In A Tight Series, Trail Blazers Try To Shore Up The Little Things

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

TUALATIN — The Portland Trail Blazers returned to practice on Saturday after dropping Game 3 to the Rockets at the Moda Center Friday night. They watched some film and the players who see infrequent playing time were engaged in a live scrimmage when the media was let into the gym, but for the most part, one got the sense that it was a light day.

And at this point, that’s probably the way it should be. After all, the Blazers and Rockets finished with identical regular season records, the average margin of victory in the series is 4.6 points and two of the three games of the series have gone to overtime. In short, there’s is very little separating these two teams.

“I think we all knew that we’re very evenly matched,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts after Game 3. “We’re very similar in styles. I think these are the games we’ve got to expect.”

So when two teams are so close, what does a team work on to gain an advantage? There are missed opportunities and mistakes in every game and minimizing those instances is certainly a goal, but there’s no amount of practice that is going to prevent a game-winning shot off a broken play or a career 21 percent three-point shooter hitting both of his three-point attempts at pivotal moments.

“I think (Game 3) did a good job of putting the whole season in perspective,” said Robin Lopez. “We realize all these games have been very close matchups. It could very easily be 2-1 in favor of the Rockets, it could be 3-0 in favor of us. It really comes down to a few plays in each game.”

Which is what every player asked about what the difference had been in the series so far repeated. While big-time performances from the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard and Damian Lillard put each team in place to come away victorious, it’s the little things that have ultimately been the tipping points in the series.

“It’s just details, like lose balls, offensive rebound, turnover, those little things,” said Nicolas Batum. “We’ve got to get a better start tomorrow. We can’t start with a 10-0 run for them. All those details count at the end because you lost by two, three or four or a last shot, like what happened the first three games almost, those details count a lot.”

The Trail Blazers know what they need to do, and for the most part, have done those things very well. But at this point, there’s no amount of running up and down the court on an off day that’s going to make any difference regarding which team moves on to the Western Conference semifinals. Any improvements to be made are mental.

“I think we realize we need to be a little free out there, but at the same time, we can’t lack that edge. And we feel there were parts of the game yesterday where that was the missing ingredient.”

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Lillard Talks Free Agency, Team USA and Special Olympics At His Yearly Basketball Camp

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
23 hours ago

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.

But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.

Damian Lillard participates in his basketball camp on June 30, 2016. Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…

“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”

Damian Lillard participates in his basketball camp on June 30, 2016. Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

On his relationship with Special Olympics…

“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”

Damian Lillard participates in his basketball camp on June 30, 2016. Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…

“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”

Damian Lillard participates in his basketball camp on June 30, 2016. Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…

“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”

Damian Lillard participates in his basketball camp on June 30, 2016. Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

On free agency…

“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”

His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…

“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”

Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…

“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”

Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…

“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”

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Podcast: Leonard Talks Offseason, Free Agency On The Rip City Report

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…

This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. And consider ending the month by throwing a review on the iTunes.

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VIDEO: McCollum And Commissioner Silver Have Their Yearly Reunion

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.

Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.

 

And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.

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