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.

Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh likely to miss start of season after suffering right shoulder injury

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USA Today

Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh likely to miss start of season after suffering right shoulder injury

Trail Blazers’ forward Noah Vonleh has suffered a right shoulder strain that will keep him out of training camp and likely the first two weeks of the regular season, CSN has learned.

Entering his fourth NBA season, Vonleh is one of the Blazers' better defenders and he was expected to be in the mix for the Blazers’ starting power forward spot.

He suffered the injury this week during pickup games at the team’s practice facility. The injury will not require surgery.

Last season, Vonleh averaged 4.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 74 games, including 41 starts.

A 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, Vonleh was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by Charlotte and acquired by Portland with Gerald Henderson in a June 2015 trade that sent Nicolas Batum to Hornets.

The Blazers’ at power forward could turn to Al-Farouq Aminu, who started at times last season, or rookie Caleb Swanigan. They could also shift Ed Davis or Meyers Leonard from center or Maurice Harkless from small forward.

The Blazers open training camp on Tuesday. The season opens Oct. 17 at Phoenix. 

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A 'new' Meyers Leonard

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: A 'new' Meyers Leonard

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: A 'new' Meyers Leonard

Tuesday: A full season of a more fit Jusuf Nurkic

Monday: A healthy Ed Davis

**

One of the first things Meyers Leonard did this summer with Drew Hanlen, his new trainer, was watch the Trail Blazers’ final regular season game against New Orleans.

Leonard started that game and played 36 minutes, finishing 3-for-11 from the field and with seven points and nine rebounds.

“It was hard for me to sit there and watch it,’’ Leonard said.

He couldn’t score in the post against guards. He noticed he wasn’t attacking rebounds. And the form of his shot was disjointed and his attempts off the mark.

“It was eye opening,’’ the 7-foot-1 Leonard remembered. “I was making it so difficult on myself.’’

The regular-season finale was a microcosm of his frustrating fifth season in Portland, when he averaged 5.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and shot 38.5 percent from the field.

After the film session, Hanlen -- whose resume includes training NBA players Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Clarkson, Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard to name a few -- developed a plan.

“It was a plan to prepare him for this kind of ‘New Meyers,’’’ Hanlen said.

The major bullet points of the rebuild were to tighten Leonard’s shooting mechanics; get him to play lower and less upright; and to develop a plan on how to approach various scenarios, such as when defenders rush at him at the three-point line.

“But the first area we had to attack was the cloud that was holding him back – his confidence,’’ Hanlen said. “When he first arrived in the summer I asked him ‘From 1-to-100, how confident are you in your game?’

“He said, ‘If I’m being honest, probably around 30,’’’ Hanlen said.

Fast forward four months to today, less than a week away from the start of training camp.

Leonard says his confidence level is “in the 80s” and Hanlen says in all his years of working with NBA players, Leonard’s progress is remarkable.

“From a confidence level, it’s one of the biggest jumps I’ve seen a player make in a summer,’’ Hanlen said. “And from a skill level standpoint, Meyers elevated himself multiple levels.’’

Apparently, Leonard and Hanlen aren’t the only ones noticing.

Leonard this summer took part in the renowned NBA pickup games at UCLA two or three times a week, and Hanlen said several of his clients approached him about the 7-footer from Portland.

“I was getting compliments from NBA players like ‘Meyers is a beast … I don’t know why Portland is not using him,’’ Hanlen said. “Other players, they were bragging to me about him.’’

Leonard said those games included players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, DeMar DeRozan, and one week the entire Oklahoma City team played.

“I was out there as confident as I’ve ever been – hitting shots … down in the post … and having a plan of what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “I had a couple different people tell me they heard things, stuff like ‘If Meyers plays like this he will be just fine … it will be eye opening … ‘’

Leonard stopped short and retreated. He is wary of what he says these days, knowing all too well how much of a divisive force he is among the Blazers’ fan base, and how many “remakes” he has supposedly undergone during his five seasons in Portland.

Both he and Hanlen agree that the proof will be in his performance this season.

“I will say this: This is the most laser-focused I have been in my life. For sure,’’ Leonard said. “I no longer have thoughts in head of ‘Do I really belong?’  – I no longer have that and never will again. I’ve proven that to myself.’’

That confidence was born out of 6:15 a.m. wakeup calls for daily workouts with Hanlen in Los Angeles.

The biggest changes: Hanlen has changed Leonard’s shooting mechanics, most of which deals with balance. He found that Leonard would often lean back on his shots and/or have his feet to close together. So now, Leonard focuses on his shoulders being forward and establishing a wide base with his feet.

Also, he has trained Leonard to play lower, which allows him to move better, both offensively and defensively.

Finally, Hanlen developed what he calls a “plan” for Leonard in how to thrive within the Blazers’ system.

“He has to be able to play within that system, but before he would set a screen and then float around the perimeter,’’ Hanlen said. “He didn’t have a purpose.’’

So they worked on a series of options –  pick-and-pop …  a dive to the basket where he worked on finishing with both hands … a short roll to the basket … a one-dribble and attack the basket.

“That way he can keep defenses off balance and open more space for Damian and CJ while becoming more of a threat himself, instead of just drifting around the perimeter,’’ Hanlen said.

#Repost @drewhanlen -- @meyersleonard11 has been putting in serious work to elevate his game this summer! #GameReps

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To accentuate Leonard’s new skills, Hanlen wanted Leonard to lose weight.

“Today in the NBA, thin is in,’’ Hanlen said. “You not only move better, you recover quicker.’’

Leonard played between 262 and 265 pounds last season and initially thought he wanted to bulk to 270 pounds this season. But with the urging of Hanlen to lose weight to become more mobile, Leonard says he is at 257.5 pounds as he enters training camp.

“I feel great,’’ Leonard said. “This is the healthiest I’ve been since I’ve been in Portland.’’

Now comes the hard part: proving it.

The Blazers’ have a stable of big men with Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Al-Farouq Aminu and a burgeoning rookie in Caleb Swanigan. In order to break into the roation, Leonard will have to earn it and he knows it will take time.

 “It’s going to be a day-by-day thing,’’ Leonard said. “A lot of people know in the back of their mind that I can play. Did I show that last year? Occasionally, but not really. So gaining the players’ trust to throw me the ball, gaining Coach Stotts’ trust to put me in to help the team win … I’m going to have to keep chipping at that. And I’m sure there will be bumps in the road.

“In the meantime, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,’’ Leonard said. “It was a good summer. I’m in a really good place. And I just want to continue to do the right things.’’

Anthony Morrow: Nothing wrong with Blazers adding another shooter

Anthony Morrow: Nothing wrong with Blazers adding another shooter

The Trail Blazers this week announced that they've signed veteran Anthony Morrow to a training camp contract. Not a big deal, most likely. You need extra players during camp and the exhibition season. There are always free agents added for camp.

But Morrow interests me more than the average camp addition.

I've always had a weakness for wild-card scorers -- either terrific one-on-one players or three-point gunners. I've never cared if they can defend or rebound or pass. It's just that I've seen many times in the NBA the value of that streak shooter or instant-offense player off the bench. Morrow is a career 41.7 percent shooter from three-point range. Folks, that's more than pretty good.

Is there a place for him in a starting lineup or even a regular rotation? No, I doubt it. But there are nights in the NBA when stuff just isn't working. Offensive players aren't scoring and a team is slowly drifting out of a game. Morrow is the kind of player who can get you back in the game. I've see him do it. Put him in, run some stuff to get him a sliver of daylight from three-point range and he'll likely knock down some shots.

What more could you ask from a 10th man off your bench?

And the best thing about Morrow is that he'd be cheap. This isn't Ryan Anderson making $20 million per season. This is a minimum-salary guy.

Now understand, Morrow is very likely a longshot just to make the Portland roster. The most obvious reason he's even in the Portland training camp is to put some pressure on Pat Connaughton and Jake Layman. The Trail Blazers would love to see either of those young players develop into a dependable outside shooter. This team needs more wing shooters with range. Perhaps the presence of Morrow will be a subtle push for those players.

Either way, I like the idea of seeing another shooter in camp. The way the game is being played in the NBA these days, you just can't seem to have enough long-range gunners.

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

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USA Today

Five reasons Blazers could be better than you think: More fit Jusuf Nurkic

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: A full season of a more fit Jusuf Nurkic.

Monday: A healthy Ed Davis.

**

When it comes to explaining why center Jusuf Nurkic should be an object of optimism for the Trail Blazers’ season, pictures are more powerful than words.

#ripcity

A post shared by Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) on

Push yourself because, no one else is going to do it for you. #nurkfever #ripcity #timetowork

A post shared by Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) on

We don't make excuses We make results #ripcity @toddforcier

A post shared by Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) on

It's getting better every day. #beastfrom #wildwildeast #ripcity

A post shared by Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) on

When the Bosnian 7-footer arrived in Portland last February, he was 309 pounds, unconditioned and mostly, unknown.

Today, one week from the start of Trail Blazers training camp, Nurkic is 275 pounds, fit, and one of the centerpieces of a team that has once again adopted an attitude of proving naysayers wrong.

Through a series of offseason workouts that were closely monitored by the team, Nurkic not only shed 34 pounds, he became more agile. In the process, the lost weight should take pressure off his lower extremities, which became a concern last season after he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula that kept him out of the season’s final seven games and all but one of the Blazers’ four playoff games.

Nurkic this month has been playing full court pickup games and is expected to have no medical obstacles or restraints when training camp starts on Sept. 26.

The prospects of what a slimmer, more fit Nurkic can accomplish is one of the reasons the Blazers could be better than Las Vegas, for one, has projected.

In 20 games after Nurkic was traded from Denver along with a first-round pick for Mason Plumlee, he averaged 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

More importantly, the Blazers went 14-6 in those 20 games, prompting a late-season surge into the playoffs.

And much of the noise during that run was made by Nurkic. If he wasn’t hitting big fourth-quarter shots at Oklahoma City, he was coming through in the clutch at San Antonio. And if he wasn’t dazzling with a rolling hook, he was delighting with a nifty inside pass. And when it seemed like he couldn’t have a bigger game than against Philadelphia, when he had 28 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists, he went and burned his former team in a crucial March game with 33 points and 15 rebounds.

He was so good that “Nurkic Fever” became a craze, memorialized on t-shirts and signs.

Can it get better?

Word is, his new physique has afforded him even more agility, which he has utilized to expand his offensive arsenal, which now includes step-back jumpers and more spin moves.

And now, with a full training camp and the familiarity of what is almost the same roster returning, it seems reasonable to expect bigger and better things out of the 23-year-old center.

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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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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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.