Damon Stoudamire

Jail Blazers believe they were broken up too soon, could have won championship

Jail Blazers believe they were broken up too soon, could have won championship

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 [1999] 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.

Damon Stoudamire, Kevin Love and... who else makes up your Oregon prep all-stars?

Damon Stoudamire, Kevin Love and... who else makes up your Oregon prep all-stars?

I had a lot of fun yesterday on Twitter chatting about the five best high school basketball players I’ve seen in person and I thought I’d continue that discussion today with some additional thoughts about players I’ve seen.

I confined this to Oregon players, not the ones I’ve seen in tournaments in various places. I think it’s more fun than to include the drop-ins from the Les Schwab Invitational or the Nike tournaments.

My best five from Oregon that I watched play in high school:

  • Richard Washington, Benson Tech: Perhaps Oregon’s first big-time, national recruit. John Wooden came to see him here and the Wizard of Westwood seldom went anywhere to watch recruits. Washington, an athletic 6-11 center, eventually became an MVP of the Final Four for the Bruins but left school early as a “hardship” case, which allowed him to enter the NBA draft after his junior season. High school teams were virtually helpless against him. 

  • Danny Ainge, North Eugene High: Tremendous competitor who won state titles as a junior and senior, losing just one game over that time. Not flashy but hit all the big shots and made his teammates better. A terrific quarterback and shortstop, too. I still maintain that he is the state’s best all-around athlete ever.

  • Terrell Brandon, Grant High: Extremely quick with a high basketball IQ, he was a scorer, a playmaker and a leader for an outstanding team. Was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “the best point guard in the NBA” before injuries got the best of him.

  • Kevin Love, Lake Oswego: Dominant inside player with all the post moves who could hit jump shots from three-point range. Relentless rebounder and a winner. Smart player who was nationally known at a very young age and was highly recruited. Like Washington, he ended up at UCLA, even though his father, Stan, starred at Oregon.

  • Damon Stoudamire, Wilson High: One of the best prep players in the country as a senior, he was smart, quick and a terrific clutch shooter from deep. Like Ainge, of course, he would later become a Trail Blazer. Lived and breathed basketball and still does -- was West Coast Conference Coach of the Year this season at Pacific.

At this point, I want to mention five great players from Oregon I never saw play in high school, although I may have seen them in college or the pros. Although a lot of people have probably not heard of some of these players, you should have:

  • Mel Counts, Marshfield High School: Played a dozen years in the NBA after his career at Oregon State and was way ahead of his time. This was a seven-footer with range on his jumper who would have been right at home shooting threes in today’s game.

  • Swede Halbrook, Lincoln High: At 7-3 was in the late 1950s the tallest player ever to play college basketball at that time, while at OSU. Set just about every scoring record in Oregon prep history while at Lincoln. Played two seasons for Syracuse in the NBA.

  • Jim Jarvis, Roseburg High: Saw him at Oregon State but not in high school. A flashy guard known for behind-the-back passes before many players did those in games. Played two seasons in the ABA.

  • Steve Jones, Franklin High: Saw his brother, Nick, play at Marshall, but did not see Steve play in high school. I always teased him that Nick was better, although I had no idea if that was true. Steve, an ex-Duck, went on to become an ABA stalwart and later, a Trail Blazer.

  • Dave Gambee, Corvallis High: After his career at Oregon State in the 1950s, he went on to play from 1958 to 1970 in the NBA, averaging 10.6 points per game. A rugged forward, he backed down from nobody.

Apologies to all the great players I forgot. This was a tough task because we’ve been blessed to see some very, very good ones in this state.

Feel free to leave your own additions to this group in the comments or with your tweets.

 

Damon Stoudamire still salty over 1995 National Player of the Year snub

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USA Today Images

Damon Stoudamire still salty over 1995 National Player of the Year snub

Damon Stoudamire’s time at University of Arizona had many career milestones. 

He was named first-team All-American for his 22.8 points per game during his senior year. He finished his time with the Wildcats on the all-time list in three pointers made with 272, was second in points with 1,849, fourth in assists with 663, and was the only player to have two 40-point games. Because of his efforts, he was named Wooden Award finalist and co-Pac-10 Player of the Year. 

But there’s one college achievement he lacks, and it still makes him mad…not winning Player of the Year.

25 years ago, Sports Illustrated named then UNC basketball star Jerry Stackhouse its National Player of the Year, not Stoudamire. 

Stoudamire, who went on to a 13-year career in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs and is now a coach at University of the Pacific, said “I’m still hot about this.”

He defends his post listing out a few of his accolades: Leading the Pac-10 in scoring and assists, that unforgettable 45-point game against Stanford, a triple-double against Oregon, a 40-point explosion at WSU, and he averaged 23 points and 7 assists per game. 

Maybe he’s onto something…

Stoudamire had more points per game than Stackhouse, who led North Carolina in scoring with 19.2 points per game and averaged 8.2 rebounds per contest.

Stackhouse led UNC to its 12th Final Four appearance in 1995, earned first-team All-America and All-ACC honors, while Stoudamire sent his team to second Final Four appearance in 1994. The 5-seeded Wildcats, however, failed to make it out of the first-round in 1995, suffering a 71-62 loss to 12-seeded Miami Ohio.

Like Stoudamire, Stackhouse declared his eligibility for the 1995 draft and was hyped the “next Jordan” because of their similarities. Both played at North Carolina, both went #3 in the draft, both were listed at 6’6” and had similar games on the court. He played in the NBA for 18 years before serving as coach for the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, and now Vanderbilt. 

Perhaps Stoudamire got robbed as Player of the Year, perhaps East Coast bias came into play, either way it doesn't change the fact that Stoudamire is still salty over the decision. 

 

Damon Stoudamire calls Arvydas Sabonis the best big man passer to ever play the game

Damon Stoudamire calls Arvydas Sabonis the best big man passer to ever play the game

"It's crazy that when I got to Portland I played with Arvydas Sabonis, but Arvydas Sabonis was drafted when I was a kid. That's the craziest thing for me."

That is what former Trail Blazers star point guard Damon Stoudamire had to say about playing with the legendary Arvydas Sabonis. 

Sabonis and Stoudamire both made their NBA debuts in 1995, but took drastically different paths to get there. 

Stoudamire was the No.7 overall pick in 1995, starting his career with the Toronto Raptors and winning Rookie of the Year.

Nine years earlier, a 12-year-old Stoudamire watched the 1986 NBA Draft where his hometown Portland Trail Blazers drafted Sabonis with the 24th overall pick.

Sabonis would remain overseas, not making his debut in the NBA until he was 30 years old. 

In 1998, Stoudamire was traded to Portland and the young man got to play with the old man he remembered the team drafting when he was a kid. 

But, Sabonis wasn't just an old big.

He was a rare talent. 

Big men in the NBA aren't usually thought of for their passing skills. Rather, they are thought of for their big bodies that do damage on the glass and hard work in the paint.

But every once in a while there are rare bigs that have the body of Shaq, but pass like John Stockton.

Bill Walton, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Nikola Jokic are a few names that come to mind. 

But if you ask Stoudamire, the best to ever do it hailed from Lithuania. 

(Sabonis) made the game easy for everyone. The best big man passer, I believe, to play the game. He could shoot it, and this was all playing on one leg. I can't even imagine him healthy... a healthy Sabonis. - Stoudamire on Sabonis

Even on one leg, Sabonis averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in seven seasons with the Blazers. 

Those are solid numbers for any center, let alone one that was "old" by NBA standards when he made his debut. 

Sabonis will forever be one of the NBA's biggest "what if" questions.

What if Sabonis came over in '86? What if prime Sabonis was on those Blazers teams the made it to the NBA Finals in the early 90s? What would have happened to Michael Jordan and the Bulls or Isiah Thomas and the Pistons?

There may be many questions, but there is no question about how good Sabonis truly was. Just ask the guys that played with him and they'll tell you. 

Sabonis was one of the greatest big men to ever play the game. 

In worst free throw slump of career, Damian Lillard vows to finish at 90 percent or better

In worst free throw slump of career, Damian Lillard vows to finish at 90 percent or better

For all of Damian Lillard’s brilliance in March, he has had one notable drop off in his last five games: His free-throw shooting.

Lillard, who is among the best free throw shooters in Trail Blazers history, has gone 18-for-28 (64.3 percent) from the line in his last five games. The slump comes on the heels of his making 48 in a row, which is tied for third best in franchise history.

“In my career typically, I have long streaks where I make a bunch of free throws in a row, and when I miss, I have a five-game streak where I’m just missing,’’ Lillard said. “Then, I start another streak. But I shoot free throws all the time, so it’s not like it’s something I’m concerned about.’’

Lillard owns three of the top four consecutive free throw streaks in franchise history – a string of 54 last March, a string of 48 also last March and 48 this season. Damon Stoudamire holds the franchise record with 57 in a row in 2005.

While Lillard is not concerned with his recent slump, he has taken note. The miscues have dropped him from 90.6 percent to 89.1, and he says it is his goal to shoot 90 percent from the line for the first time in his college or NBA career.

“I will finish the year at 90,’’ Lillard said. “I’m too close not to get there.’’

If Lillard continues at his average of seven free throws per game over the final eight Blazers games, he will shoot 56 more free throws. To boost his average to 90 percent, he can afford to miss one of his final 56.

Only two Blazers have finished a season at 90 percent or better: Jamal Crawford shot a franchise best 92.7 in the 2011-2012 season and Stoudamire shot 91.4 percent in 2004-2005.

This season, CJ McCollum is at 91 percent after making 51 of his last 52 free throws, which includes a current streak of 30 in a row.

Up next: Houston at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. Thursday (TNT)