As Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (subscription required) writes, the Trail Blazers looked ready on Friday to pull the plug on the 2022/23 season.
Having slipped out of the play-in race during a recent six-game losing streak, Portland ruled out Damian Lillard (right calf tightness) and Jusuf Nurkic (right knee soreness) for Friday’s game vs. Chicago and ran out a starting lineup made up of Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Trendon Watford, and Drew Eubanks. The outcome was predictable, with the Blazers losing to the Bulls by 28 points.
With the Trail Blazers now sitting at 32-41, three-and-a-half games back of the No. 10 seed in the West with nine games to go, there’s little reason to believe the team will resume its push for a play-in spot down the stretch — and it’s possible we won’t see a whole lot more of banged-up vets like Lillard and Nurkic this season. That would be good news for playoff hopefuls like the Thunder and Pelicans, who will visit Portland on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- Given the team’s lack of impact moves on the free agent market since relocating to Oklahoma City, Isaiah Joe may be the most important free agent addition in Thunder history, declares Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link). While Joe won’t become a star and may never even be a starter in OKC, he has enjoyed a breakout season and looks like a potential rotation player for years to come, Lowe writes. Joe has knocked down 42.0% of his three-point attempts this season and the Thunder have a plus-6.6 net rating when he’s on the court, easily the best mark by any player who has spent the entire year with the club.
- Bucks forward Joe Ingles admits that he took it hard when he was traded by the Jazz at the 2022 trade deadline, but he has since comes to terms with it and now appreciates the fact that he got to spend eight years with the franchise, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The roster overhaul that the Jazz have undergone since Ingles’ departure made it easier for him to move on. “We had a hell of a run; at some point, they always come to an end,” he said. “Ours did — not by the players’ choice, but that’s how it works.”
- In an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link), Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels says he thinks he’s the best defender in the NBA.