Damian Lillard’s trade request to move from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Miami Heat has been talked about incessantly since he made it in early July. Seemingly no stone has been unturned. Except this one. Leave it to Blazer’s Edge Readers to come up with a new angle, the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Dame is among the three best Blazers ever. All of them have been traded or will shortly be traded. I want to know where Dame’s trade ranks among pain and bitterness along with Clyde and Walton. Which one was worst?
That’s an interesting question.
I don’t have a complete perspective on all three, but my impression is that the Bill Walton breakup was the worst by far. It happened right after the Blazers won a World Championship. It broke up a dynasty in the making. Feelings were HUGE.
Suddenness and immediacy were contributing factors. There was no lead-up, little warning. One day Walton was the best player on the planet, leading the team to an ungodly winning percentage and likely a second title. The next day he was down. He never came back fully. And then he was gone. It was like having your date excuse themselves to visit the restroom, right in the middle of the best dinner you’ve ever had. You’re thinking about marriage possibilities, they’re out the door leaving you with the tab.
Media coverage in those days also leaned heavily towards the team/organization. Players didn’t really get their side of the story out. Social media and peer-to-peer fan debate didn’t exist in the formal sense. Lots of blame got laid on Walton that would be mitigated, if not eliminated, in today’s player-friendly environment.
Drexler’s trade was closer to a Dame scenario than Walton’s. Clyde had been with the team more than a decade. He’d obviously given everything he had to win a title. Watching him go was heart-rending, but large swaths of the fan base could empathize with his desire for a championship in Houston.
The major difference between Clyde’s departure and Dame’s was the size of the drop-off. Drexler was obviously the reason the Blazers were visiting the NBA Finals, or close, on an annual basis. Nobody thought his absence could be compensated for, at least not right away. That meant that the suddenly-proud franchise was about to retreat back into obscurity.
Lillard is every bit as central to his teams as Drexler was to the early-90’s models, but there’s no track record of team success in Dame’s wake. The Blazers have been tanking for lottery position for two straight years. They’ll do the same this season, just without having to tank. Dame’s exit will not submarine the team’s trajectory, even though it will rob the Blazers of their central player.
Lillard also has the advantage of better branding than Walton or Drexler, access to social (and national) media, and more charisma than you can shake a stick at. He’s better positioned to ride this out, reputation-wise, than either of his predecessors.
I think Clyde will actually get more of a pass on his single-team trade demand than Dame will, simply because Clyde was going back to his hometown. The Miami Mandate is a big sticking point. It may create resentment towards Lillard for a while. But overall, that’s not enough to make the Dame Deal worse than Drexler’s or Walton’s.
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