The Trail Blazers, for the first time in nearly two weeks, held practice at the their facility in Tualatin before flying out to Phoenix for Wednesday night’s game against the Suns (tipoff at 6 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM).
Some notes …
· Not a media availability goes by recently in which Wesley Matthews isn’t asked about his shooting. That just comes with the territory when you’re second in the league in three-pointers made (45) and adjusted field goal percentage (69 percent), sixth in points per shot (1.53) and seventh in three-point percentage (51 percent). Trying to come up with different ways of saying “I don’t know why I’m shooting so well” is a problem any player in the league would be happy to have.
Though it won’t last forever. While it’s possible that Matthews, who has always been an above-average three-point shooter, morphed into one of the premier shooters in the league over the course of the offseason, it’s more likely that he’s simply riding a hot streak that will eventually come to an end.
But he’s okay with that. There’s no challenge on the court that Matthews isn’t up for, but even he conceded shooting ten percentage points better than his career average from three on a nightly basis might be unlikely, even if he thinks, as he does, that every shot he takes us going in.
“I know I’m not going to shoot 54, 53 percent from the three or whatever it is every night,” said Matthews. “I’m almost glad that I didn’t do (against New York). I didn’t do it against Milwaukee, we won. I didn’t do it (against New York), we won.”
If the Trail Blazers were to rely on Matthews shooting 50 percent or better from three in order to win games, they wouldn’t be 13-2. It certainly helps when he does, but there has always been a teammate ready to pick up the slack when Matthews has had an “off” night shooting.
And who knows, maybe Matthews keeps his percentage up all season. While he did say he doesn’t expect to shoot over 50 percent all season, he also points out that his predictions aren’t always correct.
Said Matthews: “Hey, I’ve been wrong before.”
· Wednesday night’s game will be the third time in less than a month that between the two teams. The Trail Blazers won the most recent contest 90-89, escaping with a victory only after three last-second tip ins rimmed out at the Moda Center. And of course there was the 104-91 drubbing in Phoenix on Opening Night for one of Portland’s two losses this season.
So while Terry Stotts refused to put too much emphasis on Wednesday night’s game, it seems seems reasonable to think the contest will be a decent gauge of how much the Trail Blazers have improved since that first game of the season.
“Certainly they handled us pretty easily that game, that was a high-scoring game,” said Stotts of the first game against Phoenix. “We snuck one out here at home in a low scoring game. They’ve played well against us, there’s no two ways about that. We have to play hard, play well, stick to our gameplan, all those things that have been important this season.”
Stotts said that, after being the top rated defensive team throughout the preseason, the Opening Night thrashing at the hands of a young, fast Suns team “kind of opened our eyers that it’s not easy.” Since then, Stotts says tmhis team’s transition defense (Phoenix scored 31 fast break points in the opener) and pick and roll coverage has been improved, though his players would take that improvement even a step further.
“We’re a better team than we were the the first two times, definitely a better team than the first time we played them,” said Wesley Matthews. “And then the win that we did get — that was tough — at our place, we’re a better team than we were then. We’re just going to continue to try and get better, improve, do the things that made us successful. But at the same time we’re going to play our game and our game has been pretty good for us so far.”
· Finally, news broke yesterday that eccentric rapper Kanye West was cutting ties with Nike in order to sign a more lucrative deal with Adidas. West had collaborated with Nike on the two iterations of the Air Yeezy, a sneaker that was produced in very limited quantities, and thus, became highly sought-after among sneaker collectors.
Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson, a sneaker Connoisseur, is a fan of the Air Yeezy and owns the Yeezy 1 and the two colorways of the Yeezy 2. He said he doesn’t mind the move, though as a Nike-endorsed athlete, the relationship between West and Adidas does pose a problem.
“As long it still looks good, I’m cool,” said Robinson. “I mean, I wouldn’t be able to wear them no more, which sucks, so I wish he’d drop the red ones with Nike.”
The “red ones” Robinson is referring to are the “Red October” colorway of the Air Yeezy 2, which have not hit the market despite rumors they would were set for an October release. But with West leaving Nike for their main competitor, it’s becoming more and more likely that the the all-red version will never released, which is an upsetting prospect for Robinson.
“It’s not happening no more?” questioned Robinson when told the release was in jeopardy. “My heart hurt them. But there’s already some out there because I seen people with them, unless they were knockoffs. If he could just do us that last favor, just drop ’em.”
Robinson has already put in his bid for the “Red Octobers” should they ever come out, and said that maybe it was time to call in some assistance in order to get the shoes on the market.
“We need to get Lebron to ask him to drop ’em,” said Robinson, “then maybe they would do it.”
Damian Lillard’s second signature sneaker, the adidas D Lillard 2, was released at select locations in limited quantities the day after Christmas with a full release scheduled for January 22. The sneaker features a TECHFIT booty, forefoot webbing and heel counter along with BOUNCE cushioning in the midsole and an internal torsion bar.
With a number of pairs in circulation, it seemed like a good time to check in which Lillard about fan reaction to the new shoe, what he likes most about the new model and some of the differences between it and the first iteration, what he learned from the design process of the D Lillard 1 and whether there will be as many colorways of the D Lillard 2.
Damian Lillard: “Everything I’ve seen was positive, minus the usual Nike fans saying ‘Man, those adidas shoes are terrible.’ A lot of people that posted pictures that actually had the shoe, they had good stuff to say about it.”
What are some of the changes that you wanted for the D Lillard 2? It is quite a bit different than the first model, so what do you like about some of those differences?
Damian Lillard: “The shoe is a little bit higher, it’s not as low as the first one was. It’s a much softer shoe. My first shoe had certain materials used on it where it was a little bit harder in some colorways. It’s higher for my ankle, it’s a softer shoe, I think it’s more of a basketball shoe. My first one was a basketball shoe, obviously, but a lot of the parts of it kind of went towards the fact that I wanted it to be able to be worn off the court. I think the second shoe can also be worn off the court, but I think it’s a more comfortable basketball shoe.
“It’s also what the new shoe represents. This one ties in to my roots more than the first one. The first one was like ‘This colorway is Weber State, this colorway is Oakland, this is Portland, this is the Rip City all-red.’ But this shoe, a lot of the details are from Oakland. The pattern used on the shoe came from the Oakland Tree, so they turned that into a pattern, they used it all over the shoe. You’ll see a lot of stuff related to my roots on every shoe.”
Damian Lillard: “It was. I told them that I wanted people to be able to follow a story and also relate to it. This shoe being basically dedicated to my roots was big for me.”
Did you learn after going through the process of designing the first shoe about things that worked or didn’t work or that you wanted or didn’t want in the second shoe? Did you feel like you gained some knowledge about that process that you were able to apply to the second shoe?
Damian Lillard: “Yeah, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t think about the first time around that I did think about this time. But the biggest thing is I just wanted it to be different. It’s one thing to tell a story, but to tell it over and over, that’s when people kind of lose interest. So with the second shoe I wanted it to be completely separate from the first one, kind of go in a different direction. I thought the guys at adidas did a great job of that.”
Damian Lillard: “The first one, people loved the fact that it was affordable. A lot of kids love the shoe and a lot of parents ain’t going to go out there and spend $150, $200 on a pair of basketball shoes that their kid is probably going to run into the ground. I understand that, I was that kid before. I just wanted to be aware of that. These are the people that take interest in us, they follow us the most and it wouldn’t be right on my end to be that kid before and then get to this position and not have parents able to afford a shoe that their kid would probably want. I think kids being able to have it, people being able to afford it was bigger to me than adding Boost to it, even though there’s going to be Boost in certain versions of the shoe.”
They made a ton of colorways of the D Lillard 1. Is it your impression that there are going to be as many for the D Lillard 2?
Damian Lillard: “It’ll be a fair amount, but it won’t be as many as my first shoe. My first shoe it was like ‘It’s my first shoe, let’s make a color for this, let’s make a color for that.’ That’s kind of what that turned into, people were able to make their own colors. But I think with this shoe their won’t be as many colorways.”
Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews returned to practice on Friday, albeit in a limited fashion, after missing practices on Wednesday and Thursday after experiencing an irregular heartbeat during Tuesday’s morning practice in Tualatin. Matthews dressed and participated in some of practice, which was broadcast live on NBA.com as a part of NBA TV’s “Real Training Camp” series, but was limited to half court scrimmages and drills by order of the team’s health and performance staff.
“Anything that was half-court I was a part of, so we had some live stuff half-court, we did some live four-on-four, live two-on-two, shooting drills,” said Matthews. “And when I wasn’t doing that, they had me on the bike. If I wasn’t on the bike I was just staying engaged.”
Matthews experienced an irregular heartbeat almost a year ago, which caused him to miss the final game of Portland’s 2013 preseason schedule versus the Golden State Warriors. In that instance, Matthews underwent an electrical cardioversion procedure to get his regulate his heartbeat, though this time, the procedure wasn’t necessary, as Matthews’ heart returned to its regular rhythm after a few hours.
“I think having gone through it before, I kind of know what is going on. I just feel like, again, it was a fluke situation. I’m not worried, there’s nothing to worry about. I’m just ready to get back to playing basketball again.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Matthews’ career that the 6-5 guard out of Marquette was already lobbying to return to full duty, though the team’s doctors and trainers would like for him to gradually return to unencumbered action.
“I was ready to go full practice today,” said Matthews. “Heart turned over itself, tests were good, blood work was fine. To me, that’s go play basketball again, but I’m listening. I’m hard-headed, but I’m trying.”
There was no update on whether Matthews would be allowed to return to full-court, live action in time for Saturday’s practice, but he said he was hoping to play in the Wells Fargo Fan Fest, schedule to take place Sunday night at the Moda Center.
“That’s the goal,” said Matthews of playing at Fan Fest. “I want to. We’ll see what the docs have for me. Even if I just go up and down three times, just be out there.”
Thomas Robinson missed the last two games of Portland’s 2014 Summer League after tearing a ligament in his right thumb in a win versus the Hawks. Today, the team announced that Robinson has undergone surgery to repair the ligament and is not expected to miss the start of training camp. From the press release …
Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, it was announced today by General Manager Neil Olshey.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Kirk Wong at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash.
Robinson injured the finger July 15 during Portland’s NBA Summer League game against Atlanta in Las Vegas.
Robinson is expected to be ready for Portland’s Fall training camp.
Robinson injured his thumb fighting after falling down while fighting for a rebound in the third quarter of Portland’s 71-76 victory versus Atlanta.
“I tried to break my fall and it didn’t break,” said Robinson after the game. “It went the other way.”
The performance of the 6-10 forward was one of the standouts on Portland’s summer league roster, averaging 13.7 points on 50 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists before the injury. He had been working out at the team’s practice facility for most of the offseason fixing what he referred to as “bad habits.” Some of that work will likely be on hold as he focuses on getting his thumb healed before the start of training camp.