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Blazing Stoudamire, Portland Trailblazers

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Damon: Life notes

Before the NBA >>>> 1973-1995
Damon Stoudamire was born in Portland on September 3rd, 1973. The story of his parents is fairly complicated, so I won't get into it. If you're really curious, e-mail me. Many members of his family were excellent athletes. His father Willie Stoudamire played in the NBA, and his cousin Salim Stoudamire is currently a high school star in Oregon. Salim's father Charles is a former high-school "stand-out" who is now coaching high-school basketball. Damon took to basketball from a young age, and stood out kids that were bigger and older than him. In third grade he played on a fifth grade team, which he led to the Championship. At a young age he started attending Jack Ramsay's basketball camp. Damon played for Wilson High School, which he led to a 74-4 record and two state championships. Damon's stats as a senior: 26 PPG, 9 APG, 3.3 RPG. He was named Oregon Player of the Year and a Converse HS all-american.

 

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  When the time came to go to college, Damon was offered a scholarship by Arizona. He accepted, rejecting Oregon State. " I recruited him as hard as I possibly could..." said Oregon State coach Jim Anderson "...I always thought Damon was a prospect because of his knowledge of the game, because of his talent and his work ethic, and because he had such a big, big heart." Damon had rooted for Arizona and UNLV as a child, but UNLV was in perpetual legal trouble, so Arizona it was. Damon averaged 7 points and 2.5 assists his freshman year, by no means sensational, but good enough to be named to the Pac 10 all-rookie team. His stats rose his sophmore year to 11 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 4.6 RPG. That summer, he led the US team to the gold medal at the World University Games in Buffalo. His Junior year, Damon and Khalid Reeves formed one of the best backcourts in the nation. In the game that would decide if Arizona made the final four, Damon scored 27 points and had 10 assists as Arizona advanced. They lost to Arkansas in the semis, but it was still a great season. Damon decided to stick around for his Senior season. But first, he captained the US team at the Goodwill games. As a senior, Damon was spectcular. He led the conference in scoring (22.8 PPG) and assists (7.3 APG). He was named a consensus All-American, a finalist for the Naismith Award (which later went to Joe Smith) and shared Pac 10 Player of the Year honors with Ed O'Bannon.

Damon the Rookie >>>> 1995-1996
The 1995 draft was in Toronto, where the Raptors would themselves be a rookie team the following season. With the seventh pick Damon was chosen by the Raptors, because Isaiah Thomas believed Damon was the player to build around. When the selection was announced, the fans booed, believing their team had made a big mistake. When Damon was interviewed shortly after this display of dissatisfaction by the fans, he vowed to prove them wrong. The Trailblazers were also very interested in Damon, but the Raptors had an earlier pick, and were able to get with their first choice. Damon's performance in his rookie season was spectacular. He started off with three straight double-doubles in points and assists. Later he burned Gary Payton for 20 points and 11 assists, and had 30 points and 11 assists as the Raptors beat the eventual-champion Bulls, propting Michael Jordan to proclaim "He lit me up out there." At the Rookie Game, during all-star weekend, Damon was named MVP as he scored 19 points and had 11 assists. He was a unanimous selection to the all-rookie team, and was named Rookie of the Year. In addition, he set a record for most three pointers made by a rookie, with 133. Although the Raptors only won 22 games, Damon's future was bright.

Sophmore season >>>> 1996-1997
In 96-97 Damon continued his successes of the previous season without missing a beat. The Raptors won 30 games, up from 22, and Damon's averages went up. He was averaging over twenty points and almost nine assists, and was in the top five in minutes per game. Damon was named team captain at the beginning of the season. He took this job seriously. He told his teammates they were aiming no lower than the playoffs, and that he would be an all-star. However, these goals were not reached. Damon was frustrated, but no one could have guessed what would happen the next season.

The year of the trade >>>> 1997-1998
1997-98 was also a tough season for Damon. It began with high expectations for Toronto, which had raised its win total by eight the previous year and had drafted Tracy McGrady with the ninth pick. Marcus Camby had played well towards the end of the previous season. Many Raptors fans, myslef included, thought this was the year The Raptors would make the playoffs. But after going 4-3 in the preseason, the Raptors lost two games, won the third, then went on to lose 16 in a row.

Stoudamire put up high numbers, but the Raptors could not win. Damon scores 29, Raptors lose. Stoudamire scores 25, Raptors lose. Stoudamire scores 25 and has 11 rebounds, Raptors lose. The only times the Raptors could win, it seemed, was when Sttoudamire put up super-numbers. They won five and lost one when Damon scored more than 30. But Damon was tired of losing. He was very competitive, and couldn't stand it. When Isaiah Thomas, Damon's mentor, tried to buy a majority stake in the team but couldn't, and then left the team, Damon was sure to be traded.

And finally he was. On February 13th the Raptors traded Damon, Walt Williams, and Carlos Rogers to the Blazers for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, and Gary Trent, plus some draft choices. Damon played fairly well for the Blazers, but he had not time to adjust and to get to know his teammates. The Blazers lost 3-1 to the Lakers in the first round of the Playoffs

Successes and failures in Portland >>>> 1998-1999
The 98-99 season was both good and bad for Damon. He found himself on the bench at crucial times in games, replaced by defensive sparkplug Greg Anthony. His stats were at career lows in almost every category. His PPG down to 12.6 from 17.3. APG down to 6.2 from 8.2. Yet, for the first time in the NBA, Damon was a true winner.

The Blazers had one of the best records in the NBA, and advanced to the semi-finals before being swept by the Spurs. And in the midst of this sweep, Damon commented to reporters on his lack of playing time, especially in the fourth quarter. "I'm going to get over it, but I'm never going to forget it," said Damon. "I don't ever want to feel like this again."

As these comments were made, a whirlwind of events and emotions decended on Damon and the Blazers. The Blazers, down by double digits, trying to make a run, but being silenced by the Spurs. Mike Dunleavy recieving coach of the year. In the NBA studio, the commentators discussed Damon and his comments. Isiah defended both. Damon, scoring 21 meaningless points as the Spurs completed their sweep, and took their cool act to the Finals. And Damon crying after the game. It was a season of triumph and despair for Damon and his teammates. The short season proved to be a memorable one in Portland.

   
       
  Danny Rosenthal 1999, blazingstoudamire@hotmail.com      

 

 

 

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