The release of Brandon Roy this week got me thinking about who my all-time favorite Blazers are. Of course, Roy is on the list. Now, I’m not saying these are the most talented players the team ever saw, and you’ll notice that none of them are before 1990 or so. I moved to Oregon in 1988, and started following basketball at the same time. Therefore, these are the guys whom I loved to watch play the most.
Terry Porter – Point Guard
Porter is, to me, the greatest shooter in Trail Blazers history. He was the kind of guy that had you standing up as he shot, because you felt like it was always going to go in (and it quite often did). He also was very smart, and his leadership was key to the two Blazers’ finals runs in the 90’s.
Brandon Roy – Shooting Guard
What more can be said about Brandon, other than that he was supremely gifted, a natural leader, and a top-ten NBA player when his knees finally gave out. He was deft around the basket, was unstoppable with his step-back jumper, and had an innate sense of time and place when it came down to the end of the game.
Clyde Drexler – Small Forward
It’s kind of a cheat, but I put Clyde at the Small Forward Spot. He can handle it. Clyde always had that incredible athleticism, and a “how’d he do that?!” kind of game. His shot was too flat, he could do nothing with his left hand, and yet he consistently made plays. He was also the kind of guy you’d love to hang out with.
Rasheed Wallace – Power Forward
Rasheed was a knucklehead, to be sure, but he was OUR knucklehead. The guy was so naturally good at basketball, that the game itself seemed to come easy to him. I always felt like no matter what, through all the technical fouls and other nonsense, that Rasheed cared about winning.
Arvydas Sabonis – Center
It’s been well documented that Arvydas was past his prime when the Blazers finally got him, but he was still mesmerizing to watch play. That flat, flip of a 3-pointer. Those no look drop passes to cutters. That scowl when he would bang against Shaq in big games.
Although he has the well-earned reputation as a grinder, the label belies Matthews’s impressive skill-set. I think he has grown as a player each of the years he’s been in Portland, even if his stats are fairly static. He’s a smart, witty guy, and I think that he brings that intelligence to the court.
Another polarizing figure for some, I always felt Rod Strickland was like watching lightning. He was so quick, and as a high school player, I would tape my fingers just like Strickland, and try to BE him when I played.
I love watching LaMarcus play. He gets bagged on at times for being “soft,” which is a label I’ll never understand. All the guy does is hit shots and rebound. You can’t name another player with his kind of shooting touch, who also bangs down low like Reggie Evans. It’s one or the other. I’ll take the really talented guy who can score in a wide variety of ways.
Uncle Cliffy! Another dynamic inside-out big, Cliff Robinson was always so easy to root for, and not just for his trademark headband. When he stepped up against David Robinson in the playoffs his rookie year, without backing down, he won my heart forever.
With his weight struggles, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Duckworth was a two-time all-star in the 90’s, when the Western Conference was packed with talented centers. That sweet jump hook and push jump shot was automatic, and he always seemed like a guy you wanted on your side.
If you can’t cheer for a guy like Ime Udoka, then you probably have no soul. Obviously, the fact he’s from Portland helps, but he was really the glue to the transition year the Blazers had from the Jail Blazers era to the Roy-Aldridge era. He’s proof that you don’t have the be the team’s star to be the team’s leader. His corner three was deadly, and he was a lock-down defender. It’s no wonder the Spurs stole him away.
Another guy from Portland, Damon always got a bad rap from his hometown fans. I am not sure why they thought he’d be the same guy who averaged 20 points a game for Toronto, when he was never going to get the number of shots he did on those bad Raptors teams. I appreciated that Damon looked to be aggressive, not necessarily just for his own shot. He wanted to win more than anything else.
Least Favorite Blazers Ever
Looking over the list of past Blazers, I realized there are guys for whom I always hated to cheer. For most of them, it was their games on the court, not who they were as people.
I’m sure he’s a nice person, but he’s useless on the court. I always feel like he’s not shooting to make the shot, but rather not to miss. The fact he can’t do anything else but shoot three-pointers makes him a liability. And let’s face it: he has kind of a punchable face.
Politically, he’s a carpet-bagging douchebag. But I disliked him long before I knew any of that. Wildly untalented, he was like watching a gangly JV center who you knew was someday going to grow into his body. The problem was, Dudley was fully-grown.
Donuts, donuts, donuts. Plus, I don’t know if you knew this, but his horrible play wasn’t his fault, or at least that’s what he’s told me.
Another North Carolina point guard disaster. McInnis was the classic “all ability, no game” NBA player. He coasted by his whole life by being quicker than everybody else, but never worked hard to develop the skills to truly excel when faced with equally gifted players. I dreaded every missed open jumper and stupid turnover.
Miles takes the cake for squandered ability. 6’9″ with a huge wingspan, Miles looked like he should have been good at basketball, but he wasn’t. He couldn’t shoot, and wasn’t smart enough to contribute in other ways. On the plus side, he did a really nice job acting in his cameo in Van Wilder, so you know, that’s nice.
What do you think? Who were your favorite and least favorite players?