How fun would it be to watch Damian Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook in a 1-on-1 setting? We're down!

How fun would it be to watch Damian Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook in a 1-on-1 setting? We're down!

During the two month NBA hiatus (and counting) there have been a couple of fun events to keep NBA fans and players engaged.

Whether it was having NBA stars battle it out, while putting their video game skills to the test in an NBA 2k Tournament or the HORSE tournament, the league has tried to think outside the box during this global pandemic.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA are continuing to figure out if there is a possibility to resume play in a safe manner. 

During these unprecedented times, some think it’s a perfect opportunity for the NBA to experiment with how games are broadcasted or there’s even the possibility of playing a single-site tournament to determine playoff seeding.

The possibilities are endless.

But, what about when the NBA goes “back to normal,” whenever that might be, could we see an in-season tournament?

The league has really been considering such a tournament.

And then there’s the thought of pitting NBA superstars against each other in a one-on-one setting.

Now that would be fun!  

Such a tournament almost happened in 1995.

Enter Leonard Armato, who was Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon’s agent in 1995.

He was also Oscar De La Hoya’s agent.

NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh had a chance to catch up with Armato and Shaq to find out what really went down in ’95.  

Armato’s idea was to make a three-“fight” card out of this one-on-one concept and treat it similar to a boxing event, featuring a heavyweight fight, a middleweight fight and a lightweight fight.

Shaq-Hakeem was scheduled to be the heavyweight fight and the headliner on the original 1995 card. A young Kevin Garnett vs. Joe Smith was the middleweight fight and Kenny Anderson vs. Nick van Exel was the lightweight bout.

But, as Haberstroh illustrates, the evening before the event, Armato got a call from Olajuwon’s teammate Clyde Drexler.

And it wasn’t the call he would want the day before the one-on-one battle was going to take place.

“I want to talk to you about something,” Drexler said, according to Armato. “Hakeem. He’s not feeling well. His back.” 

Olajuwon had, apparently, hurt his back working out earlier that week and it wasn’t improving. So, Armato decided he would have to cancel the event.

There was no “War on the Floor” or undercard matchups.

But, could a one-on-one tournament actually happen nowadays?  

Maybe.

This got us thinking -- what are some fun potential 2020 matchups?

Here in Rip City, I don’t think anyone would turn down the idea of Damian Lillard facing Russell Westbrook.

We've seen how they can get under each other's skin.

In the 2019 playoffs, Lillard sent Westbrook and the Thunder packing in the First Round after he knocked down a crazy 37-foot buzzer-beater. Or, as Paul George called it “a bad shot.”

In that series, Lillard averaged 33.0 points to Westbrook’s 22.8.

Just imagine the hard takes to the rim and all the facial expressions you would see in this one-on-one battle.  

Dame has said many times that he likes Russ even if people don’t believe that because of the way they act against each other on the court.

For real though, with these two’s competitive nature a one-on-one battle would be must-see TV!

But, if you ask Shaq, these are the 1-on-1 matchups of today’s NBA stars that he prefers:

  • Joel Embiid vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
  • Steph Curry vs. Kyrie Irving
  • Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden

"Give me Joel Embiid and Giannis,” Shaq said. “I need something that’s even (size). That’s what made me and Hakeem good is that we were 6-11 and 6-10."

Follow Tom Haberstroh on Twitter (@TomHaberstroh), and bookmark NBCSports.com/Haberstroh for his latest stories and videos and subscribe to the Habershow podcast.

Also, check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

Happy wave-iversary! Social media reacts to Damian Lillard's 'bad shot' from one year ago

Happy wave-iversary! Social media reacts to Damian Lillard's 'bad shot' from one year ago

Happy wave-iversary!!!  

One year ago today, Damian Lillard sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing in Game 5 of the First Round of the 2019 Playoffs.

And today, we still get goosebumps.

As all of Rip City remembers, Lillard dribbled most of the final 18.4 seconds of a tie game down to tenths of a second before firing up a 37-foot pull-up jump shot over Oklahoma City’s Paul George, one of the best defenders in basketball, who then infamously called the buzzer-beater, ‘a bad shot.'

NBA Twitter came alive remembering Lillard’s 37-foot dagger.

Also, we could watch this highlight with fan reactions over and over again.

Rip City Faithful was going nuts! It’s crazy to think that this happened a year ago now.  

While many Trail Blazers fans were celebrating the anniversary, some fans were even more upset now because of the current NBA hiatus.

The basketball withdrawals are real.

Lillard’s 50 points in that Game 5 victory were a franchise playoff record. That performance also meant he was the first player in NBA history to score 50-plus points and make a game-winning buzzer-beater in the same playoff game. His 10 three-pointers for the game marked the second-most threes in a playoff game in league history, just one behind Klay Thompson’s 11 in 2016.

Portland closed the game out on a 26-8 run.

And the rest is ‘bad shot’ history.  

So many emotions as Trail Blazers fans and Damian Lillard relive Game 5 win over Thunder

So many emotions as Trail Blazers fans and Damian Lillard relive Game 5 win over Thunder

No matter how many times you have watched Damian Lillard’s 37-footer at the buzzer that sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing, it will never get old.

Plus, it’s always fun to watch Game 5 in its entirety with other Trail Blazers fans.    

It’s hard to believe it was nearly a year ago.

It was April 23, 2019, when there were two seconds left on the clock as Lillard dribbled to his right, stepped back, lifted up, and drained the improbable 37-foot game-winner over an outstretched Paul George to eliminate the Thunder from the First Round of the 2019 playoffs.

With all that has changed, one thing is still certain: Damian Lillard has ice running through his veins.

Lillard waved goodbye to the Thunder bench after nailing the shot.

A moment that Rip City won’t ever forget and a game that Trail Blazers fans very much enjoyed re-watching Monday night.

 

Fans couldn’t help but share their emotions of how much they miss Trail Blazers basketball.

Damian Lillard was dialed in all night. Lillard scored 19 points in the first quarter alone. At halftime, he had 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting.  

Oklahoma City had swept Portland 4-0 during the regular season with an average margin of victory in the four wins of 7.0 points.

But, it’s no surprise that Lillard went off for 50 points in Game 6, he had been scoring with ease versus the Thunder all season. Lillard’s highest scoring average against a Western Conference opponent during the 2018-19 season was against OKC, averaging 34.8 points (46.2% FG, 25.0% 3-PT, 91.7% FT). He scored a season-high 51 points vs. the Thunder on March 7.

As if the tweets from Rip City Faithful aren't fun enough, Damian Lillard was also live-tweeting the entire game on the Trail Blazers’ Twitter account.

Can we have more classic games with Lillard tweeting about them!?

The five-time NBA All-Star gave some real insight into what he was feeling ahead of Game 5 as well as during it.

The Trail Blazers point guard wasn’t just talking about the positives in this game. When Oklahoma City made its run in the fourth quarter, Lillard admitted he had a few bad possessions during that stretch.

Again, there were just so many emotions throughout this game.

Lillard finished with a career-playoff-high 50 points, but fans on Twitter were showing him love long before The Wave.

While Lillard was in charge of the Blazers Twitter account, he also took time to do a Q & A with fans.

Here are some of the top answers:

Be sure to check out this week’s Talkin’ Blazers Podcast former Portland Trail Blazer Travis Outlaw joins Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:

 

Rip City went crazy once again on social media after witnessing Jusuf Nurkic’s first appearance of the postseason since his injury in March as well as Lillard’s late-game heroics.

Nurk showed up on the bench with 3:28 remaining in the game.

And then…

The Wave.

Bye-bye, Thunder.

Again… We say… bye-bye, Thunder.

How to Watch: Damian Lillard's "Wave" Game 5 vs. OKC

How to Watch: Damian Lillard's "Wave" Game 5 vs. OKC

Legendary. 

Call it whatever you want…

The Wave

The Shot

The Bad Shot

In the latest installment of the Trail Blazers Classic Games, we are all going to re-live Damian Lillard’s 37-footer at the buzzer as he finished with a career-playoff-high 50 points to send the Oklahoma City Thunder packing.   

It was a nearly a year ago.

The date was April 23, 2019. There were two seconds left on the clock. Lillard dribbled to his right, stepped back, lifted up, and drained the improbable 37-foot game-winner over an outstretched Paul George to eliminate the Thunder from the First Round of the 2019 playoffs.

With all that has changed, one thing is still certain: Damian Lillard has ice running through his veins.

Lillard waved goodbye to the Thunder bench after nailing the shot, then was promptly mobbed by his teammates.

A moment that Rip City won’t ever forget.

[RELATED]: NBA players react to Dame's insane game-winner 

Lillard finished with 10 3-pointers, breaking the franchise record.

Portland had been swept in the first round of the playoffs in the previous two seasons, so the series win felt even better.

Lillard also surpassed his previous playoff-high of 40 set against the Warriors in 2016.

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard's ‘bad shot’ and wave still has Thunder fans salty 10 months later

Not only was Game 5 emotional because of Lillard’s heroics, but it was also Jusuf Nurkic’s first appearance of the postseason since his injury in March.

Nurk drove himself to Moda Center during the third quarter to show up for his team when they needed him the most.

It meant a lot. I had seen him earlier today; he was at the practice facility. He was getting a lift in and some rehab. I was like, 'when you gonna come to a game?’  He was like, ‘I’m not ready yet,’ so, when I looked and saw him I was like, man it must’ve looked bad on TV for him to leave his house in the middle of third quarter and drive all the way out here. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum joked postgame

With 3:28 remaining in the game, Nurkic made an appearance on the Trail Blazers bench.

Lillard had already been having a phenomenal game, with a franchise record 32 points in the first half, yet the Blazers trailed 113-105 when the Bosnian Beast showed up.

The jumbotron was quick to show Nurk’s presence on the bench.

Moda Center erupted.

“I was in pain watching the game,” Nurkic joked with Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd on the NBC Sports broadcast after the game. “By the end of the third quarter, I was like f*** it, excuse my French, I’m gonna go out there and show up and I knew if I showed up, we were going to win this game. I had zero doubt.”

Starters for Game 5 Blazers vs. OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY

Jerami Grant

Terrance Ferguson

Steven Adams

Russell Westbrook

Paul George

PORTLAND

Al-Farouq Aimin

Maurice Harkless

Enes Kanter

Damian Lillard

CJ McCollum

HOW TO WATCH: 2019 First Round Game 5

WHEN: Monday, April 13 at 6:00pm 

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

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here.  

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

The full schedule of Trail Blazers Classic Games on NBC Sports Northwest can be found here.

Damian Lillard isn't afraid of Russell Westbrook

Damian Lillard isn't afraid of Russell Westbrook

The date was April 23rd, 2019. 

On that night, Damian Lillard dropped a 50 piece on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. 

The game is best known for what happened at the final buzzer. That is when Lillard launched what is now known as the "Bad Shot."

Lillard rose up from the Moda Center logo, launched a shot over the outstretched arm of Paul George, and sent OKC home. 

The result was the Thunder hitting the reset button in the offseason. 

They traded Paul George to the LA Clippers, and the face of the franchise Russell Westbrook was sent to Houston.

A year later, OKC fans are still salty. 

"PAT BEV TRICK YALL MAN," if that is his real name, is definitely a Westbrook Stan.

What gives it away? Maybe it's the @TripleRussell0 handle, or the Westbrook avatar, or maybe it's the Westbrook banner. We can't quite put our finger on it. 

Regardless, Rip City saw the tweet and was more than a little perplexed. 

After dispatching the Thunder, Portland went on to play in its first Western Conference Finals in nearly 20 years. 

It seems like wanting no part of Westbrook worked out pretty well for Lillard.

How the Trail Blazers will repeat the magic of '77 in 2021

How the Trail Blazers will repeat the magic of '77 in 2021

On Sunday, NBC Sports Northwest aired the first of 12 Trail Blazers Classic Games, starting with none other than Game 6 of the 1977 NBA Finals. 

In case you aren't up to speed on Trail Blazers history, it was on the afternoon of June 5th, 1977 that the Blazers beat the 76ers in Game 6 to claim a 4-2 series victory and the franchise's first and only NBA Championship. 

The next morning, Portland was bursting at the seams. Fans lined the streets of downtown as the team celebrated with a victory parade. 

It has been 43 years since that parade took place. But, what if this were the last summer the Trail Blazers had without one? What if next season all the cards were dealt in Portland's favor? What if 44 years after making history, the Blazers did it again? What if there was a '21 championship parade?

Just imagine for a minute what could happen next season...

It's late October 2020. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the NBA suspended and later canceled the remainder of the 2019-2020 season. 
Finally, all the quarantines are lifted and it's back to business as usual. 

The NBA, one of the first sports leagues in the United States to feel the impact of the pandemic, is finally taking back to the court. 

For the Blazers, there is more than just a return of the game, but the return of key players as well. 

Jusuf Nurkic, who was supposed to make his return on March 15th, will finally see game action after a 17-month hiatus. Zach Collins, who was dealing with a shoulder injury and missed most of the 2019-20 season, is returning as well. Except for Rodney Hood, who is in the final stages of recovering from a ruptured Achilles, the Blazers are finally close to full strength. 

Continuity is key in the NBA, and the Blazers have a lot of it at this point. 

Thanks to a shortened offseason, the Blazers wasted no time signing their own free agents. 

Hassan Whiteside returned on a team-friendly deal and Carmelo Anthony, staying true to his word about seeing himself retire as a Blazers, signs a multi-year deal to ride off into the sunset wearing red and black. 
Trevor Ariza's contract was also guaranteed for the season and the team signed Wenyen Gabrial to a multi-year after he showed great potential in limited time last season.

However, Caleb Swanigan walked as a free agent, signing a lucrative deal to be the starting center for the New York Knicks. Needing to find another big to fill the roster, the Blazers turned to a familiar face: Meyers Leonard.

The seven-footer signed a veteran minimum deal, and with Leonard and Hezonja, the Blazers had the best Call of Duty duo in the league.

The roster was fully loaded and ready to roll. 
PG: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, 
SG: CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr
SF: Trevor Ariza, Nassir Little, Mario Hezonja
PF: Zach Collins, Carmelo Anthony, Wenyen Gabrial
C: Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Meyers Leonard
INJURED: Hood

The Blazers were primed for a run, but first they had to get through the stacked Western Conference. 

Atop the west were the two favorites, the Lakers and the Clippers. 

Unfortunately for the Lakers, LeBron James showed up to camp out of shape having treated every day of the quarantine as Taco Tuesday.
Now you know why Taco Wednesday, Taco Thursday, etc were trending all summer. 

As for the Clippers, they were laser-focused. Kawhi Leonard has always been the self-isolation king. He was the only NBA player in his element all summer, and Clippers would reap the benefit. 

Next, you had teams like the Nuggets.  

People would continue to sleep on Denver and burn Jokic for being "out of shape," yet no team has an answer for the Joker. If he is a triple-double machine "out of shape," I'd hate to see him in shape. They were deservedly a Top-3 team. 

The rest of the conference is a wild card. The Thunder, Mavericks, Jazz, and Grizzlies. Any of these teams could finish top four, but they could also finish out of the playoffs. How and where they finish all depends on if they remember to tuck in there jerseys any time they play CP3.

As for the Rockets, they lost their luster. During the pandemic, the CDC recommended against facial hair. To cover his bases and stay safe, James Harden did the unthinkable. He shaved his beard. 

Now clean-shaven, he was no longer intimidating. He could no longer hide behind his beard. Russell Westbrook became the alpha, and Harden just became a run of the mill spot-up shooter. 

The season played out as many expected. The Blazers started slow out of the gate as they tried to figure out lineups and build some chemistry. Anthony and Whiteside had never played with Nurkic before, and for all intents and purposes had never played with Collins. It was like adding two new free agents to the mix. 

Come mid-December, the Blazers were starting to put it all together and found themselves in the Top-8 out west. Then they got reinforcements. Rodney Hood was finally ready to return. 

He started as a bench player behind Ariza, playing on a minutes restriction, but quickly rounded into form and earned his starting spot back. 

By mid-January, the Blazers starting lineup was Lillard - McCollum - Hood - Collins - Nurkic, with a bench rotation of Simons - Trent Jr - Ariza - Anthony - Whiteside. That is a championship-caliber roster, and they went into All-Star break as a Top 5 team in the West.

Speaking of All-Star break, the Blazers had three, yes THREE, representatives at the game. Lillard, Nurkic, and McCollum 

Nurkic was having the best year of his career, and behind Jokic was the best center in the west. McCollum was also having one of the best years of his career and grabbed the vacant spot left by James Harden. 

You see, baby-faced Harden suddenly started getting called for traveling and wasn't being sent to line anymore. Without the beard he was nothing. He would later decide to grow the beard back out, but it wouldn't be ready until 2022. The Rockets were sent to the lottery while they waited.

Flash forward to the end of the season, the Blazers ended strong and finished behind the Clippers and just ahead of the Nuggets. Oh, wait, what about the Warriors? The entire league forgot about Klay Thompson and Steph Curry returning. This wasn't the Eric Paschall show anymore...

With Steph, Klay, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and first overall pick and rookie of the year Anthony Edwards, the Warriors were once again unstoppable. And for some reason, no one noticed. 

Final Western Conference Standings:

1) Warriors
2) Clippers
3) Blazers
4) Nuggets
5) Jazz
6) Thunder
7) Mavericks
8) Lakers

FIRST ROUND: BLAZERS VS THUNDER

The Blazers matched up with the Thunder in Round 1. Ironically, this Thunder roster, led by Chris Paul, was made as a direct result of what happend the last time these two played in the playoffs. The Bad Shot. 

There were no bad shots this time around, only good ones, and the Blazers swept the Thunder. 

The rest of the field:
1) Warriors over 8) Lakers: 4-2
Over the season LeBron swore off tacos, and got back in shape. But, it wasn't until late in the season that he was the LeBron we had come to know. The King was ready, and so were the Lakers. Unfortunately, they had to meet up with the Warriors. Golden State was LeBron's kryptonite for years, and it didn't change with him in a Lakers uniform. The Warriors were back...

7) Mavericks over 2) Clippers: 4-3
This was, by far, the best series in the first round. Every game was decided by single digits, with Game 7 being won on a Luka Donic buzzer-beater. 

4) Nuggets over 5) Jazz: 4-2
Two boring teams put on a boring series, and boring Jokic averaged the most boring triple-double and tore the boring Jazz apart in the most boring way. 

SECOND ROUND: BLAZERS VS NUGGETS

The last time the Blazers made it to the second round they played the very same Denver Nuggets. They beat the Nuggets in seven games in 2019, but things are different this time around. In 2019 they didn't have Melo, Whiteside, and most importantly they didn't have a healthy Jusuf Nurkic. With a full complement of weapons, the Blazers went to battle with the Nuggets. 
The Blazers defense was able to hold Jokic to only double-doubles in round two, but he still helped the Nuggets put up a fight. But in the end, the Blazers depth was too much and Nurkic wished the team from the Mile High City a "happy summer" after his 20-20 game sealed the deal in Game 6. 

Rest of the field:
1) Warriors over 7) Mavericks: 4-1
The ol' gentleman's sweep. The Mavericks didn't go down without a fight, but Donic and Co. just ran out of gas after that grueling seven-game series against the Clippers. One thing is for certain, the Mavericks will be a force for years to come, 2021 just wasn't their year. 
Curry and the Warriors shimmy into the Western Conference Finals. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: BLAZERS VS WARRIORS
Déjà vu or what? In 2019, the Blazers beat the Thunder in the first round, Nuggets in the second round, and met the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

The Blazers were swept that season, but no one would forget the magical performance of Meyers Leonard in Game 4. The Blazers reserve center got the start that night and went off for a career-high 30 points. 

After a season filled mostly with DNPs, it was time for the Hammer to do his thing. Coach Stotts tinkered with his lineup, moving Melo to backup SF  in an effort to get Leonard minutes. 

The move proved to be the x-factor. 

Every Curry bomb was matched by Lillard. 
Every Thompson trey was matched by 3J. 
Every Wiggins bucket was matched by Nurkic. 
Every Green brick was countered by a Leonard swish. 

The extra firepower was the difference, and just like he did in Game 4 in 2019, Leonard found his groove. 

It took six games, but the Blazers finally got over the Golden State hump. For the first time since 1992, the Blazers were heading to the finals. 

THE NBA FINALS.  BLAZERS VS ???? 

The Blazers flew across the country for Game 1 against the (checks notes)... Philadelphia 76ers! It was like 1977 all over again, and the series played out like an epic remake of a classic movie. 

The 76ers jumped out to a 2-0 series lead and had the Blazers on wobbly legs. 

But, Game 3 in 2021 started like Game 2 ended in 1977. 

Zach Collins and Ben Simmons both went up for a rebound late in the first quarter, but became tangled up and wrestled to the floor. They both jumped up, fists clenched ready to fight. The benches started to clear. Surprisingly, Joel Embiid elected to stay out of it and remained calm away from the fight. And before anyone could get in to separate the two, Trevor Ariza came flying in. Ariza, playing the role of Maurice Lucas, came in and gave Simmons a Goldberg-esque spear to the floor. 

Ariza was ejected and suspended for Games 4 and 5, but the message was sent loud and clear: Portland wasn't going down without a fight. 

Immediately following the fight the Blazers went of a game-deciding run and never looked back. The Blazers won Games 3, 4, and 5, and in a perfect storybook ending Ariza returned in Game 6 only to hit the series-clinching bucket as time expired. 

Fans rushed the court as Mark Mason yelled the loudest "Blazers win" of all time. Damian Lillard came over, grabbed the mic and yelled "RIP CITTTTTYYYYY."  

On TV you heard the epic call, "And the Blazers win the series for the first time in 44 years."

Rip City was ready to party like it was 1977. 

Luckily for those watching at home, they got to see the full celebration. There was no cutting to the Kemper Open!

The next morning was one giant party in Portland. 

Lillard and Co. boarded the parade bus and went around the city to celebrate with the hundreds of thousands of fans in the streets. 

They started at VMC, went over the Broadway Bridge, all the way down Broadway, found their way onto the 405,  crossed over the Marquam Bridge, up I-5 North, eventually ending with an extravagant rally inside Moda Center. 

It was an event 44 years in the making. 

A long wait worth every second. 

Will it happen in 2021? Only time will tell. 

NBA suspends season indefinitely after Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19

NBA suspends season indefinitely after Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19

UPDATE: 7:50am-- 

9:45 p.m. PT UPDATE: More than four hours after the Thunder and Jazz were scheduled to tip-off, the Jazz remain in Chesapeake Energy Arena as the team waits for their test results. ESPN's Royce Young is reporting that the Jazz will stay at the arena and could be busing home from OKC to Salt Lake City.  

In a shocking development to hit the NBA, Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert has tested positive for coronavirus. 

In the wake of the latest news, the NBA has suspended its season.

It was a wild scene in Oklahoma City before the Thunder and Jazz game.

Wednesday's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC was postponed after players were sent back to the locker room prior to tip-off.  

Right as it seemed the game would start, OKC’s public address announcer told the Thunder crowd that the game would be postponed "due to unforeseen circumstances."

Team officials went back to the locker room after starting lineups were announced with officials leaving the floor before the announcement was made.

ESPN's Royce Young explained what happened next:

There was concern raised with both Jazz big man Rudy Gobert and Jazz guard Emmanuel Mudiay listed as out due to illness prior to Wednesday’s game.

Plus, there is the fact that Gobert touched reporters microphones just days ago while trying to make light of the coronavirus outbreak.

After fans had left, the arena's custodial staff was seen disinfecting the Jazz bench.

In the wake of the spread of COVID-19, the NBA will close its doors to fans, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. 

After a call with the NBA's Board of Governors where they reached a consensus on the league's season going forward without fans attending games.

The league was entertaining the idea of postponing the games, as well. But, it was a less popular option.  

Adam Silver was expected to make the decision to bar fans from NBA arenas official Thursday. 

COVID-19 has affected over 124,000 people worldwide and accounted for 4,584 deaths. More than 1,000 cases are confirmed in the United States. 

 

Damian Lillard's ‘bad shot’ and wave still has Thunder fans salty

Damian Lillard's ‘bad shot’ and wave still has Thunder fans salty

Dear Oklahoma City Thunder fans,

It’s been nearly a year and we know you are still upset.

We would be, too, if Damian Lillard launched as cold-blooded of a game-winning shot as he did on that fateful day in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

For those who don’t remember what went down, we will quickly recap:

Tied at 115-all in Game 5 of the opening-round playoff series, Lillard dribbled down the clock before launching a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer over then Defensive Player of the Year Paul George.

You know what happened next, the shot went in and then Dame in all of his glory, waved goodbye to the Thunder bench. It was one of the most savage series game-winners you’ll ever see and obviously the stuff of legends.

Moving on, the Trail Blazers are 26-33 so far this season and are on the fringes of the final playoff spot in the West, while the Thunder is 36-22 and 10.5 games ahead of Portland in the standings.

Portland has been back-and-forth with Lillard sidelined with a groin injury suffered before All-Star break. On Tuesday, the Blazers succumbed to the Boston Celtics in a 118-106 loss.

Enter Thunder troll:

Dame shot back with a poised response of his own:

Dame’s right. Thunder fans are still hurting. But they do not want Dame coming for them in the playoffs again this season. With 23 games left to play, don’t count the Blazers out of the playoff picture. 

Lillard is expected to return in a few games and will travel with the team during their upcoming three-game road trip to Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando. The Trail Blazers have not set a date for Jusuf Nurkic’s return following a season-ending leg injury in 2019, but he recently teased out his imminent return with a post on Twitter, which showed two loading icons. Heck, there's even a chance Zach Collins could make it back if he's healthy and risk-free. 

As for the wave, it will live forever. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is probably constructing a LillardTime wing as we speak. Let it burn Thunder fans, but also appreciate the greatness that's upon you. It's a moment in history, a moment in time, the basketball world won't soon forget. 

Gary Trent Jr.'s Flu Game leads to a career-high and a trip down memory lane

Gary Trent Jr.'s Flu Game leads to a career-high and a trip down memory lane

OKLAHOMA CITY – The flushed face, glazed over eyes, and low energy feeling being exerted from Gary Trent Jr.’s face was what his teammates witnessed at their team meeting Saturday morning in OKC. 

And then… 

Trent Jr. not only played, he dropped a 30-piece.

“There’s no way I thought he was playing today,” Carmelo Anthony chuckled when thinking about how Trent Jr. was barely moving at the team meeting. 

With injuries and a trade that sent Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento, the Blazers had the required league-minimum of eight players on the active roster.

One of those eight was Trent Jr. who was still dealing with a “flu-like” illness.  

Fortunately for the Blazers, he was feeling a lot better by tip-off.

“When you’re sick, the morning is always the worst,” Trent Jr. said postgame. “You’re groggy, you’re tired, you’re sore and obviously playing that night before, but like I said though, the medical staff made sure I was well prepared for the game. So, I’m fortunate they were there for me."

Portland fell to the Thunder 119-106 despite Trent Jr.’s career-high and Damian Lillard’s 34-point performance.  

The short-handed Blazers clearly ran out of gas Saturday night.  

But, even though it didn’t look like Trent Jr. had any gas left in his tank after dealing with the worst of the illness Friday night in Dallas, he wasn't about to take a sick day.

There was no time when I didn’t think that I wasn’t going to be good to go. You know, your job is to play basketball. Some people go to work still sick, you still have to work, you still have to do your job in a sense. I was always going to be available no matter what my state was.  -- Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. said postgame

And hey, “just be great,” right?

That mantra is found all over Trent Jr.'s social media accounts whether he’s posting a photo to Instagram or tweeting out a highlight video with the ‘love-you gesture’ emoji hands, he says he not only plays by that motto, but also lives by it.

The now 21-year-old says he was trying to come up with a saying since LeBron James coined the ‘strive for greatness’ phrase and once he came up with ‘just be great,’ he “has been running with it ever since.”

“I’ve been saying that for a while now, since like high school,” Trent Jr. said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts reminded the media before the game that it was Trent Jr.’s 21st birthday. After the game, he gave praise to the birthday boy.

“I was very happy Gary Trent had a good game. Obviously, it was one of the best games of his career. Particularly coming off an illness, I thought that was a great game by him."

Anytime a professional athlete has a career night and doesn’t get the win, they’re obviously not satisfied.

“We came here to win,” Trent Jr. said. “I’m not here to get numbers, but it was a great thing for my birthday. But we lost, so we have to go back to the drawing board, and a good thing about the NBA is that we have another game Monday to redeem ourselves.”

A person's 21st birthday is usually one they remember forever. The best year in a long string of birthdays. That may not be the case for Trent. Not only was he sick, but his 21st birthday has some stiff competition.

“My 21st birthday I was sick, so nothing can beat five-year-old, six-year-old at Chucky Cheese,” Trent Jr. said with a smile. “It’s second to that,” he laughed.

Even with slightly glazed over eyes still late Saturday night, the second-year player grinned from ear to ear when talking about his birthday's of the past.

“There was a place that I used to love growing up in Columbus, Ohio called Magic Mountain. It was super fun. It’s an arcade mixed with a thirty-foot jungle gym. You should really check it out.”

While Magic Mountain is going to have to wait until the offseason, right now the Blazers are forced to battle through injuries and then work to integrate their new players on the roster.  

Portland’s All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is going to continue to be proud of what Trent Jr. did on Saturday night, but also what he’s been able to do to improve this season.

“He’s battling the flu. He’s tough for lasting through two nights playing through the sickness, and he had a great game. He was aggressive. He shot the ball well. He played a great game,” Lillard said. “We knew he could fill it up coming in. In training camp, he was scoring and was able to get baskets, I think his understanding of the game has improved from last year to this year as far as recognizing plays calls, remembering coverages, knowing personnel, knowing where to be, knowing how to make plays and be in positions.”

Trent Jr. knew he could not call in sick with his team so undermanned. He has always said he is here to do whatever he needs to do to help his team win and with no CJ McCollum because of a left ankle sprain, Trent Jr. was doing his best to pick up the slack.

January 18th, 2019 will always be known as the Gary Trent Jr. Birthday Flu Game.  

Instant Analysis: Gary Trent Jr. drops career-high despite flu

Instant Analysis: Gary Trent Jr. drops career-high despite flu

OKLAHOMA CITY – Just four hours before the Trail Blazers and Thunder tipped off from Chesapeake Energy Arena, reports surfaced that Portland had traded Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento.

With the two forwards no longer with the team, along with the recent injury coming Friday night in Dallas keeping CJ McCollum out of Saturday's game due to a left ankle sprain, the Trail Blazers suited up the league minimum eight players versus the Thunder.

And one of those eight players was Gary Trent Jr. who is still dealing with a “flu-like” illness.  
Fortunately for the Blazers, Trent Jr. said before the game he was feeling better and had more energy. 

It showed.

After being down by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, it looked as though the Blazers were going to be able to rally back after outscoring OKC in the second quarter. But, it was apparent the short-handed Blazers ran out of gas by the fourth. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: THUNDER 119, TRAIL BLAZERS 106

Here are three quick takeaways from Saturday's loss:

1.  If you suit up, you had to play for Blazers

Besides Damian Lillard, Gary Trent Jr. was the only other Blazer in double figures midway through the second quarter. Lillard already notched 24 points at the break. But with McCollum out, Lillard was also trying to get his teammates more involved on the offense. He had four of the Blazers’ six assists in the first half. 

It was a night for the young Blazers to show what they got. 

Fighting through a flu bug, Trent Jr. hit his first seven shots. He didn’t miss a shot until the 2:54 mark of the third quarter. The second-year player showed his composure while getting extended minutes. Trent Jr. was Portland’s second-leading scoring on the night with a career-high 30 points.

2. CP3 leads the charge for OKC

Chris Paul was the Thunder's leading scoring at halftime with 21 points, while also being the hype man for OKC fans in attendance. With the trade deadline approaching, Thunder fans are making sure to show their love for the starting point guard. CP3 finished with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting. 

3.  The battle on the boards

Through three quarters, Oklahoma City was outrebounding Portland, 39-32. Hassan Whiteside had nine of those 32 boards; however, Blazer fans have become accustomed to Whiteside reaching double-digit rebounds by the fourth quarter.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers host the Golden State Warriors on Monday. The Blazers and Warriors tip-off at 7:00pm.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the players!