The Portland Trail Blazers got a bounce back performance from their starting point guard, a near-perfect shooting performance from his backup and near identical production from their starting frontcourt to beat the Detroit Pistons 109-103 at the Moda Center Monday night.
“I thought it was another solid win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was pleased with our offense, disappointed wiht our defense, but ultimately we made stops when we needed to. You can never analyze a win too much, but it was definitely good to get a win and I think it shows we still have room to grow.”
With the victory, which was achieved on Military Appreciation Night, the Trail Blazers move to 5-2 on the season and have won three-straight for the first time since a four-game streak in early January 2013.
After a one for 15 shooting performance in Saturday night’s 96-85 victory against the Kings in Sacramento, Damian Lillard responded Monday night with a seven for 16 night from the field to finish with 25 points. He did much of his damage from deep in the first half, going a perfect four of four from three. He also added four assists, five rebounds and a block in 35 minutes.
“I didn’t shoot the ball well in Sacramento but I thought I played a good game other than that,” said Lillard. “We won the game. I took the same shots that I’ve been taking, they just went in (against Detroit). I didn’t think about it too much but I’m happy we were able to win the game.”
Stotts predicted prior to the game that Lillard would have a bounce back effort similar to the 33-point performance he turned in against the Heat last season after going one for 15 two nights before against the Magic.
“I had a good feeling that he would play a good game,” said Stotts. “I think he’s somewhat unphased by a bad shooting night and, in some respects, comes back even better. I think he showed that last year.”
Lillard’s performance, while impressive, wasn’t nearly as efficient as Mo Williams’, who finished with 17 points on seven of nine shooting. Williams hit his first five shots of the night before missing a 19-foot jumper at the 2:36 mark of the fourth quarter.
“He was big time,” said Lillard of Williams. “He always picks up the pace of the game with the speed he plays at. Tonight he made shots, he made plays for guys. Guarding (Brandon) Jennings, he was pursuing over every pick and roll. He changed the game and that’s what we need him to do, come in and change the game.”
But it wasn’t just Portland’s guards who had hot nights from the field. LaMarcus Aldridge turned in yet another fine all-around performance with 18 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while his fellow big man Robin Lopez had his best game as a Trail Blazer with 17 points on seven of ten shooting and 10 rebounds.
“I love Robin,” said Stotts. “He just played hard every minute he’s out there. He gives effort at the boards at both ends. He’s a great team player and does what we need him to do. When he’s able to contribute offensively, that’s great. For him to get a double-double, he’s really an important part of our team.”
After the game, Aldridge attributed Lopez’s performance to the time-tested advantage of playing in front of family.
“His mom is here so she’s staying for the rest of the season now!” joked Aldridge. “He was making post moves and diving to the basket, throwing dimes to me. Tonight, he played with that energy and that high level that we need from him. He blocked shots, he rebounded, he scored, he was talking more tonight. I thought his energy was great tonight.”
While Lopez’s energy and Portland’s shooting percentages could be described as great, their defensive, by the admission of nearly everyone in Portland’s locker room, was not, as evidenced by Detroit outscoring Portland 60-36 points in the paint. While Stotts was satisfied with some of what the team did, particularly forcing the Pistons to shoot mid-range jumpshots, he said he’d like to see his team slow down opponents more often.
“I’d like to get to the point where we’re able to take away other teams’ strengths a little bit better,” said Stotts. “Detroit did what they did. They are a paint team, they are an offensive rebounding team. We did a better job with the transition defense, but they’re a transition team. I’d like to get to the point where we’re a little bit better at taking away other teams’ strengths. That being said, they shot a fair amount of mid-range shots. Actually, they shot more mid-range shots than they usually. They shot 42 percent from mid-range which is a decent number. If you look at effective field goal percentage, we did a nice job. We took away threes. I would have liked to have rebounded the ball a little bit better. The first half, I would have liked to control their transition a little bit better. Shots at the rim, control that a bit better. Just getting to a point where – teams do what they do, we just need to not let them do it quite as well as they normally do.”
The Pistons were led by Brandon Jennings (28 points on 11 of 24 shooting) and sophomore Andre Drummond, who turned in a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds in 42 minutes. Greg Monroe added 19 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
Next up, the Trail Blazers look for some opening-night revenge when they host the Suns at the Moda Center. Tipoff is schedule for 7 PM.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.