CLEVELAND — The Trail Blazers held shootaround this morning at Quicken Loans Arena in preparation for tonight’s game against the Cavaliers here in Cleveland. I’m a bit short on time, so here are some real quick hitters from today’s shootaround …
· LaMarcus Aldridge, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday for the third time this season, said that while it was nice to be recognized, that the award is really more of an indication of how well entire Trail Blazers roster is playing.
“It just means that the team is playing at a very high level right now and we’re playing very unselfish,” said Aldridge, who finished the week averaging 25.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks. “It’s an individual award but it definitely reflects on how well my teammates are playing also.”
Aldridge said that now is not the time to reflect upon his accomplishments this season, as the team still has a lot of work to do if they’re to end a two-year playoff drought. But he did say, when asked about his status as one of the greatest Trail Blazers of all-time now that he’s behind only Clyde Drexler for the most Player of the Week awards, that maybe fans will start to look at his career in Portland a different way now that he’s started to stack up individual awards.
“They’ve never seen me in that light,” said Aldridge when asked if he thought fans put him among the most recognizable names in franchise history. “I don’t think a lot of people did but now I think people are buying into seeing me in that light. The body of work that I’ve done in Portland, that helps out my case.”
· The matchup at point guard between Portland’s Damian Lillard and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about come Wednesday morning. While the two are a part of the next generation of great NBA point guards, Lillard pointed out that the Cavaliers have more than one guard who is going to make his life difficult tonight on the defensive end.
“Every possession I’ve got to keep with it,” said Lillard. “(Irving) is probably going to make some tough shots, probably going to make some good moves but I’m going to have him at some point in the game, I’m going to have to guard (Jarrett) Jack at some point in the game and (Dion) Waiters. It’s going to be a tough night defensively but we’ve just got to find a way to win the game. I think everybody on our team is up for the challenge.”
· Finally, despite the advice from his legal representation, Robin Lopez discussed the origins of his dispute with Piston’s horse mascot Hooper, who Lopez assaulted prior to Sunday night’s game at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
“I think that was kind of an inherited blood feud in a way,” said Lopez. “I know that there was some bad blood between him and the Brooklyn Nets the night before. I’m not sure who orchestrated it but I can’t help but feel I was the victim of that a little bit.”
The “bad blood” stemmed from the part Robin’s twin brother Brook played in a vicious beatdown of Hooper a few night’s before, which prompted Hooper to take to Twitter to challenge Portland’s Lopez, leaving Robin little choice but to defend his honor and that of his family.
“Of course I had to stick up for the family name,” said Robin. “He really should have thought twice before stepping to me … He was really throwing rocks at the hornet’s nest.”
That rock-throwing continued today with Hooper continuing to pester Lopez via Twitter. And while Hooper is probably safe from another beating courtesy of Lopez thanks to Portland playing in Detroit just once per year, the same might not be true for Moondog, the Cleveland Cavaliers canine mascot.
“If (Moondog) stares at me for too long,” said Robin, “if he makes direct eye contact with me, I’d say he has one or two things to worry about. I’m a little canine in my own way. I can be vicious as well.”
The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround in Los Angeles on Sunday morning in preparation for Game One of their first round playoff series versus the Clippers at Staples Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from the last practice before the start of the series…
• There has been some discussion in the lead up to Sunday night’s game about Damian Lillard’s shooting woes versus the Clippers this season. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State shot just 32 percent from the field in four games against the Clippers this season, his worst shooting percentage against any Western Conference team this year.
But even though Lillard has struggled shooting the ball versus Chris Paul and the Clippers, don’t expect him to come out doing anything differently once Game One tips off. The plan is to take whatever kind of shots he needs to take in order to give the Trail Blazers their best chance of winning, percentages be damned.
“I’m going to go out there and be myself,” said Lillard. “I don’t play a game of percentages, I go out there and I play win or lose. I think a lot of guys go into games and they won’t shoot a halfcourt shot at the buzzer and they won’t shoot a stepback three. If I wanted to go out there and shoot 50 percent and shooting 40 percent (from three), I could do it. But I’m going to go out there and I’m shooting it to win the game. If I shoot 62 percent and we lose the game, it don’t really matter what percent I shot. I don’t really care about what that says. Anybody can be beat on any given night. I know I can explode on any given night and that’s all I care about.”
• Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum isn’t shy about contacting former NBA players to get pointers on the best ways to improve his own game, as he did last summer with two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer Steve Nash. But McCollum isn’t averse to asking for advice from current players either, as he did last year with Clippers shooting guard and podcast host JJ Redick, who has become known for the rigorous workouts he puts himself through during the offseason.
“I just asked him how many shots he shoots a day because he’s a really good shooter from midrange and three-point range,” said McCollum of his discussion with Redick. “So just trying to get an idea of what a guy who shoots 47, 48 percent, a guy who has made a career out of movement, jump shooting and creating with less dribbles. He doesn’t dribble a lot, he uses his ball screens, he uses Chris Paul, he uses DeAndre (Jordan). Just trying to figure out what type of offseason workouts he does.”
Some players might be reluctant to share secrets of their successes, but McCollum said Redick was gracious enough to fill him in on some of the details regarding the way he prepares during the summer for the regular season. But while that advice might have played a part in McCollum helping the Trail Blazers get to the postseason, it’s not likely to give Portland an advantage in covering arguably the most underrated shooting guard in the NBA.
“That stuff is more for me to work on on my own time,” said McCollum of the tips he got from Redick. “He told me because it wouldn’t give me a competitive advantage.”
• While the Trail Blazers roster doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience, especially in comparison to the Clippers, most of the non-rookies have had had at least a small taste of the NBA postseason. But not starting forward Maurice Harkless, who is playing in his first playoff game Sunday night after missing the postseason in his first three seasons with the Orlando Magic, making Saturday night somewhat akin to his first Christmas Eve.
“I couldn’t really sleep at first last night, but I’ve got to approach the game the same way I would approach a regular game,” said Harkless. “It’s another day at the office. Stakes are higher, it’s a playoff game, but I can’t overemphasize that in my preparation. I’ve got to prepare the same way and just be ready to play. You don’t want to go out there and be too excited. It’s going to be more intense, more physical, more everything else, but you’ve got to prepare the same way and be ready to go the same way.”
Harkless’ first playoff experience has to be especially rewarding for the 6-9 forward considering he was somewhat of the odd man out in Terry Stotts’ rotation midway through the season before being thrust into the starting lineup. He’s not entirely sure what to expect, just as he didn’t know if how much he would play, if at all, for part of the season, but he’s looking forward to finding out.
“I’m looking forward to the energy in the building,” said Harkless. “Being an away team in the playoffs, it’s probably a lot different than being the away team in the regular season… I expect the game to be a lot more physical, a lot tougher and I expect everybody to be more locked in. Nothing is going to be easy and I feel like it’s going to be a dogfight.”
Friday night, Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez was in Seattle to throw out the first pitch at Safeco Field prior to the Mariners defeating the White Sox 4-1.
Looks like he threw a strike. A bit of movement on that pitch as well. Nice work RoLo. But anyone who knows Lopez’s history knows that the first pitch was likely little more than an excuse to be within punching distance of the Mariners mascot, Mariner Moose, who obviously didn’t realize what kind of trouble he was getting himself into …
— Mariner Moose (@MarinerMoose) August 9, 2014
After sparing with numerous NBA mascots last season, Lopez is now using his downtime in the offseason to bully some MLB mascots by dunking on their heads and pushing them to the ground for their lunch money …
— Robin Lopez (@eegabeeva88) August 9, 2014
You’re next, Lou Seal.
A great piece of investigative reporting by the fellows on The Starters at All-Star Weekend. After the Pelicans re-branded their new mascot, Pierre the Pelican, into something less horrifying, The Starters asked some of the players at All-Star Weekend what other mascots could use an update, with Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard pointing to Pistons mascot, Hooper, needing an attitude adjustment. Hooper, you’ll remember, got into a much-publicized spat with Robin Lopez, the effect of which we’re still feeling today.
(Hat tip to Dustin holding it
down in the office)
down in the office)