Trail Mix: National praise for Blazers backcourt, Forbes releases 2016 NBA valuations

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Portland Trail Blazers return to the court Wednesday night in a nationally televised affair at home against the Atlanta Hawks, which will be shown on ESPN at 7:30 PM. It’s the first in a seven-game homestand for the Blazers after completing a quick three-game East Coast trip where they went 2-1.

As noted by friend of the blog Casey Holdahl, it’s not a coincidence that their recent East Coast swing that took them through three of the nation’s biggest media markets led to lots of national coverage on the squad. They’re now 0.5 games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference, which has been a surprise to many.

With the Blazers making their way through big media markets and the rest of the league reaching the halfway point of the season, there’s a lot of Blazers and NBA coverage.

SB Nation’s Mike Prada is one of the best in the business at breaking down game film and his feature on the problems Lillard and McCollum cause for opposing defenses is no different. A lot of the problems that the Blazers backcourt causes opponents are similar to the problems the Golden State Warriors cause for opponents. Perhaps I was a little early on Prada’s “Warriors Lite” moniker for the Blazers when I compared Mason Plumlee to Andrew Bogut on my weekly hit with 1080 The Fan’s Dusty and Cam in the Morning.

Another national take on the Blazers is a two-for-one, which is very Blazers, since they almost always look to create 2-for-1 situations at the end of quarters.

Ohm Youngmusik of penned two Blazers pieces today ahead of their ESPN-televised game against the Atlanta Hawks. The first is a closer look at the Blazers backcourt as a combination and their place in the NBA.

But Youngmusik’s other piece about the Blazers is a closer, well-deserved look at McCollum. Youngmusik got behind the scenes access with McCollum to give readers a sense of the insane amount of media that McCollum does in addition to his excellent play this season. Check out the piece to read a little bit more about where McCollum’s 13.7 points per game scoring jump ranks in history and McCollum’s aspirations to become the NBA’s version of Michael Strahan in his post-basketball life.

Obviously, it’s a been a big week for the Blazers. Damian Lillard released his first ever music video for his first single “Bigger Than Us,” which was lauded for its message of hope on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about overcoming racial and societal obstacles while drawing on Lillard’s own experience of being racially profiled. He talked about that experience in greater detail on USA Today’s A to Z podcast.

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Lillard hasn’t been shy in sharing his thoughts on police brutality, wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt before a game last year as well as expressing thoughts of understanding with protesters who were outside a Blazers game last year.

Lillard also has a new national ad as part of adidas “Creators Never Follow” campaign.

The Washington Post wouldn’t be left alone in the East Coast media’s takes on the Blazers. Neil Greenberg of their WaPo’s Fancy Stats blog broke down Portland’s turnover problem, saying that it’s the one thing holding them back from being in the playoffs.  He honed in on their problem taking care of the ball in transition. Greenberg unearthed an astounding, yet unsurprising stat if you’ve seen Al-Farouq Aminu in transition, that the Blazers have the second-highest turnover percentage in transition plays in the league according to Synergy Sports.

The Blazers received “B+” from insider Kevin Pelton and a “B” from their panel of experts. Ben Golliver of did a similar exercise, but gave the Blazers a “C+” citing the downside of potentially making the playoffs and the fact that Portland still needs more talent to contend.

In news that doesn’t seem important to me but generally draws interest, Forbes released their franchise valuations for all 30 NBA teams for 2016. The Blazers came in 15th in the franchise valuations with a valuation of $975 million, which is underneath the average valuation for an NBA team in 2016 according to Forbes at $1.25 billion. The Blazers were the 12th in the franchise valuations last year. Just a reminder, the Forbes valuations are a best guess on what the franchises are worth and not actual report on what the franchises are actually worth.

The Blazers announced on Tuesday that they players will be sending 150 local kids will attend every home game for the rest of the season. That begins with Wednesday’s game against the Hawks. The players involved in providing the tickets for the children are none other than Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Gerald Henderson, Moe Harkless and Tim Frazier.

Here’s the description of each section the players will donate tickets to and the causes they are supporting from the press release the team sent out.

Damian Lillard – “Lillard Timers”

Organizations throughout the greater Portland area including the local Special Olympics and Ronald McDonald House Charities affiliates, as well as Portland public schools and their related programs.


“This ticket program is great because it provides community organizations the opportunity to visit the Moda Center and experience Trail Blazers basketball. I’m excited to see all the groups that will be sitting in the ‘Lillard Timers’ section and rooting us on.”


CJ McCollum – “CJ’s Crew”

Organizations focused on youth from underserved communities and girls, including Friends of the Children and Girls Inc.


“I attended my first NBA game when I was 10 years old, and it was one of the most memorable moments of my childhood. I am incredibly excited to provide tickets to young people throughout Portland, who otherwise may not have the opportunity to attend Trail Blazers games and create their own memories.”


Meyers Leonard – “Leonard’s Troops”

Military members and their families


“This is a great opportunity to give back to servicemen and women who give us so much. Time spent together is even more precious for military families, and I’m honored to provide a night of entertainment for these deserving families throughout the season.”


Gerald Henderson – “GH Juniors”

Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters


“Youth development has always been a passion of mine, so it is important to me to support organizations that are helping youth thrive. I want to pass the game of basketball onto the next generation, and what better way than to offer kids the opportunity to see it for themselves.”


Maurice Harkless – “Mini Moes”

Boys & Girls Clubs and underserved youth


“I know that coming to a game or meeting someone you admire can change your life forever. I just want kids to experience that with me the way I was given the chance with people who came before me.”


Tim Frazier – “Frazier’s Point”

Alzheimer’s Association Oregon Chapter and Alzheimer’s Network of Oregon


“It’s important for me to support people affected by Alzheimer’s, including families and caretakers. This is something that has affected my family, so I know how hard it can be on everyone involved. I want to give people a night away from the challenges they are facing while battling this disease.”


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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