Jake Layman

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Hornets rookie P.J. Washington scores 27 points, makes record seven 3s in career debut

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The big question about P.J. Washington in the draft: Was his outside shooting sustainable?

Washington made 42% of his 3-pointers as a Kentucky sophomore. But that came on just 78 attempts. He shot just 24% from beyond the arc as a freshman (on only 21 attempts). His free-throw percentage – often a good indicator of shooting ability – was an underwhelming 61% and 66%.

The early returns: A resounding yes.

Washington scored 27 points on 7-of-11 3-point shooting in the Hornets’ 126-125 season-opening win over the Bulls on Wednesday.

Washington’s 27 points were the most in a season debut since Gordan Giricek scored 29 for the Grizzlies in 2002. Some all-time great players – including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant – have entered the NBA since. None scored so much in their debut.

Here’s everyone in NBA history who scored more than 25 points in their first game:

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Washington’s seven 3-pointers broke the all-time record for a career debut. The previous record was five by Jake Layman (2016 Trail Blazers) and Donyell Marshall (1994 Timberwolves)

Here’s everyone to make more than three 3-pointers in his first game:

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Washington’s hot shooting was only one aspect of a thrilling game. Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen had 35 points and 17 rebounds. Charlotte used a late 15-1 run for the comeback win.

But Washington, the No. 12 pick, stole the show and made an early argument in a Rookie of the Year race that suddenly looks far more open with Zion Williamson sidelined.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Timberwolves getting Jake Layman for three years, $11M+

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After Jake Layman struggled through his first two NBA seasons, the Trail Blazers surprisingly guaranteed his salary for last season. Layman responded with a fine season as a reserve/part-time starter.

Now, he’ll parlay that into a solid payday for a former No. 47 pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The largest three-year contract the Timberwolves can give Layman with the Dario Saric trade exception is worth $11,283,256. Presumably, Wojnarowski/Bartelstein are just rounding generously.

Layman will join a deep group of players who can play forward in Minnesota – Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Jarrett Culver, Keita Bates-Diop and Noah Vonleh. If the 25-year-old Layman sustains his improvement as an outside shooter and cutter/finisher, he’ll find minutes.

On scars, sutures, and healed wounds in Portland

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From Mount Tabor to Slabtown, Rip City has been waiting for this. After a 19-year hiatus, the Portland Trail Blazers are headed to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000.

CJ McCollum was the hero at Pepsi Center on Sunday, scoring 37 points and grabbing nine rebounds, closing the game with an incredible fourth quarter effort as the Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets, 100-96. It’s a game that fans in Portland will be talking about long after this season concludes, whenever that may be.

Right now it’s a celebration. In Oregon, Instagram stories have filled with posts of people screaming, crying, and hugging their friends, sometimes back-to-back and often all at once. Twitter has been set ablaze, the caps lock button stuck for some, a form of Internet yelling omnipresent. Phone calls have been made between fathers and daughters, e-mails sent, and horns honked down Hawthorne, Burnside, Couch, and Flanders streets.

After a long winter, the sun is shining in Portland. But this story started long before May 12, 2019.

At a distance, it might not be obvious that Sunday meant more than just a redemption of what went wrong last season for this team. Their Game 7 win over the Nuggets was, for many fans, cosmic payback for so much of what has been “almost” for the Blazers; a salve to heal the wounds of nearly two decades.

For the sweep at the hands of the Pelicans last year.

For the LaMarcus Aldridge-led teams that saw their hopes dashed when Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles against the Dallas Mavericks in 2015.

For the injury-plagued teams who had to do without No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden.

For the shortened legacy of Brandon Roy, whose career finished having never made it past the first round, and who never played in a Game 7.

For the fourth quarter collapse to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, a Game 7 disaster that saw that team fail to make it out of the first round again.

Quietly, an underlying opinion in Portland is that the franchise is snakebitten. A culture of supporting their lovable losers — even if “losers” isn’t a fair description — was how Blazers supporters operated. Deprived of stars to injury, coming up short, failing projections… all of it wired the synapses in the collective brains of Portlanders to expect the worst. And with a hum-drum offseason in 2018, who could blame Rip City on their lack of belief that this spring would be any different?

That thinking started to shift as the 2018-19 season started to gather steam. Before, the Blazers were criticized for keeping its major core intact. But at a certain point, that consistency began to be additive for Portland. This year, outside of Lillard, this team’s chemistry slowly became its best asset.

The Blazers swelled forward, with Jusuf Nurkic coming forth as Portland’s second-most important player on both sides of the ball. Mid-season additions of Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter bolstered Portland’s bench, and guys like Zach Collins, Seth Curry, Evan Turner, and Jake Layman all produced for Portland in a way they hadn’t before.

Still, heading into this postseason, gallows humor was the vernacular of choice in Multnomah County. Nurkic broke his leg with three weeks left in the regular season, and despite a strong coming on by Moe Harkless late in the year, it wasn’t a guarantee that the plucky Blazers would be able to get out of the first round.

Now Portland is heading to the Western Conference Finals to take on the Golden State Warriors. That in and of itself is medicine for the soul of Rip City.

Portland has been one of the best franchises in the NBA since 2000. That’s due to their dedicated fanbase and because of their former owner, the late Paul Allen. The Microsoft billionaire’s willingness to spend was only surpassed by his desire to win, and Portland has had just five losing seasons since the last time it was in the WCF.

Call it small market disease, underdog syndrome, or a chip on their shoulder, Blazers fans have craved the respect they’ve felt they deserved. They have wanted it for being good but not great; for loving this team without question; for being an outlier in success for a city its size. And yet, real or imagined, the answer has always come back: what have you done lately? In beating Denver, Portland now has something real — something material — to offer in support of how they’ve felt about this team all along.

So injuries, “almosts”, and alley-oops be damned. This one you can’t take away from the Blazers.

Portland’s Maurice Harkless questionable for Game 3 with ankle sprain

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It looked nasty when it happened.

Midway through the second quarter of Game 2 Wednesday, Portland’s Maurice Harkless went up to contest a Nikola Jokic shot and when he came down he rolled his ankle.

He left the game and did not return.

Harkless had an MRI which confirmed it was a right ankle sprain, and he is questionable for Game 3 Friday.

Harkless is a solid starter for the Trail Blazers, who averaged 7.7 points per game in the regular season and provides some athleticism and length. He struggled in Game 1 against Denver — like everyone in a Portland uniform seemed to — but started off hitting 2-of-3 and was +9 in Game 2 before the injury.

Expect Jake Layman Evan Turner to get more minutes with Harkless out.