Trail Blazers

Social media reacts: Jusuf Nurkic’s return to court for Trail Blazers set

Social media reacts: Jusuf Nurkic’s return to court for Trail Blazers set

After being sidelined for almost a year with a gruesome leg injury, Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is set to return to the court. 

Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Nurk will make his season debut March 15 against the Houston Rockets. The Bosnian Beast returned to practice on Jan. 23 and has been eyeing his return to the court. 

Here’s a look at how social media reacted to news Nurk will suit up for the Blazers: 

  
Nurk’s return is perfect timing for the Trail Blazers, who sit 3.5 games back from the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West. 

Damon Stoudamire calls Arvydas Sabonis the best big man passer to ever play the game

Damon Stoudamire calls Arvydas Sabonis the best big man passer to ever play the game

"It's crazy that when I got to Portland I played with Arvydas Sabonis, but Arvydas Sabonis was drafted when I was a kid. That's the craziest thing for me."

That is what former Trail Blazers star point guard Damon Stoudamire had to say about playing with the legendary Arvydas Sabonis. 

Sabonis and Stoudamire both made their NBA debuts in 1995, but took drastically different paths to get there. 

Stoudamire was the No.7 overall pick in 1995, starting his career with the Toronto Raptors and winning Rookie of the Year.

Nine years earlier, a 12-year-old Stoudamire watched the 1986 NBA Draft where his hometown Portland Trail Blazers drafted Sabonis with the 24th overall pick.

Sabonis would remain overseas, not making his debut in the NBA until he was 30 years old. 

In 1998, Stoudamire was traded to Portland and the young man got to play with the old man he remembered the team drafting when he was a kid. 

But, Sabonis wasn't just an old big.

He was a rare talent. 

Big men in the NBA aren't usually thought of for their passing skills. Rather, they are thought of for their big bodies that do damage on the glass and hard work in the paint.

But every once in a while there are rare bigs that have the body of Shaq, but pass like John Stockton.

Bill Walton, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Nikola Jokic are a few names that come to mind. 

But if you ask Stoudamire, the best to ever do it hailed from Lithuania. 

(Sabonis) made the game easy for everyone. The best big man passer, I believe, to play the game. He could shoot it, and this was all playing on one leg. I can't even imagine him healthy... a healthy Sabonis. - Stoudamire on Sabonis

Even on one leg, Sabonis averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in seven seasons with the Blazers. 

Those are solid numbers for any center, let alone one that was "old" by NBA standards when he made his debut. 

Sabonis will forever be one of the NBA's biggest "what if" questions.

What if Sabonis came over in '86? What if prime Sabonis was on those Blazers teams the made it to the NBA Finals in the early 90s? What would have happened to Michael Jordan and the Bulls or Isiah Thomas and the Pistons?

There may be many questions, but there is no question about how good Sabonis truly was. Just ask the guys that played with him and they'll tell you. 

Sabonis was one of the greatest big men to ever play the game. 

Damian Lillard will watch from the sideline as the Trail Blazers start the post-All-Star break run

Damian Lillard will watch from the sideline as the Trail Blazers start the post-All-Star break run

The Portland Trail Blazers already had a rough road to get to playoffs. 

With 26 games left on the schedule, the Blazers currently sit four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

The same Memphis Grizzlies that beat the Blazers last week in the team's final game before the All-Star break. 

The Blazers didn't only lose that game that night, they lost Damian Lillard. 

With 3:45 left in the game, Lillard went up for a layup but came down awkwardly and in a noticeable amount of pain. It was unclear what the injury was at first, but it was declared after the game that it was a right groin strain. 

The injury kept Lillard from playing in the All-Star Game this past weekend, and now it appears it will keep him on the sideline for a few more games. 

Lillard did not practice with the team on Thursday and told the media that he would not play tomorrow against the Pelicans and possibly beyond. 

When asked how long he anticipates being out, Lillard said "If I had to guess I would say at least 3-4 games. Maybe five games."

Already behind the 8-Ball, the Blazers now have to start the "second half" of the season without the face of their franchise. 

For Lillard, it's just about getting the groin back to 100%. Being able to cut, run, and explode without pain or without fear of re-aggravating the injury. 85% healthy isn't enough to hit the court. It's just not worth the risk.

I feel alright. I've been doing rehab since Thursday last week. It's gotten a lot better but I think it's just one of those things where you start feeling better right away, but I think that last 15-10% is what takes some time. That's what takes the longest. - Damian Lillard

Without Lillard leading the charge, the Blazers will likely lean on fellow star CJ McCollum to shoulder the loud. 

"Everybody has to do a little bit more," said Head Coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously, CJ (McCollum) will be counted on to be the primary playmaker and run the offense when he is out there." 

Stotts would not disclose whether or not McCollum or Anfernee Simons would end up getting the start at point guard, but it doesn't take a basketball expert to know that McCollum will be the head of the Portland monster for the next week, and McCollum knows it. 

Just play hard. That's the biggest thing. Play hard, try to execute, keep the game close and win it down the stretch. Protect home court and just make sure I'm putting guys in the best position to succeed. Dame does a lot for us offensively - calling plays, facilitating and scoring -  I'll have to do a little bit more of that. At the same time, one person isn't gonna replace his production. We gotta all be better. - CJ McCollum

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Blazers have a 25% chance of ending the season in the eight spot, and just a 2% chance of climbing all the way to seven. Meanwhile, the team they are chasing, the Memphis Grizzlies, have a 44% chance of securing the eights seed.

On the bright side, the Blazers still have two games against the Grizzlies remaining on the schedule, both of them at home. Needless to say, they're both huge games. A chance to drastically close the gap, as long as they stay afloat without their captain in the meantime.

Right now, it's just one game at a time, and it starts on Friday against the Pelicans. 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Simons will play against the Pelicans

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Simons will play against the Pelicans

Before the Trail Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 5:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave us an injury update on Anfernee Simon  (concussion).

“He is available and will play,” Coach Stotts said.

Simons suffered a concussion early in the team's loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday and missed the teams win over the Miami Heat on Sunday. 

The Blazers need him, as the injuries have started to pile up. 

The Blazers were already without Jusuf Nurkic (broken leg), Rodney Hood (torn Achilles), and Zach Collins (dislocated shoulder), but now sprained ankles have Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja on the sideline. 

In need of reinforcements, the Blazers recalled Jaylen Hoard and Moses Brown from the G-League's Texas Legends on Tuesday. 

With new additions come new challenges. 

"The toughest part is from an offensive standpoint," said Stotts. "They're running different plays and doing different things with their G-League team. Coming back... just remembering what to do on the offensive end, that's probably the biggest challenge for them."

Hopefully, they remember it all pretty quickly, cause the Blazers are low on bodies and could need them tonight. 

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Portland G Anfernee Simons (concussion) is available; F Mario Hezonja (left ankle sprain), F Nassir Little (left ankle sprain), F Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), F Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and C Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for tonight’s game at New Orleans. (edited) 

PELICANS INJURY REPORT:

Zion Williamson (left ankle sprain) is probable; Brandon Ingram (right ankle sprain) is questionable; Darius Miller (right Achilles surgery), Kenrich Williams (right lower back soreness), Zylan Cheatham (Two-way) and Josh Gray (Two-way) are out.

 

Damian Lillard’s 10 essentials including vanilla chai lip balm and a man purse

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USA Today Images

Damian Lillard’s 10 essentials including vanilla chai lip balm and a man purse

Damian Lillard seemingly has it all: He’s a five-time NBA All-Star, one of the league’s top point guards, a former Rookie of the Year and a recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award in 2019.

In this week’s episode of 10 Essentials with GQ Magazine, Lillard breaks down the 10 things he can’t live without. From polarizing accessories like his Louis Vuitton murse, and his signature Dame 6 low top Adidas sneakers to his Audemars Piguet watch so he always knows what time it is, Lillard's style is on another level. 

Here's the complete list below: 

- Man purse

- Phone charger

- Cash

- Audemars Piguet watch

- Chapstick: "This soothing touch vanilla chai" lip balm

- Air pods

- iPhone

- Books- The Power of a Humble Life is his current read

- Hat- Dame D.O.L.L.A.of course 

- Dame 6: His new low top Adidas shoes 

WATCH Trevor Ariza goes after official, gets ejected vs. Utah Jazz

WATCH Trevor Ariza goes after official, gets ejected vs. Utah Jazz

Things are getting heated in snowy Salt Lake City.

The Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz are engaged in a fight for playoff positioning, and tempers are boiling over.

That became all too evident in the second quarter when Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza was ejected for arguing a no-call after he drove to the basket. 

Ariza went up for a jump shot with 10:05 left in the second quarter and appeared to be fouled. 

Referee JB DeRosa was right near the play but didn't blow the whistle. 

Infuriated by the no-call, Ariza turned around and yelled at DeRosa earning a technical foul in the process. But that wasn't enough. 

Ariza made a beeline for DeRosa, got right in the referee's face, and continued to voice his displeasure. 

The result was a second technical and an automatic ejection for the Blazers starting small forward. 

The Trail Blazers were forced to play another man down.

Prior to tipoff against the Jazz, the Blazers announced that starting center Hassan Whiteside would not be able to play due to a lower leg contusion. He joined Nassir Little, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood on the inactive list. 

In the closing seconds of the first quarter, backup guard Anfernee Simons left the game after appearing to hit his head on the court. He was helped to the locker room, and would not return.  

Portland started the game with nine players and by the end of the first half, had seven. 

The Trail Blazers lead 72-58 at halftime. 

Social media reacts as Gary Trent Jr. shoots lights out from three

Social media reacts as Gary Trent Jr. shoots lights out from three

Gary Trent Jr. gets buckets.

The Trail Blazers guard went off in the fourth quarter of Portland’s 125-117 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Trent tied his season-high in three-pointers made when he drained his sixth in the fourth quarter to give Portland a 121-110 lead with 1:51 remaining.

He was 6-for-7 from behind the arc, finishing the night with 18 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes of play.

Blazers Twitter kind of lost it. Some fans even went as far as declaring their accounts a Gary Trent Jr. Fan account.

Portland made nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter and shot 48.6 from three-point range in the game. With the victory, the Trail Blazers improved to 24-28 on the season.

Trail Blazers remain cautious with Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins

Trail Blazers remain cautious with Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins

As the season grows older, the anticipation of the Trail Blazers injured big men returning to the court grows with it. 

Here's what we know: Jusuf Nurkic is back practicing, but after a minor setback to his right calf, his season debut is still unknown. Zach Collins is doing individual workouts and shooting pregame, but he remains on the bench in a suit. 

The Trail Blazers have been reluctant to put a return date for Jusuf Nurkic all season long and they remain steadfast in that approach. 

“We are not going to rush Nurk back,” Olshey told Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes in an exclusive interview. “We’re being conservative in his return.”

Bosnian Beast’s homecoming would certainly give Portland a much-needed boost. With Nurkic in the lineup in 2018-19, the Trail Blazers went 45-27. He was averaging 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks for the Blazers before suffering a fractured leg last March.

So, how soon could we see Bosnian Beast in game action? Olshey says it depends on Nurk’s rehab and recovery.

“With Nurk, everything is kind of day-to-day,” Olshey said. “The biggest thing is when he starts competing 3-on-3, 4-on-4, 5-on-5, when we have enough healthy bodies to practice, we can get a read for where he is in terms of how he can simulate game minutes and how he feels after that. So, it’s not just about getting through the practice, it’s what are the reoccurring themes for the PT guys as far as where he is, what his recovery is. What we don’t want to do is bring him back and have him in and out of the lineup.”

While Olshey admits Nurkic is closer to his return than forward Zach Collins, he didn’t rule out the possibility that Collins could also see the Moda Center floor this season. Collins had surgery to repair his left labrum in November and was recently seen getting some work in after practice.

“If an opportunity comes for Zach to be a 110 percent healthy and risk-free, then we’ll probably bring Zach back, as well,” Olshey said. “If there’s any chance that there’s a reoccurrence for his injury, we won’t."

The good news is the Trail Blazers still have an insurance policy in Hassan Whiteside. Portland opted not to move the 30-year-old center at the NBA trade deadline Thursday and Whiteside has been on a tear as of late. He leads the league in blocked shots, shooting 60.9 percent from the field and is the only legitimate center on the Trail Blazers' active roster.

While the Blazers need Collins and Nurkic back on the court to help make a run at the playoffs, it won't come at their long-term health. 

Neil Olshey says Hassan Whiteside was never on the trade block

Neil Olshey says Hassan Whiteside was never on the trade block

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and Hassan Whiteside is still a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Many had speculated the Blazers could move Whiteside before Thursday’s deadline, but Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the Blazers never considered moving the Portland center.

“I don’t know where that was coming from,” Olshey said in an exclusive interview with Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes. “It was never coming from us. His name was never mentioned in trade conversations this year. He’s our starting center.”

Olshey’s reasoning for retaining Whiteside was his stellar play since his acquisition last July. He praised the 30-year-old center for being one of the most efficient players in the NBA. Whiteside is shooting 61.1 percent from the floor while averaging 16 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. He leads the league with 3.1 blocked shots per game.

“He’s performed beyond expectations, so I don’t know why the expectation was that we were supposed to flip him for something else,” Olshey said. “As you can see what happened with the marketplace, there weren’t a lot of star caliber players on the market.”

This means the Trail Blazers now have two starting caliber centers on the roster, both Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic, who is recovering from a grueling left leg fracture suffered against the Brooklyn Nets last March, recently returned fully to practice. He suffered a setback in his recovery last week, when he sustained a mild right calf strain.

Olshey has said the team will be cautious in ushering Nurkic back to the court.

“We are not going to rush Nurk back. We’re being conservative in his return,” Olshey said. “We’re going to monitor his minutes when he gets back. We’re going to monitor back-to-backs when he gets back.”

Prior to his injury, Nurkic averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. Now there's no question that the Blazers will have a solid backup option in Whiteside once the Bosnian Beast returns.

You can hear more from Olshey in the video above. 

2020 Trade Deadline: Trail Blazers reportedly trying to reduce tax bill

2020 Trade Deadline: Trail Blazers reportedly trying to reduce tax bill

Don't expect any large swings to be taken before this season's trade deadline by the Portland Trail Blazers.

According to Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic, the Blazers may be trying to shed some salary ahead of the trade deadline to reduce their tax bill and avoid the repeater tax in future seasons. Portland currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference at 23-28, three games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

Here's what Amick and Hollinger had to say.

Two teams with tax situations that warrant monitoring are Golden State and Portland. Both are making calls looking at reducing their bill, but may not necessarily get all the way out of the tax — a tricky situation since both are looking at potential repeater bills in future seasons. Portland could reduce its bill by paying a team cash to take one or more of Caleb Swanigan, Skal Labissiere and Wenyen Gabriel; dropping all three and signing minimum rest-of-season contracts to fill the two required roster spots would cut a $9.5M tax bill down to $2.9M.

Earlier this week, ESPN's Zach Lowe said that "the noise on Portland making a big win-now move has cooled" and it appears they rather have shifted their focus to saving some cash. 

The article also went on to say that the Hawks can use some leftover cap space from their deal with Sacramento to get some extra cash, or a second-round pick, for taking on some smaller contracts. For example, "Portland could send them $3-4 million to take on the contracts of Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan." 

The Blazers are currently $6.3 million over the tax line for an estimated luxury tax bill of $9.7 million. 

The possibility of moving Hassan Whiteside at the Noon PT deadline is increasingly unlikely and won't happen unless a blockbuster-type deal was presented, according to NBCSNW's Dwight Jaynes

Stay tuned.