Festus Ezeli

ezeli

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

Leave a comment

This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic out for rest of regular season

AP Photo/Steve Dykes
5 Comments

Jusuf Nurkic is having his moment.

In 20 games since the Nuggets traded him to the Trail Blazers, Nurkic has averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. And Portland has gone 14-6 — winning five straight and eight of nine — to surge into playoff position.

But all that momentum is coming to a crushing halt.

Jason Quick of CSN Northwest:

The Trail Blazers are still 1.5 games up on Denver for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, and their best players are still Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Those guards can lead Portland into the postseason.

But who will help them? Portland is now extremely short-handed at center with Ed Davis and Festus Ezeli already out for the season. The Trail Blazers have little choice but to lean heavily on Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh and maybe experiment with super-small lineups.

The door is now open much wider for the Nuggets.

Damian Lillard’s 36 spoil LaMarcus Aldridge’s return as Blazers top Spurs

Leave a comment

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 36 points and the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-106 on Wednesday night, spoiling LaMarcus Aldridge‘s return from a health scare.

C.J. McCollum added 26 points for the Trail Blazers, who were coming off a 23-point loss in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds after missing two games with a minor heart arrhythmia. He was cleared Wednesday morning and does not have any playing restrictions.

Kawhi Leonard had 34 points to lead San Antonio (52-15), which had won 11 of 12 entering the game but fell one game behind Golden State for the league’s best record.

Trailing 104-97 with 1:45 remaining, San Antonio closed within two points as Aldridge scored five consecutive points on a layup and a powerful dunk that led to a three-point play. After Leonard missed a short runner, McCollum made a pair of free throws to end the Spurs’ streak and give Portland a 106-102 lead.

Patty Mills then hit a 3-pointer from the right corner off a feed from Leonard, but Lillard made four straight free throws to seal the victory for the Trail Blazers.

Aldridge finished 9 for 24 from the field and played 32 minutes. He made his first two attempts, a 17-foot jumper and a 21-footer, drawing loud cheers from the sold-out crowd.

San Antonio raced to a 14-7 lead, but Portland went on an 11-2 run to quiet the crowd and keep the game within seven points throughout.

Leonard finished 12 for 21 from the field, including consecutive dunks, in scoring 30-plus points for the 25th time this season. The 6-foot-7 forward first sprinted in from the free-throw line for a one-handed stuff against Noah Vonleh and then spun under the basket for a dunk against the 7-foot Jusuf Nurkic.

Portland closed the third quarter on a 9-3 run in taking an 82-80 lead to set up their fourth-quarter heroics.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Lillard has scored 30 points in six of 11 games since returning from the All-Star break. … Portland was without F Ed Davis (left shoulder), C Festus Ezeli (left knee) and F Evan Turner (right hand). … Nurkic had 16 points after scoring just two against New Orleans on Tuesday. … The Blazers improved to 7-4 when Lillard, McCollum, Vonleh and Nurkic and Maurice Harkless start. … Portland is 80-83 against San Antonio overall after snapping a five-game skid against the Spurs.

Spurs: Aldridge has scored 1,000 points for a 10th straight season, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the only active players with that streak. … G Tony Parker missed his fourth straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 16 games this season after sitting out 10 games last year. … Leonard has scored in double figures in 94 straight games dating to Jan. 14, 2016.

 

Portland’s Ed Davis to have shoulder surgery, likely done for season

Leave a comment

Ed Davis has been battling a variety of injuries this season up in Portland, limiting the impact of the usually solid big man. He’s one of the many pieces of the puzzle in Portland that hasn’t quite fit as expected this season.

Now Davis is done for the season.

He will have shoulder surgery next week in Los Angeles to repair an injured labrum, the team announced on Wednesday. While there is no timetable for his return, don’t expect him to return this season. Davis is under contract with the Blazers for next season at a very reasonable $6.4 million.

The Blazers are already without big man Festus Ezeli, who has yet to play for Portland this season. That leaves Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard as the only healthy centers on the roster.

Trail Blazers trade Mason Plumlee to Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and first rounder

AP
12 Comments

The Portland Trail Blazers finally made a trade. Pending approval from the league office on Monday, GM Neil Olshey has sent starting center Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round pick to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

The trade gives the Blazers three first round picks in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft.

Via Twitter:

Portland had to make a move at some point thanks to deals given out this summer to Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. Plumlee, while critical to the Blazers’ offensive attack thanks to his passing, is a liability on defense. At $2.2 million this season coming off his rookie contract, he’s also due a huge pay increase that the Blazers couldn’t afford to pay even if they wanted to.

For Denver, it’s an interesting move considering they already have a young, passing big man in Nikola Jokic. While there is a potential for either Jokic or Plumlee to play the power forward position — both have in the past — it’s not immediately clear what the long-term plan is in Denver with these two big men.

Then again, having watched Plumlee extensively in Portland, his best role at this point is as a backup center that could help destroy opposing second unit defenses. If that is the long-term plan in Denver, it could be an excellent move for a team that still has moves to make. Emmanuel Mudiay is rumored to be extremely available.

Portland, meanwhile, starts the long process of thinning out the herd. Olshey’s roster was built to be traded, and I’m frankly a little surprised that he was able to bounce Plumlee first. With a low cap figure on Plumlee and the Blazers underwater with Turner and Crabbe, my compatriots and I in the Portland media sphere thought it would be unlikely they could move him without moving either of the wings first. To get back Nurkic and another first rounder is Olshey pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

We’re almost certainly going to see another trade from Portland, whether it’s at the deadline or come draft time. They aren’t going to sit on those three first round draft picks, so it should be fun to see what they do with them.

ESPN has written that the Blazers are looking to move injured center Festus Ezeli to a team that may need to get to the salary floor. That would include the Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets.

Trade season is upon us, and two of the teams who needed to make moves have done so with a little more than 10 days to go.