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

lillard_street_clothes.jpg

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.’’ 

 

Playoff race continues: Trail Blazers host Timberwolves on CSN at 7:00pm

Playoff race continues: Trail Blazers host Timberwolves on CSN at 7:00pm

The Portland Trail Blazers (33-38) will play the front end of a back-to-back on Saturday night when Portland hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves (28-43).  The Blazers will then hit the road to the face the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

After Portland’s 110-95 win over the Knicks on Thursday, the Blazers are now 9-3 in the month of March, which is the 3rd-best record in the NBA at this point in March.  In the victory over the Knicks, Damian Lillard scored 30 points after shooting 9-of-17 from the field.  Lillard has scored 30+ points in seven games this month.  James Harden is the only other player in the NBA to have seven 30+ point performances this month.

Minnesota is coming off an overtime loss on Friday night at Staples Center.  The Lakers beat the Timberwolves, 130-110 in OT.   LA outscored Minnesota 21-10 in the overtime period.  Andrew Wiggins led all scores with 36 points.  Karl-Anthony Towns added 25 points.

The T-Wolves are now 10-24 on the road this season.

It was earlier this month in Minnesota, on March 6th that the Blazers and Timberwolves second meeting of the season had to be postponed because of court conditions at the Target Center with condensation on the floor.

That game was rescheduled for April 3rd at 4:00pm in Minnesota.

The Trail Blazers beat the Timberwolves, 95-89, in the first meeting of the season back on January 1st behind CJ McCollum’s career high of 43 points.

Portland is currently 1.5 games back of the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West after the Nuggets beat the Pacers on Friday night, 125-117.

We will help set the stage for Saturday’s game with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 6:00pm only on CSN.   

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.




Quick Links:

Trail Blazers gain ground on Denver after easy win over Knicks

 

Video:   Stotts: Turner feeling the ball, shooting the ball better

Video:   Lillard: We’re all happy to have Turner back

Video:   Crabbe: We know it’s gonna be a dog fight for eight seed

Video:   Turner: Dame has always led us by example

 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

Television: CSN, 7:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (6:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 6:00pm 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 gain ground on Denver after easy win over Knicks

Trail Blazers gain ground on Denver after easy win over Knicks

It wasn’t as easy as they would have liked, but the Trail Blazers took care of business Thursday against short-handed New York with a 110-95 win in which they never trailed.

Playing a woeful Knicks team that was without injured starters Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, the Blazers bolted to a 15-point lead in the first quarter and a 21-point lead at halftime. The Knicks got as close as 98-88 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter before Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shut the door and locked Portland’s ninth win in the last 12 games.

The Blazers (33-38), who moved within one game of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 11 games remaining. Denver (34-37) next plays at Indiana (36-35) on Friday.

Lillard had 30 points, the eighth consecutive game he has scored 25 or more, tying him for the third longest streak in franchise history with Geoff Petrie (1970-1971) and McCollum (this season). He scored seven points in a two minute span to lead a 10-0 Blazers run after New York cut the lead to 10. It was the ninth time in 15 games since the All-Star Break that Lillard has scored 30 or more points. 

McCollum added 20 points, Jusuf Nurkic 16 points and 10 rebounds and Noah Vonleh grabbed 11 rebounds.

"I thought we played a really good first half on both ends of the floor,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "I was disappointed with the fact that New York cut it to 10. Some of that is obviously New York playing better ... but they outworked us. We finished it off, so that was a positive.''

The Knicks (27-45) started three rookies – Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Ron Baker – and they were overmatched in every facet of the game as they trailed by as many as 23 in the second half.

If Nurkic wasn’t powering over Hernangomez for dunks, Lillard was blowing past Baker for layins. New York’s lone remaining star – Kristaps Porzingis –finished with 18 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-21 shooting.

The rout started early as Portland jumped to a 37-23 lead in the first quarter behind 15 points from Lillard and some dreadful play by the Knicks. New York shot 28.6 percent in the quarter while Portland made 14-of-23 shots (60.9 percent). Lillard scored 15 in the first quarter.

"I thought the way Damian got off in the first quarter really set the tone for the rest of the first half,'' Stotts said.

The Knicks, who beat Portland earlier in the season, lost for the fourth consecutive time and seventh time in eight games.

Evan Turner, who tried his third protective apparatus on his right hand, had his best game since returning from his broken third metacarpal, recording 10 points and six rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting.

"Evan looked much more comfortable out there,'' Stotts said.

Next up: Minnesota at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (CSN).

Podcast:

Lillard, Blazers get off to hot start vs. Knicks

Lillard, Blazers get off to hot start vs. Knicks

The Portland Trail Blazer and New York Knicks tipped off from Moda Center at 7:00pm on Thursday night.

The Knicks are without Carmelo Anthony (sore left knee), Joakim Noah (left knee surgery), Rose (sore right foot) and Lance Thomas (sore right hip) vs. the Blazers.

Portland jumped out to a 10-4 early lead.  Midway through the first quarter, the Blazers stretched that lead to 20-16.

To end the first quarter, Portland held a 37-23 lead behind Damian Lillard’s 15 first-quarter points. The Blazers shot 60.9% after one quarter. The Knicks on the other hand shot, 28.8% as a team. 

From three-point range, the Blazers went 6-of-8 in the first half, while the Knicks were 3-of-10 from deep.  As a team, the Trail Blazers ended the half shooting 58.1% from the field.  The Knicks shot 35.4% from the field as the second quarter came to an end.

At the break, the Trail Blazers are up 67-46. 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:
  Damian Lillard, 19

Rebounds:  Al-Farouq Aminu, 8

Assist:  Damian Lillard, 3

 


Knicks

Points:  Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, 10

Rebounds:  Willy Hernangomez, 6

Assist:  Ron Baker, 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.

Knicks visit Portland on second night of back-to-back

Knicks visit Portland on second night of back-to-back

The Portland Trail Blazers (32-38) will look to get back on track when Portland hosts the New York Knicks (27-44) on Thursday night.  The Blazers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, 93-90, snapping a three-game winning streak. 

In Tuesday’s loss, Portland shot 42.2% from the field, but really struggled from three-point range after hitting just 4-of-21 from long distance.  The Trail Blazers finished the game with 14 turnovers, however, 10 of those team turnovers came in the first half.  The Blazers also had a difficult time getting back in the game after being down 13 at halftime and being outscored, 30-14 in the second quarter.

The Knicks are coming off a 108-101 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, which is New York's 26th road loss of the season.  The Jazz had 36 points in the fourth quarter to the Knicks’ 26 points.  Kristaps Porzingis led the way for New York with 24 points.  Derek Rose added 17 points.  

The Trail Blazers and the Knicks last met back on November 22nd at Madison Square Garden with the Knicks beating the Blazers, 107-103.  Damian Lillard had 22 points and six assists in the loss.

Portland is now 17-15 at home this season.

We will help you get ready for Thursday’s game with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 6:00pm on CSN.   

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.




Quick Links:

Blazers lose heartbreaker to Bucks, fail to move into eighth

Third time a charm? Evan Turner fitted with another apparatus to protect right hand

Meyers Leonard limited as he tries to play through hip and back pain

 

Video:   Jason Quick: Lillard went straight from the shower to film room

Video:   1080 The FAN: Where was Nurkic down the stretch?

Video:   Turner doesn’t want to wear protective glove

Video:   Nurkic: That’s a bad game for us, need to lock in even more

 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

Television: CSN, 7:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (6:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 6:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Meyers Leonard limited as he tries to play through hip and back pain

Meyers Leonard limited as he tries to play through hip and back pain

Meyers Leonard’s right hip has been in so much pain recently he said he hasn’t been able to sleep at night. The hip pain, compounded with two herniated discs in his back, has left the Trail Blazers big man playing on virtually one leg for the past week and a half, he says.

“It’s a very bizarre feeling to be playing the highest level of basketball while feeling like I have one leg,’’ Leonard said Wednesday. “It’s frustrating to say the least.’’

Leonard had an MRI on the hip on Monday, which revealed some damage, but he wished to keep the issue private.

Leonard said he first felt the hip pain in Phoenix last week, and thought it was just the result of playing in a back-to-back. However, as the trip progressed, he was in nightly pain, so much so that he couldn’t sleep.

He said the combination of herniated L4 and L5 discs and the hip issue have rendered his right leg powerless. He knew it was a problem in New Orleans when he received an inside pass from Al-Farouq Aminu and was blocked as he went to dunk, unable to get his normal elevation.

Since that New Orleans game, Leonard has played seven minutes, three minutes, six minutes and seven minutes. In the 15 games prior, he was averaging 19 minutes a game while playing perhaps his best basketball of the season, with averages of 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three-point range.

“I can’t really explode to get rebounds, really,’’ Leonard said. “I’m just trying to hide it, trying my best not to let it show.’’

Against Atlanta, Leonard remembers coach Terry Stotts approaching him and asking him if he could give him three good minutes in the fourth quarter. He did – playing three minutes and hitting 1-of-2 shots while adding a rebound.

“I’m just trying to give some semi-quality minutes,’’ Leonard said. “If you watch the last couple of games it’s only been me trying to get Dame and CJ open on ball screens, get Allen open on pin downs, and get in the way on box outs … and shoot when I’m open. I’m just trying my best not to let it show.’’

Leonard, however, can be seen dragging his right leg in the limited time he has seen recently, in what he says is an effort to become tougher mentally. He said in Detroit last month he was bumped on the right hip during a pregame warmup by assistant Jim Moran and it felt like he had “been shot by a shotgun.”

He took anti-inflammatories and played 18 minutes in that game.

“I’ve just tried to hide it. I’ve got to be tougher about the situation, become tougher mentally.’’ Leonard said. “But it’s real odd to try and play on one leg.’’

Leonard said he has remained on anti-inflammatories and is under a strict rehabilitation and weight lifting regiment to build strength back in his right leg.

“Basically, they say hopefully it will die down in seven to 10 days,’’ Leonard said. “And it has gotten better. On our last trip, in Atlanta, I couldn’t sleep it was so painful. But it has died down with the medication.’’

Any marked improvement doesn’t appear imminent. On Wednesday, Leonard said he attempted a round of three-pointers during practice.

“I couldn’t get any lift off the floor,’’ he said. “It’s just odd, awkward feeling.’’

Leonard's injury comes at a time when the Blazers' already have center Ed Davis out for the season after undergoing left shoulder surgery on March 7. With Leonard's limited availability, Noah Vonleh on Tuesday played extended minutes at backup center behind starter Jusuf Nurkic. 

Next up: New York at Blazers, 7 p.m. Thursday (KGW)

Third time a charm? Evan Turner fitted with another apparatus to protect right hand

Third time a charm? Evan Turner fitted with another apparatus to protect right hand

Evan Turner on Wednesday tried out his third apparatus to protect his right hand, and the Trail Blazers guard said he is encouraged that the new approach will allow him to move past the frustration of playing with a protective device on his ball-dominant hand.

Turner, who is 4-for-21 in the three games since returning from a broken hand, has balked at the clumsiness and limitations the previous protective devices have caused, at one point ripping off his glove during the second quarter of Tuesday’s loss against Milwaukee.

“We had a different pad, where it doesn’t cover the palm,’’ Turner said Wednesday after trying out the new apparatus during a 45-minute workout in practice. “I played some pick up and I thought I shot it well. The three-point shot is going to look how it is going to look, but the mid-range was world class.’’

Turner said the latest protection is not as bulky and therefore not as restrictive as the previous two, which limited his grip.

He said during the Milwaukee game a couple of his passes were late, or behind teammates, because the padding prevented him from getting the ball out of his hands when he wanted.

“The palm was free today and I felt fine, and got pretty good rhythm offensively,’’ Turner said.

Turner was playing his best basketball of the season when he broke the third metacarpal on his right hand after he got tangled with Harrison Barnes during the third quarter of a Feb. 7 game at Dallas. He had started the previous nine games, during which the Blazers went 5-4, and was largely responsible for an uptick in the Blazers’ defense while he took on the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s top backcourt player.

Since returning, he has come off the bench and has struggled, looking out of rhythm and generally rusty. He admitted part of his struggles have been mentally because he doesn’t want to play with anything on his hand.

“(Expletive) is annoying,’’ Turner said. “I don’t really get upset but it’s gotten to the point where I’m getting ready to throw a hissy fit. Last night was really tough not to do that. It’s just irritating – or was irritating – so I’m glad we were able to speed up the process and do what needs to be done.’’

Turner said he has been told by the Blazers' that the bone is 70 percent healed and he might have to wear protection on his hand for up to 10 weeks, which he can't imagine.

"Hopefully we can stop worrying about it relatively soon and call it a day,'' Turner said.

Next up: New York at Blazers, 7 p.m. Thursday (KGW).

Blazers lose heartbreaker to Bucks, fail to move into eighth

Blazers lose heartbreaker to Bucks, fail to move into eighth

The Trail Blazers had a chance to move into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot Tuesday, but a young and athletic Milwaukee Bucks team stole their thunder with a 93-90 win at the Moda Center.

The Blazers didn’t score for the final 3:12 of the game, and still had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Damian Lillard missed a fade away three-pointer at the buzzer.

The game featured two of the NBA’s hottest teams, with each having won eight of their past 10, and each fighting for their playoff lives. Milwaukee (35-35) moved past Miami and into seventh in the Eastern Conference while Portland (32-38) fell one game behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 12 games remaining.

Lillard finished with 31 points and seven assists and CJ McCollum added 21 points. Jusuf Nurkic had 11 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, but he also had four turnovers, including a crucial miscue with 1:28 when he lost the ball trying to post up and the Blazers trailing 93-90.

The Blazers are entering the homestretch of their season, with 10 of their final 13 at home, and coach Terry Stotts after last game said he wanted the Blazers to maintain the “edge” they played with while winning four of five on their recent trip.

Early on, the Blazers had that edge, building leads of 10-2 and 17-8, but an avalanche of turnovers and missed free throws enabled Milwaukee to stay in the game and eventually build leads as large as 15.

Portland stormed back in the third quarter behind the play of Lillard and a spark from Noah Vonleh, drawing within 67-63 entering the fourth.

The Blazers actually regained the lead in the fourth, going ahead 90-87 after a Lillard layin, but it would be the last time they scored. Milwaukee scored what turned out to be the game-winning basket with 2:16 left when Khris Middleton scored over Allen Crabbe inside. They added another basket with 1:39 left when John Henson scored on a rebound basket.

Middleton, who didn’t play this season until Feb. 8 because of a hamstring injury, had 26 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 22 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He scored 15 in the second quarter.  

Milwaukee took a 48-35 halftime lead after the Blazers’ played a second quarter that was among their worst of the month. Portland scored 14 points and made just 4-of-18 shots while still being plagued by the same sloppy turnovers that hurt them in the first quarter.

Notes: Lillard missed his first two free throws, ending stretch of 48 consecutive makes, which was the third longest streak in franchise history.

Next up: New York at Blazers, 7 p.m. (KGW)

Podcast:

Trail Blazers back home, battling Bucks right now on CSN

Trail Blazers back home, battling Bucks right now on CSN

The Portland Trail Blazers and the Milwaukee Bucks tipped off from Moda Center at 7:00pm on Tuesday night with the Blazers returning home with a 4-1 road trip record.

The Bucks are without Jabari Parker (post-surgery, left knee) and Michael Beasley (hyperextended left knee) vs. the Blazers.

Portland jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter after hitting four of its first six shots.

Midway through the first quarter, the Trail Blazers held a 14-6 lead with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each scoring six quick points each.

After one quarter, Portland went up 21-18 over Milwaukee.  As a team, the Blazers shot 55.6% from the field in the first quarter, while the Bucks ended the quarter shooting 33.3%.

The Trail Blazers had not made a three-pointer until the 6:26 mark in the second quarter when Lillard hit from long distance.

To end the first half, the Blazers are shooting 38.9% from the field.  The Bucks are now shooting 41.7%.

At halftime, the Bucks are up 48-35. 

 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:
  Damian Lillard, 11

Rebounds:  Jusuf Nurkic, 9

Assist:  Damian Lillard, 3

 


Bucks

Points:  Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middelton, 15

Rebounds:  Giannis Antetokounmpo, 4

Assist:  three players tied with 2 assists,


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.

Pat Riley was "beside himself" over fine for resting players... in 1990

Pat Riley was "beside himself" over fine for resting players... in 1990

The NBA world is abuzz over the memo that Commissioner Adam Silver sent to team owners recently, warning them of significant fines for resting healthy players. All of a sudden, this is a big issue in the league, even though it's been going on for years.

In fact, way back in 1990, the Los Angeles Lakers were fined what was then the healthy sum of $25,000 for not using healthy stars Magic Johnson and James Worthy in Portland for a season-ending game. And Laker Coach Pat Riley was very indignant about the fine, which was levied by then-commissioner David Stern:

"I'm sort of beside myself on this," Riley said. "Obviously, a new rule has been made, a new precedent set. I didn't do it out of disregard for the league. I did it for the well-being of our players. They do it (rest starters in meaningless games) in other sports."

You can go way back to 1985 and find healthy players being rested and teams being fined for it. Riley's argument is being made these days, of course. And it's hard to argue with it. I've heard all sorts of solutions for this problem but not many of them will solve it. The one getting the most traction is that teams need to give a few days' notice when they're sitting players out. But I find that inadequate simply because so many tickets to most teams' games are sold way in advance, including season tickets.

The best solution I could offer -- and I'm open to reasonable suggestions -- is to make teams sit healthy players out of home games. That way, they're at least not depriving fans of a chance to see stars who make just one appearance a season in their town. Make your own fans unhappy, rather than those of other teams.

I also think it's reasonable for coaches to cut back on some of their players' minutes, rather than have them miss games, or not sit all of their best players down on the same night. I've heard other ideas -- such as dock players' checks for the games they miss while healthy, but I don't think that will work because you'd just see a whole lot of trumped-up injuries or illnesses as an excuse for sitting down. "Flu-like symptoms" would become all the rage. I do sympathize with fans, though. Ticket prices are through the roof and teams often use "dynamic pricing" or variable pricing during a season -- meaning the cost of seeing the best teams and the true superstars is higher than for other games.

And what really irks me is that certain players see these rest days as proof they are stars. A few misguided players, I've been told, believe it to be a status symbol.

But when those big-time players -- the drawing cards -- don't show up on the floor for the game, fans are being ripped off -- just as Portland President Harry Glickman said way back in '90:

"I think (Riley) cheated the fans," Glickman said. "I think it (the fine) was a very appropriate action for the commissioner to take. I felt all along the commissioner would take some kind of action.

"I hope that it sends a message to the Lakers and to all of us that you don't do those kinds of things."