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Clyde Drexler did not approve of Portland trading CJ McCollum and has a reminder for Damian Lillard.
History has a way of repeating itself.
In February of 1995, the Portland Trail Blazers were at a crossroads. They had been to the Finals twice with a group led by Clyde Drexler in 1990 and 1992, but the thought at the time was the Blazers window had closed and they needed to rebuild.
The team was 25-20 in the middle of the Western Conference standings. Fan-favorite Drexler was traded along with Tracey Murray Houston for Otis Thorpe, Marcelo Nicola and a first-round pick. Portland finished 44-38, swept out of the playoffs by Phoenix.
“We were challenging for a title when I was younger and so as I got a little older, 31, 32, they started thinking we may need to rebuild which was premature,” Drexler told FanSided’s Da Windy City podcast. “Utah kept their team together four, five years after that and we were ahead of them we had gone to two Finals. They prematurely busted up that team.”
Utah went to back-to-back Finals in 1997 and 1998. The Blazers have yet to return to the Finals. Drexler is grateful his Blazers did breakup as he went on to win a championship with Houston back in his hometown.
“I wanted to compete, I’m a competitor, I want to win, I don’t want to sit back and teach the young guys how to play,” Drexler said. “My thought was I wanted to go and compete for a championship and we were able to win it. It’s the best move I ever made.”
Clyde Drexler thinks Damian Lillard is better off leaving Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard is now in a similar spot after the Blazers restructured at the trade deadline sending 30-year old CJ McCollum to New Orleans. Drexler was confused by the deal.
“When teams give up great players like that you kind of wonder what they are thinking,” Drexler said. “He (McCollum) is in his prime. Here is a guy who has been a great producer for your franchise and you give up on him. As a casual fan and as a guy who knows a little about the game I don’t understand those moves because the more good players you get the better your chances are of winning.”
The Blazers have won their last four somewhat surprisingly to remain in the 10 seed playoff play-in games. Wins over Milwaukee without Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lakers, Knicks plus an impressive win over Memphis. Third-year guard Anfernee Simmons has impressed but realistically Portland is a long way off from competing for an NBA championship.
Lillard will be 32-years old next season. He is likely out for the rest of this year still recovering from abdominal surgery. Lillard has always maintained he wants to stay in Portland.
Drexler wonders if Lillard may change his mind.
“I’m sure Lillard has gotta be thinking I gotta go somewhere to compete for a title unless he just wants to stay there and finish out his career, but if he is competitive I’m sure he is looking to go someplace to win,” Drexler said. “As a player, you have to make that adjustment and you have to make that decision real quick. Do I want to stay here and be beloved and maybe I don’t win a championship but they love you here in Portland? That wasn’t enough for me.”
There is also the chance that Portland simply decides to trade Lillard and make the decision for him as they did with McCollum.
An interesting off-season for Portland awaits.
Clyde Drexler is teaming with Michelob ULTRA and their fire partnership with NBA JAM encouraging fans to “Enjoy it Like It’s 1993” by bringing the joy of the game to life both virtually and on the ground in Cleveland during All-Star weekend.