Just How Good Was Sabas?
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 07/13/2011 11:17 AM

    How Many Championships Would Portland Have Won If Sabas Came To America In 1986?
    0 (0)
    1 (3)
    2 (11)
    3+ (15)

    Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

    Via Scott Howard-Cooper:

    NBA, Fans Didn't Get Chance To See Sabonis At His Best
    In Europe, they know a much different version, one of a brilliant player before his 7-foot-3, 290-pound frame deteriorated. They remember a talent that had a major role in the Soviet Union winning Olympic gold in 1988 and Lithuania claiming the bronze in '92 before he finally went to Portland in 1995 at 31. They know of someone who easily deserves enshrinement in Springfield, Mass. Talk about a talent.
     That's why his seven seasons in two stints with the Trail Blazers could be disappointing. Because NBA fans never saw anything close to the real Sabonis. Part was his doing -- the well-liked Sabonis would be joking with teammates in the locker room and suddenly, when a reporter approached, switch to a sullen, intimidating hulk who could not share himself because of the language barrier. His English was actually fine, but the line helped him to avoid interaction.
     The Sabonis of overseas greatness -- the two Olympic medals, the four selections as European Player of the Year in Spain and the Soviet Union -- could sprint with uncommon dexterity for his size. That was the gifted center Portland drafted with the 24th pick in 1986, when international prospects were still a curiosity in the NBA and getting one from the Soviet grip was nearly impossible. The Blazers tried the State Department and American tycoon Armand Hammer, known to have close ties to Moscow, and most anyone they could find connected to the Soviet basketball federation. When then-owner Larry Weinberg and VP of Basketball Operations Bucky Buckwalter finally met with Sabonis at the 1986 European championships in Madrid, not long after the draft, uneasy handlers insisted on the secrecy of a 3 a.m. meeting in a hotel room. Eleven years later, Buckwalter still can't help but wonder if Soviet officials expected a smash-and-grab job, just grabbing Sabonis and making a run for the airport.
     Rick Adelman, who was Portland's coach when the Trail Blazers had Sabonis' rights but the coach in Golden State and Sacramento when Sabonis finally made it to the NBA, said, "He would have had a huge impact. He was just a vastly talented player, and before his injuries, could really move. He could do everything.... I had a feeling, in Portland, if he would have came over when I had the team I had, we might have had two or three championships."

    Coach Adelman said what we have all been thinking. Those early 90's Blazers teams would have been unstoppable and would have more banners hanging in the ROse Garden right now. I even remember Bill Walton saying during a broadcast that Arvydas was as good as Kareem Abdul-Jabar during his peak before the injuries hit him. I think Rick Adelman was being modest though when thinking rings. Personally, we would have won at least 3 rings with a young Sabonis. A Sabonis, Duckworth, Buck frontcourt rotation would have been too much for any team to handle.

    But what do you guys think? How many rings would we have if Sabas came over sooner?

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  1. BrettO
    Posts: 4

    Posted 07/13/2011 2:46 PM

    There are 3 historical events that if history played out just a little differently, it may have resulted in 10 or more championships, and the Portland Trailblazers being the most dominate team in the last 30 years. #1 The Bill Walton injury in 1978. After winning our only championship in 1977, we had the best record in NBA in 1978, and we were on our way to championship number 2, until Bill Walton was injured. #2 Not drafting Michael Jordan. We all know what that would have meant in number of Championships. #3 was the delay of Sabonis coming to the NBA. Even after his prime Sabonis was a dominate center. If he would have come to the Blazers in his Prime, it could have been worth multiple championships. Can you imagine Porter, Jordan, Drexler, Cliff, and Sabonis as our starting 5 in the 90's?  Jordan might not have retired for 2 years and the Trailblazers might have swept the entire decade. When you look at those historical events it really shows you how critical the draft and injuries can effect a franchise. I hope we have a healthy roster soon, we need them. Do we have another Clyde Drexler in the cards? Terry Porter? We need you both to work hard and succeed.
  1. Thomas McCloskey
    Thomas McCloskey
    Posts: 2

    Posted 07/13/2011 8:44 PM

    I covered this in detail last summer, but it would have been huge.
  1. mbmurr1
    Posts: 530

    Posted 07/13/2011 10:29 PM

    I wish he came when we had Clyde Drexler. Can you say Jordan? Hindsight is better then 20/20.
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  1. Ricky
    Posts: 541

    Posted 07/16/2011 11:06 AM

    Sabis reminded me of Moses Malone but a better passer.
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 07/19/2011 10:37 AM

    Posted By Thomas McCloskey on 07/13/2011 8:44 PM
    I covered this in detail last summer, but it would have been huge.
    I forget that Duck was hurt against Dallas and never really healed 100%. I thought our biggest weakness was big man depth on all of those teams. We really ran out a small forward as our backup center (Uncle Cliffy). To me the biggest what-if is still the 1984 draft (losing the coin flip for Hakeem/passing on Michael) but this is a close, very close second.
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  1. BDawg
    Posts: 1593

    Posted 07/19/2011 3:47 PM

    May have been the first small market dynasty in league history.
    I am a fan of players that play with PASSION and PRIDE
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