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.”
With Portland’s playoff run now over, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard now has some free time on his hands to pursue his off-court interests. He’s already hit up Oak’s Park for some late-night rollerskating, attended a Portland Thorns game at Providence Park and welcomed his old buddy Tim Frazier back to town. And today, we know he’s back in the studio making music.
In a re-launch of the “Music Monday” feature that he started last offseason on his Soundcloud page, Lillard, or to be most specific, “Dame DOLLA,” has posted a new track entitled “Talk To Em” featuring V.I.P and Bozzle (who I think are Lillard’s cousins)…
One of Dame’s verses…
They glorifying goofballs, I’m salty as Utah
When you real they uncomfortable, plotting for you to fall
Man I’m changing up the game, forget about the politics
I stick my neck out for my loved ones, I’m like an ostrich
A lot of love around me you haters keep doing opposite
I’m really incompetent to taking many compliments
That sounds about right. Previous “Music Monday” releases from last year include “Soldier In The Game,” “Full Stomach,” “Why?” “Free Bands” and “The Villains.” Then there’s non-Music Monday releases such as “I Wish I Could Tell You,” “Heatwave,” and “They Sleep,” which, like “Talk To Em” was produced by Jahlil Beats, who also produced, among other things, the Rick Ross/Meek Mill hit “Ima Boss” and that Bobby Shmurda song whose name I can’t put on this blog. And of course, there’s “Bigger Than Us,” the video for which currently has roughly 750,000 views on YouTube.
A happy Friday the 13th to all of you loyal podcast listeners. Before everyone goes their separate ways now that the offseason is here, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net and TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio one last time to record a season-ending edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we attempt recap the series versus the Warriors, which ended in five games with a 125-121 loss at Oracle Arena Wednesday night, and the season in general, discuss the lasting effects of the playoff run and the respect that they earned from around the league due to their performance and look forward to some of the questions the Blazers will have to answer in the offseason, particularly in regard to free agency. And as always, we finish up by answering your Twitter-submitted questions on topics such as the culture the Trail Blazers have developed, (more) free agency, exit interviews and favorite moments from the just-completed season. It’s been a fun one.
Less than 12 hours after being eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers returned to their practice facility in Tualatin to meet with the coaches to discuss offseason plans, clean out their lockers and take questions from the media one last time before starting their vacations.
Here’s the audio and a few quotes from Terry Stotts and the players from today’s exit interviews…
On the 2015-16 season…
“Like I said last night, this has been a special season. This group of players, what they were able to do individually and collectively, our chemistry was really good. We had good guys, they got along, players and coaches. It means a lot and it goes both ways. It was a joy. I think players enjoyed coming to work every day and I know the coaches and staff did, too.”
On whether this was his most rewarding season as a head coach…
“No question. This was an extremely rewarding season because it kind of played out the way we wanted it to. And we’re not talking about the record or the playoffs, everything was about growth, improvement, getting better throughout the season and being better at the end of the season. I think we did that individually and collectively and from a coaching standpoint, that’s as pure as it gets. That’s what coaching is about. You don’t get to experience that very much at the NBA level.”
On whether he expects anyone on his staff to be interviewed for various open head coaching positions…
“I hope so. I can’t say enough about how good my staff is. I think Jay Triano and Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool are all ready to be considering for head coaching jobs. I think they’re all prepared to do a great job as a head coach depending on whatever a team is looking for. I hope they get consideration because they’re all very deserving.
On many of his teammates deciding to stay in Portland during the offseason…
“That means a lot because I stay here every summer. I’m used to coming in here like ‘I wonder when everybody else coming back to town,’ you know what I mean? The trainers are here, the coaches are here and it’s an empty gym. And even after the game last night, on the plane, I started getting worried already. I was sitting on the plane like ‘Man, we had some success this year, it was unexpected it was no pressure. Next year people gonna expect a little bit more’ and I started to get worried about too many pats on the back. ‘They weren’t supposed to do this but they did that.’ I started getting worried, but we don’t have those kind of guys. We’ve got hungry guys, we’ve got humble guys that work hard. We had a taste this season as a young group of how well we could do and what it takes. We lost to a really experienced, championship team. That makes me happy to hear that so many guys are going to be here working out in the summer because that lets me know that they see how close we are and they see how important it’s going to be going forward.”
On free agency and having a say in the process…
“I’m pretty sure they’ll communicate what the plans are with me, but like I’ve said in the past, my job is to be a good teammate, to make sure I put in my time and become a better player and that’s what I’ll do. They ask me my opinion on something, I’ll give them my honest opinion, but I love all the guys that we have on our roster now. I think going forward, if we continue to grow together, we’ll be a good team. Obviously it’s a business and rosters change, players make decisions for themselves, so when that time comes, we’ll see what happens. But when they come to me ask for my opinion or what I think about something, I’ll tell them what I think.”
On what he’s looking for as a restricted free agent…
“Any pay raise is going to be significantly higher than what I’m making now. But like I said earlier, it’s just situation really for me. It doesn’t make sense to make a lot of money and go to a team that, if you don’t fit that system, then get paid a lot of money to be frustrated? That doesn’t make sense to me. The culture here, it’s great. I know this organization well, I know the system, know the coaches, players. It’s just real comfortable here. I wouldn’t mind being here, I really wouldn’t. It’s really just coming down to situation and how I can continue to improve as a basketball player.”
On head coach Terry Stotts…
“Definitely think he should get an extension. I feel like everybody here knows that he should get an extension. He’s done a great job with this team. It’s really hard to put into words what he did with this group because nobody expected us to do what we did. Even from Day One, even through the games where we were 11-20, seven-game losing streak, he never folded and he always told us it’s all about trusting the process and we stuck with that throughout this whole year.”
On spending time in Portland this offseason…
“I think, for one, it doesn’t rain a lot in the summer, so that helps. Just being around the facility, 24 hour access, you’re able to get a lot of things done without a distraction. You go home, you go to certain cities, you either got to pay to get in the gym or you’ve got to worry about people interrupting you while you workout. I go back to my high school but sometimes I’ve got to just like lock the door so I can just workout and not have to worry about certain interruptions because you can’t get through a full workout when people are coming in, talk to you. It’s meant to be a compliment to you, it’s hard. So I think it helps that here, you just come in, the doors are locked, you’ve got your finger scan, you workout when you want, the weather is nice. You’re paying rent here anyway, so it makes sense.”
On the camaraderie of the roster and the changes that might be in store…
“I think we had a really unique group. They did a great job of putting together like minds, young guys who are easy to talk to. Nobody is really arrogant or overly cocky. We’ve got some ignorant guys on the team that you guys guys know who’s outlandish with his statements. I won’t put him out there, he knows who he is. Besides that, we all got along well, everybody spoke their minds, nobody was afraid to say certain things. If somebody played bad, if somebody wasn’t doing things the right way, you could address it and nobody would frown or look at you the wrong way. So I like the way our team is put together, I like the work ethic everybody had. This is one of the rare teams where you could hang out with players off the court. Everybody’s got their friends, but I could hang out with any one of the 15 guys off the court and be perfectly comfortable, eat dinner, et cetera… We’ve got a really good unit and a lot of guys made themselves some money this year, a lot of guy’s prices went up. Hopefully we can rekindle the flame, but if not, we had a good run, we had a good year together collectively and wish everybody the best of luck in the free agency process.
On how he’s approaching restricted free agency…
“To be honest with you, I haven’t had a real concrete conversation with my agent about this. I wanted it to be, right now, about my rehab and about supporting the guys, being there however I could, I guess more from an emotional standpoint, for the team. I certainly wish I could have been out there. With that being said, I’m sure we’ll talk within the next couple of days about how we’re going to really approach this, the timing of things, I suppose what teams are interested, what teams would maybe like to meet in person. I don’t have a concrete plan at this point. Restricted free agency, it gets a little hairy, it takes time, teams maybe don’t want to tie their money up. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of it. Like I said before the season when I didn’t accept an extension, I’m confident in where I’m at. It’s my agent’s job to present whatever he has on his mind and what’s on my plate from that side of things. My job right now is simply to rehab my shoulder, continue to work on my leg strength, which is a huge focus of mine for this summer, and just figure out different way in the weight room or out here, even simple things as ball handling, just trying to improve as a player and as a man.”
On why he’s going to spend much of the offseason in Portland…
“I’m coming back to Portland just because went through all that rain, got to enjoy some of the sun. I like it here. I’m renting a spot, so I’m just going to stay here. I like Todd (Forcier) and BK (Ben Kenyon) and those guys, so definitely going to put a lot of work in in the weight room. It’s always good vibes here so I don’t think guys want to get away. Some teams, you want to get away just because you don’t like certain people. It’s not like that here. I enjoyed being here so that’s why I’m going to stick around and do most of my training out here.”
On the realities of keeping a roster with multiple free agents together…
“It’s going to be tricky with all the salary cap stuff going on. I think a lot of the guys who are free agents definitely raised their value. I think everyone did. You never know. I hope all those guys get paid well, I think they will. They deserve it. You just never know with free agency, who they go after and things like that, but I hope everybody comes back, but that’s not really realistic. It doesn’t really work like that in the league. I just tried to enjoy that time yesterday because I’ve been around a little bit and I know how the business side of things work.”
On his mindset going into the offseason…
“This summer is big for me, become more of a scoring threat. I think there’s a lot to be added. I look forward, if the opportunity is there, to come back to have some stability from a staff perspective. I would look forward to coming back to a similar situation from one season to the next. I’ve played for three coaches in three years, so I think that would be something I’d look forward to as well… Once you’ve been traded, you never know.”
On being a restricted free agent…
“Free agency is something I haven’t really thought about. I’ve tried not to think about it during the season and we just finished yesterday, so it hasn’t really been on my mind yet. It’s something that we’ll have to think about soon.”
On his first season in Portland…
I loved it. It was by far the most fun season I’ve had. These guys here are great, the organization is great. I really, really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing what happens this summer.”
On his first season in Portland…
“It’s the most fun year I think I’ve had as a pro. We had a great group of guys, high character guys, silly guys and it was a fun year. That’s without even being on the court. On the court, we had a special group. We came together halfway through, really made it a special year all the way until last night when we’re playing against the champions, gave them all we had. Played a tough series, obviously it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to, but it’s a year we’re all proud of.”
His thoughts on entering free agency and what he’s looking for…
This is my second time doing it and it’ll be a little different than the first time. I think getting a taste of what this year and this postseason was like and how much fun, how competitive it is, I think, number one, being on a team that’s a winning team. It’s obviously tough to get on one of the elite elite teams, but that could be a possibility. That could easily be a possibility here. Being on a team that is about winning and that’s a good fit for me.
On his first season with the Trail Blazers…
“It was an amazing journey of growth. We grew a lot throughout the season, personally and as a team. It was just fun to be a part of it.”
How he looks back on the season in terms of enjoyment…
The season was great. Any time you have guys that are the same age, it just makes it a lot easier to get along. It’s easy to have relatable points, different things like that. A lot of us are going through similar things in our careers so you get to relate on that note. When it came to comfortably in that sense, it was just unbelievable. And then I think that’s why the chemistry was there as well. Even our vets and the older guys like Chris Kaman, they were a joy to be around as well. From top to bottom, everybody was kind of in that same wavelength of what they were trying to do. It just made it easy to get along.