Here's the second matchup of the second round of the Blazersedge Scrubdown to determine Portland's favorite not-quite-star-level Blazer of all time. Today we have a battle between two classic big men.
Mark Bryant played seven seasons for the Blazers, drafted out of Seton Hall with the 21st pick of the 1988 draft. Simple math will tell you that he was around for the entirety of the early 90's championship run. His own career run started out incredibly well. Expectations of a 21st pick are usually modest but with Steve Johnson's career slowing down due to injury and Richard Anderson looking unlikely as a long-term power forward, Blazers fans were eager to embrace an heir apparent at the position. Bryant fever was stoked to bonfire level when Coach Mike Schuler, impressed with the rookie's pre-season performance, started him in the first game of the season. In reality it was probably an "anybody can start if they work hard" message to the team. From the outside (keeping in mind the relatively long distance between the locker room and fans in those days) it looked like their power forward worries were over for the next 15 years. Bryant did play for a decade and a half. Unfortunately for Portland fans he became the consummate journeyman: always good enough to earn a job and reasonable minutes, never quite good enough to own his position or make a striking impact. His rebounding was always solid. He became known as a defender as he aged. His offense was never a work of beauty but he raised his shooting percentage to more than acceptable levels in the middle part of his career. He also became known as a smart player. But he never emerged from the near-immediate shadows of Buck Williams and Cliff Robinson and his departure was met with more shrugs than tears.
Caldwell Jones was one of the guys Mark Bryant replaced. A long-tenured center in the ABA and NBA most famous for his play in Philadelphia during their championship runs, Jones came to the Blazers during the twilight of his career. By title a center, Jones found himself sharing the floor with other pivots--Sam Bowie, Steve Johnson, Kevin Duckworth--for most of his Blazer tenure. It was Portland's very own Twin Towers concept. Jones made this possible by being fairly mobile despite his age, by defending excellently, by grabbing rebounds, and by his utter lack of need to touch the ball otherwise. After a while the Blazers famously ran the first offensive set of the game for Jones and never game the ball to him again. He was just fine with that. In 1988-89 he played in 72 games and shot 77 times total. He never took more than 128 shots in a season during his time in Portland. Since Jones was paired with offensive centers the system worked. He spent four seasons with the Blazers, from 1985 through 1989. Though his veteran contributions and unselfishness were appreciated the general consensus at the time was that the Blazers couldn't take the next step until they got someone better than Caldwell on the floor.
So who goes on to the semi-finals, Bryant or Jones? Vote below.
P.S. There will be another post today. It'll come in the form of the resuming TrailBlazers.com Podcast, forward to which I am very much looking.