For seven consecutive years, from 1988 to '94, Trail Blazers guard Clyde Drexler was a fixture at the NBA All-Star Game. Last season, however, with Portland in transition and his own future in limbo, Drexler was not included among the league's elite. After much deliberation, he did the logical thing.
"I went to Disney World," Drexler says.
Before he journeyed to the Magic Kingdom, Drexler publicly requested a trade from the only pro team he'd ever played for. He said he wasn't comfortable with the direction in which the Blazers were headed; management whispered what really irked Drexler was that it wouldn't extend his contract beyond the '95-96 season.
Was Drexler a polished veteran with several good years left, as he contended? Or was he, as the Blazers insinuated, the next Dominique Wilkins, an aging star whose considerable athletic skills had vanished? Drexler's numbers last season did not support the latter theory. In 41 games for the Blazers he averaged 22.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists. His shooting was off, at 42.8%, but he argued that was because Portland had been gutted, thus allowing defenses to focus more than ever on him.
This weekend Drexler will arrive in San Antonio as a 1996 All-Star starter, voted in by the fans. He comes as a member of the Rockets, who traded for him last Valentine's Day, with the championship ring that he won with his new club last June. Drexler also comes armed with numbers that, through Sunday, were similar to the ones that weren't good enough to secure a '95 All-Star spot: 19.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. "I'm doing the same things," says Drexler. "The difference is I'm in a happy situation where I have a chance to win."
Drexler says he asked for a trade before the 1994-95 season, as he watched the dismantling of the Blazers, who in 1990 and '92 had gone to the NBA Finals—and lost. "The attitude changed," he says. "[Owner] Paul Allen used to talk to me about everything. Then, when things started coming down, I never heard from him. But I have no gripes. He's a busy man."
While most teams tried to determine what Drexler had left in the tank, Houston, mired in a postchampionship funk, concentrated on other matters. As Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich pored over Portland game films, two things stood out: Drexler's ability to post up shooting guards, a capability the Rockets were lacking, and his adeptness at passing out of double teams. Drexler's friendship with center Hakeem Olajuwon, his teammate at the University of Houston, was a plus, but that wasn't the clincher. "I knew Clyde had been there and come up empty," says Tomjanovich. "I knew he'd do anything to get a ring."
Drexler averaged 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and shot 48.1% from the field in the playoffs during the Rockets' second title run. At 33 he says he was poised to retire, but Rockets owner Les Alexander offered him a two-year extension. "So much for money being an issue," says Drexler. "It was never about that. It's too bad Portland chose to make it that way."
The Buzz Is Back
The Beehive is buzzing again in Charlotte, thanks to recently acquired point guard Kenny Anderson, who has fans coming out in swarms. Although the Hornets had been announcing sellouts, the alarming number of no-shows since the Nov. 3 trade of Alonzo Mourning had so concerned owner George Shinn that he installed scanners that read bar codes on the tickets to determine who was and who wasn't showing up. Shinn hopes Anderson can replace Mourning as Charlotte's main draw, although it's unrealistic to expect a 6'1" point guard to have the same impact as a 6'10" franchise center.