Damian Lillard: ‘I’m not going to be the hero’

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It was Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts who first addressed the elephant in the room.

General manager Neil Olshey took the stage to face the media at the start of fall camp, and Stotts jokingly lobbed the first question: “Why didn’t you sign LaMarcus?”

LaMarcus, of course, is LaMarcus Aldridge, a fixture on the Trail Blazers’ roster for the past nine years, who left for San Antonio as a free agent in the offseason.

Aldridge wasn’t the only starter to leave: So did guard Wesley Matthews (Mavericks), center Robin Lopez (Knicks) and fellow forward Nicolas Batum (Hornets). Those four, along with point guard Damian Lillard, anchored a team that went 51-31 before getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs by Memphis.

Lillard, the only starter standing once the summer was over, now shoulders the “face of the franchise” tag.

He’d prefer the focus be on team.

“I’m not too interested in all this leadership talk to be honest with you. It’s kind of funny that it has become the story,” he said. “Everything that we’re doing is going to be based on the group. I’m not going to be the hero.”

Lillard, an All-Star who signed a five-year, $120 million contract with Portland in the offseason, averaged a career-high 21 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds last season.

He’ll be surrounded by a yet-to-be announced cast of starters, from a roster that ranks the third-youngest in the NBA.

Some other things to watch for when it comes to the Blazers’ upcoming season:

MCCOLLUM AT POINT: Coach Stotts in the preseason played guard CJ McCollum at point guard, suggesting he will be Lillard’s backup. McCollum saw minutes at shooting guard late last season, stepping in after Matthews tore his Achilles, averaging 17 points and four rebounds in the postseason, including a career-high 33 points in Game 5.

“It’s a comfortable role for me, and one that I can thrive in, I just have to get more reps at the NBA level,” McCollum said.

OH MEYERS: 7-foot-1 Meyers Leonard, poised to break out in his fourth season with Portland, made seven starts for Portland last season and appeared in all five playoff games. Athletic for a big, he also emerged as a surprising 3-point threat and came off the bench for a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) against Memphis in Game 4 of the playoffs.

It’s possible the Blazers slide him to power forward because of his athleticism and shooting ability.

NEW FACES: The new guys include 6-foot-11 Mason Plumlee, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. He was acquired, along with the draft rights to rookie Pat Connaughton, from the Nets in a deal that sent guard Steve Blake to Brooklyn.

The most veteran of the newcomers is Gerald Henderson Jr., with six years in the league, and center Ed Davis, who has played for the Lakers, Toronto and Memphis over five NBA seasons. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu signed as a free agent after five seasons with several teams.

CONNAUGHTON GOES WITH BASKETBALL: At least for now, it appears Connaughton has settled on chasing his hoop dreams. The rookie out of Notre Dame has a 96 mph fast ball and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2014 before deciding to return to the Fighting Irish for his final season of basketball.

The 31st overall pick by Brooklyn, Connaughton averaged 12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season at Notre Dame.

SO THAT STARTING 5?: Only the Blazers know for sure, and they’re probably still trying to figure it out, too. Portland is still waiting on Henderson to get healthy from offseason hip surgery. But it appears that it will be Lillard at point (McCollum at backup), Henderson at shooting guard, Aminu at small forward, Davis or Leonard at power forward and Plumlee at center.

Rumor: NBA considering resuming 2020 season in a single site with shortened playoffs

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The NBA is determined to salvage what they can of the 2019-20 season. That includes drastically adjusting the playoff schedule per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Among proposals being considered are best-of-three playoff series. The NBA has all but rejected a single-game elimination tournament. That would only be considered as a last resort per Berman.

One of the proposals on the table is gathering the entire league in one site to conclude the season. This proposal would involve playing games without fans present, but televising the contests. That would involve a 5-to-7 game regular season, followed by the playoffs.

Sites rumored to be under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando, Hawaii, Atlantic City, Louisville and the Bahamas. Any site would have to have basketball facilities, as well as well as plenty of room to house the teams in a closed environment.

One league official was quoted by Berman as saying “Nothing is off the table.” Another told Berman “They’re very determined to have a champion.”

This Day in NBA History: Kyle Korver scores 11 points in one minute (VIDEO)

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These days, the Milwaukee Bucks are the beneficiaries of Kyle Korver’s three-point shooting prowess.

But back on March 30, 2015, Korver was wearing an Atlanta Hawks Jersey when he destroyed the Bucks. Korver exploded for 11 points in one minute during the third quarter. The only reason it wasn’t 12 points is his foot was on the line on one shot.

This video is a reminder of why Korver is so dangerous to this day (even if he has lost half a step).  He runs the floor hard and gets to his spots, he’s constantly moving to get open, and once open his quick release means he doesn’t need much room to get a shot off. Defenders always have to always account for him — in transition, on the weakside, wherever he is you can’t leave him.

If you do, he can rack up points fast.

Steve Kerr: ‘Very unlikely’ Warriors will play another regular-season game

Warriors coach Steve Kerr
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NBA owners and players are reportedly united on finishing the season or, as Adrian Wojnarowski put it, “finding a way to be able to crown a champion this season.”

Where does that leave the Warriors, the only team eliminated from the playoff race before coronavirus forced a league-wide stoppage?

Golden State coach Steve Kerr on “The Full 48,” via Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Look, for us, our season is basically over,” Kerr said. “If the league was somehow to start up again, it’s very unlikely we would be playing regular-season games given that they’d be in such a time crunch. Who knows?

“But I’m feeling for all the teams in the fight, in the thick of it for a championship, that are in the playoff race, teams that have put so much into this, and this was obviously a year for us where we were trying to get healthy, trying to develop some young guys. So I’m not concerned about our guys, our team. I feel sorry for the teams that are kind of in limbo right now.”

There’s chatter about resuming play with a play-in tournament and postseason in Las Vegas. The league could be sharing plans internally. Kerr could be proven right. It’s certainly possible Kerr was even already told the Warriors are finished with the regular season.

But I don’t share his prediction.

There’s a lot of money to be made by holding more regular-season games, especially for high-revenue teams like Golden State.

This was a gap year for the Warriors. They’re clearly ready to move on.

But Stephen Curry is healthy again. By the time the hiatus ends, Klay Thompson might be cleared. With other stars on the court, Draymond Green could be more engaged. Though there would be limits on Golden State’s competitiveness, that team would be a draw that could help stuff the league’s coffers.

As Kerr said, there are unprecedented timing issues. Yet, every game is a revenue opportunity. That matters, too.

Florida State forward Patrick Williams declares for NBA draft

Florida State forward Patrick Williams
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Devin Vassell declared for the NBA draft from Florida State.

Now, Patrick Williams is following.

Evan Daniels of 247Sports:

Florida State freshman Patrick Williams is declaring for the NBA Draft and plans to forgo his remaining eligibility, he tells 247Sports.

“I decided to do it because I think my game isn’t NBA ready, but I have the potential to be NBA ready,” Williams explained. “I think with development and support and everything else on that level, I can eventually can be a really good NBA player.”

That’s an interesting self-assessment – one more players should take. Williams has the tools to project as a mid-first-round pick. As he said, he needs to develop. But he can do that while earning an NBA salary rather than being stuck in the NCAA’s cartel system. There’s no good case that college teams develop young players better than NBA teams, anyway.

It’s unclear whether Williams (6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan) will settle in as more for a small forward or power forward. Probably power forward. But if his ball skills develop, he has potential as a small forward, a position in higher demand around the league.

As the NBA has embraced smaller lineups, rim protection – once more of a shared frontcourt responsibility – has increasingly fallen onto centers. Williams would help from either forward spot. He’s an energetic and athletic defender with good timing for blocking shots.

He needs work as a shooter. Williams has shown some ability running pick-and-rolls and creating mid-rangers for himself off the dribble. But he’s not consistent enough, and he’s far too poor of a distributor to have the ball much. His best offense comes when opportunistically taking advantage of his athleticism with cuts and alley-oop finishes.

Still, Williams shows enough flashes of more offensively to be intrigued. His defense is already more developed.

That combination is why he can feel confident about getting drafted high enough to enjoy the spoils of NBA life.