Damian Lillard

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Grant, Huestis, Bjelica, Towns

Fresh off earning All-NBA honors this week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has reportedly requested another meeting with team owner Paul Allen, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian. The reason for Lillard’s alleged requested meeting is not provided but this is not the first time that Lillard’s camp sought a face-to-face will Allen.

Lillard met with Allen in January to discuss the organization’s plan for the future. For what it’s worth, Lillard responded to this latest report on Twitter and dismissed the report and the source of it.  After being swept by the Pelicans in the postseason, Lillard addressed the possibility of Portland breaking up with the backcourt of himself and C.J. McCollum.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

Lillard earned the All-NBA nod after enjoying another productive season in Portland, averaging 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jerami Grants improvement since he joined the Thunder has been a point a pride for both himself and the organization. As he heads for free agency this summer, Grant — who has admitted he wants to return to the Oklahoma City — may have priced himself out of the team, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • Josh Huestis proved himself this season but his next NBA chapter may be with an organization other than the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Huestis’ pending unrestricted free agency — just like Grant’s  — is complicated by the financial complications Paul George‘s free agency presents and how he fits on the roster long-term.
  • Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica cannot wait for the opportunity to suit up for the Serbian national team. “I love to play at home,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Being supported by thousands of fans is the best, and this unity around the national team gives us a lot of extra energy.”
  • During an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with colleague’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, Adrian Wojnarowski said he feels that Minnesota would move on from Tom Thibodeau before trading Karl-Anthony Towns (via UPROXX). “I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

NBA Announces 2017/18 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2017/18 season, with James Harden and LeBron James leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The voting results will have major financial implications for the three All-NBA centers, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Davis is now eligible for a supermax extension from the Pelicans next summer. Davis will be eligible to sign that deal, which projects to be worth $230MM, as of July 1, 2019.

As for Embiid, missing out on a First Team nod means his maximum-salary contract will remain at 25% of the cap rather than being bumped up to 30%. That means he’ll miss out on approximately $29MM over the next five years, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports details.

Towns, meanwhile, will be eligible for an extension worth 30% of the cap this summer, Marks tweets. An extension of that sort, which would make the cap outlook in Minnesota very interesting, would go into effect for the 2019/20 season.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Harden and James scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

First Team

  • Guard: James Harden, Rockets (500)
  • Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (432)
  • Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers (500)
  • Forward: Kevin Durant, Warriors (426)
  • Center: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (492)

Second Team

Third Team

Among those results, the tightest race saw DeRozan edge Curry by a single point for a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. Both players received two First Team votes and 39 Second Team votes, with DeRozan grabbing one extra Third Team vote (38 to 37) to bump him up to the Second Team ahead of Curry.

As for the players who didn’t quite make the cut, Rockets point guard Chris Paul (54 points), Jazz center Rudy Gobert (51), Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (42), and Sixers guard/forward Ben Simmons (36) received the most support.

Al Horford (Celtics), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Clint Capela (Rockets), Draymond Green (Warriors), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Steven Adams (Thunder), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Trevor Ariza (Rockets), DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans), Dwight Howard (Hornets), Kevin Love (Cavaliers), and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) also each received at least one All-NBA vote.

Damian Lillard On Blazers’ Season, McCollum Pairing

Fresh off a series sweep at the hands of the Pelicans, the Blazers are looking ahead to an offseason of uncertainty. Many have already suggested that the backcourt pairing of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need to be broken up since it represents the team’s best option to improve. However, Lillard doesn’t see it like that.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

The point guard went on to call the Blazers “a great organization” while giving praise to his team and coach Terry Stotts, who reportedly may be on his way out of Portland. “I think everyone has done a great job. Coach Stotts has done a great job since Day 1. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight.”

The Blazers unexpectedly captured the third seed in a loaded Western Conference with a record of 49-33. Despite the success in the regular season, Lillard understands that adjustment

Contract Notes: Embiid, Davis, Lillard, Lowry

When All-NBA voters decide whether or not to classify Anthony Davis as a forward or center on their ballots this year, they may indirectly impact the value of Joel Embiid‘s new contract by approximately $30MM.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, the extension Embiid signed with the Sixers last offseason will be worth 25% of the cap starting in 2018/19. However, the contract includes a clause that states his starting salary would increase to 30% if he’s named to the All-NBA First Team. That salary bump would increase his overall earnings by about $30MM over the life of the five-year deal, but it can probably only happen if Davis receives most of his All-NBA votes at forward. Otherwise, he seems like a good bet to beat out Embiid for the center spot on the First Team.

No player has more at stake as a result of All-NBA voting or various other benchmarks than Embiid. But that contract is just one of many that could be affected by a variety of award results, postseason outcomes, or other criteria.

Marks’ piece is worth checking out in full for all the details, but here’s a quick look at a few noteworthy contract situations:

  • Pelicans star Anthony Davis will become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension in 2019 if he earns an All-NBA spot this year. However, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is among the players who would need another All-NBA nod in 2019 to qualify for a supermax deal, even if he’s on this year’s All-NBA squad. Those Designated Veteran Extensions are known as supermax contracts because they start at 35% of the salary cap instead of 30%.
  • Kyle Lowry (Raptors) and Victor Oladipo (Pacers) would get sizable bonuses if their teams make deep playoff runs. Lowry would receive $500K for reaching the Eastern Finals, another $500K for winning the East, and another $500K for a title. Oladipo would earn $250K if Indiana reaches the NBA Finals.
  • All-Defense honors would pay off for Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. Gobert will get a $500K bonus if he’s named to the All-Defense First Team, while Holiday would get $100K for a spot on the First Team or Second Team.
  • Among the players who have already earned bonuses: Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon ($900K for incentives related to points, rebounds, and games played), Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless ($500K for his three-point percentage), Bucks center John Henson ($500K for playing 75+ games), and Jazz guard Ricky Rubio ($175K for his field-goal and free-throw percentages).

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Harris, OKC, George

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard missed Thursday’s game against Houston due to a sprained ankle, but he’s “feeling better,” head coach Terry Stotts said last night (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

After Stotts indicated that Lillard should be back sometime before the end of the season, the point guard himself told Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest (Twitter link) that he hopes to return on Saturday in San Antonio. The Trail Blazers have locked up a playoff spot, so there’s no pressure for Lillard to rush back, but he likely wants to get some reps before the postseason gets underway and help Portland secure the No. 3 seed.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest notes…

  • Gary Harris, the Nuggets‘ second-leading scorer, has now missed the team’s last 10 games with a knee injury, and appears likely to miss at least one more. According to head coach Mike Malone, a Saturday return is possible, but Monday is probably a more realistic “best-case scenario” for Harris, per Gina Mizell of The Denver Post.
  • It’s obviously in the Thunder‘s best interests to make the playoffs, especially when it comes to pitching Paul George on a long-term deal this summer, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. However, Tramel suggests landing in the lottery wouldn’t qualify as a total disaster for Oklahoma City, since the club would keep its first-round pick in that scenario.
  • Speaking of George, after a 5-for-19 performance against Golden State on Tuesday, he’s now shooting just 37.1% from the field since the All-Star break. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman relays, the Thunder forward admitted that “there’s something mechanical” with his shot that needs to be addressed. “I’ve had struggles throughout the season and in my career, but it’s all just been not making shots that night,” George said on Tuesday. “I don’t know what it is. It just feels funny. Shooting the ball feels funny.” Those comments are probably enough to make the Thunder nervous, though George’s recent shooting woes are unlikely to have a real impact on his free agent stock unless they get worse in the playoffs.

Damian Lillard Injures Left Ankle

Damian Lillard rolled his left ankle during the fourth quarter of the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday night, and while he was able to finish the game, Portland’s star point guard said the ankle became more painful and more swollen later in the night, per Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest. According to Quick, Lillard had to be transported from the locker room to the team bus on a cart after the game.

Although the injury may not compromise Lillard’s playoff availability, it’s unclear whether he’ll be ready to go for Thursday’s game in Houston, or if the Blazers will play it safe and hold him out of some or all of the club’s final four regular season contests.

“I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I’m going to be smart about it,” Lillard said, according to Quick. “It’s the end of the season, we are going into the playoffs, so I have to be smart that one thing doesn’t turn into another.”

As Lillard notes, the 48-30 Blazers have clinched a playoff spot. The team also has a fairly strong hold on the No. 3 seed in the West, though that position could be jeopardized by a few losses to finish the season — the Jazz and Spurs are both still within reach of the No. 3 spot, with matching 45-33 records. As such, the Blazers can’t afford to take their foot off the gas pedal quite yet.

We’ll pass along updates on Lillard’s recovery timetable as they become available.

Northwest Notes: Harris, Blazers, Nurkic, Rose

The Nuggets are targeting Monday’s game in Philadelphia or Tuesday’s game in Toronto as possible return dates for Gary Harris‘ return from a knee injury, tweets Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Harris, a key part of Denver’s lineup, has already been sidelined for the club’s last two games – both losses – and appears set to miss at least two more this week.

While the Nuggets would love to get Harris back for the start of next week, head coach Michael Malone said today that the 23-year-old hasn’t been able to do much running yet. Ally Sturm of Altitude TV adds (via Twitter) that Malone referred to a Monday or Tuesday return for Harris as a “best-case scenario,” which means he may end up missing those games too.

As Denver looks to pick up some wins in Harris’ absence, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest division…

  • Speaking to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum discussed several topics, including the team’s performance this season, how best to deal with trade rumors, and even LeBron James‘ upcoming free agency.
  • Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports takes a deep dive on the Trail Blazers, suggesting that Jusuf Nurkic‘s development – or lack thereof – could go a long way toward determining the ceiling for the franchise.
  • Many observers viewed Derrick Rose as a questionable fit for the Timberwolves, given his inability to consistently make outside shots. However, since signing with the team two weeks ago, Rose has given Tom Thibodeau the flexibility to experiment with some new backcourt combinations, as Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes. The Wolves’ head coach said he likes having Rose play alongside Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague (or Tyus Jones) to put pressure on opposing defenses, and also praised the former MVP’s play on the other side of the ball. “He’s playing great defense,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t think people see it. He did in the Washington game. But we need everyone playing well.”

Cavs Notes: Lillard, Lineup Changes, Roster

Prior to the Cavaliers‘ primetime matchup against the Trail Blazers on Thursday, LeBron James discussed point guard Damian Lillard and his impact on the court. Lillard has thrown his own name into the MVP discussions and while he’s an elite player, he sometimes flies under the radar.

Per NBA.com, James spoke highly of Lillard and even quipped that he could use his own talents to show how valuable of a player Lillard can be — even if he’s underrated by some.

“No, I don’t think so,” James said of the idea that Lillard is underappreciated. “I don’t think so, but he definitely uses that. I like how he uses that. If you’re a true basketball [mind] — there’s not a lot of true basketball minds and people that understand the game — but for me, I understand it. I know. Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”

In 60 games this season, Lillard has averaged 26.9 PPG, 6.5 APG, and 4.5 RPG.

Check out more Cavaliers notes below:

  • Head coach Tyronn Lue’s handling of J.R. Smith is the latest example of the Cavs’ communication issues, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor writes. Departed point guard Isaiah Thomas addressed those problems during his brief stint with Cleveland and he seems to have had a point, Fedor notes. Lue said he talked with Smith about benching him, but the struggling guard had a different version of the story. “We didn’t talk,” Smith said. “He sent me a text (Monday), and I told him, ‘No problem.’ I didn’t know that it was a ‘talk.’ That’s all right, though. I’m not upset about it. I just wish there would have been more dialogue, I guess.”
  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer examines the Cavaliers’ current situation and questions whether or not they should be in panic mode. While Cleveland did add younger players and improved its roster at the deadline, the team is still waiting for Kevin Love to return from injury. Pluto also discusses the Cavs’ rebounding and the recent rash of injuries.

Northwest Notes: Rose, Collison, Lillard

Derrick Rose is officially a member of the Timberwolves and made his first comments since the signing was made official. Injuries have diminished Rose’s skill set and playing time in recent seasons and there are questions about how much he can realistically help Minnesota down the stretch.

Rose told reporters, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, that he does not need validation from anybody about his playing level.

“I mean, this is how I feel about it, the whole perspective on it,” Rose said. “You can have your perspective on me, as far as I’m a bum, I can’t play, I can’t shoot, this and that. All right, cool. I have no hard feeling with that. I’m cool with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. But at the same time, I don’t need your validation. Like, I know who I am. I know the type of player I am. You respect that and I respect that and we should be good.”

The 29-year-old never got on track with the Cavaliers this season, averaging 9.8 PPG and 1.8 RPG in just 16 games. However, he did appear in 64 games with the Knicks last year, averaging 18.0 PPG and 4.4 APG. Rose did not play on Thursday against the Celtics but is expected to play against the Warriors on Sunday.

Check out other Northwest Division notes below:

  • Thunder big man Nick Collison has been with the organization since the 2004/05 season when the organization was still known as the Supersonics. As the current team prepares for the postseason, Collison said to former teammate and NBA Soundsystem host, Brent Barry, that consistency is Oklahoma City’s biggest issue, per Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Like you know, the playoffs, every possession counts,” Collison said. “Consistency’s been an issue with us this year. But we do have a veteran group and we’ve played well against the best teams. So for us, just finding that consistency and being able to play possession by possession and being able to grind out some good solid basketball for a long time. If you want to make a run, you gotta play for two months. I think consistency’s huge for us.”
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is enjoying another strong season and feels he should be in the conversation for Most Valuable Player, Sean Meagher of OregonLive.com writes. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t be mentioned,” Lillard said. “But obviously James Harden is having a special season and they’re the No. 1 team in the league right now. He’s been runner-up for a few years where I feel like he could have easily won it. What he’s doing individually, and what their team is doing, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the winner.”

California Notes: Ball, Lillard, Joerger, Sampson

For the second time this season, the Lakers were visibly upset with Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Head coach Luke Walton said that Murray’s trash talk was “disrespectful” and several Lakers players were just as critical, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes.

In particular, Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball said the Lakers did not forget Murray’s antics from Dec. 2 when he forcefully dribbled past Ball late in the game. Ball’s teammate Julius Randle fouled Murray as a sign of frustration.

“We remembered it,” Ball said. “It’s a punk move. But like I said, we’re not going to get into it. [Murray will] do whatever he’s going to do.”

This is an out of character statement from Ball, who is normally even-tempered and speaks highly of his opponent. However, with two separate incidents with Murray in the last three months, it’s clear that Ball and the Lakers agree that Murray’s antics are out of line.

“Like I said, he going to do the circus stuff — I’m not feeding into it,” Ball said.

Check out other news from California’s teams:

  • California native Damian Lillard lit up the Staples Center earlier this week, scoring 39 points in a victory over the Lakers. He will not be a free agent until 2021, so the possibility of the Lakers trying to lure Lillard to Los Angeles is far away and far-fetched. However, Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register writes that Lillard’s performance is indicative of how having superstars on the roster change the entire dynamic of a team.
  • When the Kings hired Dave Joerger as head coach, he was 53 wins shy of 200 for his career. It has taken him nearly two full seasons to reach the milestone; the Kings have not played well and their roster has generally been underwhelming. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee relays that Joerger hopes to continue building something with the Sacramento.
  • JaKarr Sampson has bounced between the G League and the Kings as a two-way player this season. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee profiled Sampson, who still lives with his mother, earns a modest $75K salary and hopes to latch on the Kings full-time. By his own words and that of his peers, Sampson’s energy has made him a favorite with the Kings organization and its fans.
  • The Kings have not made the postseason in over a decade as the organization tries to figure out a path to compete. Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders examines the steps the team can take to improve and eventually compete for the postseason.