Los Angeles Lakers

Barkley: Trail Blazers will beat LA Lakers if they get into playoffs

Barkley: Trail Blazers will beat LA Lakers if they get into playoffs

Charles Barkley is not one to shy away from bold predictions. 

On Thursday night, Barkley had another one when he and the rest of NBA on TNT crew had a conversation able the current playoff picture. 

There are currently a handful of teams on the outside looking in, vying for a chance to potentially play the Grizzlies in a play-in game.

One of those teams is the Portland Trail Blazers.

On the topic of Rip City's favorite basketball team, both Shaquille O'Neal and Barkley gave Portland fans plenty of hope.

Shaq kept it short and sweet, "Portland will get in the playoffs."

The Blazers currently sit in ninth place, 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies, tied with the Pelicans and Kings, and a half-game ahead of the Spurs. 

So, Shaq is confident the Blazers will get in. Barkley, on the other hand, he thinks the Blazers will do much more than that.

Said Barkley, "If the Portland Trail Blazers get in the playoffs, they will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round."

Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon:

Barkley had a reason for his belief: Team health. Having both Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic back on the court will have a significant impact, especially on the defensive end, for the Trail Blazers. 

If Nurkic and Zach Collins are healthy, you know Dame (Lillard) and CJ (McCollum) are gonna do their thing. They're right up there with Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson). Nurkic is terrific. Zach Collins is terrific. Whiteside got something to proves, he's gonna be a free agent... but the Trail Blazers gotta get in first.  - Barkley on the Blazers

This isn't the first time Barkley has put his faith in the Blazers. As a guest on ESPN's Get Up last month, Barkley called the Trail Blazers his dark horse. "The one team in the Western Conference, if they get Nurkic back and Zach Collins, nobody is gonna want to see the Portland Trail Blazers." Barkley went as far as to say the Blazers could win the championship.

A healthy Trail Blazers squad will be dangerous for sure. Barkley sees it. Shaq sees it. We're pretty sure the rest of the NBA sees it as well. 

 

Is LeBron James sporting a Trail Blazers 'Rip City' shirt?

Is LeBron James sporting a Trail Blazers 'Rip City' shirt?

NBA superstar LeBron James posted on his Instagram this afternoon a heartfelt message to his son Bryce Maximus James wishing Bryce a very happy 13th Birthday!  

While King James is in disbelief that he now has two teenagers, he posted this message:

Man o man!!!! Happy Bday to my guy guy Bryce Maximus James!!! Thirteen though?!?!?! Where is the time going! You’re one of a kind young man and I’m proud to watch your continue to grow every day and I’m also proud to be your dad!! You make the whole house laugh daily by just simply being YOU!! Always know YOU is good enough and more my son. Enjoy your day as we celebrate it together as what we call the #JamesGang way! -- LeBron James on Instagram

The Lakers All-Star also shared some memorable photos of him and Bryce through the years.

It’s fun looking through a collage of photos with NBA players and their children over the years.

Of the nine photos and one video, LeBron appeared in five of the pictures with Bryce.

Or was it six of the pictures?  

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

There was one particular photo of what looked like it could've been a family birthday party for Bryce a couple of years ago or some type of gathering where he is enjoying popcorn from a movie theater-style popcorn machine.

Though the popcorn machine looks pretty awesome, it is a t-shirt that caught our eye.

Looking at this photo, someone sharing in the popcorn fun is sporting a ‘Rip City’ t-shirt.

Swiping through all the pictures of Lebron and Bryce it was easy to think, ‘oh dang, wait a minute? Is King James wearing a Trail Blazers shirt?'

Too bad the photo has the Rip City fan cropped out. Either way, Bryce’s friend or family member wearing a ‘Rip City’ t-shirt gets a heart emoji from us.  

Damian Lillard confident Trail Blazers can beat Lakers in First Round playoff matchup

Damian Lillard confident Trail Blazers can beat Lakers in First Round playoff matchup

Let’s all think back to right before the First Round of the 2017 NBA playoffs, when the No. 8 seed Trail Blazers were set to take on the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors.

Most Tail Blazers fans remember when Portland’s All-Star Damian Lillard made the “Blazers in six” comment right before Portland tipped off its last regular season game against New Orleans that year.

Lillard has always been extremely confident and uber competitive.

To get where he is today and where he wants to be, being confident and competitive is imperative, obviously.  

He always welcomes all challenges -- big and small.

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

And really, there’s nothing the sports world loves more than superstar players saying overconfident things even if they are pretty ridiculous, i.e. Lillard’s comments in 2017.  

But hey, what was Lillard supposed to say, when Rip City Live host Dan Sheldon asked him, “Blazers in 6 or 7?”

Sure, Lillard predicted his team, who snuck into the playoffs in the last week of the season, would knock off the Warriors, who that year were the first team to win 67 games in three straight seasons, but we can appreciate such a statement.

And now, as Lillard and the Trail Blazers prepare for the 2019-20 season to start back up again in Orlando, Lillard is confident once again.

But this time, I don’t think people are completely laughing off his comments like they did a few years ago.

In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Lillard was asked numerous questions with topics ranging from attending Black Lives Matter protests to how competitive he is as a person, to his music career and who has influenced him the most in the music industry.

Lillard also dropped a surprising comment about how he thought he was going to be traded to the New York Knicks a few years back.  

But, besides the Knicks trade rumors; his opinion about earning the No. 8 seed out West and facing the Lakers needs to be noted as well.

Vanity Fair Question: When the season shut down, the Trail Blazers were in ninth place; if you move up to eighth, you could play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. You want that?

Of course. I think we could beat them. – Trail Blazers 5x All-Star Damian Lillard

There's that confidence again. And we know Blazers fans love to see it. 

Portland, Sacramento and New Orleans all currently sit three and a half games behind No. 8 Memphis. The Lakers currently hold a 5.5 game lead for the top spot out West over the Clippers.

Oddsmakers aren’t as sure as Lillard that Portland can even beat out Memphis for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

These recent projections are courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, who uses prior performance, remaining strength of schedule, quality of roster and other indicators to project the playoff field.

8th seed: Memphis Grizzlies (28-26)

Chances of the playoffs: 15%

Projected Record: 38-44

9th seed: Portland Trail Blazers (25-31)

Chances of the playoffs: 14%

Projected Record: 38-44

And when Vanity Fair asked Lillard, do you feel secure about your safety in regard to the coronavirus, and do you think the plan for the top 16 teams plus six more is fair?” -- Lillard referenced his competitive nature once again.  

As a competitor I’m happy we will get an opportunity to continue and try to make a run in the playoffs. I am a little concerned about the risk we’re taking dealing with the virus, but the NBA will take all precautions into consideration to keep us safe. I think the plan going forward is fair. -- Damian Lillard to Vanity Fair

Even though many players have agreed with Lillard in believing the plan to have a 22-team format with each team playing eight regular season games is reasonable, the NBA and NBPA still haven’t finalized the format to return to play.

The talks are ongoing, as is Lillard’s confidence.  

Here’s why Damian Lillard believes LeBron James is NBA MVP over Giannis Antetokounmpo

Here’s why Damian Lillard believes LeBron James is NBA MVP over Giannis Antetokounmpo

Before the NBA suspended operations in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, a heated MVP race between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo was taking form. 

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was averaging career highs in points (29.6) and rebounds (13.7) per game while leading the Bucks to the best record in the league at 53-12. Meanwhile, James and the Los Angeles Lakers sat atop the juggernaut Western Conference at 49-14 and had already clinched the teams’ first playoff berth in seven years.

But there can only be one rightful Most Valuable Player, and Damian Lillard believes LeBron is the most deserving. 

"This season I think it's LeBron," Lillard told ESPN’s Jalen and Jacoby show. "They're the No. 1 team in the west, they've been consistent all year long, and for him to be at the age he's at with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he's talked about the pressure that they've put on him in every little thing that he does.

"At the level he's performing at, in my opinion, I think he's the MVP."

There are a couple major takeaways here. First, Lillard believes age plays a factor in James’ MVP candidacy. But it’s worth noting that what LeBron, 35, has done is incredible for a player of any age group.

If his current stat line holds when play resumes, James will become just the second player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 10 assists and five rebounds per game while averaging less than 35 minutes per game.

As Lillard also points out, James was leading the league in assists with 10.6 per game prior to the hiatus. He also played in 60 of the Lakers 63 games, while Giannis played in 57 of his team’s 65 games. 

If LeBron James were to hoist the prestigious Maurice Podoloff Trophy for the fifth time of his career, he would tie Michael Jordan and be just one MVP award away from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who has six. 

The numbers are scary close between the two NBA All-Star captains, so it will certainly be interesting to see how things transpire once the 2019-20 season resumes play.

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

LeBron James is putting the NBA in danger during hiatus

LeBron James is putting the NBA in danger during hiatus

OK, so LeBron James is working out with teammates at a “safe, secure” private location these days.

That doesn’t sound as if it fits under the NBA’s guidelines for what can be done during the league’s hiatus. Apparently “safe" and "secure” are relative terms.

Most teams were operating under the assumption that players could work out only at team facilities:

In the past, players hold (sic) their workouts in practically any practice facility. However, the NBA announced that it won’t be allowed this time around. Players can only workout in their team’s facility.

Yes, three or four players could be on the court at the same time, but they had to be separate. They were NOT supposed to actually be “practicing” together. There were all sorts of other rules associated with it, but I’m sure “The King” abided by them all.

I mean, he would never think he’s so special that he’s not governed by the same rules as his minions, right?

You’ve heard, by now, about Jordan Rules. Now get used to LeBron Rules.

If you haven’t already.

Damian Lillard, LeBron James among NBA superstars forming united front to resume play

Damian Lillard, LeBron James among NBA superstars forming united front to resume play

Following last Friday’s conference call between NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the players, there have been plenty of reports swirling about players who still have safety concerns while returning to teams’ practice facilities and then there are some players who are more eager than some to get the season started again.  

From Friday’s call, it seems the NBA isn’t going to make a decision on the 2019-20 season until, most likely, well into June.

It's now been two months since the season  was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is now reporting that a handful of the NBA’s biggest superstars held a private conference call Monday to form a united front on resuming play.  

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is reportedly one of the players on that call along with the President of the Players Association, Chris Paul, who initially setup the call, that also included LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook.

According to Haynes, the players discussed the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, but all parties were in agreement that as long the league took the proper safety steps necessary to restart the season, and gave them the green light, they would all take the court.


Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that a local representative from the National Basketball Players Association had been texting players with a 'yes or no' question:
Do you want to try and play again this season?

But, The Athletic is disputing that report, adding that the NBPA says it, “has not authorized any formal poll of its players.”  

As the players and the league continue to try to navigate through these uncharted waters, it seems that keeping everything on the down low is a priority for now.  

Whenever Silver and the league come to a decision on the 2019-20 season, one would assume the superstars of the league would have a lot of influence in the outcome.  

Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Fry and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon along with special guest former Portland Trail Blazer Steve Blake.

Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy to retire “Mamba” from name 

Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy to retire “Mamba” from name 

The Mamba Sports Academy, which was co-founded by the late Kobe Bryant, has made a decision to retire “Mamba” from its name. 

In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the basketball training facility in Thousand Oaks announced it would change its name back to “The Sports Academy,” which was its former name before the Los Angeles Lakers legend partnered with the company. 

"Today, with respect for an unparalleled legacy, the Academy will retire the 'Mamba' in the Mamba Sports Academy name — to raise it to the rafters, where it belongs," the academy said. “In doing so, Sports Academy will carry on the vision it curated during that special partnership.”

https://twitter.com/sportsxacademy/status/1260242399789490177?s=20

Not everyone was pleased with the academy’s choice to remove Mamba, a reference to Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname he gave himself throughout his stellar NBA career. 

Veteran guard Jamal Crawford and friend of the Lakers great felt the name change was unnecessary. 

O’Shea Jackson, son of rapper Ice Cube, expressed his disappointment in a post. 

Trail Blazer Mario Hezonja simply shared the name change in a post of his own on Twitter. 

Others felt the name “Mamba” should stay to honor him. 

The academy shared another statement hours later saying the decision to change the name is “not a decision we came to lightly on our own.” 

https://twitter.com/sportsxacademy/status/1260280427941519360?s=20

Do you think the academy made the right decision? 

Over his 20-year-career, Kobe exemplified the “Mamba” assassin-like mentality and proved he could score from just about anywhere on the court. He was a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star. Both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys were retired by the Lakers. 

In April, Kobe was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant -- Steve Blake gained a lot from those two

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant -- Steve Blake gained a lot from those two

Former Portland Trail Blazers point guard Steve Blake joined Dan Sheldon and Channing Frye on the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast.

When Frye asked Blake to share stories about his time in Los Angeles with the Lakers, Blake discussed what he learned from Coach Phil Jackson and why Kobe Bryant respected him so much.

Now that Blake has been out of the league for more than four years, he has been focusing on his coaching career.

The 40-year-old is currently an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns.

As one would expect, Blake gained a lot from Phil Jackson. 

Just how calm and how he dealt with different personalities, like, you can even see now on The Last Dance. He’s open-minded. He knows how to handle different people. He is Zen like. He’s a great teacher. He was constantly teaching us the basics of footwork, the Triangle [Offense], just day-to-day teaching us to make sure we were on point. -- Steve Blake on Phil Jackson

Blake played for the Lakers from 2010-2014.

During his seven years in the league prior to joining the Lakers, Blake admitted he “didn’t care for [Kobe].” But, that all changed once they were teammates.

Before I played with Kobe, and just because he was so good and I was a competitive person, at first, I  didn’t really care for him. I didn’t like him. Him and I used to get into it all the time during games and stuff. I think that’s one of the things he respected about me -- the fact that I wouldn’t back down from him. What you don’t realize that when you get there -- You hear about how focused he is and how his work ethic and all that, but -- you don’t realize until you get there on a day and day out basis, he was working on his body, he was always in the training room trying to do something to recover, he was always watching film, he was always talking about basketball, you don’t realize on day-to-day basis how much he really cared about it.  -- Steve Blake on Kobe Bryant

You can listen to the full episode of the Talkin' Blazers podcast with Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:

Trail Blazers Classic: Fans react again as Damian Lillard, Blazers honor Kobe Bryant

Trail Blazers Classic: Fans react again as Damian Lillard, Blazers honor Kobe Bryant

In the Los Angeles Lakers' first game back since Kobe Bryant’s sudden death on Jan. 26, the Lakers hosted the Trail Blazers.

To say it was an emotional night would be an understatement.

It was the first game the Lakers had played since the death of Kobe, his daughter Gigi and seven others who died in a tragic helicopter crash.

In the few days following the crash, the entirety of the LA Live area outside of Staples Center became a memorial site with flowers, candles, paintings, shoes, balloons and basketballs.

It was a sobering sight both outside and inside Staples Center. The pregame tribute included performances, video montages, and LeBron James speaking from the heart.

It was truly a night to remember with all the emotions that were felt leading up to the game.

Somehow the two teams were able to still play a competitive game once the ball was tipped.

The Blazers had said in the days leading up to the game that they would leave it all out on the court because that’s what Kobe would’ve wanted them to do.

With no Carmelo Anthony for what Trail Blazers PR announced as "personal reasons" when Melo didn’t make the trip to LA, it meant the starting power forward spot was up for grabs that night.

Rookie forward Wenyen Gabriel stepped into that role in his first NBA start.

The undrafted Kentucky Wildcat was extremely active on both ends. Trail Blazers fans took notice on Jan. 31 when watching the game live and they reminisced about Gabriel's raw talent while re-watching the classic game.  

Gabriel was a pest on defense in his 13 minutes of action. His stat line was not all that impressive (zero points, one assist, one rebound, and one block.) But, it was his effort that got people talking then and now.

Portland beat LA 127-119 behind Damian Lillard’s 48 points, 23 of which he scored in the third quarter. For all the Blazers fans who have been eagerly awaiting the NBA to return, they were happy to spread the Lillard love on Twitter Monday night.

 

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard connected on seven 3-pointers and added 10 assists to go along with nine rebounds in an inspired effort to honor Kobe the best way he knew how:

"I don't feel like anybody feels like we walked away as a winner tonight, given the circumstances," Lillard said postgame. "The memories that we'll take away from it was just sad and just tough. It's good that we had to compete, so being on the winning side is a positive, but I don't think anybody walks away from this moment and this situation a winner."

Lillard was averaging 48.5 points in his previous four games before the win in Los Angeles.

With the victory, the Trail Blazers went to 22-27 on the season.

Gary Trent Jr. scored 10 points off the bench to lead the second unit. We all know he continued to do just that for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Team Mom pointed out how much Trent Jr. has grown this season. The second-year player made a huge impact both offensively and defensively this year. 

Watching the Kobe Bryant tribute game again, it seems very fitting to think about the simple motto that Gary Trent Jr.’s lives by:

Just Be Great.

How to Watch: Blazers at Lakers, LA's first game after Kobe Bryant's death

How to Watch: Blazers at Lakers, LA's first game after Kobe Bryant's death

Jan. 31, 2020 is game day that both the Trail Blazers and Lakers will never forget. But not so much for the game, but for what led up to tip-off.

NBA fans from all over the world gathered either outside or inside Staples Center to honor the late Kobe Bryant. It was a Friday evening game between the Lakers and Trail Blazers in Los Angeles' first game back since the sudden death of Kobe and his daughter Gigi.  

Throughout the week, former NBA players, either teammates or rivals of Kobe, spoke about how tough the sudden loss had been for them.  

Following a special version of Amazing Grace sung by Usher and then Ben Hong playing his rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ at center court with a video tribute on the big screen, LeBron James took the microphone.

With all eyes on LeBron as he stood at midcourt in front of a sold-out crowd at Staples Center with the overflow of media members both locally and nationally also in attendance, LeBron spoke from the heart.  

The two teams still managed to play a basketball game after the emotional pregame ceremony honoring the Lakes Legend.The Trail Blazers had said in the days leading up to the game that they would go out and give maximum effort because that’s what Kobe would’ve wanted from them.

Portland beat LA,127-119 behind Damian Lillard’s 48 points.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard made seven 3-pointers and added 10 assists to go along with nine rebounds in an inspired effort to honor Kobe the best way he knew how:

"I don't feel like anybody feels like we walked away as a winner tonight, given the circumstances," Lillard said postgame. "The memories that we'll take away from it was just sad and just tough. It's good that we had to compete, so being on the winning side is a positive, but I don't think anybody walks away from this moment and this situation a winner."

Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony missed the game due to 'personal reasons.' Nobody was surprised to learn that Melo had not traveled with the team to Los Angeles. Anthony and Bryant were extremely close friends.

You can re-watch the Kobe Bryant pregame ceremony and the game in its entirety on NBC Sports Northwest tonight at 8:00pm.

Starters for Blazers vs. Lakers, Jan. 31 2020:

LOS ANGELES

Anthony Davis

LeBron James

JaVale McGee

Avery Bradley

Danny Green

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard

CJ McCollum

Hassan Whiteside

Trevor Ariza

Wenyen Gabriel

HOW TO WATCH: Trail Blazers vs. Lakers in LA’s first game back since Kobe Bryant’s death

WHEN: Monday, April 27 at 8:00pm 

Channel: NBC Sports Northwest, Channel 737 (Portland), 617 (Seattle)

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here.  

Or stream the game on your phone with the 'MyTeams' App -- available in the App Store for iPhones and on Google play.

Check out the full slate of Trail Blazers Classic Games right here.