Portland Trail Blazers All-Time Most Disappointing Acquisitions #15: Walter "Butter Knife" Berry

Dave,

If Greg Oden can't play, or worse leaves the Blazers to play for someone else, will that be the biggest disappointment ever?

It's a good question, if a bit unpleasant to contemplate.  It got me thinking, which is my way of saying I'm not going to answer your question just yet.  You said "biggest disappointment ever".  That almost begs for a list, so that's exactly what we're doing.  Over the next few days we'll take at look at the most disappointing acquisitions the Blazers have ever made.  "Acquisition" can include drafting, trading for, or signing off of the free agent market.  We're not limiting ourselves...disappointment is universal.  And often, in retrospect, amusing as it turns out.  

Feel free to comment and debate over each player mentioned.  Maybe some of these guys have redeeming qualities that outweighed the disappointment.  Maybe some should be higher or lower on the list.  Have it out in the comment section.  Once the list is complete we'll have you vote on which guy should have made #1.  Stay tuned to see if Oden makes the list already and if so, where.

Our list will include 15 players, an entire team plus injury space.  Consider it the all-time "Awwww...dangit!" team if you wish.

#15:  Walter Berry

Not every first-round draft pick pans out.  When you're drafting in the 20's or worse you pretty much expect the dice to roll against you.  But when you start creeping towards the mid-teens you expect something for your investment.  The Blazers had their share of teen-pick bungles in the 1980's including Jeff Lamp (drafted 15th in 1981) and Ronnie Murphy (drafted 17th in 1987).  But nobody quite matched the 14th pick of the 1986 draft, St. Johns sophomore Walter Berry.  Berry's short college career was distinguished.  He won both the AP Player of the Year and John Wooden awards in 1985-86, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds.  At 6'8" with some nice weight on him he was expected to be a stellar scoring forward.  Attitude issues dogged him from college, causing him to slip to the middle of the first round and into the Blazers' clutches.  He was a bit of a project, rough around the edges, but promising and well worth the pick.

Well...until he actually got to Portland, that is.

Rumors of Berry's discontent swirled throughout training camp.  Apparently he was a hard person to get along with.  Exactly how hard was revealed when he tried to solve an argument with a teammate over dinner by pulling a butter knife off the table and threatening him with it.  One wonders about the implicit threat.  "Back down or I'll make you totally slippery!  Don't test me, man.  This stuff will totally clog your pores and that could lead to eventual skin issues!"  If you're thinking he intended to use the sharp part of the knife, remember that butter knives don't have a sharp part.  This perhaps testified to his mental acumen as well as personality and temper. 

In any case, Berry's Portland career totaled exactly 7 games and 19 combined minutes of playing time.  To his credit he did hit 6 of 8 shots during those minutes, meaning he likely left the Blazers as their leading field goal percentage shooter of all time.  But it's a fair bet that 7 games and 19 minutes is on the low end of expectations for a mid-first round pick.

The upside to the hasty, mulligan-esque trade that shipped Berry out of town?  The Blazers got project center Kevin Duckworth from the San Antonio Spurs in return.  That turned out...slightly better.  Berry, meanwhile, couldn't get along in San Antonio either and was eventually tossed to New Jersey and then out of the league, bouncing around Europe before European bouncing was considered cool.  He found modest success but never re-entered the NBA.

So raise a glass today to the 15th most disappointing acquisition:  Walter "Butter Knife" Berry.  He was one heck of a bad draft pick but one heck of a good story.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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