Now that the lockout-talk fracas is over we return to our regularly-scheduled programming, running down the roll of the most disappointing pick-ups in Portland Trail Blazer history.
On June 24th, 1993 the Trail Blazers broke up the starting lineup that had taken them to the 1990 and '92 NBA Finals. Trading center Kevin Duckworth put an end to the hope that the famous quintet from the Clyde Drexler era would win a championship together. If Bill Walton's departure in 1979 had been the equivalent of Buddy Holly's plane going down ("the day the music died") this was the break-up of the Beatles. Inevitable sadness lay in the pit of most Blazer fans' stomachs but most also sensed it was time. The team had not excelled in '93 and Duckworth appeared to be losing his constant battle with weight issues. His per-minute production was as good as ever but extra pounds and a surprisingly mobile Cliff Robinson were starting to eat into those minutes. The Blazers also had designs on free agent Chris Dudley, a defensive and rebounding specialist in the middle. Add it all up and there was no room for Duck's ample frame in Portland's plans.
Momentary shock and lingering sadness turned into broad smiles when Blazer fans learned who their team had snagged in return for Duckworth. Washington Bullets forward Harvey Grant was the twin brother of Chicago Bulls stalwart Horace who had put up nice numbers assisting Michael Jordan to multiple NBA titles. Harvey was actually considered the better of the two. He had just posted three straight 18-point seasons while shooting an impressive 49% from the field. He was heralded as a bright star on the East Coast, a guy perhaps poised for an explosion. At 28 he was right in his prime. Adding the high-scoring Grant to an already potent smaller lineup and throwing Dudley's defense in the mix would create a lethal two-way combination. I remember one prominent sports talk host proclaiming loudly that this was the best day the Trail Blazers had seen in years and that they had absolutely robbed the Bullets in the exchange.
Dudley's injuries would limit him to but 6 games in 1993-94, but that's another tale. The more interesting story was how absolutely uninteresting Grant turned out to be. The guy wasn't horrible as much as uninspired and inconsistent. He'd work his way open 10 feet from the rim and you'd go, "Yeah, Harvey. Decent move Harvey. Ohmygod how did you miss that shot, Harvey? A third-grader on the playground could hit from there!" But you never knew with Grant. He could make or miss the most basic of shots. He didn't get burned on defense as much as just exist there. His most distinctive feature was (get this...) he didn't ever turn over the ball. Seriously. The Blazers anticipated a lava lamp and ended up with beige wallpaper.
Watching Grant play was like serving as your friend's wingman at a singles bar while he busted out with:
"Hey, uh. My name's Dave. Most people call me Dave from accounting 'cuz I work in accounting, you know? Numbers and all. I like numbers. They're more interesting than people, really. You know what else is cool? Plants. Plants are great. I have plenty of houseplants. Ferns, mostly. It's not too hard to keep them. Not like a pet or anything. I just have a little canister that I water them with. My grandma gave it to me. You know, it's amazing what you can do with tap water."
OK, dude, that's not the most horrible game ever, but you're never going to score that way.
Speaking of...Grant lost 8 points off of his scoring average and 4.5 off of his per-36 scoring (hat tip to Basketball-Reference) the moment he came to Portland. It only got worse from there. He couldn't shoot threes, he couldn't draw fouls. His only means of production was sucking up possessions from more dynamic players. Pretty soon fans began shrugging their shoulders when Grant was inserted, hoping he wouldn't get the ball much. His teammates began to pick up on the vibe. "What happened to Harvey Grant?" became a popular topic of discussion as it became apparent that his Portland scoring average was going to max out at (drum roll) 10 points per game. It would become 9 later. That's not bad if you're averaging 15 minutes per game, but he was a major rotation player. That was Grant's story though. In 1994-95 he played 24 minutes per game, in 1995-96 he played 32. He was worth the same 9 points either way.
And don't even ask about the playoffs. Had the internet been popular in the mid-'90's somebody surely would have nicknamed this guy Tasty Cow because he got butchered every spring. Expectations were so low that when he actually had one 6-for-11, 21 point outing against Phoenix in 1995 his teammates were openly wondering about him on camera! "Maybe Harvey Grant found himself. That's the Harvey Grant we were expecting." Implication: Who the heck is the guy we've been seeing? Grant quickly reminded them, following up his torrential outburst with (guess what?) 9 points in 40 minutes during a season-ending loss. 9-9-9...he was Herman Cain before Herman Cain was cool.
Most people know that once upon a time the Trail Blazers held an enormous homecourt sell-out streak. Most also know that some time later wind would whistle through all the empty seats in the Rose Garden. Many blame the change on the Jailblazer era. Actually Portland had to rebuild its entire season ticket fan base from scratch in the spring of 1996 when Harvey Grant turned in a playoff performance so ugly that everyone who viewed it immediately turned to stone. In five games against the Utah Jazz, averaging 33 minutes each contest, Grant shot 34% from the field, 14% from the three-point arc, averaging 5.4 points per game. His PER for the series was...2.6. I honestly did not know they made PER's that low. I suspect it had to be custom-fitted.
One measure of effectiveness is points scored or allowed per 100 possessions. Around 100-ish is OK. If you're notching 120 points scored per 100 possessions for a given length of time you're playing at an elite level. Grant's points-per-100 in the '96 Utah series was 78...anti-elite. Points allowed per 100, however? 117. Combine the two and you're looking at an estimated 39 point gap between produced and allowed every 100 possessions from Harvey. Being bad is one thing. That's mythologically bad.
And yeah, he got traded after that.
Grant actually got to return to the Bullets in 1996. No, Portland hadn't kept the receipt. (Good idea, though!) He was moved along with Rod Strickland as part of the Rasheed Wallace trade. Did that resurrect his career? Nope. His stats, already low in Portland, plummeted further and he drifted out of the league three years later.
In the end the only thing epic about Harvey Grant was the fizzling sound. The more the Blazers played him the less he produced. His most memorable contribution was abject playoff failure. For that, he earns the #3 spot in the Trail Blazers All-Time Most Disappointing acquisition list.
Remember and debate below. That is, provided you remember Harvey Grant at all...which is kind of the point.
The rapidly-concluding list: #4 LaRue Martin #5 Darius Miles #6 Greg Oden #7 Martell Webster #8 Sebastian Telfair #9 Damon Stoudamire #10 Derek Anderson #11 Walter Davis #12 Rudy Fernandez #13 James Robinson #14 Scottie Pippen #15 Walter Berry