The Portland Trail Blazers held practice Saturday morning at their facility in Tualatin in preparation for Sunday night’s game versus the Thunder at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio 620 AM). Some notes from practice…
• Sunday’s game will be the first time the Trail Blazers will face the Carmelo Anthony as a member of the Thunder after an unsuccessful attempt by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to convince the veteran forward to waive his no-trade clause with the Knicks in order to clear the way for a trade to Portland. While it’s true that both players made a pitch, the lengths to which they went to convince Anthony might have been blown a little out of proportion.
“People made a big deal about it,” said McCollum. “We openly recruited him twice, that was it. Somebody asked us about it, we told them. I was in New York all summer and I talked to him about it one time. Told him about our team and how he could help and that was the end of it. We worked out, I never mentioned it again. It wasn’t like we were in pursuit like people made it out to be.”
Instead, Anthony opted to join Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City, a decision that neither McCollum nor Lillard hold against the 12-time All-Star.
“You knew he was going to get moved somewhere, you just didn’t know where,” said Lillard. “We were one of the options and it didn’t work out. I didn’t have much of a reaction to it…. A little after he got traded we spoke. He wished me luck, I wished him luck. That was it.”
• Though the Thunder are certainly a different team with the addition of Paul and Anthony, it’s still reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook who makes Oklahoma City go.
“I still see Russell Westbrook,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “He’s still a dynamic force. I think he’s done a good job of incorporating Paul George and Carmelo into it, but the team is still very much driven by Russell Westbrook.”
Westbrook is averaging 19.5 points per game on 45 percent shooting through eight games this season, far less than the 31.6 points he averaged last season as the first, second and third options for the Thunder. And after getting off to a 4-4 start, some have questioned if Anthony and Paul are the right kind of players to pair with Westbrook, but as the season goes on, the assumption is that whatever issue they might have in terms of fit will be overcome by raw talent.
“They can make Russell’s job easier. They’re going to have their opportunities,” said Stotts. “Certainly the dynamics are a little different because of what Paul George and Carmelo bring.”
• On Friday afternoon, Damian Lillard posted a video of a rainbow whose end seemed to land right near his home. Saturday afternoon, Lillard was still astounded by the optical illusion, which is caused by light passing through water droplets.
“It was there for a while!” said Lillard of his own personal rainbow. “Me and my brother texted about it. I was like ‘There’s a rainbow landing right in my backyard.’ That’s crazy. I don’t know how many times as a kid I used to look like ‘I wonder where the end of that rainbow is. Is it actually a pot of gold?’ Seriously, it’s crazy.”