Here is the final matchup of the second round of the Blazersedge Scrubdown, determining Portland's favorite not-so-star-level Blazer player.
In a somewhat surprising result from yesterday's first-round run-off, Kermit Washington defeated Drazen Petrovic, meaning Kermit won his way into today's matchup.
To his regret, Kermit Washington will always be remembered for the punch that ended the career of Houston's Rudy Tomjanovic. The image of Kermit's arm extending and Rudy's face crumpling remains one of the more visceral and disturbing in sports, especially when consequences are considered. But the man who has become a constantly-cited reference whenever the NBA's draconian prohibitions against fighting are evoked spent three years in Portland's uniform leaving behind even more indelible memories in the minds of Blazer fans. Those who saw him on the court remember an incredible physical specimen, a tenacious rebounder, an accomplished if reserved paint scorer. The highlight of his Portland career came during the 1981 playoffs when he averaged 17.3 rebounds per game against the Kansas City Kings. The Blazers lost the series 2-1. Following an injury-plagued final season in Portland, Kermit was traded to the Golden State Warriors, playing but 6 games for them before calling it a career. After his retirement he started doing his real work in the city, speaking at high schools and appearing on the radio alongside Mychal Thompson. Sometimes one moment really does define a life, but sometimes a thousand little moments paint a truer picture. Kermit Washington was the master of those thousand touching moments and Portland fans will always have a soft spot for him.
And now the final surprise of this surprise-filled second round. The matchup on the other fork of this bracket was Antonio Harvey versus Michael Holton. Neither distinguished themselves entirely on the court for Portland but both have gone on to successful broadcast careers. I figured that would provide some media-on-media mojo for their contest. As it turned out, everybody reacted with a collective shrug of the shoulders. Combined these two got the fewest votes of any first-round matchup. What's worse, the voting cutoff found them tied. Originally I thought I'd stack them together, letting you have two for the price of one if you voted for them. But since we bent the bracket a little in the Pack-Jack debacle, I've changed my mind and decided to do it again. Sorry Antonio and Michael, for the limp lack of response you're both out. You can head to the local watering hole and have a cold one together, complaining about how ignorant the fans are, perhaps celebrating your unique status as the only people to get tossed from a Blazersedge bracket for winning. (I'm sure Drazen Petrovic is raising one with you upstairs...he's the only person to lose twice in the same bracket.) Instead I'm motioning again to the bench--highly appropriate in this particular contest--and putting in one of Kermit's old teammates...a guy who, like Chris Dudley, undoubtedly would have made the second round anyway.
Billy Ray Bates rode a career and life arc that was directly opposite to that of Kermit Washington. Emerging out of the fields of Mississippi he became a third round draft pick of the Houston Rockets in 1978 but never played for them. Instead he signed as a free agent with the Blazers in 1980. Immediately he began showing that he was not just in the basketball business, he was in the dunking business. Alley-oop inbounds dunk off of a backdoor cut to win a game? Check. Making Darryl Dawkins--the guy so infatuated with his own dunks that he named them--cry to his mama because you jammed over him? Check. Shooting 49% as a guard because you're so darn good at getting to the rim that dunks and layups account for, like, 40% of your shots? Check. Dude was sick before sick was a compliment. His high scoring average was 13.8 but during his two trips to the playoffs he averaged 25 and 28. We're talking Vince Carter numbers here. But with Billy Ray it was Half Man-Half Your Backboard's Gone. Unfortunately Bates became a victim of his own notoriety on and off the court. Once opponents started studying tape on him they realized that he only went a couple ways: right and forward. Defenders started sitting on his dominant hand and staying in front of him. His jumper wasn't that pretty...certainly not enough to threaten them away from their defensive scheme. That was the beginning of the end. He didn't have enough court savvy or defensive prowess to please cerebral coach Jack Ramsay or to justify his presence on the court when he couldn't score easily. That was the middle of the end. The end of the end was his battle with alcohol, a vice which would haunt him through short stays with two other NBA teams and internationally as well, though he did acquit himself well enough in the Philippines to earn the sobriquet "Black Superman". Come to think of it, that probably should have been his Blazer nickname too.
So there you have it: Kermit Washington versus Billy Ray Bates. Who claims the final spot in the semi-finals? Vote now in the comment section!
- Voting for all the second round matchups will close at 11:59 tonight. If you want to vote on one you missed, scroll back a little.
- The Trailblazers.com Podcast will be up later today. We're tackling a dozen or two of your most probing questions, so stay tuned.