By Asa Schuster
It was 10 years ago this week that the Portland Trail Blazers began to clear out some of the troublemakers that made up the infamous ‘Jail Blazers’ regime.
The Blazers were a formidable powerhouse in the West at the start of the last decade, with a core of players remaining from the last Portland squad to reach the Conference Finals and legitimately challenge for the title.
That team was also one of the most notorious teams in NBA history for their disobedience, misbehaviour and off-court antics.
On December 3, 2003, the wheel began to turn when the streaky, yet pestilent shooting guard Bonzi Wells was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Later that day, the Blazers hosted and defeated the East-leading Indiana Pacers, who were out to a 15-3 start to the season and went on to finish with the best record in the league at 61-21 (later swatted out of the East Finals by Tayshaun Prince).
Reportedly, on the day of the trade, Wells and Rasheed Wallace were leaving morning shoot-around when Wallace threw a ball the length of the court into teammate Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje’s head.
Boumtje-Boumtje fell to the floor in pain, while Wells and Wallace famously ‘giggled like schoolchildren and ran away’.
And from there, as they later shed Sheed in February and waived Qyntel (‘Here’s my basketball card’) Woods the following season, they morphed from a team of talented troublemakers and gave way to the unfortunate injury-riddled era of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.
From the seemingly never-ending supply of knee-braces in Portland, somehow LaMarcus Aldridge safely emerged with both legs intact to guide the next generation of Blazers.
Portland now boasts an exciting lineup that can once again threaten for a run in June, but this time they are reloaded and refreshed with some of those front office and coach friendly ‘high-character’ type players.
10 years since the week Wells was traded, the Blazers once again hosted the East-leading Pacers, who were out to a league-leading 16-1 start.
On the back of 28 points and ten rebounds from Aldridge and Damian Lillard pumping in 14 of his 26 points in the fourth-quarter, the Blazers (15-3) joined the Spurs atop the West and handed the Pacers just their second loss of the season.
Taking time to reflect back at their forefathers, it’s clear that the current crop of Aldridge, Lillard, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and Thomas Robinson are a long-awaited breath of fresh air in the City of Roses.
We won’t mention Mo Williams, there’s always one.