Sacramento Kings

CJ McCollum, Alex Len fined by the NBA

CJ McCollum, Alex Len fined by the NBA

Things got heated between the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, coming to a boiling point early in the third quarter when Alex Len and CJ McCollum got into a shoving match. 

Len set a couple of hard screens, McCollum took exception, and the two nearly came to blows.

While they didn't land any hard shots on one another, the NBA did land a blow in both their wallets. 

The league announced on Sunday morning that both Len and McCollum would be fined for their parts in the altercation.

According to the league's press release, "McCollum has been fined $20,000 for shoving Len and attempting to escalate the altercation. Len has been fined $15,000 for shoving McCollum."

At the time of the incident, Len was called for an offensive foul and both he and McCollum were hit with offsetting technicals. 

After the game, McCollum didn't hold back.

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 Alex Len

McCollum's brother also took to Twitter to defend his brother, proving that the McCollum boys aren't to be messed with.

McCollum didn't get a chance to show off his stuff, but that's a good thing. $20,000 is "plenty money." Who knows how steep it would have climbed had he landed a punch?

 

What happened to the Trail Blazers? 'Effort' or 'mental engagement'?

What happened to the Trail Blazers? 'Effort' or 'mental engagement'?

For a team with its back plastered against a wall in what appears to be a futile effort to climb into the No. 8 playoff spot in the West, the Trail Blazers have not exactly responded to the pressure of the task at hand.

In fact, it’s been quite the opposite -- and their coach seems to have reached the boiling point.

The Trail Blazers were run out of their own gym by the Sacramento Kings Saturday night, one day after suffering the same fate at Phoenix -- and Terry Stotts came as close to throwing his players under the proverbial bus as he ever has.

Normally careful about any criticism of players, Stotts didn’t hold much back.

“It’s an understatement to say that we’re disappointed with the way we played in the first quarter, first half,” he said. “We didn’t play like a desperate team, a team fighting for a playoff spot. And it’s hard enough to win in this league, much less when you don’t compete as hard as you need to compete.”

“I thought the second half, we played hard. But the deficit was too big. Fatigue probably set in. But very disappointed.”

Stotts was asked if he questioned his team’s effort and he didn’t deny it.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to explain the first half. We came out slow last night in Phoenix -- we had a slow start, a bit of that was missed shots, but I don’t know. It’s hard to explain whether it’s effort, mental engagement, I don’t know. But when you get off to a start like that, there are probably a lot of factors.”

Once again, the Trail Blazers had problems defending the three-point line. The Kings hit 21 of their 39 attempts while Portland made a hapless 10 of 39.

And the Trail Blazers didn’t get what they need to get out of their backcourt. CJ McCollum was 1-7 from three and Damian Lillard was 2-10.

“Tough loss,” Lillard said. “A bad one. A bad one. That one hurt.”

The young Kings played a very uptempo game and the Trail Blazers had a lot of trouble keeping pace for most of the first half. And on most nights, they figure to outshoot Portland from long range, given the number of solid three-point shooters on their roster.

And when they’re getting open threes, they’re even more dangerous. The Blazers, meanwhile, fell into the same trap so many NBA teams seem to fall prey to -- when they’re missing from three, they tend to shoot even more of them to try to get back in the game, rather than get high-percentage two-pointers.

Portland shot 64 percent from two-point distance, but ruined any comeback attempt by missing 29 threes.

There are those still clinging to the return of Jusuf Nurkic as something that can turn things around.

“Hopefully he can come back and really give us something that we’ve been missing and I guess give us that pop to finish the season strong,” Lillard said.

He better bring his best Wilt Chamberlain impersonation with him, if his team continues to play the way it has the last two games.

CJ McCollum was ready to swing on Alex Len, until officials stepped in

CJ McCollum was ready to swing on Alex Len, until officials stepped in

It takes a lot to get under CJ McCollum’s skin.

Usually.

But, with frustrations piling up over the last two games, McCollum found his breaking point Saturday night.

And Kings big man Alex Len was his target.

Just under four minutes into the third quarter of the Trail Blazers 123-111 loss to the Kings, McCollum put up his dukes.

Portland was down by 20.

It was obvious the Trail Blazers shooting guard did not like the way Kings big man Alex Len had set a moving screen.

The two quickly got into a shoving match. It looked as if punches were going to be thrown.

“The game wasn’t going well for us,” McCollum explained his point of view of the scuffle. “I felt like he could’ve moved, he didn’t have to stand there and keep trying to screen me."

To say it's been a trying season for the Blazers would be an understatement. Portland is currently looking at a 28-37 overall record, and now with two straight losses, first to the Suns, and now to the Kings on back to back nights, the Blazers have put even more space in between them and the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’re in the danger zone. We need every game. We felt that we’d come away with a win tonight,” McCollum said.

It was as if McCollum could feel the ‘danger zone’ approaching while Len was approaching his personal space for longer than was necessary.

The officials were quick to get in the middle of McCollum and Len.

And good thing.

Following the official review, of the ‘hostile act’ the refereeing crew assessed that no punch was attempted, even though some may say, Len looked to have his right fist ready to go.

But, with no attempted punch, meant the two received offsetting technicals, while Len was also charged with an offensive foul.

The official NBA rules on assessing whether or not a player is to be ejected reads as follows --

A player, coach, trainer, or other team bench person must be ejected for:

A punching foul

A fighting foul

Technical foul for an attempted punch or swing with no contact or a thrown elbow toward an opponent above shoulder level with no contact

But, don’t think throwing a punch wasn’t crossing McCollum’s mind.

He also wasn’t surprised that he was only hit with a tech, because he would have made sure to earn an ejection.

I wasn’t heading to the locker room. They didn’t even let me swing. At least let me swing first, if you’re going to throw me out. Let me work on my stuff. You know, I work all summer on my hands, at least let me use them. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said postgame

If it wasn’t for referee Brett Nansel, it sounds like Len would’ve been welcomed with a fist from McCollum.

“If they didn’t grab me, you all would’ve been able to see something,” McCollum said with a smile. 

McCollum's backcourt teammate Damian Lillard backed him both in the moment of the scuffle and after the game.

“[Len] was setting a moving screen,” Lillard said postgame. “CJ was kind of bumping him, trying to fight through it, then they called an offensive foul because he kind of shoved him on the last screen and a frustrating time of the game, CJ shoved him back, he shoved CJ and at that point, got to get ready to defend yourself, and I thought that was what he did.”

That technical foul was number five for McCollum this season and Len’s third of the year.  

The Trail Blazers season has had its boiling points that's for sure. Lillard has tailed six technicals on the season, while Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has five.

“Everything is probably a good start” is what McCollum believes the Blazers should change between now and Tuesday night when the Phoenix Suns come to town.

Now with seventeen games remaining in the regular season, will Portland be able to turn frustration into extra motivation while finding some urgency or could we see more technical fouls on the horizon?  

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers have same problems, on a different night

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers have same problems, on a different night

Portland, OR-- Portland’s defensive struggles continued Saturday night.

The Kings got out and ran on the Trail Blazers. Sacramento made a living with its fast break points early on. The Kings took a quick 26-10 lead midway through the first quarter.

At the end of the first quarter, Sacramento held a 40-24 after scoring 14 fast break points.

Saturday’s game was very similar to Friday’s contest in Phoenix where the Suns got hot from the start and the Blazers were not able to dig their way out of the hole even with Portland going on big runs.

The Kings scored 77 points in the first half on 57.7 percent shooting.

After being down by 23 at halftime, Portland outscored Sacramento 26-23, but it wasn’t enough heading into the final period. The Kings stepped up their defensive effort and cruised to a victory.
FINAL BOX SCORE: KINGS 123, TRAIL BLAZERS 111

Here are three quick takeaways from Saturday’s loss:

1.  Another slow start for Portland

The Trail Blazers game plan to start the game was to get big man Hassan Whiteside involved in the offense. The Blazers went to Whiteside for the first four possessions. The first two resulted in a lay-up and a dunk. But, besides Whiteside’s production and Gary Trent Jr.’s scoring outbreak off the bench, Portland had a hard time putting points on the board.  

For the Kings, they found a shooting groove early while sharing the ball. Sacramento had five players double figures after three quarters.

2.  Same old problems

When the Kings weren’t beating the Blazers down the court and finishing with an easy lay-up, Sacramento was beating Portland from three. Just as the Blazers have struggled with all season – rotating on the perimeter does not seem to be in Portland’s defensive playbook. The Kings shot 66.7 percent (14-21) from deep in the first half. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, and Buddy Hield led the way from behind the arc with a good majority of the threes were uncontested. For the game, Sacramento shot 55.3 percent from long distance.  

3.  Tempers boil over

Early in the third quarter, frustrations mounted for the Trail Blazers with 8:50 on the clock and Portland down by 20.  

Following a pick set by Kings big man Alex Len on CJ McCollum, the two exchanged shoves and nearly exchanged punches.

After the officiating crew took a look at the replay for a ‘hostile act,’ it was determined that Len was charged with an offensive foul and both Len and McCollum were charged with offsetting technicals. The third quarter scuffle showed how frustrated the Blazers are after finding themselves in such big deficits so early in their past two games to teams with worse records than them. 

Up Next: Portland continues its six-game homestand Tuesday night when the Trail Blazers host the Phoenix Suns. Catch all the action between the Blazers and Suns at 7:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

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

Trail Blazers CJ McCollum and Kings Alex Len nearly come to blows

Trail Blazers CJ McCollum and Kings Alex Len nearly come to blows

Early in the third quarter, frustrations mounted for the Trail Blazers with 8:50 on the clock and Portland down by 20.

Following a pick set by Kings big man Alex Len on CJ McCollum, the two exchanged shoves and nearly exchanged punches.

The officials were quick to get in the middle of the scuffle.

[RELATED]: Social media reacts to CJ McCollum's fight with Alex Len: "He's fighting, Jennifer"

McCollum looked as if he was prepared to get ejected from the game as he walked over to the bench handing out high-fives after he had cooled down.

But, that was not the case.

After the officiating crew took a look at the replay for a ‘hostile act,’ it was determined that Len was charged with an offensive foul and both Len and McCollum were charged with offsetting technicals.

Trail Blazers fans show love to Kent Bazemore in his return

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers fans show love to Kent Bazemore in his return

It’s been nearly two months since the trade went down between the Trail Blazers and Kings.

Saturday’s game marked the first time that Kent Bazemore and Trevor Ariza have faced their former teams since the Jan. 18 deal that sent Bazemore, along with Anthony Tolliver and two future second-round draft picks to Sacramento for Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan.

When Bazemore checked into the game at the 5:47 mark of the first quarter, Trail Blazers fans had nothing but love for the former shooting guard.

Bazemore played in 43 games with the Blazers this season, averaging 7.9 points and 4.0 rebounds while playing 25.8 minutes.  

He has found a nice shooting groove with Sacramento, shooting over 41 percent in his bench role. In 19 games with the Kings, Bazemore is averaging 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23.3 minutes of action.

Before the game tipped off, Bazemore showed his appreciation with a hearts emoji RT.

Catch the Trail Blazers and Kings in action now on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App! 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Jusuf Nurkic putting in work before tonight's game vs. Kings

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Jusuf Nurkic putting in work before tonight's game vs. Kings

It’s the second night of a back-to-back for the Portland Trail Blazers as they host the Sacramento Kings.

Before the Trail Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, there was a familiar face out on the Moda Center court.  

Former Trail Blazer Kent Bazemore was warming up for Sacramento. Saturday’s game will be the first time Bazemore and Trevor Ariza have faced their former teams since the trade that sent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two future second-round draft picks to the Kings in a deal for Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan back on Jan. 18

But, on the other side of the court, all eyes were on Jusuf Nurkic putting in a good workout before tonight’s game. Nurk was working on his footwork as well as his midrange jumper.  

WATCH NURKIC HERE:  

The Scoop Warm-Up with Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard brought to you by Toyota of Portland

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Saturday, March 7, 2020

The countdown is on until his targeted return date of Mar. 15.  

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

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

KINGS INJURY REPORT:

Richaun Holmes (right shoulder, soreness) is questionable; Marvin Bagley III (left foot soreness) is out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

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

-- LAST MEETING: The Trail Blazers earned a 127-116 win over Sacramento on Dec. 4 in Portland. CJ McCollum paced Portland with 33 points (14-22 FG, 5-10 3-PT), four rebounds,

four assists and a career-high four blocks, while Richaun Holmes led Sacramento with a career-high 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting (6-8 FT), to go with 10 rebounds and one steal.

It was Holmes' third career game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

-- Damain Lillard scored 24 points (7-12 FG, 4-6 3-PT, 6-7 FT) to go with four rebounds, 10 assists and two steals on Dec. 4, recording his then fourth double-double of the season.

-- Hassan Whiteside had 22 points (8-10 FG, 6-8 FT) to go with 16 rebounds, a career-high seven assists and three blocks in Portland's last meeting with Sacramento.

-- Buddy Hield scored 23 points (8-24 FG, 3-12 3-PT, 4-6 FT), to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. 

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

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USA Today Images

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

It will be a second night of a back-to-back for the Portland Trail Blazers (28-36) when they host the Sacramento Kings (27-35) Saturday night.

Portland dropped Friday night’s game 127-117 to the Phoenix Suns on the road. 

The Blazers are also coming off a day of big news on Jusuf Nurkic’s return. Nurkic is now targeting Mar. 15 as his return to the court when the Blazers host the Houston Rockets.

You can watch all the action between the Trail Blazers and Kings Saturday night 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. Kings

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

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

QUOTABLE

“I think it’ll be good. Melo posts up 80% of the time, so it’s not going to be a spacing issue or anything. I think we’ll be a force out there. Even when we’re in a game, I think we can play minutes together and then we can rotate in and out.”  -- Trail Blazers big man Hassan Whiteside on playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic 

Trail Blazers have left themselves little margin for error in 'The Race for Eighth'

Trail Blazers have left themselves little margin for error in 'The Race for Eighth'

You could call it “The Race for Eighth.”

The Trail Blazers kicked off the critical final portion of their schedule Wednesday night with a home win over Washington.

And make no mistake, there are several winnable games ahead -- but Portland has left itself with very little margin for error if it is going to climb into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Six of the Blazers’ next seven games are at home, almost all of them against teams either virtually even with them in the standings or below them. Meaning, of course, those games must be won.

Portland travels to Phoenix for a Friday night game, returns to Moda for a Saturday contest vs. Sacramento, followed by home games vs. the Suns, Memphis, Houston, Minnesota and Dallas. After that, it’s back to the road for six games -- the last long trip of the season.

Portland is chasing Memphis in the standings right now, but New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio are also in the race. Keep in mind, the Trail Blazers have played Memphis just once so far and lost that game to the Grizzlies on the road. There are two contests left against Memphis, both in Portland, and they are close to must-wins for tiebreaker purposes.

Memphis is four games better than Portland in the loss column, which sets up some dramatic scenarios for the Blazers.

The Grizzlies are a .500 team and have 20 games left and if they win just half of them, they will finish at .500 -- 41-41. For the Trail Blazers to finish at .500, they must win both games vs. Memphis and 13 of their remaining 19, which is a lot to ask from a team that’s compiled a 28-35 record so far.

And that’s not even mentioning the possibility that one of the other teams in the Race for Eighth will get hot and pass up both Portland and Memphis.

Obviously, that record would be easier to attain if either Zach Collins or Jusuf Nurkic returned to the active roster to provide depth in the middle. But there is no word on when or if either of those players will be back this season.

You could find out launch codes for guided missiles easier than you can uncover condition reports on rehabbing Trail Blazer players.

Caleb Swanigan has been serving as the team’s backup center, but is more of a power forward than center and doesn’t provide the rim protection this squad needs to make its defense barely adequate. He fouled out in 10 minutes Wednesday night vs. the Wizards.

But the Trail Blazers have Damian Lillard back in the lineup and he doesn’t have an ounce of give-up in him. Surrender is not in his vocabulary.

“It’s a great opportunity to do something special,” he said with conviction Wednesday, prior to the game. “It’s going to be fun.”

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers

On Tuesday morning the Trail Blazers officially announced their long-rumored trade with the Sacramento Kings

Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver are gone, while Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel are on their way Portland.

The Blazers know what they are getting in Ariza: a solid veteran player that has made his entire career on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Stotts anticipates that Ariza will be the team's starting small forward, as many of us expected. 

But what about Gabriel and Swanigan? 

Let's start with Gabriel. He is a largely unknown commodity. In his first year in the league, after spending time in the G-League, Gabriel has played in just 11 games for the Kings. 

In those games, he has averaged 1.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 5.5 minutes per game.

He is another Moses Brown. A big body with potential, but still very raw and rough around the edges. Most likely, he will be an end-of-the-bench guy. 

That is the quick rundown on Gabriel. Now, what about Swanigan?

First, remember that Swanigan has been in Portland before and that stint didn't work out. 

He was drafted by the Blazers in 2017, failed to crack the rotation, and was later traded to the Kings in return for Skal Labissiere. 

Swanigan played 45 games for the Blazers, averaging 2.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. Swanigan's stint in Sacramento was much the same. He failed to crack the rotation, playing in just 10 games while averaging 1.3. points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists. 

To be fair to Swanigan, getting on the floor wasn't easy. He is a versatile player that can play power forward or center in small lineups, but he still had an uphill battle.

In Portland, he was buried behind the likes of Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, and Zach Collins.

In Sacramento, he was buried behind Dewayne Demon, Nemanja Bjelica. Richaun Holmes, Harry Giles, and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Getting on the floor wasn't easy. That's not the case in his second stop here in Portland. 

As we all know, injuries have ravaged the Blazers, especially in the frontcourt. 

The Blazers don't have Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, or Pau Gasol available.  

In fact, the Blazers now only have four players available that are 6'9" or taller: Hassan Whiteside (7'0"), two-way player Moses Brown (7'2"), and the newly-acquired Gabriel and Swanigan who both stand at 6'9."

Quite simply, Swanigan is going to get on the floor out of necessity. 

If the team were fully healthy, Swanigan would once again find himself on the bottom looking up. This time, he gets to start near the top.

The Blazers have lived by a "next man up" mentality all season long, and this time they had to go outside of Portland to find that next man. 

If Swanigan hopes to turn it around, to resurrect his career, there is no better chance than what the Blazers are giving him. 

To use a football analogy -  The ball is on the one-yard-line and the team is choosing to hand the ball off to Swanigan. What he does from there is up to him. When someone gives you the ball, you run with it.

He either runs through the door of opportunity that has been opened, or he runs himself back out of town... hopefully it's the former. 

The Blazers need Biggie, and Biggie needs the Blazers. The chance for both of them to turn their season around starts on Thursday against the Mavericks.