The Detroit Pistons did it. They took their lumps, endured the agony of not being quite good enough, persevered, matured and eventually ascended to champion status. All along the way, you knew they would.
The Chicago Bulls did the same. Michael Jordan listened to the choruses of doubt from pundits who felt his would always be a one-man show. Even when the club assembled a fine supporting cast, just the presence of Michael precluded the chance of team play. But that all ended last year. The Bulls coalesced into a formidable group. Everybody knew their roles. In the end, it meant a ring. This year, it'll mean another.But somehow, the Portland Trail Blazers seemed destined for another path. Their failures can't be itemized in the section marked "dues paid." They just don't have it. Probably, as they are currently assembled, they never will.
After the Bulls gore them today in Chicago Stadium in Game 6 of the NBA final - or, if something cataclysmic happens, like Jordan only goes off for 29 or so on his tender ankle and Portland falls in Game 7 instead - the Blazers will have to bring in an architect to reconstruct this mess.
It's time to break up the Blazers, bring in some new pieces, and reassemble them. It's time for reconstructive surgery. It's time for some gutsy moves by management to make up for the dearth of gutsy moves by the players in this final.
In short, lose these losers.
That isn't easily said. The Blazers are a nice bunch of guys. They'll polite you to death. They are classy men who probably want to win as much as the Bulls. They're just not good enough.
What they lack, first and foremost, is a leader.
The Bulls have Jordan. Obviously, he's a go-to guy from heaven. If Chicago has a major flaw, it's a tendency to rely too much on him. But let's face it, he's won them many a ballgame single-handedly. He's supremely clutch. He rarely makes major gaffes.
Other championship teams of recent times had the same type of individual. You don't win without one. The Boston Celtics had Larry Bird. The Los Angeles Lakers had Magic Johnson. And while history may not remember him in the same breath as those two, Isiah Thomas performed the same heroic function for the Pistons. The Trail Blazers need one of those.
Clyde Drexler, you say? Pfooey, I say back. I like Clyde as a complementary player, but as a leader he inspires comparisons to Michael Dukakis. Drexler is what is keeping the Trail Blazers from greatness. He just isn't a Jordan, a Bird, a Magic, an Isiah. He's too erratic.
So trade him. And throw in Jerome Kersey, too. It's nice that the club once plucked this gem from tiny Longwood College (Farmville, Va.) and made him into an NBA player. But he's now a starting small forward in the NBA final, and his weaknesses are more apparent than Marv Albert's rug. Like Drexler, Kersey is a transition player. Here's hoping he makes a nice transition to the CBA.