- 1993-94: A Team In Transition
- 1994-95: The End Of Two Eras In Portland
- 1995-96: "Rookie" Trail Blazer Blooms in Rose Garden
- 1996-97: New Trio Sparks Improved Trail Blazers
- 1997-98: Youngsters Blaze Winning Trail
- 1998-99: The Big Breakthrough
- 1999-2000: Trail Blazers Endure Frustrating Season
- 2000-01: Trail Blazers Run Stalls in Playoffs
- 2001-02: Cheeks in Charge
- 2002-03: Pippen Takes the Helm
- 2003-04: Randolph 'Most Improved.' Trail Blazers Must Improve
- 2004-05: Trail Blazers Honor "Clyde the Glide"
- 2005-06: A Historic Draft Day
1993-94: A Team In Transition
A true indication that the team was in transformation was that Clifford Robinson (20.1 ppg) replaced Clyde Drexler as the club's scoring leader. Robinson also earned his first trip to the NBA All-Star Game. However, a team in transition is rarely a team in ascension, and the Trail Blazers slipped below 50 wins (47-35) for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign. In the playoffs they managed a single first-round win against the Houston Rockets, who went on to win the NBA title.
After the playoff loss Rick Adelman (291-154 with the club) was fired and replaced by P. J. Carlesimo, who had been coaching at Seton Hall University. The 1993-94 NBA Executive of the Year, Bob Whitsitt, stepped down as general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics and moved south to join Portland's front office.
1994-95: The End Of Two Eras In Portland
The most significant event of the Portland Trail Blazers' 1994-95 season was the departure of Clyde Drexler, who was traded on February 14 along with Tracy Murray to the Houston Rockets for Otis Thorpe. Drexler, who spent 111/2 seasons with the Trail Blazers, left the team in possession of many of its career records, including points, rebounds, games, minutes, field goals attempted and made, free throws attempted and made, and steals.
The Trail Blazers finished the campaign at 44-38 and were swept by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. P. J. Carlesimo became the first NBA head coach in 25 years to move directly from college to the pros and post a winning season. However, Carlesimo's Blazers lost three more games than the team did in its last term under Rick Adelman.
The Trail Blazers were the league's best rebounding team during the 1994-95 season, pacing the NBA in total rebounding percentage (.553) and defensive rebounding percentage (.735). Chris Dudley (9.3 rpg), Buck Williams (8.2 rpg), and Thorpe (8.0 rpg) were all in the league's top 25. Clifford Robinson led the team in scoring with an average of 21.3 points per contest, and Rod Strickland finished fourth in the NBA in assists with an average of 8.8 per game.
The 1994-95 season was also the team's last at Memorial Coliseum. The Trail Blazers had performed in the building for 25 years, drawing more than 13 million fans and selling out the final 809 games. The team was scheduled to move to the new Rose Garden arena for 1995-96.
The Trail Blazers' Rose Garden debut was less than memorable, as Portland dropped a 92-80 decision to the Vancouver Grizzlies, playing in their first ever NBA game. Their fortunes would improve. After struggling to a 26-34 record through the first three quarters of the season, the Trail Blazers charged to an 18-4 finish to capture third place in the Pacific Division with a 44-38 record. That record was good enough to lift the Trail Blazers to their 14th consecutive playoff appearance and 19th in 20 years.
Their late-season rally was in large part due to their largest player, 7-2 center Arvydas Sabonis. Sabonis, originally drafted by the Trail Blazers in 1986, a Lithuanian superstar who spent six years in the Spanish league, joined the Trail Blazers in 1995 as a 31-year-old rookie. Despite being limited to 23.8 minutes per game with sore knees, Sabonis averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds.
Clifford Robinson again led the Trail Blazers in scoring (21.1 ppg), while point guard Rod Strickland averaged 18.7 points and a team-leading 9.6 assists per game, fourth in the NBA. Strickland's season was scarred by a stormy relationship with coach P.J. Carlesimo that led to a team-imposed six-game suspension and ultimately to a postseason trade to the Washington Bullets.
Sabonis, Robinson and Strickland provided an intimidating triple threat for the Utah Jazz, their first round playoff opponent. Down two games to none, the Trail Blazers bounced back to win Games 3 and 4 at the Rose Garden. Game 5 is one they would like to forget. In Utah's 102-64 win, Portland snapped the previous playoff record-low of 68 points, set by the New York Knicks on May 15, 1994, at Indiana.
The changes began in July when, in a nine-day period, the Trail Blazers acquired the three players who would lead the team to its best finish in four years. On July 15, they obtained young power forward Rasheed Wallace in a trade that sent Harvey Grant and Rod Strickland to Washington. On July 23, they shored up their backcourt by trading with Minnesota for shooting guard Isaiah Rider and signing point guard Kenny Anderson to a free agent contract.
Wallace emerged as a force at power forward in only his second season, averaging 15.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg and finishing third in the NBA field goal percentage (.558). Rider was second on the team in scoring (16.1 ppg) and was the team's most accurate three-point threat (.385). All Anderson did was lead the team in scoring (17.5 ppg) and assists (7.1 apg) and finish among the NBA leaders in steals (1.98 spg).
With holdovers Clifford Robinson (15.1 ppg), Arvydas Sabonis (13.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and young Gary Trent (10.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) also contributing, the Trail Blazers began to jell in midseason, embarking on an 11-game winning streak in late February that equaled the second-longest in team history. Portland won 20 of its final 25 games to enter the Western Conference playoffs as the fifth seed.
In the playoffs, the Trail Blazers were cooled off by the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the best-of-5 series in four games. It was the fifth straight First Round exit for Portland, which let Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo go after three seasons at the helm. New Coach Mike Dunleavy is inheriting a team that didn't mind getting its hands dirty, allowing the fourth-lowest field goal percentage and finishing fourth in rebounds.
1997-98: Youngsters Blaze Winning Trail
There were several high highs and there were a few low lows for the 1997-98 Portland Trail Blazers, an exciting young team that won 46 games, finished fourth in the Pacific Division, and gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle in the playoffs.
The season marked several new arrivals in Portland. Among the notables: Head Coach Mike Dunleavy, who was signed on May 13, 1997; forward Brian Grant, a free-agent pickup; and guard Damon Stoudamire, one of the NBA's premier young point guards, acquired by Portland with Carlos Rogers and Walt Williams just prior to the NBA trading deadline.
The Trail Blazers were 13-9 with Stoudamire, but even before his arrival, Portland proved it could play with anyone. On Dec. 5, Portland destroyed the Utah Jazz, 94-77, then repeated the trick 22 days later at Utah with a 102-91 win.
Oddly enough, the Trail Blazers seemed to have more trouble with Denver, the league's worst team, than they did with the NBA's elite. The Nuggets twice beat the Trail Blazers, and recorded only one other win against a playoff-caliber team all season. The other oddity in Portland's season was a 124-59 loss to Indiana, the second most-lopsided game in NBA history.
Despite the occasional lapse, the Trail Blazers were a force in the Western Conference by season's end. When all was said and done, the Trail Blazers had fashioned their ninth consecutive winning season and had advanced to the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season, a streak currently surpassed only by the St. Louis Blues (22 straight appearances) among professional teams.
Portland earned a first-round date with the 61-21 Los Angeles Lakers. The Trail Blazers entered the series confident but cautious. The matchup, a rematch of the 1997 first-round series, was a close one. The home team held serve in each of the first three games. In Game 4, however, Shaquille O'Neal and company quieted the Rose Garden crowd with a 110-99 win that ended Portland's season in the first round for the sixth straight year.
The game was the 2,522nd game, and perhaps the last, broadcast by Blazers' 28-year veteran Bill Schonely. While the Schonely era may be ending, the Stoudamire era has Dunleavy optimistic about the Trail Blazers' future.
The Trail Blazers were on their way to tying the San Antonio series 1-1 but were derailed by the "Memorial Day Miracle." On that play, Sean Elliott tiptoed the sideline to stay inbounds before hitting a three-pointer with nine seconds left, lifting the Spurs to an 86-85 win. San Antonio went on to sweep the series and win the NBA championship.
Portland was a balanced team. The squad's leading scorer, Isaiah Rider, averaged only 13.9 points per game, mostly because the players spread the wealth. Rasheed Wallace (12.8 ppg), Damon Stoudamire (12.6), Arvydas Sabonis (12.1) and Brian Grant (11.5) also averaged double figures in scoring, and Walt Williams, Jim Jackson and Greg Anthony were regular contributors.
Nine different players led the team in nine different statistical categories. Grant was among the league leaders with 9.8 rebounds per game.
Portland sported an improved defense which limited opponents to 88.5 points per game, the lowest total in franchise history. The Trail Blazers also set a team record by holding the opposition to a .417 field goal percentage.
1999-2000: Trail Blazers Endure Frustrating Season
Three losses -- two of them on the basketball court -- clouded an otherwise outstanding season for the Trail Blazers who matched their second-best finish in franchise history with 59 victories and got to within minutes of their fourth NBA Finals berth.
Biggest setback came on May 5, just two days before opening the semifinals playoff series against Utah, when popular assistant coach Bill Musselman lost a six-month battle with a rare disease, primary systemic amyloidosis.
Two weeks earlier, the Trail Blazers missed getting their second 60-win campaign with a one-point, 96-95 loss to Denver at home in the seasons finale.
Hardest to take, however, came in the deciding game of the Western Conference Championships June 4 in The Staples Center. With the series tied at three wins each, the Trail Blazers were leading the host Lakers, 73-58, early in the fourth quarter then were outscored, 31-11 in the last 11 minutes and lost, 89-85.
But a lot of good things happened before that. In posting the leagues second-best regular season record, the balanced Portland club made it to the playoffs for the 18th consecutive year and the 23rd time in 24 campaigns. The Trail Blazers posted its best road record in history, 29-12 (tied for second in the NBA) and were 21-7 against the seven other conference playoff teams. They won 10 of their first 11, had their best November in history, 13-3, and were 12-2 in February, also a record for the month. In mid-season Portland was red-hot, winning 27 of 31 games. The Trail Blazers were the best field goal shooting team in the league, 47.0%, and were the third best defensive club, giving up just 91.0 points a game.
Rasheed Wallace had an all-star season, leading the team with 16.4 points a game. He ranked fifth in the league in field goal percentage, 51.7%, and made his first-ever NBA All-Star Game appearance. Scottie Pippen was name the NBAs All-Defense second team, the 10th time on the all-defense unit including eight first team selections.
The Trail Blazers had won 13 of their last 14 games and 17 of 20; they were a league-best 18-12 on the road. The 20-game run was fueled by a winning streak of 10 in a row that started just before Christmas and included solid road victories over the Lakers (109-104), Utah (103-102 in overtime) and Philadelphia (93-75). Rasheed Wallace tallied 33 points in the victory at the Staples Center and three nights later Damon Stoudamire put 32 on the board in the big OT win at Salt Lake City.
However, things started to unravel three nights after the lopsided March 3 win over the Warriors. Portland suffered a humiliating 105-97 home court setback at the hands of the lowly Vancouver Grizzlies. That started a stretch run in which the Trail Blazers won only eight of their remaining 22 games and were 4-7 in the Rose Garden. Rather than securing home court playoff advantage, Portland finished eight games off the pace in the conference, good enough for only the seventh seed in the west. Worse, it earned them a first-round faceoff with their Pacific Division nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers, who swept the series in three games.
Rasheed Wallace led the Trail Blazers with a career-best season, averaging 19.2 points a game. His 50.1% field goal shooting mark was the 10th best in the league. The Trail Blazers won only one of their last six games after Bonzi Wells, who averaged 12.7 ppg for the season, tore a ligament in his left knee April 6 at Golden State.
At that point, not only had the team lost a season-high five in a row and was in danger of tumbling into the Pacific Division basement, but league pundits were beginning to wonder out loud if this was the year the Trail Blazers run of 19 straight playoff appearances would come to an end.
Three nights later on January 5, Rasheed Wallace scored 30 points, Portland shot 51% from the field and pounded out a 46-30 rebounding edge to defeat Philadelphia, 96-88, in the Rose Garden. That started an incredible run that turned the Trail Blazers into the hottest team in the NBA, revived Blazermania and assured Coach Cheeks that he was the right man for the job.
In a span of 38 games over 11 weeks, the Trail Blazers won 30 games. That included a 12-game winning streak in February and March, the second longest in franchise history; a four-game sweep on a tough Eastern road swing (the first such sweep since 1990-91); and a six-game win streak on the road, also the second longest in club annals. Of the eight losses in the run, which extended from January 5 to March 23, five were by three points or less. Portland vaulted from five games under to 17 games over the .500 mark.
But the slow start, coupled with an 8-8 record in their final 16 games, destined the Trail Blazers to the lower part of the bracket in their 24th playoff appearance in 25 years. Portland finished with a respectable 49-33 record, just one win less than the previous year, but well behind the Sacramento, the Lakers, San Antonio and Dallas, all winners of 57 or more games in the tough Western Conference race. The Trail Blazers got the sixth seed in the West and drew the No. 3 Lakers. Results were identical to the year before---three and out.
On December 14th, the Trail Blazers gave the city of Portland an much-needed, early Christmas celebration with an overtime win over Minnesota that ignited an 8-game winning streak and a 22-5 recorded blasting into the all-star break. The Trail Blazers torched the league and rekindled Blazer Mania. During this stretch Wells shot the lights out averaging a remarkable 26 points a game, upping his average by 10 points.
Portland shot up the standings and continued to breathe down the neck of the Sacramento Kings. The Trail Blazers were hot in pursuit of the top seed in the Pacific when they met up with the division leading Kings. Punches were thrown and baskets were traded. It looked as though the Trail Blazers were about to be KO'ed, when Bonzi stabilized the team and reeled off 8 straight points to pull out a thrilling overtime win.
The team was gelling and turning heads with unparalleled success when veteran leader Scottie Pippen went down with a knee injury. The difference was night and day. With Pippen at the helm the team controlled the tempo of games with confidence, but without him they often times appeared confused and out of sync. The Trail Blazers sputtered to an 8-10 finish and dropped to the 6th seed in the west, setting up a tough first-round duel with the Dallas Mavericks, proud winners of 60 games.
Despite boasting the league's most explosive offense, Dallas' swagger did not scare away the Trail Blazers. Though the Trail Blazers dropped the first 3 games, the team showed promise and never threw in the towel. They had recorded their tenth consecutive post-season loss and most thought the season was over. The injury-plagued Trail Blazers battled tough even without most of their starters. No team had ever come back from 0-3, but the Trail Blazers sure came close. They weathered the storm and fought back with fury to win Games 4 and 5. Game 6 was a blowout Dallas fans never want to remember. Portland went on a 20-0 run in the 2nd quarter and never looked back.
The Trail Blazers were ready to make history in Dallas The Trail Blazers withstood the fury, but eventually fell when Dallas pulled away for good with just a few minutes remaining.
Finishing their previous season with a hard-fought seven-game playoff battle against the Dallas Mavericks, the Trail Blazers felt armed and ready for the new season. Unfortunately, the kinks in their armor were exposed early on, and the team received a good beating for the first half of the season. By midway point, the Trail Blazers were seven games below .500 (17-24), the third worst record in the West.
But in the months to come the Trail Blazers regained their thirst for victory and won seven of their next nine games and 12 of their next 17. They finished the second half of the season by going 24-17, a complete reversal of the first 41 games.
By seasons end, there were several Trail Blazer standouts:
Trail Blazer forward Zach Randolph gained acclaim for his improved play over the last season. A national panel of sportswriters and sportscasters recognized it by naming Zebo the NBAs Most Improved Player of 2003-2004. The third-year Trail Blazer had raised his scoring average of 8.4 from last season to 20.1, his rebounding from 4.5 to 10.5, and his assists from 0.5 to 2.0 per game. Portlands leading scorer posted 43 double-doubles during the season, third best in the NBA. He became the first Trail Blazer in 21 years to average 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds a game.
New recruit Theo Ratliff continued his prodigious shot blocking feats after donning a Trail Blazers uniform with 32 games remaining in the season. Ratliff, traded to Portland with Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Dan Dickau in the February 10 deal that sent Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to Atlanta, earned his third NBA blocked shots title by averaging 3.61 rejections a game while playing for both the Hawks and the Trail Blazers. The Rattler upped his pace considerably after coming to Portland, averaging 4.41 blocks per game. He finished with 141 blocks in his 32 games with the Trail Blazers.
Veteran point guard, Damon Stoudamire took the Trail Blazers helm and recorded his best overall NBA season since his second year in the league with Toronto. With 1,099 points, 500 assists, 408 field goals and 3,166 minutes played, the clubs most senior player was the only Trail Blazer to play in and start all 82 regular season games.
Despite the late efforts of these and other Trail Blazers, the team finished with a modest 41-41 record. Their most painful defeat came when, for the first time in 22 seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers were missing in action for the post season.
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Trail Blazers were tied with Denver for the eighth and final spot on the Western Conference Playoff bracket. The final must-win games were anything but easy. They included two bouts with the defending NBA Champion, San Antonio Spurs, a road game against the Denver Nuggets, and a home finale against the Los Angeles Lakers. Portland lost all four, two of them in overtime.
Missing the playoffs cost the Trail Blazers a share of the NBAs all-time record for the most consecutive playoff appearances. The Philadelphia/Syracuse franchise established the record on 22 consecutive playoffs from 1950 to 1971. Portland remains second on the list with 21 straight. Utah, which also failed to make the cut for the first time since 1982-1983, is third with 20 straight playoff appearances.
2004-05: Trail Blazers Honor "Clyde the Glide"
Trail Blazers Honor "Clyde the Glide" with special tribute Hall of Fame Inductee Honored During Home Game Against the Houston Rockets.
Clyde Drexler, one of the greatest players ever to wear a Portland Trail Blazers uniform, was honored during the half-time ceremony on Sunday when the Portland Trail Blazers took on the Houston Rockets. Drexler was one of six people enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 10th in Springfield, MA. He played 12 of his 15 NBA season in Portland from 1983 to 1995, participated in 10 All-Star games and was a member of Dream Team One that captured the Olympic Gold in Barcelona in 1992.
"I am so honored and just speechless tonight. My time in Portland was very special to me - fifteen seasons in the NBA and Portland holds my most cherished memories. I just want to thank the great fans in this town for always being behind the team and for the constant support I had here," said Drexler. Drexler joined five other Hall of Famers with Trail Blazers ties including Lenny Wilkens, Blazers coach, 1974-1976; Neil Johnston now deceased who was Portland's very first assistant coach under Jack McCloskey (1972-1974); Dr. Jack Ramsay, head coach of the Trail Blazers for 11 seasons; Bill Walton, who led Portland to an NBA title in 1977; Drazen Petrovic now deceased, played for the Trail Blazers for one and a half seasons from 1989 to 1991 and was one of the first foreign players to make it big in the NBA.
Joining Drexler in celebration was Steve Patterson, president of the Trail Blazers; Bill Schonely, Trail Blazers Broadcast Founder and Ambassador; Stu Inman, the Trail Blazers first Director of Player Personnel and long-time General Manager and; Bucky Buckwalter, former V.P. for Basketball Operations, alumni members of the Trail Blazers including Maurice Lucas, Kevin Duckworth, Dale Schlueter, Michael Harper, Antonio Harvey, Chris Dudley, and Terry Emmert. Both Paul Allen, Trail Blazers owner, and former team owner Harry Glickman, are traveling and were unable to attend.
The 6-foot-7 guard was drafted by the Trail Blazers in the first round (14th selection overall) of the 1983 NBA Draft as an early entry candidate after an outstanding career at the University of Houston. Drexler, along with NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon, led the Cougars to two straight NCAA Final Four appearances. As a junior, he averaged 15.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 53.6% from the floor.
In 11-plus seasons with the Trail Blazers, Drexler averaged 20.8ppg, 6.2rpg and 5.7apg in 867 games. His best season came in 1988-89 when he averaged a 27.2ppg and 7.9rpg (both career highs) while dishing out 5.8apg. Drexler led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 and to the Western Conference Finals in 1991.
In 1,086 games over 15 seasons, Drexler averaged 20.4ppg, 6.1rpg and 5.6apg while shooting 47.2% from the field. He ended his illustrious NBA career joining Oscar Robertson and John Havlicek as the only players in NBA history to top 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists. Drexler averaged 20.4ppg, 6.9rpg and 6.1apg in 145 NBA Playoff games.
He is the Trail Blazers all-time leader in games played, 867, minutes played, 29,526, points scored, 18,040, field goals made, 6,889, field goals attempted, 14,425, free throws made, 3,798, free throws attempted, 4,816, total rebounds, 5,339, offensive rebounds, 2,227, steals, 1,795, and personal fouls, 2,699. The Trail Blazers retired Drexler's number, 22, on March 6, 2001.
In 1994-95 Drexler was traded to the Houston Rockets where he was reunited with his college teammate, Olajuwon. He helped lead the Rockets to the 1994-95 NBA Championship and played another three seasons in Houston before retiring.
Drexler was selected as one of the Fifty Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. He was First Team All-NBA in 1992 and was selected Second Team All-NBA in 1988 and 1991. The ten-time NBA All-Star won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1992 and an NBA Championship in 1995 while a member of the Houston Rockets.