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Rip City Magazine Rewind: Volume 1, Issue 2

The next installment of Rip City Magazine Rewind is Volume 1, Issue 2 which will take the fans inside the mind of the then-third year forward, Cliff Robinson. The versatile big, capable of playing all three front court positions was Portland's jack-of-all-trades player off the bench who instantly became a fan favorite. All throughout the Memorial Coliseum, fans young and old could be spotted in the crowd showing their support for "Uncle Cliffy" by wearing his trademarked headband.

During this Q. & A. with Cliff Robinson, fans will get to go back in time and get an insight on how he felt coming off the bench, what goals he set out for himself during the 1992-93 season (his average skyrocketed from 12.4 ppg to 19.1 ppg), and what the fan support means to him among other things.

So without further ado, here is Ken Vance's One ON One interview with Cliff Robinson...enjoy!

For the past three years, Cliff Robinson has become more and more of a known commodity in the National Basketball Asssocation.

In each of his seasons in the league, Robinson has been the top reserve on one of the top teams in the NBA. His style of play, at times, can be eye-opening, as can his life off the court.

Early on, as Robinson plays to his fourth seasons as a Portland Trail Blazer, the high-flying forward will turn 26-years-old. He appears to be ready to climb into the next level in the NBA - a level occupied by All-Stars.

Will he get to that level? Will his team reach the next level and win a championship? Is his off-the-court life under control?

Let's find out...

Ken Vance: Cliff, you're entering your fourth year in the NBA. Is it everything you expected?

Cliff Robinson: Actually, it is everything that I've expected. I've been having a great time. I've been fortunate to be with a team that has had winning records over the past three years since I have been here, and hopefully it will continue. It's been a learning experience because when you first get into the league, you don't realize how hard you have to play. I was lucky to get with a team that has had a few players around that have been in different situations, but have always played hard. Jerome Kersey is a hard worker. Buck Williams had some good years in New Jersey, but he also had some bad ones. Still, he always played hard. Being able to play with guys like that, as well as Clyde Drexler, who has had a lot of success, has really helped me out.

Q: What are the negative aspects of being an NBA player?

A: It's definitely not all roses. There's a lot of traveling, a lot of ups and downs because it's a long season. We go through something like 100 games, or so, throughout the whole year from exhibition to the playoffs. There are going to be some spells in the season where you're going to have your ups, and spells where you're going to have your downs.. But you've got to do a good job at keeping an even keel, keeping things in perspective, not letting yourself get too overwhelmed when you're doing good, and not letting yourself get too down when you're doing bad. Because the league is all about having confidence and the ability to go out there and do it. Worry too much about the ups and downs, and you'll really end up being down most of the time.

Q: One thing that can be a negative situation in the NBA is negotiating contracts. With your contract, which runs through 1995-96 with an option for 1996-97, at an average rate reportedly close to $2 million a year, you've been saved that frustration, haven't you?

A: I was fortunate that I didn't have to worry about that. I came into a great situation. I came in here when they really didn't have anyone to back up Jerome, and I was that guy they looked to. That helped me out. I just went out there and played. They've had a great history of taking care of their players when they said they were going to do it. When the times comes and they have to do it, they do it.

Q: In last year's NBA Finals against the Bulls, a video was released featuring you doing the "Uncle Cliffy" dance. The fans loved it, but you seemed to shy away from the publicity surrounding it. Why?

A: It was fun, but I think when I was playing bad, people were trying to point the finger at that, like I was too busy trying to do the Uncle Cliffy. It was definitely fun, but I just didn't like the way it got overblown.

Q: What are some of your personal goals for this season?

A: I would love to be recognized for some of the awards that come around at the end of the season. Last year, I thought I had a very good season, but it didn't seem like I was even mentioned for the Sixth Man Award, even when my team has been one of the most successful teams over the past few years. And it seems like the guys who have been looked at as better sixth men in the league, their teams haven't. I would take that over the award and I've accepted it. When you keep getting better and better though, you don't want to keep accepting everything. Even if I don't get it, I'd just like to be recognized for it.

Q: Will the issue of starting ever become a factor with you?

A: I don't think it will ever become an issue as long as I'm getting the kind of minutes I feel I deserve. I won't have any problem coming off the bench.

Q: Last season you averaged 26 minutes a game. Is that enough?

A: No, I'm looking for it to go up this year. The more time I get on the court, the more things I can do.

Q: Right now, you're considered one of the league's good young players. What's it going to take to get your game to the next level?

A: It's just a matter of getting more minutes out there on the floor and getting that confidence. That's what it's all about. I was born wit ha lot of confidence and my mother instilled a lot of confidence in me. So as soon as I have the ball and have the opportunities to do more things on the court, then the more it will get seen, and the more my game will go to the next level. It'll automatically go to the next level with more playing time.

Q: You obviously have a lot of high goals, don't you?

A: I always keep high goals. A lot of guys come into the NBA and become content with just being role players and that don't really try to improve on their positions with their team. I try to keep my eyes open as far as opportunities are concerned, and when they come, I just want to try and take advantage of them. Whether it means starting, making the All-Star team, whatever. I just want to keep my eyes open and not let my goals or my vision become too narrow. A lot of guys don't put pressure on themselves. They just want to make the team each year and continue doing things they've been doing. I'm not one of those guys.

Q: What can you improve on, or what can you do, to get your game to the next level?

A: I'm trying to make more free throws. That could have raised my average something like three more points last year, if I could have made just a few more free throws. I've been trying to do that. Also, a little more consistency rebounding, because at times I have the tendency to just watch the ball instead of going after it.

Q: As a team, the Blazers have made it to the NBA Finals twice in the last three years. The team could obviously take the next step and win a title, or take a step back and head the other way. Which way is the team headed?

A: I don't think we're over the hill. There are some guys that have been here that are still capable of putting up the numbers that they've put up in the past, and they're still capable of doing things that they have done in the past. I don't think we're getting ready to be over the hill just yet.

Q: What's it going to take to get the team to the next level and win an NBA Championship?

A: I think the guys that we've added on the team, like Rod Strickland. He's a quick penetrator, a very good defender, and he's good in the open floor. Mario Elie is the same type of player; good in the open floor, he can hit the open jumper, and is a very good defender. Tracy Murray is a very good shooter. With Mario and Rod, we also add two guys who are older and who know what it takes to be successful in this league.

Q: In Game One of the 1990 Western Conference Semifinal series against San Antonio, you stepped in for an injured Kevin Duckworth and shut down Spurs' center David Robinson to just eight points, and Portland won. It was a great performance in a high-profile game. Did it have any affect in accelerating your career?

A: I think it helped me, but I just think my all around consistent improvement has helped me the most. It was a big game for me because David Robinson is one of the best centers in the league - maybe he is the best center in the league - and I thought I did a very good job on him. I held him to eight points, which is something he didn't think I could do. He thought he was going to run over me and he didn't do that. It made me feel good, but it was just another game.

Q: You had a pretty negative label coming out of college. they said you were too soft to play in the NBA and that you didn't work hard. Was it fair?

A: It wasn't fair, but nothing is ever fair. I can still pick up a magazine today and people are still writing bad things about me. You've just got to take those kind of things as they come and I think I've done a good job of doing that. i think early in my college career I didn't habdle it so well, but now that I have been through it, it's nothing now. I can look at it and laugh.

Q: Was the label of being too soft to play inside in the NBA accurate? Because weren't you actually playing out of position being forced to play center at Connecticut?

A: I had to do what I had to do. My team wasn't fortunate enough to get the type of players that the Syracuses and Georgetowns got, but we did the best we could with what we had. When I first got to UConn I did play small forward and power forward, but over my next couple of years, we didn't get anybody in with the size to play center, who also had the ability. So, I had to do what I had to do.

Q: How did the Big East prepare you for the NBA?

A: It was tough. It was a battle every night. Every team in the Big East was capable of beating each other on any given night. Every team in the Big East had big players who were strong, and they let you bang a little bit, so I think that helped me.

Q: While in college you helped UConn win an NIT Championship and you've been on a successful team in the NBA. How important is winning to you?

A: In my college years, I never really had the team that I really wanted; one where the whole group of guys wanted the same goal. Now that I've moved on to the NBA, I'm on a team where everyone is really looking to come together and achieve that one goal that we haven't. I really wanted to focus on team records and keep winning; my opportunities to get individual types of things will come. I just wanted to win. That's my biggest concern.

Q: What got you started playing basketball?

A: It came naturally. I played a lot of football and then I started getting a little too tall. My mother advised me to leave it alone and switch over to basketball.

Q: What kind of influence did your mother have on you as a person?

A: My mother is a single parent. She worked at Bethlehem Steel until it closed down, and then she went on to become a nurse's aide. She's always instilled a lot of confidence in me, and she has always been there for me. I talk to her almost every day. If not every day, then every other day.

Q: Now you find yourself in the position of being a single parent of a 5-year-old daughter. Did your experiences with your mother help you succeed in that role?

A: It's a tough situation, but you have to do what ever you can to try and keep everything on an even keel and keep everything in perspective. I have my basketball, I have my family, and I have my little daughter Jessica. I try to be extremely patient with her and not really put pressure on her to do what she doesn't want to. I just try to be her friend most of all, like my mother did to me. She was my friend, in fact, one of my best friends, and that's what I try to be with Jessica - one of her best friends. I try not to look down on here o anything like that. My mother did a great job with me. Even though she was the parent and the authority figure, she never looked down on me. I think that's the biggest thing helping me right now.

Q: You majored in Human Development and family relations in college, and I know you want to work with underprivileged kids in the future. What do you think you can offer in that kind of situation?

A: I love children. I think I can do a good job at being their friend and not looking down at them; being an authority figure and still not looking down on them. I enjoy that.

Q: Did you have any role models when you were growing up?

A: Muhammad Ali. I was a big football fan. I liked O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach.

Q: A lot of people feel that playing in a small market like Portland, puts you under a microscope. Do you feel that way?

A: We are under a microscope, but in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and the Major Leagues, everyone is under a microscope. You just have to deal with it.

Q: You got into trouble in two separate incidents over the last three years in Portland. First, it was the scuffle at a local night spot and second, there was the high-speed, traffic violation last year. What have you learned from those incidents?

A: I just try to make better judgments. I don't drive as fast anymore and I watch the night places I go. I just think I make better decisions. There's no particular thing that you can pick out and say that it helped me. But, when you look back on it, you're going to know that it's going to help you in some sort of way.

Q: Since Magic Johnson's announcement that he had acquired the HIV virus, much has been made about the type of lifestyle that NBA players lead. Has that lifestyle been difficult for you to deal with?

A: I think I've done a good job of keeping that in perspective. You're going to have people who are trying to get at you, people wanting you to go with them. You've got to know what's good for you and what's not. I think I do a good job at doing that.

Q: Are players in the NBA becoming sensitive to AIDS?

A: If they're not, they should be. If they're out sleeping around and not protecting themselves, doing things they know they shouldn't be doing, then they definitely should be concerned about it. You know what the consequences are if you're not doing the right thing. I think guys are definitely aware of what the consequences are and I would hope that guys do take care of themselves and do the right thing.

Q: The fans in Portland have really gotten behind you. How does that make you feel?

A: There were times when people didn't really know who I was was. They questioned me because of what they read in the media or whatever they might have heard about why I went in the second round, because I was expected to go higher. All those kinds of things play a factor in people's perception about you. The fact that people looked past that and just accepted me for the person I am, and never really listened to those things, is something I really appreciate.

Photo Gallery: Cliff Robinson Through The Years

Previous Story: Volume 1 Issue 1 - Clyde's Golden Year
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