Portland Trail Blazers: 4 role players who became household names in the Playoffs

Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Randolph, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

Scouting Report. PF. 2003 NBA Playoffs. Zach Randolph. 4. player. 34. Pick Analysis

2003 NBA Playoffs – Per Game Stats:

  • 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game
  • 52.5 percent from the field, 89.2 percent from the free throw line

Talk about a case of dejà vu. By 2003, the Portland Trail Blazers had lost a bit of their luster. Legal controversy and officiating drama were still on the uptick. But the 59-win team that pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink were no more.

The Blazers went through back-to-back seasons of being swept in the first round, and after the upstart trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash put them into an 0-3 headlock, it appeared they’d be approaching history with three consecutive sweeps in successive years.

And then, Maurice Cheeks took a glance down the bench.

In Game Four, Cheeks finally let Randolph start, and even rewarded him 41 minutes of playing time. In return, Randolph outplayed Dallas’ No. 41, dropping 25 points and 15 rebounds in the first Playoff start of his NBA lifetime.

Game Five? 22 points and 9 rebounds.

Game Six? 21 points and 10 rebounds.

So by reading that, you’ve likely concluded that the Blazers had forced a Game Seven after falling into an 0-3 deficit. They became just the third team in NBA history to ever force such a game. (They likely win this series if Scottie Pippen’s knee holds up).

One might argue that Randolph arguably became a household name for an incident that occured on Apr. 4, 2003, when he punched teammate Ruben Patterson in the mouth, drawing both “large amounts of blood,” and then a $100,000 fine. The Blazers had some stories during the 2002-03 season, but it’s a testament to their resolve that they nearly knocked off the Mavericks with all of this internal discord.

Nonetheless, Randolph starred in the final four games of the Blazers-Mavericks series, and used that to elevate himself both locally and nationwide. The following year, he averaged 20.1 points and 10.5 rebounds, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award, and went on to accrue multiple All-Star Games and deep Playoff runs. He also earned nearly $200 million.

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His work ethic suggests he’d have done much of this anyways, but for our sake, we should be thankful Cheeks made the move.