Vince Carter

You ready for a little extra hot sauce? Nik Stauskas joins The Scoop Podcast

You ready for a little extra hot sauce? Nik Stauskas joins The Scoop Podcast

This week's Trail Blazers guest is the one and only Sauce Castillo.

Yes, Nik Stauskas drops by the podcast and I found out how he learned about his saucey nickname. Which by the way, he did not think would stick, but here we are five years after Sauce Castillo came about and we are all still enjoying it! 

And, this was alarming-- Nik told me that he was "coming for my job!" And, I believe it! He was a field reporter for the NBA All-Star game for Canada’s TSN network back in 2017 and since then they have asked him back to help with Raptors postseason broadcasts. Nik says it has been cool to see how he has improved on camera over the years. 

Plus, we find out what it is exactly about Coach Terry Stotts’ system that has been such a perfect fit for him.

Also, wait until you hear about how Nik played Vince Carter one-on-one when he was just nine years old… He says he "had a like Mike moment" and after hearing the story I can't believe he was able to stay so calm and collected. 

That and much more on The Scoop Podcast below.  

Pat Connaughton and the moment that helped turn him into a dunker

Pat Connaughton and the moment that helped turn him into a dunker

Long before Pat Connaughton was wowing Trail Blazers’ crowds with dunks, there was a seminal moment during his youth that spurred moments like Wednesday, when his three soaring dunks highlighted the Blazers’ latest win.

He was in 7th grade in Arlington, Mass., and he read a Sports Illustrated For Kids article on Vince Carter, one of the NBA’s greatest dunkers. In the article, Carter said he first dunked in 8th grade.

For Connaughton, then a 5-foot-11 teenager, an obsession was hatched.

“I thought: ‘I want to be able to dunk’ … I just really wanted to do it,’’ Connaughton remembered.

His dad bought him a weighted vest, and throughout the summer between 7th and 8th grade Connaughton would jump up two steps and back down while wearing the vest, doing three sets of 20 repetitions.

In the winter of 8th grade, he finally dunked.

“Then, I was addicted,’’ Connaughton said.

Today, Connaughton is 6-foot-5, and his childhood addiction has served as a base for his NBA breakout season, where he is averaging 6.6 points in 20 minutes while shooting 36.8 percent from three-point range. 

Behind explosive athleticism, accurate shooting, and reliable court savvy, Connaughton has become not only a key rotational player for the Blazers, but also one of their more highlight-worthy players. He is fourth on the team in dunks with 15, and most of them are in spectacular fashion. 

Never was that more evident than Wednesday night, when Connaughton had three dunks during one of the Blazers’ more dominant and entertaining victories of the season, a 123-114 rout of Minnesota. Two of the dunks were ally-oops – including one where he had to twist in mid-air and finish with a reverse – and the other a blow-by drive that he flushed by going under the basket and over the rim.

“I always wonder what the other team is thinking,’’ teammate Damian Lillard said afterward. “They are like, ‘This white dude is up here …’ because I’m sure on the scouting report he is a shooter, a hard-right driver. But I always wonder what they think when he is catching lobs. He is one of our most explosive players. It’s impressive; fun to watch.’’

Connaughton chuckled when Lillard’s ‘white dude’ comment was relayed back to him, because he knows the stereotype lives beyond the movie “White Men Can’t Jump.”

“I get it quite a bit,’’ Connaughton said. “It’s something I’ve tried to disprove – that stereotype – since I was a kid. I never wanted to be -- for lack of a better term -- a slow, white kid who could shoot. I wanted to have athleticism and use it. That’s what drew me to basketball.’’

So in his youth, with the help of a personal trainer, he started working with elastic, resistance bands. Did jumping drills. And weight-training that focused on what he calls “explosive” muscles.

For many, leaping ability is genetic, and Connaughton said his dad often credits Pat’s mother for his athletic ability. But today, with a vertical leap that Connaughton says is over 40, he can’t help remembering back to the 7th grade summer, with the weighted vest and countless leaping exercises.

“A little bit of hard work went into it,’’ Connaughton said.

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

The Trail Blazers have their first three-game winning streak in almost two months thanks to a big fourth quarter from Damian Lillard and a wild and wacky finish.

Lillard scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and in the final 10 seconds the Blazers survived a turnover at halfcourt and giving up a key offensive rebound to hold off Memphis 112-109 at Moda Center.

It was the third straight win for the Blazers (21-27), tying their season-long streak, and they did it with a big exhale after Memphis had a couple of golden opportunities to apply a dagger.

The first came after Vince Carter missed a driving layin with about 12 seconds left and the Grizzlies trailing 112-109, despite coach David Fizdale signaling for a timeout from the sideline. As the Blazers brought the ball back upcourt, Lillard lost the ball while trying to pass, and Tony Allen scooped up the loose ball and was fouled while trying to score.

But Allen missed both free throws with 7.5 seconds left, and even though Marc Gasol rebounded, Mike Conley missed a three in the final seconds, preserving Portland’s second in the three-game season series with Memphis.

Gasol led Memphis (27-21) with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Conley didn’t shoot well (5-for-16) but finished with 10 assists and 17 points.

Lillard’s big fourth quarter included a span where he scored 13 consecutive points – which included 3-pointers on three straight possessions –  that gave the Blazers a 106-101 lead with 3:45 left.

The win improved the Blazers’ record over teams with winning records to 7-16 and moved them within a half-game of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Memphis was within 85-84 entering the fourth quarter after the Blazers didn’t score the final 2:07 of the quarter and the Grizzlies got a three pointer from Andrew Harrison, a three-point play from Harrison and a running layin from Conley.

The Blazers led 62-56 at halftime, but had to be kicking themselves after leading by as many as 18 in the second quarter. Crabbe provided much of the firepower that built the lead, hitting 5-of-7 shots in the second and scoring 14 points and Memphis was able to get back in it behind the play of 40-year-old reserve Vince Carter, who came off the bench to score 11 in the second.

Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 12th double-double for the Blazers with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Notes: Ed Davis (left wrist) missed his third straight game and fourth in past five games and Maurice Harkless (left calf) sat out his second straight game.

Next up: Golden State at Blazers, 6 p.m. Sunday (KGW).