The Portland Trail Blazers, after starting the preseason 0-2 at the Moda Center, got their first win of the preseason with a 96-86 result against the Utah Jazz in front of a sellout crowd at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, ID.
The Trail Blazers were led by exemplary and efficient performances by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard finished the night with 23 points on eight-of-15 shooting, five assists and a rebound in 29 minutes. He also held Jazz rookie Trey Burke to seven points on three-of-ten shooting to easily win the point guard matchup for the Trail Blazers, who were the designated home team.
“I felt like, playing against (Burke), I had to set the tone,” said Lillard. “First point guard taken and he’s kind of in a similar situation to what I was coming in, gonna play a lot of minutes and being the starting point guard on an NBA team. When I came in there was guys that was feeling like they needed to show me something and set the tone on me when they played against me because it was my first year and I was the summer league MVP and there was all this hype. Same goes for him. And the next season, the same will go for whoever the next guy is.”
As dominant as Lillard was, Aldridge might have been better. The two-time All-Star had his way with Utah’s bigs, scoring 20 points on eight-of-nine shooting while pulling down eight rebounds in just 18 minutes.
“It was just one of those night where I was in a really good rhythm,” said Aldridge. “I had a really good warmup today and I know I was going to (play) limited minutes, so got really loose pregame. It just carried over. I think every guy on the team is working hard right now. I think our rhythm is going to come by playing together more.”
Aldridge made a point of praising second-year power forward Joel Freeland, saying Freeland’s improvement defensively in the post has made his job much easier.
“I’m not even worried about my game; I’m excited about what Joel Freeland did tonight, all of those blocks and all of those contests at the rim,” said Aldridge. “That’s big-time for me. I feel like if he can continue to do that all year, he’s going to make our team better. I keep telling him about it. It’s really, really good for us. I think he had at least four or five of those where he went up and either blocked it or made the guy miss and I think that’s big because last year, we were really bad at that.”
Wesley Matthews and Will Barton, starting in place of Nicolas Batum (concussion), finished with eight points apiece. Robin Lopez added seven points and nine rebounds. Mo Williams pitched in with 11 points and seven assists off the bench.
Portland held Utah to 38 percent shooting from the field and outscored the Jazz in the paint 38-22. Turnovers were once again an issue for the Blazers with 23 giveaways on the night, but 10 blocks and winning the rebounding battle 49-38 more than made up for the rash of miscues.
Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Salt Lake for a rubber match at Energy Solutions Arena on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM on 620 AM.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”