Trail Blazers Rumors

Inside The Trail Blazers’ Signing Of Carmelo Anthony

The Trail Blazers have been interested in Carmelo Anthony for years and both parties reached the point where they needed each other, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who provides an inside look at the events that led to this week’s signing.

Portland general manager Neil Olshey conveyed that sentiment during a phone call with Anthony, Woj relays. The 10-time All-Star had been out of the league for a year and hadn’t gotten offers from any other teams. The Blazers are severely shorthanded in the front court and needed to find someone who can contribute right away.

Portland’s 5-8 start can be at least partially attributed to the loss of Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Pau Gasol. Nurkic is still recovering after fracturing his leg late last season. Collins recently had shoulder surgery and isn’t expected back until March. Gasol, an offseason addition, is rehabilitating a stress fracture in his left foot that he suffered in the playoffs.

Olshey sees Anthony as someone who can provide scoring punch and command respect in the locker room. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been proponents of adding Anthony, and McCollum worked out with him in New York over the summer. Olshey took the recommendations to heart and remained in touch with Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports.  The GM was interested in adding Anthony, but only if he had regular playing time to offer.

Talks got more serious this week as the need for another front court scorer became obvious. Olshey discussed the topic frequently with coach Terry Stotts and it was agreed that a non-guaranteed contract was the best option. Anthony will have a chance to prove his worth before contracts throughout the league become fully guaranteed in early January.

Wojnarowski notes that Anthony has contributed to his time as an outcast. He still viewed himself as a star when he was traded to the Thunder two years ago and wasn’t willing to accept the role that management asked. In Houston last year, a tense history with coach Mike D’Antoni prompted the Rockets to cut ties after a slow start.

Anthony may be looking at his last chance in Portland, but at least it’s off to a positive start. Olshey has a long history with Anthony and was encouraged by what he heard during their phone call, which was that Anthony still cares about winning and isn’t just looking for an NBA farewell tour. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Anthony had a physical today and could be playing by Tuesday, so we should know soon how much he has left to offer.

Community Shootaround: Carmelo In Portland

Many people were skeptical that another NBA team would take a chance on Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony and his representatives spoke openly about his desire to play again but it seemed as if he would be either forced into retirement or explore overseas options.

The call the longtime All-Star had been waiting for came from the Pacific Northwest. The Trail Blazers were suddenly thin at the power forward spot when Zach Collins suffered a shoulder injury that could sideline him the entire season. Barring a last-minute snag, Anthony is expected to sign with the Blazers this weekend and make his Portland debut next week.

Anthony struggled with the idea of being a role player last season with the Rockets and lasted just 10 games before a mutual parting. Now, he’s got another chance to show he can be an asset in the modern NBA game.

The fact that Anthony, 35, had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal reinforces the notion that this is likely his last chance to show he can blend in rather than being the star of the show.

The fact that journeyman Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja have taken turns replacing Collins with limited results means that Anthony could quickly jump into the lineup. Meshing his offensive skills with high-scoring guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will be a work in progress.

Whether Anthony can defend his position and switch out on younger, quicker players is an even bigger mystery. But there’s no denying Melo can score in bunches when he gets on a roll.

That brings us to our question of the day: Do you think Carmelo Anthony will last the whole season with Portland or will he flame out quickly as he did in Houston?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say.

Trail Blazers To Sign Carmelo Anthony

NOVEMBER 15: Anthony still needs to pass his physical and won’t make his Blazers debut until at least Tuesday, Wojnarowski tweets.

NOVEMBER 14The Trail Blazers have agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with free agent forward Carmelo Anthony, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Woj adds that Anthony, once signed, will join the Blazers on the team’s upcoming six-game road trip, and that the team hopes to have him fill the void at power forward created by the loss of Zach Collins (Twitter link).

Portland, off to a 4-8 start, has been one of the bigger disappointments of the first few weeks of this NBA season. As such, it comes as no surprise that the team would take a flyer on Anthony, 35, as the 10-time NBA All-Star looks to reinvent himself as a role player after being out of the league for the last 12 months.

Interestingly, however, the Trail Blazers suggested earlier this month that signing a 15th man was not a priority for them and that they’d opt instead to rely on depth and positional versatility. Of course, at that time, Portland was only 3-4, so the club’s top decision-makers may have changed their minds after going 1-4 over the last five games.

According to Woj (link), Blazers’ GM Neil Olshey and Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, had stayed in contact on Carmelo since the preseason, with conversations picking up over the past couple days. Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts talked directly with Anthony before reaching today’s agreement.

It will be interesting to see how Anthony meshes with the Blazers’ backcourt pairing of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Lillard was notified of the potential signing last night and made it clear that he’s always been supportive of bringing Anthony into the fold in Portland.

Jason Quick of The Athletic, who has covered the Blazers for the past 20 seasons, seems skeptical of the fit, opining that the team’s biggest deficiency at this point seems to be on the defensive end of the floor (i.e. – not Anthony’s strength). However, given the team’s poor start, Quick also appears to concede that the signing is worth a shot.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes, Anthony will earn $14,490 per day while a member of the Blazers, which mean he’s signing for the league minimum salary for a veteran with 10+ years of NBA experience. The Blazers only have 14 players on their roster currently, so no corresponding move will have to made, but the team will see its luxury tax bill grow with the signing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reactions To Blazers’ Deal With Carmelo Anthony

A week after reiterating his desire to return to the the NBA, Carmelo Anthony is getting his chance, as a Thursday report indicated that the Trail Blazers are signing the 10-time All-Star.

While it’s great news for Anthony, the move has received mixed reviews from those in Portland. Jason Quick of The Athletic views the signing as a “why not?”-type move for the Blazers, writing that even if Carmelo can provide some offense, he’s unlikely to help the team on the defensive end, which Quick argues has been the source of many of Portland’s problems in the early going. The longtime Blazers beat writer adds that the signing seems “forced” and “desperate,” though he acknowledges that it will at least make things more interesting after a disappointing start to the season.

While I agree with Quick to some extent, I’d point out that the Blazers haven’t been much better on offense (15th in NBA in offensive rating) than defense (19th) through 12 games. I do think they could benefit from adding more offense at the forward spots.

Outside of Rodney Hood, the club has gotten very little out of its forwards so far, with offseason additions Kent Bazemore (8.2 PPG on .358/.340/.667 shooting), Mario Hezonja (5.5 PPG, .319/.320/.824), and Anthony Tolliver (3.2 PPG, .244/.242/.778) all struggling on offense. Anthony gives Portland a more dynamic scoring option in its frontcourt.

Here’s more on the Carmelo signing:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic and John Canzano of The Oregonian make similar arguments to the one put forth by Quick. Hollinger is skeptical that Anthony can help the Blazers, but admits there probably weren’t better options out there, while Canzano considers the signing a “Hail Mary” that will make the Blazers’ season more compelling, even if it doesn’t ultimately work out.
  • It may be in Anthony’s best interests to emulate Dwight Howard, writes Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. Howard, once a perennial All-Star, has accepted a modest, complementary role and is thriving with the Lakers this season. It’s possible Anthony could have a similar trajectory in Portland if he’s willing to accept his limitations.
  • Whether or not his stint with the Blazers goes well, Anthony deserves this shot after all he’s done in his NBA career, says Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt adds that it’s a low-risk move for the Blazers, who could simply release Carmelo by early January without guaranteeing his full-season salary if things don’t work out.

Al-Farouq Aminu Discusses FA Decision, Magic’s Goals

After finishing last season with a top-10 defense and a bottom-10 offense, the Magic made the decision to double down on their strengths in the offseason. Rather than using their mid-level exception to add a play-maker or shot creator, Orlando used the full MLE to bring aboard Al-Farouq Aminu, a veteran forward best known for his perimeter defense.

As Aminu recently explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, improving that defense and making it one of the NBA’s very best units is a priority for the Magic.

“We discuss it every day. We want to be a top-five defensive team, if not No. 1,” Aminu said. “I think it’s definitely something that this team has the ability to do and we just have to continue to click together and understand where we need to be in order to do it. I think the more and more we play together and get that cohesiveness, the better we’ll become on defense. And out of the gate, we’re already talented on defense. Now, it’s just getting that continuity and that will take us over the top.”

Although the Magic currently rank third in defensive rating, the team has the NBA’s second-worst offensive rating, which has contributed to a slow start (4-7) this season. Those struggles have prompted head coach Steve Clifford to experiment a little with his rotation, and that experimentation hasn’t benefited Aminu, who only played two minutes in Orlando’s win over the Sixers on Wednesday. After averaging 24.1 minutes in the team’s first seven games, Aminu has played just 11.9 MPG in the last four.

Aminu is in the first year of a three-year contract worth over $29MM, so it’d be a surprise if he’s removed from the rotation altogether. However, it may be a while before we see him match the 29 minutes he logged on opening night.

Still, when the 29-year-old spoke recently to Kennedy, he was happy with his decision to join the Magic in the summer and optimistic about what he could bring the team. Here are a few highlights from that conversation, which is worth checking out in full:

On why Aminu chose the Magic in free agency:

“I like that they’re a young team and I thought that I could bring some veteran leadership to them. Also, they went to the playoffs last year, so I knew they had a good team. I like their style of play and different things like that. I’m glad I made that decision.”

On whether he’s excited about the Magic’s young core:

“Yeah, for sure. I really wanted to play a part in molding them. In a couple of years, when these guys are in their prime and doing their thing, it’ll be cool to be able to say that I put my touch on that. That’ll be cool. I was talking to them the other day and I told them, ‘Y’all are going to make a lot of money! Y’all play the right way, y’all are young and the league is just changing. Guys are getting paid.'”

On leaving Portland after spending four seasons with the Trail Blazers:

“It was [tough] because I’m leaving the guys I was playing with, but a lot of the guys ended up leaving anyway, so it was kind of like, ‘Well, nobody is there.’ Not ‘nobody,’ but you know what I mean. The gang’s not even there anymore anyway, so it wouldn’t have been the same even if I had stayed.

“It’s not the organization, it’s the people that you get to work with every day that you end up [getting close with]. … Sometimes, it’s just one person; like, I remember the first time it was Ed [Davis]. Me and him came into Portland together and we became really cool. Then, after three years, he was gone and that was tough. Then, I started becoming really cool with Moe [Harkless] and Evan [Turner] and now they’re gone, so it’s like, man… It’s kind of already tough to make friends in this industry anyway and then guys move on. And you still get to talk to them and stay close, but it’s different. But I think that’s why it isn’t as traumatic because those guys are in different places anyway, so the gang is gone.”

Lillard Prefers Staying With One Organization

Zach Collins hasn’t given up on playing this season, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website tweets “For sure, it’s very realistic,” Collins told Holdahl. However, the Trail Blazers big man faces a long rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week. He’s expected to miss at least four months, which leaves only about a month before the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario.

  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is content to stay the course with the Trail Blazers rather than joining forces with superstars in other organizations, as he explained to Medina in a separate story. Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM extension during the summer. “I just feel like there’s always a reward at the end. When you do things the right way and you do the work, you’re going to get the results,” Lillard said. “I really believe that. We’ve gotten the results. Even after failures, we come back and answer to it. We’re staying the course. That’s worth it to me.”

Hollinger’s Latest: Blazers, Warriors, Load Management

There hasn’t been an NBA trade since mid-July but the Trail Blazers appear to be a prime candidate to make a deal, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Zach Collins‘ shoulder injury, which is expected to cost him most of the season, creates an even bigger need at an already thin position. Journeyman Anthony Tolliver is the only true power forward remaining on the roster, Hollinger notes. The Blazers could also use another small forward in their rotation.

Portland has some desirable assets, including expiring contracts, young players and draft picks, in order to upgrade its forward spots. One offshoot of the Collins injury that the Blazers are playing with smaller, faster lineups and that could prove beneficial.

There’s more from Hollinger:

  • The Warriors may trade one of their free agent additions on expiring contracts in order to add one of their two-way players to the 15-man roster. Golden State is pushed up against the hard cap and could free some money by dealing center Willie Cauley-Stein or guard Alec Burks. Any potential deal involving a free agent signed this summer can’t happen until mid-December.
  • Waiving Marquese Chriss‘ non-guaranteed deal is also a strong possibility for Golden State, considering Chriss has already had his role reduced after a strong preseason. The Warriors have already used up eight of the 45 days on the service clock of two-way players Damion Lee and Ky Bowman and can’t convert either to a standard contract unless they make another move.
  • People who criticize load management fail to realize that the modern game is much more taxing on players’ bodies than in past decades, Hollinger writes. The goal is to maximize the number of high-quality games the player can play and that makes it a sound strategy.

Hassan Whiteside Discusses Departure From Heat

Veteran center Hassan Whiteside won’t face his old team until January 5, when the Heat host the Trail Blazers, but Miami-based reporter Shandel Richardson of The Athletic caught up with the former Heat big man this week to discuss the trade that sent him to Portland in July.

According to Whiteside, both he and the Heat felt it was time to move on, and he doesn’t bear any “ill will” toward any staffers or former teammates in Miami. While there may be a perception that Whiteside left the Heat on bad terms, he insists that wasn’t the case, telling Richardson that Miami is “a great place to live” and that he’s still friendly with head coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley.

In his conversation with Richardson, Whiteside addressed several other aspects of the deal that sent him from Miami to Portland, including whether or not he knew it was coming and what factors he believe led to the move.

If you have an Athletic subscription, the discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the more noteworthy comments from the Trail Blazers center:

On when he realized his time in Miami was nearing an end:

“We were working on something. It was something that I talked to them about, about getting traded. We talked about it within the last two years. We figured it out. I wanted to go somewhere I can play more and be more of a guy on the court. It’s never been about anything but that. I always just wanted to play. I could’ve sat back and chilled and collected checks, but I wanted to play.”

On the factors that led to the Heat trading him:

“I think the deciding factor was I got older. I’m 30 now. They bring in younger guys. I had four or five years at it. We got to the second round of the playoffs. We made the playoffs a couple of times. They just wanted to bring in new guys. That’s the business of it. It’s tough, especially when you’re seeing guys every day. But I’m used to it. I’ve played on so many teams. I’m not taking anything personal. I’m happy on my new team. I don’t really have anything much to say about the Heat. That chapter is over. I said my goodbyes. We had great memories. We had tough losses. That’s pretty much it for me.”

On facing criticism in Miami for not contributing at a level commensurate with his lucrative salary:

“Regardless of how many minutes I played in Miami, I always averaged a double-double. I always was top in defensive rating. You can look it up. I was No. 1 in the last year protecting the rim. Every year, you could say one thing but the numbers speak for themselves.

“A lot of people liked my 2015/16 season. I don’t even think that was my best season. I think my best season was the season I played the most the following year. I led the NBA in rebounds and averaged (17) points. That was my best year, the year after my contract. Unfortunately, I got an early season bone bruise the next year after I got 20 points and 20 rebounds (against Orlando). Then I missed a lot of games and basically times just got rocky.”

Blazers Not Actively Seeking Frontcourt Help

Despite missing Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic up front, the Trail Blazers, currently carrying 14 players on their roster, plan to rely on their depth and positional versatility rather than adding a free agent big man with their open 15th roster spot, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The Blazers announced on Tuesday that Collins, the team’s starting power forward, would miss four months of game action following left shoulder surgery.

A team source relayed to Freeman that signing a new frontcourt piece to shore up depth “is not a priority at this point.” Adding a 15th man would cost the Blazers more than just that player’s salary, since the team is over the luxury tax threshold.

Since Collins suffered the injury against Dallas on October 27, Portland coach Terry Stotts has opted to start journeyman veteran Anthony Tolliver (who can play either forward position) in his stead, with Skal Labissiere spelling Tolliver off the bench.

The Blazers’ 1-3 record following the loss of Collins (they are 3-4 on the year) includes a 127-118 defeat to an injury-depleted Golden State squad yesterday. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Blazers face a tough schedule through November: they will be playing the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets and Bucks, all before Thanksgiving.

Pau Gasol, signed this summer, continues to rehabilitate a left foot stress fracture incurred in May while Gasol was with Milwaukee. Yesterday, Gasol partook in the team’s San Francisco morning shootaround and noted that he has engaged in 1-on-1 contact practice work with Portland assistant coaches. Gasol demurred when asked for a recovery timeline.

“It’s still early,” he told Freeman. “But hopefully I’m getting there.”

Blazers starting center Nurkic remains out of commission as he recovers from compound fractures to his left tibula and fibula suffered in March. This summer, Portland traded for Hassan Whiteside to fill in for Nurkic. Portland’s lone All-Star, Damian Lillard, remained optimistic about his team’s ability to weather the absences of Collins and Nurkic.

“We’ve got to love them as our friends and as our teammates, but the job still has to get done on the court and I think our mentality has to be that it’s not too much for us to handle and we can still get the job done,” Lillard said.

Zach Collins To Miss At Least Four Months

Zach Collins underwent successful shoulder surgery today and is expected to be out of action for at least four months, the Blazers announced in a press release. It was reported late last week that the big man would undergo surgery, though no timetable was presented at that time.

Collins, who suffered a shoulder dislocation last week, began the season as a starter in Portland. With Jusuf Nurkic also sidelined, the team’s frontcourt now appears shallow, with Hassan Whiteside as the only healthy proven option. The Blazers inked Pau Gasol for depth this offseason but the future Hall-of-Famer hasn’t yet seen game action because of foot woes.

Collins will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension next summer. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds during his three games (28.7 MPG) this season.