Shootaround Notes: Robin Lopez Celebrates His Birthday At Disneyland

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround at the Staples Center this morning in preparation for tonight’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 PM on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes …

— Last year, the Trail Blazers and Lakers had an epic late-season battle at the Moda Center. The Lakers were fighting to get into the playoffs while the Trail Blazers had lost eight-straight and were long since eliminated from playoff contention. The game, which the Lakers won 113-106, was highlighted by Kobe Bryant, who scored 47 points while playing all 48 minutes, and Damian Lillard going blow for blow in what was one of Bryant’s last games before rupturing his Achilles tendon.

This year, the roles are reversed. The Lakers, usually stalwarts of the Western Conference playoff race, were one of the first teams mathematically eliminated from

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postseason play while the Trail Blazers are holding out hope of passing the Rockets in the standings to secure home-court advantage in the first round.

“This is a big game for us,” said Nicolas Batum. “The way we play, at least the last three games, is pretty good. We’re ‘back on track’ almost since LA is back. We played great defense, played together so tonight’s game is big for

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us because this team has no pressure. You can see the last couple of games they’re playing great basketball, blowout Phoenix, huge win against New York, a team battling for a playoff spot. You know it won’t be easy so we need a good game tonight.”

The Trail Blazers were also defeated 107-106 by the Lakers on March 3 at the Moda Center, which was arguably their worst loss of the season when taking into account what losing to the Lakers in Portland means to the fan base. So any concern that Portland would be playing the record rather than the opponent seems unwarranted.

“We might have underestimated a little bit last game,” said Batum. “We lost on a last play at them, so we owe them a little payback.”

And just in case playoffs and payback weren’t enough, the players are still hearing from fans that there’s nothing wrong with kicking the Lakers while they’re down.

“I like coming to L.A. and I tweeted ‘LA!’,” said Damian Lillard, “and a bunch of people quoted the tweet and said ‘You forgot BEAT.’ Like ‘Beat L.A.’ I got that a lot of times. I can definitely see that passion behind it.”

— Lillard is also well aware of the passion Lakers fans have for their team as well, as they’ve been prone to approach the second-year point guard about their desire that he one day play for in purple and gold.

“That’s what fans do,” said Lillard. “On the social networks they see something, they biting at any chance to get under your skin or say something that going to go completely against what you said. Like if I say ‘I love the Blazers’ or I say ‘I love L.A.’ then it’s ‘Come to the Lakers!’ Come play with Kobe.’ You’re going to get that from fans but I think it’s fun.”

Lillard admittedly enjoys visiting Los Angeles, but that’s where the interest ends. His affinity for staying in one place, along with his disdain for moving, has him thinking long-term with the Trail Blazers.

“I know where my heart is, I know that I really want to be with Portland,” said Lillard. “It’s just fun to me, honestly … I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.”

— Finally, today is Robin Lopez’s 26th birthday. And as luck would have it, the California native was able to recreate a birthday celebration of his youth thanks to the Trail Blazers arriving in Los Angeles Monday afternoon for Tuesday night’s game.

“One of the traditions that I’ve had — and it actually worked out nice because the friend is in town — is there’s two sets of brothers that (identical twin brother) Brook and I are really close friends with and ever since seventh grade we’ve gone to Disneyland together. So I was able to go with one of those friends. We went out for dinner and went to Disneyland for a couple hours after that. It actually worked out perfectly being in L.A.”

One might think, at 7-feet tall and 255 pounds, that Lopez might not be too large to ride the rides. Not the case. While there are minimum height requirements, no such maximum restrictions must exists, as Lopez rode Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, his personal favorite, on his birthday trip to the Happiest Place On Earth.

Lopez says he’s heard all the jokes about how it makes sense that he and his brother, considering their size and eccentric personalities, were born on April Fool’s Day, though his real complaint is the similarity between his and Brook’s origin story and that of another set of twins from a popular young adult novel series.

“J.K. Rowling stole it and gave that birthday to Fred and George Weasley from ‘Harry Potter’,” said Lopez. “They’re twins, too … I know the Weasley’s were always pretty tall, they usually have somewhat unruly hair. Fred and George both ended up running a joke shop. I should definitely look into suing. I know J.K. has a few galleons in her pocket.”

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Layman Looking Forward To ‘Making An Impact’ With The Trail Blazers

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

Maryland forward Jake Layman took questions from the Portland media via conference call for the first time Friday afternoon since being acquired by the Trail Blazers from the Orlando Magic after he was selected with the 47th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. The 6-9 wing, who averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in four seasons with the Terrapins, discussed being selected by the Trail Blazers, whether he knew the team was interested in him prior to the draft, what skills he has that are most applicable in the NBA, his defensively strengths and his plans to come to Portland in time for summer league workouts…

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What was your initial reaction after being drafted by the Trail Blazers and your impressions of the franchise?

Jake Layman: First off, I’m very excited. It was such a stressful night. I was nervous all night, I didn’t really know what to expect with what was going to happen the way the draft was going last night. To finally hear my name called was just a big sign of relief, I was very excited, especially to be picked up by the Blazers because I’ve watched them play a lot. I think that their style of play fits me very well.

Why did you watch them a lot over the season?

Jake Layman: I think it was really more playoff time when I saw them play.

Where the Blazers on your radar? Did they interview you in Chicago at the combine, have any interaction with the team leading up to the draft?

Jake Layman: I did an interview with them at the combine but they were still in the playoffs, so they didn’t have really anybody there who could interview. That was really it. I didn’t work out for them. But I did know that they were very interested going into the draft, but they had no picks, so I really didn’t think much of it. So when my agent called me to tell me they traded in for the pick, I was excited.

What did you think about Portland’s recent playoff run?

Jake Layman: It was very exciting. Watching them with how young they are, how much talent they have, to be battling out there against some of the best teams in the NBA. I know how excited the fanbase was to see that happen.

What are your most applicable NBA skills right now and how do you see yourself projecting as an NBA player from a position or skill perspective?

Jake Layman: I think for me, my shooting ability, it’s gotten better each year that I was in college. So I think for me, just carrying that into the NBA is going to be huge. And also for me, I think being able to guard multiple spots on the floor is what teams are looking for now. I think that’s something I can do.

Do you know Pat Connaughton at all since you’re from the same area? Did you play against him at all?

Jake Layman: I know him pretty well. We never really played against each other in high school or anything, but just being from the same area. We were part of the Boston Globe all-star team one year, so yeah, we definitely know each other.

Do you know when you’re going to come to Portland, when you might sign and whether you’ll play for the team at summer league?

Jake Layman: Talking to the GM yesterday, I think I’m going to fly out to Portland either July 3rd or 4th and then I’ll be there for the practices leading up to summer league, which starts pretty soon after that. Then I’ll play in summer league. I’m not really sure about signing contracts or anything right now, but for summer league I’ll definitely be there.

What was your conversation like with Neil Olshey?

Jake Layman: He just asked me how I felt. All the emotion going through your head when you get drafted, it was definitely nice to talk to him. Asked me how I’m feeling and if I’m ready to get going. I was very excited to hear from him, I talked to Coach Stotts also.

How would you describe yourself off the court? What’s your personality like? How do you approach the game? Approach life or leadership or being in a locker room.

Jake Layman: I think for me, I’m a little different off the court than I am on the court. I think when it comes to being on the court, I’m definitely pretty intense. I’m always going hard, going crazy on the court. Then off the court, I’m a pretty quiet guy, very laid back, definitely a great locker room guy. I get along with everybody. That’s how I would describe myself.

You said you feel like your defensive versatility is an asset. Could you break down your strengths defensively?

Jake Layman: I think my on-ball defense has definitely gotten better over the years. But I think playing off the ball on defense, being able to come over and help and then block shots from the weakside, it is something that I’m definitely good at.

Do you feel like joining a young team, but one that has already had some success in the playoffs, give you an opportunity that other guys in the draft might not get?

Jake Layman: I think it’s a great chance to be able to come in this next year and help, make an impact on the team, just go in and help whatever way I can, whether it’s scoring, defending or all of those. I think the makeup of this team definitely gives me a chance to go in and make an impact right away.

What’s your hometown of Wrentham like? What was it like growing up there?

Jake Layman: Growing up in Wrentham, I’m one of five boys in my family, so there’s always something to do, always someone to play with. I was big into sports when I was little. My dad played baseball in college, my mom played basketball in college so I was always involved in the youth leagues, whether it was baseball, football or basketball. I think for me, my childhood was definitely run by sports when I was little growing up.

Can you see someone in the NBA who reminds you of yourself or someone who has the same skillset?

Jake Layman: Someone I’m trying to model my game after — I’m not saying I’m him right now, but it’s someone who I definitely think my game over time could be just like his — is Gordon Hayward, plays for the Utah Jazz.

Can you describe waiting to hear your name called last night?

Jake Layman: From the start of the night, you’re going in with the thought of what you’ve been hearing from teams and what your agent’s been telling you. Once the draft starts going, especially last night, it was definitely not what I expected. I was surrounded by a bunch of family and friends, so they were keeping me calm the whole time. I was just hanging in there, staying strong and to finally hear my name called, it was definitely a sigh of relief.

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Trail Blazers Acquire Layman From Orlando

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Trail Blazers have acquired the No. 47 pick of the 2016 Draft from the Orlando Magic, which they will use to select 6-9 forward Jake Layman out of Maryland…




Layman played four seasons at Maryland, averaging 11.6 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from three, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 36 games his senior season with the Terrapins. At 6-9 and with a relatively accurate three-point shot, Layman likely enters the NBA as a stretch four, which should come in handy in Terry Stotts’ offense.

The Trail Blazers entered Thursday’s draft with no picks, though it always seemed likely they’d purchase a second round pick, as Paul Allen has shown throughout his tenure as owner that he’s willing to spend in order to bring in draft talent. The $1.2 million the Trail Blazers reportedly sent to Orlando, along with a future second round pick, for the 47th pick is significantly less than what some other teams reportedly spent to get picks later in the second round.

Assuming Layman and the Trail Blazers can come to contract terms — second round picks can negotiate their contracts, while salaries for first round picks are dictated by where they’re taken — it seems likely that he would play for the Trail Blazers at the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts in mid-July.

UPDATE: It’s official. From the team’s press release…

“Jake is a high character young man with a skill set we value on both ends of the floor,” said Olshey. “His ability to defend multiple positions and shoot the ball from range will be positive additions to our roster.”

Orlando selected Layman with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. A four-year player out of the University of Maryland, Layman (6-9, 220) posted career averages of 10.2 points (44.5% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 75.9% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Terrapins.

An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection his senior year, Layman led Maryland to 114 wins over his four seasons and is one of just 12 players in school history to record 1,400 points (1,436) and 600 rebounds (674). Layman, 22, guided Maryland to its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003 last season, and ranks 18th in school history in points (1,436) and 18th in rebounds (674).

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Damian Lillard To Forego 2016 Olympics

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
5 days ago

According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will not play for Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in order to rest and continue rehabilitating the plantar fasciitis injury that dogged the 6-3 for much of the 2015-16 season. I can confirm this report.

Though Lillard was able to play through the injury after missing seven games in late December, the pain caused by the plantar fasciitis in his left foot never really went away. He received treatment on his foot throughout the season, though the most effective approach to the injury, which causes extreme pain on the bottom of the foot and heel, is rest, which is obviously hard to get when you’re the leader and best player on a team trying to make the postseason. By forgoing the month-long lead up to the Olympics and the Games themselves, Lillard should have the recuperation time he’ll need to go into Portland’s 2016 training camp completely healthy.

Charnania is also reporting that Lillard was hoping for more time to make the decision before being pressed by Team USA for a commitment one way or another. This could very well be true, though if being completely healthy and rested for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season is Lillard’s motivation for declining a Team USA invite, it’s hard to figure how another week or two would change his decision.

Lillard initially declined being a part of the pool that Team USA draws their roster from, though he ultimately relented despite not feeling particularly optimistic about his chances of being named to the Olympic team after being passed over for the FIBA World Cup team in 2014. But between players opting to rest in preparation for the upcoming season and the myriad of concerns regarding the 2016 Games, the number of candidates has dwindled to the point where Lillard would have been a lock to make the Olympic team had he chosen to participate.

But Lillard opting for rest over Rio doesn’t mean you won’t have a Trail Blazer to root for during the Olympics, as Al-Farouq Aminu and the rest of Team Nigeria (a team that also includes former Trail Blazer Ike Diogu and former Oregon Duck Chamberlain Oguchi) have qualified for the 2016 Games after winning AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia. And CJ McCollum has also been invited to play on the USA Select Team, whose purpose is to help the USA National Team prepare for international events, though players from the Select team have been promoted to the National team, with the most recent example being Mason Plumlee making the 2014 World Cup team.

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