Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Other Guys

Eric Marentette's "Where's Duckworth?" post yesterday got me thinking about the other players on those early 90's teams. We've already sung the praises of the chronically underrated Buck Williams and everybody knows about Clyde, but we probably don't think about Terry, Jerome, and Duck as much as we should, nor give them enough credit when we do think of them. I don't think I need to go into detail about who they were or how they played. An entire generation of Blazer fans came in to the fold through their efforts and knows them by heart. Instead some memorable moments surrounding that trio:

Mike Schuler was still relatively new on the Portland bench in 1987-88. During that 53-win campaign he gave his players a motto: win everything at home and give yourself a chance to win in the 4th on the road. He must have been pleased on January 16th, 1988 when the Blazers found themselves down by a bucket with possession of the ball in the closing seconds of a road game against San Antonio. He was not pleased, however, when after the timeout the Blazers inbounded the ball to a young point guard named Terry Porter and he proceeded to break the designed play by taking the ball to the coffin corner, left side by himself. As the last seconds slid off the clock, Porter raised up and released...swish. Blazers win 121-120. Afterwards Clyde, interviewed by the TV crew, said something to the effect of, "It's a good thing he made that shot because coach would have killed him otherwise." I remember that moment because it was the first time you really suspected Terry might be a clutch player with ice in his veins...a truth that he proved over and over again during his tenure here.

My Jerome memory is more fuzzy as far as time. I can't find any reference to it explicitly on the web to help with details. I want to say 1991 but it could have been '90. But if you were watching the moment, you remember it. We were playing the Clippers on the road and Kersey and 6'8" young tough Ken Norman had been going at it for most of the game. Finally things boiled over as the two faced off. Norman threw the first punch, a wild, looping haymaker typical of guys on the playground going at it. Kersey dodged and before you could blink threw a straight jab, flush to Norman's jaw. BAM! Kenny was flat on his back. The whole thing took about two seconds, but the authority behind that punch and the "Don't mess with us" attitude it symbolized really represented what those early '90's teams were about and what Jerome brought to the table. (A quality almost completely absent from our current squad, by the way, which is part of the problem.) Far be it from me to glorify such violence, but...well...Kersey and the team served notice that night.

I really liked Duckworth's game. He had obvious limitations, but he maximized his strengths to such a degree that you hardly noticed. He learned the now-lost art of taking up space with his big body. How many huge guys nowadays disappear in the lane on both ends of the court? You always knew where Duck was. He didn't grab rebounds as much as prevent the other team from grabbing rebounds, letting Buck and Kersey do their thing. Sure he scored, but as yesterday's article pointed out, a large part of his value was in clearing space for others to score. If Ha had half of Duck's presence and skill, he'd be a guaranteed future starter. My favorite Duck moment is also of indeterminate origin. I don't remember the game well because I was there and thus couldn't replay it off tape. I don't remember the opponent. I do remember it was 1991. As I recall, one of the guards poked away the ball and it came to Duckworth at halfcourt. He turned and started dribbling down the right sideline towards the basket, completely unopposed. His only company was a streaking Clyde coming down the left side of the court. Duck, still dribbling the ball and moving at a less that rapid rate, turned and looked at Clyde. He knew the play was to get Clyde the ball and watch him throw down a crowd-pleasing super jam. But how often does a 7-foot, 300 pound guy get a break-away chance? So he looks at Clyde and Clyde just kind of shrugs his shoulders and motions towards the hoop. You could almost see Duck perk up as he rumbled the rest of the way to the basket and threw down a dunk that was completely nondescript--causing maybe one in ten people to rise from their seats--but was all his baby. He pointed at Clyde on the way back down the court. Clyde just chuckled. The big guy got his moment in the sun.

Also, who can forget Big Duck doing his best Willis Reed impression, coming back from injury in Game 7 of the 1990 Western Conference Semifinals to help us beat the Spurs and advance? David Robinson had killed us the game before, and Duck put enough of a hurt down on him to let us squeak by...our first time going that deep since the championship.

Buck and Clyde were the Cadillacs of those contending teams, but they were also made up of a bunch of guys nobody had heard of who worked hard, played together, and made good. I hope someday we see something like it again in P-town.

--Dave (


Anonymous jorga said...

**** but we probably don't think about Terry, Jerome, and Duck as much as we should, nor give them enough credit when we do think of them.********

I do. My memories are of the team and I'll always think of them as "Clyde, Terry, Buck & Duck". (Apologies to Jerome, but adding his name messes up how easily it rolls off the tongue.)

4:37 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

That, Jorga, is because you are a woman of uncommonly good taste...


7:55 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Dave said...

Your reflections on Kersey brought back wonderful memories of another Blazer who in earlier times would not back down to anyone. And God have mercy on the fool who messed with his teammates. I'm talkin' about the Enforcer, Maurice Lucas. He never looked for trouble but was always there to defend, protect and enforce. What an awesome bright spot having him on the Blazer staff!

8:09 PM  

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