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.’’ 

 

Even if Melo waives his no-trade clause, making the deal will be a challenge

Even if Melo waives his no-trade clause, making the deal will be a challenge

While the basketball fans of New York wait for either the Knicks or Carmelo Anthony to blink, the Portland Trail Blazers are still holding out hope.

Will Anthony, at some point, waive that no-trade to include more teams? Would the Trail Blazers be one of those teams?

At this point, nobody knows. But I will tell you this, if that door ever opens, I expect Portland to make every effort to charge through it.

But it won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to be a very big job, considering the finances involved.

The Blazers will have to come up with a trade with the Knicks that is better than anyone else’s and yet doesn't’t completely decimate the Portland roster.

And that will be a huge challenge. The Trail Blazers are going to need to stack a lot of salaries on top of each other to come up to the dollar amount needed to make the deal permissible under league rules.

And the trick is to not give up so much that Anthony’s presence can’t make up for the loss of the departed players..

Portland's side of the trade must come within 125 percent of $34 million to make the thing work. That dollar figure is based on Anthony’s 2017-18 salary of roughly $26.2 million PLUS his trade kicker, which will amount to another $8 million, given that the final year of his contract is a player option.

And you need to match that amount without ending up with your cupboard bare.

Here are the Portland contracts for next season –- feel free to play the home version of “Let’s Make A Deal” to add them up to a workable total while not giving away so much that the team is mortally wounded.

As you see, it’s going to get very tricky. But I expect the Trail Blazers to come up with a viable offer and by sheer volume it may be better than any other team is willing to give for a player who will probably play just one season for it.

I would figure the refreshed New York front office to play this thing out, hoping Anthony will loosen his no-trade a bit as training camp nears. And I expect Anthony to hold tight for as long as he can to a Houston-only demand.

But at some point, one side will budge.

And so we wait.

Trail Blazers better be ready to take advantage of early season schedule

Trail Blazers better be ready to take advantage of early season schedule

The Trail Blazer schedule is out and I would say it's certainly not the most favorable the team has received over the years.

Normally, the custom is that if you open the season on the road it's for only one game -- two at the most. Usually, that was to protect teams' home openers. If a team had a tough start on the road -- say it came home 0-4 or 0-5 from a trip that opened the season -- it would certainly take some luster off opening night at home.

The Trail Blazers open with three straight road games, two of them outside the Western Conference. And while I would expect the games at Phoenix and Indiana are immanently winnable. the one at Milwaukee is going to be difficult.

But then, of course, Portland comes home to play 10 of its next 11 games in Moda Center -- with many of those games against teams not figured as playoff teams. The caliber of opposition in the first month and a half of the season, in fact, is for the most part, not strong. The Trail Blazers should be off to an impressive record at the opening of the season and with a young team, that's always important. If Portland comes out of the exhibition season healthy and ready, there's a real chance of impressive early season success.

There is no doubt that playing well early is mandatory because the schedule gets tougher from there. At some point, you have to start playing the powers of the Western Conference.

And then there's the end of the season. I don't think there was any doubt that the Trail Blazers profited from their season-ending schedule last year, when 10 of the final 12 games were at home, including seven of the final eight. Well, if that was the case, you then have to say that the end of this season is going to be much more difficult.

Portland has seven of its last 10 and four of its final five on the road. Against the likes of Houston, San Antonio and Denver. I think it would be better if some of those early home games were saved for the end of the season.

Now while there is always the possibility that some of the league's best teams will have playoff seeding already wrapped up and will be resting players, I don't think ending a season primarily on the road is a good thing. Obviously.

In fact, I don't consider this schedule very favorable. But so what?

You play the schedule they give you and if you're good enough, it really doesn't matter. And this season, that means opening the season ready to go at a high level.

 

Trail Blazers announce 2017-18 schedule

Trail Blazers announce 2017-18 schedule

It’s almost time for the basketball season to tipoff, and on Monday the NBA and the Trail Blazers released their full schedule.

Portland will start the season on the road, beginning a three game trip on October 18 in Phoenix.

The Blazers home opener is October 24th against the New Orleans Pelicans, and begins a stretch of games where the Blazers play 11 of 13 games at home.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the schedule:

-The Blazers have four home stands of four or more games: A four-game stand from October 24th-30, a six-game stand from November 2nd-15th, a four-game stand from November 30 – December 9th, and a five-game stand from March 6th-17th.

-The Blazers have just two five-game roads trips:  November 20th-27th, and December 11th-18th.

- The Blazers will play 15 back-to-backs, eight of them with both games being played on the road.

- Eleven games will be nationally televised, eight of which are home games.

CSN will carry a full slate of non-nationally televised game.

The full schedule is as follows (all times listed are local tipoff times, NOT Pacific Time)

Trail Blazers sign guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way contract

Trail Blazers sign guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way contract

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug. 9, 2017)The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

Wilcox (6-5, 200) holds career NBA averages of 2.0 points (37.0% FG, 33.3% 3-PT, 81.3% FT), 0.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 5.7 minutes in 66 games over three seasons with the LA Clippers and Orlando Magic.

With the introduction of two-way contracts, NBA rosters have grown from 15 spots to 17, adding a pair of two-way players that can spend up to 45 days on an NBA roster and the remaining time on an NBA G League roster. Wilcox’s G League assignment has yet to be determined.

Originally drafted with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Clippers,

Wilcox, 26, has spent parts of each season on an NBA G League roster, posting averages of 16.9 points (47.3% FG, 42.2% 3-PT, 79.2% FT), 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30 games (19 starts) with Fort Wayne, Bakersfield, Canton and Erie.

Trail Blazers sign guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way deal

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Trail Blazers sign guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way deal

Some late summer news for the Trail Blazers who have signed 6'5'' guard CJ Wilcox to a two-way deal according to Adrian Wojnarowski:

The 2017-2018 season is the first year of the two-way contract for the NBA. Players can spend up to 45 days in the NBA and the rest on a G League team. 

During a players' G League stint they will earn $75,000 and while in the NBA they make a prorated daily amount at the rookie minimum (which is in the ball park of $816,000 for a season). 

You can read more on the two-way contracts in this SB Nation story. 

Trail Blazers announce 2017 NBA preseason schedule

Trail Blazers announce 2017 NBA preseason schedule

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 1, 2017) – The Portland Trail Blazers have announced their NBA preseason schedule today, featuring three contests at the Moda Center. The six-game slate includes a visit by Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Super League on Friday, October 13 (7 p.m.)

Portland will open the preseason schedule with two home games, hosting the Phoenix Suns at the Moda Center on Tuesday, October 3 (7 p.m.) and the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, October 5 (7 p.m.). The Trail Blazers will then play three road games, beginning with back-to-back contests against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, October 8 (12:30 p.m.) and the Sacramento Kings on Monday, October 9 (7 p.m.). Portland will conclude the road portion of the preseason schedule against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, October 11 (7 p.m.).

The Trail Blazers will close the preseason on Friday, October 13 at the Moda Center with an international matchup against Maccabi Haifa. Maccabi Haifa returns to Portland for the second time, having previously played the Trail Blazers in the 2014 preseason. Also referred to as the “Greens”, Maccabi Haifa is one of the original eight teams in the Israeli Basketball Super League and finished the 2016-17 season as the runners-up for the league championship.

All six Trail Blazers preseason contests will be aired on the Trail Blazers Radio Network - 620 AM Rip City Radio.

 

Blazers: Crabbe deal is a gain... but is another trade on the way?

Blazers: Crabbe deal is a gain... but is another trade on the way?

According to ESPN, the Trail Blazers have traded Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn for forward Andrew Nicholson, then plan to waive Nicholson and will stretch Nicholson's contract.

The move lowers Portland's luxury tax bill by about $44 million, according to sources, and creates a $12.9 million trade exception that will be available for one year.

But the money side of this is only half the story. Portland parts ways with Crabbe and I can't say that's a bad move.

To me, Crabbe was the epitome of a good shooter but not a good player. For the most part, he disappeared in key times, had trouble defensively and was not a good passer. His contract was too large and it's ironic Portland traded him to the team that gave him that deal in the first place.

I believe this trade is a precursor to some other move or moves. The Blazers now have more flexibility. As I said earlier today, I still do not see any three-way deal with Houston on the horizon. Whatever is going on doesn't have anything to do with that proposed trade.

 

Blazers trade Allen Crabbe to the Nets

Blazers trade Allen Crabbe to the Nets

The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, swapping Allen Crabbe for Andrew Nicholson, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Blazers intend to waive Nicholson and stretch his salary to help create some cap relief.

In waiving Nicholson and stretching his contract, the Blazers will take just a $2.8 million cap hit over the next seven seasons.

For Brooklyn, they finally got their man. The Nets offered Crabbe a 4-year, $75-million offer last off-season, only to see the Blazers match the deal. 

Crabbe had been speculated in many trade scenarios, but a trade kicker in his contract made him hard to offload. However, Crabbe intends to waive his kicker, worth an extra $5.7 million, for the Nets. 

For the Blazers, they finally get to shed one of their bloated contracts and move closer to creating some cap flexibility. According to Bobby Marks, the Blazers luxury tax bill drops from $48.3 million to just $4.4 million with Crabbe off the books.

The Blazers need to create as much cap space as possible if they hope to retain 2018 free agent Jusuf Nurkic, and this move helps them do just that. The trade also creates a $12.9 million trade exception for the Blazers that expires next summer.

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OFFICIAL RELEASE FROM TEAM: 

The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired forward Andrew Nicholson from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for guard Allen Crabbe, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

“Allen has been a model teammate on the court and ambassador for the organization off the court,” said Olshey.  “He will be missed by all of us who shared the last four seasons with him. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his career in Brooklyn.”

Nicholson, 27, has averages of 6.0 points (46.7% FG, 32.1% 3-PT, 77.3% FT), 3.0 rebounds and 0.4 rebounds in 285 games (36 starts) over five seasons with Orlando, Washington and Brooklyn.

Selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of St. Bonaventure, Nicholson (6-9, 250) split the 2016-17 season with Washington and Brooklyn, posting averages of 2.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 9.0 minutes in 38 games.

Crabbe holds career averages of 8.3 points (45.6% FG, 41.1% 3-PT, 84.8% FT), 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 226 games (24 starts) over four seasons with the Trail Blazers. Acquired in a 2013 NBA Draft day trade with Cleveland, Crabbe ranks third among all-time franchise leaders with a career 41.1% mark from three-point range (minimum 100 3-pointers).

Follow us on Twitter and stay tuned to CSNNW for all the latest information. 

 

Can we please just forget all about that Melo/Ryan Anderson deal? It's dead

Can we please just forget all about that Melo/Ryan Anderson deal? It's dead

OK, enough is enough. Social media not only breaks stories but it perpetuates them. Ad nauseam.

Such is the case with that three-team-trade rumor that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to Houston and Ryan Anderson to Portland, among other things. It's still a topic of conversation on Twitter and elsewhere even though it's very clear that the whole thing is dead.

I've said this from the beginning -- I don't think Portland was interested in adding Anderson to its roster and I'm real certain the Trail Blazers didn't want any part of his nasty contract. And then when it became known that Portland wanted Anthony and wasn't interested in helping Houston get better, that should have ended the discussion.

Read this one more time -- the Trail Blazers are NOT interested in helping the Rockets get better. It would make sense that Neil Olshey has no interest in being the guy who helped the Rockets get to the Western Conference finals. And I don't think that's something he's going to change his mind about.

I still think Portland will make some sort of deal prior to training camp. Seems to me that moving the decision date on Pat Connaughton's contract option was a signal that there is still an opportunity for something to happen. The Trail Blazers still have a chance to use Connaughton in a deal, perhaps, or pick up his option and keep him after roster space is cleared by some other trade.

But until something else happens, can we just put the whole Houston/Ryan Anderson thing to rest?

It's over.