LeBron James

A quiet Rodney Hood: A seamless fit for the Portland Trail Blazers

A quiet Rodney Hood: A seamless fit for the Portland Trail Blazers

After the Trail Blazers acquisition of wing Rodney Hood became official on Tuesday, Hood spoke with the media for the first time here in Portland. He started off his interview expressing his excitement and how he is ready to play “freely” and “really move the ball.”

Hood’s skill set and demeanor is going to work out just fine

Over the past few days since the Super Bowl Sunday trade went down, players and Blazers head coach Terry Stotts have talked about how they believe Hood can excel in the Blazers’ system.

After Hood’s first full practice with Portland on Wednesday, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard discussed how his newest teammate is already fitting in, “He’s quiet," Lillard said. “I think if he had like this big, wild, crazy personality it would be like, take a little bit more time, but he’s kinda just blending in… I think he’ll be good for our team.” 

Hood worked on half court sets before practice started on Wednesday morning since the main focus of Wednesday’s practice was on team defense.

The 26-year-old shooting guard has been studying videos of the Blazers’ sets since Monday morning and he has already picked up how this team likes to play after sitting on the bench during Tuesday’s matchup against the Heat.

Two players that stood out to Hood during Tuesday’s game:

Jake Layman and Jusuf Nurkic.

“The guys really play the right way. Guys really play hard… They trust each other. You see a guy like Dame, who doesn’t try to force a lot out there; it’s a great way to play… Jake is a really good cutter and guys know that. Nurk is a better passer than I thought before I got here,” Hood said.

The biggest goal and challenge for Hood now that he is a part of Rip City, does not depend on his stat line. 

“I just want to be a part of winning. Just throw myself into it. I’m not worried about coming in and trying to score X-amount of points or getting some notoriety and things like that, it’s just about being competitive and being whatever the coaches need from me to do and then try to do it to the best of my abilities,” Hood said.

Duke Blue Devils blood runs strong 

With the addition of Hood, Portland now has three Duke University Men’s Basketball alumni on its roster including Seth Curry and rookie Gary Trent Jr.

Hood was a redshirt during Curry’s final year as a Blue Devil.

In Curry’s mind there’s no doubt that Hood will fit in well with this Blazers squad, “he’s a pretty chill guy, always composed," Curry said. “He’s professional. He’s a mature guy and he’s smart, he knows the game, been around the league so, like I said he knows me, knows a few other guys that are already here.”

The two had many battles on the scrimmage court at Duke.

“He was always on the scout team and I would always have to guard him,” Curry said. “He was in the same position as me because a couple of years before I was redshirting and I think I was the third transfer that Coach K ever had and he might’ve been like the fourth, so I guess that’s elite company to be in.”

Now, it may sound a little out there, but after having a full practice under his belt, Hood isn’t the only one believing he is already making strides to get himself situated in his new role in Portland.

“For him being here a day already it looks like he feels comfortable. Curry said after Wednesday’s practice. He hit the ground running. We’re excited to have him.”

 

Lessons from the NBA Finals and King James

After being a member of the Utah Jazz from the 2014-15 season until right before his 40th game of the 2017-18 season, Hood was traded to Cleveland.

During the end of the 2017-18 season, Hood got to experience the NBA Finals with LeBron James and as you might imagine, he takes a lot away from his Finals experience.

“I learned a lot from the guys there. You know, LeBron, K-Love, Kyle Korver, just how to be professional, how to win at a very high-level… Those guys had a machine going, obviously going to four straight Finals and be a part of the one last year I learned a lot from him,” Hood said.

Even though he has only been in the league since 2014 and on just two different rosters before making his way to Portland, Hood realizes that it was not a bad situation for him Cleveland, it just wasn’t the perfect situation. 

“I look at it different now that I’m out of it—I got a chance to experience going to the Finals, I played with one of the best players to ever play the game… Sometimes it’s just things just don’t fit… It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, that’s just how it is. Sometimes you go to a job and something just might not fit,” Hood said. 

It looks like a change of scenery will be just what Hood needs. 

“I was excited to get a chance to play some competitive basketball,” Hood said. “This is a really good opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to it… Coming here I think it will be an easier transition for me (than the previous trade from Utah to Cleveland) – personal wise and playing wise,” Hood said.

What it comes down to is this…

After talking to Hood over the past two days, you can expect him—to be dialed in and be himself.

“Just be me. Get back to being me like I did a couple of years ago, just play my game. Coach Stotts lets you play your game and that’s a big reason why I was attracted to here,” Hood said.

He will get his chance to showcase “his game” on Thursday night at Moda Center when the Blazers host the Spurs at 7:30pm.

Report: LeBron James tried to get the Cavaliers to trade for Damian Lillard

Report: LeBron James tried to get the Cavaliers to trade for Damian Lillard

Ric Bucher at Bleacher Report has an interesting article up today on the struggles of LeBron James finding another superstar to play with. 

Hidden in the lengthy article is a nugget about the Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard:

League sources say that when James became convinced Irving couldn't be persuaded to stay in Cleveland, he suggested to the Cavs front office that it deal Irving to the Blazers for All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. The Cavs never called the Blazers

It seems like every year Damian Lillard has to restate his pledge to Portland. As recent as this summer, as rumors swirled about Lillard to the Lakers to join LeBron, Lillard made it clear he wants to stay in Portland

Bucher's story tells the same, with another direct quote from Damian Lillard:

I love where I am. I play for a great organization. I'm not looking for nothing. I think we'd (him and LeBron) complement each other well, but the only way that ever happens is if my team decides they don't want me no more. I'm trying to build something here.

The story from Bucher is worth a read for NBA fans in general, especially with the impending free agency coming in the summer of 2019. 

Damian Lillard is Portland. He is Rip City and he's pledged to stay as long as he's wanted here. With the passing of owner Paul Allen, there will be a new owner of the team eventually but it would still be hard to imagine a scenario where the Portland front office doesn't want Damian Lillard as part of this franchise. 

The question now will be, what sort of talent can they build around him to, as he stated, "build something here"?

Real Recognize Real: Trail Blazers give credit to LeBron

Real Recognize Real: Trail Blazers give credit to LeBron

LOS ANGELES - It was a Wednesday night in Los Angeles where the Hollywood stars gathered to watch LeBron James and the Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center.

It was a nationally televised game.

It was a night that history could be made.

Those were all the ingredients LeBron needed to score the most points by a Laker since Kobe Bryant had scored 60 in his final game and for James to move up on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list.

And, the Blazers gave credit where credit was due after dropping Wednesday night’s game to the Lakers, 126-117.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts felt his team played a good enough game offensively, but they weren’t able to get over the hump after the Lakers outscored Portland, 33-22 in the second quarter. Coach Stotts was also quick to talk about King James’ overall game.  

“LeBron- it was a dominant performance. Nineteen shots for 44 points, you don’t see that very often, almost a triple-double,” Stotts said.

James tied Chamberlain on an and-1 runner with 3:55 remaining in the fourth quarter and passed him on the next free throw. He now has 31,425 points for his career.

LeBron led the Lakers with 44 points after making 13 of his 19 attempts from the floor. He was just one assist shy from his 75th triple-double of his career, finishing with nine assists and 10 rebounds.

Before the game tipped-off, James walked over to the far sideline to chat with Super Model Cindy Crawford and the Terminator himself Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a scene that you will only see in Los Angeles.

The Trail Blazers watched several scenes in which LeBron scored, but they also witnessed him finding his teammates.  And we can’t forget that Wednesday’s contest was the third meeting between these two teams and we are less than a month into the season, which means it was third matchup on LeBron for Al-Farouq Aminu. 

“When you’re trying to lock in on LeBron, he’s a great passer, it makes it difficult,” Aminu said.

Portland now goes to 10-4 on the season. In the loss, Damian Lillard scored 31 points and dished out 11 assists, while CJ McCollum finished with 23 points.

The Lakers All-Star small forward was not only dominating in the paint, but he also made 5-of-6 from three-point range and when King James his hitting threes like that it’s pretty much game over.

“It’s hard. Chief did a great job forcing him into some tough spots and then he started getting to the free throw line. Refs started calling Flagrants and stuff like that and that allowed him to shoot uncontested free throws,” McCollum said.

“When he’s making his threes and then putting his head down it’s hard,” Stotts said.      

And as the kids say these days, ‘real recognize real,' and that’s exactly what Jusuf Nurkic did postgame.

“LeBron carried them through the second quarter, the third quarter. When he’s making shots, outside shots, and threes it’s tough to handle,” Nurkic said.

Another celebrity in attendance was Adam Sandler and his 10-year-old daughter, Sunny. They both gave LeBon a big ovation when history was made with LeBron passing Chamberlin on the all-time scoring list.

For one of the younger Laker players, Lonzo Ball, King James’ performance was one that he had seen many times when he was Sunny Sandler’s age.

“I grew up watching him do that, so it was cool to be on the floor with him, just being out there. I didn’t know he had the numbers he had tonight, but obviously, he had a great game and the stats showed it in the end,” Ball said postgame.

For many young players across the league this quote from Lonzo Ball rings true, they grew up watching LeBron dominate.

And now even after 15 years in the league he continues to show the youngsters and now the celebrities how King James can still easily take over a game.

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James did LeBron James things. You expect that and you can live with that many games.

But when Lonzo Ball, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope do things they don’t normally do, you’ve got a problem.

And the Trail Blazers had several problems Wednesday night in Staples Center when LeBron and his Lakers hung a 126-117 loss on Portland.

James hit five of his six three-point attempts and scored 44 points on 19 shots, along with gathering 10 rebounds and nine assists. He also passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scoring list.

“Anybody – when they’re hitting (three-point) shots like that, they are tough to guard,” said Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu, who had the responsibility of chasing James around most of the game. “It’s the same with Dame. It’s a different complexity when somebody’s so good at getting to the rim and then they hit shots that well. It makes it tough.

“A lot of guys from their team stepped up, though. They made some big shots. Those guys played well, too.

“Trying to lock in on LeBron, he’s such a good passer, it makes it difficult. And with the veteran pieces they have, like (Rajon) Rondo, they understand the game and they get the most out of their supporting cast.”

The Trail Blazers were done in by their defense. Offensively, they were not at their best but 117 points and 42.4 percent shooting from three-point range should be good enough to win most games.

But the Lakers got 20 points, two steals and two blocked shots from McGee, who made life miserable in the paint for Portland’s penetrators.

And Caldwell-Pope knocked down three of his four three-point attempts en route to 13 points.

Heck, even the notoriously poor-shooting Ball got into the act, making three of five from three-point range, where the Lakers shot 46.9 percent.

The Trail Blazers took a 13-point lead in the first quarter but James began to heat up from the outside and Los Angeles had a four-point lead by halftime.

Portland Coach Terry Stotts wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense.

“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump in the second half,” he said. “Lebron had a dominant performance. When he’s making his threes and putting his head down (driving to the hoop) it’s tough to guard.

“Offensively, we did a good job most of the game. We passed the ball well, we made our threes early. Offensively it was a good night for us.

“We couldn’t get over the hump defensively.”

Portland gave up 50 points in the paint, a high number.

“A lot of those paint points are probably transition. We gave up too much transition.”

This was just Game 1 of a six-game road trip for the Trail Blazers and the mission now is not to let the hangover from this one cost another game or two.

Game 2 is Friday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.

Blazers' strengths turn into weaknesses and they fall to Lakers

Blazers' strengths turn into weaknesses and they fall to Lakers

All season long the big story for the Trail Blazers has been their three-point shooting and bench. That was the story again Saturday night in Moda Center but in not exactly the same way.

When your strength becomes your weakness it’s pretty hard to handle. And there was no way Portland was going to overcome the double whammy of its three-point shooting dipping to 17.1 percent on 35 attempts and their bench getting outscored 51-26.

Stuff happens. And in this game, plenty of stuff happened. Crazy stuff. Hard-to-explain stuff.

The Lakers beat the Blazers for the first time since March 3, 2014 – Saturday's was a 114-110 game that saw Portland trail 95-75 with 9:49 to go before a frantic late comeback.

And by now, you’ve probably figured out that the NBA’s plus-minus system keeps track of the points scored for and against a team while a player is on the court. And, well, the ENTIRE Los Angeles starting lineup finished in the minus category, including LeBron James, who finished a team-high minus-22.

Of course, the Los Angeles bench all finished big in the plus-minus, led by Rajon Rondo, who was plus-28, with 10 rebounds, six assists and 17 points on 8 of 10 shots from the field. He was outstanding.

The Portland bench was a mess of minus, going a 2-14 from three with nine of the team’s 14 turnovers.

“It was a good comeback, came up a little short, obviously,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “It was one of those nights shooting the threes. I thought we had a lot of good looks that didn’t drop. It’s one of those games.

“Rajon Rondo was the difference maker. At one point his plus-minus was like 36. Their second unit came in and made a difference in the first half. Our second unit couldn’t really get on track in either half.”

It’s such a cliché when you talk about living by the three and dying by it – but this game was a classic case of Portland just not making enough clean looks from distance to change the final outcome.

“That’s how we play,” said Evan Turner, the leader of Portland’s second unit. “Obviously, we need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. They went on their run and we weren’t able to answer it back. But that’s how we play.

“Defense. You’ve got to play defense. We’ve got to play defense – get stops and get out in transition.”

One Blazer player played solid defense.

Al-Farouq Aminu did a first-class job on James all night long but, of course, that’s a thankless job. And getting a fair shake on the foul calls is a difficult task against James, too.

“It’s hard,” he said. “But it comes with the challenge of guarding a player like that. You expect it. I see Dame get some calls sometimes. You’re not trying to be bias – sometimes Dame gets calls because he deserves it.

“When you put that much pressure, when you’ve got that many shots, things like that, you earn those calls. It just goes along with the pressure they’re trying of trying to stop players like that.”

Aminu thought he got an offensive foul on LeBron in the second quarter but came down the next time and capped a James’ short jumper, a clean block that nevertheless left James begging for a foul call.

“It felt good, man,” Aminu said. “The play before I thought I got offensively fouled. It had their bench chirping a little bit. Rondo, we used to play together, was talking. So to get that block and quiet them up a little was good.”

Stotts said, “I thought ‘Chief’ did a really good job on him, as well as you can do on LeBron. I thought he made him work. He had good position on a lot of his drives, so we couldn’t ask for more from ‘Chief.’”

The Blazers got 30 points apiece from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but they combined to go just 4-17 from three. Seth Curry’s brother, Steph, made the trip to Portland to watch him play in person and would do well to stay away in the future.

Seth went 0-5 from the field and 0-4 from three.

But it was that kind of night for many Portland players, whose brothers probably were probably home watching on TV.

 

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Scoop Journal: FINALLY GAMES THAT MATTER

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NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: FINALLY GAMES THAT MATTER

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...


October 19th, 2018

Dear Scoop Journal,

THERE WAS A GAME THAT MATTERED!! Now it’s time to dump all my news and notes of the week in my journal….


*Rip City rallied together to honor the late Paul Allen.


*Thursday night’s home opener vs. the Lakers was CRAZY! It felt like a playoff game. The atmosphere was awesome and I got to see first hand what the LA and national media circus is like that follows LeBron James around—It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.


*Nik Stauskas is the new fan-favorite after one game. Seriously, the Moda Center crowd was cheering as loud as I’ve heard from them this season when Nik either entered the game or headed to the bench after he scored 13 straight points in the first half. Also, is Sauce Castillo the best nickname ever? Yeah! Nik wins for best nickname. 


*It’s going to take a lot of time for LeBron to figure out his team. He had six of the team's 15 turnovers. Ouch. 


*There’s something special about Blazer fans chanting “MVP” when Damian Lillard is at the free throw line AND playing against King James.


*At the end of Blazers practice on Friday it was fun to watch a mini 3-on-3 tournament between Anfernee Simons, Caleb Swanigan, Gary Trent Jr., Meyers Leonard, Wade Baldwin and former Blazer Steve Blake. Biggie was the loudest player out there. You knew when someone was about to set a pick.


*WE RECORDED THE LATEST SCOOP PODCAST!! It was great chatting with Meyers Leonard about how he met his wife and how she turned him down THREE TIMES!!! Plus, we talked about haters on social media. I'm looking forward to that podcast dropping soon. 

Purple, Gold and Chaotic: LeBron James and the Lakers makes for a frenzied atmosphere

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USA Today Images

Purple, Gold and Chaotic: LeBron James and the Lakers makes for a frenzied atmosphere

Two hours before tip-off hundreds of purple and gold clad fans poured into the lower bowl of the Moda Center.

They crowded in the corner nearest to the visitor’s bench, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Los Angeles Lakers’ newest star. It had the anticipatory feel of a rock concert. Only instead of tour t-shirts the fans were adorned with No. 23 jerseys with a few No. 8s and No. 24s dotting the crowd, signifying fandom from a previous iteration.

On the edges of the court, media members waited, too. More than 90 minutes before the Portland Trail Blazers played host to the rival Lakers everyone in the arena was anticipating a pregame shooting routine, a sound check of sorts, for a rock star that never showed.

LeBron James didn’t go through an on-court shooting routine before the game. He did finally arrive, of course. But he waited to make his entrance with a couple emphatic dunks in the first quarter, and by that time the visiting fans were outnumbered 10 to 1 by the Blazers faithful.

There is a certain amount of mayhem that will inevitably follow James and his Lakers all season. Not just on the court, where their first performance of the year ended in a 128-119 defeat and showed some of their obvious deficiencies, but behind the scenes as well.

Before Damian Lillard (28 points), Nik Stauskas (24 points) and Zach Collins (six blocks) spoiled James' debut, there were Blazers employees scrambling behind the scenes to prepare for a uniquely chaotic night.

There were more than 120 credentialed media members in the arena on Thursday, nearly twice as many than an average regular season night when the team credentials between 60 and 70 people. For the first time since anyone working with the Blazers could recall, the team opened up an auxiliary media section at the very top of the arena, creating press seating above the 300 level. There was also an additional media workroom put together to accommodate the horde of reporters’ and photographers’ postgame needs.

It was a perfect confluence of events to be a memorably chaotic scene in every corner of the building.

It was a season opener, meaning every local media affiliate was there with a full crew. It was a nationally televised game, meaning TNT cameras and on-air talent arrived early to capture the scene. It was a game featuring the Lakers, a global brand that also happens to be an NBA basketball team.  And it was LeBron James’ debut with the aforementioned brand, the sport’s brightest star donning his latest jersey for the first time.

The LeBron circus was magnified even more in the postgame press conference. Instead of the usual five cameras filming the postgame interviews, there were 16, not including TNT, lined up inside the Harry Glickman Media center. With such a massive crew, James’ postgame media session was moved out of Portland’s’ notoriously cramped visiting locker room into the media center where reporters and camera crews mobbed six and eight deep, standing on chairs and step ladders to crane for a sound bite from James.

As one cameraman walked away from the massive scrum, he sang “I haaaaaaated that.”

There won’t be many more nights like this inside the Moda Center this season. It was a one-off chaotic mess. But this could be close to the norm for James and Lakers on the road all year. Regardless of what happens on the court for the Lakers, their traveling show will include a behind the scenes media maelstrom at every stop. It’ll start with fans in Lakers jersey getting to arenas around the country hours before the games start and end with over-crowded interviews.

LeBron James, Lakers embark on arduous process with a thud

LeBron James, Lakers embark on arduous process with a thud

LeBron James on Thursday night delivered a nifty, no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass that helped define his unique court vision and knack for finding the open man amid the frenzied chaos of a NBA basketball game. 

Only this time not one of James' new Los Angeles Lakers teammates stood in the path of his offering that ultimately went out of bounds for a turnover during a 128-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

"I expected (Kyle Kuzma] to pop and he rolled," James said.

Such bumbling, and there were several, illustrate the chasm between where the Lakers are and where they want to end up. This is what happens when you take one of the greatest players of all time and stick him in the middle of a team filled with veteran castoffs and young players with boundless potential but very little in the way of tangible preparedness to play on James' level. 

So went the debut of LeBron James 4.0. The most hyped free agent since his last go around at this four years ago, is attempting to revive one of the NBA's most storied franchises in what would be his greatest trick ever should he help deliver a 17th NBA title to the Lakers and first since 2010. 

It's a journey that is going to take time. So much so that the Lakers, including James and coach Luke Walton, expressed zero shock at Thursday night's outcome or in how inconsistently they performed. It appeared almost as if each player almost expected the pot holes and speed bumps that made their regular season debut together go anything but smoothly. 

Patience is going to be the word of the day everyday until the Lakers figure this thing out. 

"That's all I've been preaching since the season started, since we got to work that it's going to take patience from our team, from all of us," James said. "Just to figure out one another. Figure out what we're good at. Figure out what we're not so good at. How we can be better at it."

James, not known for his patience in such situations, might need to exercise more than he ever has before, and do so knowing that at age 33 his basketball biological clock is ticking. 

During his first stint with Cleveland (version 1.0) that began in 2003, James, then 19, was the youngster asked to carry a team unworthy of his greatness. He did so to one finals appearance that ended in a sweep to San Antonio. The second incarnation (2.0) occurred in Miami where James, 26, orchestrated the union of himself and peers, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, leading to two NBA titles, but only after the Heat failed miserably in a finals loss to Dallas. Seeking redemption for ditching his home state team, James returned to Cleveland at age 30 to lead a younger set of stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to a title (3.0). Now with the Lakers (4.0), James, 33, finds himself attempting to help raise an even younger core group dotted with some strategically selected veterans void of much past success in terms of winning other than point guard Rajon Rondo. 

So, James, how long will this chemistry experiment take to reach fruition?

"Not as fast as you guys think it's going to happen," he said. "I always kind of compare it to instant oatmeal. It's not that fast. It takes a while for the chemistry to get to where you can close your eyes and know exactly where your guys are."

We saw glimpses Thursday of where the team hopes to be but with more regularity and production. These Lakers want to run just like their president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson's Showtime Lakers did in the 1980s while winning five NBA titles. Los Angeles produced 34 fast break points against the Blazers with two coming off of a steal and dunk by James early in the game. 

"Great pace," reserve guard Josh Hart said. "We like playing at that pace."

This team is certainly built to do so. 

James, of course, is a fearless, powerful, yet graceful open-floor force. Point guards Lonzo Ball and Rondo like to propel the action forward.  Kuzma and Brandon Ingram can certainly fill lanes and finish. However, the team shot horribly from three-point range (7 of 30), but Walton said he was cool with the looks the team got and expects those shots to fall as the season goes along. Defensively, the team was a mess, botching rotations through poor feel and communication. The rebounding also needs work.

"We had some good, we had some bad, which is expected for a game one," James said. 

Nothing that went down alarmed Walton.  

"First game," he said. "We'll be able to learn a lot from that."

The number one lesson of all will be how to play with James. Please James. Satisfy James. Live up to James' expectations. Essentially, be what James needs them to be in order to win. 

The younger players already recognize the impact of having a dynamic and intelligent player such as James on the court drawing attention from defenses while also being more than willing to share the ball. 

"It gives me easier baskets," Ingram said. "It puts me in better spots around the basket. He gets me easier shots than I've ever had before."

Said Ball, "It makes it easy because everybody is focused on him. We're the supporting cast...We get open shots. It's not really hard to play with him."

For this program to flourish, James must take the clear reverence these young players have for him and use his influence to bring them along at the proper pace. The trick is that, for example, Ball and Ingram are far less advanced than Irving and Love were when James returned to Cleveland. 

"It's still early," James said. "We're literally less than a month in...We've got to go through some things. Go through some adversity and see how guys react to it. See what gets guys going."

Walton, just 28, will likely lean on James through this process. 

"I'm glad he's on our team. He's pretty good at the game of basketball," Walton said with a smile. "The way he can kind of control and lead from the court, it's impressive."

Walton also expressed admiration for how well James engaged with the younger players. 

"He keeps the guys calm, especially on the road in a hostile environment when the other team is going on a run he has a calming way about him," Walton said.

James remaining calm will allow this team to work through its issues without feeling overwhelmed. He said the best teacher is experience, of which he has more than everyone else on the team by far. The key, he said, is not expecting excellence overnight while still demanding the team's pursuit of excellence on a daily basis.

"You control what you can control and what I can control is how I lead these guys and how I prepare everyday," James said. "I come in with a championship mindset and preaching and practicing excellence every day. I believe that will wear off [on the team]."

Magic Johnson has said that he constructed this team to be good in the playoffs by being capable of running, playing defense and letting James close. An eye toward the 2019 postseason is the goal, not looking sharp in what remains of 2018. James said he would constantly preach patience and following the process to his team until, it all comes together.  

"You'll know when it happens," James said. 

If it does, these Lakers could be something to behold. 

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is THE app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from Blazer win over LA

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from Blazer win over LA

The regular season started on Thursday with the Trail Blazers welcoming the new look Los Angeles Lakers to Moda Center. The two battled all game long, with Portland eventually pulling out the 128-119 victory. The victory marked the 16th straight win over the Lakers, and the 18th year in a row the Blazers have won their home opener. 

Here, are quick thoughts from our reporters on the scene...

Final Box Score: Blazers 128 - Lakers 119 

Dwight Jaynes, Trail Blazers Insider: 

Blazers bench has been fantastic, keeping them in the game. Starters vs. starters the Lakers had an edge

Jamie Hudson, Trail Blazers Reporter:

Nik Stauskas quickly became a fan favorite after his first-half performance of 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting including 4-of-6 from three. He led all Blazers in scoring at the half and was the spark Portland needed from its second unit.

Mike Richman, Trail Blazers Reporter: 

Nik Stauskas earned every part of his minimum contract in his 27 minutes tonight

***Be sure to check back here throughout tonight for locker room videos with Coach Stotts and the players, plus locker room reports from Jamie Hudson and Dwight Jaynes***

NEXT UP: The Blazers remain at home when they host the Spurs on Saturday, Oct. 20. Tip-off is set for 7PM

The Moda Center crowd was on its feet, Trail Blazers second year player Zach Collins had just blocked Lonzo Ball at the rim, Nik Stauskas then pulled up for three-pointer – swish, it was 107-100 Blazers. And that’s when the Los Angeles Lakers called a timeout at the 7:22 mark in the 4th quarter.

Standing at 6’10” wearing a Trail Blazers shirt, a proud father stood among that Moda Center crowd. Sitting in the Blazers’ family section above Portland’s bench was Mike Collins showing off his muscles, flexing after his son’s fifth block of the night, while Zach’s mother Heather Collins cheered loudly.

Just as Zach as done all his life, he made sure to look up at his parents in the crowd.

“I did a couple times, that’s kind of what I've always done… It’s always good to have him there and my mom too. Whenever they’re here I always want to play well and now I get to hang out with them after the game, so it means a lot to me,” Collins said.

It was a special night in Portland with LeBron James and the Lakers in town, but it was also a night for Collins to show what he can do on the defensive end and having a career night vs. the Lakers made it a little extra special.

“Yes, especially on opening night to go out there, make an impact and help the team win against a good team and obviously they have the best player in the world so they’re obviously always going to be really good,” Collins said.

Collins finished with a career high six blocks to go along with six rebounds and six points in 26 minutes of action. He also had the best plus-minus of the team with a +24.

These questions come to mind when you watch Collins downlow-- Can he be the enforcer on this Blazers team? Can he be an elite defender?  Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum believe so.

“I really loved what he did defensively. I think losing Ed in that second group we need somebody that’s going to be an enforcer and let teams know that you’re not just going to be able to come in our paint,” Lillard said.

“Zach was great. He protected the basket. He was fearless. He’s that guy at the rim every time contesting shots, altering shots, blocking shots and then allowing us to get out and run in transition off the rebound. I think he does a great job of contesting and we’ve talked about him being one of the better defenders in the NBA and he’s showing why he’s an elite defender,” McCollum said.

This Lakers team was no easy task for the young Collins either, just ask Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“Zach was really good defensively. He had a tough assignment guarding a three-point shooter and still protecting the rim. He’s a gamer. He enjoys the competition. He doesn’t shy away from contact or a challenge. He earned his minutes out there tonight” Stotts said.

Collins feels that playing to his strengths of protecting the rim is where he can help the Blazers the most and Lillard is pleased to see such growth from Collins.

“He had some big blocks. He challenged everything. It’s great to see that he’s taking that up a level. We thought he was really good last season, this season starting off tonight he had a great start defensively,” LIilard said.  

Yes, it’s one game, but it was six blocks in one game.

And don’t forget about Pappa Collins flexing his muscles in the crowd in this one game. That’s a lot for the Collins family in just one game.

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Shootaround Notes: LeBron with high praises for Dame & CJ

Shootaround Notes: LeBron with high praises for Dame & CJ

The Portland Trail Blazers open up the season at the Moda Center tonight against Western Conference rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s a few notes from the Lakers shootaround this morning. 

LeBron James:

On what to expect from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum...

"They’re great every night. Two of the best 1-2 punches as far as a point guards, two guards, right there with Steph, Klay, Brad, and Wall. They just create so many match up problems for your team, because they’re able to play off one another. They shoot the ball, they penetrate, so they’ve been good for this franchise for awhile."

He's still focused on another ring...

“It’s my goal. It’s always been my goal. For the last 10 years, maybe last 10-11 years, I feel like it’s been championships. I put my mind into that. I think when you have championship habits you have championship thoughts and obviously there’s only one champion at the end of the road and you can't dictate wins and losses of that nature, but you can approach everyday like a champion. If you do that, you put yourself in a position to be successful, either individually or as a team.”

Luke Walton: 

Walton on the late Paul Allen...

“He was part of the NBA family obviously. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Paul. It’s sad to hear the news. Young, 65, relatively young, someone who does so much good for the NBA for at least the whole region up here. It’s sad…it’s going to be emotional. We’ll pay our respects and we have to be ready to match that type of emotional start that Portland will have tonight.”

Lakers in beginning steps of a season-long journey...

“It’s always challenging when you get a new group of guys together. From last year’s team, we lost a lot of guys that played big minutes for us. Getting the new guys in, into a system, playing together, feeling each other out, getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses, it just takes time.”

On playing in Portland...

"I shouldn’t say I love to play here, because it’s hard to win here. But I love this city. We have family friends that still live up here. Obviously, my Dad, Maurice Lucas, guys like that are still a big part of our family."

On how many minutes LeBron will play...

“LeBron will play a lot of minutes. I told him he’s a player that his legs seem to be getting younger as training goes on. He’s jumping higher, he’s moving quicker as we get out there and play.”