First things first: If Game 2 was a gut punch, Game 3 was a knee to the dick.
The final score was 110-99 Warriors advantage; But really the damage was a lot worse than an 11 point margin suggests. It was a gut punch, a soul crusher, a hope eraser. It was the type of loss capable of eroding any optimism a fan base might possibly possess.
The final seconds ticked off and I sat on my couch just dumbfounded over what I had seen. Two straight games saw the Blazers piss away a second half lead and now we face a real possibility of the Warriors turning out the lights on our season in four games.
I handled this loss like I would any other dick punch game: a shower, a beer, and an early bedtime. I’ve sat through enough of these to realize I’m no good to my family in that mood. I'm also a Mariners fan after all.
I woke up this morning feeling reenergized. Yeah, last night sucked- but we are in the Western Conference Finals and we got here without (in my opinion) our second best player. No matter what happens Monday or beyond, that’s a win in my book.
This morning I felt happy; At least I did until I started checking my phone.
Literally the first thing I saw today was a tweet by the Oregonian compiling an assortment of tweets and views from across social media. It was highlighted with a headline that said “trash brothers” and had Dames face altered to reflect the Jordan Cry face meme.
Then I flipped on Facebook to see a guy I used to work with write
“Dame was horrible felt like he was playing with a hangover. I know people are going to say great season which I would agree but I’m not satisfied. Warriors have heart, hustle, and great coaching. Dame and CJ need to be broken up we need to go after a big name free agent by either trading CJ or Lillard. I’m tired of waiting for something to happen. Very frustrated fan here.”
First thing you notice after you get over the grammar, is that even though the dude who wrote this might be an idiot- he is not alone. Scroll through Rip City related tweets and Reddits and you'll find folks who traded in their enthusiasm from a week ago for some ol’ fashioned Portland anguish. Last month, after Dame showed the Oklahoma City Thunder the door, he probably could have been unanimously elected as Governor of Oregon. His statue for outside the Rose Garden (yep, not Moda) was already being molded and cast. Today, I’m fielding texts about if it’s time to consider trading him for the rights to RJ Barrett.
In all honesty, that trade suggestion broke me.
So I’m going to provide some context regarding Damian Lillard and his run here in Portland and take a quick moment to remind everyone of what seems to be overlooked in the wake of Game 3.
The first thing I want to highlight is that we are talking about a man who has lead this team- his team- to the Western Conference Finals; Its first Western Conference Finals in 19 years. Even in the aftermath of last night, we are still four wins away from playing in the finals for the third time in franchise history. Don’t let the high from ousting Denver last week cloud your ability to remember that as recently as March we just wanted to get out of the first round.
Now, think about what he has to work with. Did we land a prized free agent last summer that helped us escape the first round this year? No. Does he even have another All-Star on the team? No. Our guy has been going to war with a roster made up of CJ McCollum, castoffs, and development projects. And for as much as we all love CJ, our guy has never even been particularly close to joining Dame at the mid-season showcase. He is a talented scorer and a wonderful human; unfortunately, being a humanitarian doesn’t help defend a pick and roll or improve court vision though. The other three teams still actively playing have a minimum of two All-Stars from this season on their roster.
Yet here we are, the Western Conference Finals!
Sure, three games in and we are getting speed bagged by the Warriors. But if we want to be honest, isn’t that to be expected? The Warriors have been historically great over the last half decade. This is a team that is vying for their opportunity to play in the Finals for the 5th consecutive year. This is the same team that waxed Lebron so hard in three of the last four finals that he forgot he wrote a letter and promised to retire in Cleveland and left to go find new teammates. Years from now, we are all going to be talking about these Warrior teams with the same admiration that we do the 90’s Bulls, 80’s Lakers and the 60’s Celtics.
It's great that you’ve allowed this team to reset your expectations, but it's also important to remember to look at the big picture. Knicks fans of the 90’s weren’t asking for Patrick Ewing's head when he got rolled by Jordan in the playoffs, so why are we doing that to Dame?
It's easy to feel beaten down this today, but remember the state of the team when LaMarcus Aldridge left? LaMarcus was, and remains to this day, the most talented teammate Damian Lillard has ever had. And in time, following Wes Matthews blowing out an achilles leading up to LaMarcus leaving us holding the bag, the 2015 Blazers went from a team that could make a run at the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS to a team forced with a rebuild.
Only that didn’t happen. What did happen was the same thing that we would eventually realize would always happen: Damian Lillard took a team projected to be lottery bound and dragged them to the playoffs.
All teams hit a bump in the road. Dwayne Wade’s Heat ended up in the lottery on a couple of occasions during his prime. One time it landed them Michael Beasley. The other time, he just recruited Lebron James and Chris Bosh to come play with him. Retooling a roster is a lot easier when you acquire assets like lottery picks.
But Dame, unlike Wade, has not allowed Neil Olshey that luxury. Which is probably why Neil ended up panicking in 2016 and handing out $250 million in contract commitments to Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner. He needed to get his hands on, and retain, as many assets as possible to help this roster grow.
Over commitments and misinterpreting potential like that has crippled many franchises in the past. The New York Knicks, whom are constantly in a state of paying for past sins, have made the playoffs one time this century. Portland, who is at a considerable disadvantage when it comes luring talented free agents to relocate, should have been settled with a reoccurring lottery date since those free agent contracts were handed out. But we weren’t. Why? Because of Damian Lillard.
Instead, every year, just as he did in 2016, he drags the roster given to him to the playoffs; And this year, we are in the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS.
Look, I get being upset. I’m right there with you. But if you are looking for someone to blame, it needs to be on someone other than Dame. Think about this: Anthony Davis was drafted 1st overall the same year that Dame was drafted 6th. Davis, despite ample evidence that he is a bitch, is widely considered one of the five best players in the NBA. He has acquired this title even though he has only made the playoffs on two occasions in his career. Lillard, often an afterthought when it comes to the hierarchy of talent in the NBA, has only MISSED the playoffs one time in his career.
The national narrative might not ever give Dame the love he deserves until the moments they have to (what up, PG?) But never, and I mean fucking ever, should his heart, ability or production ever be second guessed. We probably shouldn’t even be in the position to be down 3-0 right now, but when your team has Damian Lillard, all things are possible. All his accomplishments aside, there is a real argument to have that he is probably the best player this franchise has ever had.
This series has not gone the way that I had hoped. It has not been the perfect demonstration of Lillard and all his powers. We don’t appear to be primed to cut the head off this Warrior dynasty. It sucks to say that, but it’s the reality. That being said, regardless if the series continues past Monday or not, this season was an unmitigated success. This team, like those of the last five years before it, have outperformed even our loftiest of expectations- but none of this happens without Dame.
If we lose on Monday, or Wednesday, or ever again- I implore anyone reading this to take a deep breath, go drink a beer, and take a shower. Take a walk around your block. Don’t say some crazy shit on Twitter because you’re disappointed. Nobody wants a championship parade in downtown Portland more than Damian Lillard; so stay the hell off the ESPN Trade Machine. We owe him our loyalty.
Blazers in 7.
Image Credit: NBA on TNT
In true Sir Charles Barkley fashion, Chuck provided unorthodox, funny, yet valid analysis by proclaiming the following about the Portland Trail Blazers and their lack of success against Nikola Jokic after halftime:
“Let me just say this, they too light in the ass. They haven’t grown no ass since last week”
said Barkley. So...basically, the Portland Trail Blazers need to come together and get fatter in order for the Trail Blazers to have success moving forward. “...Portland just needs some more ass.” Barkley went on to say. Perhaps the organization could hire Raymond Felton as a consultant on the matter.
Now, I’m not sure if Charles Barkley is using the word ass as a euphemism for cojones, which can be grown and shrunk on a game by game basis, but it is pretty hard to just grow your ass in a matter of a two-day span. However the overall point that Barkley was trying to make actually held true from a scientific standpoint:
The combined weight of all the Portland Trail Blazers is 3,291 lbs, whereas the Denver Nuggets clock in at 3,656 lbs. This means that the Nuggets have a good 400+ lbs on the Trail Blazers.
Given this newfound information, who can truly blame the Trail Blazers for being based out of one of the most health conscious cities in the United States? Who can blame this squad for succumbing to the delicious and healthy food options in the Portland area that seem to be keeping the Trail Blazers leaner than that of the Denver Nuggets and the potato wrapped oysters that they seem to gorge on with some regularity,
However, that extra seafood and potato weight sure would come in handy for the Blazer bigs against Nikola Jokic and his physical barrage against them and seemingly the rest of the Blazers. In terms of size and depth, we don’t seem have a player that can match Jokic outright. Portland can’t help the fact that Denver has a whopping 31 Papa John’s locations. We just can’t compete with that level of commitment, in regards to possessing such a high quantity of shitty food.
In terms of actual hooping, the Blazers are going to need to do what they have to do and get Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins to step up, in terms of minutes and quality of play. They need to collectively ensure that they grow their cojones for Game 6 and give us everything they’ve got against in order to shut down Nikola Jokic and the rest Denver Nuggets (even their name implies food!).
Getting back to the pressing matter at hand: growing some ass, as Charles Barkley or Raymond Felton would recommend, I would maybe suggest taking a few team trips over to Voodoo doughnut and hitting the leg press while chowing down. Maybe then there could begin to be some balance and forced compromise, in regards to Nikola Jokic doing whatever the hell he wants to do. At this point, I’m open to anything.
PICTURE CREDIT: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It sucks after a disappointing playoffs loss where it really felt the momentum was swinging our way before tipoff. It would have been a whole hell of a lot better to be up 3-1, but as Coach Stotts said regarding the matter: “Now It’s a three game series.” When you look at it that way, it takes a little bit of the playoffs jitters away for me. Especially knowing that we can’t get much worse in the third quarter again terms of turnovers and sloppy play
I would like to think that at this point of the season and given the way the Blazers are gelling as a unit, it would be improbable for the Nuggets to take the Trail Blazers. I for one would like to iterate friend of the show Chad Doing‘s line of thinking when I say that I am sick and tired of fatass Jokic balling all over us for the majority of each game. Especially when you consider that he does not seem to be healthy in the “not overweight” sense.
Now, now. It’s not fat shaming if I can simultaneously tip my cap, acknowledge and wonder how Jokic can keep up the intensity and level of play for the amount of time that he does. The dude balls out and his playing style does not always seem to fit his body type, which can be a nightmare for the dismantling of Portland’s defensive groove.
Blazer fans know that Damian Lillard is a late bloomer when it comes to showing his prowess in relation to the overall progression of a game. To me, Dame’s playing style is reminiscent of Floyd Mayweather’s counterpunching style; where it often feels like Lillard could go off at any time, but once you start feeling the onslaught, it's often already too late anyways.
I am predicting that in order to for Rip City to take Game 5, everyone is going to have to stay extremely steady and on course, stat-wise; but we can’t just continue to obliterate and void out any momentum garnered during halftime or during any other hot streaks. Damian Lillard is also going to have to initiate Dame Time and go for at least 40 points. We know that CJ is going to get his looks and we also know the potential of Rodney Hood, who I hope has more of an impact moving forward. Especially given his known potential. Kanter is going to do Kanter things and maybe we will see a breakout benefit not previously provided by Collins and Leonard. God knows it would be needed. We’ve got everyone busting their ass out here as much as they progressively can.
The NBA that we all know and love today is a completely different beast than it was 40 years ago. Hand checking used to be a one of the best tools in a defenders utility belt for helping keep his man in front of him. The 3-point line was first being introduced, with teams maybe averaging only 1 or 2 shot attempts per game from that distance because they thought it was just a gimmick. Hell, a 1986 Western Conference Finals game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets was the last game that was ever shown on a tape delay. Nowadays, with social media, which the NBA has the highest follower count and interactions out of all the major sports, people know everything that goes on in the league 10 seconds after it happens (or maybe 5 minutes before if there’s a Woj Bomb). Every trade, every injury, every practice court scuffle, we know about it and have an unlimited number of options to read about it and discuss it with other fans. But for all the positive growth and fan engagement that the NBA has going for it, there is one single issue that seems to be taking over the narrative this season and especially these playoffs.
The NBA is finding itself in a situation where it seems as though almost nobody cares about the actual game of basketball anymore and instead focuses on the referees and the officiating. Your team lost a game by 3 points in the closing seconds because a ref “blew a call” and Star Player X didn’t get to go to the line for free throws? Must be the refs, who are either crooked or horrible at their jobs. Nevermind that before that one single possession, that you as a fan think should have gone differently so your team could win, that your team also had 14 turnovers and shot 37% from the field for the previous 47 minutes. It was the refs fault. We have become so enamored with the refs that as soon as the officiating crew is announced the day of a game, we already know who is going to win and who is going to lose because “that ref hates us.”
Going in to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semis between the Warriors and Rockets on Tuesday, I don’t think I saw a single article talking about what changes the Rockets needed to make in order to sneak out a win and steal home court. Not one mention of possible coaching adjustments or how the hell they were going to try and keep Durant from going off (hint, nobody can). Every single sports media outlet was talking about the memo to the league that Houston drafted and replaying clips of Harden whining about just wanting the game called fair (pot, kettle, black). Replays of Harden launching for a 3-pointer and not getting a whistled were shown while the talking heads tried to figure out exactly what an accurate definition of “landing zone” is. And all of this was BEFORE we found out that the dreaded DUN…..DUN…..DUN…...Scott Foster was going to be the lead official. When that news came out, it felt like your drunk uncle found the gas can and decided that that was exactly what the raging bonfire needed at that moment.
The whole point of this rant is to try and point out that we as NBA fans need to stop focusing so much on the officiating and the officials, no matter how much they can legitimately anger us, and go back to focusing on the beautiful game of basketball. I can’t speak for everybody, but when I first became a fan of the league it was because of seeing Clyde Drexler glide to the rim like a flying unicorn, not because I was amazed at the whistle blowing skill of Dick Bavetta. Fans now are quicker to jump on Twitter and complain about a bad call/non-call than they are to talk about an amazing play and that just kills me. Fans need to get back to caring about the game itself, because the beauty of the game is one of the more joyous things to observe.
The league has taken tremendous steps over the years, especially under Adam Silver, to be more transparent and open with why the zebras call what they do and not what they don’t. Trust them, they’ve earned it. They’ll fix it and make it better. It will never be perfect, because nothing ever is when the premise demands a loser to go along with a winner. But that doesn't mean it’s broken. There are only two teams playing out on the court, not three. So lay off the hashtags, put down the pitchforks, and go to the fridge to grab a beer cause we are probably pretty damn close to another amazing playoff game tipping off.
Holy Shit! Damian Lillard is like a god amongst mere mortals; and seems to have a knack for knowing exactly when to call on or initiate divine intervention per his consistency in regards to balling the hell out. He is quite reminiscent of Russell Wilson where whether you’re religious or not, you look at these athlete’s successes and can’t help but wonder if there is some sort of predestined intervention-esque complex occuring.
But good Ol’ Jesus, like the rest of us, was probably knocking down a Corona (or Hefe or Fresh Squeezed as Whitty and Hair would like to imagine) while witnessing this remarkable game that ended up coming down to Damian Lillard’s continued confidence in regards to absolutely owning Russell Westbrook and the rest of the whiny Thunder squad.
I have never witnessed such a supposedly great player like Westbrook talk so much shit over the course of a series, while simultaneously losing not only games, but the general support of most of public in the process. Anyone who wasn’t blind and watched this series can agree with this. Russell Westrook postured, flexed and ran his mouth mercilessly for the entire series with the obvious mindset that he was the alpha over Damian Lillard. That premise turned out to be laughable to say the least, since in addition to Lillard “...Busting That ASS…” throughout the entire series (to quote a not so great scholar), taking into consideration all of the clout that Westbrook lost by getting absolutely owned by Lillard and outclassed in the process brewed a perfect negative public relations brewhaha and Westbrook quickly became the villain in the eyes of both casual and avid NBA fans.
The way things shook out actually felt like a movie when you consider how many shots Lillard was hitting. He went 10-18 from the 3 point line and to be honest, I don’t really remember ANY of the 8 threes that he missed. I was having some sort of out of body experience, while Lillard was operating like he was some kind of deity at work.
The moment that I realized that the Trail Blazers were going to win this game and shut this shit down was when Jusuf Nurkic decided to make a surprise appearance with 3:28 left on the game clock and his team trailing by 8. It felt like an episode of WWE Smackdown and one of your favorite wrestlers intro music just came on and they enter the stage. As soon as he was put on the jumbotron and it was known that he had arrived, there was a definite change of vibe in terms of a renewed sense of urgency and focus and the Blazers efficiently taking care of business in honor of the presence of their fallen brother. Needless to say, the Blazers rallied and the bucket seemed like it was the size of a hula hoop for Portland during the remainder of the game. Harkless was cutting, dunking, and hitting 4 BIG free throws after going 1-6 for the night. CJ found his shot and was able to hit a big 3 and a massive midrange jumper to tie it at 113. Curry came up with a steal at the best possible time, and then during “The Last Word” sat in the corner telling OKC’s bench that they would be going home for good in the next 10 seconds. Chief played perfect defence and came up with a major rebound to set Dame up for his moment in the national spotlight. Everything, for once, broke the Blazers way.
Lillard seized the momentum and was a man on a mission to make a career changing statement, even after already setting the franchise record for points in a playoff game with 47 at that point (beating the previous mark of 46 set by Aldridge). Additionally, by staring down Paul George, who should have been right in his face if we are being honest, and hitting a dagger of a buzzer beater that knocked the Oklahoma City Thunder right the fuck out of out of the first round of the playoffs for the third year in a row; this basically solidifies OKC’s position as the team that can’t make it past the first round of the playoffs in the Western Conference. The Blazers exercised their demons by passing them on to the Thunder.
People are beginning to watch Lillard’s success on a national scale and compare him to the likes of Steph Curry, which would have been unheard of outside of the Blazer bubble two weeks ago. All of us Blazer fans know that Lillard is capable of this kind of magnificence. So while I am happy to start hearing Lillard’s name come up as potentially one of the best players in the league, this topic of conversation is way overdue and it’s sad that it took the likes of such a dramatic, bitchy, gritty and publicized feud with two babies like Paul George and Russell Westbrook for Damian Lillard to start getting some serious national recognition as one of the current greats.
Speaking of Paul George, when it came to his dumb-ass opinion on the game-winning, 37 ft. dagger by Damian Lillard: He was quoted in a post game interview, saying: "That's a bad shot. I don't care what anybody says. That's a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story won't be told, that it's a bad shot. You live with that."
How can Paul George even begin to talk about bad shots when he plays with a human brick producing machine by the name of Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis? I could be wrong, but I didn’t hear much criticism towards Westbrook by George all season when it came to throwing up shitty shots.
Just to play devil’s advocate for the sake of page views, let’s say Paul George is technically correct from a coaching or foundational standpoint. Maybe Damian’s buzzer beater isn’t a typical shot that is going to be emphasized in early basketball development. However, he was the one tasked with covering Dame and at this point, instead of acknowledging one of the greatest shots he has ever witnessed, he just sounds like a salty moron for thinking that a 37 footer is a “bad shot” for Damian Lillard in any circumstance. He has showed time and time again that he is clutch when he needs to be. The dude just put up a 50 burger on you and your dysfunctional squad, so shut the fuck up and take your loss like a man. Take it like Parsons did 5 years ago. And, if I’m not mistaken, “Logo Lillard” started the series off by hitting pretty much the same shot. So this wasn’t like he hadn’t already been bested by that type of shot of the course of these 5 games.
Speaking of which, Parsons was a good sport about the situation on Twitter and the impending connection people were making between. He easily wins our personal ‘Tweet of the Night’ Award
The bottom line is, this moment surpassed the bubble of the devoted Blazers fans, this shot put Lillard and the Blazers on the map for a player and a team that isn’t to be fucked with lightly. This moment is also one of those rare instances where everyone who was watching will know exactly who they were with, what they were doing and how they reacted. This is a great time for the overall development of Rip City and we have our savior to thank for that.
Before I go all in on that Russell “Westbrick,” who, despite his talents and being a whiny little bitch to referees and players alike, there is a definite mutual respect between Russ and Dame stemming from their God-given talents. Dame has been quoted as saying that they don’t have a beef but “They aint friends.” During Game 1 against the Thunder, Lillard did what he does best: activate Dame Time and go off in the 4th quarter. In Game 2 he bought an amazing amount of real estate inside his head, so much so that Westbrook was already in the locker room when the final horn sounded. That being said, if the Blazers were to continue on with their momentum from Games 1 and 2 and go on to win the series; there would be some serious (national) conversations about who the better point guard is between Lillard and Westbrook. This would seriously piss Westbrook off, since he clearly thinks he is a gift from God and is entitled to throw up 50 shots per game. Lillard, on the other hand, averages 18 shots a contest and is as efficient as fuck. Westbrook’s ego has a lot to do with his success but it will also be his downfall.
There definitely is some bad blood between Russ and some of the Blazers and Russ isn’t afraid to talk trash and just be a dick in general. I for one miss the Rasheed Wallace days, where we obviously weren’t afraid to get a technical foul every now and then to garner respect and get our point across. When Steve Adams leveled Dame in Game 2 with a solid screen, Barkley spoke post game about how there needed to be retaliation on the Blazers side. Nobody does that to our guys. If we did that and played that game, then we could maybe shut his ass up for once. But since Lillard is too classy to start brawling verbally or physically with anyone, the crowd needs to play a role, when it comes to pissing Westbrook off and affecting his game. For example, the Moda Center needs to be rocking merciless boos whenever he touches the ball and serenade him with chants of “NEXT QUESTION” every time he misses. This is obviously a play on his childlike press conference when he was asked a simple question after the Thunder’s first loss to the Blazers on Sunday.
The bottom line is that Westbrook flops more than the salmon in the Columbia River and he WILL make it to the line. This is Rip City’s chance to let Westbrook know that his petty, childish, bitch-ass attitude doesn’t fly; especially when it's directed at the Blazers in any way, shape, or form. We need (friend of the show Rob) Free Throw Guy to fly back up here just to hold a sign reading “NEXT QUESTION” every time he makes it to the line. Seasoned players aren’t really affected by shenanigans like this, but something tells me that thin-skin Russ pays attention to this kind of shit. Lets go a step further and pay a somebody to touch his arm like what happened on in February. That seemed to piss him off, immensely.
I would never wish harm to anyone, but the the ideal situation would be for a big, bench player (Leonard, Collins) to just set a rough screen on Westbrook and let his emotions take over. The best defense the Blazers can play on him during this series isn’t getting up in his face when he squares up. It isn’t restricting his path to the rack by clogging the lane. It’s by getting out your lawn chair and setting up shop in his head. The rest, he will do to himself.
After Sunday night’s 115-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, Damian Lillard became the target of an investigation by the league and their anti-flopping rule after Mason Plumlee tapped him during a three pointer, which, if you ask me... FINE! Fuck off. He definitely is guilty to a degree, he fell back like a sniper pegged from the rafters with minimal contact. But what Dame did on that play was strategical, masterful and certainly nothing worse than the (countless) egregious flops that players like Harden, Durant, and Curry commit on a regular basis; seemingly without questioning by the referees. It seems that the men in stripes just don’t see the beatings Dame takes the same way they can see gusts of wind assault other players.
I would argue that because Damian Lillard is a Portland Trail Blazer, he, like the rest of Rip City gets no respect from the rest of the NBA. Whether you’re talking about members of the national media, average fans or seasoned referees, Portland always gets brushed to the side and treated as an afterthought. Anyone can clearly see that Dame flopped after contact from Plumlee and before the whistle. However, this implies that it wouldn’t have even been a foul if Lillard didn’t resort to the tactics that he did. He had to sell the contact from Plumlee. He always has to sell fouls and air out his grievances with the referees on a semi nightly basis because he gets dick squwat for calls from the refs, who are looking more and more like a formidable team of their own, reeking havoc on most teams in the league; especially Portland.
Portland is an easy market for anyone to to pick on, with only 650,000 residents in the area, as compared to places like Los Angeles, that boasts a whopping 4 million residents. Or try New York, which is home to a staggering 8.6 million people. It’s safe to say that the NBA generally wants teams with larger fanbases to succeed due to the increased amount of support (read: money) potentially garnered from the fanbases and beyond. There is also a clear desire on the part of the league to damn near assist with the success of certain popular players who, thanks to their abilities, don’t need one bit of help from officials in the first place. Think about players like Chris Paul, James Harden or Russell Westbrook, who flop so much that throughout the course of a game, they basically reside on either the floor or the free throw line.
During Friday night’s game against the Nuggets, Doris Burke, who is an obvious fan of Damian Lillard and a damn national treasure, commented about the visible restraint shown by Lillard as of late and how he goes about communicating to the refs about the (lack of) calls that he receives. Compare that to the Golden State Warriors, who just received massive fines for taunting and complaining about the refs for “unfair treatment.” I for one, never really have an issue with Lillard when he has to have lively conversations with referees, even if it seemingly does get to the level of cringeworthy by some standards. To be very clear, short of the occasional technical foul, I want Dame to be vocal to refs and I don’t think Blazer fans mind if he voices his opinion when he feels it’s necessary. Maybe it has something to do with the perceived lack of respect that Lillard and the rest of the Blazers receive in the form hostile officiating.
Speaking of which, after the formal flopping investigation was announced, it didn’t take long for Lillard to rightfully snap back at both the league and officials on Twitter; echoing my and probably most of Rip City’s sentiments on the matter. To Burke’s point, lately Lillard has been noticeably silent in regards to any of his usual extra curricular conversations with referees. So, needless to say, this response from Lillard was overdue and on point.
Well. Shit has once again gone awry for the Portland Trail Blazers when it comes to the injury department. We're used to it. We've come to expect that we aren't allowed to have good things. We are Rip City. And in the echo of Wesley Matthews, it came in the stretch run of a regular season where the Blazers seemed primed to make a deep run in the post season despite all preseason predictions to the contrary. Jusuf Nurkic, who was having one of the best statistical games of his entire NBA career, and best season nonetheless as a pro as a whole, came down awkwardly on his left leg and suffered a heinous leg injury that simultaneously crippled Portland’s chances for a deep run in the post season and the hopes of Blazers faithful. Our second best player, and the best friend of our leader, lie on the floor with the tears of 650,000 in his eyes
Of course, real Blazer fans wouldn’t feel at home without one or more of their star players being out with some sort of injury plaguing them. So as a fan, this seems about right to me. Bowie, Walton, Oden, Roy, Matthews. We've seen it before and we will probably see it again. But we will never be numb to the observation because as members of Rip City, we Rise Together....which means we fall together.
What really sucks about Nurkic’s injury is thinking about how successful this particular roster would have been if everyone was healthy. Especially considering the fact that we pretty much lucked out with the Kanter and Hood signings. This was a year that our previously laughable bench was actually something to be feared. Curry is a marksman from 3 when left open, Turner had finally found his rightful place on the play sheet in the second unit, and minor trade acquisitions provided depth at fragile places. No longer was Stotts trying to find a solid 10 man rotation, he was trying to figure out how the hell to cut it down to only 10.
That being said, Kanter is not as defensively capable as Nurkic and it is apparent that multiple players need to step up and assist with Lillard’s efforts to carry the team on his back. This is a moment that players such as Collins could only dream of. This is a time that Leonard can show he isn't the "whipping boy" that he has been made out to be. This is their time to shine. And as good as Kanter has been for the Blazers of late, he hasn’t been able to really do what Nurkic can do in the pick and roll with Lillard (who can?). His quick offense and lack of court vision will lead to more turnovers than assists. That's where the rest of the team will need to shoulder the burden, and where our leader needs to do what he has always done. But better.
The injury to Nurkic poses the question of how will Damian Lillard be affected moving forward. Even though Lillard will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and proceed to do some Lillard-type shit, he should not be forced to carry such a heavy burden by himself. But he will, because that's what he does. The more weight he is asked to carry, the higher he seems to be able to lift his arms.
It has been cool and all to see what the Blazers have been able to achieve without two of their three strongest players, but let’s all hope that CJ can come back and consistently put some points on the board. Because if the Blazers are able to overcome the odds once again, Lillard is going to need somebody to help take some of the weight off his shoulders if he is going to have any strength left to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy some day.
BlazerTag Podcast Crew
What is BlazerTag
A group of life long blazer fans that are dedicated to sharing our authentic thoughts about the team. This unfiltered group is all about sharing the highs and lows of being a Blazer fan. We commit to one podcast a week where we encourage our fans to drink along with us and join the fun!