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Steele wants championship ring back

Fair Game
by: DeNISE FARWELL, Larry Steele had a ball at Wednesday's '77 Blazer reunion, but his championship ring has gone AWOL.

Catching up with the '77 world champion Trail Blazers …

• Has anybody seen all or part of Larry Steele's championship ring?

About 10 years ago, Steele came home one night and noticed the center section of his ring - a half basketball and diamonds - was gone.

'It must've fallen out while I was wearing it,' the former Blazer swingman says. 'I looked everywhere but never found it.'

Steele had planned to have the center section replaced. But in 2004, he returned from his honeymoon to find wife Brit's car stolen. The rest of the personalized ring had been inside the console.

Detectives located the car, but the ring was gone.

'It could be in the bottom of a river, in a bush or on somebody's finger, I guess,' Steele says. 'I keep hoping it'll pop up somewhere. It's history - for the moment, anyway.'

• Now that Lionel Hollins has joined teammates Steele, Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Dave Twardzik and Lloyd Neal with numbers in the Rose Garden rafters, shouldn't Bob Gross' No. 30 join them?

'I have one up there,' Gross shrugs. 'There's one for the team. That's good enough.

'They went overboard when they retired so many numbers. When you retire a number, it doesn't get used again.'

Strangely, since Gross left the Blazers in 1982, only two players have worn No. 30 - Terry Porter and Rasheed Wallace. That should strengthen the case for the number's retirement, even with Mr. T's inclusion.

• Nobody looks more fit than Jack Ramsay, at 82 packing a trim 185 pounds on his 6-foot frame. Dr. Jack no longer competes in triathlons but still maintains a workout regimen that keeps him fit.

'I do stretches, pushups, situps daily,' says the former Blazer coach, who lives in Naples, Fla. 'I swim just about every day in the ocean or in the gulf. I get out early in the morning and usually swim a half-mile, though I can still swim a mile.'

Ramsay will serve as analyst with partner Jim Durham on ESPN radio for the playoffs through the conference finals.

Harry Glickman has been critical of some of owner Paul Allen's moves over the last decade, but the Blazer patriarch sees light at the end of the tunnel.

'(General Manager) Kevin Pritchard took the time to introduce himself,' says Glickman, the team's first president and general manager. 'Obviously he's done a good job - I'm impressed with him. I like Mike Golub (vice president of business operations) a lot. Looks like they're pointed in the right direction. Paul has finally done something right.'

• Nice touch to Tuesday night's cocktail party and dinner for the '77 Blazers: Any ex-Blazer was invited, and many who live in the Portland area showed up. Coach Nate McMillan and several of the current players were there, including Brandon Roy, Sergio Rodriguez, Travis Outlaw and Ime Udoka. It was cool to see Roy kibitzing with Greg Smith and Dale Schlueter, to see Udoka and Rodriguez chatting with several members of the '77 club.

• Pritchard has recommended Roy to serve as Portland's representative at the draft lottery May 22 in Secaucus, N.J.

Pritchard will be there, too, 'in the back room,' the GM says.

• At the Wednesday rally in Schrunk Plaza, Pritchard gave a short speech, said a few kind words about broadcasting legend Bill Schonely and introduced Ramsay to a crowd of several hundred.

'I felt so honored to be able to introduce Dr. Jack,' Pritchard says. 'I got tingles talking about that team, with the NBA championship trophy right next to me.

'To be around (the '77 Blazers), to touch them, get to know them … they're the fabric of what our organization is about - hard-working, dedicated to each other, unselfish. That's the kind of stuff Nate and I talk about with our team all the time.'

• Pritchard was only 9, but he remembers watching the '77 NBA finals on CBS. Philadelphia, with Julius Erving, was the favorite, but the Blazers caught his eye, too.

'It felt like the world was for the 76ers,' Pritchard says. 'Dr. J was the icon of the league. Who wants to go against him? I was growing up in the Midwest, watching every game I could. Whether you care who won or lost, it was a great series.'

• How times have changed. Twardzik's salary was $50,000 during the 1976-77 season, his first in the NBA after four seasons in the American Basketball Association.

'Our playoff check was $25,000 - I thought I'd hit the lottery,' says Twardzik, whose career was cut short at age 29 by recurring injuries in 1979-80. He made his biggest paycheck that season - $80,000.

Today's minimum salary is $412,748. The average salary is more than $4 million.

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