Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Been a Long Time

The 14 year drought of not having a legit starting point guard has ended today with the singing of Andre Miller. 1995-96 was the last season the Trail Blazers had someone running the show as a top 10 point guard in the NBA. His name? Rod Strickland. Its not as if this 14 year dry spell has been the exception, it has been the norm for a relatively young franchise. It only takes one hand to count the really good point guards the Blazers have had. By my count, there have only been 2, Terry Porter, and Rod Strickland prior to today.
The point guard position has been a house of horrors this decade for the scarlet and black. In what was supposed to be a great homecoming, Damon Stoudamire, never really lived up to his rookie of the year play as soon as he arrived. He was criticized by Blazer fans for shooting too much, being too inconsistent, and most importantly, coming up short in the playoffs. Many thought the dry spell was over in the summer of 2004, when the team draft flashy, point guard Sebastian Telfair with the 13th overall pick in the draft. Bassy was supposed to be the next big thing to come out of Cony Island, New York, instead, his lack of a jump shot got him shipped out of town within two seasons. For supposedly having great court vision, he never managed over 3.6 apg in Portland. The next two young hopefuls, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez, never seemed to take control of the reigns and take off with the starting position. Jack had the desirable ability of attacking and finishing at the hoop but was too turnover prone to be handed the keys to the car. On the other hand, Sergio has eyes in the back of his head, but couldn't shoot to keep the defenses honest and thought playing defense was optional. Steve Blake was brought in around the same time as Jack and Sergio, but, almost by default, has been the current starting point guard; the safe bet who won't make outstanding plays but also won't commit turnovers. Finally, there is Jerryd Bayless who has the fan base divided right down the middle as to whether or not he is the future point guard of this team. Many feel he is a shooting guard in a point guard's body while others love his intensity, work ethic, and ability to get to the rim at any time. The jury is still out on Bayless in regards to being the future pg, but everyone can agree that he is not ready to handle starters minutes this upcoming season. Terry Porter was drafted by the Blazers in 1985 with the last pick in the first round (24). He would be the floor general of the Blazers for the next ten years, and would be no small reason the Blazers saw the finals twice during his tenure. Though Clyde Drexler was unequivically the best player on the team, Porter commanded the offense and was often called upon in the clutch, and seemed to play his best in the big games. A player that could do it all, Porter would stick the three, take it to the hole, run the fast break and send out a myriad of dazzling assists. Yet Porter played with kind of a gritty toughness, especially on defense. The best point guard in Blazers history, ultimately he was a casualty of the 1995 Whittsit rebuilding process as the Blazers let him walk and sign on with the Timberwolves. Rod Strickland was Porter's backcourt mate and eventual successor. Signed in 1992 as a free agent, he manned the point guard spot while Porter moved more to the shooting guard. Another point guard product of New York, Strickland was lightning quick and would get to the rim at will. He was an incredible finisher at the basket, but could make all the right passes to open teammates as well. After Porter left in 1995, the Blazers looked to be ending their 14 season playoff streak as they stumbled to a 16-34 record. Behind Strickland's play, however, the Blazers would go on a 17-2 run and easily secure a playoff spot. Strickland average of 9.6 assists, is the highest for any Blazer since. Strickland, however was the first in a line of players who were unhappy with the coaching style of P.J. Carlissimo and was traded following the year along with Harvey Grant for Rasheed Wallace and Mitchell Butler. Although Miller lacks Porter's long range capabilities and Strickland's lightning speed, he finds his own ways to become a great play-maker. He uses a combination of an accurate mid-range jump shot and his 6'2" 200lb frame to bully his way into the paint. Three players, Roy, Aldridge, and Oden, should be ecstatic with this new addition. Miller led all NBA players in alley-oops thrown last season and LaMarcus loves to use his long strides to beat his man down the floor. On numerous occasions, the opportunity presented itself for a lob pass, but we lacked the point guard capable of being able to throw such passes. How many times have we all saw Oden set the pick, roll, be open, and no one look for the big fella for the easy deuce? Andre has been averaging around 7 dimes the past few seasons, surrounded by lesser talent, so I don't think Greg will go neglected anymore. Brandon can now rejoice. He doesn't have to carry to team on his back for a full 48 minutes anymore. Obviously, the ball will be in his hands in the clutch, but no longer will Portland have to run their bread and butter plays in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, because he is the only play-makers out on the court. Probably the most important attribute to Miller's game? No, not being the current NBA iron man, but taking one less Trail Blazer killer off of the market!


  1. Great post. I love Terry Porter. Dude was money on NBA Jam (although they made him too small- Stockton sized).

    And whenever I think of Rod Strickland, I'm reminded of that Brand Nubian track- 'For a first round pick, why'd the Knicks trade Rod Strickland? That man is nice.'

  2. Definitely. I always remember the line by Raekwon:
    "Max mostly, undivided, then slide in, sickenin
    Guaranteed, made em jump like Rod Strickland"
    I don't expect Andre to have nearly the impact the other two provided, but easily a huge upgrade, maybe a bit enough one to get us into the WCF.