Stotts early favorite for Coach of the Year? His players think so and they could be right


Stotts early favorite for Coach of the Year? His players think so and they could be right

Tualatin, Ore. – Most didn't expect the Portland Trail Blazers to be a team in contention this soon. It was suppose to be a retooling period, but so far, it's been anything but that.

You can credit LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, JJ Hickson or the top rookie thus far in Damian Lillard for the recent success the Trail Blazers are experiencing at the moment.

And rightfully so. Each player has played an integral role in why the Trail Blazers are four games above .500 and why they are currently sitting in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings.

But let us not forget who has made these pieces fit...Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts. And according to his players, he should be a serious early Coach of the Year candidate.

“I definitely think he is [an early Coach of the Year candidate] because of the way he handles our team,” Lillard said. “What everybody expected from us, it wasn't this. I can remember when people were saying 'We don't expect much' and 'It's going to be a rough year,' and in my head, I believed in our team and he did, too. As long as we continue on the same road as we are now, I think it's definitely a possibility he could win the award.”

It's been well documented what the Golden State Warriors have been able to accomplish under second-year Head Coach Mark Jackson. Last season the Warriors were 23-43 (lockout year). This season they are one win away (22-11) from surpassing that win total and are holding down the fifth spot in the Western Conference.
While not trying to take any credit away from Coach Jackson, Batum just wants everybody to keep in mind the differences between the Warriors and the Trail Blazers.

“Mark Jackson has the same team as last year. Our team is a totally different team,” Batum said. “We got a lot of young guys and people didn't expect us to be 19-15 in January and to be in the seventh and eighth spot after 34 games. You got to give credit to the coaching staff and Coach Stotts because he's doing a great job with us.”

The Trail Blazers have won 11 of their last 14 games and haven taken eight straight at the Rose Garden. They are 5-0 in overtime periods and in games decided by six or fewer points this season, they are an amazing 10-2. That speaks to the late in-game adjustments Stotts has made when the game calls for touch, quick, accurate decisions.

The Jan. 1 win over the New York Knicks was a prime example: Hickson was working on securing his 19th double-double of the season and was well on his way with 18 points (9-for-11 from the field) and nine rebounds. Stotts subbed him out the game to insert Jared Jeffries with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Luke Babbitt started the fourth and played the entire quarter at the four, moving Aldridge to the five to allow Babbitt's three-point presence to keep the court spread. Babbitt only went 1-for-3 from distance in that span, but Lillard, Aldridge, and Batum were able to maneuver in space because of No. 8.

Making the call to sit your starting center and best rebounder the last 17 minutes of a tight game is a bold move, and it's a move not too many coaches are willing to make in the NBA.

That's why this team is where they are now.

“A lot of it is feel, trust and sometimes it's just searching,” Stotts said. “That New York game in particular, JJ had a great first half. We built the lead with Luke in the game. I didn't want to screw it up. If you can find something that's working, you want to stick with it, but at the same time, you don't want to overplay your hand. It's a tough call, but those are some of the decisions you have to make as Head Coach.”

Not to mention that the Trail Blazers have a bench that is producing an NBA low 17.4 points per game. Yet still, Stotts is finding ways to make it work and win ball games.

“I would definitely say he should be Coach of the Year right now,” Aldridge said. “I think he has taken a bunch of pieces and he's meshed them together to put us in position to win every night and to put us in position to be in the playoffs right now. So he definitely deserves to be recognized for what he's done.”

Stotts says he was well aware what people were saying about this Trail Blazer squad when the roster was shaped and that didn't change his goal at all: The goal pf making the playoffs.

“Every situation that I've been in as a Head Coach or an assistant, you just try and do the best job that you can,” he said. “There's a lot of noise out there and one of the thing that you find out, that you have to coach your team and coach your players. Communication is important. You can't get caught up in all that [media talk}, good or bad. We want to make the playoffs. We can be a playoff team. We're not right now, but we can be.”

Despite the Trail Blazers impressive start, Stotts isn't content with where they are at the moment. He says their defense still needs to improve, the trust on offense could be better, and bringing it consistently on the road is a must.

However, he's happy with the progress his team has made from the beginning of the year.

“I'm pleased,” Stotts said. “I'm pleased with how we've comeback from a couple of four-game losing streaks. We had a bad road-trip and then we took advantage of our homestand. I'm pleased with the way we compete most nights and I'm pleased with our improvement. From day one, what I wanted from this team was to compete and to get better and build championship habits. I think we are doing that, we're not there yet, but I think we are doing that and that's the part that's most pleasing.”

As for the Coach of the Year talk, Stotts says that's no concern of his. His main focus is the improvement of this team and letting everything else play out.

“The record at the end of the season will be whatever it is, but as long as those big picture items are accomplished, that's all I'm concerned about,” Stotts said.

Practice Update:

LaMarcus Aldridge did not attend practice today. He was visiting the doctor about his right wrist that has been bothering him off and on this season.

Right now, Stotts doesn't know the severity.

"I don't know. Obviously it's bothering him so there's always concern. He's been playing with it. So hopefully it doesn't get worse and it gets better."

Update: X-rays came back negative and a MRI confirms right wrist sprain. Aldridge is probable for Thursday's game vs. Miami.

The Clippers gave the Trail Blazers a lesson Thursday night

The Clippers gave the Trail Blazers a lesson Thursday night

It was a fun game Thursday night in Moda Center. The LA Clippers are a unique team, capable of playing at a high level -- and aggravating at a high level, too. It's a shame that this game was their only appearance in Portland all season because Blazer-Clipper games always seem to have an edge to them.

The Clippers were too much for the Trail Blazers this time. I'm not saying Portland can't play at the Clippers' level, we know that's possible. But there isn't a big margin for error -- particularly when the Blazers lose their composure in the face of the usual flopping, whining and posturing by the Clips. But underneath all the histrionics, there are lessons to be learned from that game.

Yes, the Blazers can give LA a battle and even win sometimes. But it's going to take a lot better performance by Portland. For one thing, it's going to require much more consistent shooting, particularly from long range, to come out on top against the more talented and more physical teams in the league. The Trail Blazers open games with a small lineup and often get smaller as the game goes along. That comes with a price.

It's fine against run-of-the-mill teams but when you play against size and muscle, you better make three-point field goals because if it becomes a game of two-pointers the size and strength become much more of a factor. The Trail Blazers were 4-for-18 from three-point range in this game and that's just not going to cut it against the premier teams, which also happen to be among the most physical teams.

And I'm not necessarily talking about height, I'm talking about bulk, too. Mason Plumlee (255 pounds) and Al-Farouq Aminu (220) aren't necessarily short compared to Blake Griffin (251) and DeAndre Jordan (listed at 265 but come on, he's a grand piano heavier than Plumlee) -- but they're in a much different weight class.

Portland can play a bigger, more physical lineup but chose not to do it. Meyers Leonard -- whose outside shooting and physical defense on Jordan might have made a difference -- did not play. He's been beaten out, apparently, by Noah Vonleh for that rotation spot up front, at least temporarily. The Trail Blazer bench was annihilated by the LA reserves 45-20 and that was unexpected. But Portland's only three-point shooter off the bench, Allen Crabbe, missed his only two attempts from that distance. The Blazer reserves went 0-for-4 from long range and were outhustled.

Portland depth should be a a plus most nights but the lack of offense off the bench was a glaring weakness against LA. So was defense.

The Clippers manhandled Portland for much of the game -- which is what you'd expect, given their size advantage. You can say the officials had an off-night but the truism in basketball at every level is that the aggressive teams will get the calls. And the Trail Blazers' aggression usually comes from their ball movement and in-your-face three-point shooting, not from pushing people around. Again, when that shooting is not there, it's going to be an uphill battle.

For right now, the ball movement isn't as crisp as it's been in the past and Evan Turner, expected to be a key reserve, has not yet found his way in the Trail Blazer motion offense. In fact, at this point, he seems a bit mechanical, still a little tight with his new team and unable to relax and just play his game. But it's early and he'll probably figure it all out soon.

The Clippers can be so frustrating to play against and I'm pretty sure they get under the skin of every team they play. Coach Doc Rivers NEVER stops working the officials and I cannot understand how he gets away with the constant yapping at them, especially during timeouts when he directly approaches them. I've always thought that the opposing coach must match his level of discourse with the referees or there is the danger of Doc's team getting more calls than yours. Yes, it's nice to play Mr. Nice Guy with the refs and think that it will help, but I seldom see that approach work.

Squeaky wheels get greased.

The Trail Blazers need to keep their cool better the next time around against the Clips -- or against any other team they play. Flagrant fouls and technicals do no good. Retaliators always get caught and those who strike the first blow usually get away with it. And oh yes, better three-point shooting is a must.

Lessons learned, one would think.




This time, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers beat Portland

This time, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers beat Portland

It was intense, emotional and hotly contested, and in the end, it was a measure of revenge for the LA Clippers. 

Behind Blake Griffin's 27 points and 13 rebounds and another masterful court performance from Chris Paul (27 points, 5 assists), the Clippers beat the Blazers 114-106 on Thursday in a rematch of last season's first round playoff series. The two Clippers stars were injured and missed the final two games of the playoff series last season, when Portland won four straight to clinch the series in six games. 

The game featured two technicals and two flagrant fouls and was tied heading into the fourth quarter before the Clippers pulled away with a 14-1 run midway through the quarter that extended a 90-89 lead to 104-90.

Damian Lillard had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Maurice Harkless had 23 points and eight rebounds, the most points he's had since joining Portland last season.

The game was tied at 82 headed into the fourth quarter after the Blazers outscored the Clippers 33-24 in the third, thanks in part to a 10-0 start to the second half that was ignited by blocks from Mason Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu. But the Clippers countered by scoring the first six points of the fourth, then took control when Portland was called for flagrant fouls on Plumlee and CJ McCollum. 

Plumlee finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists and McCollum had 16 points. Meanwhile, new acquistion Evan Turner struggled with his shot (2-for-8) and had two unforced turnovers and was never a factor in the game. He is 3-for-15 on the season.

In a spirited first half, the Clippers built leads as large as 12 before settling for a 58-49 lead, thanks to the play of their two biggest stars - Paul and Griffin. The guard and forward played a two-man game for much of the half, with Griffin mixing jumpers and rebound dunks to the tune of 16 points and six rebounds while Paul had 12 points and three assists.

Lillard was sharp early, scoring 10 of Portland's first 24 points as the Blazers opened a 24-19 lead. But when he left with 1:39 left in the first quarter and Portland up 27-21, the offense went into hibernation and the Clippers went on a 16-0 run to take a 37-27 lead.

A big factor in the first half was foul trouble for the Blazers. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the Blazers' best defenders who was assigned to guard Blake Griffin, picked up two fouls and had to leave the game with 8:44 left in the first quarter. When he returned in the second quarter, he lasted only 2:37 before picking up his third foul.  Harkless and reserve center Ed Davis also picked up three fouls and had to go to the bench early. 

Next up: Blazers at Denver, 6 p.m. Saturday (CSN)

Another intense battle between the Blazers and Clippers, LA up 9 at half

Another intense battle between the Blazers and Clippers, LA up 9 at half

The Trail Blazers and Clippers tipped off from the Moda Center with the Moda Center crowd chanting “Beat LA.”

Midway through the first quarter, the Blazers held a 13-10 lead.  Mason Plumlee had a quick four points in the first quarter after picking up the first foul issued of the game.

Portland ended the first quarter shooting 50% as a team, while LA shot 47.8%.  The Clippers led 28-27 at the end of the first.  Damian Lillard scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first.

The Clippers started off hot in the second quarter.  LA won the second quarter, 30-22.

At halftime, the Clippers are up 58-49. 



Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points: Damian Lillard and Moe Harkless, 12

Rebounds: Mason Plumlee, 5

Assist: Mason Plumlee, 4



Points: Blake Griffin, 16

Rebounds: DeAndre Jordan, 7

Assist: Chris Paul, 3

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

Clippers start season vs. team that ended its season last year

Clippers start season vs. team that ended its season last year

Clippers vs. Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers (1-0) host the Los Angeles Clippers (0-0) at 7:30pm on Thursday night.  Portland opened the regular season beating the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, 113-104.  Damian Lillard started the regular season with a 39 point, 6 assist, and 9 rebound night against the Jazz.  Lillard led the team in all three of those categories on Tuesday.

As for the Clippers, LA has yet to play a regular season game.  In the preseason, the Clippers beat the Blazers, 109-108.  The Clippers went 3-3 in the exhibition season.

Many in the media have discussed how the Blazers and Clippers will be two teams battling for the third, fourth, or fifth spots in the Western Conference standings this season.  It was on April 29th, 2016 when the Blazers closed out its series against the Clippers and moved on into the Western Conference semifinals.  Portland beat LA, 106-103 in that sixth and final game of the series to take the first-round playoff series 4-2.   

We will set the stage for the Blazers and Clippers game on The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 6:30pm on on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Plus, you can check out a special hour-long Rip City Live on CSN starting at 6:30pm.

Quick Links:

Blazer opener: What did we see that is sustainable? And what isn’t?

Damian Lillard’s “secret” coach: Meet former Central Catholic standout Brian Barkdoll

Video:  Stotts talks matchup with LA Clippers

Video: Davis: Vonleh “more comfortable with himself”

Video: Lillard: Always a tough game against the Clippers

Video: Crabbe: “Feel like it’s a little rivalry” with Clippers



Game Details:

Where: Moda Center, Portland OR

Television: TNT, 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 The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Damian Lillard's 'secret' coach: Meet former Central Catholic standout Brian Barkdoll

Damian Lillard's 'secret' coach: Meet former Central Catholic standout Brian Barkdoll

After Damian Lillard scored 39 points Tuesday in the Trail Blazers’ season-opening win over Utah, he noted that summer workouts with a special, mystery coach played a role in his performance.

A large part of Lillard’s success Tuesday involved attacking the rim, and 7-foot-1 Utah center Rudy Gobert, who is among the NBA’s premier shot blockers.

Lillard went 7-for-8 at the rim, and he said some of his effectiveness could be traced back to his summer workouts, when the Blazers stationed what Lillard called a “huge” player/coach underneath the basket with the sole intention of blocking his shots.

“That’s my special secret,’’ Lillard said Tuesday night when pressed for the name and background of the coach. “I will tell you guys at a later date.’’

Turns out, the mystery coach might not be much of a mystery to Portlanders.

His name is Brian Barkdoll, a 27-year-old video assistant for the Blazers, who graduated from Central Catholic in 2007 after being named the MVP of the Mt. Hood Conference.

The Blazers would not make Barkdoll available to the media on Wednesday, even as he was among the last to the leave the practice courts after a session with Meyers Leonard.

Barkdoll is 6-foot-10 and about 260 pounds and played for Blazers assistants Dale Osbourne and Nate Tibbetts for the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League during the 2011-2012 season.

Barkdoll, who after Wednesday's practice had a sweat-soaked shirt, was unexpectedly if not mysteriously put into the spotlight Tuesday when Lillard was asked about his aggression in attacking Gobert during his 39-point performance.

“Over the summer, we got a guy working out with me every morning. He is huge,’’ Lillard said, adding that he estimated he was at 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9. “He blocked some of my shots. But the whole summer, I was finishing (at the rim) around him.’’

Over his career, Lillard has never struggled with beating his man off the dribble and getting to the rim. Finishing, however, has been an area he has worked to improve upon. This summer included.

“I walked in the gym one morning and (coaches) were about to grab the stick with the hand on it,’’ Lillard said Tuesday night.

But before they used that traditional method to simulate a big man, they looked at Barkdoll and pushed him into action.

“Me and CJ (McCollum) would do our regular workout, and he would be waiting at the rim,’’ Lillard said. “He didn’t have to guard or anything, he was just waiting there to try and block us. And there were a couple days where it wasn’t our day … he was getting it.’’

Lillard said his daily workouts with Barkdoll improved his body control and his ingenuity in creating shots off the backboard. Also, it helped his timing and how to best use angles.

“Knowing when to attack this way, and cross over the other way to turn his hips, cause when you turn the hips he can’t get off the ground as quick,’’ Lillard said. “Also, laying the ball up ‘off time’ … bigs are great at timing  your jump, so instead of me timing it perfect, I would do it off rhythm. Like when I get on the wrong leg, I would get the (ball) in the air.’’

Another skill he worked on was initiating the contact with Barkdoll. Lillard found that if he went into Barkdoll, it helps ground the big man.

All of it was on display Tuesday against one of the best in the NBA, thanks to some summer workouts with the old Central Catholic and Northwest Nazarene standout.

“You have to be crafty to get it around guys like Gobert,’’ Lillard said. “I was able to get to those spots and do it tonight.’’

Blazer opener: What did we see that is sustainable? And what isn't?

Blazer opener: What did we see that is sustainable? And what isn't?

Yes, it was just one game. The first of 81 to come. And you certainly don't want to overreact to just one game. But did we see anything Tuesday night in Moda Center that we can expect to continue? Maybe. Let's take stock:

  • Damian Lillard came to the rescue of the Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter. Is he going to have to do that often? Better hope not. Not that he isn't capable of it but it's a lot to ask. And if he needs to score 39 for Portland to win, it's going to be a difficult year. But he's primed for a monster season and I don't think there's any doubt about that. His ability to finish at the basket has taken a leap forward. If you can get to the basket, get to the foul line frequently and make threes, you're going to be a big-time scorer at any level. Lillard has arrived at that level.
  • The Trail Blazers had trouble with their defense through much of this game. Utah put Portland's guards in a blender in the first quarter, bouncing them off rapid-fire screens and it was effective. And the Jazz hit those mid-range jump shots Portland encourages. Early in the game, too many of those jumpers were uncontested. There is a sincere effort to improve the defense but it will take time. More shots must be contested.
  • When Portland went to small lineups, the Jazz -- to their credit, I believe -- stayed big. Center Rudy Gobert played more than 40 minutes, in fact. And more than most teams do, Utah made a real effort to post up smaller players. It will be interesting to see if other teams attempt to do that because the size did give the Trail Blazers' small lineup trouble on the boards and on defense.
  • Don't forget, by the way, that Utah played without Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, two critical starters, and acquitted itself very well considering those absences. Make no mistake, Utah is good.
  • The Portland bench is going to be a very big regular-season factor. That unit is going to be more potent than nearly every team Portland will play and have a big impact on results. As you know, that advantage isn't nearly as impactful in the playoffs, where starters often play much longer minutes and rotations are shortened.
  • Noah Vonleh? Still not sure. There's always been talent there but I want to see if he can sustain the confidence he seems to suddenly possess. Where did this come from? How did it happen? He's gone from a nonentity to being a force. And it happened suddenly. Can he sustain it? I'll need to see more of it to promise it's for real.

Moda Center electric in home opener, Blazers up 8 at the break

Moda Center electric in home opener, Blazers up 8 at the break

The Portland Trail Blazers tipped off the regular season with a home game against the Utah Jazz.  With Blazer fans receiving light up wristbands before the game, the energy and choreographed lighting filled the Moda Center with electricity.   

To end the first quarter, the Blazers and Jazz were all tied at 26 apiece.  Portland shot 52.6% as a team in the first quarter, while Utah shot 60%.

At the break, the Blazers are up 54-46.  Portland went 7-for-8 from three-point range to end the first half.  The Blazers ended up shooting 52.6% as a team.  As for the Jazz, Utah finished the half shooting 40%.


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points: Damian Lillard, 16

Rebounds: Damian Lillard, 4

Assist: Evan Turner, 5


Points: Rodney Hood, 15

Rebounds: Rudy Gobert, 6

Assist:  Shelvin Mack, 3

Following tonight’s game, you can check out Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  Or if you can’t get to a TV, catch The Scoop Postgame show streaming live at on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard starts his MVP campaign in style

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard starts his MVP campaign in style

Damian Lillard started his Most Valuable Player campaign in convincing fashion on Tuesday.

The Trail Blazers guard, who has said his goal this season is to win the MVP award, scored 39 points to lead the Blazers to a come-from-behind 113-104 victory over the Utah Jazz in the season opener for both teams. 

Lillard hit 13-of-20 shots and added nine rebounds and six assists and recorded the second most points by a Blazers player in a season opener.  Kiki Vandeweghe holds the franchise mark for an opener with 47 set in 1984.

The Blazers trailed 83-77 entering the fourth quarter after a disastrous third quarter when Utah scored 37 points behind the inspired play of 35-year-old veteran Joe Johnson. In his 16th NBA season, and first with the Jazz, Johnson scored 27 of his 29 points in the second half, including 15 in the third quarter.

But behind a closing unit that mostly featured Lillard, McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis, the Blazers over the final 6:29 turned a 94-91 deficit into a win that was iced when Lillard hit a three-pointer with 1:02 left that gave Portland a 109-102 lead. 

McCollum added 25 points, Crabbe 18 and Noah Vonleh 11. 

The Blazers extended their NBA record to 16 consecutive home opening victories, which dates back to 2001. 

Utah surged in the third quarter to take an 83-77 lead heading into the fourth quarter after outscoring Portland 37-23 in the third.

The Blazers made their first seven three-pointers and led by as many as 13 in the first half before settling for a 54-46 halftime lead. The final seconds of the half put a damper on the Blazers' performance as Lillard picked up his third foul in the open court with 0.7 seconds left, then Trey Lyles took an inbound and made a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Crabbe was a spark in the first half, scoring 10 points in his first 14 minutes, which included 2-of-2 from three-point range. He entered with Evan Turner, who was effective, but in a different way. Turner missed all four of his shots, but had five assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block as the duo helped turn a 17-15 deficit into a 43-37 lead by the time they left. 

The big surprise in the first half was Noah Vonleh, who not only entered in the first quarter, but was instrumental in keeping the Blazers close. The youngest player on the Blazers hit all three of his shots -- two 18-footers and a three-pointer -- and was a plus-10 in his eight minute shift. He helped offset a torrid start by Utah, which scored on eight of its first nine possessions while hitting its first five shots. 

Notes: With his first assist on the night, Lillard passed Jim Paxson for sixth on the franchise list. Lillard has 2,013 assists and needs 44 to tie Geoff Petrie for fifth. Terry Porter is the franchise leader with 5,319.  

Next up: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Thursday (TNT)

Blazers Behind The Locker Room Door, Part Two: Scenes of a team

Blazers Behind The Locker Room Door, Part Two: Scenes of a team

In Part One of the Blazers' Behind The Locker Room Door, some of the characters that make up the Trail Blazers were introduced. In Part Two, scenes and stories are revealed to show how the team dynamic is at work.


A Sunday laugh

One aspect of this Blazers team that sets it apart from other Blazers teams is how often, and how hard, and how as a group, they laugh.

The latest example came on Sunday, during the team’s penultimate practice before Tuesday’s season opener against Utah.

Coach Terry Stotts was adding a wrinkle to the team’s “Fist” defense, by implementing a “Black” element, the color indicating all five players would switch on pick-and-roll plays.

“So we are in practice, and coach says ‘Black Fist’,’’ Vonleh says.

Vonleh registered the call and realized it was what they worked on earlier. But as he prepares to pick up his assignments he hears laughter.

He looks to see Stotts, head bowed, with a fist raised in the air covered with a black glove, the same Black Power stance displayed by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics.

“We all lost it,’’ Vonleh said. “We were just dying.’’

It was Evan Turner’s first real exposure to Stotts’ humor and cleverness.

“Funny as hell,’’ Turner said. “He grabbed the little black glove … that was fun, cool. Coach is a good dude. I mean that right there, that’s a good dude. As I get older, what makes you a great coach is how you relate to people. Coach does a great job of letting us be who we are, but also holding us accountable. If he raises his voice, or calls BS on something, you know he’s not just talking.’’

Allen Crabbe says Sunday’s practice was not unusual when it comes to the group being lost in laughter. There have been film sessions and other practices where mishaps stop the action so everybody can laugh.

“Man, I laugh every day with this team,’’ Ed Davis said. “Every day. Over something … something in practice, something on the plane, it doesn’t matter. There’s always something.’’

The great thing about it, players say, is the coaches are often a part of it.

“Our coaches feel like they are part of the team,’’ Plumlee said. “Laughing is good for the soul.’’

A team that shares is a team that cares

Before the Trail Blazers opened training camp, Mason Plumlee knew he would like newcomer Evan Turner.

During the summer, he had played some pickup basketball with Turner in Portland, but the week before training camp started, the new teammates discovered they were both vacationing in Miami.

Both were scheduled to return to Portland the same day but each had a decidedly different route: Plumlee was being routed through Atlanta on a commercial flight; Turner was going direct on a private jet.

Turner found out about Plumlee’s flight and offered a seat on the private jet.

“There are only so many seats on those, and a little thing like that … man, that goes a long way,’’ Plumlee said. “Because if you’ve ever flown commercial from Miami to Portland … it’s not easy. That’s something nobody knows about, but it made an impact on me right away with Evan. It really showed a lot about him.’’

It wasn’t the only time this season a teammate offered private jet service. Last Saturday, the team had its last off day before the regular season after returning from a two city trip to Salt Lake City and Oakland.

Damian Lillard had a family emergency he had to attend to in a city he didn’t want to disclose. He secured a private jet and sent out a team-wide invitation if anyone wanted a ride to the city he was headed to, as long as they returned that night with him. Although nobody ended up taking him up on the offer, it resonated.

“Everybody on this team is inclusive in everything, which is really cool,’’ Plumlee said.

Dental Daze

Earlier in training camp, Turner posted a photo on Instagram that had people laughing: A shot of he and Davis at the dentist office after having oral surgery.

The funny thing is, both hardly recall the picture being taken.

“You know, I’m not really a big picture guy anyway, but he said I saw him and said ‘Let’s get a picture,’’’ Davis says. “But I was gone. I don’t remember it. I don’t remember anything.’’

Davis said his appointment was at 6 a.m. that morning, and Turner had his appointment at 6:20 a.m. Both remember going to the office, but the rest is hazy.

“I just remember somebody saying ‘You have a visitor’ and I look up they had wheeled him in and I was like … Ed?’’ Turner says. “He pulled his phone out, and a lady took the picture … and in my head, I’m like, are we even capable of doing this? The whole thing was off. It was kind of weird. Crazy. We were out of it.’’

Pulling together as one

One of the subplots to this Blazers season will be how Terry Stotts uses his deep roster, and how the players handle what figures to be limited minutes at certain positions.

If there is an example of how the team should handle potential conflicts, they need to look no further than center, where Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis have a mutual respect.

“We have a genuine relationship, it’s not fake,’’ Davis said. “We are in the same position, but it’s all love. You’ve got guys in this league, who are at the same position and they don’t want to see the other guy do well. It’s not like that with us. It’s not about minutes. And it’s like that with other guys; we don’t have too many egos.’’

Plumlee, the starter, says he feels the same about Davis.

“Everything about Ed is genuine. He’s just a real guy, no motive, no angle, just a straight shooter. And what we have, what our team has, it’s very rare,’’ Plumlee said. “You always think you are the guy to get the job done that night, but sometimes you just have to have that mature mindset to realize, you know what, sometimes I need help.’’

Plumlee says a game in Memphis last season is the perfect example.

“It was at Memphis, and Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) scored on me three times in a row, and they put Ed in and he shut the water off,’’ Plumlee said. “That’s a great feeling. Had he not come in and guarded like that, we wouldn’t have won that game. You need everybody and I think our team has a great realization of that.’’

In closing

I started the Behind the Locker Room Door series in the 2008-2009 season because that Blazers group was so unique in its closeness and openness that I felt compelled to share their experiences and bonds, beyond what happens between the lines.

The series died in part because the team and the personalities changed, but also because I never felt drawn to a team like those with Brandon Roy, Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden, Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, etc.  … until this season.

This is a special group, top to bottom, with a bond and spirit of togetherness that is uplifting and inspiring. My hope is to continue to chronicle their journey this season not only daily, but also with a monthly resurrection of Behind The Locker Room Door, providing I can once again navigate the delicate tightrope of providing insight while respecting the sanctuary that is the locker room and practice facility.

I apologize for not including every player in the introductions, it is not a reflection on any of the players, it was more a matter of running out of time. But there’s plenty of days ahead and stories to be told, and I promise to get to them.