Buck Williams

Portland Trail Blazers' team chemistry in early 90s was just different

Portland Trail Blazers' team chemistry in early 90s was just different

Rip City has so many fond memories and moments that come to mind when looking back at the 1989-92 Trail Blazers seasons.

The early 90s teams were special on the court, no doubt, but their bond off the court may have been even more special.

“Those were fun times,” Terry Porter reminisced on NBA TV’s Trail Blazers documentary, ‘Rip City Revival.’ "There’s nothing like playing professional sports. You build a bond, a brotherhood, a willingness to protect each other, and you always have that.”

The final two segments of Sunday’s special on the 1989-92 Trail Blazers era focused on what made this Blazers squad so unique: their team chemistry.

As you know the longer you're with a group of guys, the more chemistry you develop, especially when you’re all really good friends and so that was the key to our success. -- Clyde Drexler on ‘Rip City Revival’

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

During Portland’s 1989–90 campaign, the team posted a 59–23 record. They defeated the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference playoffs, before ultimately losing to the defending-champion Detroit Pistons.

In the 1990–91 season, the Blazers posted a 63–19 record, which was the best in the league and the best in franchise history. Their season ended in the West Finals when the Lakers defeated the Blazers 4–2.

As for the 1991–92 season, Portland repeated as Pacific Division champions as they dominated through the Western Conference playoffs. They met the Chicago Bulls in the Finals, losing 4–2, with the big storyline being Michael Jordan vs. Drexler.

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' vs. 'The Last Dance': A different take on the 1992 NBA Finals

“The whole team, I mean that’s what made this team so unique, is the chemistry, the personnel,” Buck Williams said during the NBA TV special.

Drexler discussed how on the road they would hang out and go to movies together as a team. Porter reiterated that, adding this was a team that enjoyed hanging out with each other and would do so every chance they got. 

“What made it all go was trust, we trusted each other,” Williams added.

They had fun together.

“To have the success we had as a group and the excitement we brought this city and this state -- it is always going to be somewhere special in my heart. We grew up together on and off the court,” Porter said.

As Drexler put it, “That bond will keep you together for a lifetime.” 

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

My Blazers Pick 'Em team can beat your team

My Blazers Pick 'Em team can beat your team

My team can beat your team, I bet.

If you haven't taken part in "Blazers Pick'Em" yet, you should. Go to our website and find it here.

You get an opportunity to make up your own roster but with a twist. There's a limit, a kind of salary cap associated with your team. You have to be smart to pick up a few players on the cheap to supplement your stars -- just like a real NBA general manager.

Here's a look at my team:

  • Bill Walton -- my first choice. A former MVP of the Finals and a player who makes others better. At his healthy best, one of the greatest players of all time. If he isn't on your team, don't even talk to me.
  • Damian Lillard -- OK, this gives me two superstars to build my team around. A pick-and-roll with Lillard and Walton would be unstoppable and the ability of both players to play at clutch time would be tough to beat.
  • Buck Williams -- a bargain on the board. You go ahead and take Rasheed Wallace if you wish. Buck would pick him up and throw him in the Willamette River. A physical presence like no other.
  • Danny Ainge -- A tremendous competitor who knew how to win. A perfect role player alongside the stars of this team. And if you ever need a backup GM, he's your man.
  • Nic Batum -- Another bargain and a perfect fit on this roster because he can defend any position and would be happy with whatever shots he ended up with -- perfect fit.


Can the Blazers play a "mean" game as Lillard suggests?

Can the Blazers play a "mean" game as Lillard suggests?

Trail Blazer guard Damian Lillard told our Jason Quick yesterday that he'd like to see his team get a little nastier on the court:

“As a group, we have to be mean,’’ Lillard said. “We can’t play the game how we are off the court. We have to make people play an ugly game. I don’t want to say rough people up, but we have to make it an uncomfortable game.’’

He says he has seen every teammate exhibit a mean streak in practice or in a game, and suggested perhaps it’s time that becomes their game-time personality.

“Just, not being a nice team … everybody likes each other, that’s a great story … but maybe we need to play a mean game,’’ Lillard said.

Maybe so. That might work. But I must say, it's very difficult for players to do that. Mean players are usually born that way. Manufacturing them is a difficult task. And I really don't think the Trail Blazers have anyone on their roster who is naturally mean. This is not a mean team.

I think it's possible, though, to be tough without being mean and perhaps this is more what Portland's captain meant. I never thought Buck Williams or Brian Grant were inherently "mean." But they were dirt tough -- and actually, they still are after all these years.

Tough means holding your ground. Tough means not looking for trouble but being able to handle it when and if it comes. Tough means executing your defensive system even if it means personal sacrifice. It means putting your body on the line to stop a drive to the basket or trying to block a dunk even if it means you might be embarrassed on a poster. It means setting a strong pick to get a teammate a good shot. It means standing up for a teammate who is being bullied. It means not blaming anyone else for your own mistakes.

It means, overall, standing strong in the face of adversity.

They always used to say, "Tough times don't last but tough people do." And that's a pretty good way to look at the current Trail Blazer situation. This team is going through some tough times. It can't seem to solve its defensive problems and isn't beating the NBA's good teams. And that's not a good look for a team shooting for the upper half of the Western Conference's playoff bracket.

Let's see who lasts.