Mason Plumlee's memorable Sunday involves break-in and a trade to Denver

Mason Plumlee's memorable Sunday involves break-in and a trade to Denver

As fate would have it, Mason Plumlee was at the Trail Blazers practice facility earlier than normal on Sunday.

Players are required to be at the team’s facility by 10:15 a.m. for an 11 a.m. practice, but Plumlee on Sunday was there at 9:30 a.m. in order to expedite a pressing order.

Earlier that morning, as he approached his SUV in the parking garage of his Pearl District complex, he noticed someone had broken into his car.

His mind raced. Gone was his checkbook. His wallet.

“I went in early to the facility to start cancelling my checkbook, my credit cards,’’ Plumlee said. “And someone said, ‘Neil wants to meet with you.’’’

When Plumlee arrived at the office of Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ president of basketball operations, coach Terry Stotts was also in the office.

“They told me I wasn’t going to practice today,’’ Plumlee said.

Plumlee, the Blazers’ starting center who was having a career season, had been traded to Denver for 22-year-old center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick.

Because the league office is not open on Sunday, the trade is expected to become official on Monday. Plumlee said he spoke with Denver representatives and he tentatively is planning to fly to Denver on Sunday night.

By the afternoon, the blur of the morning news distracted Plumlee from his task of cancelling his bank accounts. It was difficult reaching banks on a Sunday, and his phone has been ringing off the hook. One of his first conversations was with his brother, Miles, who 10 days ago was traded from Milwaukee to Charlotte.

“I was just talking to my brother. It’s very different getting traded in the season,’’ Plumlee said. “As a player, you always feel like you are in the fight. We were just talking as a team yesterday, that ‘We are in this … we have to get into the playoffs and come through …’’’

It would turn out to be his last team meeting.

“All of the sudden,'' Plumlee said, "the whole conversation changes.''

**

The day before he was traded, the Blazers had long ago finished practice when Plumlee walked into the gym, hoodie over his head and hands in his sweat pants.

He was headed toward the team’s video room to pick up film of the Saturday practice so he could study it at home. After picking up the video, he noticed Stotts and myself talking on a bench at the other side of the gym.

I gave him a peace sign, and after he waved back, he called out to Stotts.

“Have a good day, Coach.’’

Stotts turned to me and said, ‘What a great guy, huh?’’

I told him Plumlee was one of my favorite guys on the roster. He was personable, smiled easily, and was thoughtful in his responses. Plus, he played hard, and throughout this trying season he was never one to focus on the negative. His approach is best summed up by one of his favorite sayings: he would rather focus on a solution rather than dwell on the problem.

On Sunday, Plumlee was curious about the previous day’s scene.

“Let me ask you something,’’ Plumlee said. “Is (the trade) what you and Stotts were talking about yesterday?’’

I told him the truth – it was not part of our conversation -- and told him I didn't know whether Stotts knew something was brewing. 

Recently, Plumlee said he had conversations with his agent, Mark Bartlestein about his future. Plumlee is set to become a free agent this summer after he and the Blazers didn’t come to terms on a contract extension this fall.

Plumlee said his agent had talks with the Blazers, but the Blazers never made an offer before the Oct. 31 deadline, setting him up to be one of the more prized big men on the free agent market this summer. 

“As I talked to my agent (recently), he said he would be surprised if I was moved before trade deadline,’’ Plumlee said.

But there he was Sunday morning, sitting in Olshey’s office with Stotts.

“They really handled the trade in a classy manner,’’ Plumlee said. “They thanked me, and I thanked them. This organization has always been very good to me.’’

**

It was fitting that one of Plumlee’s final scenes in Portland was walking to the video room to get film of that day’s practice.

He was a student of the game and one of the smartest players on the team, which is one of the reasons why Stotts entrusted him to be the team’s primary inbounder, and why Stotts broadened the team’s offense to put the ball in Plumlee’s hands more often.  

Plumlee’s  study of the game was also why he bonded so closely with Lillard, the team’s captain. Lillard earlier this season called Plumlee a “servant” because he always put other’s needs before his own. In particular, he would often pull Lillard aside to suggest a play call to help get a teammate involved, or stop by Lillard’s locker after leaving the showers to talk review an aspect of that night’s game.

“Every flight you walk by Mason’s seat and he was watching film, guarantee you,’’ Lillard said. “You don’t find people that committed to being a better player and committed to our team.’’

When Lillard encountered Plumlee cleaning out his locker Sunday morning, he told him how he felt.

“I just told him how much I appreciated him as a teammate and let him know he was one of my favorite teammates that I’ve played with – not just in the NBA, but in my life, period,’’ Lillard said. “I will miss him.’’

**

As he prepared to leave Sunday for his new team and his new city, Plumlee couldn’t help but realize he was leaving more than his checkbook and wallet in Portland.

It is here where he blossomed as a player and forged lasting relationships, both personally and professionally.

“There are a lot of guys I learned from on those Portland teams,’’ Plumlee said. “And as I said last year in my exit interviews, Dame is the best player I’ve played with to date. And the staff there was really good. A good group of people. I was happy to say I could be a part of it.’’

He was traded to Portland from Brooklyn on draft night in 2015, and by the time he reported in September, Stotts envisioned great things. He saw an athletic and skilled big man who could not only bring the ball up court, but thread beautiful and heady passes.

He soon became an important cog in the Blazers’ flow offense, hitting backdoor passes to Lillard for layins and becoming an accomplished finisher around the rim, often times with his distinctive style: a back-to-the-rim reverse dunk.

“It was a great time for me as a player to establish myself as a starter in this league,’’ Plumlee said. “My whole thing coming over from Brooklyn was ‘I’m a starter in this league.’ And last year, I will always remember winning the playoff series, and this year … team wise it hasn’t gone as well, but I’ve improved. So the last year and half, I will look at it as a time of growth.’’

He said he hasn’t put much thought into his new team, the Nuggets, who are one game ahead of the Blazers for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“I just know they have a lot of talent, they are young – they are playing really well right now,’’ Plumlee said. “I’m excited to go there. I’m glad Denver is the place I ended up. It’s good to be wanted and the trade that happened show they wanted me.’’

Trail Blazers officially sign Anthony Morrow to training camp deal

Trail Blazers officially sign Anthony Morrow to training camp deal

PORTLAND, Ore. (Sept. 18, 2017) – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard Anthony Morrow to a training camp contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

A nine-year NBA veteran, Morrow (6-5, 210) has played for seven franchises, most recently suiting up for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls during the 2016-17 season. For his career, Morrow has averaged 9.4 points (44.7% FG, 41.7% 3-PT, 88.0% FT), 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 21.8 minutes in 564 career games (142 starts).

He will wear No. 24 for the Trail Blazers.

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A healthy Ed Davis

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A healthy Ed Davis

On the surface, it would appear this offseason brought little to no help to the Trail Blazers amid the NBA’s whirlwind summer of blockbuster trades and free agent acquisitions.

Aside from a salary-cap motivated move of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, and the drafting of 19-year-old center Zach Collins and Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers are largely the same group that went 41-41 and finished eighth in the Western Conference.

The Las Vegas betting line on Trail Blazers wins for the 2017-2018 season is 42.5 games, which would place them eighth in the West:

1. Golden State (67.5)

2. Houston (55.5)

3. San Antonio (54.5)

4. Oklahoma City (51.5)

5. Minnesota (48.5)

6. Denver (45.5)

7. LA Clippers (44.5)

8. Portland (42.5)

Of course, Las Vegas has been wrong before about the Blazers (remember 2015-2016 when the Blazers won 44 games after Vegas set the line at 26.5?), and it’s easy to get swept up in the headlines from an offseason that saw Chris Paul move to Houston, Paul George to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and Paul Millsap to Denver.

But behind the sexy headlines and tumultuous turnover, the Blazers have been  doing what has become a hallmark of this franchise: relying on improvement from within.

With that in mind, CSN this week will unveil five reasons the Blazers this season could exceed 42 wins and be better than people think:

Today: The return of a healthy Ed Davis.

**

Last season, Trail Blazers’ big man Ed Davis reached a point in his season that he is almost embarrassed to reveal.

Standing under a basket, he couldn’t make five consecutive layins with his dominant hand. The reason? Shooting pain emanating from his left shoulder.

 “Just mentally, what that does to you,’’ Davis said Monday. “I tried playing through it, but it was tough.’’

He had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and in March he decided to have season-ending surgery after appearing in 46 games (12 starts). He finished with averages of 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 17 minutes a game.

He had become a shadow of the energy-infusing and often game-changing play he showed in the 2015-2016 season, when he became a crowd favorite and one of the NBA’s top interior reserves.

During the 2015-2016 season, Davis finished second in the NBA among reserves in rebounding and offensive rebounds behind Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter. His 599 rebounds off the bench that season are a Trail Blazers' record.

All the while, the 6-foot-10 lefty was an emotional spark who embodied a team that refused to be outworked, or back down from more talented teams, and one of the reasons he was named the team's Maurice Lucas Award recipient.

“I feel a lot of people forgot how much I helped the team in Portland that year,’’ Davis said. “I want to get back to that.’’

There doesn’t appear to be anything hindering his quest. Next week, when the Blazers open training camp, Davis said doctors have cleared him for full contact in practice.

“I feel great. I’m cleared for the first day, and I can do everything,’’ Davis said.

With a repaired shoulder, and a feeling of something to prove – both to redeem last season and to garner interest for a new contract after the season – Davis could be one of the factors that lead to another Rip City Revival.

“Whenever anybody is in a contract  year, you want to play well and be rewarded, but for me, it’s more for the fact that I didn’t play well last year,’’ Davis said. “I felt like I could have brought more to the table; it was a roller-coaster year. But I learned a lot. It was a humbling experience not being able to play game you love. So I’m excited to be back out there on the court and continue the journey.’’

Trail Blazers debut player-inspired 'Statement' uniform combination

Trail Blazers debut player-inspired 'Statement' uniform combination

Out with the old, in with the new!

With Nike taking over apparel rights around the NBA this season, Trail Blazers have overhauled their entire look. It started with fresh look to the logo, followed by a re-vamp of the jerseys. Doing away with home and away qualifiers, along with hertiage jerseys, the Trail Blazers unveiled their Association and Icon jerseys at the Rip City 3-On-3 in July. Now, with the release of NBA2k18 comes another uniform combination: The  Statement. 

The new “Statement” uniforms will first be worn by the Trail Blazers in late November, according to the team's press release. 

More from the press release:

Constructed with a dominant base of Trail Blazers red and detailed with bold, black accents, this uniform was literally created to make a powerful on-court statement. The player-inspired design is scheduled to be showcased during many marquee matchups and rivalry games throughout the season, and has the following highlights:

  • Modernized jersey sash featuring tone-on-tone stripes inspired by the Trail Blazers unique logo representing 5-on-5 team competition;
  • Contemporary 'Portland' wordmark proudly displayed across the chest;
  • ‘Rip City' insignia representing Trail Blazers passionate fans branded on the waistband; and
  • Updated team fonts, wordmarks and logo.

“While it was important to stay true to our classic look for our ‘Icon’ and ‘Association’ uniforms, we knew we had an opportunity to try something new with our ‘Statement’ uniform and, in collaboration with Nike's design team, we are excited about the results,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter. “This uniform will be a unique identifier and a bold statement in the NBA.”

"We were excited to create a design that was a bold new look for us, but also represented our heritage by keeping the jersey sash intact,” said Trail Blazers Chief Marketing Officer Dewayne Hankins. “We like the simplicity of the two-color design and are excited by the technology that Nike is bringing to the uniforms.”

To view the new Trail Blazers “Statement” uniform, along with the earlier releases of the new “Association” and “Icon” editions, please click here:  trailblazers.com/uniforms.

Trail Blazers sign Isaiah Briscoe to training camp contract

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USATI

Trail Blazers sign Isaiah Briscoe to training camp contract

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard Isaiah Briscoe to a training camp contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

In two seasons at the University of Kentucky, Briscoe (6-3, 210) averaged 10.9 points (45.5% FG, 22.9% 3-PT, 55.5% FT), 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 31.3 minutes in 70 career games (69 starts).

He will wear No. 9 for the Trail Blazers.

Trail Blazers sign Archie Goodwin to training camp contract

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USATI

Trail Blazers sign Archie Goodwin to training camp contract

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard Archie Goodwin to a training camp contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

In four NBA seasons with Phoenix, New Orleans and Brooklyn, Goodwin (6-5, 205) holds averages of 6.3 points (42.9% FG, 23.6% 3-PT, 70.0% FT), 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 14.5 minutes in 165 career games (15 starts).

He will wear No. 2 for the Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard appears on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden"

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CBS

Damian Lillard appears on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden"

Damian Lillard has had a busy offseason. He's taken his now annual trip to China with adidas; he's dropped a few new tracks with plans to release a new album sometime in the near future; he's taken a couple of vacations; he's been working out with teammate Jusuf Nurkić; he's gone vegan; and now he's taking his talents to late night. 

The Blazers point guard joined actor Taron Egerton Friday night on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden" to give fans an update on what he's been up to this summer. He was also joined by comedian and writer for the late night show (formerly of CSNNW) Ian Karmel to discuss "The Shot."

Plus, his appearance wouldn't be complete without floating 4 bars, right? It was Friday, afterall. 

 

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

There are a couple of things that really bothered me about that $500,000 fine the Lakers got for tampering with Paul George, who was then under contract to the Indiana Pacers.

First, it was not enough of a penalty for a team that was previously warned about tampering with George. By now, you've probably seen this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show that features Laker President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson joking about tampering with George. After that show aired, the league specifically sent a warning to the Lakers.

But the Lakers later defied that order when General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke to George's agent. To me, that takes the tampering to an entirely different level. I was shocked the league didn't either take a draft choice away from Los Angeles or, better yet, bar them from signing George a year from now when he becomes a free agent.

The Lakers were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and instead of pulling the hand away, they just dug deeper. That tells you something about the respect that franchise has for the league office.

Does $500,000 sound severe to you? Well, certainly not as tough as when the league took $3.5 million and five draft picks away from Minnesota for an illegal agreement with Joe Smith. That deal also led to front-office suspensions and the Timberwolves being prohibited from signing Smith. On the surface, making an illegal deal seems much worse than whet the Lakers did but really, making illegal contact with the agent of a player a year away from free agency is very serious, too. Particularly when you've been warned not to do it.

I think back to the Trail Blazers being fined $250,000 in 1984 for illegal contact with Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. It was a huge sum at the time and all the Trail Blazers did was agree to explain the salary cap to the players prior to the draft. At that time, a quarter of a million was a whole lot of money. And at a time when the league wasn't nearly as prosperous as the NBA is now.

Of course, those fines were levied by then-commissioner David Stern. I believe the current administration led by Adam Silver is much softer -- on players and ownership. It's a go-along, get-along kind of league now. Everything is cool. Silver just keeps smiling.

Fining the Lakers a half million in today's NBA is a joke. The Lakers -- a company worth billions -- probably spend that much on post-game spreads in the family room. Sure, there is all sorts of tampering going on now -- but what a perfect time to make an example of a team breaking the rules. Certainly a $500,000 fine isn't going to deter a team from illegal contact.

I mean, why bother with those tampering rules if you aren't going to enforce them?

And does anybody think the Pacers would have gotten the same treatment had they tampered with a Laker player? I don't think so. It's no secret the NBA wants the Lakers strong again and wasn't anxious to do anything that would impede their growth.

It's too bad.

 

Trail Blazers pick up option on Pat Connaughton

Trail Blazers pick up option on Pat Connaughton

Pat Connaughton will be returning to the Trail Blazers next season after the team on Thursday picked up a $1.4 million option on the shooting guard, but that didn’t mean the third-year player celebrated.

“Time to make some shots,’’ Connaughton texted when asked if he had time for an interview.

The Blazers had until Thursday to decide whether to keep Connaughton or waive him, a deadline that was extended from the original June 25 date in order to give the Blazers more flexiblilty. Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey notified Connaughton shortly after 9 a.m.

Connaughton’s signing gives the Blazers 14 guaranteed contracts for the 2017-2018 season, one below the NBA maximum.

Connaughton, 24, averaged 1.8 points in 73 games in his first two seasons and had brief stints last season where he broke the rotation. In the season’s final two games, when the Blazers rested their starters, the 6-foot-5 Connaughton had 15 points against San Antonio and 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against New Orleans.

Connaughton's status was murky heading into the summer after his Las Vegas Summer League was cut short by a hamstring injury that came after he struggled with his shot. 

After the summer trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, Connaughton will enter training camp as the potential backup to CJ McCollum at shooting guard.

Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 29, 2017) –The Portland Trail Blazers have announced a contract extension for President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, taking him through the 2020-21 season.  In keeping with team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

“Neil has done an excellent job improving our team and getting us into the playoffs. With our young and improving roster, I expect our franchise to keep improving,” said Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. “Continuity in the front office is important as we continue to grow, and this extension shows the confidence we have in Neil’s leadership.”

“I appreciate the confidence Paul Allen has in myself and the entire Basketball Operations staff,” said Olshey.  “I look forward to building on the foundation we have developed and the continued partnership with Bert Kolde, Chris McGowan, Terry Stotts and the entire Trail Blazers organization.  On a personal note, I’m very happy for my family as we’ve really embraced Oregon and the incredible spirit of Rip City.”

Promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2015, Olshey was named the 10th General Manager in franchise history on June 4, 2012, and finished his fifth season at the helm in 2016-17. In his role, Olshey leads the organization’s Basketball Operations, overseeing talent evaluation, player personnel decisions, contract negotiations and salary cap management.

Less than a month after joining the Trail Blazers, Olshey drafted Damian Lillard (sixth overall), the fourth unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year in league history, and Meyers Leonard (11th overall). He then named veteran coach Terry Stotts head coach of the Trail Blazers on August 7, 2012.  Olshey also drafted and developed guard CJ McCollum (10th overall in 2013), winner of the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player award.

Last season, Olshey made a trade-deadline move to acquire center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round draft pick from Denver in exchange for Mason Plumlee and cash considerations on February 13. That move ignited the Trail Blazers’ climb into the NBA Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season – even with the youngest roster in the NBA.

“Knowing Neil will continue to lead Basketball Operations well into the foreseeable future is a great thing for our franchise,” said Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. “I am excited to continue our partnership in running this organization on and off the court with the goal of delivering a world-class experience for our fans.”

The Trail Blazers will tip-off the 2017-18 regular season beginning October 18 with road games at Phoenix, Indiana and Milwaukee, before returning to Portland for their home opener versus New Orleans on October 24. 

ABOUT THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Members of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Portland Trail Blazers were founded in 1970 and purchased by Paul G. Allen in 1988. The team's rich heritage includes 33 playoff appearances, three trips to the NBA Finals, an NBA championship in 1977 and a commitment to community service and sustainability. The Trail Blazers are dedicated to positively impacting underserved kids and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington where they live, learn and play. Portland is the first and only professional sports franchise to receive the prestigious National Points of Light Award for excellence in corporate and community service. The Trail Blazers home arena, the Moda Center, earned LEED Gold Recertification in 2015 after becoming the first existing professional sports venue in the world to receive LEED Gold status in 2010. The team is also one of the founding members of the Green Sports Alliance. For more information, visit www.trailblazers.com.