CSN goes inside the Lillard home where mother thanks God for blessings

Damian Lillard mom Gina Johnson

CSN goes inside the Lillard home where mother thanks God for blessings

by Chris Haynes

PORTLAND, Ore -- Ribs, chicken, steak and hotdogs are fresh off the grill this Saturday evening.

The living room, kitchen, and dining room are filled to capacity with family and friends in this beautiful multimillion-dollar Lake Oswego home.

Gina Johnson is having a great day.

Game 3 of the Thunder-Grizzlies series is on the tube. For Gina, it’s just like old times in east Oakland. These occasions haven’t ensued much since her youngest son became worth more than $100 million in only his second year in the NBA. She says it’s been tough to get the family up to Oregon all at one time. But on this day, everything worked out.

“God is good,” Gina says.

Everyone has gathered together for Albert’s 78th birthday. He is the father of Gina, and if you didn’t know by now, the grandfather of Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard.

Houston Sr., Lillard’s father, lays the food out on the table. Rookie CJ McCollum arrives with his cousin at the appropriate time. It’s time to chow down. Gina says grace, thanking the Lord for the years He has provided her dad and for the people that came to celebrate this day with them.

Oscar, the grill chef aficionado and brother of Gina, without delay breaks out the dominoes and challenges anyone who thinks they can dethrone the self-proclaimed champ. A stud out of Fresno is pressured into playing. The results of that game shall not be revealed.

Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool drops by and has a plate. He then makes his way to the living room sofa where Lillard is sitting, fixated on the game. The two begin to dissect what’s taking place.

“Domino,” Oscar shouted followed by a long, loud chuckle, prompting everyone to glance at his direction. In the meantime, Gina is relaxing on the couch beside Lillard and Vanterpool, taking in the scenery. She was soaking up the moment.

“I love the fact that I don’t have to work no more,” Gina said. “I just take the kids to school and handle the bills. I love having my family all together. I am truly a blessed individual.”

Nevertheless, things weren’t always fine and dandy for her and family. For 18 long years, Gina had worked for a medical insurance company. She became sick during the latter part of her tenure. Frequent hospital visits made it severely complicated to attend work on a regular basis.

“I was so stressed out,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. There was so much going on. I just kept praying that God would deliver me.”

God answers prayers.

This was around the time Lillard was going through his pre-draft workouts and good reports were surfacing due to his strong showings. He had cemented his status as the best point guard in his draft class. Once it got to that point, Lillard ordered his mother to make a phone call.

“I told her to call them and tell them that we quit,” Lillard shouted, and then he proceeded to bust out in laughter. “We’re out of here.”

“You’re crazy, “ Lillard’s aunt Vanessa immediately said to him while cracking up. “You’re acting like you worked there.”

Two weeks later, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Lillard with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. His life and hers, would change forever. He took home Rookie of the Year honors, this year he became an NBA All-Star and most recently he inked an eight-year shoe endorsement extension with Adidas that is worth in the ballpark of $100 million.

Thanks to proper treatment, Gina no longer experiences those health problems nor has to worry about job security. She has moved on with her life. Nowadays, it’s strictly about making sure she’s there for her children and two grandkids. She’s happy she can concentrate on that with Lillard accomplishing feat after feat.

“He threw a touchdown,” Gina yells, looking at a live game on her laptop of her oldest son, Houston, who is the starting quarterback for the Tri-Cities Fever of the Indoor Football League. She's proud of her kids. No matter the distance, she’s supporting her family. That hasn’t changed.

It had to be some ride coming from struggling conditions to where they are now. Lillard’s fame has skyrocketed overnight, it seems. But, through it all, Gina says her son is still the same old Dame. And that’s what she’s most delighted about.

“He hasn’t changed one bit,” Gina expressed as she turned Lillard’s way. “He’s still that same respectful kid he was as a young boy. He takes care of his family and does what he can for people. The money and the fame haven’t changed him and that’s what I’m most proud of. He’s a good human being.”

Before my wife and I departed, Gina urged us to take some food home, which we obliged. Meanwhile, McCollum is getting rocked at the domino table.

“You have to do more than count to play this game,” Oscar jokingly said at McCollum’s expense.

The night was filled with lots of food, laughter, quality people and most importantly, love. That’s what you can expect when you’re around Gina and family. 

Coach Brandon Roy heading to his alma mater, will coach Garfield High School, Seattle, WA.

usatsi_6118870.jpg

Coach Brandon Roy heading to his alma mater, will coach Garfield High School, Seattle, WA.

The former Portland Trail Blazers guard is making a big name and now another big move in the high school coaching basketball world. Brandon Roy will now be returning to his alma mater Garfield High School in Seattle, WA to coach the men's basketball team. 

After a successful first 2016-2017 coaching season at Nathan Hale High School, also in Seattle, WA, Roy coached the Raiders to a perfect 29-0 overall record, a 15-0 district record, a WIAA 3A State Championship, a No. 1 national ranking, and the No. 1 prospect in the nation Michael Porter Jr. He was also awarded the Naismith National HS Coach of the Year (2017). Not a bad first year at all. 

Roy now looks to continue his coaching successes at Garfield High School, who last season had an overall record of 23-6, three of those losses coming from Roy and Nathan Hale. Last season, Garfield held the No. 2 overall WA state ranking behind Nathan Hale, a No. 47 national ranking, and a visit to the WIAA 3A state championship game but lost 68-51 to you guessed it, Nathan Hale. Can you smell a little rivalry in the air? This move from Roy should make this upcoming WIAA 3A basketball season very interesting. 

Former Garfield coach Ed Haskins, who is now joining the Washington State Cougars men's basketball staff, tweeted about Roy heading to the "Dogghouse":

For more information on this move from Roy, check out this article from Seattle Times reporter Nathan Joyce. 

Forget the likes of Paul George, Blazers need to stay patient and build

Forget the likes of Paul George, Blazers need to stay patient and build

I think back to the Trail Blazers' first-round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Golden State Warriors and can't help but smile.

So many people were frustrated and disappointed that the Blazers were swept. They expected more out of their team and couldn't accept that they couldn't win one game or even take a game down to the final shot before losing.

Well, how does that look now? Nobody in the West could handle those guys and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

So if somebody asks me what we learned from the playoffs to this point it's that fans of the Trail Blazers must find some patience. Folks, you aren't close enough to the Warriors -- barring a miracle or catastrophic injury to more than one Warrior player -- to challenge them anytime soon. It's just not yet realistic to believe.

Yes, Portland improved last season with the acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic. But the Blazers -- and just about everyone else in the West -- still have a long way to go.

That's where the patience -- and some understanding of the situation -- comes in.

Instead of making a futile, desperate effort to beat what appears to be at least a temporary dynasty, it's best to plan to be the franchise on the rise. You want to be the team patiently putting the building blocks together so that when the Warriors begin to fade, you will be ready to challenge. The Trail Blazers are doing this -- making incremental changes to improve their roster WITHOUT MORTGAGING THE FUTURE! I give them full credit for resisting the pressure to make a panic move.

The Celtics have done that, too. General Manager Danny Ainge has resisted the urges of fans and media to pull the trigger on a big deal that would cost his franchise all those draft picks and young players. He's been waiting for the Cavaliers to drop back a little. But Boston has been ahead of schedule getting to the Eastern Conference finals and has nothing to lose at this point. I think, though, it's obvious the Celts are still a player or two away from being able to seriously challenge Cleveland.

Of course, that's what Boston's first-round pick is for this season.

The key thing to remember, Portland is not -- and should not -- be in the market for a high-priced rent-a-player. This is not the time for a big-ticket free agent who will be here for a season and then head to another franchise. One season of Paul George, for example, would not do this team any good and it's time people --including Portland players -- stopped talking about it. George has his sights set on southern California, most likely with the Lakers, and the price that would have to be paid to acquire him is too steep.

Now don't misunderstand me, if there's a chance for Portland to make a major leap by trading multiple players not including Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nurkic, I would expect the Trail Blazers to do so. As long as the player acquired is under team control for the long term. This is no time to roll the dice on a futile one-year mission to catch Golden State.

The plain truth is, those guys are just too good right now. Whether they win the title this season or not, it's one of the most formidable rosters ever put together in the NBA. At some point, though, that roster will split up through injury or free agency and come back to the pack.

The smart play is the long play. Be the team in waiting.

Build. And build one piece at a time, taking the long view. Think about two or three seasons from now. Be smart and strategic. Develop the players who are here now -- there is time for improvement, individually and as a team. Use the time as a positive so that when the situation is right, this team is fully prepared to make the next step.

Yes, that's going to be difficult for some fans (and players) to swallow but until we see signs of cracks in the Golden State foundation, it's best to show some patience.

It's a virtue, you know.

 

Portland is Las Vegas bound again

usatsi_9375198.jpg

Portland is Las Vegas bound again

The NBA Summer League is returning to Las Vegas for the fifth consecutive year from July 7-17. This 11-day, 67-game tournament allows teams to showcase the NBA future stars in a bracket-style format ending in a championship game on Monday, July 17. Each team participating in the tournament is guarenteed five games. 

One of the teams returning to Las Vegas is the Portland Trail Blazers who have attended from 2005-2010, 2012-2016 and have a 28-30 record.

Let's take a trip down memory lane to showcase one of Portland's own small forward Jake Layman at the 2016 NBA Summer League:

Be sure to follow along as CSNNW will have full coverage of the 2017 NBA Summer League from Jason Quick, Dwight Jaynes, and Jamie Hudson at CSNNW.com and across all our social media platforms.

For a full list of teams participating in the 2017 NBA Summer League and how to purchase admission tickets, check out this site here.

Dame D.O.L.L.A. is back in the booth

Dame D.O.L.L.A. is back in the booth

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is already putting in work this NBA offseason. But this time in the recording booth.

Lillard, or should we say Dame D.O.L.L.A., dropped another song today ft. P HU$TLE and Bozzle but sounds oddly familiar. That is beacuse Dame D.O.L.L.A. raps over Drake's "Free Smoke" beat.

Take a listen for yourself in the video above. 

According to his tweet, Lillard "jumped on that #FreeSmoke for #MusicMonday" relating to rapper Drake's song "Free Smoke" off the album "More Life".  

You can find more of Dame D.O.L.L.A. on his soundcloud profile here.

Calling all dancers! The Blazers Dancers have something for you!

25bdcp_copy.jpg

Calling all dancers! The Blazers Dancers have something for you!

Calling all dancers! Are you 18 years of age, can attend practices on Thursday and Sunday evenings, and can attend all games, training camps, and other mandatory Portland Trail Blazers events? Looking to join an elite dance team in Portland? Well, look no further.

The Portland Trail Blazers dance team, the BlazerDancers, will be holding auditions on Saturday, July 15th at Parkrose High School in Portland, Oregon to join the prestigious dance team for the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team. 

Further details for this tryout can be found on the BlazerDancers website here.

But here is a quick glimpse at what dates to keep in your back pocket:

Audition Dates & Times:

  • Pre-Audition Workshop (optional) – Friday, June 9, 2017
  • Preliminary Rounds – Saturday, July 15, 2017 at Parkrose High School, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., auditions to immediately follow registration.
  • Finalist Interviews – July 18-20 at the Moda Center, time: TBD
  • Final Round – weekend of July 21st, 2017, time: approx. noon

*There will be a mandatory practice for all Finalists prior to Finals.  Date and time TBD.  We’ll update this information as soon as it is confirmed.

Good luck!

Evan Turner Showcase: Giving back to his Chicago roots

Evan Turner Showcase: Giving back to his Chicago roots

Evan Turner has not forgot where he came from.

The annual Evan Turner Showcase in Chicago brings in hundreds of high school and junior college basketball players for a viewing event with college coaches. It gives kids exposure that wouldn't otherwise get it and many of the players walk away from the event with scholarship offers.

In the video above, Turner, as well as his mother, the program director, and Chicago Bulls' guard Michael Carter-Williams all speak about the importance of the event how they hope it will spread across the country.

 

Gonzaga's Zach Collins has 'funny' encounter with Trail Blazers at NBA Combine

Gonzaga's Zach Collins has 'funny' encounter with Trail Blazers at NBA Combine

CHICAGO – Gonzaga center Zach Collins met with 13 teams at the NBA Combine, but it was his first meeting – with the Trail Blazers – that left an impression.

“It was kind of funny because Portland actually just sent out their team psychologist, and no one else from the staff was there,’’ Collins said. “The lady gave me a computer and I took a personality test, kind of, and she just analyzed who I was as a person, and that was it.’’

The Blazers since 2007 have employed Dana Sinclair as their performance psychologist, and her biggest role usually comes at the Combine, where she adds another layer to the team’s research on prospects.

What would Sinclair find with the 7-foot Collins, who became Gonzaga’s first one-and-done player to enter the draft?

“I’m just a regular guy who has an absolute obsession with the game of basketball, and a passion to play,’’ Collins said. “I’m not going to be satisfied once I get to the league. I want to be an All-Star. I want to win championships.’’

Collins averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds in 17 minutes while helping Gonzaga reach the NCAA final. He is projected in the 10-to-15 range of the first round. Portland owns the 15th, 20th and 26th picks in the June 22 draft.

Collins says he believes his versatility – both offensively and defensively – set him apart from a field of centers that include Texas freshman Jarrett Allen and Creighton freshman Justin Patton.

“The fact that my skillset involves me playing on both ends of the floor – shooting, guarding the perimeter, things like that,’’ Collins said.

He said he has always been an inside-out player, meaning he first likes to play inside, but can contribute on the perimeter, but he said one of his draws should be his ability to play in any system.

“I like to run. But I like to play in half court as well,’’ Collins said. “Running plays, running pick and rolls, I love fast breaks too. That’s why I think I’m unique in this draft because I can play multiple types of styles.’’

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

Neil Olshey on Blazers' draft: Team has 'luxury' of going young or trading for experience

CHICAGO – Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey on Thursday was a guest on NBA TV, during which he answered questions about the Blazers’ approach at the NBA Combine and the franchise’s strategy heading into the June 22 draft.

A transcript of Olshey’s interview with Scott Howard-Cooper:

Q: What are looking for when here?

Olshey: Here it is more about confirmation than evaluation. Look, a lot of the top 20 guys aren’t here but there are still guys we have to evaluate in terms of things we can’t see when they are with their college programs. We are getting the metrics, the metrics testing, the interviews are critical in terms of getting to know these guys. We haven’t really spoken to them in person. It’s nice we are getting more guys participating in the 5-on-5; it allows us to see them later in the year, what they have done with their body, maybe they played a different position on their college team than they are playing out here … it gives us a chance to see them play more our style of basketball. Anytime you can get in the gym with guys, or get to be around them, it makes our process easier because we have a bigger sample size.

Q: Does your gut tell you you won’t have three rookies in camp come October?

Olshey: (laughs) No, it doesn’t, really. Look, we’ve been rebuilding the organization based on Damian Lillard’s timeline and we’ve been lucky enough to be a playoff team in both of those years.  So, look, it’s whatever the best decision long term for the franchise is: If that’s three rookies, it’s three rookies. If that’s an aggregation of picks to go get an impact player, then that’s what it will be. We have a very aggressive owner, we are very lucky to have one that doesn’t shy away from a high payroll; he loves young talent and in a market like Portland, where we have been most successful, has been drafts and player development.

Q: What are your thoughts on using picks to get veteran player who can help now opposed to rookies who might take time?

Olshey: I think we have the luxury of doing either. We had the youngest team in the league last year. We had the youngest team in the playoffs for the second year in a row. We are all on a timeline with young stars like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who haven’t even entered their prime yet. So we can be more patient. I think we have a longer runway, so it’s not a matter of the urgency. All of our players are under long-term contracts, or we control their rights. So we are building long term. The end game is to hopefully win a championship in Portland. If we can accelerate that process because we’ve got the three picks in a very deep draft, where these picks are coveted and we can get a player on a timeline from a team that is maybe going in another direction, we will absolutely push our chips in and do that. But if it’s about finding more stars to join our young guys with Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, and they are out here (at the Combine), then that’s what we will do. 

Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

CHICAGO – When Ivan Rabb was in his youth, his family moved to a new neighborhood in Oakland. As it turns out, living in the house directly across the street was a kid named Damian Lillard.

“I’ve been knowing him for a time,’’ Rabb said of the Trail Blazers’ star. “And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to know him a little more.’’

Rabb hopes that connection deepens next month by becoming Lillard’s teammate. Rabb, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Cal, could be on the radar of a Blazers’ team that is looking for depth at power forward and has three first round picks (15, 20, 26) in the June 22 NBA draft.

The Blazers, who are tentatively scheduled to start draft workouts around June 7, have yet to book Rabb for a trip to Portland according to agent Aaron Goodwin. But according to one source, it is likely Rabb will be on the Blazers’ workout schedule after agents finalize their clients’ travel agendas following Tuesday’s draft lottery.

One thing is certain: whichever teams Rabb works out for, they will likely see a hard worker.

Rabb said he is being trained by Chris Farr and Anthony Eggleton, the same coaches who put Lillard through his grueling predraft workouts before he was drafted sixth overall in 2012. Those workouts spawned the four-part YouTube mini-series “License to Lillard.”

“The main thing is his work ethic,’’ Rabb said of Lillard. “Coach Farr always talks about how hard he worked and (Coach Eggleton) talked about how he was focused and dedicated to everything they told him to do. So that’s something I’m trying to emulate. Why not? He’s doing great things and I want to be on his level one day.’’

Rabb feels his own level has elevated in the past year, when he elected to forego what many projected to be a lottery selection and instead stay at Cal for his sophomore season.

“I thought I needed it,’’ Rabb said. “I thought it was very mature for me to go back. The plan is to stick in the league for a long time, not get there as soon as possible, so I feel like I made the best decision for me. I feel like I got better.’’

After averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman, Rabb this season averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 48 percent from the field.

While Rabb might have questions about the transition to the NBA regarding his experience or his his outside shot, he said he has no reservations about his top skill: Rebounding.

“I know at this point right now, what can translate is rebounding the ball,’’ Rabb said. “I know I can hit offensive glass really well … everybody has to have their niche coming into the league and rebounding is something I can hang my hat on. Coaches know if I’m coming into the game, I’m going for rebounds.’’

He said some of his offensive game was thwarted at Cal because he was often double-teamed in the post, and the right play was to pass to the open teammate. Sometimes, that meant the only way he could score was to attack rebounds.

“I just know I want the ball. Sometimes I wasn’t getting the ball inside so I was like, ‘Let me go find a way to score the ball’ … and I would go grab it,’’ Rabb said.

Since the season has ended, Rabb said he has been encouraged by his offensive growth. He says the range on his shot is expanding.

“I feel like I own everything inside the 3-point line and I’m shooting corner 3s really well,’’ said Rabb, who went 8-for-20 from the college three-point line last season.

Rabb said he doesn’t want to project himself as a three-point shooter yet, but it’s something he is working on.

“I feel like I’m on right track, but I’m not in a rush to get out there (and shoot threes) if it’s not my game,’’ he said. “I’m trying to master what I have first, and then build off that.’’

While Rabb says his game is becoming more polished by the day, one thing hasn’t changed: his confidence, which he says is rooted in his Oakland upbringing.

“I’m confident when I’m on the floor,’’ he said. “I feel like I carry myself differently. I don’t get rattled. I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t let anybody punk me.’’

He says he molds himself after four players – Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett – but he knows if he comes to Portland, there will be another guy who will go a long ways in shaping him.

It’s the same kid who lived across the street when he was in middle school: Lillard.

“I feel like him being there, he will push me to make sure I succeed,’’ Rabb said. “He would be a great mentor to have.’’