Portland Trail Blazers Rumors
A growing question inside the Trail Blazers’ early season has been the noticeable drop off in production from Maurice Harkless. The Blazers’ starting small forward is not scoring. He’s not rebounding. He’s not producing much of anything these days “I just feel like I’m just out there to be out there … I don’t know,’’ Harkless said Wednesday. “I’m just out there, and that’s frustrating,’’ Harkless said. “I’m just out there playing defense, which is cool … running back and forth. Out there running track.’’
Harkless, for his part, says he wants to contribute more, but is not sure how he can in this offense. “We gotta figure out ways … not only me, but ways to get other people going,’’ Harkless said. “Every game it’s the same thing … we play through three people.’’ Harkless was referring to guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic, who have combined to take 57 percent of the team’s shots this season. “Everybody else is just …. It’s hard to get into a rhythm,’’ Harkless said. “It’s that simple.’’
The Sixers were closing out the Portland Trail Blazers with ease on Wednesday night, and with a 22-point lead late in the fourth quarter it seemed like everybody was getting a chance to play. Everybody except Jahlil Okafor. The fans took notice and spoke up: “We want Okafor!” Egged on by Joel Embiid, the crowd chanted over and over, roaring their plea for Okafor to take the court. The player who once led the team in scoring quietly stayed on the bench.
After voicing his displeasure, Lillard was well aware his criticism would draw the ire of the league office and perhaps result in a fine. But he didn’t seem to care. When his postgame interview was over, he turned to CJ McCollum at the locker next to him and offered the following: “Go ahead and fine me,” he said. “I’ve got the check ready to go.”
Lillard scored 30 points, making 11 of 27 field goals, in the defeat. But despite his high volume of field goals, he attempted only three free throws, a fact that left him incredulous as he left Wells Fargo Center. “I got to the rim a lot,” Lillard said. “And I’m getting smacked in my head, smacked on my shooting hand when I’m going to the basket. Guys (are) knocking me to the ground every other play. Like hard. And (officials) know I’m trying to score. It’s impossible for me to shoot two or three free throws. It’s impossible. As much as I got to the rim and as much as they know that I’m trying to score, it’s impossible for me to get the (crap) beat out of me as often as I do.”
When asked if he felt he had earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt from officials at this stage of his career, Lillard scoffed. He said a foul is a foul, no matter who you are, and he simply wants officials to do their jobs. “I don’t want to look at it like, I’m this person or I’m that (so) you’re supposed to call these fouls,” he said. “I think a foul is a foul. I know it’s tough. They’ve got a tough job, man. But I’m not one of these guys out here trying to sell them on every call … I’m playing to score the ball. I ain’t trying to be out here hitting the ground every other play, because that’s not what I’m going out here trying to do. I’m not going to be falling out the air to get two free throws and hitting the ground the way I’m hitting the ground. I’m getting hit. I don’t want to keep doing it.”