Damian Lillard in a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings

The Trail Blazers’ 2019–2020 season ended rather unceremoniously: a 4–1 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers played mostly without Damian Lillard, who dislocated his left index finger earlier in the series, in a “Bubble League” with virtual crowds watching from the sidelines. It was especially disappointing considering Charles Barkley brought out the old broom after the Blazers’ win against the Lakers in game one. (Thanks a lot, Chuck.)

But it’s not all bad.

If you’re counting, last season was the Blazers’ seventh consecutive appearance in the playoffs (three more and they win a free sub). So let’s all take the L with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila), and look forward to the 2020–2021 season, which promises a new rotation, cardboard crowds, and more opportunities for the Blazers to become the most dominant team in the West.

SQUAD GOALS

Because Lillard and CJ McCollum can’t do everything themselves, the Blazers have spent the offseason working out the kinks in their rotation of players. This year, we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

From left to right: Jusuf Nurkić, Rodney Hood, and Enes Kanter 

Last season saw the return of Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered a horrifying injury to his leg in 2019, and we couldn’t be happier to see the big man back on the court. He racked up a 17.6-point average over the eight games he played after his July return. 

Twitter did its thing back in November after news broke of Enes Kanter’s return to Portland. A three-team deal brought Kanter, who spent half a season in Portland and was with the Celtics last year, back to the Blazers. In his previous stint with the team, he averaged 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 22.3 minutes. 

Also in the Blazers arsenal: former Rocket Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr., who was picked up by Portland in a $19 million deal. Rodney Hood and Carmelo Anthony have also re-signed, although Melo is finding himself more on backup (but nonetheless important) duty this time around.

CARDBOARD CROWD

So you want to go catch a game at the Moda Center. Well … you can’t. Not until we all start wearing masks, get our vaccinations, or reach herd immunity the natural way (let’s try to avoid that one). But what you can do is what the MLB invited fans to do last season, which is get yourself a fan cutout

It’s pretty simple: for $99 you can choose from three Blazers jersey options, upload a photo of yourself, and … well, that’s it! Ten percent of the proceeds from each cutout go toward the Trail Blazers Foundation, and you may get a chance to see you and your tiny head in the Fred Meyer Fan Zone live on TV. Even the Portland Pickles got in on the action. 

FIVE & DAME (D.O.L.L.A.)

Lillard doesn’t just drop vicious stepback threes and then wave goodbye, he also drops bangers (apologies to my middle school English teachers, who would certainly be solemnly shaking their heads at me right now). When he’s not on the court, Dame D.O.L.L.A. (Different On Levels the Lord Allows) is in the studio, crafting hits like this year’s “Kobe” and “GOAT Spirit.” Maybe you could listen to a few of them while we go over the Blazers’ five upcoming games. 

Utah Jazz

Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

When: Wednesday, December 23, 7 p.m. PST

TV: NBC Sports Northwest

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Houston Rockets

Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

When: Saturday, December 26, 7 p.m. PST

TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Los Angeles Lakers

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: Monday, December 28, 7 p.m. PST

TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Los Angeles Clippers

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: Wednesday, December 30, 7 p.m. PST

TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Golden State Warriors

Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA

When: Friday, January 1, 7:30 p.m. PST

TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Click here for the Trail Blazers' 2020–2021 schedule 

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