Blazers Talk Preferences, Or Lack Thereof, In Playoff Matchup

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

Now that the Trail Blazers have clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the focus has turned from whether Portland will make the postseason to which team they’ll play when the first round starts less than two weeks from now.

Portland could end up playing any of the top four teams in the Western Conference, though they are most likely to play the Rockets with the next highest probability being a first-round matchup in Los Angeles versus the Clippers. The Spurs and Thunder are also potential, though both are unlikely to be Portland’s opponent unless they lose all four of their remaining games this season.

But does it matter? Not according to Portland’s starters, who had varying reasons for saying they didn’t have a preference when it comes to their first playoff opponent.

There was Nicolas Batum, who pointed out that all the teams in the Western Conference are tough outs, so there was no reason to hope for one opponent over another.

“We’re in the West, so I don’t really care,” said Batum. “Whoever we play is going to be tough anyways, from San Antonio to Phoenix, Memphis, Dallas, Houston, Clippers. That’s (the media’s) job to choose and to debate, that’s not mine. So we’ll see.”

Then there’s Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, who pointed out that the Trail Blazers have beaten all of the teams above them in the standings, so they’ll be up to the task regardless of which matchup they end up in.

“We’ve played every team in the Top 4 of the Western Conference tough,” said Matthews, “think we split with every team and we haven’t played the Clippers four times yet. We split with OKC, San Antonio, Houston, played the Clippers tough. It won’t really matter.”

Starting point guard Damian Lillard took a more philosophical approach to the question. While they are in control of their own destiny, as winning their final four games would ensure finishing no lower than fifth, they have no say over who ends up in the other seven playoff spots.

“I don’t have a preference, because it is what it is,” said Lillard. “We don’t control that. I know it’ll be either the Rockets or the Clippers. I’m fine with either one.”

In the end, there’s probably not much point in worrying about first round matchups, at least until the regular season is in the books. Sure, there’s always the option of trying to lose games to get an advantageous first round matchup, but those don’t really exist in the Western Conference.

You’d be hard-pressed to argue that playing the Spurs or Thunder would be an easier path to the second round than going up against the Rockets or Clippers. And even if you could piece together some kind of theory proving one opponent is easier to beat than the others, losing on purpose is hardly the way for a team featuring eight players with no postseason experience to enter their first playoff series. Better to go in riding a wave of confidence and with the feeling that no team is unbeatable.

“I just want to get there and play whoever,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “We’ve played well versus everybody.”

Show Comments

Podcast: The Rip City Report, Finalized Roster Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
20 hours ago

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.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. Thanks as always for listening.

Show Comments

VIDEO: McCollum Brothers Talk Tournament, Who’s Mom’s Favorite on ESPN

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
24 hours ago

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.

Show Comments

Stotts Talks Super Teams And Suits On The Doug Gottlieb Show

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

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.”

Show Comments