(Eric Gay / The Associated Press)
Damian Lillard has skills, and now has the trophy sponsored by a fast-food chain to prove it.
On Saturday night at the All-Star Weekend, Lillard won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge in Houston. The competition favors fundamentally-sound point guards and sends participants through a basketball obstacle course of dribbling, passing and shooting. Think back to high school basketball practice but with a boatload of cash for the player who actually knows how to execute a chest pass.
Through Lillard's victorious efforts, he earned a $25,000 college scholarship for a Houston student in the Boys & Girls Club."I think the biggest thing for me was try not to be too cool and speed through it, but take my time with the passes and shots," Lillard said. "And when I'm making a pass, I basically try not to run away before it goes in so I don't waste my time."
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So, today's feature story shows Jared Jeffries in a different light but last Tuesday we saw him in his natural role. As a basketball player.
Despite the team's 117-104 loss to the Miami Heat, Jeffries had one of his best games as a Blazer. He played just over 20 minutes, scored a season-high seven points and finished with the highest plus/minus statistic on the team with a plus-24.Although at times this season, Jeffries does not spend significant moments on the floor. When the Blazers play veteran teams like the Heat, Jeffries becomes one of the most useful pieces on the roster. In the 10 games that Jeffries has played 10-plus minutes, six have come when the Blazers squared off against current playoff teams while another came against the underperforming yet veteran Los Angeles Lakers.
Whatever voodoo came over the team while in New Orleans, let's hope the vacation broke the curse.
Last Wednesday in New Orleans was the last stop of a six-game road trip and the final game before the All-Star break, and the Blazers played like they'd rather be packing for their flights home.It was the lowest point of the season. No, really. The Blazers scored the fifth-lowest total in team history with 63 points against the Hornets (remember, once a single player dropped 65 against the Blazers — Kobe Bryant on March 16, 2007, the highest scoring mark against Portland). The team also created season lows in field-goal percentage and field goals made. If they haven't already, the Blazers video crew needs to burn all visual evidence of this game.
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And pop went the season.
That could be the terrifying plot if Wesley Matthews' ankle does not hold up. If the New Orleans' blowout loss wasn't bad enough, Matthews left that game early after experiencing what he described as a "pop" in his leg. Matthews initially thought it was his knee but the team later declared the injury as a sprained ankle.
Although Matthews said he planned to return for the Tuesday night game against the Phoenix Suns, he has battled various lingering injuries this season and this "pop" is just the latest to threaten the fragile Blazers' rotation.