Since the Portland Trail Blazers were founded in 1970, the franchise has been through plenty of ups and downs. This week we’re looking back at Blazers history, decade by decade, recounting and ranking each ten-year span. We begin today with the decade that gave rise to the lowest moments in franchise history, the 2000’s.
Seasons: 2000-01 through 2009-10
Key Players: Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Zach Randolph, Lamarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy
Playoff Appearances: 5
Playoff Series Victories: 0
Best Record: 54-28 (2008-09)
Worst Record: 21-61 (2005-06)
The first six months of the 2000’s were kind to the Blazers. They reached the Western Conference Finals in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, fighting their way back from a 3-1 deficit before suffering an epic collapse in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Portland remained decent over the following three years, making the playoffs, though never advancing past the first round. As the decade progressed, a slew of off-court (and sometimes on-court) incidents overshadowed the teams play. The once-proud franchise transformed into the national laughingstock widely known as the “Jail Blazers”.
Much has been written about this sad, strange period of Blazer basketball and its (mostly) unlikable cast of characters. As bad publicity mounted, the team stopped winning. In 2004 they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1982, then bottomed out with a dismal 21-61 season in 2005-06. At that point only the 1971-72 Blazers had ventured so low, finishing 18-64 in the franchise’s sophomore season.
The decade took a positive turn when the 2006 NBA Draft brought a new foundation of Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, who won the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year award since 1972. Positive momentum spiked hard when Portland won the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery, selecting Ohio State center Greg Oden. That trio, surrounded by promising young players such as Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez, propelled the team over the 50-win plateau once more. As the decade closed, the Blazers returned to the playoffs twice.
The 2000’s will ultimately go down as a deeply troubling time in franchise history. Few teams in any sport have hit rock bottom from such lofty heights as the Blazers did. Despite great success at the opening and modest momentum at the end, the negatives aspects of the 2000’s greatly outweighed the positive ones, making it the toughest decade in franchise history.
Timeline of Key Events:
June 2000: Blazers lose Game 7 versus Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers in a crushing fourth-quarter collapse.
April 2001: Rasheed Wallace throws a towel in the face of Arvydas Sabonis during a team huddle in a game against the Lakers.
May 2001: Mike Dunleavy is fired as coach, replaced the following season by Maurice Cheeks.
November 2002: Wallace and Damon Stoudamire are pulled over in the infamous yellow Hummer on I-5 following a game in Seattle, accused of speeding with marijuana in the car.
May 2003: President/GM “Trader Bob” Whitsitt resigns; replaced by Steve Patterson and John Nash.
February 2004: Wallace is traded to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Shareef Abdul-Raheem, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau
January 2005: Qyntel Woods pleads guilty to animal abuse charges for dogfighting.
March 2005: Cheeks fired as coach, replaced the following season by Nate McMillan.
June 2006: LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy Drafted
March 2007: Kevin Pritchard promoted to GM.
May 2007: Blazers win draft lottery. Brandon Roy named NBA Rookie of the Year.
June 2007: Greg Oden selected with first pick in 2007 NBA Draft. Blazers pass on Kevin Durant.
December 2009: Oden fractures his patella in his final game in a Trail Blazers uniform.
April 2010: Roy comes off the bench in a Game 4 victory in the team’s first round match up with the Phoenix Suns, eight days after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.
What are your memories of the 2000’s? Do you agree that they brought the worst times the franchise has ever seen? What were your brightest spots? Share below and be sure to check in throughout the week as we continue to count down the best decades in Portland Trail Blazers history.