Zion didn't cause that earthquake in Vegas but he had some ferocious dunks

Zion didn't cause that earthquake in Vegas but he had some ferocious dunks

LAS VEGAS – It was a happening. A big event – which this city loves.

And even with an earthquake that stopped the game with 7:53 left, the fans probably got what they came to see:

A few Zion Williamson thunderdunks.

The Thomas & Mack Center has been sold out for a week in anticipation of a Summer League game between the Knicks and Pelicans featuring several players who won’t even sniff an NBA roster this season. Or ever.

But it was also the very first professional game – a non-counting one, at that – for the league's No. 1 draft choice. And the fans greeted him with huge ovations for every dunk in the layup line during warmups and everything he did during the game.

Alas, they got him for only nine minutes and 10 seconds. He suffered a knee-to-knee contusion during the first half and didn’t play after intermission.

Williamson – or should we just go with the one-name thing now and call him Zion? – is one of the most interesting players I’ve ever seen in the NBA. He’s listed at 6-7 and 285 pounds on the New Orleans Pelicans’ roster but in person he doesn’t look that tall. Some say he’s just not in basketball shape at this time and he did seem stockier than I expected.

Given all that, he’s crazy athletic. He’s quick, can handle the ball some and is a ferocious dunker – the attribute that people seem to most want to see from him.

There aren’t many guys with his body type who have made it big in the NBA. Charles Barkley is the one he’s most-often compared with but my recollection is that Barkley had longer arms and did a better job of creating space for himself under the boards.

Now keep in mind, this is off just a few minutes of a summer-league game and he’s playing with a bunch of guys who don’t have NBA skills and probably just three or four days of practice together.

All that matters.

During his 9:10 on the court, Zion hit 4 of his 9 shots, nothing from any range at all, went 0-2 from three and 3-6 from the foul line. He had three rebounds and finished with a minus-15 plus-minus --- the worst of any player on the court. All of that means nothing, of course, but I do have some questions about him that will be answered this season:

Is he going to be a good rebounder? You would think so, because he’s so aggressive and bouncy. But during this game people were grabbing boards over the top of him and he’s going to have some adjusting to do to the size of NBA players.

Can he guard people? Not sure. Couldn’t tell in this game but with his toughness and quickness, he should be able to do it. I would also say he’s going to get a lot of calls from the officials. Star players do and he’s already perceived as a star.

Can he stay healthy? He’s going to have to get into shape or he’s probably going to have some injuries. This is an 82-game slog he's headed for and he’s going to be carrying a heavy load for the Pelicans.

Time, not the summer league, will tell.

He’s fun to watch, that’s for sure. Too bad we didn’t get to see more of him.

Damian Lillard on Nassir Little: He's a steal

Damian Lillard on Nassir Little: He's a steal

The Portland Trail Blazers selected UNC forward Nassir Little with the No. 25 overall selection on Thursday night.

Over the weekend, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard posted a live video to his Instagram giving his first thoughts on the rookie.

“He’s a steal for sure. That’s a steal for us… His pull-up going left is crazy,” Lillard said.

Lillard went live on his IG while grabbing sushi for lunch.

As NBA fans all around the country asked him questions, he not only talked about Little, but he also joked about his new diss tracks on Kings power forward Marvin Bagley, saying “there’s no beef” between the two.  

Lillard also gave major props to the New Orleans Pelicans on their trade with the Lakers that sent Anthony Davis to LA.

“Zion Williamson with that group, I like what New Orleans has got going,” Lillard said.

Lillard expressed how he feels the Pelicans will benefit from the Lakers trade in having Lonzo Ball run the show now.

Lillard said of Ball, he’s a “good defender, he can pass the hell out of the ball… I think he’s gonna be real good.”

While Lillard continues to train and workout this offseason, to drop diss tracks, and to go live on Instagram, the Trail Blazers newest addition will have his first press conference on Monday morning at 10am. Check Monday afternoon for the latest from Little’s press conference.

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Now that the season is over and it looks as if the Golden State Warriors are going to have to make a miracle move not to look like a mediocre team next season, the talk turns to the Western Conference and the most basic of questions:

Who’s next?

As the runner-up to Golden State in the playoffs this last season, the Trail Blazers would certainly be a logical choice. And that means there’s pressure on Portland to make the Big Move to push it over the top – something that might duplicate what the Raptors did when they acquired Kawhi Leonard.

And the trade that is being tossed around the most, of course, is for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. And I would advise those wishing for the Trail Blazers to pull that one off to slow down and be a little more realistic.

The Blazers would probably be willing to go all-in on Davis but they just don’t have the chips to tempt the Pelicans. Or, more correctly, other teams have more to offer.

And let me say first, if you think the Trail Blazer brass hasn’t already thought of this and hasn’t already engaged in some discussions with New Orleans, you’re probably off base. I would assume by now a whole lot of teams have not only knocked on David Griffin’s door, but have been rebuffed.

There’s a reason the Lakers continue to be the most-talked-about destination for Davis. No, not LeBron -- although that's certainly a factor in Davis wanting to be there. They have the most to offer. Los Angeles could send the Pels two previous No. 2 picks in the draft along with the current No. 4 pick – as well as Kyle Kuzma. The Blazers would be offering high-salaried players who could provide cap room in one more year but I would also assume a team welcoming Zion Williamson doesn't want to think about cap space NEXT year.

It wants talent now.

So if Davis doesn’t land in Portland it doesn’t mean the team didn’t give it a shot. Those guys in the front office know exactly what’s out there for them in the West and are more excited about that prospect than you are.

And I do think the Trail Blazers will pull something off – and it will probably prove to be better than you thought it was going to be. That’s the way a lot of Neil Olshey’s moves have turned out over the last several seasons.

Who could they get? I have no idea. But I certainly didn’t know Jusuf Nurkic and a pick could be had for Mason Plumlee – and I had no idea Nurk would prove to be the player he’s become. I also didn’t expect Rodney Hood and Enes Kantor to show up here for the stretch run last season.

Olshey’s plan all along has been to prepare this franchise for the time when the Warriors drop off. The Warriors didn’t just drop off, though, they fell down in a heap due to injuries.

But the Blazers are closer to a Western Conference title now than they’ve been in a long time. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are in their prime and Jusuf Nurkic – when they get him healthy – is a force at both ends of the court.

Portland could still use more three-point shooting and a rim protector until Nurkic heals and to back him up after that.

You can play with one of those online digital trade machines all you want, but I’m not sure you really know which players to plug into it.

So my best advice would be to be patient and see what happens.

One more Trail Blazer for Damian Lillard to pass and he's "special"

One more Trail Blazer for Damian Lillard to pass and he's "special"

NEW ORLEANS – Damian Lillard has only one player ahead of him now. And it’s probably the one who is considered by many to be the greatest Trail Blazer of them all:

Clyde Drexler.

Lillard moved past LaMarcus Aldridge into the No. 2 spot in career scoring with the Trail Blazers Friday night against New Orleans, en route to a team-high 24 points. The Blazers overcame Julius Randle and the Pelicans 122-110.

Lillard has scored 12,560 points, averaging 23.5 points over his 535 games as a Blazer. Drexler totaled 18,040 in his 867 Portland games, averaging 20.8 points per game.

 “Honored to move up the list in such a great organization,” Lillard said. “So many great players that came before me. Just to move up again is an honor.

“One more person to go.”

Lillard said he’s watched a lot of Drexler on You Tube and old video.

“I used to watch a lot of NBA classics and throwback games and stuff on NBA TV since high school,” he said. “My dad used to make me watch. I’ve seen a lot of him.

“After Jordan, two-guards in the league, it was him.

“When I play 2k, I always get his dunk package. He was a leaper, good defender, good size. Like I said, after Jordan as a two-guard, he was it.

“To be in the same organization, to be the guy chasing him down, it’s special for me.”

CJ McCollum also remember seeing a lot of Drexler on tape and the Internet.

“Vintage stuff,” McCollum said. “Mostly against Jordan.”

And what did you think about him?

“Total package,” McCollum said. “Everything. Get to the cup. Dunk on you. Defend. Legendary.”

Lillard spent most of the first half looking to set up his teammates. In the second half, when things got serious, he started to attack more frequently and ended up with a team-high 24 points. In the first half, though, he was seeing open teammates.

“It was just that simple,” he said. “I was coming up and the passes I was making, we were getting high-quality shots. … I just played that game, making those easy, simple plays. I knew at some point I was going to start attacking.”

Lillard hit four of his nine shots from three and McCollum knocked down three of four while scoring 23.

The Blazers needed all the points they could get against the Pelicans, even though the home team was playing without Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis.

The absence of those two just gave Randle more room to bull his way to the basket for 45 points and 11 rebounds in a performance that prompted Evan Turner to mention Zion Wiliamson.

Portland has little time to rest before its next game. The San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Knicks Friday night, will play host to the Trail Blazers Saturday night.

And guess what? Aldridge awaits.

Blazers backup bigs come up big in the Big Easy... Say that 10 times fast

Blazers backup bigs come up big in the Big Easy... Say that 10 times fast

It was a game of trying to determine which role player would step up next for the Trail Blazers on Friday night.

Portland was without starting forward Maurice Harkless because of precautionary reasons with his left knee as the Blazers played in their first leg of a back-to-back on Friday.

Despite Harkless being out and starting center Jusuf Nurkic getting into foul trouble, the Blazers were still able to come away with a victory in the Big Easy. 

The Trail Blazers snagged the season sweep over the Pelicans with Friday’s 122-110 win

New Orleans was also missing some key guys in their lineup.

Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal), E'Twaun Moore (left quad), and Anthony Davis (rest) were all out against the Blazers.  

For Portland, it was the two big men off the bench—Zach Collins and Enes Kanter, who stepped up in a big way.

For much of the first quarter, Pelicans center Julius Randle was doing a majority of his damage down low. Randle was scoring at will early. He scored a career-high 21 points in a quarter after the first 12 minutes.

But Collins came in and made Randle work for his buckets in the second quarter and Damian Lillard noticed in a big way.

“I don’t think [Randle] scored in the second quarter,” Lillard told reporters postgame.

“I thought [Zach] played well. You know, Julius Randle had, I think, 20 in the first quarter and he still ended with 45, but I just thought Zach just came in and challenged him… He used his length, he was physical, he picked up some fouls, but even on the glass, Zach – his activity just kind of disrupted it a little bit, just enough for us to take over the game, to get the lead,” Lillard added.

Defense has always been Collins’ calling card, even during his Gonzaga days. On Friday, he altered shots at the rim and was able to block shots without picking up too many fouls. 

“I thought for us, Zach came off the bench and did a nice job defensively… It was a good win for us,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told the media postgame.

Coach Stotts knew Randle was going to be a problem. “He draws fouls, he’s a unique player,” Stotts said of Randle.  

But it was Collins’ effort that both Coach Stotts and Lillard were looking for on a night like this…

“He brought a lot of energy. He wasn’t tentative at either end. I thought he made a lot of good hustle plays, rebounding, going after loose balls, getting blocked shots… I thought he brought a lot of energy and effort and we needed it,” Stotts said.

Collins has played in seven of the last 11 Blazers’ games, while averaging just 13.6 minutes per game in those seven games played.

In 23 minutes of action in Friday’s win, the 21-year-old scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, and four blocks.

On a night where, Lillard made history becoming the second all-time leading scorer in Trail Blazers history, Lillard also wanted to make sure the media knew how important it was to see Collins stay ready.

“For him to be in and out of the rotation like he has been lately, for him to come in and just be ready to play and have an impact on the game, that’s what we need from guys,” Lillard said.

The Gonzaga alum wasn’t the only bench player putting up big numbers.

Kanter added 17 points on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two assists.

The backup duo even connected early in the second quarter to show they were both ready to put on a show in NOLA.

Before fouling out, Nurkic had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in just 22 minutes of work.

Nurkic was happy to Collins take advantage of his minutes.

“Just stay ready and [Zach] was,” Nurkic said.

From one seven footer to another, Nurkic knows how effective Collins can be on the defensive end. Those two have battled it out in practice many times.

“His ability to block shots and contest, changed the rhythm of the game,” Nurkic said of Collins. 

The Blazers’ rhythm as a team will look to keep rolling in the right direction with Portland wrapping up its three-game road trip on Saturday in San Antonio.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the New Orleans Pelicans

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the New Orleans Pelicans

With just 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Trail Blazers squared off against the team that swept them in the playoffs last season, but yet, this season have already been eliminated from the postseason.

Yes, it’s a very different season for the Pelicans and on Friday night, the Blazers looked to hand New Orleans its fifth straight loss. Plus, Portland All-Star point guard Damian Lillard was looking to make Trail Blazers history.

Both goals were reached on Friday night after Portland beat New Orleans 122-110.

The Trail Blazers now improve to .500 on the road with a 17-17 record away from Moda Center.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 122, Pelicans 110

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers second straight road win:

1. Randle went to work early  

With Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal) and E'Twaun Moore (left quad) out vs. the Blazers, that meant Pelicans big man Julius Randle took it upon himself in the scoring department.

Randle was doing a little of everything on offense. He took it to the rim, hit a couple of threes to score more than his season average of 20.8 points in the first quarter alone.  It was a season-high in a quarter for Randle with 21 points.

After the first quarter it was evident that this game was going to be a high-scoring one, which made sense because the Pelicans have a lot of scorers, but have struggled on the defensive end.  

Good thing for the Blazers, Randle cooled off a little bit in the second half and a lot of that had to do with the defensive effort from Zach Collins. More on Collins and the Blazers interior defense later.

2. Lillard makes history

Damian Lillard needed just three points entering Friday’s game in New Orleans to pass LaMarcus Aldridge’s 12,562 points for second place on the Trail Blazers all-time scoring list.

It was at the 3:54 mark of the second quarter when Lillard knocked down a 26-foot three-pointer to score five points in the game and reach the significant feat.

Lillard scored 12,565 points in just his 535th career game and his seventh season in the league.

3. Interior play a big factor

The Blazers did a much better job of keeping the Pelicans' wings out of the paint in the second half. But for a game that did not involve ‘The Brow’ Anthony Davis, New Orleans was definitely getting to the rim a little easier and more often than many would expect against Portland, especially in the first half.

A lot of the interior scoring was due to Randle going off and exploiting the smaller Blazer forwards with his size and quickness.

Randle has had a breakout season, so it’s not too surprising that he led the charge in the Pelicans’ losing effort with three key players out with injuries and to rest.  But backup big man Zach Collins came in and made an immediate impact. Collins alters shots at the rim even when he doesn’t get a block, but he did finish the game with four swats, and he the best plus/minus on the Blazers’ bench with a +11.

New Orleans had nearly 54 points in the paint of the Pelican’s 90 points with three minutes played into the fourth quarter, but the Blazers were able to out-rebound the Pelicans and that was a big key in Portland being able to pull away and get the victory.


NEXT UP: The Blazers final stop on its three-game road trip is in San Antonio on Saturday. The Blazers and Spurs tip-off at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 4:00pm.
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Damian Lillard making more Trail Blazers history

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Damian Lillard making more Trail Blazers history

Portland Trail Blazers four-time All-Star point guard Damian Lillard continues to make history.  

Lillard needed just three points entering Friday’s game in New Orleans to pass LaMarcus Aldridge’s 12,562 points for second place on the Trail Blazers all-time scoring list.

At the 3:54 mark of the second quarter, Lillard knocked down a 26-foot three-pointer to reach the significant feat in his seventh season in the league.  

Lillard scored 12,565 points in just his 535th career game. Aldridge reached the mark of 12,562 points in his 648th career game.

After Tuesday’s shootaround this week, Lillard was asked if he will reach the franchise leader in points Clyde Drexler, who leads the way with 18,040 points. Lillard responded with:


“I’ll do it.”

This season Lillard is averaging 26.0 points per game.  

Drexler played 12 seasons with the Blazers to reach that mark.

Be sure to check back after the Trail Blazers and Pelicans game to hear from Lillard as he makes history in New Orleans.

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New Orleans Pelicans

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New Orleans Pelicans

Tonight marks the third and final meeting between the Trail Blazers and Pelicans this season.

Portland will be playing in the second game of this current three-game trip that wraps up on Saturday at San Antonio. The Blazers are coming off a 125-104 victory over the LA Clippers on Tuesday.

Since the All-Star break, and not trading Anthony Davis, New Orleans has gone 4-7.

Before tonight’s game both Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry addressed the media to give injury updates and more. 

Pelicans Injury Update:  New Orleans initially listed Trevon Bluiett (right thumb), Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal) and E'Twaun Moore (left quad) as out for Friday's game. This afternoon New Orleans added Anthony Davis (rest) to the list as out.

Coach Gentry said an update on Holiday and Moore “will be made at the start of next week.” As for Davis, the Pelicans decided he would not play in the Portland game, but will play in the Phoenix game tomorrow.

Gentry also handed out his keys to beating the Trail Blazers:

“I think for us, we’ve got to do a good job on their guards, you know, they’re the thing that make the team go. Their big guys are playing really well. [Jusuf] Nurkic has really had a great year. So, they’re a big team, but I think it comes down to being able to control the guards, [Damian ] Lillard and CJ [McCollum,” Gentry said.

Hear from coach Gentry right here:

Blazers Injury Update: Rodney Hood (right hip) is available, Seth Curry (upper respiratory) is probable and Maurice Harkless (left knee) is out tonight.

Portland is taking precaution with Harkless since the Blazers are getting set to play in a back-to-back.

There are has been a lot of drama surrounding the Pelicans after Davis was vocal about wanting out of New Orleans. With the tough situation, Coach Stotts gave credit to Coach Gentry for keeping his team competitive.

“Alvin’s done a real good job of keeping his team motivated,” Stotts said.

Hear from coach Stotts right here:

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: How and Where to Watch

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: 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: NBC Sports Northwest

Where to Watch on the go: Stream the game live on the new MyTeams App

Tip-Off Time: 5:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Portland -6.5

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (4:00 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio

 

INJURY UPDATES

The Blazers have listed Rodney Hood (right hip) as probable; Seth Curry (upper respiratory) and Maurice Harkless(left knee) are questionable for Friday’s game at New Orleans. 

The Pelicans have listed Trevon Bluiett (right thumb), Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal) and E'Twaun Moore (left quad) as out for Friday's game. 

 

QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: CJ McCollum -- a "professional scorer" -- carries Trail Blazers past LA Clippers

Jamie Hudson: It was CJ McCollum's night and Damian Lillard knew it

VIDEO: CJ McCollum has 'shooter's mentality'

VIDEO: McCollum’s fourth-quarter fireworks lift Blazers over Clips

VIDEO: ET is back, but how does he feel?
 

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

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With ongoing issues, Maurice Harkless is keeping the faith despite all the frustration

With ongoing issues, Maurice Harkless is keeping the faith despite all the frustration

For the past two weeks the Trail Blazers have been dominating at home, struggling on the road, and wondering when will Maurice Harkless be healthy enough to play.

Friday night at Moda Center, Portland continued its season-long winning streak at home to six games with a 128-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Blazers also got Harkless back on the court after he was initially listed as questionable.

All season long Harkless has been dealing with left knee soreness. The 25 year-old small forward had missed the previous five games with knee soreness, but this was a different kind of soreness than earlier in the season.

“We got a MRI and it was something different. It wasn’t really anything major. It was just a little inflammation in my knee… It feels a lot better now,” Harkless said.

Harkless had the MRI the day after the Blazers hosted the Knicks on January 7th. In the game, Harkless played just nine minutes. 

The good news though…

“No structural damage,” Harkless said.

In 21 minutes of action in his return Friday, Harkless finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting to go along with two rebounds and one block.

For Harkless, though, he was happier with just being back on the court and is looking to put this all behind him. 

“It’s been frustrating, but you know, this time was a little different. It’s kind of one of those things that I had to let it heal… Like I said it was a little different than what I was dealing with before, so I’m pretty sure, I’m hopeful that this will be the last time that I have to deal with this, but it’s been pretty frustrating,” Harkless said.

Even with all the frustration, Harkless is still trying to stay positive.

“I know it’s a process. I’m just sticking with it,” Harkless said.

After the game, CJ McCollum felt that Harkless did not miss a beat.

“He played well, played with energy, used his size, athleticism really well. He shot the ball with confidence and he gave us something,” McCollum said.

Evan Turner was impressed with Harkless, since ET did not think Harkless had played in a game or even scrimmaged in the last couple of weeks. 

“He was definitely efficient… I don’t really remember him going live or playing or anything – he comes out and scores 10 or 12 easy. He went off the dribble a couple of times. He looked healthy. He looked great,” Turner said.

Harkless credited his team for allowing him to get right back into the flow of the game.

“They did a great job of just making it easy for me to just fit back in,” Harkless said

It is the fifth times this season that Harkless has scored in double figures.. His season-high in points is 13, which he has reached two different times this season.

Harkless will take time to get some rest and stay off the court on Saturday “to take care of his body” and then back to work at Sunday’s practice.