Trail Blazers Rumors

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Jokic, Millsap, Wolves

While teammate Damian Lillard says he’s mentally preparing for C.J. McCollum to miss most or all of the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, McCollum isn’t ready to specify a target date or even to provide a general recovery timeline. As Casey Holdahl of relays, McCollum says he’s simply taking the injury “day by day.”

“What, did they say I’ll be re-evaluated in one week?” McCollum said when asked about a potential return date. “So, just taking it day by day, I don’t have a timeline that I’m going to give you guys, but I think just based on the research, there’s not a lot of injuries like this that have happened. So timeline is different just depending on the age, how well your body heals, what you’ve done before that and kind of where you’re at. But hopefully I can be back sooner than later.”

As I noted on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers are in a competitive race for a top-four seed, but have an easier schedule than several of their Western Conference rivals, meaning they won’t rush McCollum back onto the court. The important thing for Portland is that the 27-year-old is as close to 100% healthy as possible when the postseason gets underway. He’s due to be re-evaluated this weekend.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot earlier this week, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap locked in bonuses worth $431K and $150K respectively, according to Bobby Marks of, who adds (via Twitter) that both players will receive additional bonuses if Denver wins a postseason series. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports observes (via Twitter), Jokic and Millsap will have slightly higher cap hits next season now that those incentives shift from “unlikely” to “likely.”
  • Cameron Reynolds‘ new multiyear deal with Minnesota is actually a three-year contract that runs through 2020/21, tweets Keith Smith. That means the Timberwolves used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Reynolds. The deal still isn’t expected to include much – if any – guaranteed money beyond this season.
  • The Timberwolves‘ playoff hopes have been extinguished, but there’s still plenty to watch in Minnesota in the coming weeks, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Most pressingly, it remains to be seen who will be making the personnel decisions for the club this offseason or coaching the team next fall, Robson notes.

How All-NBA Choices Could Impact Contract Situations

Last month, we outlined how the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans could significantly impact what Karl-Anthony Towns next contract looks like.

Towns’ new extension, signed last fall, will start at 30% of the cap if he earns All-NBA honors in 2019, as opposed to 25% of the cap if he misses out on an All-NBA slot. With Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid expected to claim two All-NBA center spots, Towns is in position to grab the third, in part due to Davis’ trade request — not only will AD’s role in the Pelicans’ dysfunction be considered, but he’s playing limited minutes down the stretch while Towns puts up some of the best numbers of his career.

Assuming Towns does earn an All-NBA nod, it’ll be a $30MM+ decision by award voters, bumping the projected value of his five-year deal from about $158MM to nearly $190MM. However, KAT isn’t the only player who could have his contract situation significantly impacted by this year’s All-NBA selections.

As Brian Windhorst of and Andrew Sharp of have detailed this week, there’s a lot at stake for a handful of players who are candidates for this year’s All-NBA teams. Let’s break it down, taking a closer look at some players who could become eligible for a super-max contract this year…

The All-NBA locks:

While there’s some debate over which six guards will get All-NBA nods, Lillard looks like a slam dunk for a spot on the first or second team — Lillard, Stephen Curry and James Harden appear to be the strongest candidates for the two guard spots on that first team.

Assuming he does, in fact, earn All-NBA honors, Lillard will become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension. His current contract runs through 2020/21, with no options, so he’d be eligible to tack on four extra years to that deal, starting in 2021/22.

For now, i’s impossible to say exactly what the NBA’s salary cap will be in 2021/22, but based on projections for ’19/20 ($109MM) and ’20/21 ($118MM), we can safely assume a max deal for Lillard starting in ’21/22 will be worth a lot more than it would be now. Conservatively, estimating a $120MM cap, Lillard’s super-max extension would start at $42MM and would be worth $188MM+ over four years.

With Lillard in position to gain eligibility for a super-max extension, the big question in Portland this summer could be whether the Trail Blazers will actually put that offer on the table. There have been no indications that either Lillard or the Blazers wants to end their union, but the club might be wary of offering such a massive deal to a player who will be 31 years old when the four-year deal begins — that decision hasn’t worked out well for the Wizards with John Wall.

As for Antetokounmpo, he’s on track to become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension too, and that decision figures to be a much easier one for the Bucks. However, Milwaukee won’t be able to actually put that super-max offer on the table until the 2020 offseason, once Giannis has seven years of NBA experience under his belt.

The All-NBA guard contenders:

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Lillard Preparing As If McCollum Will Miss Rest Of Regular Season

After suffering a left knee injury over the weekend, C.J. McCollum is expected to be re-evaluated this Saturday. However, Damian Lillard told reporters last night that he’s not necessarily counting on his backcourt mate to be back anytime soon.

As Jason Quick of The Athletic relays (via Twitter), Lillard wants McCollum to get back to 100% before he returns and is mentally preparing for him to miss the rest of the regular season.

“I don’t want him to have to rush it. And when he does come back, I want him to be himself and be healthy,” Lillard said, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). “So, in my mind, we’re going to finish the regular season without him.”

The Trail Blazers remain in a tight race for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Currently, the team holds the No. 4 seed, with a 1.5-game cushion over the Spurs and Thunder and a two-game lead over Utah.

While Portland would certainly like to have McCollum back in its lineup as soon as possible to secure a top-four spot in the conference, it makes more sense to hold him out until he’s fully healthy — especially since the team’s schedule isn’t particularly brutal down the stretch. Outside of two games vs. Denver and two vs. Detroit, the Blazers don’t face any opponents above .500 the rest of the way.

Perhaps the ideal outcome for the Blazers would be to get McCollum back a few games before the end of the regular season. That could allow him to shake off the rust before the playoffs begin while potentially returning in time for what could be a crucial home-and-home set against the Nuggets on April 5 and April 7. We’ll have to wait to see how McCollum’s recovery progresses, however.

C.J. McCollum To Be Re-Evaluated In One Week With Popliteus Strain

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has avoided a major injury, with an MRI revealing that he suffered a popliteus strain in his left knee against the Spurs on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

McCollum will be re-evaluated in one week, Wojnarowski reports.

“God looked out for me,” McCollum told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). “Could’ve been a lot worse.”

McCollum, 27, exited Saturday’s game early after landing awkwardly on his knee. He appeared to be in significant pain, immediately being helped to the locker room and sending a scare throughout the Blazers organization. Initial X-rays were negative after the game.

McCollum has averaged 21.3 points, four rebounds and 2.9 assists in 68 contests this season, shooting 46% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. He’s in his sixth straight season with the team since being drafted 10th overall in 2013.

The Blazers are gearing up to make a playoff run behind the likes of McCollum, Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and others, holding the fourth-best record in the West at 42-27 with less than a month remaining in the regular season.

MRI Set For C.J. McCollum

10:11pm: Blazers coach Terry Stotts said X-rays were negative and McCollum will fly back to Portland with the team for more tests, Quick tweets. McCollum also confirmed to Quick that it’s his knee that is hurting (Twitter link). He said the knee “does not feel normal” (Twitter link).

9:51pm: Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum will have an MRI on his left knee tomorrow after injuring it in tonight’s game at San Antonio, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

McCollum had to be helped off the court in the third quarter when he crashed to the ground on a drive to the basket and was stepped on by Spurs center Jakob Poeltl. He appeared to be putting some weight on the ankle as he exited, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Blazers announced that he was out for the remainder of the game and called it simply “a left leg injury,” tweets beat reporter Casey Holdahl.

It would be a huge setback for Portland to lose McCollum, who has helped to propel the Blazers into fourth place in the West. Part of a dynamic backcourt with Damian Lillard, McCollum is averaging 21.5 points per game and shooting better than 38% from 3-point range.

Enes Kanter Discusses Signing With Blazers, Role Under Stotts, Future In WWE

For Enes Kanter, joining the Trail Blazers as a free agent signified his willingness to sacrifice for a winning team. He began the 2018/19 season with the Knicks, but his minutes started to decline when the franchise committed to developing its younger players with an eye toward June’s draft.

Kanter’s stint in New York ended early, culminating in a final meeting between him, head coach David Fizdale, president of basketball operations Steve Mills, and general manager Scott Perry on the afternoon of February 7. Unable to find a trade, the Knicks wished him well, mutually agreeing on a release that would allow Kanter to select a new home from a list of interested playoff contenders.

“My dream from day one has always been the playoffs,” Kanter told Hoops Rumors this week.

Kanter would ultimately choose to sign with the Blazers in free agency. The team is 8-3 since acquiring the 26-year-old, who holds career averages of 11.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG in eight total seasons with Utah, Oklahoma City, New York, and now Portland.

Kanter spoke with Hoops Rumors to discuss why he chose the Blazers, his new role under coach Terry Stotts, a potential future in the WWE, and more:

Growing up as a kid, is being a basketball player something you’ve always wanted to be?

“Oh yeah, of course. It was definitely a dream come true. I was actually growing up playing soccer a lot, and later I learned I wasn’t really talented there — so I switched sports and went to basketball. I started playing basketball with my first club team at 13 or 14 years old, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Were there any players in the sport that inspired you along the way? 

“When I was growing up, I was always looking at Hakeem Olajuwon. That was just the one guy I was looking up to. I’d say his game is probably the one I always looked up to.”

So this new deal with the Blazers is just a rest-of-season contract, right?

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Aside from the Blazers, I heard the Celtics and Lakers expressed a lot of interest in signing you as a free agent. Were there any other teams outside of Portland you were considering?

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LaMarcus Aldridge Considers Eventual Return To Portland

A thawing in the once-frosty relationship between Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge could lead to Aldridge eventually returning to the Trail Blazers, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

Aldridge, who spent his first nine seasons in Portland, remains second on the team’s career scoring list, with Lillard likely to pass him soon. They had a strained relationship during their three years as teammates that was caused by a sense of awkwardness rather than any specific incident. With Aldridge as an established veteran and Lillard as a high lottery pick who was billed as the team’s future star, they never figured out how to relate to one another. The resulting tension played a role in Aldridge’s decision to leave in free agency in 2015.

Jamal Crawford eventually took on the role as peacemaker, encouraging Lillard and Aldridge to reach out to one another. Their relationship has improved to the point that Aldridge is considering a reunion.

“You never know,” he said. “But of course, if we had a better relationship, it changes the whole outlook of how it went. It’s sad that not talking like we do now could have changed history. But everything happens for a reason. He has flourished in that role, and I keep telling him I’m going to come back and finish there. That’s something him and I have talked about — playing together again.”

Aldridge returning to Portland is unlikely to happen soon. He is signed through the 2020/21 season, making $50MM over the next two years. He has put together back-to-back All-Star appearances and is the second-leading scorer on a Spurs team that has risen to sixth in the West, so there’s no reason for San Antonio to put him on the trading block.

Aldridge will be nearly 36 when he hits free agency in the summer of 2021, so he may decide that’s when he wants to to end his career in Portland. He admits he handled the situation with Lillard poorly and wouldn’t mind returning to the Blazers to make amends.

“I didn’t want to make him think I was stifling his growth, or have a mindset that I was hating on him, so I didn’t say anything to him,” Aldridge said. “That was the wrong approach, because he told me he would have liked guidance and a big brother.”

Layman Has Become "Secret Weapon" In Portland

  • Jake Layman has become a “secret weapon” for the Trail Blazers, notes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. A second-round pick in 2016, Layman saw little action during his first two NBA seasons, but has made a breakthrough this year through a combination of shooting and athleticism.

Reinforcements Change This Season's Outlook

  • The Trail Blazers are in a better spot than they were last season entering the stretch run, an Associated Press story notes. They were sixth in the West a year ago at the All-Star break but held the fourth spot this season. Moreover, the Blazers picked up some reinforcements this winter by signing center Enes Kanter and trading for guard Rodney Hood.

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Morris, Exum, Lillard

Enes Kanter‘s decision in free agency came down to two teams: the Trail Blazers and Lakers. Kanter, of course, chose to join the Blazers less than two weeks after being waived by the Knicks, labeling one major reason why he made his choice.

“I think it’s just the culture,” Kanter said, according to Casey Holdahl of “After I got released from the Knicks I got a lot of offers but I just wanted to wait. After (Blazers president of basketball operations) Neil (Olshey) talked to me, I was like ‘You know what, I think Portland is the team that I want to go to because I already know their good culture from four years ago when they offered be the contract.’ I think it’s the best decision for me. Then Dame (Lillard) texted me and I was like, ‘You know what, this is the best place that I can (be).’ Be with the team and go far.”

Kanter, a bruising center who holds career-averages of 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, is expected to provide depth off Portland’s bench as the postseason nears. He has an opportunity to prove his worth on a competitive team ahead of free agency, joining the Blazers as a locker room leader and veteran presence.

“It’s amazing, like a first year of school,” Kanter said. “I was actually nervous but I think they help me a lot. Amazing locker (room). From the first moment that I stepped in everybody was trying to help, talking to me about lots of stuff. It’s become very easy, I feel like I’ve been a part of this team for a long time from the first day.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • New Thunder forward Markieff Morris was cleared two weeks ago and is “feeling great,” Royce Young of ESPN tweets. Morris officially signed with Oklahoma City this week, having being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia in his neck early last month.
  • Dante Exum participated in his first practice with the Jazz on Thursday since suffering a left ankle sprain in January, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes. “It was great,” teammate Rudy Gobert said about seeing Exum in practice, according to Woodyard. “I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot.” Exum was re-evaluated by the team and ruled out for Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, though his return date doesn’t appear to be far off. He’s missed 17 straight games with the injury.
  • Blazers star Damian Lillard explained why he’s stayed with the team throughout his career, appearing on the Posted Up podcast with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes this week. “I’m not willing to sell myself out for championships,” Lillard said. Lillard, drafted by Portland in 2012 with the No. 6 overall pick, is currently in his seventh season with the franchise.