Blazers Lose Game To Spurs And Aldridge To Injury In San Antonio

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 42-23 on the season, 18-15 on the road and 0-4 on their current five-game road trip with a 103-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.

As if the loss alone wasn’t bad enough, Portland suffered a serious blow with LaMarcus Aldridge taking a hard fall at the 11:17 mark in third quarter after colliding with Spurs center Aron Baynes.

Aldridge writhed on the floor in obvious pain before finally being helped off the court by teammates Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard and was reluctant to put any weight on his right leg. Replays showed the three-time All-Star landing hard on his tailbone, though the team later described the injury as a “back contusion.”

“When a guy takes a a tough fall like that, when you’re airborne, you just don’t know what can happen you land,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “The longer he stayed down, you just don’t know.”

Aldridge did not return to the game, finishing the night with 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting and four rebounds. X-rays on his back came back negative, though his status for Friday night’s contest in New Orleans against the Pelicans is not yet know.

“It looked really painful,” said Damian Lillard. “I watched him go up for the shot and fall straight out of the air. That’s a tough fall. I was concerned about his well-being more than anything else once I saw his facial expressions and that he kind of stayed down. I never saw him stay down like that, so obviously I was concerned for him.”

If there’s any good news, aside from x-rays coming back negative, it’s that the Trail Blazers recently went 4-1 while Aldridge was sidelined with a left groin strain.

“We’re going to fight,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes. “Unfortunately we played a few games without (Aldridge), so we’re accustomed to that kind of style of play. We’re going to fight every game, we’re going to compete. Now it’s just time for us to make our own luck. Get the 50/50 balls, turn these games around, stop waiting for it to happen and just go make it happen like we were doing earlier in the year.”

Immediately following the injury, Portland went on an 11-5 run to cut San Antonio’s lead to six with 5:36 to play in the third quarter. The Spurs pushed the lead back to nine by the end of the third, though enter the fourth down single digits had to feel like a victory after Portland trailed by as many as 16 in the quarter.

But back-to-back three-pointers by Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli to start the fourth put the home team back up 15 and dealt a crippling blow to Portland’s prospects of a comeback.

“I think we played hard all the time, we played small,” said Stotts. “There were a couple points in the half that I thought we were kind of back in it. Then San Antonio at the beginning of the fourth hits two threes right when we’re in the thick of things. The guys that were out there were playing hard, looking for opportunities, but it was tough to get over the hump.”

With Aldridge out, Portland was led by the play of Lillard, who finished with 23 points on 9 of 22 shooting. Lillard has now scored at least 20 points in every game he’s played against San Antonio in his career. He also added five rebounds and three assists in the loss, which was Portland’s fourth in a row.

“I would say it’s the most adversity that we’ve had to go against

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as a team (this season),” said Lillard. “With losing LA and Mo (Williams) being out tonight, four losses in a row for the first time. It’s a really tough stretch. I think the type of year that we’ve turned this into, with us being 42-23, I think we’ve kind of give ourselves some room for error or some room for a time like this where we lose four games in a row unexpected. It’s time for us to turn it around. We’ve got to stick with it and as players, we can’t be the ones that are overly concerned about losing a game. We’ve played against really good teams, our rhythm has been kind of off, so that makes everything harder when you’re playing against good teams closing in on the playoffs. End of the season and teams are fighting for their playoffs lives.”

Nicolas Batum added a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds and Dorell Wright, who started five games when Aldridge was injured, added 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.

San Antonio held Portland to 39 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent shooting from three. The Trail Blazers are shooting 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from three during their four-game losing streak.

“We could probably execute better, we could probably finish better, probably set better screens,” said Stotts. “Give credit to the defense, San Antonio is a good defensive team. We didn’t get a lot of easy baskets.”

The Spurs had six players score in double figures led by former Trail Blazers guard Patty Mills, who finished with 15 points in 17 minutes off the bench.

The Trail Blazers will have one last chance to get a win on the trip Friday night in New Orleans, though it’s very possible they’ll have to do so without their best player.

“We knew this trip was going to be tough,” said Stotts. “We lost a couple close ones, but this is a league of adversity. Every team goes through it at some point and it’s how you come through it that matters.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 5 PM.

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Trail Blazers Match Four-Year Offer For Allen Crabbe

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.

ORIGINAL POST

After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…


As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.

But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.

There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…

With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.

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Trail Blazers Sign Meyers Leonard To Four-Year Deal

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

UPDATE: The team has officially announce that they have signed Meyers Leonard to a new contract. From the press release…

“Meyers is a core member of our organization and continues to show the promise and potential we anticipated when we drafted him,” said Olshey.

Leonard averaged career-highs with 8.4 points (44.8% FG, 37.7% 3-PT76.1% FT), 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 21.9 minutes in 61 games (10 starts) in 2015-16. He missed the final 14 games of the regular season due to an injured left shoulder.

“Today is a day which is hard to describe. I’m overcome with happiness and joy,” said Leonard. “I’m thankful for the people who have remained loyal and loving in my life. This is the product of a lot of hard work and time. I feel like I have found a new gear mentally and physically and really am excited for the next four years. The future is going to be bright with this team.”

ORIGINAL POST

The Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard sat down at the negotiating table prior to the start of the 2015-16 season in an effort to hammer out a new contract in an effort to keep the 7-1 power forward from hitting the (restricted) free agent market. Despite mutual interest, the two sides were unable to strike a deal, though considering the Trail Blazers had the right to match any offer Leonard received as a free agent, it always seemed likely he’d be back even if terms on an extension couldn’t be reached.

As it turns out, an offer sheet from another team wasn’t needed for both sides to ultimately come to an agreement.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Leonard and the Trail Blazers have agreed on a new four-year deal worth $41 million

Leonard, a restricted free agent, has built his value as a stretch four with an ability to spread the floor and deliver a presence on the defensive boards.

Leonard is part of a core expected to compete for 50 victories in the Western Conference this season.

Leonard, 24, missed the final 20 regular-season games with a left shoulder surgery in 2015-16, but has shown steady improvement in the past two years after being selected at No. 11 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.

The reported four-year deal is roughly the same as the offer the Trail Blazers reportedly extended to Leonard prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. At the time, it was reasonable to assume Leonard might receive a larger offer from another team, as his combination of size, athleticism and shooting are highly sought after in today’s NBA. But missing the final 20 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, not to mention the widely-held assumption that the Blazers would match any reasonable offer for Leonard, likely cooled interest from other teams. And though he didn’t say it explicitly, it always seemed as though Leonard’s preference was to continue his career in Portland after being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick of the 2012 Draft.

“I was drafted here, I’ve been with Terry (Stotts) the entire time, Neil (Olshey) obviously drafted me, being here with now our franchise player Damian (Lillard),” said Leonard back in March. “So the future is bright here and I truly hope that I can be a big part of it.”

Leonard returns to a big man rotation that features Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Festus Ezeli, who signed with Portland as a free agent on Friday.

While Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the team is done chasing new free agents for the year, whether restricted free agents Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe, who received an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets worth reportedly $75 million over four years on Thursday, return to Portland next season is still to be determined. The team has until 9 pm Sunday night to decide whether or not to match the offer made to Crabbe.

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Ezeli Exhibits A Rare Enthusiasm In Joining The Trail Blazers

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
5 days ago

Typically in NBA free agency, it’s the duty of the team to woo the player they’re interested in signing. Seeing as how there are only so many free agents to go around every year, the competition between teams to acquire their preferred players can often times be intense. The Clippers all but locking center DeAndre Jordan in a house last year in order to prevent him from signing with the Mavericks being the most recent example of the lengths teams will go to in order to obtain or retain their respective free agent targets.

But some free agents are easier to convince than others. And sometimes, they don’t need any convincing. Such was the case with center Festus Ezeli, who signed a two-year deal reported to be worth $18 million, widely considered a ridiculous bargain in the 2016 free agent market, Thursday night. While the interest between Ezeli and the Trail Blazers was obviously mutual — shoring up the team’s interior defense was one of the main goals going into the offseason — it sounds like in this case, it was the player who initiated the negotiations, something that is a rarity in the era in which some free agents seem to relish the opportunity to be wined and dined by teams desperate to secure their services.

“My agent contacted and I said ‘I want to be a part of this franchise’ because, like I said, I see a bright future of this team,” said Ezeli Friday morning during his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin. “It doesn’t come very often when you have such talented guards like CJ (McCollum) and Damian (Lillard) and such a complete team with everybody else. I know Al-Farouq (Aminu)  just from playing with Nigeria, being around with the African scene, the African community works, I’ve known him through that. But I know that this team is full of high character guys and that’s a great start in itself, work ethic and all those things. I see good things happening here, I want to be a part of it.”

Having played for the Golden State Warriors during his first three seasons after being selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Ezeli knows a little something about what a team needs to be successful. And having matched up against the Trail Blazers on numerous occasions, the most recent being the series between his former and current teams during the 2016 Western Conference playoffs, and seeing how they performed, competed and the way they were supported, Ezeli entered his own free agency thinking Portland might be the place for him.

“First of all, this organization is first class,” said Ezeli. “We played them in the playoffs so I’m pretty familiar with them playing in the West as well. I got to see a lot about the team’s character in those moments in battle on the court and that’s where you get to know the other team’s strengths and weaknesses. Their chemistry was something I really admired on the court. Second thing, the fans. I noticed when we came out here the fans were unbelievable. We take pride in our fans and as a basketball player you love your fans so when I saw that, saw the energy, I wanted to be a part of that. Great team, great coach, great fans. What more could you ask for from an organization?”

For the Trail Blazers, a team that has historically had a difficult time luring free agents, acquiring a player so enthusiastic about coming to Portland must have been a welcomed surprise, but it’s not as if a willingness to sign on was enough. There still had to be a need on the roster, which was luckily for both Ezeli and the Trail Blazers.

“He’s coming from a very good defensive system in Golden State,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “His defensive rating in Golden State on an exceptional defensive team was outstanding, one of the best on the team. So he’s going to have an impact for our team, whether it’s in pick-and-roll, whether it’s defensive rebounding, whether it’s altering shots at the rim. He’s athletic, he has a long wingspan. In today’s NBA, particularly with the plan of playing Farouq (Aminu) more at four, he’s going to give us the ability to play a smaller lineup and still have a defensive component to it… I think his presence in the paint on the offensive end is going to cause problems as well. Team’s won’t be able to switch pick-and-rolls. So I think he’s going to have a positive impact on both ends of the court.”

Much like the rest of Portland’s roster, Ezeli still has room to grow, especially considering he didn’t even pick up basketball until he was well into his teens.  And he has had surgeries on both knees in the last two years, which is likely to give some pause (especially considering the history of the franchise) despite Ezeli saying he’s “100 percent healthy and ready to go.” But to acquire a player with Ezeli’s experience and skill set on a great value contract who also seems legitimately excited to play in Portland seems like an unmitigated success.

“I have to go home and kind of sit with my family and try to figure some things out, decompress a little bit, but I’m excited,” said Ezeli. “I love this city, I love the people so far and I hear there’s a lot of great food over here, so I can’t wait to get to that. I’ll be back later this summer, I’ve got to go figure out the whole moving situation, but I’m excited.”

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