Trade Deadline Rumors 'Disheartening' But Not Especially Worrisome For The Blazers

by Casey Holdahl
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ORLANDO -- After a six-day All-Star break, the Portland Trail Blazers returned to practice Wednesday afternoon in Orlando to prepare for not only Thursday night’s game versus the Magic at the Amway Center (tipoff scheduled for 4 pm on CSNNW and 620 AM) but for the remaining 26 games of the 2016-17 season.

But there was at least one other thing besides Thursday’s game and the upcoming stretch run of the season on the minds of the players, as evidenced by some light gallows humor after practice. As players and coaches collected their things and made their way to the bus for a rainy ride back to the team hotel in downtown Orlando, a few players joked that perhaps they should take one last team photo in the event that someone gets traded before the NBA trade deadline, which expires Thursday afternoon at 12 pm Pacific. While one didn’t get a sense the players thought a trade was imminent, it was a tongue-in-check admission that anything is possible, especially for a team currently sitting outside of the playoff table.

“It’s a business and you just never know,” said Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard of rumors around the NBA trade deadline. “You see DeMarcus Cousins playing in the All-Star Game and he’s doing a post-game interview and finds out he’s traded to New Orleans. Him being that level of a player and it happening just like that — and obviously they’ve had their own issues in Sacramento, so it’s a little different — you just never know is the point.”

While some players might try to tune out the din of trade talk at the deadline, the combination of the Trail Blazers already executing one trade — sending center Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round pick to Denver in exchange for center Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick — and various rumors, most of questionable validity, involving players still on the team percolating throughout the All-Star break makes it basically impossible to avoid the topic all together. But players tend to learn rather quickly that, while there’s always the possibility of being traded, there’s little point in worrying too much about the prospect.

“We hear everything that’s going on, just like the rest of the fans,” said Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum. “Whether it’s rumors or people actually tweeting at us, we see everything, but it’s part of the business we live in. It’s a tough part of it but just got to try and stay focused and understand that a lot of this stuff if out of your control. You can’t control trades, you can’t control a lot of that stuff. All you can control is your preparation and how you react to it.”

Which can be said of the last man on the roster to a player like Lillard, whose name has been floated as a potential target, albeit in highly dubious rumors (it first went from the Trail Blazers were taking calls regarding Lillard to teams were contacting the Blazers about Lillard, only to be rebuffed with extreme prejudice, which are two very different things). While Lillard said he has no reason to believe he’s being shopped, he’s also been around long enough to take such talk in stride.

“I’ve seen my name thrown around,” said Lillard after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a surprise, but then it’s not a surprise just because on the business side, it doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes people like to rock the boat, it could be a rumor. If there was any truth to it, then that would be disheartening, especially for me because I’m really invested in Portland. I want to be here. It’s been tough to attract stars to Portland, historically, for this organization. For me to be 26 years old and invested in Portland and want to be in Portland, I don’t see why (being traded) would make sense.”

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Though making sense has never been a requisite for trade rumors, which is one of the reasons why head coach Terry Stotts typically discusses the realities of the deadline with his players at some point during the season.

“I generally address it at some point before the trade deadline and I did about a month ago with the team when the first rumors surfaced,” said Stotts. “When it came up, I just wanted to make sure that guys know it’s that time of year and over the next four weeks you’re going to hear a lot of stuff. Most of it is going to be untrue — almost all of it is going to be untrue — but it’s part of the business and part of our profession. I think every player in the NBA knows the situation with the trade deadline, I think most of them don’t let it affect them every much.”

And even the few who do have a hard time dealing with the uncertainly brought on by trade rumors will only have to sweat out a few more hours before the deadline expires. Of course, there will be more trade rumors this offseason, if for no other reason than the Trail Blazers owning three first round picks in the upcoming 2017 Draft and, but more often than not, those rumors result in little more than retweets.

“Rumor are just that: rumors,” said McCollum. “Unless (The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski) tweets it I don’t really believe it because Woj knows all things. He is the guru of breaking news. Unless he tweets it I don’t really pay much attention, but I’m sure there’s a little truth to a lot of rumors, or some truth to it in terms of teams taking calls. I’m sure teams are taking calls, they’re not just going to hang up on people, so I’m sure teams are taking calls…That doesn’t mean they’re going to make a trade.”

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