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


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.’’ 


Damian Lillard: The Mind that Moves the Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard: The Mind that Moves the Trail Blazers

The night before the Trail Blazers would hold their first practice of the season, the team held a dinner at The Foundry on the shores of Lake Oswego, when a player asked to have the floor.

Not surprisingly, the player was Damian Lillard.

And not surprisingly, the team captain delivered a message that lasted well after the fish and chicken dishes were digested.

This was not a team with players who needed motivation, and it was not a team that encouraged rah-rah speeches. But when Lillard stood, the room came to attention.

“When you have respect from grown men, let alone millionaires, that’s a lot. You know what I mean?’’ Ed Davis said. “And he has that respect. So when he talks, everybody listens.’’

What they heard from Lillard set the tone for the upcoming season.

The Blazers’ minds, Lillard told his teammates, had to change.

No longer should the Blazers be the cute story of culture and chemistry. No longer should close losses to top teams be acceptable. And the 44 wins that was good enough for the fifth playoff seed last season? The West won’t be that easy this season.

“What we did last season was really hard,’’ Lillard reminded. “But the fact is, that’s just not good enough no more.’’

This team, he said, should expect to win every game. This team should expect to be better than last season. But it would be even harder than it was last year.

It was a calculated message, one that he felt needed to be delivered before the first practice in order to firmly establish there would be no easing into the season, no figuring things out on the run.

Truth is, his message was spoken partially out of fear. Ever since May when the team flew back to Portland after Golden State eliminated the Blazers in the second round, he harbored uneasy feelings. A part of him didn’t like the exhale of accomplishment the team felt after a 44-win season. He worried whether there were “too many pats on the back” being doled out after the series loss to the Warriors.

So on the first official day of the season, Lillard challenged his teammates. Everything we do, Lillard told them, has to be taken to the next level. Practices. Film sessions. Workouts.

Expectations had changed, he reminded, and simply matching last season would not be good enough.

“It starts in our mind,’’ Lillard said. “However far we want to go, it has to be in your mind first.’’

It wasn’t quite the “Us versus Everybody” fire-and-brimstone speech he delivered in the Los Angeles locker room that spurred their underdog season a year ago, but to his teammates in the audience, it cut a sharp edge to the season’s start.

“I think the things he has said internally, and the way he has played (in preseason) has really set the tone for our mentality and how we are approaching this season,’’ Mason Plumlee said. “Last year was ‘Let’s get better day-by-day’ – and that’s still part of us and what we are going to do – but now we are out to win every game. There is not a team we can’t beat. That’s how we are going to approach the season.’’

By the time the team left that night, the players’ minds didn’t so much change as much as they came into focus.

“He got us back into that mindset that we have to be ready to play, and teams are going to be coming after us,’’ CJ McCollum said. “And, that nothing is going to be easy.’’

If the night showed anything, it was that for all the strengths of the Blazers roster – depth, versatility, chemistry – their greatest asset still might be Lillard and his leadership.

He has a way with these men that is easy yet powerful, for he doesn’t just stir the fire in their belly, he moves their minds. They think not of themselves, but of the team. They think not of expectations, but what is beyond. And they think not what could happen, but what will happen.

On the surface, it may seem natural that a team’s best player is its most forceful leader. But behind the scenes, Lillard’s ascension was years in the making.

Before Lillard could be the mind that moved the Blazers, his own mind had to be trained to become a leader.

And the first step was getting him to speak.


Before Lillard’s first practice with the Blazers in the fall of 2012, assistant coach David Vanterpool watched the rookie play pickup games.

He noticed a startling trait from the No. 6 overall pick: he never opened his mouth.

So Vanterpool stopped the game and made a rule: Lillard was not allowed to cross halfcourt until he said 10 words. They could be about an offensive play, or a defensive coverage, or they could be flavors from Wing Stop. It didn’t matter. Vanterpool wanted Lillard to talk.

“I always think back to rookie year … he said ‘You are too quiet to be the point guard,’’’ Lillard said.

At first, Lillard struggled to find enough words to get passage past halfcourt, but soon he was blurting out about providing help defense, and about the need to get back in transition.

It would become the first of many exercises Vanterpool would employ in addressing what became their mantra: Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

They would practice shooting off the wrong leg. They would play 1-on-1 where Vanterpool had free reign to foul him, and Lillard wasn’t allowed to complain. They would complete grueling workout sessions where quitting wasn’t an option. And they would study film, noting not just Lillard’s  assignments, but also the responsibilities of each teammate.

“He was constantly in my ear, holding me accountable for every little thing,’’ Lillard said. “He has forced me to be a leader and to do uncomfortable things over the course of my career, and now I understand it. I see the value in it.’’

The maniacal workouts were established so he could have room to tell the next guy to work harder. And the film study provided a base in knowing how and when to direct players on the court. Meanwhile, Vanterpool would level harsh criticism to both ground Lillard and harden him.

“I would say something to him about every little thing,’’ Vanterpool said. “And he accepted the criticism. He never wavered.’’

Still, even as Lillard’s game flourished, he remained mostly muted.


In 2014, the Blazers locker room was a delicate landscape for a second-year player to navigate.

LaMarcus Aldridge was the designated leader, but he chose to lead with his play more than his mouth or his heart. Wesley Matthews was the heart and soul of the team, a brash, emotional veteran who often reminded that the right to speak was earned rather than given.  And Nicolas Batum was an accomplished player who was content to stay in the shadows.

“I tried to encourage him to say more while (the veterans) were here, but there were sensitivity things going on,’’ Vanterpool said. “It was just tougher for him. But you could see that whole time that he was preparing for what he would say in each situation.’’

Vanterpool knew he had a student on his hands, so he presented Lillard with the classic “The Art of War” in hopes the book would resonate.

Although Lillard said he was able to only read parts of the book, he was drawn to the chapters on leadership and controlling the environment around you.  He found that no matter how much he read, or how much he worked with Vanterpool, leading was difficult and sensitive.

The most difficult part?

“Standing up to people,’’ Lillard said. “For example, Wes would run ahead and Wes would get mad, and I would have to learn how to be in control of that situation. Instead of it being us going back and forth, I had to control and manipulate the situation. Like ‘My bad; I’ve got you … but the next time, maybe you could do this  … ‘ kind of nurse the situation. That was uncomfortable. Wes had been in the league way longer than me, I don’t want to step on people’s toes … but I had to learn to confront those situations.’’

Soon, Lillard would make his breakthrough. Near the end of his second season the Blazers were on their way to winning 54 games, but in March they were caught in a four-game spiral where they couldn’t finish games.

After the fourth straight loss, in San Antonio, the locker room was silent after coach Terry Stotts finished his postgame address until two words came from the stall of Lillard: “Hold on.’’

Before he spoke, Lillard thought about what he was about to do. He thought about Vanterpool’s lessons in being comfortable being uncomfortable. And here he was, thrusting himself into an uncomfortable situation with one question to answer.

“Do I care about guys’ feelings or do I care about what’s good for the team?’’ Lillard remembered thinking. “So I just kind of went out and said what I had to say.’’

The team has kept what Lillard said that night private, but by all accounts it was an impassioned speech about caring and sticking together. It was  a watershed moment for Lillard, and really, the franchise. Lillard felt freed of holding everything in, and the Blazers knew they had a special leader who was beginning to blossom.

“It was big in me being able to come forward as a leader because (the veterans) respected it, it wasn’t like people tried to go at me,’’ Lillard said. “They respected what I said and going forward I felt comfortable saying more and putting myself out there more.’’

A year and a half later, Aldridge left in free agency, beginning a dismantling of the veteran core. The rebuild was built on the foundation that Lillard would lead not only on the court, but off it.

“We had been preparing for the time it became his team,’’ Vanterpool said. “And halfway through his second season, I felt it could be his team, even if all those guys stayed because guys just wanted to follow him.

“And as soon as that door opened it was like he knew exactly what to say, he knew how to say it, when to say it,’’ Vanterpool said. “He knew how to pick one guy up while kicking him in the behind and how to pick another guy up at the same time by patting him on the back. He understood all of that.’’


Lillard’s leadership this season didn’t end with that dinner on the shores of Lake Oswego last month.

His play has been exceptional, with games of 30 and 27 points in the preseason, and his ability to gauge the mood of the team unmatched.

He approached newcomer Evan Turner after he sensed Turner was pressing and told the veteran to be himself and let the team adjust to him rather than him adjust to the team. And he continues to set the bar for work ethic, always the first to arrive for practice, and always one of the hardest and longest workers after practice.

But more than anything, he is the pulse of the team.

 “I’ve seen him grab individuals when he sees slippage, or sees someone fall into a bad spot, and he’s like ‘Look that’s not the how we do it here, we have to do it this way because this is where we are going,’’’ Vanterpool said. “He grabs anybody going from the wayside and doesn’t let them get too far. He keeps them close to the group so we can keep moving in a forward direction. And everybody has taken to him. Everybody has definitely taken to him.’’

It’s time to put a bow on the preseason: Blazers at Warriors on CSN

It’s time to put a bow on the preseason: Blazers at Warriors on CSN

Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors

The Trail Blazers (4-2) finish the preseason with a final game on the road to face the Golden Sate Warriors (5-1) on Friday night.  Golden State is coming off a 123-112 win over the Lakers on Wednesday night.  Steph Curry led the way with 32 points in the victory.  As for the Blazers, Portland also got a win on Wednesday night.  The Blazer beat the Jazz in Utah, 88-84.  Damian Lillard finished the night with 27 points to lead the way for the Blazers.    

Of course, the big news this offseason was the free agent move of Kevin Durrant heading to Golden State.   During this preseason, Durrant is averaging just under 20 points per game and nearly five rebounds per game.

Here’s a quick look at the other offseason moves for the Warriors-

Other new additions beside KD: C Damian Jones (pick No. 30), SG Patrick McCaw (pick No. 38), SF Kevin Durant (signed a two year, $54 million deal), PF David West (signed a one year, $1.5 million deal), C Zaza Pachulia (signed a one year, $3 million deal)

Who left the bay: PF Marreese Speights (signed with the Clippers), SF Harrison Barnes (signed with the Mavericks), SG Brandon Rush (signed with the Timberwolves), C Festus Ezeli (signed with the Blazers), SG Leandro Barbosa (signed with the Suns), C Andrew Bogut (traded to the Mavericks)

Resigned with the Warriors: C Anderson Varejao (signed a one year, $1.5 million deal), SG Ian Clark (signed a one year, $1 million deal), PF James Michael McAdoo (signed a one year, $1 million deal)


You can catch all the action between the Blazers and Warriors live on CSN.  We will set the stage for Friday’s game with Rip City Live on CSN and The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 6:30pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW.



Quick Links:

Damian Lillard’s excellent preseason continues for Trail Blazers

Evan Turner takes advice from Lillard, has most effective preseason game

Mason Plumlee and the pursuit of a tripe-double: Question of when, not if it happens


Video: McCollum: “We’ve shown we’re ready”

Video: Lillard’s advice to Turner, bold prediction about Plumlee

Video: Harkless steals the show in Plumlee’s postgame interview



Game Details:

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland CA

Television: CSN, 7:30pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (6:30pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 6:30pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Podcast: Dwight Jaynes with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum


Podcast: Dwight Jaynes with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum

This week's podcasts features the Trail Blazers backcourt duo. It's a great listen.

Be sure to check back every week for a new podcast. Past episodes have included guests such as Kevin Calabro, Mike Parker, Festus Ezeli, Darwin Barney, and more.

You can subscribe on iTunes right here: itun.es/us/1QFHeb.c

Damian Lillard's excellent preseason continues for Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard's excellent preseason continues for Trail Blazers

SALT LAKE CITY – If anything can be said with confidence after this Trail Blazers preseason, it is this: Damian Lillard is headed for another standout season.

The latest assurance came Wednesday in Salt Lake City when Lillard put on a show during the Blazers’ 88-84 victory over Utah.

Amid oohs and aahs from the Vivint Arena crowd, Lillard had 27 points in 28 minutes while making 11-of-16 shots. If he wasn’t aggressively driving for layins, he was stroking from the outside. All the while, he seemed to be surgically picking apart the vaunted Jazz defense with an overall vision of the court and precision passing on pick-and-rolls with Mason Plumlee.

“Tonight he had 27 points, but it was Chris Paul-esque the way he controlled the game,’’ said Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, who works extensively with Lillard. “The game happened the way he wanted it to happen. It’s been a process in getting him to have that kind of vision, but he has it.’’

Lillard this preseason is averaging 19 points in 25 minutes while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three-point range.

Throughout the preseason, Lillard has remarked how the game has slowed down for him, allowing him to both anticipate and identify defenses. Combined with his ramped up shooting routine, which he continues to exercise after practices and before games, Lillard is playing with an even greater confidence than his previous four seasons.

But perhaps most important, Lillard says, is his feet are pain free after enduring a nagging bout with plantar fasciitis last season. The foot injury, which originated in his left heel, surfaced in December, forcing him to miss seven games and play the rest of the season hindered.

“My feet haven’t been healthy since December,’’ Lillard said Wednesday in explaining his explosion off the dribble and rise with his jumper. “I feel good. I couldn’t even run full speed and jump in the playoffs. Now that I finally have my feet under me and it’s pain free, it makes a difference. I can blow by people any time, and I can go full speed and raise up and shoot a jumper. Those are things that were taken away from me.’’

Earlier this preseason, Lillard said he wants to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award this season. It has always been a goal of his, but he says this season, with this team, he feels he has a legitimate shot.

If the preseason is any indication, he might very well be a candidate.

“The way he has played this preseason has really set the tone for our mentality and how we are approaching this season,’’ center Mason Plumlee said.

Evan Turner takes advice from Lillard, has most effective preseason game

Evan Turner takes advice from Lillard, has most effective preseason game

SALT LAKE CITY – The final statistics Wednesday showed Damian Lillard had two assists in 28 minutes, but pardon the official scorer for missing his most important assist: a bit of advice that helped free Evan Turner from the struggle of this preseason.

After Turner scuffled his way through Sunday’s preseason game against Denver, Lillard pulled aside the Blazers’ big offseason acquisition and told him to stop worrying about pleasing everyone. Stop worrying about fitting in. Just play basketball.

It seemed to work on Wednesday, when Turner played his best game since joining the Blazers, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes in the Blazers’ 88-84 exhibition win over Utah.

Afterward, Turner exhaled at his locker, muttering “It’s about g*$ damn time” before acknowledging his talk with Lillard on Sunday.

“That definitely helped for sure,’’ Turner said of his conversation with the Blazers’ captain. “I’ve heard that a few times from Coach. My biggest thing: you come in and you want to fit in, get the lay of the land. But last game, Dame came in and said ‘Be who you are and do you. That’s why we got you.’ That’s a big deal.’’

The most noticeable difference in Turner on Wednesday was his aggression. He actively looked for his shot, usually using a crossover dribble to create space for a mid-range jumper near the free throw line. Other times he freed himself for a baseline jumper and he made his only three-point shot, a swish after Lillard penetrated and kicked to him on the wing . After a 1-for-5 start, Turner finished by making five of his next eight.

Turner came into the game shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 2-for-9 from three-point range.

“Obviously it feels 10 times better when shots go in,’’ Turner said.

Wednesday was also the best example of Turner’s play-making skills that were touted when the Blazers signed him to a four-year, $70 million free agent deal.

He made a nice bounce pass inside that resulted in a layin from CJ McCollum, and later he found Allen Crabbe underneath the basket for an easy layin. He also looked more comfortable taking the reins of the offense when he played alongside Lillard and/or McCollum, taking the initiative to bring the ball up without first looking to the Blazers’ stars.

“I think he is getting better every game,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “He is going to find his spots and find out what works well for him in the context of our team. Tonight I think he found his shot, found his rhythm, found his spots.’’

It’s not like many were surprised. Lillard said Turner has played well in practices, but he noticed it wasn’t translating to games. That’s what spurred his talk after Sunday’s game.

“Last game I told him, ‘Don’t worry about what this person thinks, or what that person is saying. We want you to play. You are a play-maker, and you can score the ball, so when you get a rebound and you get an outlet, go attack. Go and play off your instincts. That’s what you do well, that’s what you do well in practice. We want you to do that in a game, so we can adjust to what you do and learn that way instead of you trying to get used to us the whole time. We have to get used to you, too,’’’ Lillard said.

Lillard said Turner listened to him and absorbed the message.

“He said, ‘All right’ … and tonight I could tell he kind of had his mind set on being aggressive and being himself,’’ Lillard said. “And he looked good doing it.’’

Mason Plumlee and the pursuit of a triple-double: Question of when, not if it happens

Mason Plumlee and the pursuit of a triple-double: Question of when, not if it happens

SALT LAKE CITY – The growing question among the Trail Blazers is not whether center Mason Plumlee will record a triple-double this season, but how many.

“Oh, I can see him getting a lot of them,’’ Damian Lillard said Wednesday after Plumlee had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes in the Blazers’ 88-84 exhibition win at Utah.

Two developments have led teammates to predict the esteemed accomplishment of recording double-figures in three categories.

First, Plumlee has developed a mid-range jump shot, which this preseason has graduated from offseason experiment to a legitimate part of his arsenal.

“It’s for real,’’ coach Terry Stotts said matter-of-factly Wednesday after Plumlee hit two mid-range jumpers against the Jazz.

Second, the Blazers have added new offensive sets this season that will more often feature him in play-making positions. The new role builds off his effective playoffs, when he helped pick apart the Clippers with his athleticism, decision-making and passing.

Lillard says he sees Plumlee’s evolution in the Blazers’ offense having the potential to produce results like Draymond Green recorded last season with Golden State, when he led the league with 13 triple-doubles.

“A lot of our new sets that we’ve put in, where we are moving the ball around, a lot of times we are putting the ball in his hands to make a play,’’ Lillard said. “It’s kind of what Golden State does with Draymond Green. He gets a lot of assists getting the ball in the middle of the defense and making that decision. Mase is really good at it, so I could see him getting a bunch of them this year.’’

Last season, Plumlee rarely flirted with a triple double, in part because he scored in double figures in only 37 of the 82 games. The closest he came was in January  at Washington, when he had 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The seven assists was a career high at the time, later eclipsed by a 10-assist game against the Clippers in the playoffs.

But now, with the added jump shot, and his growing role in the Blazers’ attack, Plumlee admits a triple-double is something of a goal.

“I would love to have triple doubles because that just means you are playing a complete game, getting everyone involved,’’ Plumlee said Wednesday. “A lot of it is guys hitting shots, four of the five assists in first half were guys hitting threes … so it means guys are shooting the ball well.’’

The last Blazers player to record a triple double is Nicolas Batum, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists against Orlando in January of 2014, a drought that players believe Plumlee will end this season.

“He will definitely get some triple doubles this year, for sure,’’ CJ McCollum said. “He is good at everything – pass, rebound, obviously scoring -- you can see the jump shot coming along. He has really good basketball IQ, and as the season comes along we are going to put him in positions to where he is going to be utilized heavily and take great advantage of it.’’


Trail Blazers look in regular-season form in victory over Utah

Trail Blazers look in regular-season form in victory over Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- If there was ever any worries about the Trail Blazers during this preseason, they should be put to rest after Wednesday's exhibition game at Utah. 

With a silky shooting display from Damian Lillard, an all-around game from Mason Plumlee and an encouraging performance from Evan Turner, the Blazers looked as polished and ready as they have all preseason during an 88-84 victory over the Jazz. The Blazers open the regular season against the Jazz on Oct. 25 in Portland.

For the first three quarters, coach Terry Stotts used nine players -- the starting lineup of Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Plumlee -- along with Allen Crabbe, Turner, Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh as the Blazers took a 72-60 lead. It is expected to be the starting lineup and similar to the regular season rotation, although Meyers Leonard (back) and Festus Ezeli (knee) were not available Wednesday.

Although the Jazz came back against many of the players at the end of the Blazers' bench, it was a night when the Blazers' regulars could boast they are ready for the regular season to start. 

Lillard was electric, scoring 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, which included hitting 4-of-6 three pointers. At times, he had the Vivint Arena crowd oohing and aahing with his combination of hard drives and smooth jumpers. 

Plumlee, meanwhile, was seemingly in the middle of everything. He had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and displayed his main offseason addition - a mid-range jumper, which he made twice while Jazz center Rudy Gobert sagged off him in the lane. 

But perhaps the most encouraging sign Wednesday was the play of Turner, the Blazers' big offseason addition who has struggled with plays and his confidence as he acclimates to his new team. On Wednesday, Turner was assertive in looking for his shot, often using quick crossover dribbles to create space for a mid-range jumper, and he was confident in initiating the offense, at one point threading a pretty bounce pass in the lane to McCollum for a layin. He also hit his only three-point attempt off a penetrate-and-kick pass from Lillard.  Although he still struggled with some ball-handling turnovers, it was Turner's best game since joining the team. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting while adding seven rebounds and two assists. 

Vonleh was also a bright spot, even though his four points and five rebounds don't jump off the statistic sheet. He twice scored inside on post ups, one with his left hand the other with the right, and used a between-the-legs dribble to set up his inside position for one of the shots. He also blocked a layin attempt and looked like he belonged as he played with the front line unit. 

The Jazz (3-3), who played without Derrick Favors (knee bruise), Gordon Hayward (broken finger) and Alec Burks (knee rehab), got 16 points from new point guard George Hill and 15 points, 5 rebounds and three blocks from Gobert. 

Despite early shooting woes, Blazers up 8 at the half

Despite early shooting woes, Blazers up 8 at the half

The Portland Trail Blazers started off its second to last preseason game going 3-11 from the field against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.  

To end the first quarter, the Blazers and Jazz were all tied up at 16 apiece. Portland shot 35% as a team in the first, while Utah shot 31.8% from the field.

The shooting struggles continued into the second quarter for both teams.  Three minutes into the second quarter both teams shot a combined 18-of-58.   Portland went 19-for-44 from the field to finish the half.  Utah went 15-for-43.  

At the break, the Blazers are up 47-39. 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points: Damian Lillard, 17

Rebounds: Mason Plumlee, 7

Assist: Mason Plumlee, 5


Points:  Rudy Gobert and George Hill, 11

Rebounds: George Hill, 6

Assist:  Boris Diaw, 4

Following tonight’s game, you can check out The Scoop Postgame show streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW.

The countdown is on: Two preseason games to go as Blazers hit the road

The countdown is on: Two preseason games to go as Blazers hit the road

Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz


It was back on October 3rd when the Trail Blazers (3-2) opened this 2016-17 preseason schedule hosting the Utah Jazz (3-2).  The two teams now face off in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.   

Portland took the first preseason game against Utah, 98-89.  Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers with 16 points.  It was Gordan Hayward to lead the charge for Utah with 17 points.  

The Blazers and Jazz will meet again next week on Tuesday, October 25th when both teams open the regular season.     


So what did the Jazz do in the offseason?

Here are the additions to Utah’s rosterPF Joe Bolomboy (draft pick No. 52), PG Marcus Paige (draft pick No. 55); SG Tyrone Wallace (draft pick No. 60), PG George Hill (traded from the Indiana Pacers), PF Boris Diaw (traded from the San Antonio Spurs), SG Joe Johnson (signed a two year, $22 million deal)

Who is no longer on the Jazz roster: PF Trevor Booker (signed with the Brooklyn Nets), PG Trey Burke (traded to the Washington Wizards)


The Blazers’ exhibition season wraps up with the game in Utah on Wednesday and then a final preseason contest on Friday at Golden State.   

We will set the stage for the Blazers and Jazz game on The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 5:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW.



Quick Links:

Trail Blazers notebook: Blazers change stance on anthem; Turner emerges as top inbounder

With two preseason games left, Trail Blazers settling in on lineup, rotation

Trail Blazers lose, but may have settled on starting lineup


Video:  Why Evan Turner has earned assignment as Blazers inbounder

Video: Lillard ready to log more minutes

Video: Game On: A benefit for the Trail Blazers Foundation

Video: Highlights: Blazers fall at home to Denver



Game Details:

Where: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City Utah

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620