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.
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
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.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Trail Blazers have acquired the No. 47 pick of the 2016 Draft from the Orlando Magic, which they will use to select 6-9 forward Jake Layman out of Maryland…
Portland will select Maryland’s Jake Layman with No. 47, sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
Source: To get Maryland’s Jake Layman at No. 47, Portland will send Orlando $1.2M and a 2019 second-round pick.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
The Trail Blazers entered Thursday’s draft with no picks, though it always seemed likely they’d purchase a second round pick, as Paul Allen has shown throughout his tenure as owner that he’s willing to spend in order to bring in draft talent. The $1.2 million the Trail Blazers reportedly sent to Orlando, along with a future second round pick, for the 47th pick is significantly less than what some other teams reportedly spent to get picks later in the second round.
Assuming Layman and the Trail Blazers can come to contract terms — second round picks can negotiate their contracts, while salaries for first round picks are dictated by where they’re taken — it seems likely that he would play for the Trail Blazers at the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts in mid-July.
UPDATE: It’s official. From the team’s press release…
“Jake is a high character young man with a skill set we value on both ends of the floor,” said Olshey. “His ability to defend multiple positions and shoot the ball from range will be positive additions to our roster.”
Orlando selected Layman with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. A four-year player out of the University of Maryland, Layman (6-9, 220) posted career averages of 10.2 points (44.5% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 75.9% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Terrapins.
An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection his senior year, Layman led Maryland to 114 wins over his four seasons and is one of just 12 players in school history to record 1,400 points (1,436) and 600 rebounds (674). Layman, 22, guided Maryland to its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003 last season, and ranks 18th in school history in points (1,436) and 18th in rebounds (674).
According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will not play for Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in order to rest and continue rehabilitating the plantar fasciitis injury that dogged the 6-3 for much of the 2015-16 season. I can confirm this report.
Though Lillard was able to play through the injury after missing seven games in late December, the pain caused by the plantar fasciitis in his left foot never really went away. He received treatment on his foot throughout the season, though the most effective approach to the injury, which causes extreme pain on the bottom of the foot and heel, is rest, which is obviously hard to get when you’re the leader and best player on a team trying to make the postseason. By forgoing the month-long lead up to the Olympics and the Games themselves, Lillard should have the recuperation time he’ll need to go into Portland’s 2016 training camp completely healthy.
Charnania is also reporting that Lillard was hoping for more time to make the decision before being pressed by Team USA for a commitment one way or another. This could very well be true, though if being completely healthy and rested for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season is Lillard’s motivation for declining a Team USA invite, it’s hard to figure how another week or two would change his decision.
Lillard initially declined being a part of the pool that Team USA draws their roster from, though he ultimately relented despite not feeling particularly optimistic about his chances of being named to the Olympic team after being passed over for the FIBA World Cup team in 2014. But between players opting to rest in preparation for the upcoming season and the myriad of concerns regarding the 2016 Games, the number of candidates has dwindled to the point where Lillard would have been a lock to make the Olympic team had he chosen to participate.
But Lillard opting for rest over Rio doesn’t mean you won’t have a Trail Blazer to root for during the Olympics, as Al-Farouq Aminu and the rest of Team Nigeria (a team that also includes former Trail Blazer Ike Diogu and former Oregon Duck Chamberlain Oguchi) have qualified for the 2016 Games after winning AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia. And CJ McCollum has also been invited to play on the USA Select Team, whose purpose is to help the USA National Team prepare for international events, though players from the Select team have been promoted to the National team, with the most recent example being Mason Plumlee making the 2014 World Cup team.
The 2016 NBA Draft is on Thursday, and as you’re probably well aware, the Trail Blazers do not currently own a pick in either round. Their first round pick, which ended up being the 19th selection, was sent to Denver as a part of the trade that brought in Arron Afflalo at the 2014 trade deadline. And their second round pick, which would have been the 48th selection, was sent to Cleveland — which Cleveland later traded to Chicago — as a part of the 2013 draft night trade that netted the Trail Blazers Allen Crabbe (by the way, I was the first person to tell AC he had been traded to Portland). Of course, just because the team doesn’t have a pick doesn’t mean they haven’t been preparing for Thursday’s draft for months, but as of today, the Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in.
Not that the Trail Blazers are alone in that. Portland is one of six teams this year that doesn’t have a first round pick in the 2016 Draft, which means there are numerous teams that have multiple first round picks. And according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Johnathan Givony on today’s The Vertical Podcast, therein lies the opportunity for a team like the Trail Blazers. The combination of teams, some of which that are necessarily looking to add a bunch of young players, owning multiple picks and the vastly different opinions teams have regarding players in this year’s class leads both Wojnarowski and Givony to believe there’s an opportunity for teams to get into the first round…
Adrian Wojnarowski: Every year there are plenty of trades, I think there will be even more this year, for a few reasons. One being, teams that we talked about — Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto has multiple picks, and Phoenix, Denver — they do not want to bring in a training camp full of kids. They can’t come out of this draft with three young players, most of these rosters aren’t built to do that. I think we’re going to see a lot of deals.
And there’s teams outside of the first round — Portland, Brooklyn, Houston — who, if the opportunity strikes, would like to get in. If there’s a player that they want who’s lingering there in the early 20s and they think they can get at him, then they potentially make a deal on draft night.
This is one, I think, especially with the multiple picks, I think you might agree, that we’re going to see a lot of movement. Teams jumping out, teams jumping in. The way the mock draft looks right now, I think it’s going to look very different Thursday night by 10 o’clock.
Jonathan Givony: Definitely. It’s two things we talked about. First of all, every team has this draft rated very, very differently and if there’s a player that a team has rated as a lottery pick and he starts sliding into the late teens, I think you’re going to see a team jump up and try to get him. If DeAnte Davis, if he starts sliding into the later part of the teens — if Henry Ellenson, if Skal (Labissiere), if (Ivica) Zubac. There’s so many big guys, that’s what’s interesting about this draft. There’s so many power forward/centers that think they’re going to go in the lottery and there aren’t enough spots for them because the NBA, their just not that interested in big men anymore…
I think that free agency is going to be in the back of everybody’s head, there’s so much new money coming in, everybody is going to have cap room. Like you said, they’re not looking to get kids. Kids aren’t getting you to the playoffs, kids aren’t winning you playoff games, and so they’re going to want to stay lean. That means not having three or four guys that you draft that you need to bring to training camp. So that’s where I think things are going to get real interesting and teams that are really aggressive are going to jump up and try and get some of these guys that slide down the board.
What it might take to acquire a pick in either round is anybody’s guess, but one thing you can be sure of is that a team owned by Paul Allen is going to be active on draft night — one needs to look back no further than to last year’s draft, where the Trail Blazers flipped their pick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to the Nets in exchange for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton for proof of that. And Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has already vowed the team will be “aggressive” if any of the players they have on their wishlist become available, meaning that just because they enter Thursday’s draft without a pick doesn’t mean they’ll leave empty handed.