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.’’ 

 

Rasheed Wallace joins Damian Lillard in rapping for the #SoGoneChallenge

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Rasheed Wallace joins Damian Lillard in rapping for the #SoGoneChallenge

It's not quite the #IceBucketChallenge, but the #SoGoneChallenge is sweeping social media over the past several weeks. 

The craze dares people to freestyle rap lyrics that they wrote over the instrumental version of Monica’s 2003 song “So Gone.” Everyone from 9 to 5ers to celebrities have released their renditions. Last week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard joined in:

Now, former Trail Blazer Rasheed Wallace released his version. You can watch the video here. The lyrics are not suitable for all audiences.

Rasheed is no stranger to rapping, either. There are a number of videos out there over the years of him freestyling:

So, the question is, who did it better: Damian or Rasheed?

 

 

Trail Blazers sign forward Grant Jerrett to training camp contract

Trail Blazers sign forward Grant Jerrett to training camp contract

OFFICIAL RELEASE FROM TRAIL BLAZERS:

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

Jerrett, 23, last played in the NBA as a rookie in 2014-15, averaging 2.0 points (26.9% FG), 1.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 6.4 minutes in eight games with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz.

An early entry draft candidate out of the University of Arizona, Jerrett (6-10, 235) averaged 14.5 points (44.5% FG, 37.6% 3-PT, 76.3% FT), 6.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 28.9 minutes over two seasons (2013-14, 2014-15) with the Idaho Stampede and Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA Development League.

Jerrett was acquired by Oklahoma City in a draft day trade after originally being selected by the Trail Blazers in the second round (40th overall) of the 2013 NBA Draft.

----

Original report:

The Portland Trail Blazers signed forward Grant Jerrett to a training camp deal, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

If Jerrett's name seems familiar, the 6'10" power forward was drafted by the Blazers back in 2013 with the 40th overall pick, though his rights were immediately traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night in exchange for cash.

Jerrett has appeared in just eight career NBA games, while spending the majority of his time playing in the NBA D-League with the Tulsa 66ers, Oklahoma City Blue and Idaho Stampede.  The 23-year-old has averaged 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in three seasons.

In February 2015, Jerrett was traded to the Utah Jazz as part of a three-team deal and was later waived after suffering a shoulder injury in last year's NBA Summer League.

While the Trail Blazers roster is full, they only have 14 guaranteed contracts. Jerrett will compete alongside Tim Quarterman, who was signed to a partially guaranteed training camp contract, as well as Luis Montero, whose contract is also not fully guaranteed. 

Jerrett will compete with Luis Montero and Tim Quarterman for the Blazers' 15th and final roster spot.

CJ McCollum shuts down homophobic Twitter troll in one swift blast

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CJ McCollum shuts down homophobic Twitter troll in one swift blast

If you follow CJ McCollum on Snapchat like I do, you'll know he values a number of things: Good food, a hard workout, and a mani-pedi every now and then. 

The Trail Blazers guard, who recently inked a four-year $106 million, which will kick in next year, has been in New York City the past few days to catch Alex Rodriguez's final game (among other things) and has been chronicling, or "snapping" his adventures with longtime girlfriend Elise Esposito.

From snapchats on his trips in the subway drinking a smoothie, to food pictures of from breakfast, lunch and dinner (we all take photos of our food whether we choose to admit it or not), haircuts and hard workouts, McCollum has gotten a lot done. 

But when he and his girlfriend both went on an adventure to get a manicure and pedicure together, one person on Twitter took issue. 

https://twitter.com/RichieTags/status/764979220107894784

It didn't take long for McCollum to shut down the homophobic insinuation.

A brilliant response.

McCollum's affinity for personal hygene, such as haircuts and mani-pedis isn't unlike other athletes. Afterall, it's McCollum's job to be on his feet for a living. We all saw how painful it looked as Damian Lillard ripped off his finger nail. And have you ever had an in-grown toe nail?! Taking care of your body both inside and out is paramount for these professional athletes, so a little TLC on the hands and feet can go a long way.

And for those interested in what's since happened to the Twitter troll since he tweeted at McCollum, here's a few responses:

Looks like Richie should have subscribed to the age old theory: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  

No game on Christmas Day but holiday season not kind to Blazers

No game on Christmas Day but holiday season not kind to Blazers

Rumors of a Christmas Day game proved to be false but the announcement of the NBA schedule Thursday brought little holiday cheer for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The holiday season brings a rough patch of games, both home and road.

Consider this: Beginning Dec. 5, Portland embarks on a five-game road trip to Chicago, Milwaukee, Memphis, Indiana and the Los Angeles Clippers, returns home for ONE GAME against Oklahoma City, then heads right back out for road games at Denver, Golden State and Sacramento. Then there are four straight home games over Christmas, but they're against Dallas, San Antonio, Toronto and Sacramento. Then, to complete the holiday season, the Blazers head out to road games at San Antonio, Minnesota and Golden State. The contest against the Timberwolves is scheduled for Jan. 1.

That game is also in the midst of a wacky zig-zag trip that seems to be more common in recent years in the NBA -- a trip to San Antonio, then up to Minneapolis and then back to Oakland. Portland has a similar three-game trip in February that calls for a stop in Orlando before heading to Toronto and Detroit. Then in March Portland has a trip that features Phoenix-to-New Orleans-to-San Antonio-to Atlanta-to Miami. It's not often a west-coast team doesn't play Orlando and Miami on the same trip to Florida.

If your travel agent booked you on these sorts of trips you'd ask for your money back. What an enormous waste of jet fuel.

The redeeming feature of the schedule is its closing days. The Trail Blazers get 10 of their last 12 games at home.

Trail Blazers '16-'17 Schedule Announced

Trail Blazers '16-'17 Schedule Announced

The NBA released the full regular season schedule today where the Blazers will open on Tuesday, October 25th vs. the Utah Jazz. They will wrap up the season with a four game home-stand against Minnesota, Utah, San Antonio and New Orleans. 

Contrary to Twitter rumors, the Blazers do not play on Christmas Day this year.

Blazer fans can mark their calendars for an early season November 1st match-up against the power-house Golden State Warriors plus a November 15th game against Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls. LeBron James and the Cavs come to Moda Center on January 11th. 

FULL SCHEDULE:

DAY DATE OPPONENT PACIFIC
Tue. October 25     Utah  7pm
Thu. October 27     L.A. Clippers 7:30pm
Sat. October 29 at Denver 6pm
Tue. November 1     Golden State  7pm
Wed. November 2 at Phoenix 7pm
Fri. November 4 at Dallas 5:30pm
Sun. November 6 at Memphis 12:30pm
Tue. November 8     Phoenix 7pm
Wed. November 9 at L.A. Clippers 7:30pm
Fri. November 11     Sacramento 7pm
Sun. November 13     Denver 6pm
Tue. November 15     Chicago 7pm
Thu. November 17 at Houston 5pm
Fri. November 18 at New Orleans 5pm
Sun. November 20 at Brooklyn 12:30pm
Tue. November 22 at New York 4:30pm
Wed. November 23 at Cleveland 4pm
Fri. November 25     New Orleans 7pm
Sun. November 27       Houston 6pm
Wed. November 30      Indiana 7pm
Sat. December 3     Miami  7pm
Mon. December 5 at Chicago 5pm
Wed. December 7 at Milwaukee 5pm
Thu. December 8 at Memphis 5pm
Sat. December 10 at Indiana 4pm
Mon. December 12 at L.A. Clippers 7:30pm
Tue. December 13     Oklahoma City 7:30pm
Thu. December 15 at Denver 6pm
Sat. December 17 at Golden State 7:30pm
Tue. December 20 at Sacramento 7:30pm
Wed. December 21     Dallas 7pm
Fri. December 23     San Antonio  7pm
Mon. December 26     Toronto 7pm
Wed. December 28     Sacramento 7pm
Fri. December 30 at San Antonio 5:30pm
Sun. January 1 at Minnesota 4pm
Wed. January 4 at Golden State 7:30pm
Thu. January 5     L.A. Lakers 7pm
Sat. January 7     Detroit 7pm
Tue. January 10 at L.A. Lakers 7:30pm
Wed. January 11     Cleveland  7:30pm
Fri. January 13     Orlando  7pm
Mon. January 16 at Washington 11am
Wed. January 18 at Charlotte 4pm
Fri. January 20 at Philadelphia 4pm
Sat. January 21 at Boston 2pm
Wed. January 25     L.A. Lakers  7:30pm
Fri. January 27     Memphis 7pm
Sun. January 29     Golden State  6pm
Tue. January 31     Charlotte 7pm
Fri. February 3     Dallas  7:30pm
Sun. February 5 at Oklahoma City 12:00pm
Tue. February 7 at Dallas 5:30pm
Thu. February 9     Boston  7:30pm
Mon. February 13     Atlanta 7:30pm
Wed. February 15 at Utah 6pm
Thu. February 23 at Orlando 4pm
Sun. February 26 at Toronto 3pm
Tue. February 28 at Detroit 4:30pm
Thu. March 2     Oklahoma City  7:30pm
Sat. March 4     Brooklyn  7pm
Mon. March 6 at Minnesota 5pm
Tue. March 7 at Oklahoma City 5pm
Thu. March 9     Philadelphia  7pm
Sat. March 11     Washington 7pm
Sun. March 12 at Phoenix 6pm
Tue. March 14 at New Orleans 5pm
Wed. March 15 at San Antonio 5pm
Sat. March 18 at Atlanta 3pm
Sun. March 19 at Miami 3pm
Tue. March 21     Milwaukee 7pm
Thu. March 23     New York  7pm
Sat. March 25     Minnesota 7pm
Sun. March 26 at L.A. Lakers 6:30pm
Tue. March 28     Denver  7pm
Thu. March 30     Houston  7:30pm
Sat. April 1     Phoenix 7pm
Tue. April 4 at Utah 7:30pm
Thu. April 6     Minnesota  7:30pm
Sat. April 8     Utah 7pm
Mon. April 10     San Antonio  7pm
Wed. April 12     New Orleans  7:30pm

Most painful interview of my career? No doubt it was "Pistol Pete"

Most painful interview of my career? No doubt it was "Pistol Pete"

I was interested to read about Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins revealing his most painful interview -- former NBA player JaVale McGee.

That got me thinking about my most painful interview and there's never been any question about it. Through all my years in this business one interview still makes me shudder when I think about it, because I've never had this happen, before or since.

As a young reporter at the Oregon Journal I was sent to Memorial Coliseum to do a sidebar story at a Trail Blazer game. I was still covering high school sports in those days and this was my first time getting to go near an NBA game as a reporter. Being assigned to sidebars at that time usually meant interviewing someone on the opposing team after the game.

There was no doubt who I wanted to interview and he was probably my favorite basketball player up to that time -- the great Pete Maravich. I knew, of course, that Maravich was a prickly personality, not given to being cordial to those who wished to speak with him. As I recall, his team lost the game that night, too. I was ready to take the challenge.

But as it turned out, Maravich didn't turn down my request. He didn't snap at me. He didn't swear at me. None of that -- those are things I would get later from J.R. Rider and they were easy to deal with.

Maravich did something nobody has ever done -- he absolutely refused to acknowledge that I existed on the planet earth. He went about his business of getting dressed, packing up a bag and shuffling out of the locker room, expertly acting as if I wasn't even there as I attempted all sorts of questions and conversation-starters! I followed him all the way to the bus trying to get an answer out of him, but not once did he look at me, slow down or even act as if I was as important as a pimple on his backside.

Nothing.

And for somebody doing an NBA locker room for the first time, it was about as embarrassing and humiliating as it could have been. And this is coming from someone who was once called "the devil on earth" by Rider, whom I actually thought I was going to have to fight at one point.

Maravich passed away years ago and by then he'd started to be a little more welcoming to the media's requests. But I'll never forget "Pistol Pete" and his his vacant stare over the top of my head.

It was excruciating.

Who pays if the Blazers go out to eat together? Not CJ McCollum

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Who pays if the Blazers go out to eat together? Not CJ McCollum

With the salary cap skyrocketing, no team jumped headfirst into the new spending environment quite like the Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard‘s super-max extension, worth nearly $140 million over five years, kicks in this season. Portland matched Allen Crabbe‘s offer sheets from the Nets (nearly $75 million over four years) and directly signed Evan Turner ($70 million), Meyers Leonard ($41 million) and Maurice Harkless ($40 million) to sizable four-year contracts. The Trail Blazers also signed C.J. McCollum to a four-year, $106 million – though not max – contract extension.

This high number of highly paid players creates a conundrum.

McCollum, in a Q&A with Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders:

Insiders: How do you decide who pays for dinner on the team? With you, Damian, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard,Moe Harkless and others all getting pay days, is it, “I pay this time, you pay the next?” Or is there a generous guy out of the group who just continues to take care of you guys?

McCollum: “I’m on my rookie minimum still! That contract of mine doesn’t go into effect until next season, so those guys will definitely be picking up the tab – no doubt! I’m not making close to what they’re making yet.”

McCollum makes a good point. He’ll earn just $3,219,579 plus his share of a shortfall check (estimated to be $200 million for all players to share) next season.

CONTINUE READING

A warts-and-all look at the 2016-17 Trail Blazers

A warts-and-all look at the 2016-17 Trail Blazers

Zach Lowe had an interesting look at the Trail Blazers on ESPN, pointing out the pluses and minuses the team will feature during the upcoming season and beyond -- complete with video.

I think you'll enjoy the analysis and just as a tease, here are a few telling passages from the story:

When Whiteside spurned them, the Blazers faced a choice: hoard cap room, pursue a lesser center (Bismack Biyombo, Ian Mahinmi), or go whole hog in a fit of irrational exuberance with a team that barely cracked .500. The first path risked spoiling the good vibes of their plucky 44-win season. To maintain even $15 million in room for July 2017, not nearly enough for one max player, the Blazers would have had to choose between Turner and Crabbe; let both Meyers Leonard and Moe Harkless walk; delay C.J. McCollum's extension, cracking the door to funky three-year offer sheets from rivals; and fill the roster in the meantime with one-year contracts.

And this:

Crabbe and Turner are not on favorable contracts. Turner's deal could end up a disaster, and doing nothing is always a better choice than disaster. The Blazers will barely duck the luxury tax this season, and if they keep this roster together long-term -- which is unlikely -- they would blow past it by nearly $20 million in 2018 and 2019. (A potential amnesty clause in the next collective bargaining deal looms as a wild-card, though the two sides haven't discussed it yet).

They have the payroll of a championship contender, and fair or not, that creates expectations Portland is already tuning out. "We are probably not going to make the quantum leap the salaries might indicate," said Portland head coach Terry Stotts, owner of a much-deserved big-money extension. "As a coach, you take the money out of it. We just want to grow."

And this:

It's fair to wonder what exactly these Blazers are, and whether all that spending made them any better. They won 44 games and snagged the No. 5 seed last season when every mid-tier Western Conference team crapped out. They eked past the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round after L.A. lost their two best players for the series in Game 4.

You could argue all of Turner, Crabbe, Leonard and Harkless are replaceable, with huge holes in their games. Portland absolutely could have found, say, 80 percent of Turner and Crabbe's production on the cheap. The wing position is so thin league wide, the market for merely decent guys like Turner, Crabbe, Harrison Barnes and Kent Bazemore exploded out of proportion with the rising salary cap.

And this:

There's nothing wrong with being pretty good, especially for a younger team. "Every organization's goal is to win a championship," Olshey said, "but when did making the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 -- to use college parlance -- become not good enough while a team is building toward it?" With Kevin Durant at Golden State, the West is like a middle-aged man: fatter in the middle, and thinning up top. The San Antonio Spurs will take a step back this season, and their long-term roster around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge is a mystery. Every important Clipper aside from DeAndre Jordan will hit free agency in 11 months.

If Portland improves and catches some breaks at the right time, they could make the conference finals in two or three years.

There's much more, of course, including some video clips that highlight some embarrassing Trail Blazer defense. But all in all, Lowe does a nice job of pointing out the good and the bad of going the route Portland did in free agency.

 

Portland Trail Blazers announce seven-game preseason schedule

Portland Trail Blazers announce seven-game preseason schedule

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 1, 2016)The Portland Trail Blazers have announced their seven-game NBA preseason schedule today, tipping-off Monday, Oct. 3 vs. the Utah Jazz at the Moda Center. 

The preseason opener vs. Utah is one of three games at the Moda Center, including Oct. 7 vs. Phoenix and Oct. 16 vs. Denver.

The Trail Blazers play four road games, traveling to Los Angeles to play the Lakers and Clippers before closing out the preseason with a two-game road trip at Utah and Golden State.

Tickets for preseason games will be available at the same time as the regular season single-game ticket on-sale. To receive more information about the on-sale, please visit trailblazers.com/tickets. For season tickets and other ticketing inquiries, please call 844-RIP-CITY.

DATE

OPPONENT

TIME (PT)

VENUE

Monday, Oct. 3

vs. Utah

7:00 PM

Moda Center

Friday, Oct. 7

vs. Phoenix

7:00 PM

Moda Center

Tuesday, Oct. 11

@ Los Angeles Lakers

7:30 PM

Staples Center

Thursday, Oct. 13

@ Los Angeles Clippers

7:30 PM

Staples Center

Sunday, Oct. 16

vs. Denver

6:00 PM

Moda Center

Wednesday, Oct. 19

@ Utah

7:00 PM

Vivint Smart Home Arena

Friday, Oct. 21

@ Golden State

7:30 PM

Oracle Arena