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Kerry Eggers On the NBA: Trail Blazers prominent among the league's quotable

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was a team leader last year — in his quotability. Even the most sourpuss NBA fan has to admit 2019 was a bountiful year for praiseworthy quotes.

Coaches, players and even broadcasters let loose with a plethora of comments pliable in construction of an entertaining piece.

This annual column is dedicated to quotes from around the league, but the Trail Blazers will get plenty of play here in perhaps the most quotable year in franchise history.

We'll start with center Jusuf Nurkic, who has been mostly out of the media loop since suffering a compound leg fracture in March. Before then, though, the "Bosnian Beast" offered appraisals of players from throughout the league for whom he holds disdain. Not bad for a young man speaking a second language:

• After an on-court brush with Philadelphia's Ben Simmons: "I'm a better shooter than him. The way he's able to shoot — or not able to shoot — is ridiculous."

• On big man DeMarcus Cousins: "He's not that tough. He looks like first-team flopping."

• On erratic-shooting guard Russell Westbrook: "Who? You mean Westbrick?"

• On social media giant Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers: "He tries to be more famous than a player."

• On criticism taken from then-Houston guard Iman Shumpert: "I'm not worried about a guy who's going into retirement soon."

Portland coach Terry Stotts is underrated as a funny guy. Some examples of his dry wit:

• Joking after a practice session after having not practiced for a long spell: "We practice once a month, whether we need it or not."

• Joking again after the Blazers ran up a season-high 28 fast-break points in a blowout of Charlotte (going in, Portland ranked 23rd in the league with 10.7 fast-break points per game): "I finally took the reins off them and said 'Go ahead, let it go.'"

• Asked before the Blazers-Nuggets playoff series if Denver's altitude would affect his players in games played there: "I don't know. You trying to get into my head?"

Swingman Evan Turner is now with Atlanta, probably still spewing gems for the media to enjoy. While with Portland, "ET" offered a few for the local scribes:

• After notching back-to-back triple-doubles off the bench: "I'm just gonna start lobbying for a spot in the rafters now."

• On why he preferred the Los Angeles Clippers as a first-round playoff opponent: "Just for selfish reasons. Nice weather; easy flight; nice weather. Everybody wants a little sun. Being in LA, I start switching over from cotton to silk. Get my sexy on. I got some sunglasses I want to wear. Mostly for fashion reasons."

• After the Blazers' victory in Game 7 of the Denver series: "Pressure can bust pipes or make diamonds. We never thought we were going to lose."

CJ McCollum is a former sportswriter — sports editor of the Lehigh Brown and White — so he knows the value of delivering a good quote:

• Asked at what point he was thinking about going for a triple-double in a game against Atlanta in which he got his first career triple-double: "Probably the last possession. Honestly, I was just trying to get through the game and get home and relax, watch some Netflix."

• Looking ahead to Game 7 of the Denver playoff series: "We understand what's at stake. Somebody's got to go to Cabo or Cancun, as Chuck (Barkley) would say."

• Asked about load management through the 2019-20 season, he referred to another NBA guard, Kawhi Leonard: "The race in the West is tight. I don't know if we can afford to 'Kawhi it,' so to speak. You'll Kawhi your way out of the playoffs."

More Blazer, and ex-Blazer, stuff (Warning: these are NBA players, not missionaries, and some of their word choices reflect that):

• "With about eight (seconds) on the clock, I said out loud, 'We've seen this too many times before. This is going to be unbelievable. He's going to make this shot, and we're going to move on to the second round.' And sure enough." — former Blazer Meyers Leonard, on Damian Lillard's 37-foot playoff series-winner against Oklahoma City.

• "I'm getting rid of these mother——s tomorrow. I'm going to get the last laugh, I promise you that. " — Lillard, privately to friends, the day before his Game 5 shot eliminated the Thunder, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

• "I hope everybody back in Mississippi is smiling right now." — Rodney Hood, a Meridian, Mississippi, native, after scoring a career playoff-high 25 points in a Game 6 playoff win over the Nuggets.

• "He is really weird, man. A lot of people wear flip-flops, but they wear socks — really thick socks — with them. But this guys wears literally nothing in the winter but just sandals. I'm like, 'You're not gonna get sick.' It's just his genes are different. I don't know what kind of genes he got, but it's different." — Enes Kanter on former OKC teammate Steven Adams.

Steve Kerr is another friend of the column, having contributed front-line quotes for many years. The Golden State mentor didn't disappoint in 2019, either:

• After a playoff victory over Houston completed without star forward Kevin Durant: "Our guys are f—- giants. Sorry, Mom."

• After winning Game 5 of the NBA Finals but losing Durant to a ruptured Achilles tendon: "An incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time."

• After a flop by L.A. Clippers guard Patrick Beverley: "It looked like (Mike) Tyson punched him in the face. ... I worry that he's going to get whiplash on some of those flops."

• About his boss (Warriors GM Bob Myers): "The first championship habit is a GM having a habit of bringing in great players. So we've got that one down."

• After President Trump said Kerr looked like a "little boy" when he declined comment on the China controversy launched with Houston GM Daryl Morey's tweet about Hong Kong: "It was really surprising, but mainly because it was me. Then you stop and think — this is just every day (with Trump). There was another (foil) today. There will be a new one tomorrow. And the circus will go on."

Stephen Curry, also criticized by the president for not visiting the White House, after Trump's admonishment of Kerr: "I gotta welcome Steve to the club."

Curry, thin-skinned to media criticism after the Warriors were blown out of their first two games of the 2019-20 season: "It's easy to throw darts at a team trying to figure it out. Say whatever you want to fill that 24-hour news cycle. It's cool with us."

Durant did a nice job avoiding self-modesty more than once:

• After LeBron James picked him first on his team for the All-Star Game: "What else is he supposed to do?"

• On Durant's motivation to opt out of his contract with Golden State and sign a free-agent contract: "I just want to make sure I get as much money as I can on my next deal so I can stack up my money and figure it out. That's the plan — play basketball and stack money."

• On Durant's distaste for the league that allows him to be a multimillionaire: "Some days, I hate the NBA. Some days, I hate the circus of the NBA. Some days, I hate that the players let the fame that comes with the business alter their minds about the game. Sometimes, I don't like being around the executives and the politics that come with it. I hate that."

• Former Golden State teammate Draymond Green, before Durant signed with Brooklyn, on his teammate's potential move into free agency: "If he go, he go."

Jimmy Butler is normally not a quote machine, but as he moved from Minnesota to Philadelphia to Miami in little over a year, he had things to say:

• Rocking the double negatives when asked about his relationship with former Minnesota teammates: "I don't think nobody is going to take nothing personal."

• On his reputation: "I don't think I'm that bad a guy. I'm not an a-hole like everybody thinks I am. I'm a little extra at times. I don't think there's too much wrong with that, either."

• On his behavior: "Damn right I'm confrontational. I would be the first to tell you; I don't give a damn. I've always been like that. I haven't said it all the time — I've always acted it, though. ... I don't give a damn what you say, because you don't know what I go through."

• As Nurkic notes, Philadelphia center Embiid will never have a self-image problem. Said Embiid: "I'm the most unstoppable player in the league."

• More Embiid: "I don't like shooting 3's, but you're not going to disrespect me by giving me a lot of space. In that situation, I'm going to shoot it. I'm Joel Embiid. I don't get disrespected; I do the disrespecting."

Doc Rivers is not popular with Blazer fans, but he's another friend to the column:

• After Kawhi Leonard left NBA champion Toronto to sign with the Clippers: "It's not like he left on bad terms, really. It's one of those leave-good situations, not one of those leave-awful situations."

• On the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers: "They haven't had the year they wanted. Or maybe they have — I'm not so sure."

Singular gems from the year in the NBA:

• "They're Brady and Gronk — the black version." — Golden State's Andre Iguodala, on teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

• "This is kind of a Dirk-and-Nash type of situation, only these guys are taller." — Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, on acquiring Kristas Porzingas to pair with Luka Doncic.

"A lot of people, because of Kyrie's announcement at the beginning of the year, thought it was a marriage. I think it's more like an engagement. And we're going to get married on July 1." — Boston GM Danny Ainge, in February on hopes the Celtics could re-sign Kyrie Irving if he opted out of his contract after the 2018-19 season.

• "You guys are part of the destruction of locker rooms." — Irving to reporters as part of a rambling, long-winded discourse in a media session in February after he revealed he may not be re-signing with Boston after all. He wound up with Brooklyn.

• "F—- patience! I want to play. I've been patient long enough. What do I got to be patient for? It's time. What are we waiting for? If I'm out there, play me." — Miami's Dion Waiters, after playing 12 minutes against Milwaukee seven games after returning from ankle surgery. Waiters was responding to coach Erik Spoelstra's comment that Waiters must wait to see significant playing time because of the team's depth and the seriousness of his injury.

• "Get to the f-ing playoffs before you speak to me." — Russell Westbrook to Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns and Dario Saric during a Timberwolves-Thunder game. Minnesota won 131-120.

• "I probably s—t my pants." —  Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokoumpo, recalling his first career start against the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony in 2013.

n "Ben Simmons is a great player in transition. And once you get him into half-court, he's average." — Brooklyn's Jared Dudley.

• "I don't have an ego — it's dead. It had to die for me to be who I am. Sometimes when you want to become who you want to be, you have to die within yourself. Once you learn that you have to give up yourself for the team, that's when things flourish." — Dwight Howard, after being waived by Memphis, his fifth team in five years. He eventually signed with the L.A. Lakers.

• "I think I became the scapegoat. I just got to the point where it was, 'Oh, it's just Willie's fault.' And that s—t drained me. I'm all about energy and love and s—t, and to have to come to the spot where I thought I had a lot of love and it was up in the air — it just felt weird." —  Willie Cauley-Stein, on Sacramento allowing him to go into free agency.

• "People used to think they could tell me how to do my job. That hasn't changed, except now they're telling me how to preach." — Former NBA referee Steve Javie, now a deacon at a Catholic church in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

• "That's what my mom told me. Somebody hits you, you hit their ass back. So I think my mom would be proud of what he did." — Minnesota's Jordan Bell, after teammate Karl-Anthony Towns got into a confrontation with Embiid. Bell and Embiid each drew a two-game NBA suspension.

Charles Barkley is always a contributor to this column. We thank him for his years of service:

• On his studio job with TNT: "I'm 56 years old, and I've never had a real job. And I'm not looking for one. I'm going to ride this TV thing out."

• After a statue of him was erected on Legends Walk outside of the Philadelphia 76ers' arena: "I don't know if I've ever been that skinny."

• And, on a personal note, after hearing my voice asking a question in a postgame conference during the playoffs, Charles Barkley made this remark: "Man, Kerry Eggers is still there? He gotta be 105 years old. Geez Kerry!"

As I later told Charles: "If I'm 105, that makes you 95."

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@kerryeggers


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