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Celebrating Our Heritage: Buck Williams

Honoring our rich heritage this Tue, Nov 13 vs Pistons.  Celebrate the 1990 &1992 teams with special guests Drexler, Porter, Kersey, Duckwork.  Tickets are available now click here. **Buck Williams will not be able to attend the celebration at the game on 11/13 vs Detroit Pistons

By Wayne Thompson

The spring of 1990 for Trail Blazer fans came out of the blue -- or. more aptly, out of the gray, given the hue of normal Oregon winters.

Nobody expected greatness from this team entering the season. Coming off a disappointing 39-43 record the year before, the Blazers caught fire in late February and finished the regular season winning 21 of their final 26 games. They exploded with pizzazz into the playoffs and all the way to the NBA championship Finals.

Entering those playoffs, the 1989-90 Blazers set team records for wins (59), road wins (24) and team confidence, as they fashioned the second best record in the NBA.

For many, it would be called Clyde Drexler's team, but truth be told the key to the 1989-90 turn-around season was an off-season trade that sent former Blazer Sam Bowie and a draft choice to New Jersey for Charles Linwood "Buck' Williams.

Not a splashy forward or heavy scorer, Buck Williams was a banger, a defensive stopper, an intimidator and clearly the key to the great Trail Blazers' teams that dominated most NBA opponents from 1989 through 1993.

One could even make a case that this team's roots were similar to those of the 1976-77 Blazer championship team.

That was known as Bill Walton's team, but it didn't flourish until the Blazers, in the summer of '76, drafted from the defunct ABA a young lion named Maurice Lucas, a banger and intimidating defensive presence much like Buck Williams.

Both teams, though a decade apart, seemed determined to exorcise the bad vibes of the season past through better chemistry and improved defense. They also had another similarity: Each had a new coach: Jack Ramsey for the 1976-77 Blazers and Rick Adelman for the 1989-90 Blazers.

Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth were holdovers who had been on prior Blazer teams of the 1980s. But Buck Williams, he was the missing piece for the Blazers' roaring '90s. Everybody who knows anything about the game of basketball acknowledged it: Without Buck, there would have been no 59 wins, no playoff finals.

Buck was the guy who did the dirty work on those Trail Blazer glory teams of the early '90s.

Today's prototype NBA power forward is long, agile and multi-talented, a player like LaMarcus Aldridge, for example. He's as comfortable bringing the ball up the court, running the floor on a break, burying 15 foot jump shots as making moves in the low post.

He's probably also closer to 6-foot-11 than the 6-foot-8 that Buck stood.

Williams, however, was the prototype back in his day. He would rebound like a demon, get you enough points on second-chance baskets and would make sure he did it at a very high clip, game after game.

Asked once how he got so many rebounds inspite of his rather small size, Williams quipped, "It's not who jumps the highest -- it's who wants it the most."

Williams started his career as a New Jersey Net after three years at Maryland. The third overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft, Williams went on to win Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 15.5 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game.

From there, Buck made the power forward position in New Jersey his own as he continued to average 11.9 rebounds or more per game every season he was in Jersey. He made three all-star appearances as a Net: 1982, 1983 and 1986 -- a fact much forgotten by many fans who went on to see him as a complementary player in later years. ePrior to Buck's arrival, Portland had dropped out in the first round of the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. With Williams at power forward, the results were immediate: three straight Western Conference Finals and the only thing between Portland and a title being the Detroit Bad Boys (1990) and the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan(1992). (In appearance, Buck was recognizable for his trademark goggles he began wearing after sustaining a scratch in his eyeball in a playoff series against Dallas in 1990.

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