Skal Labissiere

The emotions after losing Rodney Hood to a torn Achilles: "There’s no words that can help"

The emotions after losing Rodney Hood to a torn Achilles: "There’s no words that can help"

It seemed like Déjà vu:  The Trail Blazers met their injured teammate in the locker room to offer him a hug, their thoughts and prayers, and to offer support to their comrade.

First, it was Jusuf Nurkic. Then, Zach Collins.

Friday night, with the Los Angeles Lakers in town, the Blazers lost their starting small forward Rodney Hood to a season-ending Achilles injury

“I’m very sad,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said following the Blazers 136-113 loss to the Lakers. “Very disappointed for Rodney, he was having a good year for us. I hate for anybody to have an injury like that, that takes them out for the season. I feel for him.” 

Hood suffered what was initially called a lower leg injury with 3:27 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Trail Blazers announced Hood had suffered a torn left Achilles tendon, confirmed by an MRI. 

Hood said after the Blazers win over the Kings on Wednesday that his left Achilles was bothering him during the game and that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play vs. the Lakers. The 27-year-old was even subbed out in the fourth quarter because of left Achilles soreness.

Friday night, Coach Stotts said Hood cleared all of the team's protocols before the game and there was never a question that Hood wouldn’t play against the Lakers.

As one would expect, the Trail Blazers locker room was somber. They stood at their lockers trying to put into words how difficult it was to watch Hood, one of their brothers, go down the way he did with a non-contact injury.

“It’s tough, man,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “You hate to see injuries in the league period, but you hate to see one of your teammates go down to an injury like that, especially a starter and somebody that’s really a good person, having a great season, fitting in really well with our team and a big part of what we do. You feel for him personally more than anything. Just sad to see that happen to him.”

Hood was averaging 11.5 points on an efficient 50.9 percent shooting from the floor, while shooting 49.3 percent from three this season.

The Trail Blazers team captain is giving Hood space before he talks with him.

“So many emotions come with that and a lot going on in his head, I didn’t want to press him about it. I’m sure we’ll talk. I just told him to keep his head up. I saw where his spirits were – he had a smile on his face even though I know he probably hurting on the inside. I’m sure we’ll talk,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers and Lakers were exchanging baskets before Hood headed back to the locker room.

Before losing Hood, Portland already had a difficult task facing the 20-3 Lakers.

Skal Labissiere, who had to leave the game briefly in the first quarter to have four stitches, put in his upper lip, discussed how big of void it was losing Hood.

“Obviously he’s a big part of our team, we felt that when he went down. We hope and wish that he has a really good recovery,” Labissiere said.

For us it’s about the next man up. It’s been like that since the end of last year when [Jusuf] Nurkic went down and even into this season, so we just have to keep staying together. We’ve encountered a lot of adversity already this season and we just have to keep pushing. We have no other choice and perseverance I think is a big word for us… We have a great group of guys. Guys that work hard and we understand the situation, and we’re just going to have to keep having to preserve. -- Skal Labissiere 

Hood held the second-best three-point shooting percentage in the league earlier this season. He exuded confidence and became a go-to guy for the Trail Blazers.

Both CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony reflected on Hood’s season so far this year.

“It’s heartbreaking, McCollum said. "I know how hard he worked, the type of season he was having, what he means to our team, you never want to see anything like that… I saw him briefly. I mean, what do you say? I just gave him a hug… There’s no words that can help in that situation."

What he was able to bring to this team early on in the season, how he was playing, playing at a all-time high level, having a career start to the season, and just the snap of a finger his season is gone right now. -- Carmelo Anthony postgame  

Injuries like a torn Achilles always put the game of basketball in perspective.

And that’s what Melo was feeling:

“You forget all about the actual game. You realize how wins and losses really doesn’t mean anything at this particular moment. It puts a lot of things in perspective to lose a guy like that.”

Hood was not in the locker room when the media was allowed in, but right next to Hood’s locker stood young Anfernee Simons. He was one of the first players to talk about losing his teammate.

“You just don’t know what to think… We’re just going to be supporting him and praying for him. We’re going to be there for him every step of the way for his recovery,” Simons said.

Simons also mentioned that he was able to have a brief conversation with his teammate after the game:

“I just told him God always has a plan and just keep the faith, and I’m praying for him.”

As Hood and the Blazers look to keep the faith, they will continue to preserve, and lean on each other.

The first chance the Blazers will have to come together as a team will be Sunday when the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town. 

Terry Stotts ejected for first time in 880 games and 'it was very necessary'

Terry Stotts ejected for first time in 880 games and 'it was very necessary'

The Los Angeles Lakers Friday night showed everything you need to have to be a championship team.

With LeBron James and Anthony Davis they have two superstars, Hall of Fame-caliber players who are tough at both ends of the floor. They’ve surrounded those players with shooters and veterans who know how to play.

Almost as important as that, they’ve got an experienced coaching staff that appears to have its team buying into defense and moving the ball. Frank Vogel and his assistants are doing an outstanding job with this team that has won 20 of its first 23 games.

And in the Lakers’ 136-113 win over the Trail Blazers in Moda Center, the Lakers got all the help they needed from a very weak officiating crew -- John Goble, Tre Maddox and Leon Wood -- that had Terry Stotts going apoplectic and his players so frustrated they didn’t know what to do.

Stotts was ejected by Tre Maddox with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter after a foul call on Kent Bazemore, who had flown past Anthony Davis without touching him. This after Skal Labissiere was in the locker room getting four stitches in his lip from an elbow by Kyle Kuzma that was not called a foul.

My only question about Stotts getting run was, “What took you so long?”

It had been a poorly officiated game all night and it was the very first time Stotts, in his 880th game as an NBA head coach, has been booted from a game.

“It was very necessary,” Damian Lillard said, then said again. “It was very necessary.”

Bazemore said, “I had four fouls. I didn’t touch him. I was just trying to get out of the way.”

Bazemore got in James’ face and exchanged some words with him a couple of times, but wouldn’t share the content.  “I didn’t get here by backing down from anyone," he said. "That’s not who I am. I’m a fiery player. Very passionate. This is what I like to show.”

It was a contentious game that left Portland players feeling they didn’t get a fair shake. CJ McCollum reacted with dismay when he thought he was fouled in the third quarter. And he got a technical foul for it.

“I was clearly fouled,” McCollum said. “He hit me in the head. They didn’t call it. So I let him know that he missed the call. He didn’t appreciate it.

“They were very inconsistent all night.”

He was asked about Stotts’ getting ejected.

“Tells you the kind of night it was -- he doesn’t freak out for no reason,” McCollum said. “He just doesn’t do that. Kent runs by a guy and doesn’t touch him. Wouldn’t you be mad?”

Is it difficult to play a team with big-name players who seem to get calls?

“That’s what it looked like tonight,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s not even about the calls they get. It’s, can we get the same calls?”

The Lakers didn’t need any help. They buried Portland early with dunks off lobs and then put the hammer down with their three-point shooting, hitting 17 of 36 from long range.

Lillard had 29 for Portland, which now has the problem of replacing starting small forward Rodney Hood, who suffered a torn left Achilles tendon.


Blazers continue to play together, preach sticking together

Blazers continue to play together, preach sticking together

MILWAUKEE – With a depleted front-court, no Damian Lillard, and Portland still working to incorporate Carmelo Anthony into the mix, the Trail Blazers are focusing on one thing: staying together.

Portland held its own against the top team in the East on Thursday night, falling to the Bucks in the final minutes, 137-129.  

CJ McCollum led the way with 37 points, while Skal Labissiere and Gary Trent Jr. stepped up in a big way with a combined 35 points. 

But, it was what the Blazers said after Thursday night’s game that is going to be key moving forward this season.

“Just keep playing together, fighting together, you know, it’s just going to take all of us to get it done, so we understand that and tonight we kind of showcased what we're capable of doing, playing together despite of who is out. You know, Dame was out tonight, so we really had to stick together, and I think we had a great effort, so now we are just trying to convert those into wins,” Labissiere said postgame.

According to Trent Jr., “sticking together, weathering the storm and continue to get wins as best we can,” is the message the Blazers have shared as a team during this tough stretch of injuries and road games.

Portland is currently 2-9 in the month of November. As this current six-game road trip continues with game number five in Cleveland on Saturday night, the newest addition to the Blazers believes his team is learning to come together no matter who is on the floor.  

“We’re just fighting through it right now,” Melo said.  “Any given night so far we don’t know who is gonna be on the court. Guys just gotta be ready, and I thought tonight guys was really ready to go out there and compete and play hard and do what we gotta do to try to win this game on the road… These next two games are very important for us. I know it’s early, but it’s very, very important for us.”

The Trail Blazers will wrap-up the trip on Tuesday night in Chicago with the motto of sticking together. 

Seldom-used Blazer players take advantage of 'golden opportunity'

Seldom-used Blazer players take advantage of 'golden opportunity'

The Trail Blazers actually played one of their best games of this young season Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Of course, given all their injuries, it wasn’t enough against one of the best teams in the league, the 12-3 Bucks.

Portland was crushed on its defensive boards as Milwaukee snagged 18 offensive rebounds and turned them into 27 second-chance points to the Blazers’ 9 second-chance points and the Blazers lost 137-129. And with the depleted Portland front court, that was to be expected. The Blazers also made it tough on themselves with eight turnovers – not a high number, but they were of the open-court variety many times, allowing the Bucks to turn them into 19 points.

The interesting thing about that rebounding edge was that a lot of it didn’t come from the front line. But Milwaukee outscored Portland in the paint 64-38.

“They have a very active team,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “They had nine different guys get offensive rebounds. Their guards run around and they were active. Their starting center didn’t even get a rebound.”

Indeed, in 30 minutes, Brook Lopez didn’t get a single board. But he did hit a pair of long three-point field goals late in the game that helped snuff out a Trail Blazer comeback.

Portland stayed in the game with terrific three-point shooting and 32 assists, moving the ball unselfishly. CJ McCollum led Portland with 37 points (5-10 on threes), 10 assists, six rebounds and three blocked shots, keeping the offense organized and productive in the absence of Damian Lillard, still sidelined by back spasms.

 “I was really proud of the way we competed,” Stotts said. “The way we came back after we got down early was really impressive. We made some mistakes at the end, but overall, I like the way we played.”

Carmelo Anthony pitched in with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, hitting three of his five three-point shots. Skal Labissiere had a big night with 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“Offensive rebounds, second-chance points,” said Anthony. “Those things we’ll get better at. This was definitely a better game than we had in New Orleans.”

The Blazers were 17-39 from three-point range and needed the long-range points to keep them in the game almost all the way to the end. And they outscored Milwaukee by a point in the fourth quarter while shooting 50 percent from the floor and holding the Bucks to 40 percent. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double for the Bucks but needed 27 shots to score his 24 points. “Our guys, as a unit, did a good job of not letting him get out in transition and the open court,” Anthony said.

Another big difference was the foul line, where Milwaukee went 21-26 and Portland was just 12-14.

But it was a good night – especially for some players who don’t usually get long playing time.

“I told the guys before the game, this is a golden opportunity for a lot of you guys to get more minutes and take advantage,” McCollum said. “I remember when I was in that position. It sucks when people get hurt, but when you don’t play, you relish the opportunity to get out there and get extended minutes.   I thought Gary (Trent) looked great, I thought Skal was ready, I thought Anthony Tolliver was great. Everybody contributed and showed what they have to offer -- which is what you would have expected.”


Dream come true: Skal Labissiere, Gary Trent Jr. come up big

Dream come true: Skal Labissiere, Gary Trent Jr. come up big

MILWAUKEE – Next man up: That’s been the Trail Blazers' mentality because it has to be with two of their seven-footers out with no set return dates, and now with Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside on the injured list Thursday.

The banged-up Blazers gave the 12-3 Milwaukee Bucks a run for their money though. Two of the Blazers' role players stepped up in a big way.

Even though it was a losing effort on Thursday night, Skal Labissiere looked like the player that the Trail Blazers had raved about during training camp.

The Trail Blazers backup center established himself as a go-to guy early against the Bucks. Whether it was hitting from deep, showing off his midrange game, or finishing at the rim, Labissiere was proving he can be a real offensive threat.  

Labissiere feels like his shot hasn’t been there this season, but he never lost his faith.

“I feel like I’ve been struggling a little bit since the beginning of the season, I haven’t been very consistent. For me… it’s my faith… Everybody has something. For me, it’s my faith, just trusting in God, and trusting in his work and what he’s doing through me. So, I went out there and just shot the ball and it went in,” Labissiere said with a smile.

Labissiere scored a season-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting. He also pulled down 12 rebounds. Thursday night marked his first double-double of the season and his seventh of his career.

“It’s going to take all of us. I was really happy for Gary [Trent Jr.]. He came in and really shot the ball really well… We played well together and I think that’s what it’s going to take moving forward,” Labissiere said.

Labissiere wasn’t the only one taking notice of Gary Trent Jr. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had high-praise for the second-year player.

“I thought he did well. Obviously he had a good line offensively, but I thought defensively he was locked in on assignments and made some good defensive plays… Probably he’s best game as a pro,” Stotts said.

Trent Jr. made the most of his opportunity by starting the game a perfect 3-for-3 from long distance.  

The Blazers shooting guard finished with 13 points in 21 minutes of work after going 5-for-7 from the field and an efficient 3-for-4 from three-point range.

“[I] got into the flow,” Trent said. “[I] had a nice rhythm, my teammates was finding me, everybody was sharing the basketball, so when everybody is playing like that, you know, it was fun and it helps you be better.”

Trent was also excited to get the starting nod:

“It was a dream come true for me. I got the opportunity to start, I got to play with a childhood legend in Carmelo Anthony, so it’s a dream come true. I’m grateful for the opportunity, did the best I could, just continue to build off that and show consistency with that.”

Before Thursday night’s start Trent Jr. had played in eight games this season averaging just over seven minutes per game.

“I appreciate that opportunity, I appreciate the trust,” Trent said of Coach Stotts putting him in the starting lineup.

With the injury bug looking like it’s here to stay, Trent Jr. and Labissiere should expect to be the next men up for the foreseeable future.

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers hang around, but Bucks take advantage of Portland's small ball

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers hang around, but Bucks take advantage of Portland's small ball

MILWAUKEE – This would’ve been a big challenge even if the Trail Blazers were healthy.

Thursday night, the Blazers were without Hassan Whiteside (right hip) and Damian Lillard (back spasms) as Portland faced a tough test against the Bucks at Fiserv Forum.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts went with Rodney Hood, Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum, Anthony Tolliver, and Gary Trent Jr. in the starting lineup with Tolliver starting on the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

Former Trail Blazers Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Pat Connaughton all had a positive impact for Milwaukee on Thursday night.

But, Portland hung around with the top ranked Eastern Conference team due to the Trail Blazers' hot shooting, particularly from long distance, and role players stepping up.

In the end, the Bucks proved why they are looked at as the team to beat out East. Milwaukee took advantage of the small Blazers lineup on the boards, out rebounding Portland by nearly 20.  

FINAL BOX SCORE: Bucks 137, Trail Blazers 129 

Here are three quick takeaways from Thursday’s loss:

1. Melo finds a rhythm

In just his second game since his return to the NBA, Carmelo Anthony looked to have found his groove offensively in 28 minutes of action. Melo went 6-of-15 from the field and an efficient 3-for-5 from long distance to finish with 18 points.

2. Skal and Trent Jr. step up in a big way

Was Skal Labissiere trying to prove to his coach that he should’ve started tonight? Maybe. Labissiere established himself as an offensive threat early against Milwaukee. Whether it was hitting the three-ball, a fadeaway, or finishing at the rim, Labissiere was showing off his offensive skills. He and CJ McCollum led the Blazers at halftime with 14 points each.

Gary Trent Jr. also made the most of his opportunity starting the game a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range. His hot shooting and defensive pressure on the other end were a big help in keeping Portland in this one.

3. Focus on The Greek Freak

As Coach Stotts put it during his pregame interview, it would be a team effort in defending Giannis Antetokounmpo and it was just that. When the Blazers showed a double team, Antetokounmpo used his length to find his teammates. Portland held its ground, though, against The Greek Freak. But, of course, he still managed to get buckets. Eric Bledsoe also had his way with the Blazers guards both on the perimeter and taking them to the basket.

Up Next: Saturday the Trail Blazers visit the Cleveland Cavs for a 5:00pm (PT) tip-off. Saturday’s game will be the second to last contest on the Blazers’ current six-game road trip.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

What's wrong with the Trail Blazers? Here are a couple of answers

What's wrong with the Trail Blazers? Here are a couple of answers

The question being asked today – and it’s a legitimate one – is “What the heck is going on with the Portland Trail Blazers?” And then… “Are they as bad as they look?”

I will attempt to answer the first question while answering with an affirmative “No” to the second question.

First, let’s remind you of the obvious: three of Portland’s top four best bigs are injured. The injury to Zach Collins was a critical blow because Pau Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic were – and still are – on the injured list. The Blazers do not have the inside game, at either end of the court, that they expected to have at some point this season.

Let's be real, Skal Labissiere and Nassir Litttle, critical rotation players right now, were not expected to have those roles at the start of the season.

Plus, Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Hassan Whiteside and Rodney Hood have all been playing in spite of nagging injuries. After many games the Portland locker room features enough ice to fill one of those ice-bag coolers at your neighborhood convenience store.

But the other mitigating factor has been the schedule, which has been brutal. After 15 games, the Trail Blazers have played twice as many road games as home games and no other team in the league has had 10 road games already. Only two other teams have played five more road games than home games. And Portland has already played two back-to-backs.

And it isn’t over yet. Most people already know that 13 of the team’s first 18 games are on the road.

But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Even with all the injuries and the worst schedule in the league, the Trail Blazers sit just three games out of the playoffs. And ahead of them, in the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference, are Phoenix and Minnesota – which I would categorize as “catchable.”

Are there things that need to be fixed? Of course. For one thing, people who have shot the ball well through their careers need to do that again. I believe there must be a little more discipline and ball movement on offense and better attention to halfcourt and transition defense. But those things have a way of working out with time – especially when the team gets some home games and more chances to practice.

It’s going to get better. And I think it’s reasonable to expect that.

How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

There was a lot to point at and put the blame on following the Blazers 107-99 loss to the Kings on Tuesday, but I can tell you exactly when the wheels came off: The 5:38 mark in the first quarter.

It was then that Hassan Whiteside was called for this third foul of the game. He subbed out and in came Skal Labissiere. With Whiteside relegated to watching from the bench, Coach Stotts really had to tinker with his lineups.

Labissiere played big minutes at center, the team went small and Anthony Tolliver saw time at center. Even Moses Brown saw time at the five. That’s right, Moses Brown. A guy that was on a G-League roster just a few days ago made his NBA debut because the Blazer had no one else.

No disrespect to any of those guys, but the Blazers never envisioned a season where Skal and Tolliver would play 18 minutes, and a late training camp invitee would see the floor. Injuries have Portland behind the eight-ball, and Coach Stotts can’t get the cue ball through.

Coach Stotts will tell you otherwise, but of course he will. It’s coach speak. Always saying the right things at the right time. Asked about the foul trouble, Stotts said:

In the first half, we managed it alright. Skal gave us good minutes and Moses Brown came in and did well… So foul trouble didn’t really hurt us too much in the first half.

But it did. It forced players on the court that weren’t used to being in those positions and in rotations they weren't familiar with. It forced Stotts to play mad scientist and find the perfect formula for success. He failed, but what were you expecting?

Injuries have piled up and the Blazers have key guys in suits on a nightly basis. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all out and they were all key contributors to last season’s success. Pau Gasol is injured and has yet to make his Trail Blazers debut. When this team is fully healthy, players like Labissiere, Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Gary Trent, Jr. will likely struggle to see the floor. Right now, those very same players are playing big minutes to try to get Portland over the hump.

You do the math.

That is why when Whiteside picked up that third foul, the Blazers were fighting an uphill battle. It was almost like another injury, and the Blazers had to find another guy to fill the “next man up” role.

Unfortunately, they’re about out of bodies.



Injury updates on Skal Labissiere and Rodney Hood

Injury updates on Skal Labissiere and Rodney Hood

The Trail Blazers frontline was already getting pretty thin even before Friday night’s game against the Nets.

But now Portland has added backup center Skal Labissière to the injured list.

Labissière suffered a right ankle sprain while picking up his fifth personal foul at the 10:42 mark of the fourth quarter.

Hassan Whiteside entered the game for Labissière as the Blazers big man headed straight to the locker room and did not return to the game.

“Walking around it hurts, but that’s part of it… It’s pretty painful… I should be back as soon as possible,” Labissière said postgame.  

X-rays came back negative on Labissière’s ankle. He does not know if he will have an MRI or any further imaging done.

This is the first time the 23-year-old has ever sprained his right ankle. He has rolled his left ankle numerous times.

His goal now is to keep the swelling down and rehab the ankle so he can get back as quick as possible.

“I’m going to see what the trainers say and if I can, I’ll play,” Labissière said when talking about Sunday’s game. 

The Blazers also lost Rodney Hood to back spasms on Friday night. Trail Blazers PR announced that Hood was questionable to return, but he ended up not getting back in the game.

Hood played just six minutes. The Trail Blazers starting small forward has been dealing with bask spasms throughout the start of this season.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts did not have an update on Hood after the game.

The good news is Saturday is an off day for the Blazers and now multiple players can get the rest and treatment they need before the Atlanta Hawks come to town on Sunday. 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers podcast below:

Mario Hezonja helps Trail Blazers turn loss into a positive experience

Mario Hezonja helps Trail Blazers turn loss into a positive experience

DENVER – The Trail Blazers wrapped up their exhibition season Thursday night in a positive manner.

No, they didn’t win the game. But they played well – given they played without Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside – and didn’t suffer any further injuries. The Denver Nuggets won the contest 110-104 but that’s not important.

What matters is that the Trail Blazers continued to showcase solid play from contributors who will likely come off the bench when the season starts next week in the Moda Center against these same Nuggets.

Mario Hezonja had his second straight solid game. In three seconds short of 28 minutes, he made 6 of his 11 shots from the floor, including 3-4 from the three-point line, scored 18 points, had five rebounds and six assists.

“Getting used to everyone around me, getting used to the system, getting used to the stuff that we run, getting used to the defense,” he said, “It’s up and down – not just for me but for all the new guys. It’s normal. But we have great chemistry. We have a great team. It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve accomplished a lot of great things in a short amount of time.

“Now everything starts to go for real.”

Hezonja is going to be playing at several positions, as the team tries to take advantage of his versatility and athleticism.

“I’ve learned sets for like four spots on the court,” he said. “It was tough in the beginning but now I know where I’m going to be and I know what Coach Terry is asking of me, so now it’s going very good.”

Stotts said he’s been pleased with what he's seen from his team on this two-game road trip.

“The last two games have been good tuneups for us," he said. “Now we’ve got three or four practices to get ready for Denver again.

“Mario played well both nights. Tonight, in the first quarter we had a big lineup out there and he was the point guard. We put in some sets where he could drive the ball and make some plays.”

Skal Labissiere made all of his four shots from the floor and had five rebounds to go with 12 points.

Stotts turned the fourth quarter over to his non-roster players and they stayed close to the Nuggets for a while but couldn’t hang on. The big thing was Portland being able to handle the Denver starters in the first half without using three of their own starters.

But, of course, it didn’t count for anything. And that stuff is in the past. Beginning next week in Moda Center, everything is for real.