Thursday , Feb , 26 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

The new-look Blazers are on the move

=== The new-look Blazers are on the move ===

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Portland general manager John Nash has re-
shaped the Trail Blazers’ roster through trades and the results are showing up
in the win column.

In his first trade, Nash dealt swingman Bonzi Wells to Memphis for veteran
Wesley Person in December 2003. He then acquired forward Darius Miles from the
Cleveland Cavaliers for guard Jeff McInnis and center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje in
January 2004.

Nash’s boldest move came on February 9th when he acquired former NBA All-Stars
Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff as well as Dan Dickau from the Atlanta
Hawks in return for forward/center Rasheed Wallace and Person.

With Ratliff and Abdur-Rahim in the lineup, the Blazers, who are currently on
a five-game winning streak, have gone 5-2.

“Since John Nash and I came here last summer, we pursued a plan that would
take character into account with talent, create cap flexibility while
continuing to put a competitive team on the court,” said Trail Blazers
president Steve Patterson.

Even though Miles was a nice addition, the trade with Atlanta is the key.
Ratliff and Abdur-Rahim are known as character players who are highly skilled
at their specialties. Ratliff is a shot-blocking center who can score from
inside the paint, while Abdur-Rahim is an athletic forward who can run the
floor and light up the scoreboard.

In their first seven games with Portland, the 27-year-old Abdur-Rahim has
averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, while Ratliff has averaged 6.3 points,
seven boards and 4.1 blocks.

Abdur-Rahim has not hit his offensive stride yet for the Blazers. He has
averaged well below his 19.3 points per game this season while playing for
Portland. However, their is no need for concern as the California product will
put up big numbers statistically for the Blazers as he gets used to his new
home.

The 30-year-old Ratliff is having a major impact for Portland on the defensive
end. He gives head coach Maurice Cheeks an athletic center that can run the
floor and will keep opposing players from driving the lane.

Nash has pieced together a formidable frontcourt for the present and possibly
the future with all of his trades. Add up-and-coming 22-year-old power forward
Zach Randolph, who has averaged a team-best 20.9 points and 10.9 rebounds in
his first 57 games this season, to Abdur-Rahim, Ratliff and Miles, all of the
sudden the Blazers look extremely athletic and tough up front.

Portland’s management and its fans have to be thrilled with what the trade
with the Hawks has done for the Blazers.

“This trade (the deal with Atlanta) helps the franchise in many ways,” said
Patterson. “We get a younger core of players and can remain competitive in
both the Western Conference and the league. Another factor in the deal is that
we are also acquiring three players of good character. This trade also gives
the franchise salary cap flexibility.”

In its final 25 games of the season, Portland (29-28) will play 13 games at
home and 12 on the road. Seventeen of the contests are against Western
Conference teams, while six are against Pacific Division clubs.

The Blazers have not missed the playoffs since 1982. Earlier this season it
seemed like the streak was going to come to an end. However, with the trades
that Nash has made it appears that Portland is ready to make a run at earning
its 22nd consecutive berth in the NBA playoffs.