The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround Monday morning at American Airlines Arena in preparation for tonight’s game against the Heat in Miami (tipoff scheduled for 4:30 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM). Some notes …
— Monday night’s game marks the first time the Trail Blazers will play against center Greg Oden, who the team selected with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Oden’s career with the Trail Blazers, which was hindered by multiple microfracture surgeries on his knees and a fractured left patella, ended in March of 2012 when the team waived the 7-0 center out of Ohio State. A little more than a year later, Oden signed a one year contract with the Heat and has been gradually working his way back into form ever since.
Oden, averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 8.9 minutes, will get this fifth start of the season and the 65th of his career Monday night against the Trail Blazers. He, along with Heat coach Erik Spoelestra, Blazers coach Terry Stotts and former teammates Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, spoke with the media about his playing against his former team.
How are you feeling about where you’re at and getting the start tonight?
Greg Oden: “It just helps me out getting in the rhythm of the game. But there’s still a lot of work to do, a lot of rhythm to get back, a lot of stuff to work on.”
How would you describe your emotions facing your former team tonight?
Greg Oden: “It’s a game we need to win. We’ve been up and down. It’s just about this team and us getting a win right now.”
There’s nothing personal for you to kind of get back out there?
Greg Oden: “I would like to win.”
Have you circled this date?
Greg Oden: “No. Every game I play is basically a circled date. I’m not trying to look at any team just because I used to play for them. I’m happy just to be out there playing against anybody.”
Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you’d come back?
Greg Oden: “A little bit. I’d be a liar if I said their wasn’t. But it’s been some ups and downs, but I’m here now.”
Where are you at physically? How do you feel?
Greg Oden: “I’m playing. That’s all that matters.”
Spoelstra approached you the other day and told you about the start. Were you caught off guard about getting the start?
Greg Oden: “Yeah, I thought I did something. I’m happy I get to do that and, like I said, it just helps me out with getting a better rhythm. I get to get in the rhythm of the game as everybody else gets in the rhythm of the game instead of coming in when everybody has played about 45 minutes of basketball and then I’m coming in cold trying to catch up even though I’m already a little behind anyway. I like it.”
Have you thought about how different the Trail Blazers look since you left? There’s only Nic and LaMarcus around from when you were on the roster.
Greg Oden: “Nic, LaMarcus and Wesley.”
Have you thought about how much time has passed?
Greg Oden: “I think it’s been two years since I was there. Guys move on. It’s a business like that. I’m happy those guys are still there and doing their thing. Especially happy for LaMarcus, who’s an all-star. Got to move on.”
You said you’d be lying if you said you didn’t have doubts. What was your motivation in coming back?
Greg Oden: “I just wanted to play. I was sitting at home last year watching everybody else. I wanted to come back and definitely give it a shot and show that I can still play this game.”
Thoughts on playing against Oden for the first time?
Wesley Matthews: “It’s cool to see him be able to play. They ruled him out of being able to play again, he had tough first years in the NBA. For him to be able to play and start and contribute to a team, that’s cool. Hope he doesn’t do so tonight.”
On seeing him return after so many injuries …
Wesley Matthews: “This whole NBA thing is a family, it’s a brotherhood, it’s a fraternity. To see Greg be able to overcome the obstacles that he had and to play, from his health and all of that stuff, it’s cool.”
Thoughts on seeing Oden return to the court …
Nicolas Batum: “I’m very happy for him. He’s been through a lot. A lot. I was with him a couple of years. When I broke my shoulder I did my rehab with him so we talked a lot. I’m just happy for him. I know people get mad about him, but he had no luck. If it was up to him he would be on the court for the last four or five years. He worked hard to be back, to get back and he’s done it. He’s been pretty good so far. I wish him the best and wish him to stay healthy right now and do well with Miami. Not tonight. If he can wait until the next game, that would be cool for us. But seriously, really happy for him and proud of him because I don’t think many people could go through that and be back and keep playing. I don’t think a lot of guys could do it.”
“I don’t know if I could do the same. When you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re everywhere, there’s a huge expectation around you for the last 10 years almost. To go through that, to
come to another team, get a minimum contract, that’s huge. He do it. I always said that to him, ‘You’re going to do it.’ I always tell people, ‘Don’t sleep on Greg.’ Trust me. I’ve been saying that a lot. He’ll be okay. Greg is good. He’s not a flop, he’s good. He had some bad injuries but he’ll be okay. He deserves it. He worked hard for that, so i’m glad he’s back.”
Whether he ever thinks about what could have been if Oden and others hadn’t suffered injuries …
Nicolas Batum: “No more. I’ve thought about it. The first year we didn’t make the playoffs, I thought, “What if? What if?’ Last year was different. It was a new era, so we got new guys, new coaches. The year that B.Roy retired and Greg left, I’m like, year. I remember my first season, my rookie season, we got like 54 wins. My second year when we had Greg, LA, B.Roy, Dre, I’m like, we could be a very good team. But it didn’t happen. I can’t stay in the past and think, ‘What if?’ I thought about it a little bit a couple years ago, but I don’t think about it anymore.”
On Oden starting …
Erik Spoelstra: “It’s special for him. This has been a four year journey for him just to get to this point. He’s put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. We couldn’t be happier for him to get to this point. The word that we never used with him is fast track, the word we’ve used is patience. This has been a very slow, methodical process where it’s taken an incredible fortitude and patience, on his part, and commitment to do all the work behind the scenes. And now he’s able to contribute, virtually on an every night basis. We’re not playing him on back-to-backs right now but every other night he’s available, and i think that’s the biggest victory of all.”
What do you like most about what he’s been able to give you on the court?
Erik Spoelstra: “He’s a big-time talent. When you have somebody that talented, what usually comes with that is not only the god-given basketball abilities, but the competitiveness, the size, but also a very intelligent player. I think all of those qualities, once you start to get to know him, you realize why he was such a highly regarded player coming out of college. He’s been unfortunate to deal with something most players have never had to deal with, but in the end, he’s show incredible resilience with that. His strength is something that we’ve needed and he’s been able to provide it in short bursts.”
On what Oden provides for the Heat …
Terry Stotts: “To state the obvious, he’s a big presences inside. I think he buys them some minutes with a big man in the middle. Their defense has been so much predicated on creating turnovers and using their athleticism and closing out. (Oden), along with (Chris) Anderson, give them more of a traditional defensive look.”
Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…
On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.
Even at full strength, the Trail Blazers were having a hard time keeping up with the Golden State Warriors in the first game of their second round, best-of-seven playoff series. But that task got significantly harder after reserve guard Gerald Henderson, who is averaging 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the 2016 postseason, was ejected after a series of altercations with Warriors center Anderson Varejao that occurred late in the third quarter of Portland’s 118-106 loss Sunday night at Oracle Arena.
The first incident took place at the 3:29 mark of the third. Henderson and Varejao collided during the run of play, sending Varejao tumbling to the floor. As he was falling, he seemed to extend his leg out in an effort to trip Henderson, which ultimately proved successful. Henderson immediately got off the floor and into Varejao’s face, prompting the officials to call assess technicals to both players.
“I bumped him — not on purpose — he tripped me on purpose,” said Henderson. “I fell hard, I didn’t like it, so came together, that’s what happens.”
But that wouldn’t be the end of the tete-a-tete between Henderson and Varejao. Though Varejao was on the bench, that didn’t stop him and Henderson from continuing their less than cordial discussion, which the officials apparently noticed, as both players were once again awarded technicals, resulting in double ejections.
“The ref threw me out from across the way. I guess he could hear what I was saying from across the court,” said Henderson. “We were talking since the first technicals happened, but there’s a lot of talking going on out there. For both of us to get kicked out of the game, it was surprising.”
Despite the tense moments, Henderson said postgame that there was no lingering animosity while noting that he was more mad at himself than at Varejao.
“I been put it behind me,” said Henderson, who finished with five points and three assists in just under 17 minutes. “We lost the game, that’s the only thing that matters. I was pissed I got thrown out, we still had a chance to win the game. I got ejected, I’ve got to be smarter, regardless of if I thought I should have got kicked out or not.”
OAKLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers had roughly 36 hours to prepare for Game One of their Western Conference Semifinals matchup versus the Golden State Warriors after eliminating the Clippers in Game Six at the Moda Center on Friday night. There was only so much film they could watch, only so many Warriors-specific plays they could learn before a 12:30 pm tipoff Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
That was a reality reflected in Portland’s performance to start the game, as they made just five field goals and trailed by as many as 20 in the first quarter before going on to lose 118-106 to the top-seeded Warriors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 at Oracle Arena.
“Certainly wasn’t the start we wanted,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to get off to such a poor start. Our offense, we had trouble scoring. Their defense got into us. It was just — we struggled at both ends, and probably more so on the offensive end, which fed into their defense. They had second chance point, they had fast-break points. It was a little bit of everything.”
The Warriors now lead the series 1-0 with Game Two scheduled for Tuesday.
“To start the game, we played like a team playing it’s second game in 30 hours,” said CJ McCollum. “We can’t start like that, especially here.”
The good news is the Trail Blazers improved as the game went on. Portland shot 52 percent from the field an 67 percent from three in the second quarter, utilizing small lineups that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” to eventually outscore Golden State 34-28 in the quarter. The Trail Blazers managed to cut the Warriors’ lead to single digits on numerous occasions before the half but were never able to keep the deficit in check for more than a possession or two, allowing the home team to take a 14-point lead into the intermission.
The Warriors, playing without reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who is sidelined with a sprained right MCL, would reestablish their dominance in the third quarter, holding Portland to 9-of-27 shooting from the field and a particularly stingy 1-of-8 from three. Between their defense and shooting 50 percent from both the field and three in the quarter, Golden State took a 26-point lead, their largest of the night, before heading into the fourth up 93-73.
Portland was able to give the final score an air of respectability by outscoring Golden State 33-25 in the fourth, but never realistically threatened the defending champs before the final buzzer. And while there was little to like about their Game One performance, the Trail Blazers can take some comfort in knowing they were able to bounce back from a rough start in the first round to win their series versus the Clippers.
“We got beat pretty soundly in Game One against the Clippers and we made some adjustments, we played a little bit better and got better as the series went along, and we need to do the same thing,” said Stotts. “So we’ll watch the video, see what we can come up with for Game Two. But there’s no question that we have to play better and learn from Game One like we did with the Clippers.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who finished with 30 points, five assists and four steals in 41 minutes. CJ McCollum added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. Portland’s starting backcourt combined to shoot 13-of-43 from the field, with many of those makes coming when the game was already out of reach.
“We’ve just got to be better,” said Lillard, who said he’s been battling a chest cold the last few days (and sounded like it when answer questions postgame). “I got some looks that I need to make, CJ did as well. We just got to be better offensively if we want to have a chance against this team.”
Al-Farouq Aminu shot 6-of-13 from the field and 3-of-8 from three for 15 points in 25 minutes. Harkless added 10 points and three rebounds, with Mason Plumlee grabbing a game-high 13 boards.
Allen Crabbe continued his strong play as of late, going 6-of-9 from the field for 15 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. Ed Davis went 5-of-6 from the field to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in 18 minutes.
Gerald Henderson finished with five points and three rebounds in 16 minutes before being ejected after getting receiving two technicals for arguing with Warriors center Anderson Varejao, who was also ejected.
The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson, who shot 50 percent from both the field and three to finish with a game-high 37 points to go along with five rebounds in 37 minutes.
“We’ve got to do a better job, starting with me if I’m guarding (Thompson),” said McCollum. “Got to make sure I’m pacing better and making him curl. Hard hedges got to be there, especially if it’s Bogut or somebody setting setting that screen where he’s not really a good shooter. We’ve got to make sure we make them pay for that.”
Draymond Green put up a triple-double of 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in 37 minutes. Shaun Livingston added 12 points and with both Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut finishing with 10 points.
Next up, the Trail Blazers will try to regroup before heading back to Oracle for Game Two on Tuesday.
“I got some looks that I usually would have made that I didn’t knock down,” said Lillard. “So next game, I look forward to the challenge again. At this point in the season, all that matters is winning. You either win or you lose; you advance or you go home. At this point, we’re just trying to fix things and make sure that our season keeps going.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.