Evan Turner

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Blazers’ C.J. McCollum suspended for opener for leaving bench during altercation

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The lessons of Amar’e Stoudemire and leaving the bench during an altercation are still being learned.

Portland’s C.J. McCollum has been suspended for one game without pay for “leaving the bench area during an altercation” the league announced on Saturday. He will set out Portland’s season opener in Phoenix next Wednesday.

You can see it clearly on the video below from Wednesday’s game. Trail Blazers rookie Caleb Swanigan gets tangled up with Suns center Alex Len in a fight for rebounding positioning, and it turns into a little shoving match shoving match. Watch the Blazers bench, where McCollum walks off of it toward Len until an assistant coach pushes him back. By then it’s too late.

McCollum owned his mistake, texting to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“I’ve been in the league way too long to have a mental lapse like that. I want to apologize to my teammates and the organization for putting our team in this situation. The Western Conference is already tough enough as it is. It won’t happen again. Lesson learned. I take full responsibility for those eight expensive and costly steps.”

Expect a little more Evan Turner and maybe Pat Connaughton for Portland with McCollum out.

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony to accept trade to Trail Blazers if Knicks and Rockets don’t strike deal

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Carmelo Anthony trade talks between the Knicks and Rockets appear to be going nowhere.

Yet, Anthony’s camp is reportedly cautiously optimistic he’ll get dealt by Monday.

This might explain why.

Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports:

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have recruited Anthony to Portland. The Trail Blazers have plenty of expendable players who could be aggregated to matching Anthony’s salary – Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis – plus lower-paid players to give New York value. This certainly looks plausible.

It’d make sense for Anthony to hold out as long as possible for Houston, his ideal destination. He can use his no-trade clause to force the Knicks to deal with only the Rockets.

But what if that fails?

I’m skeptical New York, Portland and Anthony all agree to a deal. There are just too many sides to please.

The Knicks will need more than just bad contracts to move Anthony, and the Trail Blazers don’t need more scoring enough to relinquish significant assets. Anthony would also have to approve, and as miserable as the Knicks have been, the New York market still matters.

Again, this is plausible, but I’m doubtful. Either way, we should know soon with training camp around the corner.

Rumor: Isaiah Thomas disliked by ‘a lot’ of Celtics teammates

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The Cavaliers got so much for Kyrie IrvingIsaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder – it seemed one of those assets going from the Celtics to Cleveland had to be tainted. Maybe it’s Thomas hip.

Or is it Thomas’ personality?

Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1:

I spoke to several executives or texted with several executives last night, and a lot of them were saying that a lot of the players in Boston really weren’t that fond of Isaiah. We know he had those problems in Sacramento and in Phoenix. I didn’t know he was having those issues — according to these executives — in Boston.

He is known as a headstrong guy. He’s got a huge ego. They he’s got the Napoleon Complex. He always has that chip on his shoulder.

Once he granted these executives anonymity, Broussard owned their words. It’s on the reporter to verify the veracity before passing them along when it comes to disparaging someone like this.

This isn’t Joe Vardon reporting that people close to LeBron James believe Dwyane Wade will get bought out by the Bulls then sign with the Cavs. Whether or not Wade will actually get bought out then go to Cleveland is beside the point. That LeBron’s camp thinks it will happen is newsworthy in itself.

The executives Broussard cites are so anonymous, we don’t know whether their understanding of Thomas’ relationship with his Celtics teammates is relevant. By citing these anonymous executives, Broussard is staking his credibility on them.

That he’s already distancing himself from their sentiments is telling.

I’m also skeptical given the timing. Player gets smeared on the way out the door? We’ve seen that countless times as teams try to justify a trade after the fact.

A few of Thomas’ former Boston teammates are already sticking up for him.

Evan Turner, via Jared Weiss of Celtics Blog:

“I met IT in high school, we always been tight,” Turner told CelticsBlog after the trade. “The kid has literally acted the same with me since I was 16. I just don’t see how that even comes out. I’ve never known him to be an [expletive] or disliked by anyone. He’s not arrogant or anything. Dude works his [expletive] off.”

“It’s funny that that was ever mentioned. I never heard anyone in any part of life say anything bad about him! Especially as a teammate. He was always there working his [expletive] off before and after practice. That little dude worked! Can’t say anything bad about him.”

Kelly Olynyk:

Jared Sullinger:

Of course, just three of the 24 teammates Thomas had in Boston sticking up for him doesn’t disprove the report. There’s still plenty of room for ‘a lot’ of Celtics to dislike Thomas.

Sure, Thomas can be headstrong. He’s obviously not afraid to tell it how he sees it.

But despite being 5-foot-9 and the last pick in the draft, Thomas has built himself into an All-NBA player. He works relentlessly hard and sets an incredible competitive tone. His admirable career track earns him the right to carry himself with an ego and chip on his shoulder.

If – if – Thomas had Boston teammates whom he rubbed the wrong way, maybe that says more about them than him.

Report: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum did “good job of recruiting” Carmelo Anthony

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According to every report and every source, as of right now Carmelo Anthony will only waive his no-trade clause for the Houston Rockets.

That doesn’t mean plenty of people are not trying to get ‘Melo to broaden that list. The Knicks certainly are. So have been the Portland Trail Blazers, in the persons of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show,

Wojnarowski had said before that Portland was a dark horse in the chase.

Lillard and McCollum have been public about it and worked hard to get Anthony to put Portland in the mix. So far to no avail, but the pair apparently has not given up.

Portland has the salary to make a trade work, particularly if the Knicks take on Evan Turner plus another rotation player, although with Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the roster that may not work for New York. To match the salaries the Blazers could do Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu’s and Ed Davis, plus the Blazers can throw in picks and maybe one of their recent draftees. But I can’t see the Knicks taking on Leonard. Also, if the Knicks want a quality young player or if the Trail Blazers want to shed Leonard they will need a third team.

You could ask at this point how picky can the Knicks be, unless they want to bring ‘Melo into to training camp? However, GM Scott Perry has made it clear the Knicks are willing do just that.

All of this is fun speculation, but also moot if Anthony doesn’t add Portland to his list of destinations. So far, he has not.

 

With Allen Crabbe in Brooklyn, what do the Blazers do now?

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Allen Crabbe is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, this time for good.

The Portland Trail Blazers traded Crabbe to the team that signed him to a massive four-year, $75 million restricted free agent deal in the summer of 2016. In exchange for Crabbe’s services, the Trail Blazers received Andrew Nicholson, a struggling young big man who Portland will reportedly waive using the stretch provision.

The move gets the Blazers closer to the tax line, shaving off an estimated $43 million off of their luxury tax bill. That’s the primary motivation for this trade of a young, talented 3-point shooter and it sort of begs the question: Just what are the Blazers doing?

To understand the Crabbe trade in context, you have to go back to last summer. Portland was in the hunt for several big name players, including Pau Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, and Chandler Parsons.

Portland, never a big free agent destination, missed out on all three, instead having to panic at the last second. The Nets extended a huge offer sheet to Crabbe on July 7, the same day that Portland agreed to a similarly huge contract with Evan Turner.

With their free agent targets gone, Portland had to do the next best thing: retain talent.

After signing Turner, the Blazers matched Crabbe a few days later. They also signed contracts with Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless, and extended C.J. McCollum. Between Turner, Leonard, Harkless, and McCollum the Blazers have committed $62 million to just four players in 2017-18. That’s after wiping Crabbe’s $19 million off the books.

There’s little doubt President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been trying to find trade suitors for Crabbe once he got past the RFA trade moratorium. Likewise, the team seems to have soured on Leonard, coming off of a shoulder injury and who told NBC Sports last season that he didn’t feel fully healthy until the end of winter.

The team was massively disappointing compared to their magical run in 2015-16. Still, there hasn’t been reason to panic in Oregon given that Olshey’s plan with this team since last summer was to swap their assets for a powerful starting lineup.

That plan began to flounder when Crabbe didn’t play up to expectations and when Leonard and Harkless didn’t show continued growth on expectations from seasons past.

Crabbe is an excellent 3-point shooter, but he is also thought of as a potentially great defender. In 2016-17 he looked lost at times on defense, especially when it came to defending top-level players or when he was in weak side situations off the ball. His value plateaued.

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That’s to state nothing of the rest of the team’s performance, specifically by Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu was vastly important to Portland’s bottom-feeding defense, but he became a liability as a 3-point shooter, allowing teams to help off of the pick-and-roll involving Lillard and McCollum. Turner, never a good fit on paper, didn’t really figure out how to play with the team until he returned from injury later in the season. Rumors around Portland have been that Turner has been favored over Crabbe to remain with the team because of the ball-handling relief he could bring to Lillard and McCollum, a point that is largely moot considering his outrageous salary. Jusuf Nurkic came at the deadline, and was a savior for the team until he fractured his leg late in the year.

Portland’s first cause for concern came during June’s draft. Olshey, flush with three first round draft picks, a burgeoning guard in Crabbe, and several players with deflated trade value, could not find a suitable deal. Olshey had to settle, trading two of his first round picks to move up and take Gonzaga’s Zach Collins as Leonard’s replacement.

That move signaled that Portland’s assets weren’t as valuable as Olshey was hoping they would be. Part of that is due to the performance of the players involved, and part was due to the lower standing of Portland’s draft picks. There’s also something to be said about the NBA’s cap not expanding to the level teams projected, making the salaries of Turner, Crabbe, Leonard, and Harkless less palatable.

This is how we end up with a talented but flawed young player like Crabbe getting moved for a salary dump and a trade kicker that would put them back into the luxury tax if utilized.

No doubt Olshey’s expectation when he matched — which was the right thing to do, by the way — was to use him and his picks in a future deal to return a third or fourth piece to the starting lineup for Portland. But the tone has swung, and now many are suggesting it was commendable that Olshey did not have to include a first round pick in order to offload Crabbe. That is really a head-scratching way to look at things, and a huge swing in expected value.

Portland is in a tough position given that none of their recommended moves from last year seem to have gone their way. Still, Olshey has been a good GM for the Blazers. He spun wheat into gold by trading for Robin Lopez, and grabbed Nurkic, a potential franchise building block center when he’s healthy for a non-championship caliber big man in Mason Plumlee. He locked down Aminu on a descending salary deal. He has done quite a bit.

Portland still has the ability to be a trade partner in deals including Carmelo Anthony, which could net them usable players or potential future assets. But what is getting harder to understand is how Portland is going to get any better outside of the roster they have now given salary considerations, team fit, and ceiling.

Drastic internal development or relenting on either Turner or the Lillard-McCollum backcourt pairing are likely the only two realistic ways the Blazers will be able to make a dent next year. Or perhaps fans in Portland can hope that Olshey will be able to work his magic yet again and turn one of their role players into a playoff spot.

The 2017-18 season has been weird enough as it is. Portland can head south of their competition or finagle their way to the postseason. At this point, neither would surprise me.