Hassan Whiteside's big night leaves Trail Blazers pondering

Hassan Whiteside's big night leaves Trail Blazers pondering

DENVER – Staring off into the distance sat a Trail Blazers big man who looked deep in thought after Thursday’s game.

It was Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside, sitting there with his knees wrapped in ice and both feet ankle deep in a bucket of ice – that’s the norm for the Trail Blazers 7-footer.

But something was different. 

After the Nuggets defeated the Blazers by 15 points, Whiteside sat alone looking as if he was searching for answers. Pondering. 

In the first and third quarters in Denver, it was really all about Whiteside’s dominance at both ends of the floor.

Despite the big fella going off for a career-high 33 points, he was trying to figure out why his team didn’t come away with a win.  

There’s stretches when we look amazing and then there’s stretches where they go on big runs… They was hitting threes, they was making us pay, and we would over help, and that’s pretty much what happened. -- Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside postgame

Whiteside’s 13-point first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.  

He also hit his first and only three-attempt this season, punctuated with a dab (or three).

Trail Blazers fans may have been surprised to see him hoist up three, but Whiteside was ready for the moment.  

“I shoot them all the time [in practice]. So, when it is a situation like that I feel comfortable…. I hate when people always saying, "why you working on that? You don’t do it in a game." Well, maybe that’s why you work on it.”

It's obvious that Whiteside has put in the work this season, and he and Damian Lillard have put in the work together on the offensive end.  

Whiteside's performance didn't go unnoticed Thursday. 

Lillard, who shot just 2-for-9 from three, gave his big man props.

He had a great game. They put a lot of attention on the ball and he was coming open all night and he scored early, and all throughout the game he made those short floaters, he made some jumpers, made free throws, I thought he played a good game. -- Trail Blazer point guard Damian Lillard on Whiteside

“He looked good." CJ McCollum added. "He finished around the basket. He rebounded. I thought he took advantage of how they were guarding him in the pick and roll and he capitalized."

Whiteside is putting up career numbers across the board this season from points to rebounds to blocks. He became the first Blazer with 10+ rebounds in 10 straight games since Buck Williams Thursday night.

He believes the success has been there in the first part of the season because of Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and his teammates believing in him.  

“I got a coach playing me,” Whiteside said. “Coach has been playing me and letting me play out there. My teammates trust me and I worked on it all summer."  

Trust can go a long way.

But, now Whiteside and the rest of the Trail Blazers are pondering why they haven’t been able to put together a consistent game on both sides of the floor even if they are trusting each other. 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: All five guys can't fall asleep against Nikola Jokic

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: All five guys can't fall asleep against Nikola Jokic

DENVER – The Trail Blazers said they are looking to keep the momentum going after Monday’s win over the Knicks.

Now as the Blazers get set to face the Nuggets on national television tonight, both Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Blazers All-Star point guard discussed how they need to defend Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic.

I think you try to make him a scorer. It’s kind of like – not comparing him to LeBron [James]- but with LeBron you want him to be a scorer you don’t want him to be picking you apart, then scoring, and doing everything that he wants to do. Jokic, he’s a point-center, like he’s facilitating everything and making them go, making all the plays.  -- Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said at Thursday's shootaround

This season, Jokic is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game.

Coach Stotts added, “You try and pressure [Jokic] as much as you can. Part of it is the other four people have to not fall asleep… Don’t give up backcuts, if you fall asleep he’ll find them. So, it’s kind of a team thing.”

In the first meeting between these two, in which Denver won, Jokic got into early foul trouble. Lillard mentioned at Thursday morning’s shootaround that because the Nuggets 7-footer sat for most of the first half, he was ready to go in the final period. Lillard even smiled saying, “I almost think on opening night when they beat us, it would’ve been better for us to not have him in foul trouble because he basically rested the whole game. He came in the fourth quarter fresh.”

Coach Stotts on the other hand said he “wouldn’t subscribe” to not getting Jokic in foul trouble early.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

What a win vs. Denver can mean for the Trail Blazers' psyche

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What a win vs. Denver can mean for the Trail Blazers' psyche

The Trail Blazers have played a total of 25 games.

Of those 25, the Blazers have won 10.

Of those 10, the Blazers have just ONE win over a team with a winning record. (That was against the Dallas Mavericks on October 27th when Portland still had a healthy Zach Collins for three quarters of the game.)

That could change on Thursday night in Denver.

But it won’t be easy.

The Nuggets are currently 14-8 on the season, which puts them fifth in the Western Conference standings.

The good news for the Blazers: The Nuggets have lost five of their last six.

After easily defeating the New York Knicks Tuesday night, 115- 87, the Trail Blazers felt good about blowing out a team they were expected to blow out.  

“It’s good to have wins like this because it’s a team that we desire to beat, a team that is inferior to us, we want to go out there and take care of business and we did exactly that,” Kent Bazemore said Tuesday night.

Now as the Blazers shift their focus to Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, former Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony offered up his thoughts on how significant it would be for the Blazers to come away with a win in the Mile High City.

It’s definitely an important game, being in the same conference, knowing what we’re trying to accomplish. You know those guys are coming in with a loss tonight, so I’m sure they’ll be ready in front of their home crowd. This will be a good one for us to go get on the road. -- Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony  

Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts gave his opinion on Thursday’s matchup:

“They’re the same team that we played in the playoffs; we are not the same team, so it’ll be different. They are a good team. They are the same team that took us to game seven and they are at their place so it will be a challenge.”

As of Thursday morning, the Trail Blazers were three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The last the time Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum played in Denver was in their Game 7 victory back on May 12th, using that nostalgia could provide just enough boost for the Blazers to hand the Nuggets their third straight loss.
The Blazers know they are going to need to slow down Nikola Jokic.

Jokic is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game.

In Portland and Denver's first meeting of the season, which also happened to be the Blazers regular season opener, Jokic had 20 points and 13 rebounds despite getting into early foul trouble.

In the loss, Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 32 points and eight assists, while Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 19 rebounds in his debut as a Trail Blazer.

This is a must for Whiteside on Thursday:

The 7-footer will have to do his best to get a hand in Jokic’s face when the Joker is out on the three-point line.

The Blazers tip-off their two-game, six-day trip, at 7:30pm PT Thursday.

Good thing Hassan Whiteside has a weight room in his house

Good thing Hassan Whiteside has a weight room in his house

Some may say it was just what the doctor ordered Tuesday night.

The Trail Blazers say it was good to get a win. 

The injury-riddled Blazers faced a team that is going through more trials and tribulations than they are: The NBA's worst team that is going through yet another coaching change. 

The Knicks were losers of nine-straight heading into their game vs. Portland. Make that 10 straight.

The Blazers blew out the New York Knicks 115-87 behind Damian Lillard’s 31 points and Hassan Whiteside’s large and in-charge presence.  

Whiteside started out the third quarter showing that he meant business against the Knicks. The Blazers starting center made his presence felt on both ends finishing with five blocks to go along with his 17 points and 15 rebounds. It was Whiteside's 16th double-double of the season. 

The Blazers big man was also doing what he could to get Lillard open on the perimeter. It’s been an ongoing discussion how Lillard has been in teacher mode to make sure Whiteside understands how to set a good screen for Lillard.

Versus the Knicks, Whiteside set those solid picks Lillard was looking for. In turn, those picks helped Lillard go 8-for-12 from deep.

“I like that Dame shot 80 percent from three tonight,” Whiteside said with a smile. “He can light it up and getting them downhill. And when he gets downhill like that and he started getting it going, I’m just trying to get him open.”

For the 7-footer, he emphasized after the game how important it was to lock up the W.

“It’s always good to get a win. Every night we can’t overlook a win, overlook anybody... It was a good way to close the home stretch,” Whiteside said. 

At the 4:39 mark of the third quarter, Lillard found Whiteside alongside the baseline and as Whiteside went up with the two-handed jam he was fouled from behind by Marcus Morris.  

Whiteside had explained what happened on the play: 

[Carmelo Anthony] threw it to Dame and he seen [Mitchell] Robinson jump for the shot block and I just went up with two hands because I didn’t know somebody was going to come from behind and whatever. It was a pretty good hit, but I got a weight room at my house, so it’s always good to have a weight room at your house.

“I just got excited,” Whiteside added while referencing his fist pump celebration after the play.    

After starting in his second straight game since Rodney Hood went down with a season-ending injury, Kent Bazemore emphasized how important Whiteside has been anchoring the team down low.

He’s been super important for us, especially when he protects the rim like he does, getting us extra possessions, playing with a lot of energy and anytime he’s out there flexing with both arms, you know the night’s going well for him. Tonight was a fun game for us in so many aspects, good for everything to kind of click. -- Kent Bazemore postgame on the importance of Hassan Whiteside  

Whiteside’s signature move as of late is him flexing on his opponent. That celebration move is now completely validated after finding out about the in-home weight room.

And when, Whiteside isn’t showing off his strength, he has been able to show of his length.

The Blazers used their length to their advantage against the lowly Knicks.

Whiteside played alongside Skal Labissiere for the first time this season. The Trail Blazers starting center said that Labissiere reminds him of Zach Collins and he wouldn’t mind seeing that lineup more often.

While Lillard agreed with Whiteside.

“With Skal and Whiteside out there, Skal moves pretty well and they had non-shooting bigs tonight and I think it worked because of those two reasons,” Lillard said.

The Blazers are going to need to use all their length and flexing on Thursday night in Denver as Portland faces Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers expect new energy from Knicks

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Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers expect new energy from Knicks

The Trail Blazers are set to wrap-up their four-game homestand tonight.

Before the Blazers and Knicks tip-off at 7:00p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave his thoughts on tonight’s matchup.

Coach Stotts thinks the Knicks will be playing with a sense of urgency and newfound energy playing for their new interim head coach Mike Miller.

They’ve had a couple of days in between games. They’ll be some new things implemented. After watching their Indiana game they had some new things in as well. So, it kind of puts a premium on knowing their personnel, their tendencies, what they like to do. The one thing a coaching change usually does is it brings a bump in energy. They’ve lost nine in a row so I expect them to play with a lot of urgency.  ---Terry Stotts pregame

Coach Stotts also mentioned that Pau Gasol is still in Spain rehabbing at the moment, but he should be back in Portland late next week and then they will figure out when Gasol will join the coaching staff.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

Carmelo Anthony: "We'll be alright, we can’t shoot as bad as we shot"

Carmelo Anthony: "We'll be alright, we can’t shoot as bad as we shot"

It wasn’t pretty.  

The Trail Blazers went 36-of-100 from the field and 9-for-33 from three in Sunday's 108-96 loss to the Thunder.  

Portland's newest edition, Carmelo Anthony, who played in his 10th game with the Blazers Sunday, had one of his worst shooting nights with his new team. Melo went 4-of-18 from the field, including 1-of-5 from long distance and scored just nine points.

“We were just off, couldn’t make shots,” Anthony said postgame.

But, Melo also gave credit to OKC.

“I think those guys just came out ready to play. They had dropped two games to us already. It’s hard to be a team three consecutive times without them making adjustments.”

“Tonight we didn’t have the energy, they did,” he added.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts wasn’t concerned with the perimeter shooting, but was upset about his team missing baskets around the rim.

 

We had fifty shots in the paint, didn’t really convert in the paint very well, obviously Dame [Lillard] and Melo struggled at least from a percentage standpoint. That’s going to happen from time to time. You give credit to their defense they played hard, they made it difficult, but I thought that to get fifty shots in the paint you have to convert more than 21. -- Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

For Melo, “missing shots” was the most frustrating part of the game.

“Everybody [was missing], everything was short. And then when you’re missing shots like that, shots that you’re supposed to make and you normally make it puts a lot of emphasis on the defensive end and it makes it tougher to try to get stops on the defensive end, because if you don’t put a lot of effort and energy into making one stop, and trying to make consecutive stops going up against a team like that, they way that they played tonight, you have to be on point with [your shots].”

The 17-year veteran is confident this Blazers squad will bounce back and won’t shoot this bad again.

“We’ll be alright. We’ll get in the gym tomorrow, watch some film, and we’ll figure it out… We can’t shoot as bad as we shot tonight. I don’t think we’ll continue to miss those shots."

Yes, Melo is probably correct -- the Blazers most likely won't shoot that bad again, but as Damian Lillard said, the team lacked a sense of urgency. So, what will it take to get back to playing Trail Blazer basketball? Portland lost a playmaker in Rodney Hood. Filling their final roster spot with someone who can create his own shot seems like a must, but as of right now Coach Stotts says there hasn't been any talk of roster moves. Not yet at least. 

Lucky for the Blazers and their current shooting woes, along with injury woes, the worst team in the league makes a stop in Portland Tuesday night. The Blazers and Knicks tip-off at 7:00pm. 

Kent Bazemore starts: "It’s what I wanted, but not how I wanted it"

Kent Bazemore starts: "It’s what I wanted, but not how I wanted it"

The Trail Blazers played their first game since their starting small forward Rodney Hood went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. 

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts turned to Kent Bazemore to fill the void left by Hood.  

Bazemore was dialed in early and looked up for the challenge.

The career 35.1 percent three-point shooter hit his first three three-pointers on the night, tying his season-high from deep.

“I thought Kent got off to a great start," Terry Stotts said. "He made his threes, had good activity defensively, I was surprised he was 3 for 11 because I thought he impacted the game, he was on Chris Paul a lot. I thought he did a nice job in the starting lineup.”  

Bazemore attributes his success to getting open looks as well as getting to play alongside the Blazers other starters: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside.

It’s good to be out there with that kind of firepower… When you’re on the floor with Dame and CJ, Melo, and Hassan, they’re going to attract a lot of attention. So, just being aggressive, guys closing out short, just being able to rise up and knock them down… I’m going to continue to let if fly. I’ve been a starter in this league before and there’s a lot of firepower in the first unit.  – Kent Bazemore

After a hot start for Bazemore, he cooled off on a night where the Blazers as a team struggled from the field most of the night.

The 30-year-old finished with nine points to go along with five rebounds and two assists.

It is Bazmeore’s energy and activity on both ends of the floor though that he has made at living at, and Sunday was no different.

“I’m not really a guy that needs the ball,” Bazemore said. “I just like to fly around, play a lot of defense, and just bring energy for the unit. The first go didn’t go as planned, but it’s a lot of things we can work on, make sure we’re successful with this change,” Bazemore said.

Oklahoma City got their first win in three tries against Portland this season.

In this new reality for the Blazers, Bazemore is going to be relied on heavily. In his last 10 games, he had played an average of 20.6 minutes per game. On Sunday night he played 36.

“I think he did good,” Melo said of Bazemore’s performance. “He’s going to have to continue to step up in that role and we’re going to rely on him to do a lot of things, and especially now with Rodney being out. We’re going to rely on him to do more, but he can do it, we know he can do it.”

Lillard mentioned how the Blazers missed Hood's impact on the game, while Bazemore echoed that he and Hood are two very different players, but that’s why it worked so well for them to sub in for each other.

What he brings to the table is a lot different from what I bring. This is why we complemented each other so great, but I came here to play with these guys and get an opportunity to go out there and start. It’s what I wanted, but not how I wanted it. I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue to figure it out, go home tonight and watch the game, see if I can do some things a little bit better to help my teammates. 

“Rodney was a huge part of it what we did. We’ll figure it out,” Bazemore added.

The Blazers next opportunity to figure it out will be Tuesday night when they host the 4-19 New York Knicks. 

What's wrong with Blazers? How about lack of 'urgency, energy, focus'

What's wrong with Blazers? How about lack of 'urgency, energy, focus'

With all the injuries the Trail Blazers have suffered this season, there have been some games where you have to just chalk up a loss to who isn’t playing for them.

On the other hand, Sunday night’s 108-96 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder should rightfully blamed on those who did play.

The Trail Blazers were awful and not just where they’re usually awful – on defense. In this game they were pretty bad at the offensive end, too, shooting 36 percent from the field overall and 27.3 percent from three-point range.

Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 3-17 from beyond the three-point line and 12-42 overall.

But let Lillard, the captain, explain how bad things are with his team right now:

“Not playing well enough to win games – and it’s frustrating,” Lillard said. “The start of the game – pretty much the whole game – we weren’t making shots. And on our home floor we’ve got to bring energy into the game. Our crowd is out here showing up and the situation that we’re in, our urgency wasn’t where it needed to be.

“You come out with an opportunity to get some momentum going into another home game with another opportunity to win against a team we just played a few games ago and blew them away, played a great game … And then the ball is not going in, so we don’t stay sharp and lock in at the defensive end. We just allowed them to pretty much do what they wanted. They started feeling good about themselves and you’ve got a guy like Chris Paul, who has been around and knows how to make a team go and get guys to believe, you could just see it – once they got a good start to the game, we were missing, our energy was low, they started to play with more belief. More conviction.

“We put ourselves in that position with how we came out.  It’s just frustrating to do that. No team should be more urgent than us. No team should be more locked in than us. I think for us, that’s the most frustrating part.

“We kind of just play well in stretches. We don’t have the luxury of playing well in stretches. We’re a team, if the ball is not going in, we’ve got to be getting to the 50-50 balls. We can’t keep letting teams get second and third opportunities.

"We foul every 30 seconds. We are doing a lot of things as team to put ourselves at a disadvantage. We’re just making the game harder than it has to be in a lot of situations. We’re not doing it on purpose. We’re competing hard. We’re trying hard.

“But when it comes to urgency, focus and energy we’re a team that has to have that every minute of every game if we want to have a chance. When it’s up and down, your season is up and down – and that’s what we’re up against.”

The only Portland starter who shot well was Hassan Whiteside, who made six of his eight shots, both free throws, had 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Coach Terry Stotts was asked if he would have like to get the ball to Whiteside inside a little more and he answered simply, “Uh, no.”

“Hassan gets most of his stuff on pick-and-rolls,” Stotts said. “We’ve got three primary scorers in Dame, CJ and Melo and obviously we go through them and Hassan will get occasional post-ups, but his bread and butter for us has been rolling on the pick and roll.”

And all of that, from the captain to the coach, was the reality for the Trail Blazers Sunday night.

Along with plenty of complaining to the officials for the second game in a row -- which doesn't seem to be doing any good.

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. 

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gets ejected

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gets ejected

It has been a heated night between fans, between players, and between Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and the officials.

Coach Stotts was seen chirping at the referees and giving several looks of disgust through the first three quarters of the Trail Blazers-Lakers game on Friday night.

After a personal foul was called on Kent Bazemore when Bazemore went up to contest Anthony Davis’ lay-in with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter that was the final straw.

Stotts was hit with two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. This is the first time in his Trail Blazers coaching career that he has been tossed from a game.

His frustration had been brewing all night. His emotions finally got the best of him. 

It is the first time in 880 games Stotts has been ejected. 

Trail Blazers Associate Head Coach Nate Tibbetts will now take over the head coaching position for the rest of the game.