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nba basketball news rumors




InsideHoops NBA [HOME] July 31, 2003

In Defense of Whitsitt: Sympathy for the Devil

 
Thunder sign Mamadi Diakite to 10-day contract
Sixers sign Charlie Brown Jr. to two-way contract
Mavericks re-sign Marquese Chriss to another 10-day contract
Utah Jazz sign Denzel Valentine to 10-day contract
Heat re-sign Kyle Guy and Chris Silva to 10-day contracts
Nuggets trade Bol Bol to Pistons for Rodney McGruder
Mavericks waive JaQuori McLaughlin
Nuggets sign James Ennis III to 10-day contract




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Being a Portland resident, it is easy to focus on the many negatives aspects of the Bob Whitsitt years. His prickly personality alienated journalists, fans, and players alike, while his amoral wheelings and dealings made the once fan-friendly Trail Blazers team synonymous with sex offenders, drug users, and thugs. Nevertheless, Trader Bob’s failures as a general manager are exaggerated and he deserves credit for his ability at constructing a team.

In terms of finding good players, Whitsitt is in the top echelon of general managers. He is a shrewd judge of talent who consistently drafted skilled players with late draft picks, picked up solid free agents, and, overall, made more good trades than bad ones. This is the man who drafted Aaron McKie at #17, Alvin Williams at #48, Jermaine O’Neal at #17, and Zach Randolph at #19. He turned malcontent Rod Strickland into Rasheed Wallace (a younger more talented malcontent) and a bunch of scrap players into Scottie Pippen. I was most impressed by the shooting guard trades: James "Hollywood" Robinson for Isiah Rider for Steve Smith for Derek Anderson- no one move was particularly stunning, but each time he got a better player with more upside. Okay fine, he did trade away Jermaine O’Neal and traded for Shawn Kemp. But at least with O’Neal, I have trouble blaming him. Whitsitt drafted and resigned him, is it his fault the coach wouldn’t play him? (I will refrain from defending the Kemp trade for fear of ruining any semblance of credibility).

Granted, players did not come to the Blazers because they liked Whitsitt, they came because he offered them substantial compensation from Paul Allen’s bottomless pockets. And one can make a very solid argument that it’s not hard to collect talent when you’re allowed to go 50 million dollars over the salary cap. Still, even here I find Whitsitt to be under appreciated. Not that I really understand the salary cap, but there are rules limiting teams from exceeding the cap. I find it impressive that he was masterful enough with the numerous exceptions to actually double what was allowed.

The biggest misconception is that Whitsitt’s eventual downfall proved that one can’t just fill a roster with the best players and expect to win. Portlanders loved to vilify Trader Bob for his penchant of collecting all-stars while being seemingly oblivious to "chemistry". This attitude totally ignores how much success the Blazers had with Whitsitt’s all-talent-all-the-time attitude. They never missed the playoffs, they went to the conference finals twice, and they had the Lakers on the ropes in a game 7. True, they never won a championship even though they had the league’s largest payroll, but the fact remains, you can create a championship contender with an overabundance of talent (at least the Lakers hope so).

I am glad Whitsitt has left our town. Although I will miss such eye-catching headlines as, "Player Caught Smoking Pot Out Of A Tin Can," and, "Sex Offender Signed For Cheap," I am looking forward to our lone sports team returning to its pedestal. Whitsitt convinced me that character does matter in maintaining community support and instilling local pride. Still, I was never convinced that he didn’t know how to put together a good basketball team.


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