Trail Mix: Damian Lillard, Blazers Featured In NBA “Everybody Up” Promo
The Portland Trail Blazers had Friday off after playing their second preseason game on Thursday against Utah.
But, there is not a shortage of Blazers content on the interwebs and here is a sampling of what the internet had this week.
The Blazers were also featured on SportsCenter earlier this week. TrailBlazers.com reporter Casey Holdahl has the video over at his ForwardCenter blog.
My buddy Sean Highkin did the Trail Blazers preview over at ProBasketballTalk.com where he evaluated keys to the Blazers season, including the improvement of their younger players.
Will the streak of good health continue? Just about everything broke right for Portland last season, injury-wise. Aldridge missed a couple weeks with a back injury, but other than that, the Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez starting five was stable and productive. It’s a lot easier for head coach Terry Stotts to tinker with the bench rotation when the starters are as locked-in as they were. Two straight years of that kind of stability is a lot to ask.
How much will the young guys improve? Since the Blazers are bringing back essentially the same team they had last season, their best hope for improvement is in some of their younger bench players. Will Bartonwas one of the few bright spots in the Blazers’ second-round loss to the Spurs. Rookie C.J. McCollum missed the first three months of the season with a broken foot and never really cracked the rotation when he returned.Meyers Leonard still hasn’t proven he’s an NBA player. Last year’s starters played the second-most minutes of any five-man unit in the league (1,373) and their next-most used unit played just 119 minutes. As good as their starters are, somebody is going to get banged up or get into foul trouble at some point, and at least a couple of that group of young players needs to step up as a reliable contributor night-to-night to take some of that pressure off.
Late last week as the so-called debate raged on about the NBA’s best backcourt, Grantland’s Jalen and Jacoby podcast with Jalen Rose and David Jacoby ranked the Blazers tandem of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews as the 8th best backcourt in the league.
The Blazers were ranked behind Cleveland’s Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. Hat-tip to Casey Holdahl.
In the spirit of rankings, SLAM released their player rankings with Damian Lillard coming in at no. 17. Nick DePaula writes:
The avid Wing Stop and Benihana fan has also committed himself to entirely revamping his diet, which is impressive because those places are both amazing. He’s completely ditched fast food. No more soda. No salt. The only sugar he gets is from fruits. After 90 days of sticking to the strict diet and even enlisting a personal chef, he’s already feeling the benefits of the added layer of focus. “I feel great,” he beams. “I wake up in the morning and I got a lot more energy just from paying attention to my diet. I’ve been amazed by some of the things I’ve seen change with my body and how I feel, just because of my diet.”
All of that work, focus and drive to outwork his competition, despite the growing star profile, the added off-court endorsements and the accolades that keep piling up, has Lillard looking to carry the Blazers right back into the postseason and toward being considered an elite squad. “You look at teams like the Spurs and Oklahoma City, and you see that they do it every year,” he notes. “We’ve only done it one time. Before we can say we are an elite team, we gotta keep proving it up.”