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.

Blazers needing bounce-back win, Pacers in second night of back-to-back: POR at IND on CSN

Blazers needing bounce-back win, Pacers in second night of back-to-back: POR at IND on CSN

Trail Blazers vs. Pacers

The Portland Trail Blazers (12-12) take on the Indiana Pacers (11-12) on Saturday for the second and final meeting this season. 

The Blazers are looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.  Portland was in control for a good majority of the game, but the Grizzlies came through in the end to get the, 88-86 win.  In the loss, Portland shot 30.5% for the game.

The Pacers will be playing in the second night of a back-to-back when Indiana hosts the Blazers.   The Pacers were on the road on Friday night in Dallas.  The Mavericks beat the Pacers, 111-103.

It was on November 30th in Portland when the Blazers took the first game of the series against the Pacers, 131-109.  Damian Lillard had 28 points and 10 assists in the victory.  The Pacers were without All-Star Paul George (ankle) in that first meeting between these two teams. 

The Trail Blazers are listing Maurice Harkless (left ankle) as probable; Al-Farouq Aminu (back contusion) as doubtful; and Festu Ezeli (left knee) is out for Saturday’s game.

We will set the stage for the Trail Blazers and Pacers game with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 3:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Also, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live on CSN starting at 3:00pm.

 

Quick Links:

Blazers lose a stunner in Memphis with fourth-quarter collapse

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

 

Video:  Davis: “Right now it definitely hurts”

Video:  Plumlee: Gotta make more plays to win that game

Video:  Jason Quick: Going to be a lasting loss, mentally and physically

Video:  Talkin’ Ball: Breaking down the Blazers loss to the Grizzlies

 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis IN

Television: CSN, 4:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

I can't remember a more disappointing and, at the same time, surprising performance by the Trail Blazers this season. That 88-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was grizzly, all right. Grim.

Let's start with the fact that Memphis was without Mike Conley, Vince Carter, James Ennis, Chandler Parsons and Brandan Wright. The Grizzlies were basically Marc Gasol and Tony Allen against the world. The Trail Blazers dominated the Grizzlies nearly the whole game but could never put them away.

The Portland lead was 77-64 with 7:13 to play in this very slow-paced game and 79-68 wth 5:11 left. But Gasol got wide open for a three-point field goal and Troy Daniels drilled one that was officially called a 30-footer with 1:35 to play that gave Memphis a one-point lead. Then Toney Douglas, signed off his couch at home Dec. 5, hammered home a jumper and two free throws for another one-point lead. After Mason Plumlee tied the game for the final time with a free-throw, Douglas hit two more foul shots to win it for the Grizzlies.

You can talk about the foul call on Damian Lillard that sent Douglas to the line, but in a game like this it's absurd to bring the officiating into the conversation. Officials had nothing to do with the outcome of this contest. With the game on the line, Portland made just four of 19 shots in the fourth quarter, 21.1 percent. For the game, the Trail Blazers shot just 30.5 percent from the field -- their worst in a decade! -- and only 25 percent from three-point range.

This game was a total mess, as ugly as you'll ever see the NBA get. If you want to look at individual Portland shooting totals you can find the official league box score here -- but be ready to cover your eyes. Yes, Memphis shot poorly, too. But mostly that was players who normally wouldn't be on the floor at key times of an NBA game. Gasol was the one player Portland needed to defend and that never got done.

The Trail Blazers missed plenty of shots in the paint and too many from three-point range. I had a thought at one point about the team's three-point shooting that I should pass along, too.

Perhaps the reason that players shoot better from three in Portland than in other places is that they get open ones with the Trail Blazers that they didn't get elsewhere. The system is tried and true for three-point shooters. And, too, players are encouraged to shoot them here like they were nowhere else. Over and over, we've heard about Coach Terry Stotts chastising his players for passing up open shots -- not for gunning them up. Certainly, showing confidence in players is a key part of getting them to play their best.

But. BUT. When a player is going through a tough time making threes -- and isn't really a great three-point shooter in the first place -- I think it's important to have that shooter be a little more judicious with his shots. And I'm talking about Al-Farouq Aminu.

He's shooting 20.5 percent from three-point range and most of the time, he's not even close. Sure,  I know all about shooters shooting their way out of slumps. I'm just not sure he's much of a shooter in the first place, in spite of his relative success last season. And at least for now, in the midst of tight games, I think he should be restrained a bit.

But that's just a nitpick right now. While the defense seems to be better, the offense now has gotten inconsistent.

There's a positive sign after that game at Memphis, though: There is nowhere to go but up.

 

Blazers lose a stunner in Memphis with fourth-quarter collapse

Blazers lose a stunner in Memphis with fourth-quarter collapse

MEMPHIS -- There was heart break in Memphis for the Trail Blazers on Thursday. 

Leading by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter and by 11 with 5:25 left, the Blazers lost 88-86 after Toney Douglas hit two free throws with 0.5 seconds left after being fouled by Damian Lillard. Lillard argued the call after the final buzzer, seeking out referee Josh Tiven at midcourt to plead his case.

Memphis(16-8)  improved to 12-0 in games decided by three-points or less this season, and they are 12-3 while a bulk of their roster -- including star Mike Conley -- is out injured. The Blazers (12-12) lost for the second straight night. 

The Blazers played without Maurice Harkless (sprained ankle) and endured terrible shooting nights from Mason Plumlee (1-for-9), Al-Farouq Aminu (2-for-9), Allen Crabbe (2-for-9) and Jake Layman (0-for-5) yet still led for much of the game. CJ McCollum was brilliant early and had 24 points through three quarters, but he didn't score in the fourth. Damian Lillard finished with 19 points, but scored only four points in the second half. 

Memphis was fueled by center Marc Gasol, who had 36 points and nine rebounds and Tony Allen, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. JaMychal Green added 18 rebounds.

Blazers' coach Terry Stotts ushered out a radically different starting lineup with Evan Turner at small forward and Meyers Leonard at power forward after starting small forward Maurice Harkless determined before the game that his sprained left ankle was unfit to play. Harkless suffered the injury on Wednesday in Milwaukee with about 1:30 left after he rolled his foot chasing a missed free throw. With noticeable swelling, particularly on the outside of the ankle, Harkless tried to warm up about an hour before tipoff but determined he wouldn't be able to play.

Ed Davis, who went back to a bench role with the new starting lineup, was huge for the Blazers in the fourth quarter on both ends of the court. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds in his first start with Portland.

The Blazers held a 50-43 halftime lead in a wild, offensively-challenged first half that included several blown layins and constant complaining from both sides about the officiating. It reached a hilt in the final minute of the half, and then extended into the break, when Memphis coach David Fizdale was given a technical for confronting the officiating crew near midcourt. During a half when both teams struggled with their shot, McCollum was smooth, hitting all give of his shots, including both three-pointers, one of which was deep.

The Blazers led 22-14 after the first quarter despite shooting 6-for-22 from the field (27.3 percent), mostly because Memphis managed to shoot even worse (5-for-21, 23.8 percent). The Blazers started 1-for-9 from the field and were kept in it early by Lillard, who scored 10 points. 

Notes: Harkless said he is aiming to play in Saturday's game in Indiana, saying the improvement he felt from Wednesday to Thursday gave him hope there would be enough improvement by Saturday.

Next up: Blazers at Indiana, 4 p.m. Saturday (CSN).

Slow start, but Portland up 50-43 over Memphis at half

Slow start, but Portland up 50-43 over Memphis at half

The Portland Trail Blazers got off to a cold start against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.

Portland is playing are in the second night of a back-to-back and it showed.  The Blazers went 1-for-9 to start the game.

The Trail Blazers are without without Maurice Harkless (left ankle sprain) in Memphis.  Blazers head coach Terry Stotts decided to change up his starters with Harkless out. 

Here’s what the starting lineup looks like for Portland vs. Memphis: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner. This is Turner’s first start of the season.

Midway through the first quarter, the Grizzlies led 12-10.

To end the first quarter, the Blazers held a 22-14 lead after ending the quarter shooting 23.8% as a team, while the Grizzlies shot 25%.

Portland ends the second quarter on a 10-4 run.  In the first half, the Blazers ended up shooting 37.2% from the floor.  Memphis ended the half shooting 35.7%.

At the break, Portland is up 50-43.
 

Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:  Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, 15

Rebounds:  Meyers Leonard, 6

Assist:  Mason Plumlee, 2
 

 

Grizzlies

Points:  Marc Gasol, 19

Rebounds:  Marc Gasol and Jamychal Green, 6

Assist:  Andrew Harrison, 3

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

Trail Blazers look to end Grizzlies’ winning streak: Portland at Memphis on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers look to end Grizzlies’ winning streak: Portland at Memphis on CSN at 5pm

Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies

The Portland Trail Blazers (12-11) will look to bounce back after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, 115-107.  Portland now faces the Memphis Grizzlies (15-8) in the second night of a back-to-back.

In the loss to the Bucks, Damian Lillard scored 30 points, pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out six assists.  The Blazers did not take very good care of the ball in the second half and ended up committed 15 turnovers and allowed Milwaukee to shoot 51.9%.

Memphis on the other hand, is riding a four-game winning streak.  The Grizzlies’ latest victory came on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.  Memphis won, 96-91 behind Marc Gasol’s 26 points and Zach Randolph’s 14 rebounds.

In the first meeting between the Blazers and Grizzlies, Portland won, 100-94.  That victory for the Trail Blazers was back on November 6th.   CJ McCollum led all scorers with 37 points.  Gasol led the way for Memphis with 21 points.   

We will set the stage for the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies contest with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 4:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Also, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live on CSN starting at 4:00pm.

 

Quick Links:

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

 

Video:  Lillard: I was counting at refs during FT attempt

Video:  Crabbe: Put ourselves in position, just didn’t go our way

Video:  Jason Quick: Blazers didn’t get follow the game plan well enough

Video:  Stotts: Have to credit the Bucks’ defense

 

Game Details:

Where:  FedExForum, Memphis TN

Television: CSN, 5:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (4:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 4:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

MILWAUKEE – Damian Lillard and Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts played a role in coaxing a rare violation Wednesday against Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With 10:49 left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo was called for a 10-second violation by referee Gary Zielinski before shooting the second of two free throws.

“The first (free throw), I was like counting, because it was taking so long,’’ Lillard said.

He turned to Zielinski, a veteran referee in his 17th NBA season, and voiced his concern.

“And he looked at me like, ‘Nobody calls that,’’’ Lillard said.

Zielinski was stationed in front of the Blazers’ bench, and before the second free throw, Lillard and Stotts started counting aloud once Antetokounmpo was handed the ball.

“And we got up to like 13 before he called it,’’ Lillard said. “I think he didn’t want to call it just because we were saying something. But once we got to 13 … it was like, we were right. He made the right call.’’

It looked like a crucial call at the time as the Bucks were trailing 60-54. But it turned out to be about the only thing that didn’t go right for Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo in the third quarter.

The Bucks outscored Portland 34-18 in the third quarter and Antetokounmpo recorded 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks -- his second triple double this season and seventh of his career.

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

A victory inside Blazers loss: Lillard, Stotts coax rare free throw violation from Bucks star

MILWAUKEE – Damian Lillard and Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts played a role in coaxing a rare violation Wednesday against Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With 10:49 left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo was called for a 10-second violation by referee Gary Zielinski before shooting the second of two free throws.

“The first (free throw), I was like counting, because it was taking so long,’’ Lillard said.

He turned to Zielinski, a veteran referee in his 17th NBA season, and voiced his concern.

“And he looked at me like, ‘Nobody calls that,’’’ Lillard said.

Zielinski was stationed in front of the Blazers’ bench, and before the second free throw, Lillard and Stotts started counting aloud once Antetokounmpo was handed the ball.

“And we got up to like 13 before he called it,’’ Lillard said. “I think he didn’t want to call it just because we were saying something. But once we got to 13 … it was like, we were right. He made the right call.’’

It looked like a crucial call at the time as the Bucks were trailing 60-54. But it turned out to be about the only thing that didn’t go right for Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo in the third quarter.

The Bucks outscored Portland 34-18 in the third quarter and Antetokounmpo recorded 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks -- his second triple double this season and seventh of his career.

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

Sloppy Blazers throw away game at Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- The Trail Blazers literally threw away a chance to win their fourth straight on Wednesday, as a turnover-filled fourth quarter doomed Portland to a 115-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Portland (12-11) committed nine of their 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter, including miscues on their first three possessions of the final quarter, when they entered facing an 85-76 deficit. The Blazers had a nine point lead in the first quarter and a seven point halftime advantage, but fell apart in the third, when Milwaukee outscored them 34-18. 

The Blazers rallied late, cutting an 11-point deficit to 101-99 with 4:17 left when Allen Crabbe capped a string of three-pointers on three straight Portland possessions. But Matthew Dellavedova hit three floaters in the key and Jabari Parker dunked off an inbounds pass to seal the Bucks' win. 

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his second triple-double of the season, finishing 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Parker scored 13 of his 27 points in the first quarter and Dellavedova finished with 17 for Milwaukee (11-9), which won for the fifth time in six games. 

Damian Lillard led Portland with 30 points, 22 of them in the first half, and CJ McCollum added 23. Crabbe got hot late and finished with 14, nine of them in the fourth.

Milwaukee took control in the third quarter as Portland sputtered offensively to 18 points while the Bucks made five three-pointers. 

The Blazers took a 58-51 lead after closing the first half on a 12-2 run that was fueled by some hot shooting from Lillard. He hit four three-pointers in the final 4:23 of the second quarter and fed McCollum for another three with 6.9 seconds left in the half. This was the first time in 11 games the Blazers lost after leading at halftime.

Notes: Mason Plumlee, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, became the fastest Trail Blazers player to have 150 rebounds and 100 assists (23 games) since Scottie Pippen did it in 22 games in the 1999-2000 season.

Next up: Blazers at Memphis, 5 p.m. Thursday (CSN).

 

Blazers battling against the Bucks, Portland up 58-51 at the break

Blazers battling against the Bucks, Portland up 58-51 at the break

The Portland Trail Blazers started its game against the Milwaukee Bucks going four-for-four from the field on Wednesday night.

Al-Farouq Aminu continued to come off the bench in just his second game back from his left calf strain injury.  Ed Davis stayed put in the starting lineup.  Aminu entered the game with 3:28 to go in the first quarter.

At the end of the first, the Blazers and Bucks were all knotted up at 23.  The Blazers shot 43.5% as a team in the first quarter.  The Bucks shot 57.1% from the field.

Jabari Parker led the way for the Bucks in the first quarter with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

The Blazers ended the first half shooting 43.2% from the field and 52.4% from three.  The Bucks as a team shot 50% from the floor and shot 30% from long distance to end the half.

At the break, the Blazers are up, 58-51.
 

Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:  Damian Lillard, 22

Rebounds:  Five players tied with 3 rebounds 

Assist:  Damian Lillard and Mason Plumlee, 4
 

 

Bucks

Points:  Jabari Parker, 15

Rebounds: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 7

Assist:  Giannis Antetokounmpo, 4

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