6 Portland Trail Blazers A rookie coach is seeking to bring a little Mo harmony to the team that lately has led the league in T's and turmoil

October 29, 2001

Training camp was only a few days old when Maurice Cheeks, the
Blazers' new coach, discovered exactly what he had gotten himself
into. An intrasquad scrimmage escalated into a shoving match
between guard Erick Barkley and forward Ruben Patterson, and
Cheeks had to run onto the court to separate the combatants. This
could easily be taken as an indication that the bickering Blazers
of last season haven't changed their personality, but Cheeks is
either too optimistic to see it that way or too much of a spin
doctor to acknowledge it. "We've actually had a couple of those
so far," Cheeks says of the altercation. "It's just a sign that
guys are competing hard and not coasting just because it's
preseason."

Cheeks, who helped mediate his share of Larry Brown-Allen Iverson
conflicts during his days as a 76ers assistant, was given his
first head coaching job in hopes that he would exert a calming
influence on the talented but dysfunctional Blazers, who led the
Pacific Division before plunging to fourth with 14 losses in
their final 22 games, followed by a humiliating three-game
playoff sweep by the Lakers. Battles over playing time and an
inability to keep their hotheaded star, forward Rasheed Wallace,
under control were Portland's undoing. Although they think
they've made progress toward resolving both problems, the Blazers
will have to prove that they've got their heads on straight
before they can be considered serious championship contenders.

Cheeks dealt quickly with one personnel issue, naming Damon
Stoudamire his full-time point guard. Though a starter,
Stoudamire had often been on the bench during crucial stretches
in favor of Greg Anthony, and matters became more complicated
when the Blazers signed Rod Strickland for the last six weeks of
the season. But Portland traded Anthony to the Bulls and didn't
re-sign Strickland, and Cheeks made it clear to Stoudamire that
the Blazers were committed to him. "He told me that he's going to
give me the freedom to run the team," Stoudamire says. "This is
the chance that I've wanted ever since I came here."

Stoudamire will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including
small forward Scottie Pippen, guard Bonzi Wells and shooting
guard Derek Anderson. Still, the Blazers will go only as far as
Wallace leads them. He led them in scoring and rebounding but
attracted far more attention for leading the planet in technical
fouls. His 41 T's topped his own NBA record by three, and he was
ejected from seven games and suspended three times.

Cheeks and team president Bob Whitsitt both had off-season
discussions with Wallace--and Cheeks surprisingly named him a
co-captain--but team officials refuse to discuss whether they have
taken any further steps to help him deal with his temper. The
closest thing to an encouraging sign that Wallace intends to
change his ways was his rather cryptic declaration at the
beginning of training camp. "I've got something for all of you
who were talking about me last year," he said. "Something for all
of you throughout the season. You'll all find out."

Another Blazers big man, 6'10" Shawn Kemp, will try to show his
own form of self-control. Kemp, who for the last three seasons
has seen his weight balloon, missed the last month of the season
when he entered rehab for substance abuse. But he arrived at camp
with a vow to work his way back to his old self, although he
still appears to be at least 25 pounds above the 256 he was
listed at in his prime. The Blazers need Kemp, since he and 6'11"
Dale Davis will probably share time at center now that 7'3"
Arvydas Sabonis is likely to retire.

After the season Sabonis took some shots at the Blazers' lack of
harmony, and they remain a team with a delicate psyche. Cheeks
may help them get another 50-win season, but in the heat of the
playoffs, Portland still looks vulnerable to a meltdown.

--P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH DOESN'T ADD UP Pippen is one of many weapons on a talented club that in recent years has been less than the sum of its parts.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Trail Blazers

"More than any other team, the Blazers have the manpower and the
talent to go at the Lakers. Whatever their problems might be, you
can't tell what they are on paper. Rasheed Wallace is one of the
best players in the league, Damon Stoudamire is among the elite
point guards, and Scottie Pippen does the same things he did
years ago. If Shawn Kemp gets it together--and that's a big
if--these guys will be even tougher....If Pippen can use his
leadership and experience to get this team under control, they'll
be tough, even with losing Arvydas Sabonis....The key thing is
not to stop Wallace; it's to keep Stoudamire under control. Limit
their transition, don't let them start flying around, make it a
five-on-five game. Stoudamire is offensive-minded, but when he
gets in traffic he'll get up in the air and look to dish, so you
want him to try to finish....Rasheed commands the double team,
so you have to vary your looks on him. Send somebody right away,
then, on the next possession, wait until he gets in the paint.
But it's not as if you can try to frustrate him. His blowups are
more unpredictable than that....Zach Randolph could be a real
factor for them. A wide body who knows how to play the game and
can score without demanding the ball, he's a good complement for
Rasheed.... Maurice Cheeks was a quiet guy who wasn't considered
head coach material, but he's paid his dues, and maybe he's the
guy to turn this team around. It wouldn't be surprising if they
went in the tank again, though."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 50-32 (fourth in Pacific)
Coach: Maurice Cheeks (first season with Trail Blazers)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Scottie Pippen 11.3 ppg 5.2 rpg 4.6 apg 1.47 spg 45.1 FG%
87
PF Rasheed Wallace 19.2 ppg 7.8 rpg 1.75 bpg 1.17 spg 50.1 FG%
29
C Dale Davis 7.2 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.3 apg 0.94 bpg 49.7 FG%
120
SG Derek Anderson[1]15.5 ppg 3.7 apg 4.4 rpg 1.46 spg 39.9 3FG%
81
PG Damon Stoudamire 13.0 ppg 5.7 apg 3.7 rpg 1.29 spg 43.4 FG%
71

PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

G-F Bonzi Wells 12.7 ppg 4.9 rpg 2.8 apg 1.25 spg 53.3 FG%
91
F Ruben Patterson[1]13.0 ppg 5.0 rpg 2.1 apg 1.36 spg 49.4 FG%
122
F-C Shawn Kemp 6.5 ppg 3.8 rpg 1.0 apg 40.7 FG% 77.1 FT%
127
F Zach Randolph(R)[1]10.8 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.0 apg 58.7 FG% 63.5 FT%
261
G Erick Barkley 2.4 ppg 0.8 apg 0.25 spg 36.4 FG% 37.5 3FG%
291

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"Randolph could be a real factor for them, a good complement for Rasheed."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)