Do the Blazers still need to clean house?

Originally Published: March 4, 2004
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
At the start of the NBA season there were still a few constants in life. Breathing. Death. Taxes. And a combustible Portland Trail Blazers team.

Blazers GM John Nash has been working furiously to try to change the image of the Blazers. He spent the last few months cleaning house and evicting some of the Blazers' most infamous residents.

Bonzi "The Spitter" Wells was shipped to Memphis for Wesley Person and a first-round pick. The Cavs agreed to send Darius Miles for Jeff McInnis. The Hawks sent two talented, stand-up guys -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff-- for one talented, seriously troubled guy -- Rasheed Wallace.

John Nash
In the space of three months, Nash managed to turn the Blazers from Bad News to Good News and has played to rave review among his peers. Several GMs used words like "remarkable" and "extraordinary" to describe the job Nash has done so far in Portland. The team rattled off a streak of five wins after the last trade, and hope sprung anew from the ashes of what once was the Jail Blazers.

"We have been down so long; but with the changes we have made with the trades, it has just given us new life," coach Maurice Cheeks told reporters recently. "The new guys have given us some energy, and they see that something special could happen. It has just been a breath of fresh air."

The new additions couldn't be more different from the selfish, defensively challenged Blazers of old. Abdur-Rahim agreed to come off the bench for the first time in his career in an effort to make third-year forward Zach Randolph more comfortable. Ratliff's shot blocking has given the team a new defensive identity that fans can resonate with.

"Words can't explain what he [Ratliff] does for us," Anderson said. "He alone changes the outcome of every game we will play in."

When Wallace returns to Portland tonight expect the focus to be on the Blazers' turbulent past and their more harmonious present. The cancer is in remission and that's reason enough to celebrate. But until Nash finds a way to cut it all the way out, the community of once faithful Blazers fans will remain wary.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer