Terry Stotts' NBA hiatus: Binges, movies, photo albums and classic games

Terry Stotts' NBA hiatus: Binges, movies, photo albums and classic games

You catch up on some movies you missed before the Oscars were handed out, binge-watch some TV series, take care of some household chores, maybe tackle one big project you’ve been putting off and try to get some exercise.

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts’ COVID-19 stay-at-home time has probably not been much different than yours or mine.

“Taking care of some projects around the house,” he said Tuesday, from his home in Lake Oswego. “I still walk everyday. I always try to see the Academy Award winners for best picture and best actors and I got behind this year, so I’m catching up on those. I watched 'Parasite,' 'Joker'… some others ... I’m working on a book.”

Writing one?

“Oh, no,” he said quickly. “Finishing reading one. I’m never going to write a book. Books get you in trouble. And nobody reads anymore.”

There is binge-watching, too, with wife, Jan.

“We are catching up on that Amazon series, ‘Bosch’ and we’ve watched the first two seasons,” he said. “There are five seasons. And ‘Ozark’ starts again Friday.

“I just finished ‘Chernobyl.’ I had that on my DVR for a long time and didn't get to it.”

Stotts was in good spirits, but when you think about it, what coach wouldn't be when he or she hasn't lost a game in several weeks?

The Stotts are working on one of those big projects that a lot of married couples have hanging over their heads. It's one of those long, tedious jobs that you know is going to take a while and so you continually put it off.

“We had photo albums we did from 1980 to 2003,” he said. “And we are going through those pictures and digitizing them on a computer. We have a little machine that scans them. There are about a hundred or a hundred-fifty pictures in each album.

“And we just have one album left -- 2003.”

And yes, 2003 is when the Stotts purchased a digital camera.

The Trail Blazer coach has already programed the DVR to record all of the Trail Blazers' classic games that will be aired during the next couple of weeks on NBC Sports Northwest. And he watched the video of the team’s 1977 championship win over Philadelphia this week.

“It’s interesting how much the game has changed,” Stotts said. “It’s a different game. There was like one pick-and-roll the whole game."

And the players?

“More athletic than people might think,” he said. “Lionel Hollins and Johnny Davis looked really quick. So did Bill Walton.

“And that one dunk by Dr. J in the first half, over Walton, I think. I just said, ‘Holy cow.’”

And that game was so long ago that, like many of us, he'd forgotten that the old free-throw bonus rule was different in those days. If your team was in the bonus and you were fouled on a shot, you got three chances to make two free throws.

"World B. Free was at the line and missed the first one, then made two," Stotts said. "And I thought, 'Oh yeah, three-to-make-two.'"

One thing Stotts isn’t watching is videotape of college players his team might be looking at in the draft.

“Neil (Olshey) does that,” he said. “He and his staff do the draft. As we get closer to it, I look at some tape, but the draft is his. He and his staff do that.”

The enforced hiatus is not pleasing to anybody, but Stotts seems to have come to terms with it and, while anxious to get back to work, he’s doing his best to make the best of it.

“If you have to do something like this, Lake Oswego is a nice place to be,” he said.

What Jusuf Nurkic did vs. the Rockets in his 2k return was like a dream

What Jusuf Nurkic did vs. the Rockets in his 2k return was like a dream

The Jusuf Nurkic chants started before he could even get to the scorers table. Trail Blazers fans rose from their seats at Moda Center to welcome the big fella back to the floor.

The chants were just as loud in our NBA 2k20 game simulation as you would imagine they will be when Nurkic makes his return after games resume.

With the Trail Blazers set to host the Houston Rockets in a Sunday matineé game in what was Nurkic’s targeted return game at just 10 days under the one year mark of his broken left leg, it was time to turn to the video game.

We couldn’t let Sunday pass by without thinking and therefore watching what Nurk’s big comeback game would’ve looked like.

(GAMER NOTES: We ran the video game on the Playstation 4 with accurate rosters, current injuries included, and simulated a full basketball game between the two. We tweaked the settings to put Nurkic near a 20-minute cap as to simulate his minutes restriction, as would likely have been the case had the game actually happened.)

Portland jumped out to a quick nine-point lead behind Trevor Ariza's hot shooting.

And then, the anxious Moda Center crowd got its wish near the six minute mark of the first quarter, when Blazers head coach Terry Stotts yelled for Nurk to check in.

Nurkic didn’t even look like he needed to shake of any rust. He scored a quick five points while also making his presence known on the defensive end.  

As seen in the highlight above, the crowd loved the monster blocks on Austin Rivers and James Harden, duh.

But, in the third quarter, it was as if time stood still.

The Bosnian Beast went up for a lay-in which ended up being and-one after a foul was called on Jeff Green.

He then hit the deck.

As Nurkic was lying on the court in this game simulation, I said quickly, - ‘get up big fella, you’re good.’ – That feeling of worry when watching Nurkic fall down will probably not go away for a few games when he actually does return for real.

He got up with no issues and all was well. 

Portland had a 97-63 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Stotts emptied the bench early and the Blazers cruised to a 124-89 victory over the Rockets.

Nurkic finished with 15points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 22 minutes of play. He went 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line.

Yeah, the 2k sim is not the real deal, but hearing and seeing Rip City faithful with their Jusuf Nurkic chants give you chills as you think about when the actual day comes that the Bosnian Beast returns.

Find out how Nurkic looks in his second game of the year on Tuesday when we once again use NBA 2k20 to simulate the Blazers versus Timberwolves game. 

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.

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

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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.

Managing emotions might be Jusuf Nurkic’s final hurdle

Managing emotions might be Jusuf Nurkic’s final hurdle

There was a very different feeling following Monday’s practice.

But, all eyes were on the beads of sweat dripping down big man Jusuf Nurkic’s face as he made his way to talk with the media for the first time in months.

As local media members huddled around Nurk, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood were both working out on the practice court with assistant coaches.

So many injured guys all around... back on the court.

Mar. 15 against the Houston Rockets is still the targeted day for Nurkic’s return, which is 10 days short of the one-year mark when Nurkic went down. It was on Mar. 25, 2019 when he suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula late in the game against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Nurkic went through all of Monday’s practice and added contact was involved. However, it sounded like it was a light practice, overall.

It’s not his leg, his rhythm, or his conditioning that he is worried about.

It’s his emotions.

It’s tough, man. There’s so much going on in my head. It’s just been like, looking forward for a long time. I want to cry, but I’m not going to cry. There’s just so much going on as far as like -- I know I’m going to be out there. My number gonna call out again. Just be ready, compete, obviously, it’s been eleven months, almost a year, but it hasn't changed. The ball is the same. The hoops are the same. The floor – hopefully it didn’t change. But, for me, I’m super excited. -- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic on his impending return 

“I gotta control my emotions,” Nurk added. “It’s more about fans and what I expect. People talking… Rip City as a city, it just means a lot to me… The hardest time, the hardest part, when they announce my name to get off the bench before [the game] -- that’s probably gonna be the hardest part.”

With the Blazers being so injury-depleted, there aren’t enough healthy bodies at the moment for a full scrimmage.

And a full scrimmage is what Nurkic needs.

Nurkic is ready to go through full basketball activities and get up and down. 

That’s why the Blazers have turned to the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors for assistance.

Wednesday, Nurkic will take a trip down to Santa Cruz to get in last minute scrimmage reps with the G-League team. Trail Blazers assistant coach Jannero Pargo will make the trip with Nurkic.

“I’m going to go to the G-League practice on the 11th. That’s my last stop before I [play] finally here,” Nurk said.

With Wednesday set as Nurkic’s last benchmark, the question becomes what will Sunday’s return look like.

Nurk said he wasn’t sure exactly how many minutes he will play when he first returns, but for Sunday he is expecting to play “the first quarter.”

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts would not confirm any type of minutes restriction.

“I have not discussed minutes or rotations or anything for Houston or, I should say, a decision has not been made on any of that,” Stotts said.

Nurk does believe it could take time for him to get his basketball rhythm back.

“Yeah, in some certain ways. But, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of ways I can impact the game. It doesn’t have to be just the scoring stats. I’m going to be okay with that, especially with the minutes that I’m going to play for the first couple of games. I still feel like I can do a lot out there,” Nurkic said.

Prior to the injury, the Trail Blazers big man averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, both of which were career-highs.

The good news right now: He is not thinking about his leg while he is out on the court.

But man, has the rehab process been a long one.

Coach Stotts tried to put into words what it has been like watching his big fella go down the long road of recovery.

It’s been tough. The initial part of it -- just having the healing and then all the work that he has had to do up to this point. Going through a long rehab like that, I can’t imagine it. It’s hard to see the end in sight and you really may or may not see immediate benefits of what you’re doing. He’s had a good attitude about the whole thing.  -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said following Monday's practice

As far as Nurkic impacting that game, the two-man game between Damian Lillard and the Bosnian Beast is on top of that list.

The Blazers team captain couldn’t be happier  for his teammate and friend to make his return.

“I’m excited for him,” Lillard said. “Just to get back on the floor after that injury, it’s been a long time coming, so just to have him back out there with the team, his presence, his skill set, what he does for the team, we’re all excited to see him get back out there.”

Lillard has witnessed the extremely long rehab process firsthand. He even spent time with Nurkic over the summer.   

When reflecting on the progress Nurk has made, Lillard paused and smiled.

It’s been weird, just because like -- you don’t really know, you never really know, because it’s all about how the player feels and you’re not the one dealing with the injury. And, I’ve been hurt so I know how it feels like to feel good some days and to not feel good, get sore other things start to hurt. So, I know it’s been a journey for him.  -- Damian Lillard on watching Nurk's rehab

Should we expect Nurk Fever right off the bat?

Yeah, probably not.

But, you can expect those Nurk dimes, and that's what Lillard is most looking forward to in his comeback. 

“He’s a playmaker, he makes my life easier.”

Nurkic and Lillard back together again -- Sunday at 12:30pm on national television versus the Houston Rockets, mark it on your calendar. 

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?  

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. 

Jusuf Nurkic's return delights Trail Blazers, who have witnessed long road back

Jusuf Nurkic's return delights Trail Blazers, who have witnessed long road back

The countdown has begun in Rip City.

Well, let’s be honest, the countdown to Jusuf Nurkic’s return started long before Friday’s news of Nurkic targeting March 15th as his debut game.

It's been nearly a year after Nurkic suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula late in a home game against the Brooklyn Nets on Mar. 25, 2019.

Social media was abuzz Friday when the Nurkic news broke; the Trail Blazers locker room was no different.

Gary Trent Jr. admitted he had just heard the news hours before the Blazers and Suns game. He expressed all the feelings surrounding his teammates’ big return.

I’m happy that he can get the opportunity to get back to the game of basketball and continue to play the game that he loves. -- Gary Trent, Jr.  

“It was great news to hear,” Trent added. “I’m happy for him... He picked that day because obviously it was the best for him. So, hopefully everything is 100 percent with him and his body and he can come back playing at a high level.”

While both the team and Trail Blazers fans are excited to unleash the Bosnian Beast during Portland’s final playoff push, Nurkic’s teammates are more focused on him and his well being, at the moment.

Being in the league for 17 years, Carmelo Anthony has learned a thing or two about taking care of his body. So, when asked about Nurkic’s impending return, Melo had a simple message:

“When he runs out there, I just want him to be excited and feel comfortable and confident with the rehabbing and the work that he’s put in, and if he’s comfortable and confident in that than you’ll see Nurk out there feeling good.”

Nurkic's workouts ramped up in late January when he first returned to full-contact practice, but over the last 11-plus months, his teammates have witnessed the process and progress of the Trail Blazers big man.

“He’s been going through a lot to get back,” Trent said. “He’s been working countless hours. Everyday when we come into the gym, he’s the first one in there rehabbing and he’s always the last one leaving too.”

Not only are the Blazers excited to see their teammate and friend make his triumphant come back, they are looking forward to getting some much needed help.

Being able to have the Bosnian Beast back -- it’s going to add another element to our team, it’s going to raise our level of play. Just the excitement of having him back, I feel like we can feed off that. -- Gary Trent Jr.

“Trying to make this push and when you’ve got another player out there like Nurk, it’s going to do nothing but help our team,” Trent added.

Portland's head coach Terry Stotts touched on Nurkic’s rehab and the process that is still to come before the Bosnian Beast actually steps foot on the court for next Sunday’s game.  

“He’s made good progress,” Stotts said... "The workouts he’s been having have been very positive... I think by his comments today, he’s feeling good. Our H&P (Health & Performance) department feel good about his progress, so we’ll just stay with that target.”

“Ultimately, everybody makes the decision together. H&P isn’t going to put him out there unless he’s ready, Nurk’s not going to go out there unless he’s ready. So, it’s a team decision.”

The Trail Blazers as an organization have kept the updates on Nurkic to a minimum, but for good reason. The Blazers have and will continue to put Nurkic first and with less updates on his progress that has meant less stress and pressure on Nurkic, or at least that is the thought process.

There are just 19 regular season games left for Portland and just three more games until Nurk’s targeted date.

The countdown continues…