Aldridge Withdraws From Team USA, Lillard Still A Go

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The 19-man pool from which the 12-man roster for the 2014 USA Men’s National Team that will be competing at the FIBA World Cup (formerly known as the World Championship) this summer in Spain was announced this morning, and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who drew much praise for his performance at the Team USA minicamp back in July of 2013, is included. Lillard was one of the 26 players included in the initial pool of players announced back in January, so it’s no surprise that the second-year guard out of Weber State has been invited to compete for one of those roster spots, especially after his performance during the 2013-14 NBA regular and post season.

From the USA Basketball press release …

Featuring 19 players, including two players who are new additions to the 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team roster, USA Basketball Chairman and National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo today announced this summer’s USA Basketball Men’s National Team from which the 2014 USA World Cup Team will be selected.

Added to the 2014-16 USA National Team roster and participating in the July-28-Aug. 1 USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas, Nevada, are NBA standouts DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors) and Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks).

Previously named USA National Team members who are confirmed to participate in the 2014 Las Vegas training camp include: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Paul George (Indiana Pacers); Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves); Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls); and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors).

What does come as a bit of a surprise is that LaMarcus Aldridge, who was also on the initial list of potential Team USA players, is not on the roster. A source confirmed that Aldridge was initially invited, but has since withdrawn his name from consideration (USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo apparently said the same thing after the roster announcement was made).

“We can only offer an opportunity,” Colangelo said in a conference call Monday morning, “and then they can either accept or not. In Aldridge’s case, this has happened a couple of times previously. But the bottom line is he advised us that he’s not available.”

It’s not entirely clear why Aldridge decided not to make himself available for the 2014 World Cup team, though it’s possible that he’s simply opting to use the summer to rest and prepare for the Trail Blazers 2014-15 season.

On the international side, Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum and Victor Claver are expected to play for France and Spain, respectively, at the 2014 World Cup, which begins August 30.

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VIDEO: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving And Paul George To Appear On ‘We Bare Bears’ Cartoon

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 hour ago

It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…

 

Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…

… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.

Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.

Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.

Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consultation prize.

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Homestand And Win Streak End With Loss To Raptors

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
21 hours ago

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.

“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”

With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.

While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.

“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”

In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.

“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.

McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.

Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.

Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.

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McCollum On The Skill Competition: ‘I Ain’t Going To Be Cool Like A Lot Of Those Other Guys’

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…

Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.

CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”

When did you find out you were selected?

CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”

Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.

CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”

What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?

CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”

You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”

What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.

CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”

I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?

CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”

A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?

CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”

You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”

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