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.

This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

This is going to be a very critical summer for the Portland Trail Blazers

Now that the Trail Blazers have finished their season, it's a good time to step back and assess what we have learned about the team and where it's headed. A few thoughts on the morning after it all came to a crashing halt:

  • The biggest takeaway from this season was the impact of Jusuf Nurkic and what it means to the franchise's future. Before his injury, he had the look of a franchise center -- a player with the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor. This, as you know, was no small development. It's the most difficult position to fill in today's game.
  • It must also be pointed out how poorly this team played prior to his arrival. Before that blockbuster deal with Denver, the Trail Blazers were on their way to one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history. And they certainly were not going to be a playoff team. Nurkic carried them into the postseason. But those early struggles -- and the duplication of them after his injury -- should not be forgotten. Lessons were learned about this team and its players during that time and they should be used to help shape the future.
  • This franchise has three valuable building blocks -- guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nurkic. I believe that every other player on the roster is a possible trade piece.
  • Those three first-round draft choices could also be used in trades. In fact, I'd be surprised if Portland keeps all three.
  • That said, aside from the Trail Blazers' Big Three there isn't an awful lot to trade that would bring a talented veteran player in return. There are some high salaries for players who didn't have banner seasons and who may not be desirable to many other teams. The draft picks aren't exactly premium ones, either. Putting those pieces together and acquiring anything of value is not going to be easy.
  • What do the Trail Blazers need? Without a doubt, a forward -- either a power forward or small forward -- who can shoot and defend. Some deep playoff experience would be a big plus. There is not enough outside shooting on this team and it's time to deal with that problem. The frontcourt provided very little firepower. A proven scorer is a must and I doubt that player is available in the draft.
  • This team needs to add a veteran presence to the locker room and on the floor. And I'm not talking about a guy who isn't going to play much. Not someone just stealing another season in the league for the money, who isn't going to play much. Leadership on the court is going to be as critical as off the court. He wouldn't have to be a starter but I think it would be important that he contributes as a rotation player.
  • I would not expect an important player to come via the draft unless Portland finds a way to move up. This team's window of opportunity is growing near and waiting two or three seasons for a youngster to develop might not work. Ideally, a way would be found to add a savvy veteran. But again, that won't be easy.
  • This is a very important off-season for the franchise. Neil Olshey is going to have his hands full. It's time for this team to fill out its starting lineup with at least one more core player who can grow up with the Big Three. I would expect some major changes involving the roster. I'm not certain which of the other players has value to other teams but I wouldn't be surprised to see several of them move on to other teams. It's time for that.
  • For fans, this is no time to panic.  I believe this is potentially a very exciting time to be a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers. With three outstanding players as the foundation, this team can move forward with confidence to add a couple of new pieces that should clarify the squad's personality and eventual future.
  • It shapes up to be a very interesting off-season.

 

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

The Trail Blazers’ season is over, their final attempt at redemption buried amid an avalanche of greatness from Golden State on Monday.

In a devastating start to Game 4, Golden State bolted to leads of 14-0 and 41-13 before eventually sealing a sweep in the best-of-seven series with a 128-103 win at the Moda Center.

Golden State tied an NBA-playoff record with 45 first quarter points and handed the Blazers their first playoff sweep since the Lakers in 2002 won a best-of-five series in three games.

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 25 points, but CJ McCollum missed his first nine shots and finished with six points and one assist on 2-of-12 shooting and the Blazers were held to 38.8 percent shooting.

Golden State, which welcomed the return of Kevin Durant after the star missed Games 2 and 3 with a calf injury, was led by Stephen Curry (37 points), Klay Thompson (18 points) and Draymond Green (21 points, six rebounds, four assists). Durant had 10 points in 20 minutes.

Golden State entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record, and never did they play more like it than in Game 4, and in particular the first quarter.

In a whirlwind of three-pointers, blocks and dunks, the Warriors instantly sucked the air out of the sold out Moda Center. Portland didn’t score until 3:38 into the game with an Evan Turner three-pointer, but the Blazers never could put together a run against the NBA’s second best defense.

The Blazers started the third different starting lineup of the series in Game 4, inserting Meyers Leonard at center, but the move turned out to be moot after the Warriors’ hot start. Leonard played the opening five minutes, during which he grabbed one rebound, and did not play again until the final five minutes, as coach Terry Stotts started Aminu in the second half.

Any hopes for a Blazers’ comeback from a 72-48 halftime deficit were quickly dashed when the Warriors scored the first six points of the second half as the lead eventually swelled to as many as 33.

Shabazz Napier finished with 14 points and Noah Vonleh 14 rebounds for the Blazers. 

Podcast:

Warriors put up golden first half

Warriors put up golden first half

The Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors tipped off at 7:30pm for Game 4 of their first round series on Monday night as the Trail Blazers look to avoid the series sweep.

Kevin Durant (left calf strain) returned to the starting lineup for the Warriors, but Golden State is still without Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain and hand contusion) and Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain) for Game 4.  

Despite Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) making his return in Game 3, Nurkic is out for Game 4.  Meyers Leoanrd started at center for Portland; making his first ever playoff start. 

The Warriors got out to a quick 12-point lead after Golden State hit its first three three-pointers.

Midway through the first quarter, the Warriors took a 25-5 lead.

Portland shot just 29.6% from the field in the first quarter.  Golden State on the other hand, shot 62.5% for the quarter.

To end the first quarter, the Warriors went up 45-22.

According to Warriors PR, Golden State set a new franchise playoff record for points in a first quarter.  The Warriors previous record was 42 points on May 4th vs. Phoenix in 1994.

Damian Lillard took over the second quarter.  After scoring five points in the first quarter, Lillard finished the second quarter with 21 points.  Lillard scored the Blazers first 10 points of the second quarter.

At the end of the half, Portland is shooting 38.3% as a team.  Golden State is shooting 58.1% for the half.

Tthe Warriors hold a 72-48 halftime lead. 

 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:
  Damian Lillard, 21

Rebounds:  Noah Vonleh, 6

Assist:  Damian Lillard, 4

 


Warriors

Points:  Steph Curry, 21

Rebounds:  Steph Curry, 4

Assist:  Steph Curry, 6


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 force a Game 5 vs. Warriors

Trail Blazers look to force a Game 5 vs. Warriors

The Portland Trail Blazers look to avoid getting swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. Game 4 tips off at 7:30pm from the Moda Center.

It was on Saturday night, when the Warriors came from being down by as many as 17 points to take a 3-0 lead in the series with a 119-113 win over Portland.  The Trail Blazers were unable to close out the game despite shooting 43.3% as a team and with CJ McCollum scoring 32 points and Damian Lillard adding 31 points.

Allen Crabbe (left foot) and McCollum (right ankle sprain) are both listed as probable for Game 4 on the Trail Blazers injury report.   However, after making his return in Game 3 on Saturday night, Jusuf Nurkic  (right leg) is now listed as out for Monday’s game.

Nurkic played just 17 minutes while being reinserted into the starting lineup.  It was clear that his leg that he had fractured back on March 28th was still giving him some problems.  Nurkic went 1-of-3 from the field and pulled down 11 rebounds while dishing out four assists in his limited time on the floor.

Warriors’ Kevin Durant (left calf strain) is still questionable for Game 4. 

Golden State will also, once again, be without its head coach, Steve Kerr, who missed Game 3 on Saturday night.  The Warriors announced on Sunday that Mike Brown will again serve as acting head coach replacing Kerr.  Kerr is dealing with excruciating pain after his back surgery.

Check out CSN for a special hour-long playoff edition of Rip City Live starting at 6:00pm.   

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:30pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.




Quick Links:

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

It wasn’t a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic effect

Stotts: Nurkic’s presence “spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is”


 

Video:    Turner: Mentality heading into Game 4 doesn’t change

Video:    Nurkic: We’re going to see who’s got pride

Video:    Dwight Jaynes: Blazers coming face to face with reality

Video:    Lillard: We weren’t disciplined enough to close out the game

 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

Television: KGW, 7:30pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (6:00pm), 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

Stotts: Nurkic's presence "spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is"

Stotts: Nurkic's presence "spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is"

Terry Stotts did not hesitate Sunday afternoon to rule Jusuf Nurkic out of Monday night's Game 4 of the Portland-Golden State series in Moda Center.

"No," he said when asked whether Nurkic would play. "He's out."

Why?

"Just, more than anything, he didn’t do any further damage but there was soreness, tenderness and it just wouldn’t be wise to have him play through that," said the Portland coach.

Stotts had plenty of good things to say about Nurkic and the decision to play Saturday night against the Warriors.

"I was really pleased that he (played)" Stotts said. "He had a really positive impact on the game with his passing and his presence and his rebounding. He takes up some space and I thought he gave his teammates a lot of confidence.

"It was a really good effort. He’s a big part of our team. Not only a good effort for these playoffs and this team but, I think, moving forward.  It spoke a lot to who he is and what kind of teammate he is."

 

It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

For quite a while Saturday night during the interminable telethon that NBA playoff games have become, it appeared that the Trail Blazers had found the right formula to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Jusuf Nurkic was back, if but a shell of his usual self. The Trail Blazers seem to take inspiration from his return to the lineup, even though he was dragging a broken leg up and down the court. But it wasn't just the inspiration. Nurkic got his team off to a great start with just his presence. The Portland pick-and-roll offense was suddenly potent again, with Nurkic planting a brickwall of a pick and then rolling down the lane toward the basket. There was either an open three or a pass to Nurkic -- and he'd find the open man with his usual knack for such things.

It was nice while it lasted -- he had 11 rebounds and four assists -- and the Nurkic Effect lasted much longer than the 16 and a half minutes he spent on the court. There was an obvious lift. The Blazers played gallantly until the inevitable Warrior surge, about midway through the third quarter. At that point, the Blazers were hanging on for dear life -- trying to get an open shot for Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum against a defense that was willing to allow open shots for anyone but them.

Moda Center was loud and proud most of the night but the tale of this playoff series was never a mystery. The Blazers lost for the third time and there's a fourth one headed their way Monday night. This Golden State team is too much for them and probably too much for anyone else in the league.

But for just under 17 Nurkic minutes Saturday night there was a glimpse of the future, a snapshot of things to come.

Nurkic makes this team better. Much better, even in the condition he was Saturday.

He confessed to a lot of pain after the game and I think it would be unwise to put him through all of that again Monday. I don't think it was a mistake to play him in this game because I trust Portland's medical staff to know what's best for him and the franchise. He got a taste of the playoffs and his teammates found a rallying point. He was pretty much the last card the Blazers had left to play in the series.

Throughout the last few weeks none of us knew exactly what kind of shape he was in. There was hope that when he came back he would be near 100 percent. As it turned out, he was nowhere close ("I'm not the same guy," he said). And for just 15 or 16 minutes a game, I don't think it's worth doing it again. He tried it and it was what it was -- a fun time for us if not for him. He showed the kind of impact he can have when he's right and tried his best to help his squad win one game.

The mission of getting him on the floor was accomplished, if not the part about winning a game. But at this point, it's all about being healthy for next season.

And all about the dreams of what a franchise center can do for this team.

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Jusuf Nurkic finally played Saturday night... and it seemed to give the Portland Trail Blazers a little spark. For a while, that spark turned into a raging fire as the Blazers jumped to leads as high as 16 points over the Golden State Warriors. But in the end, the Warriors doused that fire with solid fourth-quarter defense and timely shooting.

The end result was a 119-113 win that pushed Golden State into a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues Monday night in Moda Center. CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and Damian Lillard added 31. Steph Curry had 34 for the Warriors.

The lead seesawed throughout the fourth quarter as two seemingly tired teams traded punches. Portland's shooting percentage, over .500 most of the night, dipped and the Warriors' rose.

The Trail Blazers came out on fire – and the crowd was deep into it when Portland had  an 11-3 lead as the Warriors called a timeout with 9:11 to go in the first quarter. Portland opened the game by hitting its first five shots from the field.

Nurkic, who received a thunderous ovation when introduced with the starting lineup, scored his first basket 2:26 into the game on a bank shot in the lane over Zaza Pachulia.

He left the floor at the 7:06 mark of the quarter and played about five minutes per quarter. He finished with two points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes.

The Warriors withstood Portland’s opening salvo and crawled to within four points late in the quarter but the Trail Blazers held a 37-30 lead ater the first quarter behind Lillard’s 15 points, fueled by 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

Portland shot 57.7 percent from the field in the opening period and held Golden State to 38.5 percent. But the Blazers had seven turnovers over the first 12 minutes while the Warriors had but one.

In the second quarter Portland stretched the lead as high as 16 as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson struggled from the field for the Warriors.

Lillard and McCollum were the backbone of the Portland offense in the first half, combining for 39 points. The Blazers led 67-54 at halftime on the strength of 53 percent shooting. Portland also held a 29-14 rebound edge at halftime.

The lead ballooned to 16 again in the third but then the Warriors made one of their patented runs and closed to within 82-78 when the Blazers called for a timeout with 3:29 left in the third. Golden State turned up its defense and Portland had trouble getting open shots all of a sudden. By the end of the quarter the Blazers were clinging to an 88-87 lead.

Podcast:

 

 

 

Home cooking, Nurkic's return fueling Trail Blazers

Home cooking, Nurkic's return fueling Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors tipped off at 7:30pm on Saturday night for Game 3 of their first round series.

Kevin Durant (left calf strain), Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain and hand contusion) and Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain) are all still out for Game 3.

But for Portland, Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) made his return after missing nine games.

Midway through the first quarter, Portland jumped out to a 14-9 lead behind CJ McCollum’s quick eight points.

To end the first quarter, the Trail Blazers shot 56% from the floor as a team, while the Warriors shot 40%.

Portland held a 37-30 lead over the Warriors after one quarter.

Damian Lillard led all scorers in the first quarter with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

The Trail Blazers hot shooting continued into the second quarter.  To end the first half, Portland is shooting 53.3%.  Golden State is shooting 42.2% as a team.

Nurkic ended the first half with two points, four rebounds, and two assists.  The Blazer big man played just nine minuets in the first half.

At halftime, the Trail Blazers are up 67-54. 

 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:
  Damian Lillard, 22

Rebounds:  Al-Farouq Aminu, 8

Assist: three players tied with 2 assists


 


Warriors

Points:  Steph Curry, 15

Rebounds:   David West, 4

Assist:  Patrick McCaw and Andre Iguodala, 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.

Jusuf Nurkić makes his return in Game 3, will start

usatsi_9978918_147386290_lowres.jpg
USATI

Jusuf Nurkić makes his return in Game 3, will start

From doubtful to starting! The Bosnian Beast is back!

The Trail Blazers announced Nurkić will play in Game 3 vs. the Golden State Warriors at the Moda Center Saturday night. 

Nurkic fractured fibula in his right leg on March 28th and was expected to miss at least two weeks before he was re-assessed.

Before the series, Nurkić told reporters, "if it was up to me I'd play right now."

He entered Game 1 "questionable" before being ruled out an hour before the game. Nurkić ruled himself out for Game 2 the day before the game. For Game 3, Nurkić was upgraded to "doubtful," which in layman's terms means there's a 75% chance he would not play. However, when he entered the arena Saturday night, signs began pointing towards him playing. 

After a near half hour warm-up, Nurkić left the court and moments later was declared active. 

The Blazers went 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup. In 20 games in Portland, he averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 blocks in 29 minutes a game. He suffered his injury in the March 28 game against Denver, and played 32 minutes the next game against Houston, when he had 19 points and 11 rebounds and played to the buzzer.