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Record brings in crowd, not roster

On Sports

Any way you look at it, this was a rewarding season for the Trail Blazers. How could one have expected much more?

The franchise, under Kevin Pritchard, has done a terrific job of establishing ground rules for how it wants to conduct itself and play. It knows where it wishes to go and how it wants to get there.

We labored so long in Portland under Bob 'I wasn't a chemistry major' Whitsitt that it's a welcome change. It feels fresh and clean.

I have no doubt that the sky is the limit with Pritchard at the helm.

But I'd like to set the record straight about one thing. While I love that the team has acquired good people who stay out of trouble, I have difficulty connecting the team's past behavioral problems with the decline in spectator interest the Blazers suffered.

Character - or rather, lack of it - can be a reason a team loses. But it's not often why people don't show up.

You might look back, as a fan, and say you wanted nothing to do with the teams of the Isaiah Rider era. The Ruben Patterson era. The Rasheed Wallace era. The Bonzi Wells era. And perhaps you didn't.

But a lot of people did.

I still remember how disgusted I felt after a playoff series several seasons ago, when Rider was so full of himself he took off his uniform top, jumped onto the courtside press table and pounded his chest in egomaniacal delight -as everyone in the Rose Garden stood and cheered.

Yes, a standing ovation for that jerk.

I remember Wallace throwing a towel in the face of Arvydas Sabonis and getting huge applause the next game.

Players were arrested for all sorts of offenses and, soon after, were loudly cheered by capacity crowds.

As long as the team was winning, only the media seemed bothered by this. Once the losses began to mount, the crowds dropped off. Because of the losses, though - not the behavior.

And I would make the point that the increasing interest in the current Blazers has much more to do with their won-lost record than their lack of presence on police blotters.

Whitsitt probably chuckles a little as he looks back. He knew how it would play out. He knew as long as the team was making playoff runs, nobody would worry much about him acquiring a registered sex offender.

Whitsitt's plan failed. Barely, really. The Blazers came tantalizingly close to a championship in 2000. And trust me, if that team had held on to the big lead against the Lakers in Game 7, it would have won a championship. And who would have cared about bad behavior then?

Did anyone in Detroit mind that the 'Bad Boys' who won those championships had a few punks on the team?

When it was clear the Blazers were going to hit the downslide, Whitsitt was out the door. His legacy is one of shame. People will always remember the louts he brought to this franchise.

But his failure here had a lot more to do with losses than it did player behavior.

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