As Rip City has been reminiscing about the late 90s/early 2000s Trail Blazers teams, especially now with a handful of those games airing on NBCSNW with Trail Blazers Classic Games, many fans are asking the question: Why couldn't Damon Stoudamire and Co. bring home a championship?
Stoudamire recently joined the 'Let's Get Technical Podcast' with Bonzi Wells and Rasheed Wallace along with SiriusXM NBA Radio's Gerald Brown.
It was on Feb. 13, 1998 when Stoudamire was traded from Toronto to Portland.
Being traded midseason back to his hometown during his fourth year in the league had Mighty Mouse feeling a certain kind of way.
“I was excited about being able to get to play with all that young talent and even more so than going home," Stoudamire said. "But you know what it was surreal playing at home. It’s crazy because… when you get introduced in the starting lineup they would announce me, Wilson High School, you know what I mean -- like, Wilson High School, Portland Oregon. It was surreal from that standpoint and I always watched the Blazers growing up."
Stoudamire, Wallace, and Wells took a trip down memory lane remembering the good times (and the bad times) of the 1999-01 Portland Trail Blazer teams.
Bonzi set the record straight on the Portland community during the ‘Jail Blazers Era.’
“People thought the community was hard on us and stuff, but the community really embraced us.”
The trio didn’t hold anything back.
They know “it’s all love” from Blazers fans nowadays, but they wanted to get this message out: They cared about winning, even though people seemed to peg them as not giving a damn.
They cared so deeply that the hatred of their opponents, especially in the playoffs, was apparent on the court.
“Dudes was damn near fighting each other… When we went out, we didn’t like the other team, for real, like for real,” Stoudamire said.
And what about those battles against the Lakers?
“When the playoffs came we didn’t like the other team,” Stoudamire added. “It’s different today, but I totally get it. I’m not knocking them for that… During the time that we was playing the Lakers, they didn’t like us and we didn't like them.”
“Hell no.” Sheed interjected. “It made for better games.”
“Hated them,” Wells added.
“But there was respect amongst everybody.” Stoudamire continued.
That conversation about the hatred towards LA evolved into what many Trail Blazers fans both young and old have had many discussions about…
Could or should that late 90s/early 2000s Trail Blazers team brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Rip City?
“Just thinking about the teams that we had and all the stuff -- the championship we may have left on the table. Just think about it,” Bonzi said. “How great could we’ve been had they kept our teams together? … You’re one of the original guys like Rasheed of that Portland team, ‘Jail Blazers,’ as they want to call us, why do you think we didn’t win a championship in your mind?”
Biggie paused before answering Bonzi's question.
And then he got real.
It’s crazy, but I think as you move along 20 years later, it is what it is now. I think that at times we didn’t –
Number one, we couldn’t finish games. We didn’t finish games. We was always there to win. We didn’t finish games. I think that at times we didn’t know where to go at the end of the game. We didn’t know what we wanted to do... I think that we could’ve eventually got to that point, but I don’t think they kept us together long enough. We had the squad. -- Damon Stoudamire on the Let's Get Technical Podcast
Stoudamire, who just wrapped up his fourth season as the head coach of the University of Pacific men’s basketball program, wanted to make this clear:
The core group of that era needed more time together.
“People forget this… You knock out Utah in the  playoffs who had went to the Finals two years in a row…
(Rasheed adds, “Heavy favorite.”)
We was 25. I think I was 25 when we beat them, might’ve been 24. Anyway we beat them. We lose to San Antonio in the Conference Finals. Okay, that’s cool. We come back, we got the same team and then boom in August they trade for [Scottie Pippen]. We trade for Pip. We had traded for Steve [Smith], but then we traded for Pip. So then we go through that, we got to Game 7 [in 2000 vs. the Lakers] and then they broke the team up,” Stoudamire said while shaking his head.
The former Trail Blazers point guard even tweeted about what might have been had the team not been blown up.
“It’s no knock on nobody, because we got good guys in return, but we get rid of Brian [Grant in free agency] and we get rid of J.O.,” Stoudamire started to explain...
It was at that moment in the podcast that Bonzi dropped his head in a look of disapproval and sadness.
They couldn’t believe it then and they really can’t believe it now that Jermaine O’Neal was traded to the Pacers ahead of the 2000-01 season.
Stoudamire set another record straight, O'Neal 'didn't want to leave.'
“The crazy piece about it is that he became J.O., but in Portland he was the Kid. I’m like, man that’s the Kid instead of J.O. When he goes to Indiana and he’s killing it, it’s J.O. now, you know what I’m saying? The thing about it is he never wanted to leave. He never wanted leave… He loved it there and I just can’t for the life of me, like, I just didn’t understand that,” Stoudamire said.
When Portland traded away O’Neal in exchange for All-Star Dale Davis, O'Neal hadn’t really contributed in his four seasons while averaging just 12.3 minutes, he put up 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds a game during his last season in Portland. He couldn’t crack the rotation playing behind Rasheed Wallace and Brian Grant.
We give up J.O. and the moment he leaves, he takes off and I’m like… ‘that’s what we need.’ -- Former Trail Blazers point guard Damon Stoudamire
Stoudamire continued to express how difficult it was to have major pieces get traded, not just tweaking the roster.
We lost in Game 7 to the eventual Champions. You keep that team together and come back, like, let’s see what that’s going to do. We didn’t do that though, we broke it up, that’s tough man.
As time has passed Biggie, Sheed and Bonzi all agreed that it still bothers them they never got another shot because as Stoudamire put it, “the window of opportunity was so small” to get to the NBA Finals.
And what about allowing the Lakers to come from behind and take Game 7 in the 2000 Western Conference Finals...
“In terms of that Game 7, I still haven’t watched that game. I’m never watching that game.”
^^^ That is a quote from Stoudamire, but it could be a quote from any player on that team or any Trail Blazers fan.
Check out the entire Let's Get Technical podcast RIGHT HERE.