Trail Mix: Practice notes, ESPN ranks Damian Lillard Top-15 player

 (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Portland Trail Blazers made their roster cuts on Friday, finalizing the regular season roster for the 2015-16 season. On Saturday they returned to the practice court in Tualatin as they prepare for Wednesday night’s opener against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Blazers ended the preseason with two losses in Los Angeles to the Lakers and Clippers but more importantly, their top two small forwards to injury in the final week of the preseason, Al-Farouq Aminu (left hamstring strain) and Moe Harkless (right ankle sprain). Neither practiced on Saturday, joining Gerald Henderson (left hip) and Cliff Alexanders (left knee bone bruise) as limited participants.

“(Henderson and Alexander), Farouq and Moe, none of them practiced today,” head coach Terry Stotts said.

Stotts said that the status of Harkless and Aminu for the opener is still up in the air.

Stotts was asked specifically about what they liked about Alexander–who didn’t play in the preseason–and why he made the team.

“He’s very talented, he’s very athletic, he’s very dynamic,” Stotts said. “He has a knack around the basket of finishing. He’s young and I think he has a big upside. He’s a good young man, it’s a good situation for him to learn the NBA game, to learn to be professional. I think he has a bright future.”

Stotts said that the next few days will be about cleaning up what they need to work on before working on Pelicans prep.

The Blazers have to clean up their turnovers and be mindful in transition defense.

“Transition defense is always going to be a concern and I think our turnovers are a concern,” Stotts said. “Those have been kind of the two consistent things throughout preseason that we have to take care of. The Clippers had a lot of transition baskets. For us to do what we need to do, we can’t afford to give up easy baskets. A lot of times those two things are tied to each other.

It’s season preview season and there has been plenty of Blazers coverage in the NBA previewsphere. We have our season preview coming out Sunday, which will be available online beforehand. is wrapping up the time honored tradition of #NBARank.

In this year’s edition, Portland’s Damian Lillard moved up one spot from 16th to 15th on the list.

According to the scoring system, Lillard was behind 14th ranked Dwight Howard by 0.5 points.

Dame was ranked 24th in the Sports Illustrated Top 100 NBA players.

As part of our Columbian season preview, we are releasing a season preview podcast with stories and audio from players and coaches. Subscribe to the Blazer Banter podcast on iTunes.

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Check out the Blazers season preview when it comes out this evening/tomorrow morning, on

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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