Phoenix Suns

How LaMarcus Aldridge being ruled out impacts the Trail Blazers

How LaMarcus Aldridge being ruled out impacts the Trail Blazers

After being suspended for nearly two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA announced last week that the league would return to play with games tentatively set to start on July 31st.

22 of the 30 NBA teams will head to Orlando, giving all the teams that are still mathematically eligible a chance to still make the playoffs. 

Two of the teams currently on the outside but looking to steal the eighth seed are the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. But it appears the Spurs will not pose as big of a threat to the Blazers as we thought.

It was announced by the Spurs on Monday that star power forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

According to the official press release, Aldridge initially injured his shoulder against Utah on February 21st and underwent the procedure, officially an "arthroscopic subacromial decompression and rotator cuff debridement on his right shoulder" on April 24th.  

Disappointed I won't get to finish the season with my teammates, but excited that I'll be fully ready to go next season and beyond. - LaMarcus Aldridge

When the season was suspended on March 11, the Blazers held just a half-game lead over the Spurs, while sitting 3.5 games back from the No.8 Memphis Grizzlies. 

To have a chance to make the playoffs, Portland has to finish in ninth place and be no more than four games behind the Grizzlies. The teams battling with them for that spot are the Spurs, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and Sacramento Kings. 

With Aldridge sitting out, it's one less team for Portland to worry about... or is it? 

The schedule for the 8-game seeding phase has yet to be released, but will be based on what was the team's remaining schedule on March 11th. 

It will be interesting to see what the NBA's eight-game slate looks like. While Portland didn't have a game remaining against the Spurs, San Antonio did have three games against New Orleans, two games against Sacramento, and one game against Memphis remaining on their schedule. 

If the NBA keeps these games on the schedule, it would be easier for the Pelicans and Kings to gain ground or create space between themselves and Portland. 

Of the 16 games Portland had remaining at that time, two of them were to be against the Grizzlies. While 11 were to be against the current top eight teams in the east and the west. They had no remaining games against the Spurs, Suns, Pelicans, or Kings. 

Aldridge missing the remainder of the season adds a very interesting little wrinkle to NBA's return, to say the least. 

The race to the finish is going to be intense.

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

 

The NBA's return to play format could be rife with schedule inequities

The NBA's return to play format could be rife with schedule inequities

The NBA has announced dates and teams for the resumption of its 2020 season, but there is still one big important factor that hasn’t been revealed, at least to the public:

The schedules for those six teams hoping to play their way into the 16-team playoff bracket.

Keep in mind, teams with schedules that featured games vs. non-playoff teams late in the interrupted season will lose their opportunity to play those teams. Any games included in their final eight scheduled for Orlando will have to be against the 22 teams that are there in the bubble.

Some of the six teams trying to play their way into the playoffs have already had the benefit of playing those softer teams. Some were awaiting the chance, but won’t get it because those teams won’t be in Orlando.

And some of the six may end up getting Washington or Phoenix on their eight-game schedule and others may not. This sets up serious inequities in the format.

I believe what should have happened is that the eight teams in contention for the two playoff berths should have played a round robin. Same schedule, same chances for advancement. Instead, the league has reportedly chosen to try to stick to original schedules as much as possible, even though eight games won't be enough to complete that full 82-game schedule.

It isn't going to make much sense. And in fact, Phoenix and Washington, the two unexpected teams added, did not have a realistic chance to climb into the 16-team field had the season not been halted. Nobody has explained why they were included.

An interesting question now will be answered when the eight-game schedule is revealed -- who gets to play Phoenix and Washington? Who gets to play Orlando, which wasn’t expected to have to protect its No. 8 spot in the weak Eastern Conference?

And the teams that do play them will most certainly prefer those games over contests versus some of the league powerhouses.

And that, in itself, could have been enough reason for a franchise to vote against 22 teams, rather than 20, playing in Orlando.

Charles Barkley wanted to be traded to the Portland Trail Blazers

Charles Barkley wanted to be traded to the Portland Trail Blazers

Close your eyes, go back 30 years and try to imagine the great Charles Barkley in a Portland Trail Blazers jersey. 

Can you picture it?  

Well, that vision would have been a reality had Sir Charles had his way back in 1992. 

Growing disgruntled with his situation with the 76ers, the future Hall of Famer was looking for greener pastures. His sights were set on Portland. 

Portland had been to the finals two of the previous three seasons, but had lost both times. Barkley saw the talent in Portland and felt he could be the missing piece to the puzzle.

On The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN's Zach Lowe on Tuesday, Barkley talked about his desire to play in Portland.

Portland was my first choice because Portland had enough talent to give up for me and we'd still be a contender. They had lost to the Bulls in the Finals, but they were loaded, man, top to bottom. But the one thing they didn't have is a half-court game... I said I'd be the final piece to the puzzle. - Barkley on wanting to play in Portland

The Blazers decided to keep their pieces together and not trade for Barkley, which was probably a poor decision in hindsight. 

The Blazers have yet to return to the NBA Finals, while Barkley would end up being traded to Phoenix and would lead the Suns to the Finals in 1993. 

Like the Blazers the year before, Barkley and the Suns lost to the Bulls. It's hard not to think about how well a pairing of Barkley and the Blazers core would have fared against the MJ dynasty. 

The story does have another layer to it though. 

That trip Barkley took to Portland to try to work out a trade cost the big man $1,197 dollars at the time, an amount he said the Blazers never reimbursed him for.. that was until 2018. 

Barkley told the story on a Feb. 15, 2018 broadcast of the NBA on TNT. 

Four days later, Damian Lillard crashed the set to present Barkley with a $1,197 check, courtesy of the Trail Blazers. 

 

Barkley played four years with the Suns after failing to be traded to Portland, and would end his Hall of Fame career as a member of the Houston Rockets. 

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

 

We're talkin' about practice -- and Trail Blazers NOT practicing

We're talkin' about practice -- and Trail Blazers NOT practicing

It’s interesting how the NBA game has evolved over the years, not only with the increased volume of three-point shots, but the way teams are now approaching the 82-game schedule.

While not all teams are heavily involved in “load management,” almost all of them, including the Trail Blazers, have cut back on their number of practices.

What we’re seeing with the Trail Blazers through almost the entire season, but increasing as the long schedule nears its end, is practices being held only when the team has two consecutive days off between games. In that situation, the Trail Blazers normally take the first day off, then practice the following day.

When the team is on what has become an NBA routine of games every other day, it is giving its players the day off in what is called an “H&P day.” Those letters stand for health and performance, the department that’s responsible for the team’s wellness.

On those days, the players get the treatment they need for lingering injuries or soreness and are free to work out in the weight room or on the court or just look at video of an upcoming opponent or the previous game.

Other off-days are just “blackout days,” which means players are free to do whatever they wish.

It’s the reason that Jusuf Nurkic, in need of another practice prior to his season debut Sunday, had to go to Santa Cruz, Calif., to work out with Golden State’s G-League team.

All of this is much different from previous eras when teams practiced on a good share of non-game days, but players in high-minute categories were free to sit out as needed. If teams were not playing well, they practiced long and even hard. If teams came off a tough trip or were playing well, they got days off as rewards.

I’m not saying that was better policy than what’s going on today, it was just different.

But what I would say is that there are circumstances that would seem to warrant more practice. Things such as the way the Trail Blazers have defended recently.

Or things such as the upcoming, Thursday night game vs. Memphis -- which is a critical game if this team is going to reach its goal of making the playoffs.

I thought it was telling that the head coach and his players spoke after Tuesday night’s win over Phoenix about how beneficial their Monday practice was and how critical the Memphis game is.

And then came an announcement later that the team will  not be practicing Wednesday.

Now I understand this has been a long grind of a season with way more injuries than usual. And I know there will be a shootaround on game day to go over the scouting report and strategy. I understand that the starters played big minutes Tuesday. But, still… just one extra, short practice to make sure everybody is on the same page for this game?

Times change, yes. But not always for the better.

How Trevor Ariza's love for Devin Booker's game made for a lockdown defensive effort

How Trevor Ariza's love for Devin Booker's game made for a lockdown defensive effort

There have been several instances over the years when a veteran player wants to put a younger player in his place.

Tuesday night was not one of them, even if it did look that way, at times.

With a final score of 121-105, the Trail Blazers got their revenge on the Phoenix Suns after falling to them last Friday in Phoenix.

Portland’s defense stepped up. 

And, Trevor Ariza made young guard Devin Booker earn his 29 points.

When Ariza blocked Booker’s six-foot shot midway through the second quarter and then stood over him telling him what was up, one may wonder if Ariza had a little extra juice defending a young gun like Booker.

“No, I’m playing against an opponent that’s all it is, unless my opponent throws the ball between my legs,” Ariza joked. 

Okay, noted -- There is only extra motivation to put a young player in his place when it is Trae Young dribbling the ball through Ariza's legs, which happened on Feb. 29 in Atlanta.

“Don’t do that [expletive] again,” Ariza told Young after delivering that message with a hard shove, which earned Ariza a flagrant foul.

 

But, Young got the message. 

Now, bounce back to Tuesday night (not between the legs), and Ariza shared how his love of the game and of Booker’s game in particular has been the biggest help in defending Booker.

“I watch a lot of basketball,” Ariza said with a smile. “Players that I happen to have an affection for, I watch them a lot more, so Devin is a guy that I have watched since he has been in the NBA and I’ve taken a liking to his game, so I know his game a little bit.”

Nine of Booker’s 29 points Tuesday night came at the free throw line and more often than not he scored when someone other than Ariza was defending him.

Besides Hassan Whiteside, Ariza is the other defensive minded player that the Blazers have been able to turn to in locking down their opponents best players.

When defending Booker, Ariza said he made sure to put as much pressure as possible on the former Kentucky Wildcat to have him try to perform his best. 

Just try not to let him get comfortable, crowd his space and try not to let him do things that he normally does and try to make him be as great as he can be or as great as he is every night. -- Trail Blazers veteran Trevor Ariza postgame on defending Devin Booker

Booker has reached 30+ points 24 different times this season, which puts him in the top seven NBA players who have at least 30 points on a given night.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with his team's defensive effort overall Tuesday night with Portland limiting Phoenix to 34.4 percent from behind the arc.

Coach Stotts also gave credit where credit was due with Ariza matched up against Booker.

“That’s the way he plays. He takes the challenge, we put him on the best player, and he takes that challenge and takes a lot of pride in it, and I thought he made Booker work for his points. Like I said, Trevor is a pro and he knows why he’s had as long of a career as he’s had, he makes shots and he can defend,” Stotts said.

Ariza didn’t exert all of his energy on the defensive end, either.

The veteran wing player was the second leading scorer for Portland with 22 points, only behind Damian Lillard’s 25.

This is the fourth time this season that Ariza has reached 20+ points.

Being able to bring the extra effort at both ends is what impressed the Blazers team captain the most when evaluating Ariza’s performance.

He did what he always does. Obviously, on the defensive end, but just the spacing that he provides us – he can knock down those open shots, he’s knocking down open threes, he’s slashing – he’s just a good basketball player. He has a good feel for how to play the game. So to do what he does defensively and then to come down on the offensive end and just find those spots, find those spaces and help us win on that end as well is huge for our team. -- Trail Blazers All-Star point Damian Lillard said postgame

Now the Blazers will welcome in the Memphis Grizzlies, who currently sit 3.5 games ahead of Portland in the eighth and final playoff spot.

Memphis leads the season series 1-0 with two more games to be played between the Blazers and Grizzlies, both of which will be in Portland.

The defensive minded Blazers of Tuesday night will need to continue their extra effort and talking more on that end of the floor to continue their winning ways.

Just ask Ariza.

“I think for us, the most important thing is communicating and giving maximum effort on defense. When you are hitting shots and playing well offensively, I guess it’s natural to play harder on defense, but for us when the offense isn’t clicking we have to figure out and continue to stay locked in on the defensive end to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Trail Blazers defend threes and make enough of their own to avenge loss to Suns

Trail Blazers defend threes and make enough of their own to avenge loss to Suns

The Trail Blazers made three-point field goals Tuesday night. The Phoenix Suns did not. And guess who won the game?

Yes, that’s right -- the Trail Blazers did, 121-105 in Moda Center.

Friday night in Phoenix the Suns hit 19 of their 42 threes and hammered Portland, which went 13-32. The Trail Blazers’ three-point woes continued Saturday, when they lost at home to Sacramento 123-111 and were outscored from the three-point line by 33 points.

But the percentages eventually take over. With a little help from the Portland defense -- and the Trail Blazers outscored the Suns by 18 from the arc.

And really, the Suns got very close to the same shots Tuesday that they got Friday, although a few more of them were contested. It’s just that some nights those attempts go in and other nights they don’t. There is an element of randomness with threes at all levels of basketball.

“Oftentimes, that is the case,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said the team making threes picking up the win. “I don’t know what the stat is on that, but the three-point line is oftentimes the major factor.”

There is no doubt Portland played better defense in this game than in the previous two. Players talked about communication and the fact they had an extra day between games, which allowed a practice.

“The game down in Phoenix, it was a slow start because we didn’t make shots,” Stotts said. “I mean the game got away from us obviously, but the slow start, I don’t think that had to do with effort or focus. The fact that we really laid an egg against Sacramento, the fact that we had two days off, the fact that we had a practice, like I said, they were fresh in our minds and we were able to go through some of the things that gave us trouble, so I think those things contributed to a good start.”

Damian Lillard, who had 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead four other teammates into double figures, talked about the Monday practice.

“I think part of communicating is just knowing what’s going on” he said. “I think having a good practice yesterday and really just going over our scouting report and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to be better on things over and over -- what to call, what coverages, we were going to be in, how we guard certain guys, certain actions that happen -- just what we wanted to do.

“We were on top of that.”

The Blazers led for most of the game but had to survive a brutal stretch at the end of the first half that saw them score only six points over the final 6:11. But they held Phoenix to just nine over that span and still led by a point at the half.

With the help of that three-point line.

Next up is a monster game in Moda, a clash with Memphis Thursday, the team Portland is attempting to catch for the final playoff berth. And don't bet against three-point field goals having a lot to do with the outcome.

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers get last laugh over Suns

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers get last laugh over Suns

It was raining threes in Moda Center Tuesday night as the Portland Trail Blazers caught fire from the start.

Tuesday’s game was a rematch between the Blazers and Suns, and it was apparent that last Friday’s loss was fresh in Portland’s mind.

The Trail Blazers jumped out to a 36-28 lead to end the first quarter.

After shooting 68.2 percent from the floor through the first 12 minutes, the Blazers cooled off in the second quarter despite still getting a lot of uncontested shots.  

The Suns outscored the Blazers 25-18 in the second quarter.

By halftime, Tuesday’s game had been tied three times with 11 lead changes.

Heading into the final period, Portland held a four-point lead. Behind a big fourth quarter from Hassan Whiteside at both ends, and the continued three-pointers made, the Blazers snapped a two-game losing streak.    

FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 121, SUNS 105

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s win:

1. Blazers focus on three-point defense  

In the Blazers last meeting against the Suns last Friday, the Suns took a 127-117 win in Phoenix.

That was the Aron Baynes night. The Suns big man led Phoenix with a career-high 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting (9-14 3-PT, 4-4 FT), to go along with 16 rebounds and two blocks. His nine threes were a career-best.

In that last meeting, Baynes had plenty of wide-open threes, but Tuesday night the Blazers made sure to get a hand in his face. Even though it’s not his game, Hassan Whiteside did his best to run Baynes off the three-point line. Even the uncontested threes weren’t falling for Baynes Tuesday night.  The Blazers as a team overall brought more energy on the defensive end.  

2. Blazers second unit struggles continue

Portland’s starting five once again had a lead late in the first quarter, but with the Blazers depleted depth, the bench struggled on both ends to keep the lead. The sole second unit player to score in the first half for the Blazers was Anfernee Simons. The other issue: Phoenix had a good majority of its starters still on the floor against Portland’s second unit.  

3. Suns lean on Booker and Saric

Midway through the third quarter, all five of Portland’s starters had scored in double figures. With both the Blazers and Suns dealing with so many injuries this season, the two have depended on their starters. But, for the Suns it was all about Devin Booker and Dario Saric against the Blazers. The duo combined for 45 points through three quarters and were the only two in double-digits going into the fourth quarter.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers host the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. Catch all the action between the Blazers and Grizzlies at 7:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

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

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers focus on defense vs. a Suns team that ‘is on a roll right now’

usatsi_14128038.jpg
USA Today Images

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers focus on defense vs. a Suns team that ‘is on a roll right now’

It’s '2010s' night at Moda Center with the Trail Blazers hosting the Phoenix Suns.

The Blazers will have videos of former players from the last decade shown on the jumbotron at Moda Center and throughout the television broadcast on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App with tip-off set for 7:00 p.m.

Before the game, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how he would like to see change on the defensive end, from defending the three and to getting back in transition. He said he would also like his team to cut down on turnovers from their last game against the Suns this past Thursday.

Coach Stotts added that Phoenix ‘is in a groove’ right now. The Suns shot the ball well against the Milwaukee Bucks this week, who have been one of the top defensive teams in the league all season.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

 

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for Tuesday’s game vs. Phoenix.

SUNS INJURY REPORT:

Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain), Jared Harper (Two-way), Cameron Johnson (illness), Frank Kaminsky (right patella stress fracture); Jalen Lecque (G League), Kelly Oubre Jr. (right knee; meniscus) and Tariq Owens (Two-way) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

-- Tuesday's game will be the fourth and final matchup between the Trail Blazers and Suns during the 2019-20 season. Phoenix leads the season series, 2-1.

-- LAST MEETING: The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers, 127-117, in Phoenix on March 6. CJ McCollum led Portland with 25 points (10-20 FG, 3-8 3-PT, 2-2 FT), three rebounds, eight assists and one steal, while Aron Baynes led Phoenix with a career-high 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting (9-14 3-PT, 4-4 FT), to go with 16 rebounds and two blocks. His nine threes were a career-best, and his 16 rebounds were one short of his career-high.

--Portland is 10-2 in their last twelve games against Phoenix, dating back to the 2016-17 season.

-- CJ McCollum is averaging 26.7 points (52.5% FG, 36.8% 3-PT, 100% FT), 4.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.00 steal in three games against the Suns this season. His 52.5% shooting from the field is his fourth-highest against any team this season.

-- Damian Lillard scored 24 points (6-16 FG, 3-7 3-PT, 9-10 FT) to go with three rebounds and six assists against Phoenix on March 6. It was his second game back after returning from a groin injury. Lillard has scored at least 20 points in 15 of his last 17 appearances against the Suns, including six games of 30-plus points.

-- Hassan Whiteside had 23 points (11-14 FG, 1-1 3-PT) to go with 20 rebounds, one assist and four blocks in Portland's last meeting with Phoenix. It was his second game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this season, and his seventh straight double-double against the Suns. Whiteside is averaging 16.3 points, 18.7 rebounds and 3.33 blocks in three games against Phoenix this season.

-- Devin Booker is averaging 28.0 points (43.6% FG, 33.3% 3-PT, 100% FT), 5.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists in two games against Portland this season.

--Dario Saric scored a season-high 24 points (9-13 FG, 2-4 3-PT, 4-5 FT), to go with eight rebounds and three steals in 38 minutes against Portland on March 6. It was his fourth 20+ point game of the season, and third of his career against the Trail Blazers.

How to watch, stream Blazers vs. Suns tonight at 7:00pm

How to watch, stream Blazers vs. Suns tonight at 7:00pm

The Portland Trail Blazers (28-37) are looking to snap a two-game losing streak after dropping Friday's road game to the Suns and then losing to the Sacramento Kings at home Saturday, 123-111.

Portland will get a rematch against the Phoenix Suns (26-38) Tuesday night at home. 

Following Monday’s practice, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave his thoughts on playing the Suns for the second time in four days.

“They’re playing at a good rhythm…. Defensively we have to find their three-point shooters… Transition and threes – will be our defense concerns.”  

You can watch all the action between the Trail Blazers and Suns on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Suns

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

QUOTABLE

“Let me work on my stuff. I work all summer on my hands, at least let me use 'em. If they didn't grab me, y'all woulda been able to see something.” -- CJ McCollum on near fight with Kings big man Alex Len 

Jusuf Nurkic practices, Zach Collins gets a physical test and 'Popeye' Rodney Hood hits the gym

Jusuf Nurkic practices, Zach Collins gets a physical test and 'Popeye' Rodney Hood hits the gym

It was sunny in Portland Monday and a few rays of sunshine were actually evident inside the Trail Blazers’ practice facility.

Jusuf Nurkic returned to practice in preparation for his Sunday season debut, Zach Collins was getting a physical test from assistant coaches in a controlled drill in the halfcourt and even Rodney Hood was present, working on some ballhandling drills.

Damian Lillard and Coach Terry Stotts agreed that it was great to have Nurkic back on the floor with his teammates. And not just for his basketball ability. The guy is just fun to be around.

Collins -- “he’s not even close to being ready for a full practice,” Stotts said -- took a lot of contact on shots and rebounds from the coaching staff as he frollicked around under the basket. His joy at being able to even go through drills was obvious.

Hood, of course, is still a long way from being able to play after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon, but it’s apparent he’s been in the weight room working on his upper body, certainly, if nothing else, when one of his coaches called him “Popeye” from across the gym floor.

Stotts was asked about Tuesday night’s game against Phoenix, a team that blew the Trail Blazers away 127-117 Friday night.

“They’re playing at a good rhythm,” Stotts said, pointing to a 140-131 win the Suns had Sunday night over Milwaukee, which was without Giannis Antetokounmpo. “Defensively, we have to find their three-point shooters. Obviously, I don’t expect (Aron) Baynes to shoot it as well as he did against us but he made his first two last night and that opened up the game.

“Transition and threes will be our defensive concerns.”

Baynes tore the Trail Blazers up, hitting 9 of his 14 three-pointers on the way to a career-high 37 points. And the Suns took advantage of a lot of open threes, hitting 19 of 42.

It was a problem Portland had in its last game, a loss at home to Sacramento Saturday night, when the Kings hit 21 of 39 shots from long range to blow the Trail Blazers out of Moda Center.

It’s probably a fine idea that defending threes will be among the  “defensive concerns.”