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

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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.

A little more information from Mayo Clinic about Ezeli's knee procedure

A little more information from Mayo Clinic about Ezeli's knee procedure

When the Trail Blazers signed free agent center Festus Ezeli it was pretty obvious they did so with eyes wide open. The bargain Portland got in signing Ezeli was due to knee problems that have limited his availability for games throughout his career.

But the Trail Blazers are being proactive in trying to deal with Ezeli's problems.

He recently underwent a procedure called "bone marrow aspirate injection" that is designed to alleviate pain from arthritis and perhaps help stop degeneration of knee cartilage. The best explanation I've found for the procedure is a simple one and it comes from the Mayo Clinic.

Let's hope it helps.

 

Rasheed Wallace joins Damian Lillard in rapping for the #SoGoneChallenge

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Rasheed Wallace joins Damian Lillard in rapping for the #SoGoneChallenge

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Trail Blazers sign forward Grant Jerrett to training camp contract

Trail Blazers sign forward Grant Jerrett to training camp contract

OFFICIAL RELEASE FROM TRAIL BLAZERS:

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

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

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

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

----

Original report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

CJ McCollum shuts down homophobic Twitter troll in one swift blast

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CJ McCollum shuts down homophobic Twitter troll in one swift blast

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

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

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

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

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

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

A brilliant response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail Blazers '16-'17 Schedule Announced

Trail Blazers '16-'17 Schedule Announced

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

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

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

FULL SCHEDULE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

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

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

It was excruciating.

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

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USATI

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

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

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

This high number of highly paid players creates a conundrum.

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

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

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

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

CONTINUE READING

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

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

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

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

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

And this:

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

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

And this:

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

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

And this:

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

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

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