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Friendly rivalry

Old pals Brandon, Stoudamire meet again

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Posted: Saturday April 22, 2000 10:50 PM

  Terrell Brandon Terrell Brandon feels fans in Portland have enough love in their hearts to cheer for both him and Damon Stoudamire. Otto Greule, Jr./Allsport

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Damon Stoudamire grew up idolizing Terrell Brandon, and the point guards have been close friends for years. If only their relationship with their hometown were that simple.

"We love each other," Brandon said Saturday as his Minnesota Timberwolves prepared to begin their best-of-five series against Stoudamire and the Portland Trail Blazers. "We both represent Northeast Portland -- we talk about it all the time. There's really not going to be a loser as far as our neighborhood is concerned."

"The hometown has embraced both of us as equally as they can. I don't think it should be a split. The people should appreciate what both of us have done."

Brandon, a star at Grant High School and the University of Oregon, is revered in his old neighborhood, the city's poorest and most racially diverse. There he owns a successful barber shop whose clientele includes many NBA players and half the Blazers' roster.

Stoudamire, a standout at crosstown Wilson High, is still talked about as one of the best prep players to come out of Oregon.

His reputation was tarnished, however, late last season when his agent said Stoudamire wasn't playing enough in the fourth quarter of games, while backup Greg Anthony got all the minutes. Stoudamire went public with his frustrations after the Blazers lost the first two games of the Western Conference finals to San Antonio. The timing puzzled coach Mike Dunleavy, not to mention Stoudamire's hometown fans.

Stoudamire refused to speak to reporters Saturday, but he addressed the issue in the first installment of a playoff "diary" published in The Oregonian newspaper.

"I was stunned by the public response," Stoudamire wrote. "I mean, after we lost people were saying my comments were the reason. And a lot of stuff got back to me from friends and family. ... I didn't mean to offend anybody. That was just the way it came out. I kind of felt like I got burned, to be honest. It made me look like the bad guy. ... My whole reputation got damaged over a quote.

"... I love it here. I could live anywhere, but I chose to make Portland my home. When I came to the Blazers (in a trade with Toronto in February 1998), I was ecstatic, even though being from here, that puts a little extra pressure on you. The fans here are great and I didn't want to lose that relationship."

Stoudamire, 26, is three years younger than Brandon; he was even Brandon's bat boy in Little League. They still get together once a year and play a softball game in Portland. Stoudamire's team leads the series 4-2.

In basketball, they squared off plenty of times on the playground, but never in high school. By the time Stoudamire got to the University of Arizona, Brandon had already left Oregon after his junior season to enter the NBA draft.

Despite their friendship, Stoudamire is the one who has suffered from comparisons between the two players. The 5-foot-10 Stoudamire is flashier and quicker, but the 5-11 Brandon is a better all-around player. Brandon averaged 21 points and 8.5 assists against the Blazers this season, and the teams split 2-2. Stoudamire averaged just 12 points and had more turnovers (15) than assists (12).

When asked earlier this week about his matchup with Brandon, Stoudamire was reluctant.

"Everybody knows me and Terrell been playing each other forever," he said. "He knows my game, I know his game. We don't need to talk about that. I hear that stuff on the street."

Inside Terrell Brandon's Barber Shop on Saturday afternoon, at least two dozen men watched the Pistons-Heat game on TV while waiting for a cut. Here no one takes sides with the two local heroes.

"We're kind of torn," Daunte Paschal, the manager at Terrell Brandon's Barber Shop and a friend of Brandon's since the fourth grade, said as he trimmed up an adolescent boy's hair. "Terrell's a regular guy, and everyone respects him for that. Later in the summer, you can catch him jogging right out here on the street.

"Here in the inner city, we all stood behind Damon. He's very competitive, and when his team's struggling, he knows the best way he can make a difference is with the ball in his hands."

Stoudamire said he feels better entering this playoff season than last year, and is focused less on individual goals than winning the title.

"I want it bad," he said. "I went through too much here in Portland not to get a ring."


 
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