Amidst a bummer of a season for the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s always good to remember that things could be worse. The Blazers have endured the Sam Bowie and Greg Oden drafts, injuries derailing Brandon Roy’s career, and the icing on the Sundae of Suckiness, the infamous Jail Blazers Era. Except, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, one of the main figures in that infamous span wishes the term would be retired and the memories of Blazers fans turn softer.
This week Freeman interviewed Damon Stoudamire on the 22nd anniversary of his trade to the Trail Blazers. Following two sterling seasons with the Toronto Raptors, including a Rookie of the Year Award in 1996, Stoudamire was traded (with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers) to the Blazers for Kenny Anderson, Gary Trent, Alvin Williams, and three draft picks. It was a blockbuster deal in every sense of the word, designed to put Portland over the top.
Even though Stoudamire’s version of the Blazers never won a title, they did make Conference Finals runs in 1999 and 2000. The hometown point guard wishes those teams would be remembered for their on-court success more than their off-court issues.
Freeman quotes Stoudamire:
“Everybody recognizes mistakes you’ve made,” Stoudamire says. “I’ve accepted them. I’ve owned them. I took the punishment. Whatever. You just kind of move on. I honestly don’t put a whole lot of thought into it, but it does kind of sting when you look back at it. When you sit back and watch the Blazers — and I do watch the Blazers — they go to the conference finals last year, have a great season, and all the announcers say they haven’t been back to the finals in 19 years. Well, we went to the conference finals two years in a row. Did we underachieve? No question. I think we had a championship team. We didn’t do what we needed to do. Did some off-the-court problems contribute to that? No question. It did.
“But I think we had a good run here.
The article includes far more from Stoudamire, plus a rundown of the early-00’s teams he led in all their glory and infamy.