Miami Heat

How did Hassan Whiteside do the last time vs. Rudy Gobert? Look it up!

How did Hassan Whiteside do the last time vs. Rudy Gobert? Look it up!

Hassan Whiteside was asked Monday about how he has done against Utah’s 7-1 center, Rudy Gobert, an outstanding defender said to have a massive 7-9 wingspan, as the Trail Blazers travel to Salt Lake City this week for a Wednesday night exhibition game against the Jazz.

“Go check out my last game against him,” Whiteside said. “It was in Miami. Check it out and let me know.”

More on that later. But for right now, Whiteside says he’s finally feeling comfortable after an ankle sprain that caused him to miss 10 days of practice. And looking ahead to the Wednesday game, he’s particularly concerned about one thing:

“Conditioning,” he said, “I missed about 10 days with my ankle sprain. Get back to game shape. Feel like myself. Getting my wind back and building up that spring that gives me the dunks and the blocks. I just want to keep progressing.

“I want to get to moving even faster. I couldn’t move like I wanted to move.”

It helps that the lingering pain is gone.

“Pain free as of about two days ago.,” Whiteside said. “We had a tough practice today. We scrimmaged. A lot of live work. Like a real game. I love it.”

The Blazers don’t call a lot of set plays, but in fact use particular sets that allow players to read and react to the defense. That makes it imperative that players spend more time playing together so they can accurately read situations. And it makes it more difficult for the players who came from very structured systems.

“We’re getting better,” he said. “I’m still learning. A lot more read and react.”

Whiteside is being counted on to be an anchor for the team’s defense and at least a moderate threat to score at the basket so he will be a focal point heading into the regular season.

OK, and about that last time he met Gobert in a game… Whiteside last squared off against Gobert Dec. 2, 2018 and, as you may have guessed by now, Whiteside had a big game. He scored 23 points on 11-17 shooting, hauled in 20 rebounds and blocked three shots. Gobert had 12 points and. 18 rebounds. Miami won the game by two points. When the teams played each other again a few days later, Whiteside did not play.

Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, we get the matchup again.

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

Right from the start of his time in Portland, Meyers Leonard was misunderstood in Portland.

“A seven-footer out there at the three-point line launching bombs?"

“Why isn’t he inside at the post?"

“Why isn’t he in the paint where he belongs?"

Leonard was ahead of his time, of course. Big guys are shooting threes routinely these days and traditional low-post centers are not as common as they used to be. The NBA is all about threes, nowdays, like it or not.

Leonard’s playing time went up and down through his time as a Trail Blazer, even in his seventh and best season in a Portland uniform. The backup center shot 54.5 percent from the floor last year, 45 percent from three-point range and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line but still played in only 61 games and averaged just 14.4 minutes per game. Even in the playoffs, when he would show his value as a scorer, he did not play in five of the team’s 16 postseason games.

Throughout that final season as a Trail Blazer, though, Leonard seemed to finally win over the fans. They noticed his athletic ability, dunking skills and confidence in clutch situations. And they probably also took note of his sideline demeanor – even when he wasn’t playing, he was the first man off the bench to congratulate teammates and cheer good plays.

When he exploded in the final game of the conference finals against Golden State, it was a vindication of sorts for those who believed all along he deserved playing time on a team that so often struggled to find floor spacing and outside shooting. Those people who never understood how he could have been playing behind the likes of Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland.

Leonard played 40 minutes and 17 seconds in his finale in a Portland uniform. He made 12 of his 16 shots from the floor while missing just three of his eight three-point attempts. He had 25 points by halftime and 30 for the game, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing three assists with just two turnovers.

More than that, he gave the team what it had been lacking the entire series – somebody with the gravity to keep the floor spread for his guards to operate.

That game proved to be a fond farewell for a player the Portland fans were slow to take into their hearts. The fans chanted his name, cheered his every move and he just continued to do what he’d always done – shoot threes and play as hard as anyone on the court.

“The Hammer” as he was called, nailed it in his final game. And it was obvious how much that meant to him – not only how well he played but how he was embraced by the Trail Blazer fans.

But listen to him talk about it in the accompanying video feature as he reflects on growing up in Portland. See the emotion on his face and hear it in his voice – and understand how much this team and this city meant to Meyers Leonard.

In Meyers Leonard, Blazers fans were made to reflect on themselves outside of basketball

In Meyers Leonard, Blazers fans were made to reflect on themselves outside of basketball

Truth be told, I’ve had some iteration of this column written for some time. 

Its details have changed, naturally, as Meyers Leonard’s story has taken shape: first as an unremarkable rookie, then as a sweet-shooting stretch five. Eventually, Leonard became a vessel for catching of all Rip City’s vitriol, most of it undeserved. It’s led us to the 2018-19 version of Leonard — his best iteration yet — and a sort of unsteady rewriting of how harshly he was viewed by much of the Portland Trail Blazers fanbase. It’s difficult to explain what to make of that.

Leonard is with the Miami Heat now, his expiring contract a cog in the machine that wheeled Jimmy Butler in from the Philadelphia 76ers to South Beach. His legacy with the Heat, and any team that comes after, will never be held in as much contempt as it was here in Oregon. Leonard is 27 now, and as close to his final form as an NBA player as ever. For that reason, he’ll never be as unabashedly loved as he was here, either.

His final season with the Blazers was, for many, a chance to reconcile with the former No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Leonard was a source of disappointment for much of his time in Blazer Land, but this year his offensive prowess allowed Portland fans to find purchase in their hearts for a man they’d cast out so long ago. It helped that the team’s Western Conference Finals run put Leonard back into fan’s good graces. He deserved it, too.


Leonard ranked in the 99th percentile for spot-up shooters this past season, with his work as a cutter and pick-and-roll man equally as impressive, according to Synergy. Leonard had something more to give, his decisions quicker on each side of the ball. His advanced statistics in the playoffs were some of the best for a team whose front line needed his floor-spacing talents. Finally, the way in which the Blazers needed Meyers Leonard was the way in which Meyers Leonard could provide for the Blazers.

In the playoffs, Leonard did what he needed to do: rotate the ball, absorb fouls, contest at the rim, and shoot from deep. In his final game of the year — the final game he’d ever play for Portland — Leonard scored 30 points, going 5-of-8 from 3-point range while grabbing 12 rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes against the Golden State Warriors. It was Leonard putting all his skills into action at once, and the hot-and-cold love affair for Meyers was back on the stove.

The only problem was that it wasn’t clear if Blazers fans deserved to be let back into Leonard’s heart. 

...

In Portland, fans are true to their extremes. The word fanatic means something on the banks of the Willamette. It’s what happens when an indoor city like Portland is mixed with an NBA team as the only game in town: “Blazermania” was the original iteration of this, and the modern version takes the form of Favorite Son and Scapegoat. 

Each season, Portland fans pick one player to love and one to rail against, both unconditionally. In the past decade alone, Favorite Sons have been: Jake Layman, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, Luke Babbitt, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Shabazz Napier, Tim Frazier, Noah Vonleh, and Pat Connaughton. Scapegoats included but were not limited to Leonard, Vonleh, Crabbe, Joel Freeland, Mo Williams, JJ Hickson, and Evan Turner.

Players have flipped between this informal designation, usually from year-to-year but sometimes during the course of a season. Leonard is the lone player of this ilk that has cumulatively made each list more than any other. It’s this relationship that, since his rookie season in 2012-13, has been difficult to explain to those who have not experienced Leonard’s career.

His first season in Portland, Leonard was plunked at the center position out of necessity. He was the Blazers’ sixth man, playing the most minutes outside of any starter thanks to JJ Hickson’s inability to do anything other than rebound and score for himself. Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts wanted to see what they had in the athletic, high-flying Leonard. They soon found out what was always likely: he was a project.


Meanwhile, Damian Lillard took off like a rocket. The 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year was an immediate star, the franchise cornerstone that was destined to take the reigns from Aldridge sooner rather than later. Lillard’s rise made Leonard — taken just five spots later in that draft — look like a weaker choice by comparison. Aldridge was a star, Lillard was too. Portlanders didn’t want to wait for the Illinois product to develop, a process for that for NBA big men usually takes through their first contract to complete. Thus was born the impatience for Leonard, and pressure started to mount.

The arrival of Robin Lopez in the summer of 2013 and the unexpected rise of Freeland from the dregs of frontcourt development purgatory pushed Leonard to the bench. His minutes were cut in half his sophomore year, and Leonard scored fewer than 100 points. The saber-rattling about trading Leonard began among fans, and drafts were written, ready to be inked over later, labeling him a bust.

Rip City searched for grace after Leonard’s second season in 2013-14, but found nothing of the sort despite his minutes and impact waning. He stormed back offensively, and his 40/50/90 season in 2014-15 should have shifted for the masses who Leonard was, and where he was useful. But it didn’t. 

Because Leonard crested the 7-footer mark (with shoes only: his actual height is a quarter inch short of that vaunted threshold), he was held to a different standard. The refrain on the streets and blog posts of Portland was If he’s that tall he must block shots and score with his back to the basket. This was a holdover from a different era, the same kind of conventional thinking that had led to the drafting of Greg Oden over Kevin Durant five years earlier. At least partly, this wasn’t completely laughable.

The year before Leonard was drafted, NBA teams combined to attempt 36,395 shots from beyond the 3-point line. By the time Leonard notched his best shooting season ever — just three years later — that number had gone up by more than 50 percent. Now, as Leonard makes his way to Florida, it’s more than doubled.

A change in how the NBA valued 3-pointers coincided with how Leonard shot the ball. We saw him fire from deep during Las Vegas Summer League a couple of years into his tenure. Between his second and third season, Leonard went from shooting single-digit threes to triple-digits.

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“Stop.. Hammer Time” 🔨⏰

A post shared by Meyers Leonard (@meyersleonard) on


Running alongside this, outpacing Portland’s young big man, was how social media was used in sports. We adopted Facebook and Twitter as a means to communicate about our favorite leagues. Early NBA Twitter was the Wild West, with anyone and everyone able to suddenly speak directly — and loudly — to their favorite stars instantaneously.

If you wanted to explain to outsiders the complexity of emotion surrounding seven years of Meyers Leonard in Portland, this would be it: height, 3-point shooting, and Twitter.

In this regard, Leonard was drafted not only too early for his own age, but for the era in which he began his career. GMs began reaching for shooting a few seasons after Leonard was drafted. Had he been born in 1995 instead of 1992, he might be seen as another P.J. Hairston, Juancho Hernangomez, Sam Dekker, Nik Stauskas, or Doug McDermott. As the 3-point revolution took over the NBA, it became more acceptable to swing-and-miss on shooting. But that wasn’t the case in 2012, and as a group fans have struggled to understand who he is, and what to expect of him.

...

When draft mate Lillard continued to excel, the rancor surrounding Leonard grew to a cacophony. Each year, the expectations for Leonard appeared to turn more ludicrous, with the fanbase uninterested in taking into account context and prior performance as a projection of what was to come. No matter what, Portland couldn’t get it out of their heads. Block shots! Post up! Stop shooting! they clamored as one of the league’s best long-range gunners went underutilized in the Blazers offense. It was baffling.

Despite some hope after Leonard’s 2014-15 campaign, things wavered. That summer the team fired big man coach Kim Hughes, a Meyers confidant, who let it slip that LaMarcus Aldridge was leaving the team in free agency. Leonard’s defensive development stagnated the next year, and his season ended with a shoulder injury in late 2016.

An injury-confined season followed in 2016-17. His minutes remained steady but the bungee effect of Leonard’s inability to train after surgery delayed his progress. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his left shoulder that was holding him back.

  
In February of 2017, Leonard told me in an interview that his lower body wasn’t ready to perform. Because he couldn’t hold any weights or even run following surgery in spring of 2016, Leonard came into the next season physically unprepared to battle at the center position. That led to an acute, nagging discrepancy in capacity as he struggled to catch up against high-caliber big men.

“All of a sudden my back was starting to really bug me, and that was because I just hadn't taken any type of load whatsoever,” Leonard said in a February 2017 edition of the Locked on Blazers podcast. “It probably took me until mid-January to even really feel like I had my legs back under me.”

The next season an ankle sprain kept Leonard out here and there, and he fell out of Stotts’ rotation as Zach Collins came on strong. He performed in fits and starts, playing double-digit minutes three times in 2018. When last summer came, and with the team declining to re-sign Ed Davis, it appeared to be Leonard’s time to shine yet again. 

And we know how that turned out.

...

There’s been an outpouring of support in the wake of Leonard’s trade to Miami. Twitter, perhaps for the first time ever, has been positive toward Leonard, wishing him well on his way. This endearment, while on the surface healing, has acted as a mirror reflecting back on two sides the analogous journey taken by Leonard and Blazers fans over these past seven years.

To the left is the journey from boy to man. It’s the timeline of Leonard going through the conventional maturation process of a Millennial in America while at the same time bearing the weight of an unnatural public life which capital itself could not ever be expected to wholly assuage. It’s every slight, every Bieber-ism, every joke about his wife’s shooting. It’s also every friend made, every smile from summer camp kids, and every trip to one of Oregon's greatest landmarks that colored Leonard's life.

On the right of this mirror is the growth of each fan, their own follies individually considered as they’ve matured in their own lifetimes: the mind’s camera flashing back, indiscriminately, to how they might have handled events differently over time by dint of experience, not just with Leonard but with anyone. 


There comes stages in life where it feels as though Yes, finally I am fully formed! My opinions and actions are resolute! only to look back and understand, undoubtedly, that was not the case. Given how fans feel today, with Leonard gone and his growth as a player and as a person considered, would each side have made the same decisions?

Portland fans received several chances to make right by Meyers Leonard. It’s felt as though his dearth of production, contrasted to expectations, were projected as a totem of fans’ own collective irritation with their lives; of infelicity due to failure, happenstance, or qualms that couldn’t be publicized save for as invective toward a 7-foot-1 center from a tiny hamlet in corn country.

That part might remain inexplicable. Or perhaps, this transference is exactly the explanation. From here, the only thing to do — as it is with any complex, adult relationship that didn’t end up quite the way either party had hoped — is to understand that moving forward is the only option, and to hope that time does indeed heal the wound.

For Leonard, he has more to learn and more to show. Blazers fans will give him a standing ovation when he returns to Moda Center next season. In the meantime, Leonard’s ethic and ethos, steeled by his time in this city, is exemplified by his final response about his shoulder injury in 2017, the very thing that marked the beginning of the end of his tenure in Portland.

“I’m working, I’m doing my best,” said Leonard. “I can say that — I know that — and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Neil Olshey should just go take a nap. He’s earned it.

Olshey’s Trail Blazers engineered a blockbuster trade Monday morning, finishing off – unless he’s got something else up his sleeve – the team’s major off-season work with a flourish.

Already this summer, Olshey has upgraded the team’s shooting from the wing, drafted a promising rookie with just the No. 25 pick, signed Damian Lillard to a supermax contract and Monday, brought in a starting center, Hassan Whiteside, on an expiring contract to stand in for Jusuf Nurkic.

And Whiteside isn’t just another center. He has led the league in blocked shots and rebounds per game and has a career true shooting percentage of .589. Last season he averaged only 23.3 minutes per game but chalked up a double-double, 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds along with 1.9 blocked shots per game.

Portland made the trade without touching its core players, sending Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless to Miami in return for Whiteside. All three are embarking on the final season of their deals. The Heat are trying to clear cap space in order to complete a complicated deal for free agent Jimmy Butler and they will gain about $4 million with this trade.

Sunday, Portland added free agents Rodney Hood and Mario Herzonja, bolstering the small-forward position already strengthened by the addition of Kent Bazemore in an earlier deal for Evan Turner.

Whiteside does not come without some baggage. The 7-foot, 265-pounder has complained about playing time in Miami, where he became another big man who was a casualty of small-ball lineups and eventually lost his starting job to Bam Adebayo. Famously, he came under fire from Miami President Pat Riley after the 2018 playoffs:

“There's no doubt he was in a bad state in the playoffs,” Riley said of Whiteside. “Whatever the reasons why, I have not really sat down with Spo and really talked about all of these things. Hassan was less than without a doubt in the playoffs. I'm not going to give him any kind of excuse. But the season started with an injury and all year long there was a dilemma of some kind. By the time we got to the playoffs I don't think he was ready. He wasn't in great shape. He wasn't fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.

“The disconnect between he and Spo (Coach Erik Spoelstra) that's going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of Coach and also Hassan. How will Hassan transform his thinking – 99 percent of it – to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense or minutes or whatever? However he uses him, that's what you do. I have the same problem with Hassan. That problem is that he's going to have to do something to change because he's a helluva player.”

In Portland, where the Trail Blazers are accustomed to using Nurkic (and then Enes Kanter) in the post, Whiteside should be a much happier player. And if he isn’t, he’s a $27 million expiring contract at the trade deadline.

Leonard was a polarizing player in Portland for fans who wanted seven-footers playing inside instead of shooting three-pointers. He did not get consistent playing time in Terry Stotts’ system. But he made a big splash in the playoffs last season in the final two games against Golden State and has a career 47.9 field-goal percentage and a 38.5 percentage from three-point range. Harkless, a starter for most of the last three seasons, has averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for his career. He was a solid defender, especially when used in concert with Al-Farouq Aminu, for the Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season without Nurkic, who sustained a broken leg late in the season. It would be hard to argue that they aren't a better team now, after the flurry of activity the past few days.

 

 

 

Denver acquires Bol Bol at No. 44: Gains a potential mismatch for the ages

Denver acquires Bol Bol at No. 44: Gains a potential mismatch for the ages

The highest-rated basketball player to ever sign with Oregon seemed to have come and gone in a blink of an eye. The Miami Heat selected Bol Bol with the 44th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft and then traded the former Duck to the Denver Nuggets. Last year's player selected at No. 44 played overseas, according to RealGM.com

Here is what the Nuggets are getting with the one of the most talked about prospects and how Bol fits the team’s needs.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bol became the second one-and-done player in Oregon men’s basketball program history (Troy Brown, 2018). Bol would make six Ducks on NBA rosters - the most Oregon would have ever had in the NBA at one time. He is the first top four national recruit not taken in the first round since 2013. 

THE NBA REACTED when Bol fell to the second round after being considered a consensus lottery pick a few months ago.

AT OREGON

Bol’s talent was undeniable during his short stint in green and yellow. A five-star recruit in Oregon's star-studded 2018 recruiting class, Bol elected to exhaust his eligibility after playing in just nine games at Oregon. However, he made the most of his time; the center reached double figures in all nine games and recorded a double-double in four of those games. Bol averaging 21 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.

TEAM NEEDS 

Denver decided Bol’s potential reward is worth the risk and rolled the dice on his unique skillset. 7-foot 2 centers with 7-foot-8 wingspans with terrific outside shooting (52 percent from three) don’t come along often. Bol’s ceiling is high as a floor-spacing, rim-protecting big man. The Nuggets are getting a major mismatch potential.

PRAISED FOR 

He is one of the longest players in NBA, measuring at 7’2 with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach at the combine. Even with his length, he is surprisingly quick. He is a serious weapon from beyond the arc; hitting 52 percent of his three-pointers at Oregon. Bol is an effective shot blocker; blocking 12.4 percent of opposing shots while he was on the floor at Oregon.

NEEDS TO WORK ON 

Bol’s measurements are a red flag. At the NBA combine, Bol weighed in 208 pounds, the same weight as Duke’s 6'8" Cam Reddish. He also was listed at 7.1 percent body fat, one of the highest percentages measured. On the 2018-19 Oregon basketball roster, Bol was listed as 235 pounds before his season ending foot injury. It’s highly possible Oregon rounded up on his weight, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the 18-year-old has dropped almost 30 pounds. However, NBA teams will want to see him get stronger and put on more weight. 

It’s imperative Bol lives in the weight room and works on his endurance to reach his NBA potential.

HOMETOWN Olathe, Kan.

OREGON COACH DANA ALTMAN SAID

“Bol is a very talented young man who will continue to grow as a player as he gets stronger,” said Altman. “He has some unique skills that will allow him to have a long and prosperous career.”

Portland's failed comeback streak lives on after loss to Miami Heat

Portland's failed comeback streak lives on after loss to Miami Heat

The streak stands at 21 games and counting.

The Miami Heat beat the Trail Blazers 118-108  on Tuesday night at the Moda Center, continuing Portland’s infamous and peculiar run of failed comebacks.

The Blazers still have not won a game when they are trailing after three quarters and are undefeated when they enter the fourth period with a lead.  

After falling behind by 15 points heading into the fourth quarter on Tuesday, they made a spirited late charge, twice pulling within one mid-way through the period. This was going to be an ugly win on the back of a gritty rally. Instead it ended like the other 20 nights and left the team with a tough loss to swallow as they near the end of extended homestand.

“We kinda let them go where they wanted to go instead of sending them ways we wanted to go and forcing them into coverages that we wanted,” Damian Lillard said. “That started from the beginning of the game and they got comfortable, made some shots and got confident, and that continued, and they also disrupted our offense.”

The Blazers had five days off heading into the meeting with the Heat, and Lillard admitted that there was some obvious rust after the long layoff. But he stopped short of using that as the lone excuse for his own and his team’s underwhelming performance.

“It was just deeper than that for us,” said Lillad, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting. “They played a little harder than we did. They got loose balls, they got extra possessions, they scored in transition, and they’re not even a team that scores in transition like that. And again they disrupted what we do. So that’s the hardest part to deal with; just knowing that we allowed them to do so much of what they wanted and they took away what we wanted.”

Miami never trailed, carving up a flat Portland defense with an endless parade to the rim. The Heat racked up 56 points in the paint as the Blazers offered limited resistance for most of the night.

“I think they got a lot of points in the paint, a lot of mid-range shots,” CJ McCollum said. “Hassan (Whiteside) was like 11 for 12, basically all dunks. He hit like two or three jumpers and the rest was all in the paint. Justice Winslow got to the rim, James Johnson, everybody.”

Defensively, the Heat hounded Lillard when he dribbled around screens, sending length and double teams at Portland’s All-Star point guard. Other than McCollum (33 points) and a Jake Layman (25 points), the rest of Lillard’s supporting cast failed to consistently punish Miami’s extended pressure.

Other than a brief offering in the fourth quarter, the Blazers got outplayed and outworked. The third quarter streak continued mostly because Portland didn’t wake up until the fourth.

The failed comeback streak is bound to end at some point this season, but on Tuesday the Blazers played just well enough to keep it going.

"Mr. Wade, let me get that jersey" -- The story behind Damian Lillard's admiration for Dwyane Wade

"Mr. Wade, let me get that jersey" -- The story behind Damian Lillard's admiration for Dwyane Wade

The Trail Blazers did not get the result they wanted, but it was a picture perfect postgame at midcourt in Portland on Wednesday night.

Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard met at center court after the Heat defeated the Blazers 118-108 to snap a four-game losing streak at Moda Center.

In that moment all eyes were on the two All-Stars as they shook hands and hugged it out and the tradition of the Wade Farewell Tour jersey exchange continued. 

Wade and Lillard posed for photographers who lined up to see the long-established jersey swap and then another handshake and embrace occurred before the two went their separate ways.

As the 37-year-old D-Wade walked off the court through the tunnel carrying 28-year-old Lillard’s jersey, the Moda Center crowd erupted with applause and cheer.

Wade said after the game, he could feel the love and respect from the Portland crowd.

Even though the Trail Blazers snapped it longest home winning streak of the season that now ends at eight straight home victories, it’s clear that Lillard will cherish the postgame uniform swap with someone he grew up watching.

“I walked up to him before the game and I was like, ‘Mr. Wade, let me get that jersey exchange after the game,’ we kind of joked about it, but I’ve always been a huge fan of his, even when I was a kid, you know, watching him in his prime in Miami.”

There’s a lot to love about a guy who has been a three-time NBA Champion, an NBA Finals MVP, a 13-time NBA All-Star and two-time All-NBA First team player, but for Lillard it all comes down to one thing about Wade that he will remember forever:

How Wade carried himself.

“The thing that I always liked about with D-Wade is just his demeanor. I don’t think you see a lot of superstars like him that just kinda got their quiet, humble vibe about them,” Lillard said.

“When he was first in the league, he had the fire, the competitive nature, and you know, even when he became a star, that mega star, he was still kind of just humble,” Lillard added. “LeBron came to town, he kind of took a backseat. There wasn’t no egos or nothing like that, and I thought that said everything that needed to be said about him. I think that’s the difference between him and a lot of other guys.”

Wade looked like that younger version of himself on Tuesday night against the Blazers. Wade’s turnaround shot was on point once again.

It’s games like Tuesday night that Wade might want to think twice about retiring.

He brought the energy and his usual flare to the game and of course it helped that the Trail Blazers crowd was behind him and excited to witness his final game in Rip City.

Wade finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes of work.

“All I can do is to continue to help these young guys believe in themselves,” Wade said.

D-Wade is about to put a bow on a 16-year NBA career.

He knows it’s time.

“As I walk away from this game, I walk away proud that I could continue to play, but it’s my time to move out of the way and let the next generation takeover,” Wade said. 

There you have it from Mr. Humble himself.

It’s time for the next generation to takeover.

Have at it, Lillard.

Blazers' vacation hangover leads to loss of "pop" -- and loss of game

Blazers' vacation hangover leads to loss of "pop" -- and loss of game

On second thought, perhaps those five days off were really not such a great thing for the Trail Blazers, after all. Portland players were practically giddy over the five game-free days last week -- and the first three that were practice-free.

But it took Portland three quarters to wake up from its vacation hangover Tuesday night and by the time the Blazers put together a solid effort they were too far behind and couldn't catch up, defeated by the Miami Heat 118-108 in Moda Center Tuesday night.

The Blazers had not played since a win over Utah last Wednesday and practiced only the last two days after three off-days.

They outscored Miami by 24 points from the three-point line and still never led in the game, getting hammered by the Heat’s 54.2 percent shooting, fueled by a barrage of layups and dunks that led to 56 points in the paint.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t seem to have a lot of pop for most of the game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “I don’t know if it was the five days off or what, but it seemed pretty obvious most of the first three quarters, we just didn’t make the energy plays, whether it was transition, or defensively in the first half, or the extra-effort plays.

“We made a nice run in the second half. It was good to see but, I don’t know, I’m going to just chalk it up to the five days off and hope we bring it better on Thursday (at home vs. San Antonio).”

The Heat handled Portland with relative ease earlier in the season at Miami and Coach Erik Spoelstra was asked what his 25-27 team does against the Trail Blazers that other teams don’t do.

“I don’t know – it’s too small of a sample size,” he said. “You know, it’s only two games. We faced them in the first five games of the year and both teams are a little bit different now.

“I don’t know if anybody is going to watch our game film to try to figure it out. But we’ll take it. We needed this – probably a lot more than they did.”

Maybe, but the season is about to take a nasty turn, schedule-wise, for the Trail Blazers very soon. They have only two more home games in February and they will come in the next week.

Portland has played 30 home games up to now and just 23 on the road. That means only 11 of the final 29 will be at home.

Of particular concern is the post-All-Star Game road trip of seven games in 14 days – against some pretty good teams.

Thus, losing a home game to a team with a sub-.500 record is costly at this point for this group with sights set on a playoff run.

The Heat did a great job of stopping key Trail Blazer players. Jusuf Nurkic made just two of seven shots and played just 22:52. He had five rebounds and didn’t block a shot.

Meanwhile, his counterpart, Hassan Whiteside, made 11 of 12 shots , had 11 rebounds and two blocks.

Damian Lillard made only 5 of 15, missed eight of his 10 shots from distance scored 13 points, albeit with 10 assists.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 33 points and made 7 of 14 from three. Jake Layman was again terrific off the bench, scoring 25 to go with eight rebounds.

Dwyane Wade had a retirement-tour highlight, potting 22 points and nine rebounds for the winners.

“From the beginning to the end, I thought we had a good stretch in the beginning of the fourth, but other than that, we just didn’t play well at either end of the floor,” Lillard said. “It’s disappointing to have an opportunity like that – two home games before we hit the road – winnable games and then we come out and just get outplayed,

“They worked harder than us tonight.”

Oh well, maybe his coach said it best:

“I’m going to just chalk it up to the five days off and hope we bring it better on Thursday.”

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Miami Heat

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Miami Heat

The well-rested Trail Blazers hosted a Miami Heat team who is embarking on a tough six-game road trip that started with this one in Portland and will end in Philadelphia in two weeks.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 108, Heat 118

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers loss:

1. Not all the rust was off...

It was not as if the Blazers were struggling too much as a team on offense in the first half against the Heat, but there were struggling to keep it together on the defensive end. A few times throughout the first half it was apparent the Blazers were not communicating as well on screens and there were even times when a Heat basket was made and the Blazers were standing around looking at each other like ‘who should’ve picked him up?’

Despite the defensive miscues, Portland was still sticking around until late in the fourth quarter and a lot of that had to do with Jake Layman and his backdoor cuts. The Blazers were finding Layman down low whether it was an alley-oop dunk or finding him slashing to the hoop for the lay-in.  Layman finished with 25 points on 11 made shots. 

2. The rest was good for the shooters...

Not only was Layman finishing around the basket, he was hitting from three, as was CJ McCollum. You could see McCollum seemed to have an extra pep in his step. In the third quarter he had one of his signature crossovers that led to a midrange jumper over Heat center Hassan Whiteside and he must’ve made a comment to Whiteside because has they jogged back up the floor Whiteside had a big smile on his face.

The Blazers as a team really didn’t find their stroke until the fourth quarter when Seth Curry and Meyers Leonard came up with big threes. Really though, the fourth quarter attempt at a comeback was in big thanks to the continued hot shooting of McCollum or I should say, thanks to #3J. But despite McCollum's 33 points it wasn't enough to get it done against the Heat. 

3. Rodney Hood is eager for new adventure in Portland...

Even though the Blazers recent acquisition wing Rodney Hood did not play on Tuesday, we got an update on him before the game started. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts says Rodney Hood will make his Blazer debut on Thursday vs. the Spurs. Hood will gradually introduce Hood to the Blazers’ playbook.

As for Hood, when he addressed the Portland media tonight for the first time on Tuesday night, you could see in his smile at the start of the interview that he is happy for this new start in Portland.

It’s talked about all the time – sometimes a player needs a change of scenery to get his game their career back on track. What stood out to me the most? – Hood is eager to getting back to being his old self, where he is dialed in and not worrying about all the outside noise.  

NEXT UP: The Blazers host the San Antonio Spurs. Tip-off is set for 7:30pm on TNT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Northwest.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Miami Heat: How and Where to Watch

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Miami Heat: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

GAME DETAILS

Where to Watch: TNT

Tip-Off Time: 7:30 p.m. 

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (6:30 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Point Spread: Portland -7.5

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio


INJURY UPDATES

The Blazers have no injuries to report for Tuesday’s game vs. Miami.

The Heat will be without Derrick Jones Jr. after being diagnosed with a pair of bone bruises in his right knee.


QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: Rodney Hood will play right away, so who will sit for Trail Blazers?

Jamie Hudson: Gary Trent Jr. believes G-League experience will translate to the Trail Blazers

VIDEO: Rodney Hood fills need for Trail Blazers

VIDEO: Blazers have high praise for Hood

VIDEO: Reality Meter: Ripple effect in rotation


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