Luke Walton

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Rodney Hood will go through warm-ups before determining tonight's status

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Rodney Hood will go through warm-ups before determining tonight's status

SACRAMENTO -- The start of this season seems to be bringing more injuries than most all around the league.

Tonight at the Golden 1 Center, two teams who have endured major injuries this season will square off.

Before the Trail Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7:00p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, the Blazers and head coach Terry Stotts gave injury updates and more on tonight’s matchup.

Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood has been dealing with back spasms since last Friday night’s game against the Nets.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, day-by-day, just continuing to get treatment, just continuing to feel better a little bit, so we’ll see,” Hood said after Tuesday’s shootaround.

Hood doesn’t believe the injury is anything to be too concerned over. He just wants to feel like himself again.

“It’s nothing to worry about. It’ll smooth over, over time. I just got to be patient, make sure I’m healthy, so I’m not out there thinking about it and laboring… I’m confident I’ll be back and being myself again,” Hood said. 

Hood was initially listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s game.

Official Injury Reports:

For the Blazers, Rodney Hood (back spasms) and Hassan Whiteside (right foot sprain) are probable; Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), Jusuf Nurkic (left lower leg fracture) and Pau Gasol (left foot fracture) are out for Tuesday's game at Sacramento.

For the Kings, Dewayne Dedmon (right knee sprain) is probable; Marvin Bagley III (right thumb fracture) and De'Aaron Fox (left ankle sprain) are out.

Pregame, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts shared a message that he has for his team at this point in the season.

“It’s cliché, but worry about the next game. I know we’ve got a lot of games on the road, we’ve got a road trip coming up… But [we need to] prepare for each game,” Stotts said.

Coach Stotts also mentioned that Hood would go through warm-ups and then the training staff would see how he’s feeling and if he is able to play tonight.

6:45pm UPDATE: Hood is OUT for tonight's game. 

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Transition and perimeter defense will be key vs. Kings

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Transition and perimeter defense will be key vs. Kings

Before the Trail Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, both coaches gave their thoughts on tonight’s matchup with their pregame media availability and at this morning’s shootaround.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts expects the game to be played at quick pace as his teams tries to limit Buddy Hield from getting easy buckets and De'aAron Fox from creating too much on the offensive end.
“Transition defense is going to be a key,” Coach Stotts said after this morning’s shootaround. “They’re an up and down team. We don’t know if Buddy Hield is going to play, but he played really well against Phoenix. He has a quick release. He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence.”

Hield is dealing with a left ankle sprain and was initially listed as questionable, but he will play tonight.

Portland is also focused on tightening up their perimeter defense.

“Three-point shooting after Denver is going to be a priority for us as well…. Offensively, just be ready to make some shots,” Stotts said.

“We definitely have to defend the three. They have five guys in their starting lineup who can shoot it… We’ve gotta be really ready to contest and try to limit their opportunities,” CJ McCollum said after shootaround.

While Damian Lillard, added, “It’s going to be a group effort,” vs. the young Kings squad.

“Knowing that Buddy Hield is shooting at high clip and often… We want to just limit their strengths as much as we can… They’ve got a lot of shooters out there and it’s going to be a tough task,” Lillard said.

Coach Stotts also mentioned during his pregame interview that he expects the Kings to go with a small ball lineup with guys that can space the floor due to the Kings various injuries.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

The Kings will be without Marvin Bagley at power forward. Bagley will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken right thumb. He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ opening night loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Kings head coach Luke Walton spent most of Friday’s pregame chat with the media addressing the injury and how his young team is going to have to come together without Bagley. Walton also mentioned he will play Harrison Barnes at the four more with Bagley out.

Sacramento will also be without Harry Giles III, who is dealing with left knee soreness.

HERE FROM COACH WALTON HERE:

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Los Angeles Lakers

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NBC Sports Northwest

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES – It was a wild scene before Tuesday night’s Blazers and Lakers game tipped off.

After Lakers head coach Luke Walton spoke with the media and just as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was about to start his pregame media availability, it was announced that Magic Johnson had stepped down as the Lakers President of Basketball Operations.

Magic held is own press conference pregame.

“I love working with guys,” Johnson said. “So, now this summer I get to work with guys with no strings, no handcuffs... I’m excited about making this move...”

“I’m going back to doing my community work.”

A very emotional Magic also added:

“The team is in a good place... You know how many calls Jeanie [Buss] is going to get about this job tomorrow?”

Hear from Magic Johnson right here:

Coach Walton also addressed the large media scrum in LA. He was asked if he has any anxiety about his future.

He laughed and said he doesn’t have any anxiety right now, but maybe they should call him later tonight.

Hear from Coach Walton right here:

Even though the LA media was in a frenzy about an hour before tip-off, there was still a game to be played.

With Sunday’s win over the Nuggets, the Trail Blazers remain in fourth in the Western Conference standings. Portland needs one win or a Utah loss in the final two games of the season to secure homecourt advantage in the first round.

Coach Stotts said his team is here in Los Angeles to take care of business tonight.

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

Coach Stotts: Damian LIllard will play with no minutes restriction

Coach Stotts: Damian LIllard will play with no minutes restriction

Before the Trail Blazer and Lakers tip-off in Los Angeles, both Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Lakers head coach Luke Walton talked with the media with the latest updates.

The big news of the day for the Trail Blazers is that Damian Lillard (right knee), who was listed as probable, will start for the Blazers and will not be on any sort of minutes restriction.

Coach Stotts discussed how Portland's quick start this season has been due to their offense clicking to start the year unlike in the past couple of seasons.

Stotts also addressed what the difference was in the Lakers between game one when the Blazers won compared to the second meeting when the Lakers got the victory saying that the Lakers were playing small ball to start the season and now LA is playing with more a traditional big man.

As for LA, Coach Walton has been pleased with what veteran Tyson Chandler has brought to the team in the last three games since he was traded to LA from the Phoenix Suns.

Coach Walton addressed that his team needs to take better care of the ball and “there’s always things to fix”.

 

Coach Stotts

 

 

Coach Walton  

 

Blazers-Lakers Notebook: Coach Walton continues to focus on defense

Blazers-Lakers Notebook: Coach Walton continues to focus on defense

The Trail Blazers host the Lakers for the second time in nine games. Before Portland and Los Angeles tip-off Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Lakers head coach Luke Walton addressed the media. Both coaches discussed how difficult it is to determine how your team is doing on the defensive end with so much scoring league wide.  

For the Blazers:

*Maurice Harkless (left knee) is OUT once again. Coach Stotts says it is situational whether or not Caleb Swanigan gets minutes at the four with Harkless sitting out.

*Coach Stotts says it's very hard to determine how good his team is on the defensive side of the ball with such high scoring through the first eight games.

*Coach Stotts feels that league-wide, teams are going to need to figure out how to defend the faster pace, but he doesn't expect this pace to last all season.  

For the Lakers:

*Coach Walton has been very pleased with Javale McGee's play so far this season. McGee is averaging 15.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg through the Lakers first eight games.

*Coach Walton says their main focus right now is how they are defending the ball as they switch up their starting lineup.   

Coach Stotts:

Coach Walton:

 

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. 

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The Lakers are getting what they deserve from LaVar Ball

The Lakers are getting what they deserve from LaVar Ball

The youngest pair of the Ball kids are in Lithuania, taking a stab at pro basketball far from home. Why do I think this has no chance of working out well?

Of course, ESPN has a crew following the Ball family, much to the chagrin of a lot of people. In fact, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr spoke for many Monday about the coverage of Old Man Ball:

“I was thinking about ESPN, and they laid off, I don’t know, 100 people,” Kerr said. “How many people did they lay off over the last year? Well over 100, many of whom were really talented journalists covering the NBA. So, this is not an ESPN judgment, it’s a societal thing more than anything. Where we’re going is we’re going away from covering the game, and we’re going toward just sensationalized news. It’s not even news, really. It’s just complete nonsense. But if you package that irrational nonsense with glitter and some ribbon, people are going to watch.

“So, I talked to people in the media this year. I said, ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ And they say, ‘Well, we don’t want to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership.’ Somewhere, I guess in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing. People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than that he’s become the Kardashian of the NBA or something.”

I tend to agree with Kerr but I also understand that if news outlets, blogs or websites don't give people what they want, they will soon be out of business. And the public is fascinated by the loud-mouthed father and his impact on his talented sons.

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Caught in the crossfire of all of it is Los Angeles Laker Coach Luke Walton, pretty much an innocent bystander. The Lakers had to know what would happen when they drafted this kid -- his father's  meddling behavior was no secret. I think Walton has done a very good job with his young Laker team this season but, of course, the elder Ball has alleged that Walton has lost control of the team and players don't want to play for him.

Yes, a lot of NBA parents would like to blame coaches for the problems their kids are having -- and I'm guessing if they start popping off about it, there will be a microphone in their face, too. But this guy is a rare one in that he doesn't seem to understand the impact his antics are having on his children. And that makes him news whether we like it or not.

The biggest problem in Los Angeles, though -- and the reason people are actually listening to the Old Man -- is that the Lakers themselves set the  bar way too high for their performance this season. I was sitting in the Thomas & Mack Center last summer when the Lakers beat Portland for the summer-league championship and the celebration, in front of a pro-Laker crowd and NBA-TV, was way over the top. And the centerpiece of all that was an overly excited Magic Johnson proclaiming, "The Lakers are back!"

Ugh. No way. It's the freaking summer league. And Magic should have known better. But summer league helped create an unrealistic expectation that Ball was going to be an immediate superstar and that the Lakers were ready to contend for a playoff spot. And when expectations aren't met, people always look for scapegoats. The elder Ball found his -- the coach -- and it's just his way to take the heat off his son, who hasn't had the kind of season the Lakers obviously expected from him.

Fans, searching for who to blame, are ready to latch onto the coaching narrative because they never want to blame players.

And it became Luke Walton's job to try to meet those lofty expectations with a team and a point guard not ready for such a task. He deserves better and I don't blame the media or LaVar Ball. The Lakers set themselves up for this and they did their coach wrong by it.