BOISE, Idaho — The Portland Trail Blazers will look for their first victory of the preason tonight when they “host” the Utah Jazz at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, home of Portland’s D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede.
Some pregame notes from Boise to get you ready for the game, which you can listen to on 620 AM (there is no television coverage of tonight’s game).
— Injuries continue to be an issue for the Trail Blazers going into Friday night’s game. Nicolas Batum (concussion), Dorell Wright (right middle finger), Earl Watson (left calf contusion) and CJ McCollum (broken left foot) are all out versus the Jazz, though all four players traveled with the team to Boise.
Meyers Leonard, who sat out Thursday’s practice after experiencing soreness in his right foot, is listed as questionable. When asked about the likelihood that he played Friday night, Leonard replied, “Questionable is definitely how I would put it.”
While there are certainly worse times for players to be sidelined with injuries, Stotts said that the growing number of ailments has made it more difficult to settle in on a rotation.
“It’s frustrating,” said Stotts. “I think it’s frustrating for the players because they want to be out there. We’re not able to establish a rhythm, but I think that’s going to come. We’re only, what, ten days into training camp? And I know we’ve got a game in two and a half, three weeks but you’ve got to fight through it. Everybody deals with different issues with their team. This is what we’re dealing with now.”
— Stotts didn’t say explicitly who would start Friday against the Jazz, but it’s likely he goes with the same group he started Wednesday night against the Suns. The one wildcard is at small forward, where it’s possible Stotts goes with Allen Crabbe, who has played well in the first two preseason games, over Victor Claver. Crabbe practiced with the starting unit on Thursday, though Stotts said that had more to do with players sitting out with injury than any potential lineup change.
“We didn’t have a lot of bodies (Thursday),” said Stotts, “so we picked (Crabbe) because Victor was playing four with the second unit.”
Stotts did say that two guaranteed starters, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, might see an increase in minutes from Wednesday’s loss to the Suns, though he’s open to the idea of going deeper into his bench depending on the situation.
“I think LA will probably play a little bit more, I might play Damian a little bit more,” said Stotts. “This is an opportunity for the young guys to get extended minutes, so those minutes have to come from someone. I would think, at a minimum, it would be very similar to the last couple games, especially with three or four days of practice coming up before our next game.”
— The Trail Blazers, by starting the preseason 0-2, are technically in the midst of a 15-game losing streak dating back to the end of the 2012-13 regular season. But while every player worth having on your team wants to win every night, there is no concern in the Blazers locker room regarding the losing streak, especially during the exhibition season.
“You always want to win, but a preseason win doesn’t count for the regular season,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “I think every guy wants to win but I don’t think we’re going back to last season. That was last season, a whole different team. This team is different. Different players, guys are older so I don’t think that’s on guys’ minds but I think every guy wants to win every night.”
Aldridge has a point. Seven players on Portland’s 15-man roster weren’t on the roster last season, so the losing streak carries little-to-no significance for them.
But more than anything, the players who suffered through 13-straight losses to end the season last year have turned the page. Having the ability to move on after tough losses or even thrilling victories is an important trait for professional athletes, especially those who play 82 games a season, to have.
“I don’t think about (the losing streak),” said Damian Lillard. “I haven’t thought about it so I doubt anybody else has either. It’s a new season, so it doesn’t really matter… You want to win every time you step on the floor, but that’s not what is most important at this point.”
— Finally, Trail Blazers fans attending tonight’s game are in for a real treat. While CenturyLink Arena is the smallest venue the Trail Blazers will play in this season, it certainly won’t be the smallest crowd they play in front off. It sounds like the game will be a sellout or very close to it, which should produce a great atmosphere in an intimate setting.
“Four or five years ago when I was the D-League coaches consultant, the Showcase was here,” said Stotts. “I have a lot of respect for the D-League with my roots in the CBA, both as a player and as a coach, and then helping the NBA out as a consultant. This environment, this arena, I think this is a great minor league arena because it’s got the right size. I know the fan base here is terrific. So I’m looking forward tonight.”
A little over a week ago, Damian Lillard, aka Dame D.O.L.L.A., held his first concert ever, a sold out affair at the Crystal Ballroom that also featured CJ McCollum and Tim Frazier dancing on stage, on his 26th birthday. By all accounts (including my own), the show went off without a hitch.
After getting his first official show under his belt, Lillard took his show on the road last weekend, performing for a packed crowd of high schoolers at the adidas LVL3 event, which was a part of the adidas Uprising AAU tournament held in Las Vegas. Media wasn’t granted access to Lillard’s Portland show, so video of that performance is scarce (though a, new “License To Lillard” episode chronicling the night is in the works), but there are a few clips of Lillard performing this weekend in Vegas, with fellow NBA players such as James Harden and Derrick Rose in attendance in case you’re curious about Dame’s stage presence…
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 24, 2016
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 23, 2016
Lillard also shared the stage with a few of the players on Team Lillard Elite, the AAU team he sponsors in conjunction with adidas, who were brave enough to test their battling skills in front of a crowd of their peers…
— #4BarFriday (@4BarFriday) July 24, 2016
In addition to the show, Lillard spoke during a panel about his signature shoe, the D Lillard 2, and participated in a number of stations adidas was running in order to keep the large number of teenage boys in attendance from the tournament from doing the kind of things teenage boys do when they get bored…
Just the beginning.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 24, 2016
Join the movement.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 23, 2016
Yesterday was a movie.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 22, 2016
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 21, 2016
Looks like everyone had a great time and Lillard was right in the center of the action, which is good news if you’re a Trail Blazers fan. After all, it’s never a bad thing to have young, talented players rubbing elbows and building relationships with your franchise player.
Comedian/actor/radio show host Jay Mohr was in Portland on Thursday during which he hosted a live edition of Jay Mohr Sports on Rip City Radio 620 AM. Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who is still in Las Vegas taking in Summer League, joined the show to discuss a host of NBA topics. You can listen to the entire interview below, though I’ve also transcribed a few of the more interesting answers…
“They’re going to be damn good, that’s for sure. They’ll be a little bit different, they lost three of their big guys so they’ll have to tweak their defense a little bit. One of the keys to their success the last two years was their defense and I think that got overlooked because of how well they scored the ball. They’re going to be a better offensive team, they’re going to be the favorite to win, but you never know until you toss it up.”
On signing free agent guard/forward Evan Turner…
“I’ve read some of the experts about us signing Evan and I’m surprised they don’t see the fit, because Evan is a really good basketball player. He handles the ball, he’s got a high assist ratio, he makes players better. I talked to Brad Stevens about him afterwards, they’re going to miss him in Boston. He’s a versatile defender, he’s unselfish, I think he fits into our culture. The one thing that I think gets overlooked is there was such pressure on Damian and CJ last year to be scorers and playmakers and particularly, the way I rotated the players, one of them was in the game at all times. Well Evan gives us another playmaker to take some of the load off of Damian and CJ, hopefully they’ll get better shots. You can add more playmaking — you look at the Golden State Warriors, how many playmakers they had on the court. They had two, three, four playmakers on the court at one time and that just adds to your effectiveness offensively. And defensively, Evan’s a versatile defender, he can guard two or three positions. Like I said, I think he fits in really well.”
On Damian Lillard tweeting “Hell no” when asked about returning to Oakland to play for the Warriors…
“It was pure Damian. He’s proud to be a Blazer, he loves Portland, he loves the franchise and he’s really embraced the role of being the face of the franchise. I was glad to read that.”
On the baseless speculation that the team is moving to Seattle…
“(Laughs) No. With all due respect to you Jay, and I do have immense respect, but that doesn’t really deserve a response. We’re the Portland Trail Blazers, always have been.”
It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.
But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…
In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.