Trail Blazers preparing for no home-court advantage

Trail Blazers preparing for no home-court advantage

A lot has been made about no fans attending NBA games in the Orlando bubble. 

The phrase, 'it'll be interesting' keeps coming up when talking to players and coaches about the resumption of the season with no spectators. 

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins said that this unique situation isn’t going to force him to adjust his game or his trash talking.  

I'm not going to change. So y'all might hear some pretty vulgar language coming out of my mouth, but, you know, I don't know... We'll see. I'll try to play it by ear. I don't want to change how I play and how I talk. But, we'll see. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins

Okay, now that we’ve been forewarned, we’ll be ready for all the smack talk. 

The league has been working with both national and regional television broadcast crews on the challenge of what should, and what will ultimately be heard over the airwaves.

There have been several ideas floated out there to how the television broadcast will look and feel, which includes the possibility of pumping out crowd noise to help out the 'home team.' 

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

Besides potentially hearing the players on the court a bit more than usual (or maybe a lot more), the players themselves have realized the experience without fans is part of the restart that they will need to adjust to quickly.

Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony mentioned this week that it will become obvious who really feeds off the crowd and needs that extra motivation.   

"We as athletes, we rely on the fans to get momentum, and that's how you make runs, and that's how you get back in the game with your fans," Melo said on a Zoom call Tuesday. "Guys is not going to have that, so you're going to be tested to see how motivated you are as an individual. How much self-motivation you have to go out there and get yourself going and motivated to go play in front of no one. So you have that aspect." 

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony on playing the 3 again: "Today in this game it’s positionless"

Could the Trail Blazers coaching staff be more of a factor in a tiny gym with very limited people in attendance?

Portland’s coach Terry Stotts doesn’t believe so.

“I don't see the staff being more vocal because if you watch them during the game most coaches are pretty much into the game,” Stotts said Wednesday ahead of the Blazers traveling to Orlando on Thursday. “It's going to be interesting how the game is run, how the game looks on television, if they pipe in some sound and if the game in person is going to feel different than the game that you see on television. I'm pretty sure the league has a lot of plans in both those areas, but certainly… I don’t know if home-court exists right now. It might even be a better test of each team to winning and losing and not basing it on home-court. So that's going to be interesting. But, to answer your question, a lot of things now is just kind of speculation.” 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando 

Even though the players have said they've thought a lot about and even discussed with each other their expectations on having no crowd support, Coach Stotts is right; we are all just speculating right now.  

The good news is, we now have just a little more than three weeks to continue to speculate until the 2019-20 NBA season resumes on July 30. 

Damian Lillard will be proven right about players breaking the bubble

Damian Lillard will be proven right about players breaking the bubble

There has been a considerable amount of apprehension as the NBA gets set to resume the 2019-20 season. One such concern is that not all of the players that enter the bubble will stay in the bubble.

Will there be players who break Orlando bubble protocol?

Well, with the handful of teams that have already touched down in Orlando, Florida to spend a minimum of five weeks at the Walt Disney World campus, the food situation is suspect. Not to mention trying to keep players from leaving the bubble may not be an easy task even if there were appetizing food options. But, more on that in a moment.

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

Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard doesn’t have a whole lot of faith that other players won’t break the bubble rule.

My confidence ain't great. My confidence ain't great because you're telling me you're gonna have 22 teams full of players following all the rules? When we have 100 percent freedom, everybody don't follow all the rules. I don't have much confidence. But hopefully it'll be handled to a point where we're not putting everybody at risk or in a dangerous position. -- Damian Lillard

But luckily for Lillard, he's a homebody or, in this case, a hotel-body during a normal NBA season.

“I know there's going to be activities for us and all that stuff, but I mean, I'm gonna be chilling. I feel like there's still a possibility for something to spread within that bubble, just with so many people doing so many different things that we've got to follow to be safe, even though we're not exposed to the public. So for me, it's going to be: What time is practice, what time can I get in the weight room, what time can I get some shots up, what's the plan for game day. And then I'm gonna be in the room. I'm gonna have my PS3, my PS4, I'm gonna have my studio equipment, my mic, my laptop, I'm gonna have all my books. That's it, man. I'm gonna be in the room, chilling.”

A handful of the 22 teams that are part of the NBA restart have already arrived in Orlando with teams traveling to the bubble from Tuesday to Thursday this week. Once the teams arrive they will be tested for COVID-19 and will isolate for up to 48 hours, before being tested again and begin practicing as a team.

Of course, once in the bubble players are not allowed to leave the premises.

The thought of NBA players being eliminated from the outside world and only eating the meals provided was already concerning, but then once Nuggets shooting guard Troy Daniels and Nets two-way player Chris Chiozza showed off their food in the bubble all bets were off that players will have the willpower to stay in the bubble.

As one would imagine, social media took off after seeing the brown paper bag meal.

People joked that this NBA provided food would not be up to superstar LeBron James’ standards.

Players have received a reported 113-page document outlining all the protocols and rules once inside the bubble. A player who leaves campus will be quarantined for at least 10 days and will have to undergo deep-nasal testing. 

During a Zoom call Wednesday, Blazers coach Terry Stotts mentioned that it is unfortunate that his team won’t be able to bond as a group as much during their time in the bubble due to the protocol that players can't go into each other's rooms. But, Stotts did say there will be places for his team to congregate.   

Stotts also added, “I’m hopeful that everybody understands the seriousness of it… I give our players a lot of credit, not only on our team, but in the league. I think they understand what's at stake -- from a personal standpoint, a health standpoint, and a league standpoint, so I'm optimistic that that everybody's going to do what they're supposed to do.”

For now that’s all we can do, be as optimistic as Coach Stotts that the Orlando bubble will remain a bubble.  

Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

Trail Blazers select which social justice statements they'll be wearing

For the past couple of weeks, the NBA and NBPA have discussed placing social justice messages on the back of jerseys rather than their last names.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has chosen the statement of “How Many More?” to be worn on the back on his jersey.

The personalized statements on NBA uniforms are part of the NBA’s efforts to deliver social justice messages and not detract from the current movement while play resumes. The players had a total of 29 different messages they could choose from, such as "Black Lives Matter" or "I Can't Breathe." The statements are designed to support either a social or charitable cause.

The reported list of approved social messages includes:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

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

Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum informed the media on Monday of his uniform statement.

I chose ‘Education Reform’ because I’m big on education. I think that's really important and something that we lack especially in certain communities, black communities, people of color and communities where kids are at a disadvantage.

I think there needs to be more light on that. So that's kind of been my focus and will continue to be my focus. Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that needs fixing in this world, but historically I focus on education. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

Jusuf Nurkic has reportedly chosen to wear "Equality." Rookie Nassir Little has chosen "Black Lives Matter."

The Blazers have discussed how they plan to continue the social injustice conversations while in Orlando.  

Both Lillard and Blazers coach Terry Stotts have voiced their thoughts on the opportunities that will arise once all 22 NBA teams are in the Orlando bubble.

Obviously there will be a lot of eyes on us in Orlando. So I do agree with the fact that it’s an opportunity for us to make statements with the amount of people that’s going to be watching -- whether that’s together, before games, during games, after games, TV commercials, whatever that might be, I do see some opportunities in that.  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Professional athletes all over the country have been participating in nationwide protests, while also using their social media platforms to be active in social justice messaging following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

All 22 NBA teams will arrive in the Orlando bubble by late Thursday evening.

Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard admits Draft night earrings were fake 

Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard admits Draft night earrings were fake 

Draft night attire never disappoints. Prospects don wild, progressive and sometimes ill-advised suits on the NBA red carpet. 

Last year, we had Bol Bol’s six-figure spiderweb black suit and Zion Williamson channeling his inner LeBron

Zach Collins paid tribute to his hometown in the lining of his suit in 2017.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned about Draft night looks, sometimes what we see is not always what you get. 

Enter five-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who was taken sixth-overall by the Trail Blazers in 2012. In that moment, he not only became Portland’s guard of the future, he looked like one, too.  

Dame sported a three-piece suit with red hanker chief flare and finished off his look with studded diamond earrings. If there’s one thing we know about Lillard today, it’s that he always keeps it real. 

But one thing about his draft night look was 100 percent fake and he doesn't mind putting himself on blast. 

Like they say, fake it 'til you make it, right? 

Luckily for Lillard, he can now skip Claire’s in the mall and grab some real diamond studs at a high-end retailer as one of the NBA’s highest-paid players.

While those ones were fake, Lillard does have the real thing now... except for he doesn't wear them. 

The Trail Blazers guard recently came in at No. 30 on Forbes’ annual list of highest-paid athletes. But, Dame remembers when it wan't always that way.

Will earring Dame make his triumpant appearance once NBA resumes play? Probably not. But, we'll always have the memories of Draft night, fake earrings or not.

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

Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando

Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts maps out Portland's practices in Orlando

As NBA teams make their way into the bubble in Orlando, Florida ahead of a three-week training camp before play resumes, the Trail Blazers won’t make the trip until Thursday.

The Blazers will land in Orlando around 7:00 p.m. local time and then will be subject to quarantine under the NBA’s bubble protocol.

Portland won’t practice until nearly 48 hours later.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Up to this point, the Blazers, along with the other 21 NBA teams set to restart the 2019-20 season, have held individual workouts only.

It’s not until teams step foot in the bubble that they will finally be able to practice together and have full-contact practices.

For the Trail Blazers, it will be a balancing act between making sure the players will be as close to game shape as possible, while also using the three-week camp to go over new schemes with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.

We've had coaches meetings about how we want to develop our practices, how much to do early, how much to do late, how much to alternate hard practices. We're going to change some defensive concepts with the addition of Nurk and Zach, so there'll be teaching, a little bit more teaching some concepts defensively. The contact will work itself out. And the good thing is -- we've got three weeks of practice to build up. -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

Stotts commended NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA on the protocols put in place before entering the bubble and upon entry.

“I think the league did a really good job of using these two weeks from a COVID standpoint and testing, and then having the three weeks of practice to get ready for a game,” Stotts said. “It's something you know when you talk about contact, we gotta get out and play, there's no question. But, we gotta make sure that we don't fall into a trap of trying to do too much too early.”

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

The players and Coach Stotts are eager  to finally get up and down the court as a group after participating in voluntary individual workouts two weeks ago, followed up by mandatory individual workouts over the past week.

“We haven't been that isolated in that we've seen everybody for the last two months, we've been at the practice facility. We've seen each other. So we haven't been isolated where we're not talking to people. The only contact we're missing is on the court.”

The Trail Blazers have been given a three-hour time slot for practices, but Coach Stotts says the first practice on Saturday will most likely run for two hours following the team being quarantined for the first day and a half in Orlando.  

The Blazers will also have a weight room available as well.

Saturday will be the first day to hit the ground running both figuratively and literally.

“Not a lot of guys are doing much today,” Stotts said during Wednesday’s Zoom call. “Obviously, tomorrow's a travel day. The next day is a quarantine day, so it'll be essentially a minimum [of] two or three days that they haven't done anything, so we've mapped out our practice… I think it'll be good to get them out and play. We'll do some teaching... If the quarantine is over early enough, I'd like to have a meeting in the afternoon at the hotel and go over some video of some things that we've been working on. So, I think we have to kind of wait and see.”

One of the many concerns of returning to play has been that players haven't played a competitive game since March.

To combat that issue during the three-week training camp, each team will participate in inter-squad scrimmages from July 22-28, ahead of the NBA's resumption on July 30.

The Blazers will play three scrimmages:

  • Thursday, July 23 vs. Indiana at 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Sunday, July 26 vs. Toronto at 3:00 p.m. PT
  • Tues, July 28 vs. Oklahoma City at 3:00 p.m. PT 

The scrimmages will have the look and feel of a typical NBA game.

These games are not only looked at as being a dress rehearsal for the teams, but for the television broadcast crews as well to iron out any unforeseen kinks.

“The only thing I know about the scrimmages is that they're going to be games,” Stotts said. “They're going to be 48-minute games [with]referees. So it's not going to be an informal scrimmage... It's going to be conducted just like a regular game.”

Former Trail Blazer Pau Gasol to return to basketball in Spain 

Former Trail Blazer Pau Gasol to return to basketball in Spain 

After the Trail Blazers waived Pau Gasol back in November when he was unable to successfully recover from left foot surgery, Gasol will return to the court in Barcelona.

Per RealGM, Gasol is expected to resume his basketball career in his hometown and sign a one-year deal with FC Barcelona.

Gasol, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday with the Bryant family, did not play for Portland after inking a one-year deal with the Blazers last July. In a video on Instagram, the 18-year-veteran explained that rehab from his foot surgery had taken longer than expected, and that he expected to stay with the Trail Blazers franchise in some capacity. 

I have the same excitement and passion for the game of basketball that I had when I first started playing, and I will work as hard as I can on my recovery with a clear goal in mind: To get healthy in order to continue to play the game that I love. -- Pau Gasol

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Blazers TV analyst Lamar Hurd].

While many believed Gasol would retire, Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters that the former All-Star big man would rejoin the team last November as an assistant coach.

During a visit to Rip City in December, it was revealed that Gasol needed more work on his foot and would be returning to Spain, as reported by NBCSNW’s Mike Richman. His goal was to rehab to prepare for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Now that the Olympics have been moved to 2021, Gasol has decided his professional basketball career isn’t over just yet. 

Gasol, a two-time NBA champion and six-time All-Star, has played 18 seasons since being drafted third-overall by Memphis in 2001. He is one of just four players with over 20,000 points, 11,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists and 1,500 blocks in his career, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

He also boasts three EuroBasket gold medals and a 2006 FIBA World Championship MVP trophy. 

For Carmelo Anthony, maintaining mental fortitude is a big key to winning in the bubble

For Carmelo Anthony, maintaining mental fortitude is a big key to winning in the bubble

With so many unknowns on what play will look like once the NBA resumes following a four-month layoff, there are just as many questions as to what life in the Orlando bubble will look like for the 22 NBA teams heading down to Florida this week.

As the Trail Blazers embark on their trip Thursday, power forward Carmelo Anthony described his expectations of living in the bubble and he is ready to use his platform to continue conversations surrounding social justice.

[RELATED]: In Carmelo Anthony's own words, what this season in Portland has been like

Being a 17-year NBA vet also means Melo is ready to help the young fellas mentally through such a unique situation.

“I'm trying to make the best out of this situation and I don't know how, but I'm going to make the best out of this situation -- if that's me gathering the guys under protocol and talking and keeping the conversations going, I'm going to do that,” Melo said. “We've never experienced anything like this before. The way I perceive this and the way that a younger player in this league will perceive it will be totally different. They may not know what to expect. They may not know how to handle this. This is going to be a stressful situation for everybody.”

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony on playing the 3 again: "Today n this game it’s positionless" 

In such a unique and challenging situation to deal with life in the bubble while also battling to make the playoffs, Anthony’s experience and leadership will be on full display in Orlando.

And there’s no doubt he’s up for the challenge. 

One way that Melo perceives the Orlando bubble is he believes it could look like the Olympic Village.

Everybody's gonna be tested mentally. Everybody will be tested emotionally. It's going to be a lot of things that's going on still while we're down there in the world that we're going to be paying attention to. So everybody is gonna have their own thing that they’re doing and messaging that they have. But, it will be almost a Olympic Village style -- all the athletes is just in one place. -- Carmelo Anthony

Obviously, the 3-time USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year who won a bronze for Team USA at Athens in 2004 while following that up with three consecutive gold medals, knows life in the Olympic Village pretty well.

The challenges of COVID-19 protocols will make the bubble not as glamorous and fun as the Olympic Village, of course, and Melo made sure to explain just that, saying, “you're not going to have that much interaction with guys so that's the challenge.”

But what about playing in a game with no fans?

That's another big challenge. 

"We as athletes, we rely on the fans to get momentum, and that's how you make runs, and that's how you get back in the game with your fans," Melo said. "Guys is not going to have that, so you're going to be tested to see how motivated you are as an individual. How much self motivation you have to go out there and get yourself going and motivated to go play in front of no one. So you have that aspect."

The Trail Blazers veteran also explained what else he expects the bubble life to bring. 

"You just have the emotional aspect with going down there," Anthony said."Guys may not want to go down there, but we're going down and I'm sure guys gonna be thinking about that as well. No family, no this, no that. So it's so many things that's coming into play that guy’s is going to have to deal with. But I think this is going to make everything stronger, because if we don't get this right, then this puts a dent in sports in America and all over the world, because everybody is looking at the NBA to see how this is going to play out.”

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

For Melo, though, he had questioned returning to play with the Blazers this summer in the Orlando bubble.

Despite his concerns, it’s because of his love for the game that he was ready to resume play.

“Basketball at the end of the day, wanting to play, wanting to get back on the court -- that's my personal motivation. So that is kind of what I've been, not forcing myself, but challenging myself to think that way, as opposed to thinking about all the negatives and the questions about going to a situation like that.” 

The future hall of famer also mentioned that it wasn’t as if he was against playing, but he added, “just like everybody else, I’ve had my concerns… Early I had questions before I was getting information, I had a lot of questions.”

As a human there’s still tons of concerns… The unknown of how this is going to play out. The pressures of this working… Everybody has concerns about what’s going to happen. How everything is going to transpire because we just don’t know what’s going to happen.  -- Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony.

The risk, the reward, the use of players’ platforms, and everything in between will be part of life in the bubble.

That life gets underway for Melo and the Blazers starting Thursday.

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

What an NBA game from Orlando will look like for Blazers Broadcasting

What an NBA game from Orlando will look like for Blazers Broadcasting

NBA players are just weeks away from hitting the court and bringing fans the first live game action in nearly four months! 

Teams are slowly starting to trickle into Orlando and what has been dubbed "The NBA Bubble," for mini-training camps and acclimation to the new normal playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Trail Blazers and select personnel board a plane to fly across the country, they will be leaving an important part of the traveling entourage behind: The broadcast team. 

Blazers Broadcasting, the crew tasked with filming and presenting the games, will remain in Portland and produce the broadcasts remotely. 

It's something the broadcast team has never had to do before, and Trail Blazers Director of Broadcasting Jeff Curtin knows that. 

"It's something new for my team and myself," said Curtin in an interview on the Sports Business Radio Podcast. "We've never done this before. We have, obviously. a lot of concerns...I think the NBA's set up a great plan for all the teams and the RSNs and the broadcasters. But, yeah, it's really new territory."

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

Curtin and his team have just a little more than three weeks to work out the kinks and get ready to sail uncharted waters. 

Just think of the normal things you take for granted during a broadcast that you won't have with the Orlando bubble. There will be no Brooke Olzendam cut-ins. No halftime coaches interviews. No interaction between Jordan Kent and Lamar Hurd, and the coaches and players on the bench. Curtin won't even have full control of all the cameras in the arenas. It will be an entirely new production and viewing experience. 

On the TV side, they're gonna get us a feed that's clean, with no graphics. They've also actually allowed each team to have a local camera operator there that we'll be able to be on headset with. So, I will be able to be having one camera person that I can help focus on our stories of the Trail Blazers. Then this world feed will come back to our studios, we'll insert the graphics and announcers, and no one will be on site. The challenge, at least for the TV, is we're limited to what the director and producer on-site is kind of telling for the story; what shots they're getting, what replays they're doing. We're just kind of following along. - Jeff Curtin, Trail Blazers Director of Broadcasting

On the plus side, as Curtin noted, he will be able to be in the ear of one designated camera operator in the arena. For the entertainment of Blazers fans, hopefully he makes sure that camera is fixated on the Blazers bench so we get those classic bench reactions!

But in all seriousness, with the broadcast team having to use the generic feed, it will be like no broadcast we are have ever seen. 

In fact, Curtin is looking at all avenues to help create a truly Blazer-centric experience. The idea has been floated that perhaps Olzendam can do her normal pregame interviews via Zoom and have them incorporated into the broadcast, and social media could play a larger role than ever. 

Teams going to Orlando are allowed to send one social media representative, and for Portland, that duty falls on social media master Amara Baptist. Baptist has long been at the helm of some on the most successful and entertaining social media accounts around the league, but now that expertise could help bolster the in-game broadcast. 

"Amara travels with us, so she's well experienced at this, and she'll be our only representative to help get some stories and images, videos potentially," said Curtin. "We're not sure exactly what kind of access she's gonna be able to get, but we're definitely counting on her to provide us some great content for TV and radio."

Using Baptist's social media content to help create the scene for the viewer could be paramount. With no sideline reporters, no control of all the cameras in the arena, no locker-room interviews, shootaround availabilities, etc., finding and telling the Trail Blazers story becomes harder for Curtin and his team. It's something the veteran broadcaster wants to make sure he doesn't lose on game day. 

Again, it's those stories we're really gonna miss. I think everyone can kind of understand that not having your announcers their, or having your courtside reporter there, just for conversations with players, team coaches... we're just not gonna have and it's really gonna be challenging. -  Jeff Curtin, Trail Blazers Director of Broadcasting

It won't be just the TV side of things that has to adjust. Radio play-by-play voice Travis Demers and his broadcast partner Michael Holton will also be broadcasting the game remotely from inside Moda Center. 

"On the radio side, we'll just get an audio feed and our radio broadcasters will be in Portland calling it off a monitor with a couple different monitors in front of them, some laptops with stats and information provided by the NBA as well on the courtside app," Curtin told Sports Business Radio. However, there will be a fun little catch for the radio duo. Rather than do the broadcast from a studio, they will be calling the game from their normal radio position inside an empty Moda Center. 

The radio team will be in the arena, their normal position. We'll probably turn on the video board in the arena and let them call it off that.  - Jeff Curtin 

Fans understand that we are in uncharted territory, so Curtin need not worry. He has told the Blazers game-day story to Rip City for decades, and even if he has to do it remotely, Rip City can't wait to see the next one he puts over the airwaves. 

Listen to Jeff Curtin's entire interview with Sports Business Radio below.

Carmelo Anthony on playing the 3 again: "Today in this game it’s positionless"

Carmelo Anthony on playing the 3 again: "Today in this game it’s positionless"

This is what we’ve learned so far from talking with players over the past week following their individual workouts:

The Trail Blazers are not concerned about which five guys are out on the floor at one time.

They know in order to have success, which ultimately means make it to the postseason in this unique bubble restart situation, they will have to do it by committee.

And this works out just fine in the current NBA.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

Over the past few seasons, the league has gone away from true 1-5 positions of players out on the court at one time. Honestly, if a team has a solid point guard and a center the rest of the pieces will fall into place no matter their ‘true position.’

This is why the Blazers aren’t too worried that Trevor Ariza is not making the trip to Orlando to resume the 2019-20 season.

That doesn’t mean they won’t miss his perimeter defense, his veteran leadership, and his consistent three, but right now the Blazers are dialed in on their current roster makeup and that’s it.  

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

Shooting guard CJ McCollum even said this week that he could see some minutes at small forward.

Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony, who will presumably start in Ariza’s place at the three, discussed how he sees his role changing, moving from the four to the three.

The three is where he made his bread and butter, so as one would imagine he’s ready for it.

Yeah, well, the good thing is that I get to go back to my original position which is playing at the three where I'm actually very comfortable at. I've been doing that my whole life. Just over the past couple years is where I started moving, transitioning towards playing the four more. We've got teams that is going small, so… That was to my advantage as well, but I think today in this game it’s positionless. There's no positions, no more today. So it doesn't matter when people put an emphasis on you're playing the three or you're playing the four, we out there playing at the end of the day. The schemes are going to be the same. We're going to figure it out. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony

Despite Melo and the Blazers confidence to fill in the missing piece of Ariza, that doesn’t mean this team won’t feel that void.

“As far as missing Trevor, hell yeah, we’re going to miss Trevor. Especially in this time because this is where his veteranship and his leadership would have come into play… Experience plays a big part in what we're trying to accomplish here. So we're going to miss him from that standpoint.”

With Portland losing Ariza, but gaining a healthy Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic that has been a big topic of conversation.

Adding two healthy 7-footers to the roster is always helpful.

[RELATED]: In Carmelo Anthony's own words, what this season in Portland has been like

Plus, Melo reiterated that as long as the Blazers have one center on the court the rest of the pieces don’t have to be a typical looking starting lineup. 

“As far as position skills, it's no more positions in the NBA no more at all. You just go out there, put your five out there to go and see what happens.” 

Plus, the rotation will look more like playoff basketball as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has discussed he will most likely play eight players.  

That playoff mentality is what Anthony, as a 17-year veteran, is looking to instill in this Trail Blazers team.

The way that I'm approaching it and I'm trying to get everybody else on our team to approach it this way is -- we gotta go right out of the gate. We don't have time to get loose, and get ready, and give away the first two games, like -- No,  we got to have a great camp, we’ve got to have a great three weeks… two and a half weeks or whatever down in Orlando. And that first game -- we have to go. We’ve got to be ready to go. There's no waiting, laying back, and seeing. We got to have our plan. We got to have a clear-cut plan and we have to be ready to attack straight out the gate. -- Carmelo Anthony

Melo also mentioned that he and his teammates have focused on various keys to winning games in Orlando, which includes knowing the sets, communication, and trusting each other on both ends of the court.

Positions don’t need to be the focus for the Blazers even if that is the focus in storylines heading into the resumption of the season.   

In Carmelo Anthony's own words, what this season in Portland has been like

In Carmelo Anthony's own words, what this season in Portland has been like

The last few months have been unlike anything most Americans have ever experienced. A lot of bad stuff has gone down. So many things that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

It’s hard to imagine what it’s been like for the Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony. Rescued from the Land of Castaways, Anthony signed on in Portland Nov. 19, after injuries began to decimate the Blazers’ front court. He hadn’t appeared in an NBA game since Nov. 8, 2018.

What will this man, who will someday be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, remember about this season with the Portland Trail Blazers?

In his own words, as he prepares to embark on his team’s journey to Orlando to complete the longest season in NBA history, is Melo’s summation:

“It’s not what I’m going to remember,” he said Tuesday during an Internet media conference, “it’s what I’m NOT going to remember about this season.

“Honestly, this year has been a rollercoaster. Especially for me, personally. Being away, for a year and change, from the game. To see the game, to get away from the game, to kind of build myself up from a mental standpoint, emotional standpoint, get over that -- coming to Portland with the unknown of what’s going to happen, but taking a chance.

“Moving to a place... I had no idea of what Portland was, other than going to the Nike campus, at one point. And it being wine country, that was the only thing I knew about Portland.

“Being able to do that, and then playing, and the joy of coming back, the excitement and then to lose my brother Kobe (Bryant) in the same year, dealing with that emotional rollercoaster.

“Then fast forward to the coronavirus, it’s been a very rocky, up-and-down, weird season, emotionally. But this is a season I will never forget, because it almost jump-started something for me.

“Not just from a basketball standpoint, but from an overall standpoint. I was able to take what I experienced and learned and figured out in that time off, and apply that not just to basketball, but to life.

“And that’s where I'm at right now.”