I will preface this post with a few disclaimers.
1. I am a Laker fan.
2. Hindsight is 20-20.
I grew up in Portland. Though I don’t remember it, I was alive during the Championship win in 1977. I remember Billy Ray Bates, Darnell Valentine, Kiki Vanderweghe. The first games I attended I saw Dr. Jack Ramsey (PhD in Education, in case you ever wondered) coach. I held on tight as Mychal Thompson did curls with me and another 2nd grader when he visited our school.
Jim (Yes, Jim not John) Paxson led the team in scoring. Kelvin Ramsey, Kermit Washington…I could go on about the 1981 Blazers, but I won’t.
The first game I went to was against the hapless Utah Jazz…the pre-Malone/Stockton Jazz. Billy Ray Bates seemed to have flown higher than our seats to dunk. I was hooked on the game.
However, something happened the next time I went to a Blazer game. Los Angeles came to town. I was already a fan of the Lakers, I’d written a biography of Kareem Abdul Jabbar in 4th grade. This was the Showtime Lakers. Magic Johnson, Kareem, Worthy and a rookie from Oregon State University and Benson High School, AC Green. I remember that the Portland crowd cheered when AC was introduced.
Things had gone awry the previous summer. Portland ended up with the second pick in the draft. This was an interesting predicament. I think it was pretty clear that Akeem (prior to his name change to Hakeem) Olajuwon would go with the top pick. When the second pick came around, I’m sure they were thinking they were just a piece of the puzzle away from greatness. They had two quality guards in Paxson and a young Clyde Drexler and solid forwards with Calvin Natt, Mychal Thompson and Kenny Carr all they needed was a center. Olajuwon was gone, so the next best thing was Kentucky’s Sam Bowie.
This is a huge piece of Blazer lore because the picks that followed Sam Bowie were Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, etc (incidentally, Carl Lewis [yes, the sprinter] was also drafted by the Bulls). The Blazers passed up three hall of famers for Bowie who became a huge bust which I can tell you already figured out by the blank stare on your face. 2nd picks are always a challenge. This may be a lot of people’s answer to the topic question. However, without Michael Jordan the Blazers reached the Finals twice.
Of course, Jordan reached the finals 6 times and won each time.
Things went wrong from the end of that second finals appearance. And lots of common questions come up:
1. Should they have traded Drexler (afterall he left and won a title)?
2. Should they have played Jermaine O’Neal?
3. J.R. Rider?
No doubt one of the biggest problems with the Blazers, and it’s still a problem is that they overpay for potential. Their roster today is dripping with talent and potential, but there’s no way they should be so far above the salary cap with that production. Here’s MKinMotion’s blueprint for the Blazers…and you better hurry before they become the San Jose Blazers or St. Louis Blazers.
1. Pick a couple of young players and build around them. But you must stick with the players you choose to build around and not keep changing.
2. Get rid of Travis Outlaw or get him to change his number (#25), see #3.
3. Get some good karma by retiring #25 for Jerome Kersey (who incidentally left the Blazers for the Spurs and won a championship), #30 for Terry Porter, #00 for Kevin Duckworth and #52 for Buck Williams…even Uncle Cliffy if you’re up to it.
4. Stop making bad trades and bad deals. I think their still paying salaries to Pippen, Sabonis, Bonzi and Damon. (That’s sarcasm, by the way, so no need to email me about being inaccurate).