Trevor Ariza

Report: Trail Blazers 'tried to persuade' Trevor Ariza to join the bubble

Report: Trail Blazers 'tried to persuade' Trevor Ariza to join the bubble

Damian Lillard has been adamant that the Portland Trail Blazers' trip to Orlando, Florida will be longer than playing two weeks of seeding games.

"Let’s not waste our f****** time out here," Lillard told his teammates ahead of the restart.

The Trail Blazers have gotten off a 1-1 start in Orlando and have looked like a completely different team thanks to the return of starters Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic

However, the Blazers haven't been at full strength because former-starting small forward Trevor Ariza decided to opt-out of the restart to instead commit to a one-month visitation window with his young son.

[RELATED]: Trevor Ariza will not join the Trail Blazers when NBA restarts-- here's why

But, that's not where that story ended.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, multiple members of the Blazers "tried to persuade Trevor Ariza to reconsider joining them in the bubble" a few weeks ago.

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Ariza's visitation period had been changed with a conclusion date of early August, so he could have played for Portland during much of the restart.

Haynes reports that "the possibility was explored" but he was told that Portland would have had to apply for a hardship waiver or a late-arrival form for Ariza to enter the bubble. Plus, the league likely would have denied that request even if it was made due to Ariza deciding to opt-out and his name being absent from the restart roster.

Trail Blazers players were reportedly "upset with the outcome." 

With Ariza's absence, the Blazers slid Carmelo Anthony down to the three, who has performed well, and had Gary Trent Jr. and Mario Henzonja come off the bench. Ariza would have been a great help against a team with elite wings like Boston, who Portland fell to on Sunday and the Los Angeles Clippers who Portland plays on Saturday. Plus, he would be the primary defender on LeBron James if Portland does make the postseason and plays the Lakers in the first round. 

Portland would sign G-League MVP runner-up Jaylen Adams, who averaged 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game during the 2019-20 season, as a replacement player instead. 

[RELATED]: Report: Trail Blazers to sign G-League MVP runner-up Jaylen Adams

Now, responding to the team's first loss in the restart, the Blazers are still focused on making the postseason to make a deep playoff run.

“I packed for the entire three months,” Lillard told Haynes. "We came here thinking 6-2, or 7-1 and that would get us in there. That’s where our heads are at and we can still do that.”

Currently, the Blazers are tied with San Antonio for the ninth seed in terms of games back to Memphis but have the tiebreaker due to winning and losing one more game than the Spurs before the season got suspended.

[RELATED]: Eye on the 8: What & who Blazers fans should be cheering for right now

“We’re just focusing on ourselves,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “I think if we handle our business, it will work out. We can’t be looking at what they’re doing and all that. We gotta worry about ourselves. We knew that it was a chance that we would lose a game. We lost one, but we can’t dwell on it. We got to go to the next one and try to put a string of wins together.”

The Blazers will play the Houston Rockets Tuesday night on NBC Sports Northwest at 6:00 p.m. PT. 

Is CJ McCollum prepared to play some small forward? YEP!

Is CJ McCollum prepared to play some small forward? YEP!

With Trevor Ariza not making the trip to Orlando to resume the 2019-20 season, there have been several opinions and ideas thrown out as to how Portland is going to cover that gaping hole.  

The Trail Blazers could go real big with their starting lineup, but then there’s also the chance they could go with a real small lineup.

Big man Jusuf Nurkic, who believes he is near the best shape of his life, mentioned that coach Terry Stotts has discussed with him that he could earn some power forward minutes.   

But, Nurkic says he is ready to fill whatever role Coach Stotts decides for him.

“I think we just need to fill in role with what the coach supposed to give us and what he thinks is the best for us and for the team,” Nurk added. “That's his part of the job, but I went down as a center, so I'll be back at the center. If I'm going to play some minutes at the four – yeah, I think [after] talking to the coach, I will definitely play some four.”

The 7-footer understands that in the few days left before the Blazers travel to Orlando to enter the quarantine bubble, he has one job:

“It’s just a matter of what [Coach Stotts] thinks is the best for the team -- that’s his part of the job to figure out. My part is -- I'm going to be as healthy as I’ve probably ever been.”

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

Stotts has also thrown out the possibility of shooting guard CJ McCollum moving over to the three.

There’s already been a lot of chatter about Carmelo Anthony moving from the four to the three with Gary Trent Jr. and Nassir Little playing backup small forward as well.

But, what does CJ think?

“Melo probably will play some small forward, G-Trent can play some small forward, Nas can play some small forward. I’ll probably play some small forward,” McCollum said with a smile.   

McCollum is an undersized two guard at 6’3”, 190 pounds. That’s a lot to ask of him to go up against an even bigger wing player.

But, it doesn’t sound like he’ll play too many minutes if any at the three and, of course, it will depend on matchups.

The NBA has been moving towards a positionless game for years and this restart for the Blazers could be the most positionless team we've seen. McCollum made a good point though, there really aren’t too many LeBrons in the league.

We'll be alright. We have a bunch of professionals, guys who worked on their games and this gives other players an opportunity that they probably wouldn't have gotten had Trevor been going, so will be fine. There's only so many LeBrons out there. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

Sure, McCollum defending wings isn’t ideal for Portland, but there is something else to consider:

McCollum and Damian Lillard will have a lot of help behind them with a healthy Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic.

“When you look at our roster we lost a really good defender in Trevor, but we gain two really good ones in Zach and Nurk,” McCollum said. “I know we had great rim protection with [Hassan] Whiteside and will continue to have elite protection with Nurk. He's a guy who can be active in pick and rolls, he can be at the level, Zach can be at the level, they can drop, they can switch, they can guard guards. And they rebound really well for their positions and they can rebound outside of their areas. So, I think those are the keys in defense. Get a stop and being able to get the rebound, I think we are in position to do all those things and have some serious interior presence.”

As the Trail Blazers embark on their trip to Orlando, with the NBA season ready to resume July 30th, Portland currently sits 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Blazers do have one of the toughest roads to the playoffs based on strength of schedule. Six of Portland's eight games will be against teams with a winning record.

McCollum believes of the eight regular-season games, the Blazers will only be able to lose two games or they won’t make it to the postseason. 

“Probably six, I’d guess,” McCollum said when thinking about the number of wins they’ll need to get past Memphis and New Orleans for that final playoff spot out West. “I mean, it's hard to say. You don't know how the other teams are going to do. So I think that also factors in but I believe we've gotta go 6-2, that’s my guess. Maybe 5-3, but it just depends on how many games they win.”

There’s no time for Portland to ease into the return to play, that’s for sure.

The Blazers tip-off the resumption of the season on July 31 against Memphis.

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been tasked with getting his team’s roster ready for its return to play in Orlando. And he’s been, as a member of the league’s competition committee, a part of the NBA preparations to go there.

So now, as teams grow closer to embarking on this unprecedented journey to a bubbled-up end of a season, how does he feel about going there himself, amid social unrest and global pandemic?

“It’s two-fold,” he said Wednesday. “On one hand, I’m excited to see our guys play again. You know, the season ended so abruptly, we were just getting healthy. We were three days from getting ‘Nurk’ (Jusuf Nurkic) back and Zach (Collins) was on the horizon -- he was about three weeks out from returning. At that point, Trevor (Ariza) was in the starting lineup, so the exciting thing is to see the guys out playing basketball again.

“I missed basketball.”

But at the same time...

“I don’t think anyone can be cavalier about the health risks,” he said. “Our players and our traveling staff have tested negative over the course of our two weeks of mandatory testing. But, it’s a concern, and we have family members concerned about us going into the environment. I do think there will be diligence down there.

“I do think Adam’s (Commissioner Adam Silver) model of trying to make it the safest place in the country, i think the league will do everything in its power to do that. But I can’t tell you that people aren’t concerned about their health.

“And, more than anything, we are used to being away from our families for intermittent periods of time, but certainly not for weeks and months at a time. And certainly not during a major pandemic and a climate of social unrest in our country.”

How does Olshey feel at this point about the league’s chances of pulling this off? Does he think the NBA will manage to crown a champion in Orlando?

“I do,” Olshey said. “I think the league, the players and the players association are resolute. That’s where they’re going.”

And what about his team’s chances of making some noise down there?

“I think one of the things that’s understated is that guys aren’t going to give up,” he said. “We’ve had guys back in this gym since May 8. They’ve stayed in market and they’ve continued to work out with no end in sight for part of that.

“And then they’re going to go to work out for three weeks in Orlando and live in a hotel without the freedom and independence that they’re used to. They’re not doing that to go through the motions and get a paycheck. We’ve had between 90 and 95 percent participation at our practice facility since May 8.

“Guys have stayed. They are dialed in. They are locked in. They’re ignoring whatever the strength of schedule we’re going to face down there. And they’re going down with the mindset that Day One, this is playoff basketball for us.

“We’re training and preparing and we’re going to give it our best shot. One of the things that has been consistent with this group is that this is a group of closers. We’ve always been better the second half of the year. It’s a testament to the character of the guys we have and our coaching staff not burning guys out and keeping them engaged and I think you will see that when we get to Orlando.”

But it won’t be easy. They’re going to have to be ready to handle tough, must-win games immediately.

“We’re going to have to get off to a fast start,” Olshey said. “It’s baptism by fire. We’re three and a half games behind Memphis and we get them on opening day.”

And there is a very small margin for error -- with the virus and the games.

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

There’s no doubt that without starting small forward Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, that’s going to create some problems for the Trail Blazers as they head to Orlando for their eight regular-season games in the restart of the 2019-20 season.

We are now less than a month away from the season resuming. Wednesday, Damian Lillard and Coach Terry Stotts shared their thoughts on Ariza opting out of returning to play to instead commit to a one-month visitation window with his 12-year-old son.

“I have a great respect for the decision that he made,” Stotts said. “It wasn’t an easy one for him, but I’ve told him this -- the decision he made to be with his child, I thought was very commendable and totally respected that.”

But what about that gaping hole now at the three?

Lillard was straightforward when talking about losing Ariza.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard knows it won’t be easy to replace him.

It’s a big loss. I don’t think there’s any way around it. It’s not a situation where you just say, you know, ‘Somebody has to jump in and step up’ even though that’s the truth. It’s just a loss for us but I respect his opinion. If I was in his position I would have done the same thing.

I think this season we dealt with a lot of adversity. So I think we got to look at that as it’s a blow to our team, but we’re also getting [Jusuf Nurkic] and Zach [Collins] back, and that’s going to be a big help for us. Hopefully, we’re able to move forward and still get done what we want to get done. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

The Trail Blazers traded for Ariza on January 21 from the Sacramento Kings for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks. He was instilled as the team's starting small forward. Wenyan Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan were also involved in the deal.

In 21 games played with the Trail Blazers this season, Ariza averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

With Zach Collins now “100 percent cleared to play,” according to Stotts, having a healthy Collins back from shoulder surgery is definitely one big positive that came out of delaying the season.

Coach Stotts mentioned that he is exploring a big lineup of Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Collins at the four.

Plus, we can't forget about the other options for the Blazers at the three spot:

  • Gary Trent Jr.
  • Nassir Little  
  • Mario Hezonja

“It’ll be by committee,” Stotts explained. “The obvious thing is Carmelo will play some three. Gary Trent will play some three. Nas and Mario will have to make the most of their opportunities when they’re out there.”

Stotts is still optimistic that by adding a healthy Nurk and Collins, a void will be filled at the defensive end.

Not having Trevor, obviously, it’s gonna fill a hole. He’s our best perimeter defender. We’re going to have to make due… We’re going to lose his defense and his three-point shooting, but we gain Zach and Nurk, so hopefully we’ll be better defensively even though we lose Trevor.  -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

Lillard; however, is still uncertain how things will shake out at the small forward spot.  

“I’m not sure," Lillard said. "I mean, Nas has gotten a lot of experience this season. GT has gotten a lot of experience this season. But, I could see Melo probably being the three. I could see Melo playing the three to start games. You know, I could see us having a pretty big lineup out there.”

But with three weeks of training camp after a more than three-month layoff, the Blazers are eager to get the resumption of play underway.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

The Trail Blazers currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Sacramento and New Orleans are also 3.5 games behind Memphis.

Stotts said the team will have to “hold serve” once the short slate of games tip-off.

But, it’s apparent the Trail Blazers are all-in for the return to play in Orlando.

The fact that we are approaching it like every game is a playoff game, the rotation will be a little bit shorter. -- Terry Stotts    

The goal from Stotts and Lillard is understood:

The Blazers are determined to fight for their playoff lives once they get to Orlando.

It’s basically an 8-game season and we’re starting behind. -- Damian Lillard

Lillard added he “feels good” about the Blazers chances to make the postseason.

Teams will travel to Orlando from July 7-9. Portland will tip-off its first of eight ‘regular-season’ games on July 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Report: Trail Blazers to sign G-League MVP runner-up Jaylen Adams

Report: Trail Blazers to sign G-League MVP runner-up Jaylen Adams

There have been a few question marks surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers since it was first reported last week that Trevor Ariza is opting out of returning with the Blazers and resuming the 2019-20 season, and instead committing to a one-month visitation window with his 12-year-old son.

Now a week after the Ariza announcement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Trail Blazers will sign G-League star guard Jaylen Adams.

Adams went undrafted in 2018 after playing college ball for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and earning co-Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2018.

In August of 2019, Adams signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. During training camp with Milwaukee, he was cut and assigned to the Bucks’ G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd.

Adams averaged 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the Herd during the 2019-20 season.  

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

With those type of numbers, and his ability to score while also finding his teammates with ease, the Trail Blazers are adding young talent to their roster. 

This season, Adams earned All-NBA G-League First Team honors and was the G-League MVP runner up to Wisconsin Herd's Frank Mason III.

He won’t replace Ariza. He’ll just replace Ariza's roster spot. 

Adams is a 24-year-old, 6-foot point guard weighing 225 pounds, but this move will likely help Portland take a look at young talent. Could this be a move for the future?

Adams isn’t afraid of contact and has proven he can take it hard to the rim and finish in the G League. He is also a consistent three-point shooter. This season with the Herd, he shot 40.7 percent from deep.

After going undrafted in the 2018 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a two-way contract. He was waived by Atlanta in July of 2019.

Watch some of Adams' G-League highlights here:

Trevor Ariza is a no-go, where does that leave the Trail Blazers in Orlando?

Trevor Ariza is a no-go, where does that leave the Trail Blazers in Orlando?

With Trevor Ariza opting out of the resumption of the NBA regular season in Orlando, where does that leave the Trail Blazers?

Well, still better off than they were when the season went on hiatus.

They have lost Ariza, who had been their starting small forward, but they will be adding Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, which still promises to make them a better team, overall, than the group in Portland uniforms when the season went on its extended break.

And don’t get too hung up on positions. Yes, Ariza is a small forward and that’s not a spot with a lot of depth. But keep in mind, positions don’t matter so much these days in the NBA with so many teams going with small or unconventional lineups. Coach Terry Stotts will have the option of using his five best players, regardless of perceived position, very often.

And Collins provides depth at several positions because of his defensive versatility.

One of the team’s two-way players, Jaylen Hoard, is the likely replacement for Ariza, not as the starter but if needed in the rotation. He is comfortable in the Trail Blazer system and with his teammates.

I don’t expect Portland to sign someone to replace Ariza, because there isn’t much out there on the free-agent market now and why add another salary when the new player is not likely to play much, if not at all?

The real question, though, is whether Ariza is the only Trail Blazer who will opt out? Players have until Tuesday to exercise their option not to participate in the resumption of play in Orlando. If another chooses to stay home, Portland may then decide to make a move.

Who might join Ariza on the No-Go list?

My guess -- just a guess -- would be Carmelo Anthony and/or Hassan Whiteside. Melo might decide that at his age he would not have anything to prove in Orlando and why risk injury? He may already have options for next season that he wouldn’t want to damage with an injury,

Whiteside knows that Nurkic is going to be on the roster and could reasonably assume that as a pending free agent, the numbers he put up this season will help him get a new contract without the added pressure of what’s to come for the team in Florida.

But in reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if those players decide to stick with the team and ride this season out. Melo is a competitor and a shot at the playoffs would probably be fun for him. I believe he likes and respects his teammates and the organization and would have trouble leaving them behind.

Whiteside has had a much better season than what was expected of him and might want to stick around and see what happens. And the challenge would be to see if can carve out playing time alongside Nurkic.

Whatever happens, the Trail Blazers, with the return of Collins and Nurkic, will be a fun watch when the season resumes. And the experience of the core group having played together for some time could be a big thing.

It's still so difficult to figure out what's ahead -- not only with the roster, but with the league's tentative plan for resumption in Orlando.

Trevor Ariza will not join the Trail Blazers when NBA restarts-- here's why

Trevor Ariza will not join the Trail Blazers when NBA restarts-- here's why

And so it begins.

NBA players are going to start withdrawing their name from resuming play in Orlando next month.

Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza is the latest to opt-out of returning to play, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to the report, Ariza will instead be committing to a one-month visitation window with his young son.

Players have until June 24th to tell teams whether or not they will be returning once the season restarts.

The Trail Blazers traded for Ariza on January 21st for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second round draft picks. He was instilled as the team's starting small forward. Wenyan Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan were also involved in the deal. 

[Listen to the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon with special guest Lamar Hurd]

In 21 games played with the Trail Blazers this season, Ariza averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists.  

Now the question will be: Who will replace Ariza at the starting three position?

With Zach Collins back healthy from shoulder surgery, will coach Stotts go with a big lineup of Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Collins at the four? OR will Portland sign someone in the next few days?

We will all find out soon.

Teams will start practicing in their own facilities before traveling to Orlando starting with vamped up workouts this week. Training camp is set to begin June 30.

Teams will then travel to Orlando on July 7.

Trae Young addresses the infamous nutmeg on Trevor Ariza

Trae Young addresses the infamous nutmeg on Trevor Ariza

Back in late February, a time when live basketball was still a thing (it feels like years ago), things go a little heated between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Atlanta Hawks. 

Portland had lost seven of its previous 10 games, and Atlanta wasn't helping them get back on the right track. 

Midway through the third quarter, Atlanta had a double-digit lead... then emotions boiled over.

Hawks star Trae Young tried to pull off a playground move, dribbling the ball through Trevor Ariza's legs on the fast break.

Ariza didn't take kindly to the nutmeg and made sure to let Young know, the only way a grizzled vet knows how.

Ariza was hit with a Flagrant 1, and a few plays later Young received a technical for taunting.

Things were heated in the moment, but by the end of the game, the two had buried the hatched.

Young recently joined All The Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson to address the situation.

People look at me and they think it's all fun and games and soft. When I'm on the court I'm a dog. Hell yeah, I'm physical.  If someone threw it in-between my legs, in the middle of a game or a transition, I ain't about to let that happen. I may do the same thing Trevor did. People going to look at that and say whatever, but I love it. That next play, to be honest, it felt like we were at the park. - Trae Young on altercation with Trevor Ariza.

Ariza is an old school player and something tells us part of him loves this response from Young. Had the roles been reversed, he would have done the same thing.

The whole situation has a very pick-up ball feel to it and that's something any player or fan can appreciate. At the end of the day, it's just all about basketball. 

 

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.”

Hassan Whiteside's teachable moments could be key for Trail Blazers

Hassan Whiteside's teachable moments could be key for Trail Blazers

PHOENIX -- Did anyone see a career night coming from Aron Baynes against Portland with him starting out the game with five straight threes?

The Trail Blazers didn’t.

Baynes had a career night with 37 points. He tied a Suns franchise record with a career-high nine three-points, matching Channing Frye (April 11, 2011 vs. Minnesota) and Quentin Richardson (Dec. 29, 2004 vs. New Orleans).

But, it wasn’t just Baynes’ 9-of-14 shooting from three that stood out Friday night.

Midway through the third quarter, Trevor Ariza was direct as they come with center Hassan Whiteside.

Ariza went into teaching mode on the defensive end, which is to be expected from a veteran wing player who takes pride in his defense.

As Devin Booker took advantage of a wide-open lane to the basket, which eventually resulted in a foul, Ariza didn’t have his big man to help protect the rim.

While Booker shot the free throws and even into the next possession, Ariza was talking with Whiteside, or rather, yelling at Whiteside. 

But, here’s the thing: Whiteside appreciates Ariza’s advice.

He was telling me: ‘Don’t worry about Baynes. Go help! Go block shots! Somebody else will go rotate out to Baynes. Go protect the rim. – Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside said postgame

The conversation ended with a high-five and a butt-slap. There was no ill-will or animosity. Just a pure desire to improve. 

Even with Baynes going off for a career night and Whiteside matched up against him for a good majority of the night, the Trail Blazers center still felt like he made a positive impact.

“I feel like I affected the game, still. For the +/- boys out there, I wasn’t negative or positive. I was just zero. So, I feel like I still affected the game.”

And, to the fans who may look at it as just yelling from Ariza, it’s clear the Blazers veterans are just working to get their big man in the right spots.

As CJ McCollum explained, the stern talking to is expected from veterans who have the passion and knowledge to help out their teammates.

It’s part of the game. When you care about the end result and winning, you’re gonna argue at times, you’re going to be excited at times, you’re going to show emotion and that’s all a part of the game. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said postgame

Both Ariza and Carmelo Anthony shared their advice with Whiteside Friday night.

This is nothing new.

The veteran forwards have been seen talking with all their teammates handing out advice on both ends of the court.

But again, it was the defense that stood out against the Suns, or rather the struggle at that end.

“[Anthony and Ariza] do a great job of communicating,” McCollum added. “We just always try to stay on the same page, try and express ourselves, and talking about coverages, and what we see out there as a unit, and I think that we’ve done a good job of communicating.”

For the 17-year-veteran, Melo is all about passing on his knowledge these days.

“We still have to communicate, we still have to be better at when mistakes happen -- addressing them. We’re still teaching, putting guys in the right position, making them understand why they should be there, and why they should not be there or be there. But, it’s still a learning curve for everybody,” Melo said.

With just 18 games remaining on the Trail Blazers regular season schedule, the coaching within is going to be critical as the Blazers attempt for their final playoff push.