Blazers Edge Exclusive: Clyde Drexler Talks Blazers

So you're tired of reading about Darius?  How's this for you...

This afternoon I had the honor of talking on the phone with the greatest player in Portland Trail Blazers history, Clyde Drexler.  We talked about a number of topics: Honor Terry Porter, the current Blazers, Oden vs. Olajuwon, pouring over boxscores and whether he would endorse Rudy Fernandez for the dunk contest.  Here's the transcript of our conversation.

Blazersedge: How does it feel to have to Terry Porter's number up in the rafters next to yours?

I think it was a wonderful honor. Terry was a great player for the great Trail Blazers for 10 years.  He had a magnificent amount of success there. It's a deserving honor.

Blazersedge: Were you surprised how long it took the team to honor him?

I think they waited for the timing to be right and also sometimes some guys are just so obvious that their names should be up there but they overlook some of the other guys who are also deserving. I think Terry was overlooked. And when they looked back and saw that no one else was even coming close to what he was able to do, I think they had to re-think that maybe we should put Terry in right now.

Blazersedge: Who do you think will be next to be honored?

Jerome Kersey.  How about Jerome Kersey! How can you not put his name in the rafters? And then Kevin Duckworth!

Blazersedge: Well, what about Buck Williams? [laughs]

Oh, DEFINITELY Buck! [laughter] Buck deserves to be there because we had a lot of success in those five years.

Blazersedge: You were around Hakeem Olajuwon when he was 19 and 20 years old when you were in college together at Houston. How would you compare Hakeem at that age to where Greg Oden is at right now?

Hakeem was an accomplished scorer at that age. Oden is a good defender, good shot blocker, he's got some offensive skill but he needs to get a little bit more efficient, a little bit more refined on the offensive end. Which will come. Which will happen because he's a hardworker. But Hakeem was a little bit more accomplished on the offensive end.

Blazersedge: I read in your book with Kerry Eggers about your first impressions of Hakeem when he showed up on campus.

I tell you, Hakeem was about 6'11", 195 pounds.  Oden already has a body of an NBA player. Hakeem Olajuwon had a lot to work on. He did it of course, he did it with grace and he did it quickly, faster than anyone I've ever seen.  

The two comparisons are basically one of hard work: if Oden works as hard on his offensive game, meaning the post ups, the fadeaways, the little jump hooks, he can be just as effective on the offensive end.

What happens is when you have a center that can control the game on both ends of the court, it gives you an outstanding chance to win each and every night.

Blazersedge: There's a lot of second guessing about Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant or Greg Oden. Where were you on that debate over who should be drafted number one and where are you now?

Think about it: if you've got Durant, Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge... [laughs] ... and you've got Przybilla at the center, you're still pretty good.

Blazersedge: That team is going to put up a lot of points.

But think about it, if you've got Oden,  and now you've got Rudy Fernandez, so I think I like that combination a little bit better. [laughs]

Blazersedge: You mentioned LaMarcus.  Does his skill set remind you of anyone you played with or against?

He's a long, rangy guy.  The closest guy because he's such an outstanding shooter from the outside, he shoots the ball kind of like Karl Malone shot it. He's a seven footer so he covers more court than Malone so he has the incredible capability. He should be a 20/10 guy in this league for many years.

Blazersedge: Someone told me a story recently that they were at a Blazers game and they overheard a father telling his young son that Brandon Roy is the "Clyde Drexler of this team."  At this point in his career, where do you put Brandon in the list of all-time Blazers greats?

Well, I really like Brandon Roy, I think he's doing a heck of a job, I like him because he has poise, he has patience, and he has a lot of talent. He's got a legitimate position, he's a real two guard, he plays with intelligence, and he's a leader off the court. Those are characteristics that every leader must have.

I don't like to compare guys [this early]. I like to see them do it for about six or seven more years and then we can have this conversation. But I really enjoy watching him play.  

In order to be considered among the greats, you've got to have some kind of longevity.

Blazersedge: Do you think Brandon will end his career in a Blazers uniform?

I certainly hope so.  Because the Blazers would be crazy to ever let him go.  He's got talent. And he's a good kid and that's what we want in Portland.  He's the kind of player that best exemplifies what a professional athlete should be.

Blazersedge: Rudy Fernandez is competing against Joe Alexander and Russell Westbrook to get voted by fans into the dunk contest. Would you endorse Rudy in this race?

Absolutely. Just because he's a Blazer. [laughs]

Blazersedge: Have you been impressed by Rudy's high flying game?

Rudy, I saw him in the gold medal game, Rudy can play.  I saw him in the Olympics, he's got legitimate game. He had a wonderful game against team USA, long range jumpers, great defense, blocking shots, he's a complete player. I think eventually that small forward spot is going to be his.

Blazersedge: A name that some people forget is Drazen Petrovic.  Do you have any particular memories of practice duels against him or what he was like off the court?

I still think he was one of the best European players ever to come over and play in the NBA. Because of his work ethic, his ability to make shots, he was a competitor, let me tell you.  He had a lot of game.  He was 6'4", he could play the point guard or the off guard very well, either or, he could pass, he could shoot, he could defend.  He played competitevely. He played to win. With passion.

Blazersedge: I heard a story he scored more than 100 points in a game over in Europe.

I heard that story. He was that good! He never missed!  When he missed, I was shocked! His shot was so efficient, when he missed, I would go, 'wow, he missed.'

Blazersedge: Who's a player from your era that you think is a Hall of Famer but might get overlooked?

That's been overlooked?  From my era? Guys like Buck Williams.  He had a long career.  Look at where he stands in the rebounding race.  The guy was phenomenal.  He would be a starting power forward on any team. And that's what you go by.  Did he dominate his position? And the answer is yes.

Another guy as a Hall of Famer who probably won't make it is a guy like Kevin Johnson from the Suns.  He was phenomenal.

Blazersedge: The big headline this week is the Blazers handling of the Darius Miles situation.  Were you surprised by the team's actions, trying to claim him off waivers and sending out the memo to the rest of the league?

I was surprised first of all that the Blazers sent the memo. I was surprised by the reaction of the teams that got the memos.

Blazersedge: How did you think they would react?

You know... you just never know. I think I was surprised by both actions....

Blazersedge: Now you're a color commentator.  What's it like to be on that side of the game?  Did you see yourself doing that as a player?

That's what you do as a player anyway. You analyze what the other team does. You point out their strengths and weaknesses as players. You've been doing that your whole life. Now I get to articulate it to the national audience.  It's a natural [transition], really.

Blazersedge: So you were the guy that was breaking down the boxscore after the game, looking at your stats, looking to see who had turnovers...?

Absolutely. I did it each and every game. I did my homework before the game. You have to know your competition.  That way you can go straight to their weaknesses. If you don't know them, you're taking a crapshoot. I don't want to guess, I want to know what will happen.

Blazersedge: Is the boxscore a good motivator for the next game as well?

No, because sometimes stats are misleading. A guy can shoot 9 of 19 but make 3 shots when you're down 20.  You've got to make the shots when the game is competitive. When we played we didn't get to pad our stats. The NBA is a marathon and if you played in the last 3 or 4 minutes of the game, that's when the game is tight.  

But there were about 25 games one year where I didn't even play in the fourth quarter.  [laughs]

Blazersedge: [laughs] Because you were up by so much?

Exactly. Imagine, if you want to pad your stats, whatever you averaged it could have been 5 or 6 more points.

Blazersedge: Is Portland a playoff team this season or are they going to finish in 9th place in the West?

Oh no, I KNOW Portland is a playoff team this year. I think Nate McMillan will get them there. He's got the young guys believing in themselves. If they keep the big fella healthy, the sky is the limit.

Blazersedge: Is Nate a Coach of the Year candidate this year?

Definitely. Definitely. Definitely.

Blazersedge: So he's at the top of your list?

... Um.... at this stage he is.  Yes, he is.

Blazersedge: Do you see Portland making any moves prior to the trade deadline?With pieces like Channing Frye, Sergio Rodriguez and Raef LaFrentz's contract a trade seems possible but in the past they haven't made a lot of in-season moves.  Are they going to stand pat?

I think they are going to stand pat. They have a lot of talent. I don't think they need to do anything. Channing Frye is a good young player and he can only get better. He's big, he's tall, he's rangy, he can shoot the ball, he's helped them. They don't really want to get rid of him. I think that's a team that can stand pat because they have a lot of talent and a lot of depth. 

Blazersedge: Have you gotten a chance to see Jerryd Bayless play?

Bayless is awesome. I got a chance to see him in college at Arizona. I think he's going to be one of their top five players next year.  I really do. Because he has major skill level and it just takes awhile for the guards to get adjusted in this league.

Blazersedge: Top five in terms of talent for the Blazers or you think he will start next year?

Yeah.  Yeah.  

Blazersedge: Do you think he can play point guard in the league? 

Well, It depends on his development over the summer. He's going to take a look at what's going to be his position. His size will indicate that he's going to be a point guard but if not he's going to be like Ben Gordon, kind of a tweener, who may come in as a sixth man.

Blazersedge: What are your future plans? Do you have any front office opportunities or coaching in the works?

I'm happy in the booth right now. This is my fourth year for the Rockets. But what I'd like to do is when my youngest son goes to high school, I'd like to get back into coaching or become a General Manager of an NBA team. That's my goal. I'll be home, all four of my kids will be in college or out of college so I'll have plenty of time.

Blazersedge: Last question because I know you've got to run: do you have any message for your commentating colleagues with the Blazers, Mike Barrett and Mike Rice?

Tell Mike Rice, that the only thing I learned from Mike was how to talk noise. [laughs] He's one of the all time great guys. I love Mike. You tell him I say continued success.

Thanks a lot to Clyde Drexler for taking time to speak with Blazersedge.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

PS This interview was arranged as part of Alltel's My Circle Hoops Getaway.  To read more about it -- including information about flying on a private jet to a game with Clyde -- go to AlltelBasketball.com.  For more reading, check out Clyde's chat over at ESPN.

PPS Thanks to Moss, Torrid Joe and SandbergOnSports for their question suggestions.

BallHype: hype it up!

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