If your reading my blog entry, you've undoubtedly heard the news which is rocking the blazers world today: Portland has acquired Gerald Wallace from Charlotte in exchange for Joel Pryzbilla, Dante' Cunningham, Sean Marks and two draft picks. While it was thought the blazers might make a trade, this one didn't happen until just about the last minute.
For separate reasons, these guys have given the blazers something about which to cheer.
Joel came to Portland six-and-a-half seasons ago and was the last of the Blazers from the dark era. However, any comparisons between he and that team end there. Joel is a stand-up guy both on and off the court. You can say anything you want about Joel and, in the end, you will come out singing his praises. You're not going to find his contributions on the stat sheet. Hard work, tough defense and mentoring of other players just doesn't show up there. I've always seen Joel as the kind of guy who is respected amongst his teammates for doing the dirty work rather than searching for headlines. In my humble opinion, Joel just wanted to play basketball. His teammates and fans looked up to him as that type of guy.. He was respected so much amongst the orgainaztion that he was tabbed to represent the team at Maurice Lucas' memorial service. Joel is as solid as they come and with whatever happens with the team, a lot of fans will be disappointed that Joel will not have an opportunity to be a part of it.
We barely got to know Dante' in his one-and-a-half years with the Blazers, but he made his impact with the team while giving us no choice but to like him. In many regards, he's a lot like Joel. Dante' was undersized against most of the opponents against whom he matched, but you wouldn't know it by the way he played against them. He wasn't always the most prolific offensive player for us, but he certainly had his moments. I don't know about you, but I won't soon forget his career night of 18 points and 13 rebounds just 10 days ago at Minnesota; not to mention his career-high four blocks a month ago against the Kings. I feel fortunate to have exchanged a few direct messages with Dante' on twitter and, from his demeanor, you would never that know he played professional basketball for a living. He's just a real guy. In keeping with the trend of seeking out good people for the team, then-GM Kevin Pritchard found Dante'. Not quite two weeks ago, RipCitySarah posted a great blog on this site about Dante' and his love for restoring vintage cars -- something he shares with his father; I strongly suggest that as a must-read if you want to get to know Dante' a little better. He's a great guy with a great future; for the Bobcats sake, I hope they see that.
Sean is a bit more of a question mark (no pun intended). Other than signing a few games into the season, we never got to learn much about the New Zealander. That's probably our loss. He's not the prettiest player nor the flashiest, but he aspired to do what the team asked of him. Little-known stat: Sean leaves the Blazers as their season leader in three-point percentage at a perfect 100 percent (2-2). We also know that there was a bit of a kinship between he and Patty Mills due to the proximity of New Zealand to Patty's native Australia. When Sean came into a game, you figured it would only be for a few minutes. You also knew that he would give his all. Sometimes that was to defend and sometimes it was to simply give one of the big guys a rest. I will never criticize anyone for bringing to the court what a guy like Sean does. Obviously, I don't know what the future holds for him, but I hope he remembers that there are fans in Portland who appreciate the effort he brought to the team.
Earlier today on twitter, I saw a comment directed toward one of these guys: "Once a Blazer, always a Blazer." These three men completely exemplify what the type of player and people we in and from the Rose City want to represent us.
Our friends will be missed.