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[Chronicle] Clyde trade to Rockets sweetest ever valentine

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by oomp, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

    Feb 9, 2000
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    Clyde trade to Rockets sweetest ever valentine [Chronicle]


    Feb. 13, 2005, 12:23AM

    Clyde trade to Rockets sweetest ever valentine
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

    It seems so natural to look up inside Toyota Center and see his retired uniform number fluttering from the rafters along with the NBA championship banner he was so instrumental in hanging.

    He closes his eyes occasionally and drifts back to that special night when the lights sparkled a little brighter, when the roar of the crowd echoed in his head like cannon fire, when the emotions of an entire city seemed to wrap him in a longing embrace.

    Feb. 14, 1995. The greatest trade in Houston history. The sweetest ever Valentine's Day gift for a city of sports fans.

    The irony is Clyde Drexler had given up hope. Of ever playing any part of his storied NBA career in his hometown. Of ever wearing the Rockets jersey of his teenage dreams. Of ever teaming up again on the basketball court with his old friend Hakeem Olajuwon.

    Ten years later, Drexler chuckles and shakes his head.

    "About a week before the trade went down, Dream and I had dinner in Portland and, during the course
    of the conversation, I think we both had pretty much buried the fantasy," he said. "We had talked about it for so long, for so many years. From the time we were at the University of Houston and all through our NBA careers.

    "We had always talked about the possibility of me coming back to Houston or him coming up to Portland. But hey, they had just won the championship in '94, and I figured that's when the last chance went out the window."

    Struggling champs
    Except that after going 9-0 to start the season, the defending champions never could find a rhythm. They bickered, they struggled, they suffered through a seemingly endless string of injuries and were getting desperate by the night Drexler and Olajuwon met for dinner. That just happened to come after Drexler's Trail Blazers had walloped Olajuwon's Rockets 120-82.

    "You're talking about a team that had won a championship, and you want to give them every opportunity to repeat," said Carroll Dawson, Rockets general manager who was then an assistant coach. "We kept thinking that if we just gave those guys some time, that it would eventually come together.

    "But something always seemed to stop us from getting on a roll and, at that point, we pretty much knew we needed a shot in the arm. You've got to give (head coach) Rudy (Tomjanovich) and (owner) Les (Alexander) and the whole organization credit."

    It barely took an airplane to fly Drexler to Houston.

    "I was more than ready," he said. "As soon as I heard there was a possibility, I did everything I could to orchestrate that trade. I was in a situation where the Blazers had played in the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, and they were looking to rebuild. That wasn't for me.

    "At that point, I was coming off a season where I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee and then had a couple of hamstring injuries while I was trying to come back. I started to hear criticism in Portland, people saying that I was getting old, that I was over the hill.

    "What I really wanted was to go to a team where I'd have a chance to show everybody. I wanted that right spot to come in and say, 'Guess who can still play?' "

    Deal unpopular at first
    The trade sent Otis Thorpe and the rights to Marcelo Nicola to the Blazers for Drexler and Tracy Murray. The deal was criticized by many for being desperate and tampering with chemistry.

    "What chemistry?" Drexler said. "They didn't like each other anymore."

    "I hate it," said forward Robert Horry at the time. "When you lose a power forward, you should have a power forward coming in. There's not one player who's going to solve our problems."

    Then an eight-time NBA All-Star, Drexler wasn't just any player. His presence gave the team and the fans an emotional lift and gave the Rockets another big-time player at both ends of the floor who could shoulder the load. He also gave his old college running buddy a sense of renewed enthusiasm.

    "There was so much Clyde could do," Olajuwon said. "He could make so much happen. Just to play with him again, it was wonderful. Even tough I hated that we were losing Otis, I was very happy to have Clyde with me again."

    They had come close before. In 1983, when the Rockets made Ralph Sampson the No. 1 choice in the NBA draft, they also had the No. 3 pick and took Rodney McCray instead of Drexler. He went to Portland at No. 14.

    The following year, when Olajuwon entered the draft, the Rockets beat out the Blazers in a coin flip for the No. 1 pick or the two could have played together in Portland.

    There were several times that the Rockets flirted with the idea of trading for Drexler. Also, in 1992 when Olajuwon was in a contract dispute and the club was accusing him of faking a leg injury, Drexler tried to get him shipped to the Blazers.

    "My hopes were up so many times that I got tired of making myself disappointed," Drexler said. "Then it happened. Oh, you talk about poetry. About a dream come true. This was a script that you can't write."

    Dawson remembers his instant impressions.

    "I'd see those unbelievably strong hands reach in and rip the ball away from guys for a steal," he said. "I'd see those drives when he'd just put his head down and run in for dunks.

    "Confidence is so much in this league, and when we got Clyde, you could see that ours just jumped up."

    The Rockets used the second half of the regular season to get themselves healthy and eased Drexler into the offensive system, but things were still bumpy. They went just 7-8 in March and 5-7 in April, losing the final three regular-season games. They entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and were regarded as a long shot.

    Defining moment
    It wasn't until the deciding Game 5 of the first-round playoff series at Utah when Drexler truly arrived. The defending champs trailed by seven points with under five minutes left, and everything changed.

    Drexler scored on tough drives and long jumpers. He fought for rebounds. He dove for loose balls. He finished with 31 points and willed the Rockets to a 95-91 win.

    "Clyde is a leader, and that is the game when it showed," Olajuwon said.

    Said Drexler: "I was just hungry for a chance to win it all, and I wasn't leaving anything out there. But if you're a big-time player, it was time to make plays."

    Drexler was ejected from Game 1 of the next series in Phoenix after a run-in with referee Jake O'Donnell. With the Rockets down 3-1 in the series, Drexler was weak with the flu and not expected to leave his bed for Game 5.

    "I don't remember much about that experience at all," Drexler said. "I don't know how I got out of bed. I know the team bus left, and I think I bribed a bellboy at the hotel to help me get dressed and take me to the arena."

    Aching to play
    His teammates were shocked to see him stagger in. He was pale. He was haggard. But he was there, and the Rockets walked up to his locker and thanked him. He missed all six shots he took. But he was an inspiration.

    "The only play I remember from the whole night was with about 20 seconds left and Hakeem put up a shot from the baseline," Drexler said. "Somehow it hit the corner of the backboard and went in. At that point, I said to myself, 'Nothing can stop us.' "

    Nothing did. Not San Antonio in the next round or Orlando in the NBA Finals.

    When the Rockets' 4-0 sweep of the Magic was complete, Drexler searched amid the celebration for one pair of eyes, one face — Olajuwon.

    "You're laughing and hugging, and you're so happy about what you just did," Drexler said. "But I also remember thinking right then about all the years and all the times we wanted to play together."

    It all seems so perfect now, the natural fit, Drexler and the Rockets.

    "I guess," he said, "you have to wait for the stars to line up."

  2. Harrisment

    Harrisment Member

    Jun 20, 2001
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    Great article, brings back some good memories.
  3. Plowman

    Plowman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 1999
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    It just doesn't get any better.
    After watching and living PSJ throughout college, I assumed the Rockets would take him at 3.I'm sure many of you guys were screaming like me when we took Rodney.My TV almost went over the balcony.
  4. Dave2000

    Dave2000 Contributing Member

    Aug 4, 2001
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    just read it in the paper, great stuff, want to put in the Double Clutch video in when i get home... :D
  5. mogrod

    mogrod Contributing Member

    Oct 24, 2003
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    Yea, good memories. I was at the game that night the trade went down when the crowd gave a standing ovation to Clyde as he walked into the arena to sit next to Les. It's cool to be there for a part of Rocket history. I still couln't believe it when they announced the trade over the PA before the game. It was not only a great V'day gift, but it was my B-day so it was REALLY great gift for me.

    Side Note: Was the salary cap trade rules (matching salaries) not around yet then? Seems odd that we got both Glyde and Murray for Thorpe. I would assume Glyde made much more than Thorpe did.
  6. blazer_ben

    blazer_ben Rookie

    May 21, 2002
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    Awesom Read. Clyde is clearly the Second best Rocket ever.
  7. Parlett316

    Parlett316 Contributing Member

    Nov 8, 2002
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  8. nigma2000

    nigma2000 Member

    May 19, 2002
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    I did not know that the Rockets had a chance to draft Clyde back in 83. What is wrong with this organization, that is another Rashard Lewis goof up by them. At least at the end they traded for Drexler.

    Will they do the same and get Rashard down the road? Did'nt they have a chance to go after him a couple of yrs ago when he was a free agent?
  9. JPM0016

    JPM0016 Contributing Member

    May 23, 2003
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    Considering they went to the finals with that player (Ralph Sampson) i disagree. We aren't talking about Mirsad Turkan.
  10. nigma2000

    nigma2000 Member

    May 19, 2002
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    Well it says in the article we had the 1st and 3rd pick in the 83 draft, so we still could have gotten Clyde at 3rd along with the Sampson pick
  11. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

    Jun 25, 2002
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    What, in hindsight, might have made the Rockets instantly better, therefore not being in position to pick #1 in 1984 and taking Hakeem.

    The 1983 draft brought the Rockets to the 1986 finals. Had it not been for Ralph's bad knees, they would have been a contender beyond that season. Rodney McCray was a very good player and a valuable contributor to a very good team.

    Great article by Blinebury. Still gives me chills to think about those 2 great years.
    #11 leroy, Feb 13, 2005
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2005
  12. Dr of Dunk

    Dr of Dunk Clutch Crew

    Aug 27, 1999
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    Clyde wasn't the player he ended up being back then. He really didn't have a great jumper and was more about dunks. Clyde went 14th in that draft - that gives you some indication that he wasn't as highly regarded back then. Hindsight.
  13. Behad

    Behad Contributing Member

    Feb 20, 1999
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    Rodney McCray was the better pick at the time, no doubt. Clyde had no outside game at all. In fact, he didn't become a starter on his Portland team till his second year, after Coach Ramsey told him to get a jumper or else.
  14. Saint Louis

    Saint Louis Member

    Jun 27, 1999
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    Hindsight is 20/20.

    The Rockets drafted the players they thought would get them a title quick. I believe they would have done it if not for Sampson's knees and a slight drug problem amongst the Rocket guards.
  15. dharocks

    dharocks Contributing Member

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Even so, it would have been nice to trade Sampson for Clyde and the #2 pick in 84, and build around a nucleus of Dream/Clyde/Jordan... ;)
  16. caowenyu

    caowenyu Contributing Member

    Dec 9, 2002
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    how many titles rox could have won if we had got clyde, dream, and jordan in 1984?
  17. across110thstreet

    across110thstreet Contributing Member

    Mar 17, 2001
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    Ah, the fond memories



    Driving around town with brooms!
  18. Davidoff

    Davidoff Contributing Member

    Feb 18, 2004
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  19. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

    Jan 1, 2001
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    It's a fantastic story that became a reality. It was the best trade for us and brought Clyde home.

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