The Portland TrailBlazers from the early ’00s were one of the best, most exciting, and one of the most stacked teams with an incredible group of individuals on their team. They were very close to eliminating the Lakers in the 2000 WCF and had a good run for a few consecutive seasons until the team fell apart. It had a great group of older and experienced players alongside a few very talented and young guys that made this squad one of the most recognizable teams from that era.
Zach Randolph was a member of the team when he first joined the NBA as a rookie, and in a recent interview for Basketball News, he talked about his time with the team and how it was competing against all those guys. The Blazers had great guards on their team, but they had several big guys like Rasheed, Sabonis, Dale Davis, and Derek Anderson, who raised the bar high, competing hard in practice every play.
Talking s**t every day. They about fight, mad at each other, they cussing each other. Back then, it was different; the league has changed. Back then, you had more older guys, and I was a rookie just sitting back thinking, man, they are going at it. Our practices were like games, every practice. We had a squad with Derek Anderson, Bonzi, Sheed, Damon, Sabonis going at it.Zach Randolph, via BasketballNews
The infamous nickname ‘JailBlazers’ received from the public came after a few incidents regarding their star players. Their misdemeanor with the law was mostly in regards to various drug possessions, but predominantly cannabis. Randolph thinks that didn’t sit well with the team, and times have changed because now those types of situations would be tolerable by the community and the league itself.
We didn’t like that at all. We didn’t like it because it was a lot of brothers on the team. There were some marijuana cases, some guys were smoking, and something like that, but we got labeled because of that. Everybody smokes a bit of marijuana nowadays, but back then, that is just all it was.Zach Randolph, via BasketballNews
Having that type of impact and being in the presence of so many veterans on the team positively shaped Randolph in many ways. He still admires his time with the Blazers and the connection he’s made with Portland and the local community. Randolph still owns property there and has a few businesses, so he is still in many ways connected to a city he never thought he would end up when becoming a pro.
I still have a lot of fans in Portland, I have a business in Portland, I got a property in Portland, so I love Portland. I had a great time when I was playing for the TrailBlazers.Zach Randolph, via BasketballNews
Randolph used all the experience playing for the TrailBlazers because he saw outstanding veteran leadership by several great players on the team. He used that knowledge and his own experience when he joined the Memphis Grizzlies and became the first name behind that franchise for multiple years. That Grizzlies squad was tough, and that was the way they played because of Randolph’s imprint on the team.
However, all that wouldn’t be possible without seeing excellence and playing alongside a few genuinely historical players. The Blazers had all ingredients to make it to the finals for a few years, but they couldn’t make that final push. When you are a young player like Randolph was back then, these moments mean a lot because other rookies don’t come in championship-contending teams with the bar level set up high.