defend, matchup-wise. Can we defend the positions?

"It's going to take patience on everybody's part where different lineups may finish games."

Despite offensive spark, Trail Blazers' defense gets worse in loss to San Antonio Spurs

Despite offensive spark, Trail Blazers' defense gets worse in loss to San Antonio Spurs

Just when you thought the Trail Blazers’ defense couldn’t get any worse, it did.

The San Antonio Spurs made 60.2 percent of their shots, including a ridiculous 73.3 percent from three-point range, in a drubbing of Portland, the Blazers’ sixth loss in their last nine games.

Never mind the fact that the Trail Blazers got positive offensive performances from their starting forwards, Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. Or that Damian Lillard scored 37 points with 10 assists and just one turnover. Or that Portland shot 52.3 percent from the field.

None of that matters when you give up the kind of red-hot shooting that produces 131 points.

“I thought LaMarcus (Aldridge) played like an all-NBA player and (DeMar) DeRozan played like an all-NBA player,” said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. “Those two guys are great offensive players and they got untracked tonight. They have two all-NBA players and the rest of their players make threes.

“They shot a lot of twos, they made a lot of twos. We gave up some easy ones when we doubled LaMarcus in the second half.

“The doubles in the first half were good, they adjusted in the second half. I thought we competed. We gave up too many transition shots, and we didn’t communicate on the backside on double teams as well as we could have.

“I thought DeRozan and LaMarcus worked for their points.”

Maybe so, but they combined for 65 points and drew enough attention to leave teammates wide open for many easy shots. And the normally pedestrian Spurs had 17 fast-break points.

Portland clawed back to lead by seven in the third quarter but couldn’t get enough stops to make it stick and trailed by seven heading into the fourth quarter.

The Blazers opened the game looking like a team that wanted to force turnovers – slapping at ball-handlers and diving for loose balls. That was fine, but when it came to contesting shooters, there wasn’t a lot of improvement.

This is a team that allowed 106.3 points over its first 13 games but is now allowing 118.9 over its last 10.

Harkless hit both his three-point shots, scored eight points, had seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks in his best game of the season.

Aminu had his second straight 20-point game (the first time in his career he has put together such games back-to-back) on seven of nine shooting, with nine rebounds.

“It’s been a struggle,” Aminu said of his team’s defensive problems. “Teams have been able to score at a high efficiency rate pretty easily in the last couple of games.

“I like the way we started the game. We had a couple of steals, guys getting on the floor – we even showed that at halftime. We just have to make sure we sustain that.

“I think sometimes we just get happy and just start thinking you don’t have to work hard for it. We just have to learn how to do it for four quarters in order to win games. In the beginning of the year, it was just coming easy. We have to understand that this is the NBA and things are just not going to come easy.”

If they don't know that by now, I'm not sure if they will ever learn it.