A lot of you have been waiting, patiently or otherwise, for the release of the 2014-15 NBA schedule. Well, your wait is over. We now know the Trail Blazers will begin their 2014-15 season at home versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, with their first road game the two nights later in Sacramento versus the Kings on Halloween. The Trail Blazers have 16 nationally-televised games (10 on ESPN and six on TNT) with the rest airing on KGW Channel 8 and Comcast SportsNet Northwest.
The NBA was forced to push back this year’s schedule release in order to retool after it was (wisely) decided that it would be nice for players who participate in All-Star weekend to get an actual break from basketball by tacking a few extra days on to the All-Star break in February. And as you can see from the schedule, the Trail Blazers will have eight days off for the 2015 All-Star break, two days more than they got for the 2014 All-Star break. For a team that relies on their starters like the Trail Blazers do, that’s a great thing, and definitely worth waiting a few extra weeks for.
What’s more, the league was able to add those extra days to what I guess we can now call All-Star Week without starting the season much earlier or ending it much later than in 2013-14, at least for the Trail Blazers. Portland started last season on Oct. 30, just a day later than they’re starting the 2014-15 season versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Moda Center on Oct. 29. And the Trail Blazers end their 2014-15 regular season a day earlier than last season, all while playing the same number of back-to-backs. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is some kind of wizard.
Once again, the Trail Blazers will NOT be a part of the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule nor will they play on New Year’s Day (or Eve, for that matter), which is just fine by me, though I know many of you who don’t have to work holidays rather enjoy going to games on your off days. They will, however, play on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which has become somewhat of a tradition for the Trail Blazers, in a home game versus the Kings on January 19, 2015.
Let’s look at some of the important numbers from Portland’s 2014-15 schedule …
NUMBER OF GAMES BY MONTH
October: 2 (1 road, 1 home)
November: 15 (5 road, 10 home)
December: 16 (10 road, 6 home)
January: 16 (8 road, 8 home)
February: 9 (3 road, 6 home)
March: 16 (10 road, 6 home)
April: 8 (4 road, 4 home)
TOTAL NUMBER OF BACK-TO-BACKS: 19
BACK-TO-BACKS BY MONTH
BACK-TO-BACKS, BY TYPE
ROAD TRIPS BY NUMBER OF GAMES PER TRIP
5 games: 2
4 games: 2
3 games: 1
2 games: 5
1 game: 10
HOME STANDS BY NUMBER OF GAMES
7 games: 1 (December 24 to January 10)
3 games: 4
2 games: 7
1 game: 8
HOME GAMES BY DAY
GAMES VERSUS 2013-14 PLAYOFF TEAMS BY MONTH
A couple things …
— The first thing that strikes me about this schedule is how evenly weighted it is. December, January and March all having the same number of games, 16, and November featuring 15 games makes for a a schedule with few peaks and valleys. Even Portland’s 19 back-to-backs are spread out such a way that makes no month better or worse then the rest. And while the 2013-14 results aren’t exactly the best way to predict how good a team is going to be in 2014-15, the difficult games seem to be evenly weighted over the course of the season as well, with November, December, January and March featuring eight games against playoff teams.
— As previously mentioned, the Trail Blazers play 19 back-to-backs this season, with 10 of those taking place exclusively on the road, which means a quarter of Portland’s road games this season are on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s not fantastic, but the Blazers have been good to great in back-to-backs over the last few seasons and, in the long run, you’d probably trade more back-to-backs for shorter road trips.
— Starting the season with 11 home games, compared to just six on the road, presents the Trail Blazers with an opportunity to get off to a great start. Portland played just seven home games in November during the 2013-14 season and still managed to get off to one of their best starts in franchise history, so perhaps home games aren’t all that important to a hot start, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
And what a slate of great games in November at the Moda Center. Playing the Warriors, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Bulls, Hornets and Grizzlies should be an exciting way to start the season all while giving you a decent sense of what this Trail Blazers team is made of.
— On the flip side, December, with a five-game road trip, a four-game road trip, four road-road back-to-backs and 10 road games overall, is probably the Trail Blazers’ toughest month. March is no cakewalk either, but two games against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on top of at Chicago, at Oklahoma City and at Houston makes December the cruelest month, in my opinion.
— But having said that, look at that beautiful home stand spanning the end of December through the middle of January. The team will get in from Oklahoma City early on Christmas Eve morning and will not board a plane until they leave for the second night of a back-to-back in Los Angeles against the Lakers on January 11. That’s 18 straight nights of sleeping in your own bed during a time of year in which most want to spend as much time at home with their families as possible. And considering that the Atlanta Hawks are likely the best team Portland will play during that home stand, that 18-day stretch seems like a great opportunity to stack some wins before the second half of the season.
— While the new and improved All-Star break results in the Trail Blazers playing just eight games in February, four fewer than last season, it might be end up being the most important month of the season thanks to games against the Suns, Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Spurs and Thunder. All of those teams either made the 2014 Western Conference playoffs or came within a few games of doing so.
— The Trail Blazers will play the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings just three times this season, while playing the other eight Western Conference teams four times. And like every non-shortened season, the Trail Blazers will face every Eastern Conference opponent twice.
Now some games of note …
Wednesday, October 29 vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 PM
Trail Blazers open the 2014-15 season at home versus the Thunder, a team that has won the Northwest Division the last four seasons, on ESPN. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two mainstays of USA Basketball, decided to forgo playing in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup, so you can assume both will be plenty rested for the start of the NBA season.
The Thunder and Trail Blazers split the 2013-14 season series 2-2, with each team winning one home and one road game.
Tuesday, November 4 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 PM
A huge early-season game at the Moda Center. Between the return of LeBron James, who always gives the Trail Blazers fits in Portland, and the expected addition of Lake Oswego High School alumnus Kevin Love makes this game one of the highlights of Portland’s home schedule. And that’s to say nothing of the budding friendly rivalry between point guards Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving.
The Trail Blazers swept the 2013-14 season series versus the Cavaliers, though that doesn’t matter much now given the roster turnover in Cleveland.
Friday, November 21 vs. Chicago Bulls, 7:30 PM
The last time we saw Bulls point guard Derrick Rose in an NBA game, he was limping off the court at the Moda Center after suffering a season-ending knee injury, his second in as many seasons. He’ll return to Portland almost exactly a year later (anyone else think that’s a little macabre of the NBA schedule makers) and this time he’ll have former Laker Pau Gasol in tow along with rookie Doug McDermott and the only center in the NBA who can challenge Robin Lopez for hair supremacy, Joakim Noah. This one is being picked up by ESPN, as is the game versus the Bulls in Chicago on December 12.
The Trail Blazers swept the 2013-14 season series with the Bulls. In fact, the Blazers haven’t lost to the Bulls since 2010.
Friday, November 30 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 7 PM
Assuming the reports that the Timberwolves will send Kevin Love to Cleveland in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and some combination of draft picks is true, this will be our first chance to get an in-person look at No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, not to mention Zach LaVine, the ultra-athletic guard the Timberwolves selected with the 13th overall pick. Minnesota will once again be in full rebuild mode if the trade rumors are to be believed, but they’ll have enough talent to make games interesting, if not entirely competitive.
Portland went 3-1 versus Minnesota last season.
Monday, December 15 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 7 PM
This will be Portland’s first crack at the team that eliminated the Trail Blazers from the 2014 Playoffs before steamrolling their way to yet another championship. The Spurs treat the regular season with thinly-veiled contempt, so there’s no guarantee that the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili won’t be resting even this early in the season, but they’ve shown throughout the years that they don’t need their best players to beat you.
The Trail Blazers and Spurs split the series 2-2 last season before San Antonio took the second-round 4-1.
Monday, December 22 @ Houston Rockets, 5 PM
If the gave versus the Spurs is the yin, this game versus the Rockets is the yang. This game will be Houston’s first chance to get some pent-up frustration out of their collective systems after the Rockets were eliminated from the 2014 Playoffs in Game 6 at the Moda Center. Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are all gone, but James Harden and Dwight Howard still pose a formidable duo.
Portland lost the season series 3-1 to the Rockets, though as was the case with the Spurs, the playoff series record is what really mattered.
Monday, January 5 vs. L.A. Lakers, 7 PM
The Los Angeles Lakers just ain’t what they used to be, but Trail Blazers fans get pumped up for this one regardless. Kobe Bryant’s last great game, a 47-point, eight-rebound, five-assist, four-block, three-steal performance while playing all 48 minutes, took place at the Moda Center on April 12, 2013, so it will be interesting to see what the “Black Mamba” has left in the tank after sitting out all by six games of the 2013-14 season. It’ll also be a fun sociological experiment to see how many Lakers fans show up at the Moda Center now that they’ve fallen on some hard times.
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…
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.
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…
Portland will select Maryland’s Jake Layman with No. 47, sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
Source: To get Maryland’s Jake Layman at No. 47, Portland will send Orlando $1.2M and a 2019 second-round pick.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
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).
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.