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New direction in Portland

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New direction in Portland

What ever happened to the Portland Trailblazers? It seems just like yesterday that they were on the doorstep of being a factor in the western conference for years to come and then poof, they were gone.

After a knee injury to all-star guard Brandon Roy that forced him into a short-lived retirement, the Blazers slumped to a 28-38 record last season. Couple that with Greg Oden -- the former 2 overall pick -- done for good with another knee injury, the Blazers struggled. Last year's swoon cost Nate McMillan his coaching job midway through the season and the team hired offensive-minded Terry Stotts this summer to head up the squad.

It certainly will be a rebuilding season for a young Portland team this upcoming season.

LaMarcus Aldridge is the biggest name that returns for the Blazers. The 6'-11" power forward pumped in 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds a game for the Blazers last year as he made his first all-star game. Aldridge can play center but is better suited at the 4 and that's why the team went after Roy Hibbert but the Pacers matched the offer sheet and retained the all-star center. Unable to get that deal done, Portland drafted center Meyers Leonard out of Illinois with the 11th overall pick.

Leonard only played two seasons at Illinois, averaging 13 points 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. Leonard made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season and the Blazers hope he can do the same at the pro-level and erase the memory of Oden's disappointing career.

The Blazers also believe they have the team's point guard for many years to come after drafting Damien Lillard, the high-scoring play maker out of Utah State with the 6th overall pick in the draft. Lillard put up 24 points and 5 assists a game in his senior season for the Aggies. Lillard will likely be the starting point guard from the jump with Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price fighting for back up minutes.

Portland opted to match the 4-year 46 million offer made by Minnesota to restricted free-agent forward Nicolas Batum this summer. Batum, only 23 years old, averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds in his fourth season as a pro. The athletic wing player can defend guards and provides solid three-point shooting for the Blazers.

Portland inked forward J.J. Hickson to a one-year deal. In 19 games for the Blazers last season, Hickson averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game.

There are a slew of forwards on the Blazers roster who will fight to earn minutes, including former Wizard Jared Jeffries who came over from the Knicks in that trade for point guard Raymond Felton.

It'll probably be a long season in Portland as the Blazers' roster is extremely young with eight players having less than two years of NBA experience. So don't expect Portland to make a run at the playoffs anytime soon.

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Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green's basketball résumé got a significant boost this spring and summer as his Cleveland Cavaliers marched all the way to the NBA Finals before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It was Green's first time going past the second round of the playoffs and the experience, he says, was invaluable.

Green has come about as close to winning a championship without actually winning one and he certainly hopes to get back in that position. Green believes his new team, the Washington Wizards, have the tools to make a deep playoff run and it's one of the reasons why he signed a free agent deal to join them.

"Being there last year myself with Cleveland, I know it takes a lot. It takes a lot of pieces. I feel like this team has them," he said. "We can get back to that point. When I got the call, I felt like it was the best opportunity for myself to get there."

The Wizards' franchise has not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, when they were known as the Bullets. That was before anyone on their roster was born.

But Green pointed to the open Eastern Conference and the talent on the roster as reasons to believe they can accomplish some things that they haven't in decades. They may be capable, but putting it all together is easier said than done.

Green hopes to be one of the glue guys necessary for the Wizards to reach their potential, in part by sharing the lessons he learned.

"Never take it for granted. There are a lot of greats that have never been there," he said. "Getting to the Finals and being part of that was beyond amazing. With the experience and seeing what it took, I can bring that here and get everybody on the same page of knowing what it takes and the sacrifices that you have to do to get to that point."

Green over and over mentioned how it takes a collective effort to go to the conference finals and beyond, but he did show some self-awareness and a sense of humor about his own experience in Cleveland. All teams are different and the one he just left was a unique situation.

"You can’t get there individually. I mean, you can, we did last year. I mean, LeBron [James] carried us all the way there," he joked. "But there’s only one LeBron, but to get there you have to have team unity. You all have to be on the same page and sacrifice to make sure you’re doing what it takes to get the team there. I think that’s the biggest key. It’s not an individual thing… unless you’re LeBron."

If the Wizards are to reach their goals and go to the conference finals or the NBA Finals, they will have to do it differently than the Cavaliers did. They do not have a player on the level of James who can do much of it by himself. But Green said the process of imparting his wisdom has already started.

"I talked to John [Wall]," Green said. "Knowing that he wants to get to the Finals, I was just picking his brain and what he thinks is needed to get there. And me sharing my experience of getting to the Finals and what it takes."

The Wizards have reached a point as an organization where they have urgency to reach new heights. Green believes he can help them get there.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!