Portland Trail Blazers History

Portland Introduces "Blazermania" To NBA


1970-71: Rookie Sensation Paces Blazers In Scoring
1971-72: Wicks Named Rookie Of The Year, But Blazers Stumble As A Team
1972-74: The McCloskey Era Begins
1974-76: Here Comes "Big Bill"
1976-77: From Near-Worst To First
1977-78: Portland's Bid To Repeat Falls Short
1978-83: Blazers Make Early Playoff Exits
1983-85: Clyde Glides Into Town
1985-86: Ramsay's Magic Act Comes To An End
1986-88: Schuler Enjoys Immediate Success
1988-89: A New Owner, A New Coach, But A Losing Record
1989-90: "Rip City"
1990-91: Blazers Bomb Away, Break Lakers Dominance
1991-92: A Return Trip To The Finals
1992-93: Drexler Moves On, Robinson Stars
1993-94: A Team In Transition
1994-95: The End Of Two Eras In Portland
1995-96: "Rookie" Blazer Blooms in Rose Garden
1996-97: New Trio Sparks Improved Blazers
1997-98: Youngsters Blaze Winning Trail
1998-99: The Big Breakthrough


NBA Titles:
1977

Retired Uniform Numbers:
(1) Larry Weinberg
(13) David Twardzik
(15) Larry Steele
(20) Maurice Lucas
(22) Clyde Drexler
(32) Bill Walton
(36) Lloyd Neal
(45) Geoff Petrie
(77) Jack Ramsay

Franchise History:
Portland Trail Blazers 1970-

Season    W   L   %
2001-02  49  33 .598
2000-01  50  32 .610
1999-00  59  23 .720
1998-99  35  15 .700 
1997-98  46  36 .561 
1996-97  49  33 .598
1995-96  44  38 .537
1994-95  44  38 .537    
1993-94  47  35 .573    
1992-93  51  31 .622    
1991-92  57  25 .695    
1990-91  63  19 .768    
1989-90  59  23 .720    
1988-89  39  43 .476    
1987-88  53  29 .646    
1986-87  49  33 .598    
1985-86  40  42 .488    
1984-85  42  40 .512    
1983-84  48  34 .585    
1982-83  46  36 .561    
1981-82  42  40 .512    
1980-81  45  37 .549    
1979-80  38  44 .463    
1978-79  45  37 .549    
1977-78  58  24 .707    
1976-77  49  33 .598    
1975-76  37  45 .451    
1974-75  38  44 .463    
1973-74  27  55 .329    
1972-73  21  61 .256    
1971-72  18  64 .220    
1970-71  29  53 .354    

Portland Introduces "Blazermania" To NBA

The Portland Trail Blazers entered the NBA in 1970. After a typical period of expansion blues during which the team languished at the bottom of the standings, the Blazers turned into one of the league's most solid franchises. In 1977, after only seven seasons in the league, the Blazers claimed the NBA Championship. Led by center Bill Walton, the teams of that era induced "Blazermania" in Portland and introduced the manic condition to the rest of the league.

The Trail Blazers continued to be successful in the late 1980s and early 1990s, rarely missing the playoffs and reaching the NBA Finals twice. Overall, Portland's first two decades in the league were marked by consistent play, periodic brilliance, and ardent fan support, and were an admirable contribution to the annals of basketball.

Portland paid $3.7 million to join the league, and the NBA Board of Governors granted the franchise on February 6, 1970. The Buffalo Braves and Cleveland Cavaliers were also new franchises in 1970, as the league expanded to 17 teams. The NBA was coming out of a decade dominated by the Boston Celtics and was responding to the challenge of the American Basketball Association.

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1970-71: Rookie Sensation Paces Blazers In Scoring

The team was built around first-round draft pick Geoff Petrie, a 6-4 shooter out of Princeton, and around rebounding specialist LeRoy Ellis, a 6-10 banger picked up from the Baltimore Bullets in the expansion draft.

Portland took the floor for the first time on October 16, 1970, and defeated Cleveland, 115-112, in a battle of teams with 0-0 franchise records. Guard Jim Barnett scored the first point in Blazers history by sinking a free throw at the 9:18 mark of the first quarter.

Coached by Rolland Todd, who had been plucked from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the original Blazers were more than respectable as an expansion squad. The dominant NBA team at the time was the Milwaukee Bucks, with superstars Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). Portland rang up a 29-53 record, the best of the expansion outfits. By comparison, Buffalo was 22-60, and Cleveland struggled at 15-67. Although the Blazers' .354 winning percentage may not have looked great, it would be four more seasons before they'd be as successful as they were during their maiden voyage.

It was hardly surprising that the fledgling squad recorded five losing months. Still, this was not entirely discouraging, and the Trail Blazers managed to end their initial season on a high note with a 6-6 record in March.

There were a few standout individual performances by that first Blazers group. In an early-season game at Buffalo, Ellis grabbed 26 rebounds, a team record for a regulation-length game that still stood two decades later. (It was matched by Bill Walton and topped only by Sidney Wicks's double-overtime 27-rebound performance in a 1975 contest.) Ellis's effort was no fluke; a few weeks later he corralled a dozen rebounds in a single quarter against the New York Knicks. Barnett set another Portland mark that would stand the test of time, hitting 16 of 16 free throws against the Atlanta Hawks on November 18.

Although there were occasional triumphs, repeated disappointments put a damper on the team's inaugural season. On November 24, for example, the young squad was pummeled by Baltimore for a 52-point loss. Petrie was an immediate star as a rookie, leading the team in minutes played and in most other offensive categories. He averaged 24.8 points, seventh in the league, and set the franchise mark for free throws made in a game with 18 on March 19 against the Seattle SuperSonics. Petrie's performance earned him a share of the NBA Rookie of the Year Award with Dave Cowens of the Boston Celtics.

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1971-72: Wicks Named Rookie Of The Year, But Blazers Stumble As A Team

After an encouraging first year the novelty and enthusiasm wore off, and the Trail Blazers stumbled to an 18-64 record in 1971-72. Coach Todd was released after 56 games, and Stu Inman took the helm for the season's final 26 contests. In a mostly forgettable campaign, there were a few moments to remember. One came on November 19 when team captain Rick Adelman dished out 17 assists against Cleveland, a Portland mark that would last until the late 1980s.

The entire Blazers team lit up on March 18, 1972, when Portland pounded the New York Knicks (who were on their way to the NBA Finals), 133-86. The 47-point margin of victory would hold up for a decade as a team record.

Rookie Sidney Wicks, a fierce 6-9, 225-pound forward out of UCLA, was the second straight sterling draft pick for the Blazers, and he succeeded teammate Petrie as NBA Rookie of the Year in 1972. His 24.5 points per game average was nearly as prolific as Petrie's numbers had been in 1970, and the duo would continue to power Portland's point production throughout the early 1970s.

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1972-74: The McCloskey Era Begins

In 1972-73 Jack McCloskey of Wake Forest was brought in as head coach and coaxed steady, if slight, improvement out of the team. The Trail Blazers showed modest progress, finishing three games better than the previous season at 21-61. Petrie scored a team-record 51 points twice against the Houston Rockets-in Houston on January 20 and at home on March 16. On February 8 against the Golden State Warriors he poured in 20 field goals. Wicks was the Trail Blazers' most solid performer, however, and made his first and only start in four All-Star Game appearances.

The 1973-74 season was another struggle, as Portland posted a 27-55 record. The team started out on a positive note with a 5-4 mark in October, the first winning month in franchise history. (It would be more than a year before the Blazers would have another.) Unfortunately, most of the highlights of Trail Blazers games belonged to the opponents. Teams routinely beat up on Portland, and a couple of players fattened up their numbers with especially rude treatment. On October 28 the Lakers' Elmore Smith blocked 17 shots against Portland to set the all-time NBA record. And on March 26, Golden State's Rick Barry rang up a career-high 64 points-including 30 field goals-a record for opponent productivity against Portland. Coach McCloskey was let go at season's end.

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1974-76: Here Comes "Big Bill"

In 1974-75, under the tutelage of new coach Lenny Wilkens and with the addition of center Bill Walton, the three-time college Player of the Year from UCLA, the Blazers began to show signs of life, improving by 11 wins to 38-44.

In the season's home opener Portland defeated Cleveland, 131-129, in four overtime periods to set a record for the longest game in team history. On November 16 against the Lakers, the aptly named Larry Steele, a slender 6-5 guard, rang up 10 steals, a club record that would last a dozen years until Clyde Drexler matched it in 1986. In a February 26 double-overtime game at Los Angeles, Sidney Wicks pulled down a team-record 27 rebounds. The durable power forward played all 82 games and led the squad in scoring (21.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.7 rpg). Although the Blazers were up and down all year, they ended strong, with a 9-7 record in March and a 3-0 mark in April.

After the dramatic improvement shown in the previous season, the 1975-76 Trail Blazers ran in place, finishing at 37-45. Walton began to cash in some of his promise. Although hampered by injuries, the 6-11 center had moments of spectacular greatness. In late January, Walton dominated on the boards: on January 24 he grabbed a club-record 22 defensive rebounds at Golden State, and only three days later he hauled in 20 defensive boards against the Washington Bullets.

Portland had acquired rookie Lionel Hollins with the team's first-round draft pick in 1975. Hollins, a heady 6-3 guard, gave the team four solid years of leadership and clutch scoring before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1979-80 season.

Still, the Blazers were uneven, and their 1975-76 season bottomed out in February when the Chicago Bulls handed Portland its worst loss in franchise history, a 56-point pasting, 130-74. Coach Wilkens departed at season's end and moved on to Seattle, where he would rebuild another struggling team and eventually win a championship in 1978-79.

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1976-77: From Near-Worst To First

Portland ruled the basketball world in 1976-77, displaying an exciting brand of team basketball and claiming the NBA Championship. After a decent 49-33 regular season, the team made the most of its first appearance in the playoffs, running all the way through the postseason.

This was the first year of Head Coach Jack Ramsay's reign. His decade with Portland would solidify his reputation as one of the league's most creative skippers. This was also the season that four former ABA teams-the Denver Nuggets, the New York Nets, the Indiana Pacers, and the San Antonio Spurs-were brought into the NBA under a merger agreement. The merger, in turn, led to a tremendous reshuffling of star players, and Portland acquired an enforcer, 6-9 Maurice Lucas, with the second pick in the ABA Dispersal Draft. But Lucas didn't come without a price. The Blazers had to give up Geoff Petrie and Steve Hawes to Atlanta for the No. 2 pick. More shuffling went on when Portland sold Sidney Wicks to Boston.

With a revamped lineup and a cast of young players who were quickly gaining confidence, the team was very strong through the first half of the season. Walton and Lucas represented Portland in the 1977 NBA All-Star Game, although Walton missed the game with an injury. But the long campaign eventually took its toll, and the Blazers faltered in February and March, tottering to a 10-16 record during those two months. They turned it around at the right time, however, with a 5-0 mark in April that catapulted them back into the playoff picture.

The fan phenomenon known as Blazermania was beginning to catch fire, too. On April 5 there were still a few tickets available in Memorial Coliseum when Portland played the Detroit Pistons before 12,359 fans. That was the last day a fan could just walk up and buy a ticket. From that point on, and continuing into the mid-1990s, every Portland home game was a sellout. Capacity was 12,666 through 1988, when it was expanded to 12,854 and then eventually 12,888.

The Trail Blazers' road to the championship rolled through Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. The team hit its stride in the Western Conference Finals, eliminating the Pacific Division champion Los Angeles Lakers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in four straight games.

Portland entered the NBA Finals as the underdog to the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Julius Erving, the spectacular forward who was reinventing the game with his gravity-defying slam dunks. The Sixers put the Blazers in a hole by taking Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia. Back home at Memorial Coliseum, however, Portland thrashed the 76ers by 22 points in Game 3 and by 32 points in Game 4. The Trail Blazers then won a third straight game by beating the Sixers back in Philadelphia.

Game 6 took place on June 5 in Memorial Coliseum. The Sixers got 40 points from Erving, but the Trail Blazers closed them out, 109-107, to claim the NBA title. Walton scored 20 points, yanked down 23 rebounds, handed out 7 assists, and blocked 8 shots in Game 6, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals.

Walton was the star and the most recognizable of the Blazers, with his flamboyant personality, his counterculture leanings (which fit in with the general ambience of mid-1970s Portland), and his intense, intelligent style of play. But the Trail Blazers' victory was the triumph of a well-balanced team over a collection of more brilliant individual talents. This was in line with the trend of the decade, which had also seen the Knicks, Lakers, Celtics, and Warriors win titles on the basis of cohesion rather than individual dominance.

Lucas led the Trail Blazers in minutes played and scoring, averaging 20.2 points. Dave Twardzik, a 6-1 guard, set a club record for field-goal percentage, notching a .612 accuracy mark. Walton set the team record for rebounding, clearing 14.4 boards per game. He also set a Portland all-time mark for blocked shots with 3.25 per game. Second-year point guard Lionel Hollins ran the show, leading the team in both assists (4.1 apg) and steals (166).

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1977-78: Portland's Bid To Repeat Falls Short

Wearing the NBA crown, the 1977-78 Trail Blazers breezed through the regular season and collected 58 wins against only 24 losses, the best record in the NBA. They were 50-10 through February, including a team-record 26 consecutive home victories (34 straight when stretched back into the previous season). But Portland staggered to an 8-14 finish, then fell in the playoffs, bowing to Seattle in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Hollins topped the club in most offensive categories, while Walton led in rebounds and blocked shots. Reaping the rewards of attention brought on by the previous year's championship, a number of Blazers earned honors. The biggest prize went to Walton, who was voted the NBA Most Valuable Player, the only Portland player ever to garner the top individual award.

Walton was an All-NBA First Team selection, while Lucas made the All-NBA Second Team. Walton, Lucas, and Hollins were All-Stars, and all three made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. The Trail Blazers held opponents to an NBA-best and club-record 101.5 points per game.

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1978-83: Blazers Make Early Playoff Exits

By the third year of Jack Ramsay's coaching stint, Portland had established a pattern that would last through the 1980s: a roster filled with good-if unspectacular-role players, producing solid seasons with at least 40 victories, followed by a quiet showing in the playoffs. The 1978-79 squad went 45-37, a 13-game drop from the previous season.

Coming off his MVP year, Walton missed the entire 1978-79 campaign with a stress fracture in his foot, a portent of the physical problems that would plague him for the rest of his career. He became a free agent after the season and was signed by the San Diego Clippers.

Tom Owens, a 6-10 center acquired from Houston, led the team in minutes played, scored 18.5 points per game, and excelled in most other offensive categories. Rookie Mychal Thompson, another 6-10 center with both power and finesse, was a productive force, notching 14.7 points per game. Fellow rookie Ron Brewer also showed talent, but the Blazers were already in transition.

Portland continued its downward spiral in 1979-80, notching only 38 victories, a 20-game descent from two years earlier. Owens led the team in scoring with an average of 16.4 points per game, the second-lowest team-leading mark in the Trail Blazers' history. Solid 6-8 forward Kermit Washington was the team's force in the middle, pacing the squad in blocked shots (131) and rebounds (10.5 rpg). The brightest spot was the play of Calvin Natt, acquired from the New Jersey Nets in a trade for Maurice Lucas. Natt played the season's final 25 games with Portland and averaged 20.4 points as a Blazer.

The Blazers entered the 1980s with a team built around center Mychal Thompson and guard Jim Paxson, the club's 1979 first-round draft pick. Portland posted a 45-37 record in 1980-81 and appeared to be headed in the right direction, but the season had its bumpy patches. The rockiest night came on February 13 when Denver rang up a 162-143 victory and set a record for most points ever scored against Portland. It was a fair payback, since two of the Blazers' highest point totals had come against the Nuggets.

The 1981-82 Trail Blazers barely managed a winning campaign, at 42-40, and missed the playoffs to snap a five-year string of postseason appearances. Thompson was a workhorse, setting a team record for minutes played with an average of 39.6 minutes per game. He also led in scoring (20.8 ppg) and rebounding (11.7 rpg). Natt emerged as a solid player, leading the Blazers in field-goal percentage (.576) for the first of three consecutive seasons.

The 1982-83 Trail Blazers fought their way to a 46-36 record and battled into the Western Conference Semifinals. The season's highlight came early, when Portland put the collar on Cleveland on November 21, trouncing the Cavaliers, 129-79. The 50-point margin of victory was Portland's largest ever.

Captain Jim Paxson led the team in scoring at 21.7 points per game. Natt chipped in 20.4 points per contest. The multitalented Lafayette "Fat" Lever came aboard to run the show at point guard.

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1983-85: Clyde Glides Into Town

Portland's 48-34 record in 1983-84 was the team's best in seven seasons. If the Blazers' progress had typically been measured in fits and starts, they were hitting on all cylinders on November 22, when they ran up a team-record 156 points against Denver, beating the Nuggets by 40 points. Later in the year Portland scored 155 points against Chicago but lost a marathon four-overtime game to the Bulls by a single point.

The team's greatest achievement may have come before the season even started, when Portland selected the University of Houston's Clyde Drexler with the 14th overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft. Drexler had a modest rookie season (7.7 ppg), but he would go on to become a perennial All-Star, a Dream Teamer, and the driving force behind the Blazers' two NBA Finals appearances in the early 1990s-not to mention becoming Portland's all-time leading scorer.

Fan support in Portland remained consistent. On March 3 the Blazers sold out their 300th consecutive game. They advanced to the 1984 NBA Playoffs but lost to the Phoenix Suns in a five-game first-round series.

Portland struggled to keep its head above water in 1984-85, finally managing a 42-40 record. Despite its modest performance, the team was beginning to assemble the pieces that would turn into a monster over the next several years. Before the season started, the front office worked a trade with Denver that initially stunned many Blazers fans. Portland surrendered Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, Fat Lever, and a first-round draft pick (which turned out to be Blair Rasmussen), all for 6-8 marksman Kiki Vandeweghe.

Vandeweghe led the team in scoring for the first of three consecutive seasons, with 22.4 points per game. He also set a team record for free-throw accuracy at .896. Also on the roster was Drexler, the smooth second-year guard who improved to 17.2 points per game and would eventually succeed Vandeweghe as the Blazers' scoring leader. Far more than just a scorer, Drexler led the 1984-85 team in offensive rebounding (217) and steals (177). Rookie center Sam Bowie, whom the Blazers selected with the second overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft (one pick before the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan), also showed some skills in the middle, although his career, like Bill Walton's, would be riddled with injuries.

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1985-86: Ramsay's Magic Act Comes To An End

By 1985-86 all the coaching magic in Jack Ramsay's bag of tricks had worn off, and the team slumped to 40-42, finishing below .500 for the first time since 1980. After a 10-year reign, Ramsay was replaced at the end of the season, having won 453 games with the Blazers. He would go on to coach the next two-plus seasons with the Indiana Pacers before resigning, and retiring, seven games into the 1988-89 campaign. Ramsay left the NBA's coaching ranks with 864 career victories in 21 seasons. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Ramsay's last year had its share of highlights. In a January 10 game at Milwaukee, Drexler nailed the Bucks for 10 steals, matching Larry Steele's club mark set in 1974. Three weeks later, on February 1, Portland toasted the Los Angeles Clippers for 156 points, matching the Blazers' all-time high, set against Denver in 1983. Following that victory, however, Portland lost 12 straight games.

Drexler made his first All-Star Game appearance as the league began to recognize a star in ascendancy. On March 21 Vandeweghe matched Geoff Petrie's 1971 team record for free throws made in a game, racking up 18 charity tosses against Seattle. Vandeweghe led Portland in scoring for the year with 24.8 points per game. The club received small contributions from a rookie named Terry Porter (7.1 ppg), who would become a key building block to Portland's success in the early 1990s.

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1986-88: Schuler Enjoys Immediate Success

In 1986-87 Mike Schuler took over the reins as head coach and guided the Trail Blazers to their best record in a decade, 49-33. At season's end Schuler was named NBA Coach of the Year.

On January 23 Porter handed out 18 assists against the Sacramento Kings, breaking the team mark of 17 set by Rick Adelman against Cleveland in 1971. Adelman served as a Blazers assistant coach in 1986-87 and would take over the helm in 1989.

The team was still looking for help in the middle, and Portland replaced Mychal Thompson with Steve Johnson, a big body who provided solid, if unspectacular, offense. Johnson managed to chisel his name into the record books, however, setting an ignominious club mark by averaging more than four fouls per night and fouling out of 16 games.

Although Portland was missing some key ingredients, the team was an offensive juggernaut, averaging a franchise-best and league-leading 117.9 points per game. Vandeweghe and Drexler were doing most of the damage, with Vandeweghe leading the club at 26.9 points per game. The Blazers advanced to the NBA Playoffs but were upset by Houston, three games to one, in a first-round series.

In 1987-88 Portland began to reestablish itself as an NBA contender, running up a 53-29 mark behind emerging stars Drexler and Porter. But for the third consecutive season the Blazers lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, this time to the Utah Jazz in a four-game series. On February 21 against San Antonio, Jim Paxson became the first Trail Blazer to top 10,000 points. On April 14 at Utah, Porter handed out 19 assists, breaking his own team mark. Drexler set a club record with 2,185 points for the season, and led the team in scoring (27.0 ppg) for the first of five consecutive seasons. Many of his baskets came via passes from Porter, who rewrote the Portland record book with 831 assists, for an all-time best average of 10.1 assists per game. Drexler scored 12 points and grabbed 5 rebounds for the West in the 1988 NBA All-Star Game.

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1988-89: A New Owner, A New Coach, But A Losing Record

Near the end of the season Larry Weinberg announced that he had sold the Trail Blazers to Seattle computer magnate Paul Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft.

Portland's high expectations for 1988-89 crumbled into a disappointing 39-43 losing record that cost Coach Schuler his job in midseason.

Nevertheless, there were some spectacular moments. In a double-overtime game against Sacramento on January 6, Drexler threw in 50 points, one shy of Geoff Petrie's franchise record (Petrie had hit for 51 twice in 1973). Drexler set a club-record scoring average, pouring in 27.2 points per game. Drexler also set a team steals mark with 2.73 per contest. Center Kevin Duckworth, who had been acquired from San Antonio during the 1986-87 season, proved to be the answer to the Blazers' quest for a consistent force in the middle. The mammoth 7-foot, 280-pound pivotman had his best season, playing in the 1989 NBA All-Star Game and averaging 18.1 points.

The whole was far less than the sum of its parts, however. Things clearly weren't clicking, and Schuler, two years removed from winning NBA Coach of the Year honors, was replaced by longtime assistant coach Rick Adelman, an original Trail Blazers player.

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1989-90: "Rip City"

Under Adelman, Portland finally fulfilled its promise in 1989-90 and became one of the league's elite teams, reaching the 1990 NBA Finals before losing to the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," led by Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer. As the squad's high-powered offense ran to a 59-23 record, Portland became known nationwide as "Rip City."

The Blazers were consistently great all year long, posting winning records in each month of the season, including a 12-2 January and a 13-4 March. On December 26 Clyde Drexler gave himself a late Christmas present by scoring his 10,000th point, then surpassed Jim Paxson's total of 10,003 to become the Blazers' all-time leading scorer.

In the postseason the Blazers shredded the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio, and the Phoenix Suns on the way to the Finals against Detroit. The series opened in the Motor City, where the teams split the first two games. But the Pistons swept the next three in Portland to claim the crown.

Drexler once again led Portland in scoring for the year, although the offensive load was distributed more evenly. Buck Williams, a 6-8 rebounding machine, had been acquired from New Jersey prior to the season for Sam Bowie and a first-round pick. Brought in to bolster the front line, Williams fulfilled his role, leading the Blazers in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.548). Although Terry Porter's assists average declined for the third consecutive year, he still delivered 9.1 assists per game.

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1990-91: Blazers Bomb Away, But Lakers Get Last Laugh

The Trail Blazers continued to breathe the rarefied air at the top of the league in 1990-91, posting a franchise-record 63 victories. They began the year with 11 straight wins, ran out to a 19-1 mark, and never looked back, winning consistently and closing out the campaign with a 10-1 record in April. They set a team record with a 16-game winning streak from March 20 through April 19. Portland also broke the Los Angeles Lakers' nine-year dominance of the Pacific Division. The Blazers led the division for all but a single day during the regular season, when a March 19 loss to Golden State knocked them from the top spot for 24 hours.

As is typical of a great team, everybody contributed. Drexler led in scoring, but his 21.5 points per game average was the lowest team-leading mark in seven years. The tireless Williams made more than 60 percent of his shots to lead the league in field-goal percentage at .602. The team also enhanced its shooting prowess and backcourt experience by trading for veteran Danny Ainge prior to the season. Porter and Ainge ranked among the league's top 10 in three-point field-goal percentage, and Jerome Kersey continued to be a durable and formidable performer at small forward. Drexler, Porter, and Duckworth were All-Star selections at midseason.

Many figured the Blazers would return to the NBA Finals and perhaps claim their second league championship in 1991. But Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers derailed Portland's title hopes with a six-game series victory in the Western Conference Finals.

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1991-92: A Return Trip To The Finals

The following year the road to the NBA Championship ran through Portland. The Blazers notched 57 regular-season victories during the 1991-92 campaign to lead the Western Conference for the second straight year. Portland then clawed its way into the NBA Finals for a battle against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Once again Drexler shouldered more of the offensive load, pushing his team-leading scoring average up nearly 4 points, to 25.0 per game. For the second consecutive season Williams led the team and the league in field-goal percentage at .604.

In the playoffs, Portland trounced the Lakers, Suns, and Jazz. On April 29 at Los Angeles, Drexler scored a club playoff-high 42 points. In Game 4 of the Phoenix series on May 11, the team racked up a team playoff-record 153 points in a double-overtime affair. A week after that, in Game 2 against Utah on May 19, Porter poured in 41 points.

That set up a blockbuster matchup with defending champion Chicago in the NBA Finals. The teams split the first two contests in Chicago, with Portland winning an overtime bout in Game 2. The Bulls then took two of the three games on the Trail Blazers' home court. One of those games saw Jordan torch the Blazers for 46 points, which at the time was the sixth-highest total ever scored in a Finals contest. The Bulls closed out the Blazers in Game 6 in Chicago.

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1992-93: Drexler Shines, Robinson Stars

After three seasons as one of the NBA's elite teams, the Trail Blazers slipped in 1992-93. An aging cast of players made the decline inevitable, and the Blazers' record dipped to 51-31, trailing Seattle and Phoenix in the Pacific Division. The team played well through the first half of the season but hit the wall in late winter. Portland slumped to a 4-7 mark in February, the team's first losing month in four years. The Blazers returned to the playoffs but lost to San Antonio in the first round.

On November 14 at Golden State, Terry Porter had the most prolific scoring quarter in Portland history, throwing in 25 points in a single period. He also set a Trail Blazers record by hitting 7 three-pointers on perfect 7-for-7 shooting. (He would also hit 7 treys just six weeks later, on January 2 against Utah.) In April, Porter passed the 10,000-point mark and moved into second place on Portland's all-time scoring list.

Ten days after Porter's November binge, Clyde Drexler surpassed the 15,000-point plateau. Drexler missed 33 games, however, and forward Jerome Kersey missed 17 because of injury. Drexler, limited to 49 games, led the Blazers in scoring, averaging 19.9 points. The team's brightest spot was Cliff Robinson, who began to establish himself as a legitimate NBA player. He scored 19.1 points per game and ranked among the league leaders in blocked shots. His performance earned him the NBA Sixth Man Award.

By the end of the season Drexler had become Portland's all-time leader in nearly every offensive category, including points, field goals, free throws, offensive rebounds, and steals. Drexler, Kersey, and Porter topped the all-time team list in games played. Porter was the team's career leader in assists and three-point field goals.

The team also started construction on a new $262-million sports and entertainment complex adjacent to Memorial Coliseum, set to open in 1995. The arena was designed to have a basketball capacity of 20,340.

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1993-94: A Team In Transition

In 1993-94 the Trail Blazers continued their slow decline and their rebuilding for the future. Rod Strickland (17.2 ppg, 9.0 apg) replaced Terry Porter as the starting point guard, and Jerome Kersey gave way to Harvey Grant, who came over from the Washington Bullets in an offseason trade for Kevin Duckworth. Chris Dudley was signed as a free agent to provide rebounding and defense, but an early ankle injury knocked him out for most of the year.

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 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.

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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 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 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 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 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.

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1995-96: "Rookie" Blazer Blooms in Rose Garden

The Blazers began the 1995-96 season in new surroundings, the state-of-the-art Rose Garden, with a capacity of more than 20,000. After years of only accommodating less than 13,000, suddenly Portland had a facility that ranked among the best in the NBA.

The 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 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 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 Blazers in 1986, a Lithuanian superstar who spent six years in the Spanish league, joined the 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 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 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.

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1996-97: New Trio Sparks Improved Blazers

It was a new nucleus, but the same result for the 1996-97 Trail Blazers. Benefiting from an influx of new faces, the Blazers closed strongly to finish at 49-33 and advance to the postseason for a league-best 15th straight season.

The changes began in July when, in a nine-day period, the 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 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 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.

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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.

For Stoudamire, a Portland native, the trade was a return home. Though an ankle injury limited him to only 22 regular-season games with the Blazers, Dunleavy saw enough of the speedy 5-10 point guard to realize Stoudamire was right at home on the court as well.

The 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 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 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 Blazers were a force in the Western Conference by season's end. When all was said and done, the 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 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 Blazers' future.

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1998-99: The Big Breakthrough

After six consecutive first-round exits from the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers returned to the ranks of the Western Conference's elite teams.

Mike Dunleavy earned Coach of the Year honors as the Blazers raced to a 35-15 record in the regular season. Portland swept Phoenix in the first round and eliminated Utah, the reigning conference champion, in the semifinals before losing to San Antonio in the Western finals.

The 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 Blazers also set a team record by holding the opposition to a .417 field goal percentage.

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