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 look to end Grizzlies’ winning streak: Portland at Memphis on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers look to end Grizzlies’ winning streak: Portland at Memphis on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies

The Portland Trail Blazers (12-11) will look to bounce back after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, 115-107.  Portland now faces the Memphis Grizzlies (15-8) in the second night of a back-to-back.

In the loss to the Bucks, Damian Lillard scored 30 points, pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out six assists.  The Blazers did not take very good care of the ball in the second half and ended up committed 15 turnovers and allowed Milwaukee to shoot 51.9%.

Memphis on the other hand, is riding a four-game winning streak.  The Grizzlies’ latest victory came on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.  Memphis won, 96-91 behind Marc Gasol’s 26 points and Zach Randolph’s 14 rebounds.

In the first meeting between the Blazers and Grizzlies, Portland won, 100-94.  That victory for the Trail Blazers was back on November 6th.   CJ McCollum led all scorers with 37 points.  Gasol led the way for Memphis with 21 points.   

We will set the stage for the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies contest with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 4:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Also, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live on CSN starting at 4:00pm.

 

Quick Links:

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

 

Video:  Lillard: I was counting at refs during FT attempt

Video:  Crabbe: Put ourselves in position, just didn’t go our way

Video:  Jason Quick: Blazers didn’t get follow the game plan well enough

Video:  Stotts: Have to credit the Bucks’ defense

 

Game Details:

Where:  FedExForum, Memphis TN

Television: CSN, 5:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (4:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 4:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

MILWAUKEE – Damian Lillard and Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts played a role in coaxing a rare violation Wednesday against Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With 10:49 left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo was called for a 10-second violation by referee Gary Zielinski before shooting the second of two free throws.

“The first (free throw), I was like counting, because it was taking so long,’’ Lillard said.

He turned to Zielinski, a veteran referee in his 17th NBA season, and voiced his concern.

“And he looked at me like, ‘Nobody calls that,’’’ Lillard said.

Zielinski was stationed in front of the Blazers’ bench, and before the second free throw, Lillard and Stotts started counting aloud once Antetokounmpo was handed the ball.

“And we got up to like 13 before he called it,’’ Lillard said. “I think he didn’t want to call it just because we were saying something. But once we got to 13 … it was like, we were right. He made the right call.’’

It looked like a crucial call at the time as the Bucks were trailing 60-54. But it turned out to be about the only thing that didn’t go right for Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo in the third quarter.

The Bucks outscored Portland 34-18 in the third quarter and Antetokounmpo recorded 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks -- his second triple double this season and seventh of his career.

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

MILWAUKEE – Damian Lillard and Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts played a role in coaxing a rare violation Wednesday against Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With 10:49 left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo was called for a 10-second violation by referee Gary Zielinski before shooting the second of two free throws.

“The first (free throw), I was like counting, because it was taking so long,’’ Lillard said.

He turned to Zielinski, a veteran referee in his 17th NBA season, and voiced his concern.

“And he looked at me like, ‘Nobody calls that,’’’ Lillard said.

Zielinski was stationed in front of the Blazers’ bench, and before the second free throw, Lillard and Stotts started counting aloud once Antetokounmpo was handed the ball.

“And we got up to like 13 before he called it,’’ Lillard said. “I think he didn’t want to call it just because we were saying something. But once we got to 13 … it was like, we were right. He made the right call.’’

It looked like a crucial call at the time as the Bucks were trailing 60-54. But it turned out to be about the only thing that didn’t go right for Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo in the third quarter.

The Bucks outscored Portland 34-18 in the third quarter and Antetokounmpo recorded 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks -- his second triple double this season and seventh of his career.

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- The Trail Blazers literally threw away a chance to win their fourth straight on Wednesday, as a turnover-filled fourth quarter doomed Portland to a 115-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Portland (12-11) committed nine of their 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter, including miscues on their first three possessions of the final quarter, when they entered facing an 85-76 deficit. The Blazers had a nine point lead in the first quarter and a seven point halftime advantage, but fell apart in the third, when Milwaukee outscored them 34-18. 

The Blazers rallied late, cutting an 11-point deficit to 101-99 with 4:17 left when Allen Crabbe capped a string of three-pointers on three straight Portland possessions. But Matthew Dellavedova hit three floaters in the key and Jabari Parker dunked off an inbounds pass to seal the Bucks' win. 

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his second triple-double of the season, finishing 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Parker scored 13 of his 27 points in the first quarter and Dellavedova finished with 17 for Milwaukee (11-9), which won for the fifth time in six games. 

Damian Lillard led Portland with 30 points, 22 of them in the first half, and CJ McCollum added 23. Crabbe got hot late and finished with 14, nine of them in the fourth.

Milwaukee took control in the third quarter as Portland sputtered offensively to 18 points while the Bucks made five three-pointers. 

The Blazers took a 58-51 lead after closing the first half on a 12-2 run that was fueled by some hot shooting from Lillard. He hit four three-pointers in the final 4:23 of the second quarter and fed McCollum for another three with 6.9 seconds left in the half. This was the first time in 11 games the Blazers lost after leading at halftime.

Notes: Mason Plumlee, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, became the fastest Trail Blazers player to have 150 rebounds and 100 assists (23 games) since Scottie Pippen did it in 22 games in the 1999-2000 season.

Next up: Blazers at Memphis, 5 p.m. Thursday (CSN).

 

Blazers battling against the Bucks, Portland up 58-51 at the break

Blazers battling against the Bucks, Portland up 58-51 at the break

The Portland Trail Blazers started its game against the Milwaukee Bucks going four-for-four from the field on Wednesday night.

Al-Farouq Aminu continued to come off the bench in just his second game back from his left calf strain injury.  Ed Davis stayed put in the starting lineup.  Aminu entered the game with 3:28 to go in the first quarter.

At the end of the first, the Blazers and Bucks were all knotted up at 23.  The Blazers shot 43.5% as a team in the first quarter.  The Bucks shot 57.1% from the field.

Jabari Parker led the way for the Bucks in the first quarter with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

The Blazers ended the first half shooting 43.2% from the field and 52.4% from three.  The Bucks as a team shot 50% from the floor and shot 30% from long distance to end the half.

At the break, the Blazers are up, 58-51.
 

Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:  Damian Lillard, 22

Rebounds:  Five players tied with 3 rebounds 

Assist:  Damian Lillard and Mason Plumlee, 4
 

 

Bucks

Points:  Jabari Parker, 15

Rebounds: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 7

Assist:  Giannis Antetokounmpo, 4

Following tonight’s game, you can check out an all-new Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  And if you can’t get to a TV, you can catch The Scoop Postgame show presented by Toyota of Portland on Broadway streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Trail Blazers looking for 4th straight win: Blazers at Bucks on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers looking for 4th straight win: Blazers at Bucks on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers vs. Bucks

Next up for the Portland Trail Blazers (12-10), it’s the Milwaukee Bucks (10-9) on Wednesday night.  This will be the second game in the current five-game road trip for the Blazers.

Here’s a quick look at what the Bucks did this past offseason—

Added: Matthew Dellavedova Jason Terry, Mirza Teletovic, Thon Maker, and Malcolm Brogdon

Resigned:  Miles Plumlee and Steve Novak 

Lost: Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Jared Cunningham, Johnny O'Bryant, Damien Inglis, and O.J. Mayo

 

The Trail Blazers head in to Wednesday night’s contest with a 5-6 road record, but Portland is looking to keep its winning streak alive and earn its fourth straight victory.  The Blazers latest win came on Monday night when Portland was able to hold on and beat the Chicago Bulls, 112-110.  Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting.

As for the Bucks, Milwaukee is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the San Antonio Spurs.  The Bucks lost 97-96 to the Spurs at home on Monday night.  In the loss, Jabari Parker scored 23.   Giannis Antetokounmpo added 22 points.

We will set the stage for the Trail Blazers and Bucks game with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 4:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Also, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live with host Dan Sheldon on CSN starting at 4:00pm.

 

 

Quick Links:

Fourth Quarter surge leads Blazers past Bulls

Trail Blazers change defense after big men suggest change

 

Video:  Plumlee: Keep getting better, that’s all that matters

Video:  Lillard on defense: “Just more present mentally”

Video:  Turner: Group we had on the floor in the 4th was on a roll

Video:  Jason Quick: Radical difference in Blazers’ defense

 

 

Game Details:

Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI

Television: CSN, 5:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (4:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show),

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 4:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Trail Blazers change defense after big men suggest change

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USA Today Sports Images

Trail Blazers change defense after big men suggest change

CHICAGO – When the Trail Blazers’ big men talked recently, the coaching staff listened.

And as a result, Portland on Monday unveiled a new defensive wrinkle that helped them beat the Chicago Bulls.

Lost in the shuffle of Monday’s stirring 11-0 fourth-quarter run that keyed the Trail Blazers’ 112-110 victory over the Bulls was a not-so-subtle shift from the team’s defensive philosophy.

The Blazers’ big men – in particular center Mason Plumlee and power forward Ed Davis – last week voiced to the coaching staff a desire to “blitz” pick-and-rolls instead of hanging back and inviting mid-range jumpers, and on Monday coach Terry Stotts relented, implementing the tactic against the Bulls when the pick and rolls involved Dwyane Wade or Jimmy Butler.

“Mason and Ed can be good at that,’’ Stotts said. “It was good we had a game like that and had success so we can use it if we need to.’’

The shift in philosophy came after a Friday film session at practice, before Saturday’s Miami game. The suggestion was made by the players in order to better utilize their strengths – footwork and athleticism – and better cover for their lack of bulk.

“We told the coaches we wanted to be more aggressive on the ball and they listened,’’ Plumlee said. “I thought it was a good look for us.’’

Added Davis: “We said how we felt about things. The bigs said we wanted to be more aggressive, wanted to be able to play more to our strength. And that’s the great thing about this coaching staff, they don’t take anything personal, this is all for the better of the team, that’s why the chemistry is good.’’

Stotts and the players acknowledged that the tactic will only be used in certain circumstances, usually when the opponent features pick-and-roll players who are not three-point shooting threats, like Wade and Butler.

The Blazers (12-10) still own the NBA’s worst defensive rating, although it has gone from 113.8 to 109.6 over the last three games, and one of their defensive problems has been stopping the pick-and-roll. For the past four seasons, Stotts has employed a conservative defensive approach to pick-and-rolls, keeping his big men back in order to invite the ball handler to shoot a mid-range shot.

But the Blazers' bigs, who are more athletic and mobile than imposing rim protectors, were often getting beat at the rim, either by blow-by drives from guards or by finishes from big men.

The idea with blitzing is to bring the big man up in coverage, along with the guard, to pressure the ball handler and stop the pick-and-roll.

“Nobody likes the blitz, nobody likes pressure,’’ Evan Turner said. “I’m glad we went to that in the fourth quarter. It helped.’’

Although Wade finished with 34 points, he went 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter. Butler, meanwhile, went 1-for-4 in the fourth, his lone field goal an uncontested and meaningless three-pointer at the buzzer.

All because the bigs spoke up in a positional meeting.

“I like it,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “It speeds the other team up for one, and with our bigs we are able to do it because they are so mobile. I don’t think its something we will do all the time but it will be something we do occasionally, because it will keep teams off guard. I think we caught them off guard tonight.’’

Fourth quarter surge leads Blazers past Bulls

Fourth quarter surge leads Blazers past Bulls

CHICAGO -- A fourth quarter surge keyed by the offense of Evan Turner and Damian Lillard and the defense of Ed Davis carried the Trail Blazers to a 112-110 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday. 

Turner scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth and Lillard had 11 of his 30 points down the stretch as the Blazers pulled away with an 11-0 run midway through the quarter, a run that was sparked by two blocks from Davis. The push gave the Blazers a 103-93 lead with 5:55 left and the Blazers hung on for dear life down the stretch as they scored only five points over the next 5:30 before sealing the game with free throws. The final score looked closer than it was after Jimmy Butler hit an uncontested three-pointer as time expired.

Portland (12-10) kick-started a five game trip and avenged a 113-88 loss to the Bulls on Nov. 15, when Chicago bolted to a 35-14 lead after one quarter. Chicago (11-9) lost its second straight despite 34 points from Dwyane Wade. 

The fourth quarter spurt was special for Turner, who went to high school in Chicago and was cheered on by family members sitting behind the Blazers bench. Turner hit five-of-six shots, including three in a row in the fourth quarter, and finished with 10 points, four assists and two rebounds. CJ McCollum added 24 points and Allen Crabbe had his second consecutive strong game off the bench with 17 points. 

Chicago entered the fourth leading 87-86, taking control in the third quarter with a 12-1 start to the second half. Portland trailed by as many as six in the third but closed within one when McCollum hit a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left. 

The Blazers held a 65-57 halftime lead, thanks in part to a 12-2 run late in the second quarter that was fueled by the strong bench play of Crabbe, who scored 11 of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter. 

The Blazers welcomed the return of Al-Farouq Aminu, who missed 13 games with a left calf strain, during which the team went 6-7. Coach Terry Stotts pregame said Aminu would be limited to between 16 and 20 minutes on Monday, while bringing him off the bench. 

Aminu entered with 3:23 left in the first quarter and the Blazers leading 23-20 and almost instantly recorded an assist with a pass inside to Mason Plumlee. He played seven minutes in the first half, during which he showed some rust (0-for-2), but also some of the top-level defense the Blazers had been lacking with a nice block of a Wade jumper.

Aminu finished with three points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.

Next up: Blazers at Milwaukee, 5 p.m. Wednesday (CSN).

 

Portland shooting 54.7% as a team vs. Chicago, Blazers up 8 at half

Portland shooting 54.7% as a team vs. Chicago, Blazers up 8 at half

The Portland Trail Blazers tipped off from the United Center at 5:00pm on Monday to facing the Chicago Bulls.

The Trail Blazers went on a 12-14 run to take an 18-14 lead, midway through the first quarter.

Bulls held a 32-29 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Blazers had some help offensively from Allen Crabbe off the bench in the first half.  Crabbe finished the half with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

To end the half, Portland shot 54.7% as a team, while Chicago shot 53.7%.

At the break, the Blazers are up 65-57.

 

Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:  Damian Lillard, 17

Rebounds: Maurice Harkless, 5

Assist:  Damian Lillard, 5

 

Bulls

Points:  Dwyane Wade, 23

Rebounds:  Jimmy Butler, 6

Assist:  Jimmy Butler, 3

Following tonight’s game, you can check out an all-new Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  And if you can’t get to a TV, you can catch The Scoop Postgame show presented by Toyota of Portland on Broadway streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW on your phone, tablet, or computer.