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KOIN Television sports reporter AJ McCord joins the WHAT podcast to talk about covering the Trail Blazers in a remarkable season.

KOIN 6 Television sports reporter AJ McCord (@AJ_McCord) joined the WHAT podcast to talk about covering the Trail Blazers for the local media. We learn more about the supportive women who work covering the Blazers and other NBA teams, and why she thinks so many women excel as sideline reporters.

What was it like coming back from the low of the New Orleans sweep to watch the players redouble their efforts and advance all the way to the Western Conference Finals? Then she talks about getting to know the players over the course of the year and how the young guys are learning the ropes. All this and more on the latest WHAT podcast.

Download the episode

:30 Icebreaker: who would be your dream sideline interview?

4:00 AJ’s pregame Courtside Chats: where the idea came from, how it came together. Highlights.

7:30 Why do you think so many women are sideline reporters? Women know what they are talking about and they know how to be a liaison between the fans and the action of the game.

10:00 Women on the sidelines seem like such a tight knit group and so supportive of each other even in a competitive market. How does that work?

12:00 AJ believes that as a group they are stronger together, they know a little bit about what each other is going through. This playoff run gave her more time to spend with the rest of the beat reporters.

13:30 Highlights of the season for her: Watching Nurkic grow and and have success.

14:00 The locker room after New Orleans was incredibly dejected, it was great watching how each guy responded to that defeat and improved themselves.

15:00 Watching how Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter blossomed when they came to Portland.

17:30 What has it been like getting to know the younger guys? Anfernee Simons will probably move a little bit more up the rotation. These young guys are still learning how to talk to the media, they have good examples in the veterans.

20:00 What makes a good media interaction? Looking someone in the eyes, having an honest conversation.

22:00 What did she learn this season? That she could work this incredibly hard job, incredibly long hours, and love doing it.

24:00 What were the logistics for putting together all of the shows and content that she did on the road? Did she have help? Yes! Shout out to Brian the photographer who did the camera work.

26:15 What is next? And what is she looking forward to in the next NBA season? Lots of Timbers, Thorns, and then the NBA off season. She’s wondering who will be back in a Blazer uniform next season?

Listener email! A game she would have liked to see live, from Lisa.

Get Social

Follow Blazer’s Edge on Twitter @blazersedge, WHAT Pod @HoopsAndTalks, Tara @tcbbiggs, and Cassidy @CassidyGemmet. This week’s guest: @AJ_McCord

Email us hoopsandtalks@gmail.com.

Women’s Hoops And Talks (W.H.A.T.)

Join the Women’s Hoops And Talks Facebook group to talk about Trail Blazers with others who identify as women who love basketball.

Music used in the episode: “Happy Alley” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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Will the Trail Blazers look to Iowa State guard Talen Horton-Tucker in the 2019 NBA Draft when it comes time to make their selection at pick No. 25?

The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we look at Iowa State Cyclones wing Talen Horton-Tucker.

Talen Horton-Tucker
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 235
  • Wingspan: 7’1.25”
  • Shooting Hand: Right
  • Position: G/F
  • Age: 18
  • Projected Draft Range: 19-35
2018-19 Statistics
  • PTS: 11.8 | Per 40: 17.4
  • REB: 4.9 | Per 40: 7.1
  • AST: 2.3 | Per 40: 3.4
  • STL: 1.3 | Per 40: 1.9
  • FG%: 40.6
  • 3P%: 30.8
  • FT%: 62.5
Strengths

Buoyed by an impressive NBA-ready frame, Horton-Tucker is oozing with potential. Capable of playing every position outside of center, the Chicago native can switch between multiple roles on a single possession. Offensively, he does an excellent job of using his body to cut off defenders when attempting shots at the rim. Outside of the paint, Horton-Tucker displays glimpses of his catch-and-shoot potential. His blend of ball handling and finishing is on full display in transition. Much like Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Horton-Tucker is a master of generating lightning-quick opportunities.

Horton-Tucker’s defensive upside is firmly attached to his stellar 7-foot-1 wingspan. Armed with the quickness to match his length, the former Cyclones standout is poised to be a difference maker in whatever scheme he lands in at the next level.

Weaknesses

Horton-Tucker is one of the youngest players in the 2019 class and it shows on both ends of the court. On offense, he has the tendency to dribble into situations that end in turnovers or heavily contested shots. Despite all his physical gifts, Horton-Tucker was routinely caught flat-footed on the defensive end. Outside of his lack of experience, Horton-Tucker’s release on his jumper is lower than most players. Given his form, his perimeter offense will require space to be effective.

Off the court, Horton-Tucker’s trip to the NBA Combine was met with questions regarding his decision making. Prior to his arrival, the Ames Tribune revealed that Horton-Tucker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge stemming from incident that occurred at an Ames, Iowa Wal-Mart. However minor the infraction might have been, it was not a good look for the first-round hopeful.

2018-19 Season

Iowa State’s trip to the Maui Invitational set the stage for a pair of breakout performances for Horton-Tucker. Against Illinois, he put together a 26-point outburst to lead the Cyclones to victory before returning to the mainland. In the heart of Iowa State’s conference schedule, Horton-Tucker put up a pair of 20-point outings against Kansas State and Ole Miss, both of which were ranked in the top 25 at the time. At the conclusion of the year, he earned a place on the All-Big 12 Freshman team.

Overall Assessment

Horton-Tucker’s age and favorable measurements combine to make him one of the most intriguing post-lottery prospects. Defensively, he has all the tools to corral guards and hold his ground in the paint against post players. Regardless of his shooting inconsistencies, Horton-Tucker’s willingness to pass and create off the break will ease the sting of his less-than-ideal floor spacing. He is far from a finished product, but all his deficiencies appear to be correctable.

Overall Fit

Facing several noteworthy decisions this summer, the Trail Blazers could address the future of multiple positions by selecting Horton-Tucker at No. 25. His short-term production could come at the G League level, but his versatile skill set would fit ideally next to Portland’s future cast of contributors. The Blazers’ willingness to roll the dice on Anfernee Simons’ unorthodox shot shows that Olshey trusts Portland’s development process.

Coach Terry Stotts’ staff has a strong track record of extracting every bit of potential from unfinished prospects. Coupled with Horton-Tucker’s physical profile, his fit with the Blazers is a proposition that is tough to discount.

Do you want to see Horton-Tucker in a Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

—Steve/@SteveDHoops/BEdgeSteve@gmail.com

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It’s nice to have reasonably paid role players.

I’m not a huge Al-Farouq Aminu fan. I could do without another 184 catapault-esque 3-point bricks and 72 face-palming turnovers next season. I hope we never hear “I was hacked” from a Trail Blazers player ever again.

Good news for me! Aminu is a free agent this summer and the Blazers could easily let him walk. Unfortunately, even I have to admit, the Blazers should probably re-sign him.

Why retain him?

Aminu’s played 328 games in Portland over the last four years. I’m guessing every single person reading this knows what he brings to the table at this point, so I’ll pass on 827 words and nine video embeds explaining his game.

Suffice to say, he’s an excellent man-to-man defender, surprisingly good at disrupting post-ups from bigger players, and helps compensate for weaknesses in other parts of the Blazers roster.

Top Defender Aminu's Tight Defense on LeBron James November 3 2018 Lakers vs Blazers - YouTube

He’s offensively limited but can be relied upon to stay out of the way while Damian Lillard does his thing and then (somewhat miraculously) convert on a respectable 35 percent of 3-pointers when defenses ignore him.

Aminu has worked to reduce his most maddening sins, overdribbling and poor decision making, and has become a slightly more patient player who occasionally finds an open seam to cut through and convert a dunk.

The bottom line is that 9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, and upper-level defense aren’t going to get any all-star nods, but they will earn an “integral” endorsement from Lillard. Aminu is the typical above-average, fringe starter that every team needs to compete in the NBA.

Free Agent Situation

The Blazers have Aminu’s Bird Rights since he’s played in Portland for several seasons so General Manager Neil Olshey can re-sign Aminu despite the team’s dire payroll situation. Aminu’s contract will have no impact on the taxpayer mid-level exception, but broadly speaking the Blazers won’t gain any extra money if they let Aminu walk.

In other words, there’s not an obvious way to replace Aminu if he goes elsewhere. Assuming nobody throws an Allen Crabbe-esque overpay at Aminu, it’d be wise for Olshey to offer the team’s starting power forward a fair contract.

The Blazers also have a complete lack of appropriately paid role players right now. That makes mythical consolidation trades or salary dump trades significantly more difficult. A re-signed Aminu will continue to fill that niche for Portland, increasing the team’s flexibility in trade negotiations.

Why might they let Aminu walk?

Given that Aminu is a solid, if unspectacular, player and re-signing him generally won’t affect other free agent negotiations but may help Olshey make a trade down the road, is there any reason the Blazers wouldn’t keep Aminu around?

Other than the obvious scenario of Aminu being offered the patented “Evan Turner literally ran to the bank” contract, choosing to not re-sign Chief would suggest that Olshey has free agent plans in store.

As discussed last week, the Blazers could renounce Aminu as part of a multi-step move to open up a full mid-level exception contract. They could also let Aminu walk in anticipation of being free agent players next summer — the Blazers have “only” about $88 million committed to six players, against an expected cap of $118 million.

Those scenarios come with risk — Aminu leaving won’t accomplish anything on its own so other contingent moves would need to be completed to justify his departure. And even then, if the Blazers choose not to keep Aminu but don’t subsequently sign any impact players then Olshey should be rightly criticized.

There’s also an argument to be made that letting a key rotation player walk after a Western Conference Finals run in hopes of having cap space NEXT summer would be a dubious decision as it would undermine the team’s ability to compete this season. In that scenario, the Blazers would need a home run of a free agent signing in 2020 as justification.

In short, if Aminu does re-sign with the Blazers many trade options will be available with or without using his contract, but if he leaves at a reasonable price it’s a sign the Blazers are likely hoping to be free agent players at some point before the 2020-21 season.

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The former Trail Blazer is reportedly joining Monty Williams’ staff.

A former Trail Blazer has reportedly joined the assistant coaching ranks. According to Peter Vescey, former Portland point guard Steve Blake has been hired by the Phoenix Suns to be part of Monty Williams’ coaching staff:

Steve Blake was hired by Monty Williams to assist him in Phoenix, per source. Randy Ayers, too...

— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) June 3, 2019

Williams, a former Trail Blazers assistant coach, accepted the Suns head coaching job last month. Blake, who spent three separate stints with Portland, averaged 6.5 points 4 assists in a 13 year career.

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Walton? Clyde? Lillard? No disrespect to those all-timers, but the answer lies elsewhere.

Trying to decide on the greatest Portland Trail Blazer of all time is an exercise in taste. As in, what do you look for when deciding greatness? Sustained performance? Clyde Drexler is probably your man. If championships are your end-all-be-all, Bill Walton is the likely choice.

But what if I told you that there was a member of the organization that had both the longevity AND was there for the 1977 championship run? Because there is, and he has my vote for the Blazer of all time.

Bill Schonely, come on down and be recognized.

Most people are familiar with the resume. NHL Hockey, the Seattle Pilots, and nearly the voice of the Seattle SuperSonics before getting the offer to become the voice of the Trail Blazers from Harry Glickman. But did you know that he was tasked by Glickman with putting together the radio network? He was - and he got out there and closed.

But it’s more than being a founding member. After all, Geoff Petrie is called the “orginal Blazer” and had a stellar career. Bill Schonely, 90 years young as of Saturday, was THE voice of the Blazers for two generations of fans. I have a story exactly like thousands of other fans. It sounds cliche but, growing up in Yamhill County, I would pop my radio on at bedtime and listen to the Schonz call the action from the late 80s through the mid 90s. The players came and went, but Schonely was always there for me.

And he’s been there through it all. From the inaugural season through 1998, and then since 2003, Schonely has been the voice, and then the face, of the Trail Blazers. If you go to a game, you can find him; suit freshly pressed, NBA championship ring on, ready to talk Blazers with anyone around.

While I was running sound for an episode of the Bald Faced Truth this April, John Canzano asked an in-studio Schonely if he would want to call one last game. I watched as Bill’s eyes lit up. He nodded, and then he said “No, my time has passed.” I didn’t believe him for a second. While he may have lost a few mph off his fastball, I would love to see Schonely call the first half of a regular season game during the teams 50th anniversary celebration next season. Hell, preseason would be good enough for me.

Schonely is now 90, and it’s been more than 20 years since he’s called a game. His catch phrases still ring familiar to Blazer fans - “You’ve got to make your free throws”, “Lickedy brindle up the middle”, and, of course, “Rip City.” And make no mistake, Schonely is the mayor of Rip City. The man who has been there since the beginning. The man who jokes that if the team is going to win another championship, they better hurry up - due to his advancing age.

The Trail Blazers have had some amazing players over the life of the franchise. But they haven’t had a more influential man in their organization than The Schonz.

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Will the Trail Blazers look to Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura in the 2019 NBA Draft when it comes time to make their selection at pick No. 25?

The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we look at Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura.

Rui Hachimura – Gonzaga
  • Height: 6’8”
  • Weight: 230
  • Wingspan: 7’2”
  • Shooting Hand: Right
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 21
  • Projected Draft Range: 10-22
2018-19 Statistics
  • PPG: 19.7 | Per 40: 26.1
  • REB: 6.5 | Per 40: 8.6
  • AST: 1.5 | Per 40: 2.0
  • STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.3
  • BLK: 0.7 | Per 40: 1.0
  • FG%: 56.8
  • 3P%: 41.7 (36 attempts)
  • FT%: 73.9
Strengths:

There’s a lot to like about Hachimura’s fit as a versatile forward in the NBA. At 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan, he has the physical tools that teams value. To go along with his long, sturdy frame, Hachimura is athletic. He is not the explosive leaper that teammate Brandon Clarke is, but he possesses quick first step that gives him an edge on drives. Offense is where Hachimura shines, showing a well-rounded game as a driver, post-scorer and serviceable spot up shooter. He improved his shot every year in college, giving teams hope that he can evolve into a consistent three-point threat. He’s comfortable handling the ball and pulling up from midrange, but he also works hard to get open shots through constant off-ball movement.

Weaknesses:

Hachimura has grown significantly as a player, but he is still a raw prospect and it shows in his slow decision-making on both ends of the court. He has the physical attributes of someone who can potentially be a good defender, but he gets caught in bad position more often than not. Part of his defensive deficiencies can be tied to his relative inexperience with organized basketball. From age 14 to his time in Spokane, Hachimura’s primary focus revolved around his offensive output. Right now, his defensive upside is based on measurements, not his instincts. His lack of experience isn’t exclusive to the defensive end. Despite shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc last year, Hachimura is far from a high-volume three-point shooter.

2018-19 Season:

Hachimura had a highly successful junior campaign with Gonzaga. After coming off the bench his first two years, he started every game for the Bulldogs. His work in the spotlight earned him WCC Player of the Year honors and he was crucial to Gonzaga’s run to the Elite Eight. Hachimura set the tone early in the year with stellar performance against a loaded Duke team in the Maui Invitational—capping off a preseason tournament run that crowned him the MVP of the event

Overall Assessment:

Regardless of his noteworthy flaws, Hachimura’s upside at a position of need is hard to pass on. He improved every year in college and finished as the leading scorer on one of the best teams in the country. Capable of producing points on multiple levels with athleticism that lends itself to defensive versatility, Hachimura will attract several suitors on draft night. Paired with the right staff, he has all the tools to blossom into a legitimate threat on both ends of the court.

Overall Fit:

The Blazers enter draft night with obvious holes in their frontcourt. Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, and Jake Layman are all free agents. Portland will require help in order to secure Hachimura. He will need to slide to No. 25 or the Blazers will have to get creative in order to move up to select the former Bulldogs standout. As Blazer’s Edge contributor Nate Mann pointed out, Olshey believes that instant-impact prospects are rare. In order to overcome that, he often opts to select high-upside players. Hachimura fits the bill. If he reaches his potential, Hachimura would give the Blazers the two-way forward that they covet.

Do you want to see Hachimura in a Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated explains how the Canadian tattoo artist has inked a lot of NBA players, including former Blazer Dorrell Wright.

Canadian tattooist Steve Wiebe is making a mark on the NBA, literally: he has tattooed players such as Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, and former Blazer Dorrell Wright. A recent story by Marc J. Spears in the Undefeated outlines how Wiebe, a huge basketball fan, was inspired to pursue tattooing by Allen Iverson, who proudly wore his tattoos while in the league. But it was Wright who introduced Wiebe to NBA players.

Wright first noticed Weibe’s work on his Instagram account in 2014 while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. After falling love with Wiebe’s style, Wright sent him a direct message on Instagram to contact him for a potential job. Wiebe did Wright’s first tattoos at the end of the 2014-15 NBA season.

“I got a rose on my chest and a King Tut on my thigh that I still need to finish,” Wright told The Undefeated. “He got kidnapped by K.D. and DeAndre this past summer, so I wasn’t able to finish. He just has to finish one more half of the King Tut. I couldn’t take the pain no more the first time. I had to tap out. He is one of those dudes I can wait for. I’m in no rush. You can’t really see it either.

“He’s very talented. When you’re talented and you got a few guys using you, everybody wants to use you.”

You can read more here.

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Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report argues that acquiring Kevin Love could move the needle for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report includes a potential trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers featuring Kevin Love for Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless and a pick in a recent roundup of potential offseason moves. In the piece, Swartz outlines roster moves meant to lift up current superstars, who may need more support from their rosters to lift them over the top. He suggests that Love to Portland could provide needed support for Damian Lillard without costing the Blazers a great deal.

Enter Love, who should be happy to move off a rebuilding Cavaliers team and return to his home area of Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Given Love’s injury history and juicy remaining contract (four years, $120.4 million), the Blazers won’t have to give up McCollum or a great deal of assets. Simply including the expiring contracts of Harkless and Leonard, along with their late first-round pick this season, should do.

Every season, someone in the press floats Kevin Love to Portland, so Rip City should not be surprised by Swartz’s argument. More often than not, they include the tidbit that Love grew up in Lake Oswego, but they rarely mention that Love has expressed preference for Southern California, where he attended college at UCLA.

You can read more here.

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Will the Trail Blazers look to European prospect Luka Samanic in the 2019 NBA Draft?

The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Regardless of the Blazers’ lack of a pick in the second round, Olshey has shown a willingness to negotiate his way back into the selection process. Today’s profile focuses on the polarizing upside of Croatian power forward Luka Samanic.

Luka Samanic
  • Height: 6’11”
  • Weight: 227.2
  • Wingspan: 6’10.5”
  • Shooting Hand: Right
  • Position: PF
  • Age: 19
  • Projected draft range: 26-40
2018-19 Statistics

*Taken from Union Olimpija’s 20-game schedule in Liga ABA (Adriatic League)

  • PTS: 6.4 | Per 40: 16.2
  • REB: 3.8 | Per 40: 9.6
  • FG%: 50.0
  • 3P%: 20.8
  • FT%: 69.8
Strengths

Samanic’s upside as a professional prospect starts with his stellar footwork. When facing aggressive close-outs on the perimeter, the Croatian youngster is careful not to waste any movement when putting the ball on the court to head downhill. At his size, Samanic has a remarkable ability to knife through several layers of opponents on the way to the rim. Once in the paint, he is a highlight-worthy finisher capable of getting up for dunks quickly. Beyond the arc, Samanic has shown he can stretch defenses with his passing and shooting. His numbers in the Adriatic League look shaky, but he has looked the part of a catch-and-shoot operator in FIBA competitions.

Defensively, Samanic does a superb job of limiting second-chance opportunities. He quickly reloads between jumps, giving him an edge when pursuing defensive rebounds.

Weaknesses

The jump to NBA-level competition will place several sizable hurdles in front of Samanic. Lacking a sturdy frame and above-average wingspan, his future as a rim protector is limited. On the other end, Samanic has shown a limited ability to generate points with traditional post moves. Despite displaying signs of growth as a three-point shooter, he must continue to work on his efficiency going forward. In the NBA, Samanic could struggle on offense against versatile small-ball fours. Defensively, traditional post players will target him until he adds to his frame.

2018-19 Season

Across all of Union Olimpija’s competitions last season, Samanic was featured in 50 games (23 starts). His best numbers came in Slovenia’s domestic league (SKL). In 17 games in the SKL, Samanic averaged an even 10 points per game. After bouncing up and down draft boards for the majority of the season, Samanic steadied his draft stock with solid showings in the scrimmages that took place at the NBA Draft Combine.

Overall Assessment

Samanic’s deficiencies in rim protection are easily overlooked due to his impressive profile on the perimeter. If he continues to develop, his offensive repertoire is a perfect fit in today’s NBA. By attacking opponents on the perimeter, Samanic should control the matchups he faces in the paint. Regardless of his lack of paint-friendly skills, his upside as a fluid athlete will attract suitors on draft night. For the most part, Samanic’s weak spots can be corrected with proper physical training and maturation.

Overall Fit

The long-term pairing of Samanic’s perimeter-based offense next to Jusuf Nurkic’s presence in the paint is enticing. Outside of that long-term projection, it is tough to envision how Samanic fits into Portland’s current timeline. His natural gifts as a slasher and rebounder would give coach Terry Stotts’ staff a strong foundation to work with, but his developing outside shooting would need refinement before meaningful minutes are allotted. If the Blazers get back into the second round, taking a flier on Samanic’s upside is worth the risk.

Statistics via RealGM

Do you want to see Samanic in a Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

—Steve/@SteveDHoops/BEdgeSteve@gmail.com

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The Portland Trail Blazers star guard responds to questions about his future with Portland on Instagram live.

Damian Lillard responded to a question about a potential departure from the Portland Trail Blazers on Instagram Live Friday night with a simple response: “Absolutely not.” Lillard goes on to elaborate, stating that he is in it for the “long haul.” In the video, he further denies the rumor that he is going to leave the Trail Blazers to play for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Your browser does not support HTML5 video.

Since being selected with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Lillard has steadily climbed Portland’s all-time leaderboards. He trails only Clyde Drexler for points scored in a Blazers uniform.

Rip City knows Dame is a real one, and thanks to Oakland area rapper Mistah F.A.B. for asking the question.

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