A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization

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A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization

In the wake of Friday’s thorough defeat to the Golden State Warriors, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard said something that should be noted.

He was asked about a rather non-descript accomplishment during the blowout loss – becoming the first Blazers player to amass 40 points and 10 assists in the 20-year-old Moda Center.

Tucked ever so nicely in his answer was a significant notion: He wants to spend his entire career in Portland.

First, some perspective.

This is a Trail Blazers franchise haunted by defection.

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t feel he was important enough. Rasheed Wallace was never comfortable here. Clyde Drexler wanted to go home. Bill Walton didn’t like the medical care. And Maurice Lucas wanted more money.

So they all forced their way out.

The franchise has made bad decisions, like trading Jermaine O’Neal right before he blossomed into a star. And nobody has to be reminded about this organization’s bad luck, from Sam Bowie’s legs to Brandon Roy’s knees.

They were all gone too soon.

So when Lillard was asked that question Friday night, about becoming the first Blazer to have 40 and 10 in the Moda Center, his answer should catch your ear.

“It’s always good to be the first one to do something,’’ Lillard said. “Especially being part of an organization I plan on being a part of for my entire career. It’s an honor, but I would have liked for it to be in a winning effort.’’

“…part of an organization I plan on being part of for my entire career … “

 To this city, this fan base, and this organization, his sentiment should mean something. And so should the timing.

As the chill of this winter begins to settle on Portland, so too has the notion this Blazers team will be anything more than a lottery team. The losses have become more frequent. So too have the blowouts. Shoot, these days the team can’t even get its active list in order.

For Lillard, the slippage has been accompanied by a balky case of plantar fasciitis in his left heel, an injury whose long-term prognosis can scare even the most hardened athlete.

In other words, these are not the best of times for the Blazers. Typically, times like these are when you find out about people.

Do they quit? Do they place blame? Do they make excuses? Do they look for a way out?

Lillard on Friday stood and looked at the maelstrom with his familiar look-in-your-eye stare of seriousness, and calmly reminded he was going nowhere.

“Things get tough. It’s a tough league,’’ Lillard said. “You have ups and downs. We flipped our roster, man.  We completely flipped and got a brand new team. And I signed up to be a part of it. To be a part of the growth. I have to grow just as much as our team has to grow, and I’m excited about that, that’s why it’s not hard for me to say that’s what I want.’’

The cynics out there will say it is easy for Lillard to say he wants to be here. The franchise over the summer awarded him a $120 million contract extension.

But for Lillard, it goes much deeper than money.

He says the organization has embraced him as a person. Also, the city and fan base appeal to his core values.

“When I really like what a place is about, that’s what I want to stick to. I want to stick to things that click with who I am as a person,’’ Lillard said.

He lives year round in Portland, where he has championed causes like Special Olympics, inner city youth programs, anti-bullying campaigns and helping sick children.

And inside the Blazers’ walls, he feels the team has made the effort to know him, and his causes, and taken the initiative to show they understand him.

He likes that he comes to work in the morning and Coach Terry Stotts will playfully call him by his rap name “Dame DOLLA.” He likes that when he launched his adidas shoe line, players and coaches came to the release. He likes that the organization plays his rap songs in the arena. He likes that employees who sit behind desks at the practice facility take part in his 4-Bar Friday concept that challenges the public to rap on Instagram.

“It’s been like a hand-and-glove fit,’’ Lillard said. “The fact that they have embraced who I am, the person along with the basketball player … I don’t think there is anything more comfortable than that. That’s why I have no problem committing to something like that.’’

 The Blazers (15-24) have lost three in a row to fall to a season-low nine games below .500, with Oklahoma City up next on Sunday (6 p.m., CSN). The Thunder embarrassed the Blazers in the first meeting, which at the time was one of the rare blowouts Portland has suffered. Now, as the competition has improved, the Blazers’ have suffered blowout losses in four of the past five games.

Until his 40 and 10 night against the Warriors, Lillard had looked shaky in the two games after his two-week stint on the sideline. His season-long shooting slump continued, and his turnovers were unsightly and frequent.

That cozy embrace from the Blazers faithful was starting to feel a draft. Was CJ McCollum better equipped to anchor the Blazers? Had Lillard regressed after such a meteoric rise early in his career?

I asked Lillard if he would feel as comfortable in his commitment to Portland if the fans turned on him?

“If the fans turn ... I will say this: I think the real fans of this organization, the real fans of this city, I don’t think they ever will,’’ Lillard said. “I understand fans have emotions, just like we do as players, and they have a right to be like ‘Man, Dame … whatever’ … But I just don’t see that happening here.

“They are loyal to who is loyal to them, and I don’t plan on giving them a reason to turn.’’

He knows he can shoot better this season. And he knows he can take better care of the ball. But he also doesn’t hold himself above admitting he too needs to grow, just like Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and the rest of the young Blazers. Part of that growth includes shouldering a more prominent leadership role, an area that Stotts says Lillard is exceeding.

“When he was injured,’’ Stotts said, “he was the best leader in street clothes I’ve ever been around.’’

So Lillard marches on, oblivious to the noise around him, unconcerned with the chill left by a season heading south. The franchise pillars before him all found a reason to leave Portland when the going got tough, but Lillard figures now is the time to dig his heels in, even if they are sore.

“(Wanting to leave) is the easy thing to do. It is. That’s the easy thing to do,’’ Lillard said. “I have always been the type of person, when things are hard, to not think about how hard it is now. I think about what it will be like when we get through this, and how it turns into what I want it to turn into. Then, that will be the ultimate satisfaction.’’ 

 

Trail Blazers FanFest slated for October 2nd

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Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers FanFest slated for October 2nd

Fans will have their first opportunity to watch the 2016-17 Portland Trail Blazers live in action when the team holds its 12th annual Wells Fargo Fan Fest on Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Moda Center.

The free event features first-come, first-served general admission seating, with doors opening at 3 p.m. The afternoon will be headlined by an intra-squad scrimmage at 4 p.m.

Free family passes are available now at all Wells Fargo branches in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Parking on the Rose Quarter campus will be free, subject to availability. Fans may click on the link at http://www.nba.com/blazers/fanfest to download their tickets.

Wells Fargo Fan Fest is a great opportunity for fans to get an up-close look at this year’s Trail Blazers, including NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, Al Farouq Aminu and more.

Fans will also get a chance to see performances by this year’s BlazerDancers and Stunt Team, and receive prize giveaways from team mascot Blaze the Trail Cat.

The Trail Blazers Foundation and Wells Fargo are taking it to the court once again to offer $100,000 in grants for schools across Oregon and Southwest Washington in support of their academic, art, athletic or community programs. Visit trailblazers.com/takeittothecourt between Oct. 2, 2016 and Jan. 1, 2017, to apply for up to $10,000 for your school.

Trail Blazers add Greg Stiemsma to training camp roster

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USATI

Trail Blazers add Greg Stiemsma to training camp roster

UPDATE from TRAIL BLAZERS PR: 

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

In four NBA seasons with Boston, Minnesota, New Orleans and Toronto, Stiemsma (6-11, 260) has averages of 3.2 points (50.9% FG, 70.5% FT), 3.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.14 steals and 15.0 minutes in 203 career games (42 starts).

He will wear No. 54 for the Trail Blazers.

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The Portland Trail Blazers are bolstering their fall camp roster, this time with a big man. 

In a report from on Twitter by Adrian Wojanorowski of The Vertical, 

Stiemsma is not new to the NBA. He's 30. After four seasons in international and D-League play, in which he earned 2010 NBA D-League Defensive Player of the year, he got his chance in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. In his 203 career NBA games in which he's suited up for Boston, Minnesota, New Orelans and Toronto, Stiemsma has averaged 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. He's started 42 games.  

His most recent stint in the NBA came in Toronto, where he played in 17 games during the 2014-15 season. 

A camp invite for the Orlando Magic last season, the 6'11" big man was waived following an Achilles' strain that prevented him from competing in preseason competition. 

The Trail Blazers currently have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, so the former undrafted Wisconsin grad will battle Tim Quarterman ($75,000 guaranteed), Luis Montero  (unguaranteed) and Grant Jerrett (unguaranteed) for that last regular-season roster spot.

Portland is pretty deep with big men: Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Festus Ezeli. But Leonard’s and Ezeli’s injuries could open the door for Stiemsma, so he's an intriguing addition to this Blazers squad.

The world of AAU basketball: Gary Trent's son transfers to a P.O. box

The world of AAU basketball: Gary Trent's son transfers to a P.O. box

Greg Doyel is one of the best columnists in the country and he's got a great story about the son of former Jail Blazer Gary Trent, an up-and-coming high school star, transferring from his Indianapolis high school to a prep school that isn't really a school.

The senior Trent was a poster child for the era when Trail Blazer players were known more for their appearances in court than on the court. He notoriously punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and kicked her in the ribs. In separate incidences, he allegedly punched and choked a man and hit another over the head with a pool cue. If you're new to the area or just want a refresher course on those dark days of the Trail Blazers, you can find the text of an "Outside the Lines" show on ESPN that sums up just some of the team's problems.

Well, anyway, Trent's son, a senior, is going to transfer to a "prep school" in Napa, Calif. --  Prolific Prep -- that really isn't a school at all. It's a basketball program that houses its players with a host family and sends them to a nearby Catholic school for their education. The "school" has a website but no physical address. I bet they have nice uniforms, though. It's, of course, not the first "school" of this type to make basketball its top priority.

It's a very interesting tale about what a segment of the current basketball development process has become in this country and I recommend it.

Damian Lillard raps about the grind and loyalty in latest track

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USATI

Damian Lillard raps about the grind and loyalty in latest track

The Portland Trail Blazers were hard at work in San Diego this week, with nearly every roster player in attendance preparing for the upcoming season ahead. 

Though, while All-Star point guard Damian Lillard works to build another playoff caliber team, Dame DOLLA remains in mid-season form. 

What'd you think?

Trail Blazers License Plates are now available

Trail Blazers License Plates are now available

The Portland Trail Blazers specialty license plate is now available.  The  license plates were authorized by the 2015 Oregon Legislature and were debuted during the Trail Blazers home game versus the Atlanta Hawks on January 20th, 2016

The license plate is only for passenger vehicles titled and registered in the state of Oregon. 
 

 

 

In addition to regular title, registration and plate manufacturing fees, the Trail Blazers specialty plate has an additional $40 surcharge due when you first order the plate and again every time you need to renew your registration.  All of the surcharge funds will go directly to the Trail Blazers Foundation.

Blazers back in San Diego for offseason team retreat 2.0

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USATI

Blazers back in San Diego for offseason team retreat 2.0

Voluntary workouts may have begun for NBA players, though for members of the Trail Blazers, they're anything but. 

In what became one of the largest, most defining moments in which the entire season's foundation was built off of, members of the Trail Blazers have returned to San Diego for team bonding and summer workouts, and it seems they have better turnover. 

If you follow CJ McCollum on Snapchat, you would know that he arrived in San Diego off a tour from China where he visited both Beijing and Shanghai on behalf of the NBA. 

In his Snapchat story, McCollum, along with Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Maurice Harkless, Pat Connaughton, Festus Ezeli and assistant David Vanterpool have spent time on campus at San Diego State University where they worked out and at various restaurants as a group around town. So far, 11 have been spotted on CJ's Snapchat.

Jake Layman, Mason Plumlee and Luis Montero have not shown up on CJ's story yet, though that doesn't mean they're not there. Noah Vonleh, who underwent a procedure to remove a bone fragment from his right thigh, was not in attendance. Vonleh was in San Diego last year. 

We'll continue to update you all the latest goings on. Stay tuned!

Podfather Godcast with Kevin Calabro

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Podfather Godcast with Kevin Calabro

Dwight breaks down the latest in local sports and talks extensively with Trail Blazers new TV voice Kevin Calabro. How does he think Blazers fans will receive him being a former enemy of the state as the Sonics announcer. And why take up a local gig again? Learn more about Calabro here. Check back every Thursday (or subscribe on iTunes) for a new podcast.

Plus, you don't want miss Dwight's rant on Portland traffic. He hates it more than anyone!

LISTEN HERE:

Trail Blazers release TV Broadcast Schedule - 60 Games on CSN

Trail Blazers release TV Broadcast Schedule - 60 Games on CSN

The official TV Broadcast Schedule for the 2016-2017 season was released today by the Portland Trail Blazers. 

It features 60 games exclusively on CSN plus 15 games aired locally on KGW and another seven nationally televised games (six on TNT, one on ESPN).

This season will also feature a revamped broadcast team including new Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd calling the action along with Brooke Olzendam working the sidelines.

FULL SCHEDULE BELOW
Download Link 

Trail Blazers finalize new broadcast team

Trail Blazers finalize new broadcast team

Earlier this summer, the Trail Blazers made waves in the Portland market when they announced long time TV broadcasters Mike Barrett and Mike Rice would not be returning to the team for the 2016-2017 season. The team also let go radio broadcaster Antonio Harvey in the process.

On June 17th, the team announced that former Seattle Sonics play by play man Kevin Calabro would take over Barrett's job. Calabro had been doing radio play by play for a variety of national broadcasters for both NBA and NCAA basketball as well as some TV work for the Pac-12 Network. 

Today, the Blazers round out the new look broadcast team. Former Oregon State star, Lamar Hurd, takes over the color commentary role previously held by Mike Rice. After his OSU playing days, Hurd played professionally in Germany but returned home in 2007. Hurd started his broadcast career with FSN/Root Sports in 2008 and since 2012, he has been doing TV work for the Pac-12 network as a studio and game analyst and you may remember him from some apperances on CSN's Talkin' Beavers. 

In another effort to bolster the broadcast team, the Blazers have hired CSN's Brooke Olzendam to be their full-time sideline reporter. In previous years, Michael Holton has worked the sidelines for the team in some capacity but a consistent sideline reporter at all games will be a new addition. Olzendam previously worked the sidelines for FS Indiana while covering the Pacers.

Not only will the on-court broadcast team have a new look, but the studio crew will get a makeover as well. Former three-sport star from Oregon, Jordan Kent, will take over duties as the primary pregame, halftime, and postgame host alongside Holton in the analyst role. Kent has been seen widly across CSN over the past few years as the host of Talkin' Ducks, Track Town, and Postagme Live as well as a host and analyst on Talkin' Ball. Kent has also done work for various other media outlets including ESPN on the track and field side. 

As in years past, you catch Rip City Live on CSN one hour before tip-off of every Blazer game plus Talkin' Ball immediately after each game. We'll also have a live web only pre and postgame show, The Scoop, streaming to your phones/tablets/computer at CSNNW.com and on Facebook.com/CSNNW before and after every game this season. Plus year-round coverage on social media and right here at CSNNW.com from our Insider Jason Quick, the Godfather Dwight Jaynes, and our Digital Reporter Jamie Hudson