LAS VEGAS — Damian Lillard ended up in the middle of the NBA’s silly season, and he’s not exactly sure how.
He sent out a Tweet after Portland let Ed Davis walk to Brooklyn (one of Lillard’s good friends on the team). That spiraled into speculation he was unhappy with the Blazers because he wants to compete in the gauntlet that is the West and Portland has largely stood pat this summer. Combine that with another Tweet and somehow — in the minds of warped Laker fans/sports talk radio hosts looking for a shock — became “Lillard wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers.”
Lillard shot all that down in Las Vegas.
“I’m not unhappy. I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am,” Lillard said, holding court during Summer League.
Portland is one of the many teams cash-strapped this summer, and fans are pissed. Thanks to the foolish 2016 contracts of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard (plus don’t forget the now-traded Allen Crabbe), the Blazers are flirting with the luxury tax line. Forget chasing big name free agents, they lost Davis and a couple other rotation players, Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton. They made a smart signing with Seth Curry (who can help if he is healthy) but are leaning on guys playing in Las Vegas this week, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., to handle rotation minutes.
Lillard was honest, he didn’t want Davis to go.
“Obviously, I loved Ed,’’ Lillard said. “He was one of my best friends in the league; one of my favorite teammates I’ve played with. We lose him – that’s a loss for our team. Bazz played big minutes for us, Pat played big minutes for us – so we lose three rotation players that gave us a lot and contributed to our season last year. But I guess now we look forward to who can come in and replace those minutes and give us that type of quality.’’
Does Lillard want to compete? Yes. He met with ownership last year to express that directly. But he wants to do it In Portland, where he has spent all of his six-year career.
“We got people out here going all out to try and make it happen, and I want us to do the same thing,” Lillard said. “And I feel like we are trying to do that.”
It’s the preseason, and so teams are trying to be extra cautious with their stars. That will apparently be the case this week as No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has reportedly not traveled with his New Orlean Pelicans for the final preseason game of the year against the New York Knicks.
Williamson has apparently strained his right knee, and his not heading to New York with the team isn’t looking like it’s just for rest as the regular season approaches. Williamson may actually have a bit of soreness working against him right now, which is the last thing any NBA fans want to hear right now.
The release from the Pelicans says that Williamson remained in Louisiana to undergo further testing on his right knee.
Hopefully this is nothing serious and the season can get off to a thrilling start. It certainly looks to be headed in that direction based off of how Williamson has performed already in preseason action.
New Orleans kicks off the regular season on Oct. 22 against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in Ontario.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An emotional Michael Jordan unveiled the first of two medical clinics he and his family funded in Charlotte, North Carolina that will provide care to underprivileged members of the community.
The six-time NBA champion and Hornets owner was on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the $7 million Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic. Tears streamed down Jordan’s cheeks as he said, “this is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.”
The clinic, located in a lower-income section of the city, will provide vital access to primary and preventive care to individuals in the community, including those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Jordan vowed to do more, saying “this is just the start of a battle of being able to touch as many people as we can.”
Jordan first announced the $7 million gift in 2017.
This season, his sixth, is going to be the season where Andrew Wiggins looks and plays like he loves the game. His steadily-declining shooting percentages are going to rocket back up. He’s going to break out as an elite player who should have gone No. 1, and not just a guy who gets empty-calorie points.
That’s what Wiggins is thinking, anyway.
ESPN put out its list of top 100 players in the league and very reasonably did not have Wiggins on it, despite him scoring 18.1 points per game last season. In an excellent job of trying to create a second story out of the 100 list by asking about the “snub,” Wiggins said he isn’t worried about what people say about the four-years, $122 million still on his contract, but he wants to re-establish himself, he told Eric Woodyard of ESPN.
“Everyone is counting pockets. Some people are mad about [it], some people are happy for you,” Wiggins told ESPN. “That’s how the world goes, especially when you’ve got something they don’t have or do something they don’t do. That’s how the world goes.
“Even when I averaged almost 24 points and got the max deal, people were still saying stuff,” he added. “Look at max players and some max players don’t average as much, but it is what it is. I’m just trying to get right, get back on track.”
If you just shrugged your shoulders, join the rest of the league.
Most Timberwolves fans have moved on from counting Wiggins as the second star to help out Karl-Anthony Towns. Most front office people on other teams have moved on as well, as evidenced by Wiggins’ nonexistent trade value (sources around the league say Minnesota has tested the market only to find no team that wants that contract unless the Timberwolves throw in sweeteners).
Minnesota’s new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said Wiggins has to be a ‘main contributor’ if the Timberwolves are going to return to the playoffs. Which is one reason most experts have them missing out.
But Wiggins believes in himself. Timberwolves fans should expect and want nothing less than that, they just may not want to get their own expectations too high.
The Raptors no longer have championship-level talent.
They still have championship-level expectations for effort and attention to detail.
Newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson are learning that the hard way.
Josh Lewenberg of TSN:
That is HARSH.
But the last time he was coaching, Nick Nurse was overseeing a dominant defense deep in the playoffs. It must be a dramatic adjustment going to preseason intensity and sans Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Nurse might also be trying to motivate Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson, who have the tools to be more effective.
This aren’t new issue for these forwards, though. They were available so cheap for a reason.