The 2021-22 season hasn’t been kind to the Portland Trail Blazers so far, with injuries to Damian Lillard, COVID-replacement rosters, and massive franchise transitions leading to a modest record. But memories of Trail Blazers fans encompass far more than the moment. On this off-day, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller discuss memories of players past, specifically who they’d love to see play one more time in Portland’s uniform.
The parameters of the discussion are simple: nobody can pick the “Big 3” of Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, or Damian Lillard. Also, Dave and Dia themselves are going to try to dive deeper than most. If we go beyond the obvious Top 7 or 8, who would we want to see again?
Dia: There have been so many players I’ve loved watching over the years. It’s hard to decide where to start, but I’m going with Brian Grant. When Clyde Drexler went to Houston, I needed someone else to root for. As a kid, I loved Grant’s hair. It made him stand out. But I also remember his defense. I’ve always been a fan of defensive players, it’s a part of the game that I feel like is underrated. I remember Grant being the king of rebounds with the team. When I think about my childhood Trail Blazers team, Grant is always at the forefront of those memories and will forever be one of my favorites who ever wore the Portland jersey.
Dave: Grant is a great choice! There are three obvious selections, but in the spirit of conversation, I’m going to avoid all three of them. Readers are going to pick them up in the comments. But let me start with a huge one: Rasheed Wallace. I want to see him as an academic exercise as much as for his talent (which was huge, by the way). People have been so down on him because of the way he left. But his game was so complete: defense, passing, distance shooting... he was everything you’d want in a modern NBA forward, plus legit height and a real post game! I’d love to see him operating as a 25-year-old in 2021. Oh my gosh.
Ok, let’s see if you hit one of the “next layer down” Big 3.
Dia: Oh man, you stole my next one! Sheed is always going to be a fan favorite I think. He was so talented! I’m going with “Mighty Mouse”, Damon Stoudamire. I always love an underdog, and a 5’10” guard in the NBA seems like an underdog situation. Although I’d go out on a limb here and say Stoudamire was anything but an underdog. The man had fire. He was a shooter, and a passer, and just a fun player to watch. I think a good passer in basketball, especially as a Point guard who should be creating plays, is underrated.
Dave: Well Grant would have been one of mine, so we’re even.
After some internal debate, I’m going to do with Rod Strickland. He didn’t have the three-point shot to make it in today’s league, but particularly with this Blazers team, I’d love to see his driving, passing wizardry at work. It’s almost like that’s what Head Coach Chauncey Billups is aiming at as far as point guard style. Strickland saw the floor so well and moved so efficiently across it. I’d love to see how he’d stack up against modern counterparts, plus see the surprise in some of the current players’ eyes when they suddenly ended up with the ball in their hands, not even know it was coming. The first pass would hit them in the chest and result in a turnover. After that, it’d be activity and joy.
Who’s your third?
Dia: There are so many guys that I really love. We have seen so much talent come though this team. But I have to go with Arvydas Sabonis. There’s something about a big man who can shoot and pass as well as rebound and defend. He was a man of many talents, and he was just really fun to watch. I think sometimes watching the NBA now, it’s easy to get caught up in flashy play. There’s a lot of it, and it’s fun. But Sabonis was just so good—such a solid talent, which is always extra impressive when a person is over 7 feet tall (7 feet 3 inches to be exact).
Dave: Yeah, I knew you couldn’t avoid the Next Three forever. Also, I can’t help but notice that all our choices are coming from a similar time frame. But oh well, because my last choice played around that time too. Or wait...I’ll cheat and do two. I’d love to see Kiki Vandeweghe in the modern, three-point-heavy, can’t-touch’em-on-defense era. But I’ll also go off the board and say that I wouldn’t mind seeing Mychal Thompson again, just to see his multi-skill approach, or Ron Brewer to watch him hop out of the gym on those jumpers.
Now that we’ve broken ALL the rules by naming multiple players, Arvydas Sabonis, and all that, what about you, readers? If you could see a Blazers player or two return, regardless of whether they’d actually help the current team, who would you choose? Share your thoughts in the comments below!