Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

LAS VEGAS -- The Trail Blazers have moved into the second round of the summer league's tournament and will face top-seeded Toronto tonight at 7 o'clock in what I like to call "The Tourney Nobody Really Cares About Winning."

Unless you win it, of course. Then you can tell your fans that it's a sign their franchise is on the right track.

And that could possibly be true, of course. But winning the title could also just mean that you got a team together quickly and went to either Orlando or Salt Lake City summer leagues before coming here and so your team has spent a lot of time playing together. Or maybe you have four or five players from your regular-season team here. Or perhaps you just had good luck picking up some experienced free agents to play for your summer team. Or even more rare, that you actually care about winning the tournament -- which isn't common.

As you can see, I'm not big on this tournament, which seems to me more of a money grab than anything else. Most teams have already had enough games to get what they want out of this little carnival of turnovers and would prefer to not risk further injury to key players.

But it is a chance to see some of the new players heading into the NBA this season. I haven't had enough opportunity to see them all for a long enough period to make any major judgments but I have a couple of thoughts I'll share:

The first thing I want to talk about is Jordan Bell, because a lot of Ducks fans are already going off the deep end about how Portland should have drafted him instead of Caleb Swanigan. Um, no. I don't think so.

Bell is probably going to be a very nice off-the-bench contributor for the Golden State Warriors. He'll rebound, block a shot or two, hustle all over the floor and he's going to profit from playing in a great system alongside some terrific players who will probably make him look a little better than he is. But after watching both Bell and Swanigan here, it's hard for me to say Bell should have been picked ahead of Swanigan.

Swanigan is the more skilled player. More well-rounded. He can do most of the things Bell can do and also make shots from distance. And he's more than two years younger than Bell -- which means he probably has more room for improvement and a couple of more seasons in his career. He's also bigger than Bell and the one question left with Bell is how he's going to operate against bigger, more experienced players once he reaches the NBA.

Nothing against Bell. I like him. I think he was a very good choice for the Warriors, who will make good use of him. But in terms of eventually being a starting player and major contributor I think most people here would take Swanigan.

More Thoughts From Summer League

I'm anxious to see more of Lonzo Ball. He's such an interesting player and, I think, difficult to assess at this point. Yes, he can pass -- but he's not the clever, tricky sort of passer I expected. He is not flashy to any great degree. And that's not a knock on him. He makes the right reads and delivers the ball appropriately.

But he also seems just a little slower than I expected. It will be interesting to see what tempo the Lakers will play with him at the helm. And yes, his shooting form is terrible. His old man, LaVar, seems to act as if he's created the perfect player in Lonzo but I can't believe that's the best he could do with the the kid's shooting mechanics. It is more of a set shot than a jumper and takes a little while for him to load.

That said, he seems to have the "it" factor they love in LA. He's got a star quality about him. And it's going to be fun to see if he can make good on all the expectations the Lakers have for him.

And maybe he will even add a summer-league championship ring to his resume. As if there is such a thing.

Trail Blazers officially sign Anthony Morrow to training camp deal

Trail Blazers officially sign Anthony Morrow to training camp deal

PORTLAND, Ore. (Sept. 18, 2017) – The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard Anthony Morrow to a training camp contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

A nine-year NBA veteran, Morrow (6-5, 210) has played for seven franchises, most recently suiting up for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls during the 2016-17 season. For his career, Morrow has averaged 9.4 points (44.7% FG, 41.7% 3-PT, 88.0% FT), 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 21.8 minutes in 564 career games (142 starts).

He will wear No. 24 for the Trail Blazers.

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A healthy Ed Davis

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A healthy Ed Davis

On the surface, it would appear this offseason brought little to no help to the Trail Blazers amid the NBA’s whirlwind summer of blockbuster trades and free agent acquisitions.

Aside from a salary-cap motivated move of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, and the drafting of 19-year-old center Zach Collins and Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan, the Blazers are largely the same group that went 41-41 and finished eighth in the Western Conference.

The Las Vegas betting line on Trail Blazers wins for the 2017-2018 season is 42.5 games, which would place them eighth in the West:

1. Golden State (67.5)

2. Houston (55.5)

3. San Antonio (54.5)

4. Oklahoma City (51.5)

5. Minnesota (48.5)

6. Denver (45.5)

7. LA Clippers (44.5)

8. Portland (42.5)

Of course, Las Vegas has been wrong before about the Blazers (remember 2015-2016 when the Blazers won 44 games after Vegas set the line at 26.5?), and it’s easy to get swept up in the headlines from an offseason that saw Chris Paul move to Houston, Paul George to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and Paul Millsap to Denver.

But behind the sexy headlines and tumultuous turnover, the Blazers have been  doing what has become a hallmark of this franchise: relying on improvement from within.

With that in mind, CSN this week will unveil five reasons the Blazers this season could exceed 42 wins and be better than people think:

Today: The return of a healthy Ed Davis.

**

Last season, Trail Blazers’ big man Ed Davis reached a point in his season that he is almost embarrassed to reveal.

Standing under a basket, he couldn’t make five consecutive layins with his dominant hand. The reason? Shooting pain emanating from his left shoulder.

 “Just mentally, what that does to you,’’ Davis said Monday. “I tried playing through it, but it was tough.’’

He had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and in March he decided to have season-ending surgery after appearing in 46 games (12 starts). He finished with averages of 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 17 minutes a game.

He had become a shadow of the energy-infusing and often game-changing play he showed in the 2015-2016 season, when he became a crowd favorite and one of the NBA’s top interior reserves.

During the 2015-2016 season, Davis finished second in the NBA among reserves in rebounding and offensive rebounds behind Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter. His 599 rebounds off the bench that season are a Trail Blazers' record.

All the while, the 6-foot-10 lefty was an emotional spark who embodied a team that refused to be outworked, or back down from more talented teams, and one of the reasons he was named the team's Maurice Lucas Award recipient.

“I feel a lot of people forgot how much I helped the team in Portland that year,’’ Davis said. “I want to get back to that.’’

There doesn’t appear to be anything hindering his quest. Next week, when the Blazers open training camp, Davis said doctors have cleared him for full contact in practice.

“I feel great. I’m cleared for the first day, and I can do everything,’’ Davis said.

With a repaired shoulder, and a feeling of something to prove – both to redeem last season and to garner interest for a new contract after the season – Davis could be one of the factors that lead to another Rip City Revival.

“Whenever anybody is in a contract  year, you want to play well and be rewarded, but for me, it’s more for the fact that I didn’t play well last year,’’ Davis said. “I felt like I could have brought more to the table; it was a roller-coaster year. But I learned a lot. It was a humbling experience not being able to play game you love. So I’m excited to be back out there on the court and continue the journey.’’

Trail Blazers debut player-inspired 'Statement' uniform combination

Trail Blazers debut player-inspired 'Statement' uniform combination

Out with the old, in with the new!

With Nike taking over apparel rights around the NBA this season, Trail Blazers have overhauled their entire look. It started with fresh look to the logo, followed by a re-vamp of the jerseys. Doing away with home and away qualifiers, along with hertiage jerseys, the Trail Blazers unveiled their Association and Icon jerseys at the Rip City 3-On-3 in July. Now, with the release of NBA2k18 comes another uniform combination: The  Statement. 

The new “Statement” uniforms will first be worn by the Trail Blazers in late November, according to the team's press release. 

More from the press release:

Constructed with a dominant base of Trail Blazers red and detailed with bold, black accents, this uniform was literally created to make a powerful on-court statement. The player-inspired design is scheduled to be showcased during many marquee matchups and rivalry games throughout the season, and has the following highlights:

  • Modernized jersey sash featuring tone-on-tone stripes inspired by the Trail Blazers unique logo representing 5-on-5 team competition;
  • Contemporary 'Portland' wordmark proudly displayed across the chest;
  • ‘Rip City' insignia representing Trail Blazers passionate fans branded on the waistband; and
  • Updated team fonts, wordmarks and logo.

“While it was important to stay true to our classic look for our ‘Icon’ and ‘Association’ uniforms, we knew we had an opportunity to try something new with our ‘Statement’ uniform and, in collaboration with Nike's design team, we are excited about the results,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter. “This uniform will be a unique identifier and a bold statement in the NBA.”

"We were excited to create a design that was a bold new look for us, but also represented our heritage by keeping the jersey sash intact,” said Trail Blazers Chief Marketing Officer Dewayne Hankins. “We like the simplicity of the two-color design and are excited by the technology that Nike is bringing to the uniforms.”

To view the new Trail Blazers “Statement” uniform, along with the earlier releases of the new “Association” and “Icon” editions, please click here:  trailblazers.com/uniforms.

Trail Blazers sign Isaiah Briscoe to training camp contract

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USATI

Trail Blazers sign Isaiah Briscoe to training camp contract

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

In two seasons at the University of Kentucky, Briscoe (6-3, 210) averaged 10.9 points (45.5% FG, 22.9% 3-PT, 55.5% FT), 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 31.3 minutes in 70 career games (69 starts).

He will wear No. 9 for the Trail Blazers.

Trail Blazers sign Archie Goodwin to training camp contract

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USATI

Trail Blazers sign Archie Goodwin to training camp contract

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

In four NBA seasons with Phoenix, New Orleans and Brooklyn, Goodwin (6-5, 205) holds averages of 6.3 points (42.9% FG, 23.6% 3-PT, 70.0% FT), 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 14.5 minutes in 165 career games (15 starts).

He will wear No. 2 for the Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard appears on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden"

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CBS

Damian Lillard appears on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden"

Damian Lillard has had a busy offseason. He's taken his now annual trip to China with adidas; he's dropped a few new tracks with plans to release a new album sometime in the near future; he's taken a couple of vacations; he's been working out with teammate Jusuf Nurkić; he's gone vegan; and now he's taking his talents to late night. 

The Blazers point guard joined actor Taron Egerton Friday night on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden" to give fans an update on what he's been up to this summer. He was also joined by comedian and writer for the late night show (formerly of CSNNW) Ian Karmel to discuss "The Shot."

Plus, his appearance wouldn't be complete without floating 4 bars, right? It was Friday, afterall. 

 

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

There are a couple of things that really bothered me about that $500,000 fine the Lakers got for tampering with Paul George, who was then under contract to the Indiana Pacers.

First, it was not enough of a penalty for a team that was previously warned about tampering with George. By now, you've probably seen this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show that features Laker President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson joking about tampering with George. After that show aired, the league specifically sent a warning to the Lakers.

But the Lakers later defied that order when General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke to George's agent. To me, that takes the tampering to an entirely different level. I was shocked the league didn't either take a draft choice away from Los Angeles or, better yet, bar them from signing George a year from now when he becomes a free agent.

The Lakers were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and instead of pulling the hand away, they just dug deeper. That tells you something about the respect that franchise has for the league office.

Does $500,000 sound severe to you? Well, certainly not as tough as when the league took $3.5 million and five draft picks away from Minnesota for an illegal agreement with Joe Smith. That deal also led to front-office suspensions and the Timberwolves being prohibited from signing Smith. On the surface, making an illegal deal seems much worse than whet the Lakers did but really, making illegal contact with the agent of a player a year away from free agency is very serious, too. Particularly when you've been warned not to do it.

I think back to the Trail Blazers being fined $250,000 in 1984 for illegal contact with Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. It was a huge sum at the time and all the Trail Blazers did was agree to explain the salary cap to the players prior to the draft. At that time, a quarter of a million was a whole lot of money. And at a time when the league wasn't nearly as prosperous as the NBA is now.

Of course, those fines were levied by then-commissioner David Stern. I believe the current administration led by Adam Silver is much softer -- on players and ownership. It's a go-along, get-along kind of league now. Everything is cool. Silver just keeps smiling.

Fining the Lakers a half million in today's NBA is a joke. The Lakers -- a company worth billions -- probably spend that much on post-game spreads in the family room. Sure, there is all sorts of tampering going on now -- but what a perfect time to make an example of a team breaking the rules. Certainly a $500,000 fine isn't going to deter a team from illegal contact.

I mean, why bother with those tampering rules if you aren't going to enforce them?

And does anybody think the Pacers would have gotten the same treatment had they tampered with a Laker player? I don't think so. It's no secret the NBA wants the Lakers strong again and wasn't anxious to do anything that would impede their growth.

It's too bad.

 

Trail Blazers pick up option on Pat Connaughton

Trail Blazers pick up option on Pat Connaughton

Pat Connaughton will be returning to the Trail Blazers next season after the team on Thursday picked up a $1.4 million option on the shooting guard, but that didn’t mean the third-year player celebrated.

“Time to make some shots,’’ Connaughton texted when asked if he had time for an interview.

The Blazers had until Thursday to decide whether to keep Connaughton or waive him, a deadline that was extended from the original June 25 date in order to give the Blazers more flexiblilty. Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey notified Connaughton shortly after 9 a.m.

Connaughton’s signing gives the Blazers 14 guaranteed contracts for the 2017-2018 season, one below the NBA maximum.

Connaughton, 24, averaged 1.8 points in 73 games in his first two seasons and had brief stints last season where he broke the rotation. In the season’s final two games, when the Blazers rested their starters, the 6-foot-5 Connaughton had 15 points against San Antonio and 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against New Orleans.

Connaughton's status was murky heading into the summer after his Las Vegas Summer League was cut short by a hamstring injury that came after he struggled with his shot. 

After the summer trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn, Connaughton will enter training camp as the potential backup to CJ McCollum at shooting guard.

Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Blazers officially sign Neil Olshey to contract extension

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 29, 2017) –The Portland Trail Blazers have announced a contract extension for President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, taking him through the 2020-21 season.  In keeping with team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

“Neil has done an excellent job improving our team and getting us into the playoffs. With our young and improving roster, I expect our franchise to keep improving,” said Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. “Continuity in the front office is important as we continue to grow, and this extension shows the confidence we have in Neil’s leadership.”

“I appreciate the confidence Paul Allen has in myself and the entire Basketball Operations staff,” said Olshey.  “I look forward to building on the foundation we have developed and the continued partnership with Bert Kolde, Chris McGowan, Terry Stotts and the entire Trail Blazers organization.  On a personal note, I’m very happy for my family as we’ve really embraced Oregon and the incredible spirit of Rip City.”

Promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2015, Olshey was named the 10th General Manager in franchise history on June 4, 2012, and finished his fifth season at the helm in 2016-17. In his role, Olshey leads the organization’s Basketball Operations, overseeing talent evaluation, player personnel decisions, contract negotiations and salary cap management.

Less than a month after joining the Trail Blazers, Olshey drafted Damian Lillard (sixth overall), the fourth unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year in league history, and Meyers Leonard (11th overall). He then named veteran coach Terry Stotts head coach of the Trail Blazers on August 7, 2012.  Olshey also drafted and developed guard CJ McCollum (10th overall in 2013), winner of the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player award.

Last season, Olshey made a trade-deadline move to acquire center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round draft pick from Denver in exchange for Mason Plumlee and cash considerations on February 13. That move ignited the Trail Blazers’ climb into the NBA Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season – even with the youngest roster in the NBA.

“Knowing Neil will continue to lead Basketball Operations well into the foreseeable future is a great thing for our franchise,” said Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. “I am excited to continue our partnership in running this organization on and off the court with the goal of delivering a world-class experience for our fans.”

The Trail Blazers will tip-off the 2017-18 regular season beginning October 18 with road games at Phoenix, Indiana and Milwaukee, before returning to Portland for their home opener versus New Orleans on October 24. 

ABOUT THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Members of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Portland Trail Blazers were founded in 1970 and purchased by Paul G. Allen in 1988. The team's rich heritage includes 33 playoff appearances, three trips to the NBA Finals, an NBA championship in 1977 and a commitment to community service and sustainability. The Trail Blazers are dedicated to positively impacting underserved kids and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington where they live, learn and play. Portland is the first and only professional sports franchise to receive the prestigious National Points of Light Award for excellence in corporate and community service. The Trail Blazers home arena, the Moda Center, earned LEED Gold Recertification in 2015 after becoming the first existing professional sports venue in the world to receive LEED Gold status in 2010. The team is also one of the founding members of the Green Sports Alliance. For more information, visit www.trailblazers.com.