Charles Barkley says Trail Blazers were “first choice” for 1992 trade

Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images)
Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images) /

Charles Barkley said the Blazers were his “first choice” to be traded to before his 1992-93 MVP season. Did Portland miss out on multiple titles by getting cold feet on a deal?

Hoops podcast lovers were given a tag team like no other this morning, when Charles Barkley took to Zach Lowe’s Lowe Post podcast to discuss adventures from his playing career, Dream Team stories, and my personal favorite: his experience of playing a game drunk because he thought he’d been traded.

It was there that his love of the Portland Trail Blazers took another step, when he said they were his “first choice,” when the disgruntled star requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1992.

Midway through the podcast, Barkley offered this thought:

"“The summer before, I fly to Portland, Oregon. So, the Blazers have a terrific team. They got four, five All-Stars, and they got probably the deepest bench in the league. So, in the middle of the summer, I fly to Portland, and meet with the general manager. I can’t remember his name right now (Geoff Petrie). We talked about it on the show a couple of years ago, and the Trail Blazers sent me a check.I said they owe me $1,275, that’s the number, it was right around there, that they owed me from flying from Philadelphia to Portland. Cause Portland is my first choice. Because Portland had enough talent to give up for me, and still be a contender. They had lost to the Bulls in the Finals, but they were loaded from top-to-bottom.”"

Barkley noted that for as great as Portland was, the one flaw that the 1992 Western Conference Champion team did have was that they couldn’t produce offense in the half-court.

That statement is backed with facts; only five teams ran a faster-paced offense than the Blazers in 1991-92, which suggests that teams that slow down that pace, could get them out of the rhythm. And sure enough, the Bulls ranked No. 22 in pace out of 27.

One of the dynamics that so little people remember with that Blazers-Bulls Finals series is this: Rick Adelman actually had to bench Kevin Duckworth late in that pivotal Game 4, electing to go small ball because Duckworth couldn’t do much offensively on Bill Cartwright.

And the NBA’s 1992-93 Most Valuable Player could’ve been quite the remedy.

We aren’t granted the time machine that tells us the possibility of this, but having someone like Barkley would’ve obviously have been a benefit, especially if there’s some truth to the stories of Michael Jordan taking Clyde Drexler’s soul during that Finals and in the ensuing summer in Barcelona.

In the next season’s Playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs smothered them into just 40.7 percent shooting. Charles Barkley, arguably the most efficient offensive power forward ever, definitely loosens the screws on that defensive attack.

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The Blazers had chances to win the series. They lost Game 1 by a single point, Game 3 by six, and Game 4 by three. Many of those games held a common theme: an inability to consistently generate points late (they scored 20+ in the fourth quarter just once in the series).

It’s worth wondering which parts of the Blazers would’ve done away with. Kevin Duckworth was traded to the Washington Bullets for Harvey Grant just a summer later, so, perhaps a deal would’ve been made there.

Charles Barkley said he spent time trying to convince Petrie that if he would simply make the deal, the Blazers would remain contenders. He made a great point, too, that the Blazers would be able to run even more with him being arguably the best rebounder in the NBA.

Add in Jordan’s two-year sabbatical, and you’re talking about a real window that would have provided the best of both worlds. Barkley’s prime — which was destroyed due to back injuries —likely stretches further in playing for such a deep team. Drexler enjoys comfort in knowing he doesn’t have to be the No. 1 guy every night. And Terry Porter slides in as perhaps the best third banana in the NBA. Jerome Kersey does Jerome Kersey things. Are you not spooked yet?

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Chalk it up as yet another ‘What If’ that benefits the opponent. The Blazers had a golden opportunity to bring on one of the five greatest power forwards to ever play. And as long as Petrie didn’t have to give up Drexler or say, Terry Porter, it feels like it should have been considerable. Hindsight always works 20-20, but it sure would’ve been nice to have a player who could get 20 and 20, too.