Maurice Harkless, Shabazz Napier and Wade Baldwin are all expected to see the floor during the Portland Trail Blazers’ run in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. The unexpected is that each of these players once languished on the bench or were released from their previous teams only to find success with the Trail Blazers.
NBC Sports Northwest’s Jason Quick provides more background from the players’ point of view about how the Trail Blazers helped them take charge of their once-faltering careers.
Quick’s article describes how President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts contributed to the players’ renaissance through scouting and coaching. In turn, both Olshey and Stotts credit the players themselves and the team culture for their second-chance success with the Trail Blazers.
While each player’s Rip City rebirth took different paths, and included much of their own work, each ascension spawned from what have become the defining traits of the Blazers’ franchise: astute scouting, nurturing and hands-on coaching, and an inclusive locker room culture.
Each player provides their thoughts on where they have been and how things are different today. For Harkless, early struggles were a result of confusion about who he was meant to be in each of his previous stops.
Harkless has a hard time talking about his time in Orlando, mostly because he doesn’t fully understand what happened.
“It was a weird situation in Orlando – brand new coach, whole new front office – they were trying to figure things out,’’ Harkless said. “And for some reason in my third season, I couldn’t get on the court, no matter what. We had guys playing, starting games, that aren’t even in the league anymore. Rookies, second-round picks, starting games.’’
Shabazz Napier admitted to not having the right attitude. Coming to Portland he found a staff who didn’t show preconceived notions about who was was as a player and a person.
“In Miami, I was very stubborn. Very stubborn,’’ Napier said. “I guess they felt I was entitled to something, but I never felt entitled. I just never felt I got an opportunity. I was being told different things, and I became moody, and they didn’t appreciate it. And looking back, I couldn’t agree with them more.’’
Wade Baldwin found a team where he immediately felt like he was a part of something bigger.
Olshey said the first step in Baldwin’s reclamation was “showing him love.’’
He needed thumb surgery, and the Blazers flew him to New York for the procedure, then guided and monitored him through six weeks of recovery.
Not only did the team show they were willing to invest in him, Evan Turner, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum all reached out immediately to get to know him and help him understand the team culture.
“The initial feeling I got here … like when I got drafted it was totally different feeling than joining the team here. I was welcomed, invited, and it kind of makes you want to give back,’’ Baldwin said. “What you receive you want to give back. It makes it easy.’’
Read the whole piece for more of the players’ comments and to see how even Stotts and Olshey can be considered underdogs.