Practice Report: Another Look At The Suns

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers practice Tuesday at their facility in Tualatin in preparation for Wednesday night’s game against the Suns at the Moda Center (tipoff at 7 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM). The Trail Blazers were beaten soundly by the Suns in Phoenix in the season opener, so expect no lack of focus from either team when they meet tomorrow.

Some notes from today’s practice …

· Terry Stotts described the first game against the Suns as a ” setback” immediately following the loss. Portland finished the preseason schedule, statistically, as the best defensive team in the league, so allowing the Suns to shoot 52 percent from the field while scoring 31 fast-break points and 52 points in the paint in the opener served as a reminder that, while improvements had been made during training camp and preseason, there was more work to be done.

“I’ll say that we rebounded well from it,” said Stotts. “Going to Denver after that game we shored up some things that were made pretty evident when we played Phoenix.”

While some issues, particularly allowing points in the paint, continue to be a work in progress, the growth the Trail Blazers have undergone since that first game in Phoenix has been evident, which makes Wednesday night’s contest a potential marker for how far Portland has come the last two weeks.

Then again, there’s an assumption that losing to a team like the Suns has more to do with what you’ve done wrong than what they’ve done right. Phoenix’s victories haven’t been against top competition, but for a team many assumed would be the worst in the league, credit has to be given to the players and coaching staff.

“For a young team, they really established an identity early,” said Stotts. “They know how they need to play, they have a style that they’ve really bought into. I think what’s probably surprising is they’re one of the top defensive teams as well. They’re young, they play with energy, they share the ball. The way they played against us isn’t a fluke. They’ve continued that and they’re playing very well.”

· By trading one of their best players, center Marcin Gortat, to the Wizards for an injured Emeka Okafor and a protected first-round pick in the 2014 Draft just days before the start of the regular season, the Suns front office made their intention of putting more emphasis on the future of the team than the present clear. But that doesn’t mean the players were ever going to roll over. In fact, you could argue the opposite has been true.

“They’re competitors just like we are,” said Damian Lillard. “In this league, anybody can win and lose on any given night. And it’s still early, but right now they’re playing really well. I’m not surprised by it because I’ve never been one to underestimate a team, especially one with the type of talent that they have.”

While some might have accused the Suns of “tanking” going into the 2013-14 regular season, Stotts said the circumstances in Phoenix are not so dissimilar than the plan the Trail Blazers entered last season with, which could be more accurately described as trying to develop talent and establish a system rather than necessarily trying to lose.

“We were in the situation last year where we had a lot of young guys and for five months we played at a higher level than a lot of people expected,” said Stotts. “But expectations were low and in some ways that allows a certain amount of freedom to play a style. Confidence is a big part of his league and when you’re playing with a confidence where you can play through mistakes and expectations aren’t as high, it in some ways makes it easier.”

· The Suns’ guard duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic did the bulk of the damage in Portland’s opening night loss, combining for 48 points on 19 of 33 shooting to go along with 15 assists and just seven turnovers. So it’s no surprise that the Trail Blazers stressed the need play the pick and roll better this time around.

“Probably just get up into them more on pick and rolls so they can’t come off as clean and be isolated with the big man,” said Lillard when asked what he needed to do differently defensively. “For a big to be one-on-one with a guard that can pullup and make those mid-range jumpers and get to the rim and finish, it’s tough for them, especially backpedaling. So as the guards we’ve got to do a better job of getting into they body and not letting them come off clean and just do whatever they want to the bigs.”

And while Stotts, as he has done all year, has stressed the need for the Trail Blazers to force opponents to adapt to their style of play rather than the other way around, he did concede that there might be some opportunity to juggle his rotation, particularly at the center position, to counter Phoenix’s lineups featuring three-point shooting bigs like Channing Frye and Markeiff Morris, who recently won Western Conference Player of the Week honors.

“I think we have to play our style,” said Stotts. “There may come a time in the game that you change the rotation or you look at matchups a little bit but I think it’s important that we establish ourselves and play the way we’re capable of playing.”

Show Comments

Layman Looking Forward To ‘Making An Impact’ With The Trail Blazers

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

Maryland forward Jake Layman took questions from the Portland media via conference call for the first time Friday afternoon since being acquired by the Trail Blazers from the Orlando Magic after he was selected with the 47th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. The 6-9 wing, who averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in four seasons with the Terrapins, discussed being selected by the Trail Blazers, whether he knew the team was interested in him prior to the draft, what skills he has that are most applicable in the NBA, his defensively strengths and his plans to come to Portland in time for summer league workouts…

————————-

What was your initial reaction after being drafted by the Trail Blazers and your impressions of the franchise?

Jake Layman: First off, I’m very excited. It was such a stressful night. I was nervous all night, I didn’t really know what to expect with what was going to happen the way the draft was going last night. To finally hear my name called was just a big sign of relief, I was very excited, especially to be picked up by the Blazers because I’ve watched them play a lot. I think that their style of play fits me very well.

Why did you watch them a lot over the season?

Jake Layman: I think it was really more playoff time when I saw them play.

Where the Blazers on your radar? Did they interview you in Chicago at the combine, have any interaction with the team leading up to the draft?

Jake Layman: I did an interview with them at the combine but they were still in the playoffs, so they didn’t have really anybody there who could interview. That was really it. I didn’t work out for them. But I did know that they were very interested going into the draft, but they had no picks, so I really didn’t think much of it. So when my agent called me to tell me they traded in for the pick, I was excited.

What did you think about Portland’s recent playoff run?

Jake Layman: It was very exciting. Watching them with how young they are, how much talent they have, to be battling out there against some of the best teams in the NBA. I know how excited the fanbase was to see that happen.

What are your most applicable NBA skills right now and how do you see yourself projecting as an NBA player from a position or skill perspective?

Jake Layman: I think for me, my shooting ability, it’s gotten better each year that I was in college. So I think for me, just carrying that into the NBA is going to be huge. And also for me, I think being able to guard multiple spots on the floor is what teams are looking for now. I think that’s something I can do.

Do you know Pat Connaughton at all since you’re from the same area? Did you play against him at all?

Jake Layman: I know him pretty well. We never really played against each other in high school or anything, but just being from the same area. We were part of the Boston Globe all-star team one year, so yeah, we definitely know each other.

Do you know when you’re going to come to Portland, when you might sign and whether you’ll play for the team at summer league?

Jake Layman: Talking to the GM yesterday, I think I’m going to fly out to Portland either July 3rd or 4th and then I’ll be there for the practices leading up to summer league, which starts pretty soon after that. Then I’ll play in summer league. I’m not really sure about signing contracts or anything right now, but for summer league I’ll definitely be there.

What was your conversation like with Neil Olshey?

Jake Layman: He just asked me how I felt. All the emotion going through your head when you get drafted, it was definitely nice to talk to him. Asked me how I’m feeling and if I’m ready to get going. I was very excited to hear from him, I talked to Coach Stotts also.

How would you describe yourself off the court? What’s your personality like? How do you approach the game? Approach life or leadership or being in a locker room.

Jake Layman: I think for me, I’m a little different off the court than I am on the court. I think when it comes to being on the court, I’m definitely pretty intense. I’m always going hard, going crazy on the court. Then off the court, I’m a pretty quiet guy, very laid back, definitely a great locker room guy. I get along with everybody. That’s how I would describe myself.

You said you feel like your defensive versatility is an asset. Could you break down your strengths defensively?

Jake Layman: I think my on-ball defense has definitely gotten better over the years. But I think playing off the ball on defense, being able to come over and help and then block shots from the weakside, it is something that I’m definitely good at.

Do you feel like joining a young team, but one that has already had some success in the playoffs, give you an opportunity that other guys in the draft might not get?

Jake Layman: I think it’s a great chance to be able to come in this next year and help, make an impact on the team, just go in and help whatever way I can, whether it’s scoring, defending or all of those. I think the makeup of this team definitely gives me a chance to go in and make an impact right away.

What’s your hometown of Wrentham like? What was it like growing up there?

Jake Layman: Growing up in Wrentham, I’m one of five boys in my family, so there’s always something to do, always someone to play with. I was big into sports when I was little. My dad played baseball in college, my mom played basketball in college so I was always involved in the youth leagues, whether it was baseball, football or basketball. I think for me, my childhood was definitely run by sports when I was little growing up.

Can you see someone in the NBA who reminds you of yourself or someone who has the same skillset?

Jake Layman: Someone I’m trying to model my game after — I’m not saying I’m him right now, but it’s someone who I definitely think my game over time could be just like his — is Gordon Hayward, plays for the Utah Jazz.

Can you describe waiting to hear your name called last night?

Jake Layman: From the start of the night, you’re going in with the thought of what you’ve been hearing from teams and what your agent’s been telling you. Once the draft starts going, especially last night, it was definitely not what I expected. I was surrounded by a bunch of family and friends, so they were keeping me calm the whole time. I was just hanging in there, staying strong and to finally hear my name called, it was definitely a sigh of relief.

Show Comments

Trail Blazers Acquire Layman From Orlando

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

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…




Layman played four seasons at Maryland, averaging 11.6 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from three, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 36 games his senior season with the Terrapins. At 6-9 and with a relatively accurate three-point shot, Layman likely enters the NBA as a stretch four, which should come in handy in Terry Stotts’ offense.

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).

Show Comments

Damian Lillard To Forego 2016 Olympics

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

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.

Show Comments