The Trail Blazers held shootaround Friday morning at the Smoothie King Arena in preparation for tonight’s game against the Pelicans in New Orleans (tipoff at 5 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM). Some notes …
· Though he’s not going to play tonight, let alone on Sunday versus the Warriors, the big news at shootaround was LaMarcus Aldridge, who took a nasty fall in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs in San Antonio. Aldridge, who is using crutches to get around, took questions from the media for the first time on Friday for the first time since the injury, which he described as a Sacroiliac joint sprain. Here’s what he had to say …
What was going through your mind after the injury happened?
“That I had broke my tailbone or something, something in my back was fractured because it was just so painful that I felt like something was broke. I couldn’t move and it was just a really, really sharp pain going through my backside. I just was in pain. I was freaking out really.”
How are you feeling now?
“I’m better than I was. I’m not back to normal, I’m still on crutches. The area was so traumatized that it’s just taking time to get everything back active and moving good. But I’m definitely better than I was. I couldn’t even sit down my first day, my first night. I couldn’t sit like this, so this is improvement.”
When walking off court, it looked like you didn’t want to put weight on your right leg. Is it affecting your leg?
“Your back affects your leg. I landed on my right side on my back. When you walk, the back on your right side moves, so it was just painful. That’s why I’m not back walking yet because I have that contusion on the right side of my back, which makes it painful to walk.”
What is the treatment?
“Icing and working on range of motion, mobility, just trying to get everything back active.”
Any idea when you might return?
“No. We’re going to do those two games and reevaluate. So we’ll see.”
What were your emotions right after the injury occurred?
“I was mad at first because I felt like it wasn’t a good play to make by (Aron Baynes). Because the ball was gone and I had scored, so I was kind of mad that he even slid in there. It couldn’t have been a charge. So I was kind of mad at the way the whole thing happened. And then I was also mad because I had energy, and I felt like I was finna try to take over the game and be better than I was. So I was just kind of mad that it happened at that time, when I started to feel better. And then I was just concerned, because there was so much pain than I had ever felt before. And it wasn’t going away. So I was just freaking out.”
Your mother, Georgia, was probably concerned.
“Yeah. My mom called me like eight times. So I got into the locker room finally and I calmed down a little bit from the pain and I called her back.”
Where you freaking out? It seemed like you were really struggling. How long did it take for the initial pain to go away?
“Like 30 or 40 minutes for me to actually get my nerves. Your back is nerves and I hit it so hard that my nerves were just off. I was shaking and everything was just off. So it took like 30 or 40 minutes to just calm down and get the pain under control and realize that I wasn’t dying. Once I realized I wasn’t going to die, we started trying to do more things.”
Can you talk about the relief of it not being more serious?
“It probably looked bad to you all, but it felt worse. I fell like if they had a different angle it definitely would have looked worse. It definitely was some relief of it not being anything overly serious. It was just something that I could just rest and come back from.”
Have you been able to sleep with the injury?
“Not great, because you really can’t move. I just started to lay on my back. Last night was my first night to be able to lay on my back. I’m getting better though, it just takes time.”
· The the union that represents NBA players, the NBA Players Association, has been without an executive director since Billy Hunter, the long-time head of the union, was removed after various allegations of impropriety back in February. The search for a new leader is reportedly down to two finalists, though there have been complaints from some players that the process has been less than open, which is one of the complaints some had regarding Hunter’s 17-year reign.
To that end, NBA agent Jeff Schwartz recently wrote in an article on ESPN.com’s TrueHoop blog that the process of selecting a new executive director has been plagued with issues and should be conducted from scratch. Trail Blazers rookie CJ McCollum tweeted out a link to the column saying there were “some valid points” to Schwartz’s assertions.
“This is my future,” said McCollum when asked about the article at shootaround. “If you read through the article it has some very
interesting points. This is kind of the biggest decision of our lives for the next 10, 15 years. I feel like we should make sure we do all of our research and put the proper amount of time in rather than having us watch a video. I don’t think that’s a proper way to conduct a search that really depends on so much.”
The general feeling among players is that the union has come out too often on the losing end of recent negotiations with the NBA, with the most recent example being the current collective bargaining agreement, negotiated in 2011, which resulted in the players taking a lower percentage of league revenues in order to end an extended lockout.
“We started out at what, 63 percent (of basketball-related income),” said McCollum, “and went down to 57 (percent) now we’re at 51 or 49? Obviously there’s an increase in the amount of revenue the NBA is generating and we’re getting a decrease in money.”
When asked what kind of executive the union should look for, McCollum pointed to another professional sports league as a example of good leadership.
“I don’t know much about it just being a rookie, but obviously someone who has experience in the field, somebody that knows what we’re looking for in terms of the collective bargaining agreement and who can kind of relate to the player perspective,” said McCollum. “Obviously the MLB (union) is doing a great job of getting players money, getting players locked into guaranteed contracts, so hopefully it can be someone similar to who the MLB has in place.”
· Finally, Blazers center Meyers Leonard recently tweeted that he wouldn’t be posting on social media such as Twitter and Instagram until the end of the season. Leonard said there was no one instance that lead to his decision, just a desire to narrow distractions going into the most crucial part of the season.
“I guess just to kind of focus in and not really worry about what the outside world is saying,” said Leonard of his decision. “I think right now for our team especially, but for me personally as well, just to really lock in right now. Not that I’m not locked in, but with social media you see things. Positive or negative, I just want to be me for right now.”
Of all the adjectives one could use to describe the 2015-16 Portland Trail Blazers, “resilient” might be the most applicable. Despite being the third-youngest team in the NBA this season, the Trail Blazers have been remarkably adept at bouncing back. Whether it was replacing four of five starters from the season before, enduring two losing streaks of at least five games or finishing the season by going 33-18 after starting the year 11-20 to make the postseason and finish fifth in the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers, under Terry Stotts’ steady hand, have shown a level of maturity with regard to the way they’ve dealt with disappointment that belies their relative youth and inexperience.
Which is good, because they’re going to need every last bit of fortitude they can muster to get over their fourth-quarter performance at Oracle Arena in their 110-99 loss to the Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals. Despite leading by as much as 17 in the game and 11 in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers were outscored 34-12 in the final 12 minutes, resulting in an 11-point loss and a 2-0 series deficit.
“They’re not a young team, they’ve got a lot of guys that have been around, they’re very smart,” said Damian Lillard of the Warriors. “They see slippage and they go after it. If they see something that they can take advantage of, they take advantage of it. In that last five minutes (of Game Two), we just let our foot off the gas a little bit. I don’t know if it was fatigue mentally but we had some mental mistakes. One or two plays got them going, they got into it and the better they played offensively, they just got sharper defensively. That hurt us.”
While every loss stings, Portland’s loss in Game Two seemed to be more painful than most, for multiple reasons. First, the Warriors have lost at Oracle Arena just twice during the regular season, setting the NBA record for most consecutive home victories in the process, making the unfulfilled opportunity of beating the defending champs on their home court, and in a playoff game no less, a rather bitter pill to swallow, especially after leading for all but the last five minutes of the game. The Trail Blazers will have to beat the Warriors at least once at Oracle to move on to the Western Conference Finals, and one could argue that they won’t get a better chance to do so than they had Tuesday night.
“After that game, I was pretty hot about that one,” said Lillard. “Just because not only was it a great opportunity, but we had it. It was right there, all we had to do was four and a half, five minutes where we just got to be as sharp as possible. That was the challenge for us, just lock in even more, take it to a new level. Instead of that, we went a little bit downhill and they picked it up the way we needed to pick it up. We just wasn’t able to finish it. It sucked man. I was pretty hot about that one.”
And then there’s the matter of soon-to-be two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who has sat out the last two games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. While the Trail Blazers are in no way rooting for Curry to remain sidelined, the simple fact is they have a much better chance of beating the Warriors when the best player in the NBA is in street clothes. Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said the Curry would probably sit out Game Three as well, though it seems very unlikely he misses another game this series at Oracle, which, once again, makes the loss in Game Two that much more disappointing.
“I can’t speak on behalf of (the rest of the team), I don’t know how they feel personally, but it’s a game we should have won,” said CJ McCollum. “It’s unfortunate that we let it slip away. That’s what good teams do, they hang around and they finish off games at home. We’ve got to be better than that and I think we will be better. Got to move forward now and take advantage of Game Three.”
Luckily, the Trail Blazers have a bit of extra time to put Game Two behind them. While they have shown an ability to learn from their mistakes and move on this season, some players admitted that Game Two going down the way it did was lingering a bit. And in those situations, sometimes the best solution is playing another game as soon as possible, though that might not be the case this time around.
“Yesterday, I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” said Lillard. “I wasn’t even going to watch the playoff game yesterday until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of threes, so I wanted to see for myself. But I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball yesterday after that game.”
But after a day away from the game, Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers returned to their facility in Tualatin to prepare for Game Three at the Moda Center. If they’re able to make the improvements and adjustments necessary to get their first victory of the series Saturday night in Portland, they might truly be able to move on from what happened Tuesday night in Oakland.
“Ain’t nothing I can do about it now. In my mind, it’s over,” said McCollum. “It’s unfortunate that it had to happen but we can learn from it. We can’t sulk and moan and act like it’s the end of the world. We’re down 0-2 against a very good team. Now we’re at home, now we have a very good opportunity to take advantage of two home games and learn from mistakes in the first two games.”
Now back in Portland for games Three and Four of the second round series versus the Golden State Warriors, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record a Game Two recap edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this latest edition we discuss Portland’s collapse in the fourth quarter of Game Two that turned what looked like a rare road win at Oracle Arena into an 11-point loss, how the Trail Blazers go about putting that game behind them before Game Three at the Moda Center, the reports of Stephen Curry sitting out Game Three, Maurice Harkless’ defense on Klay Thompson, the overall quality of the defending champs and answer a few questions about Game Three adjustments, Portland’s locker room, Draymond Green, how far we can run at this point in our lives and a few more random things that I’ve already since forgotten.
OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.
But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.
“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”
The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.
“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”
The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.
Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.
“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.
Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.
As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.
“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”
Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.
Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.
“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.