1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Trnsc.

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1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Trnsc.

Postby MCT » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:09 pm

This is the fifteenth of a planned series of threads analyzing games played, games started and transactions for the 1980-81 season. Before reading any further, see the introductory thread below:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4961

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – PART I

SEASON OVERVIEW

The Blazers had a 45-37 record. They finished third in the Pacific Division, and were the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. In the First Round, the Blazers lost to the Kings 2-1 in a best-of-three “miniseries”. They therefore played a total of 3 playoff games.

The Blazers used 14 different players for the season, three above the minimum. Two additional players appear to have been on the team’s roster during the regular season, but only on the injured list (not the active roster), and did not appear in any games.

ROSTER AND TRANSACTIONS

OPENING NIGHT ROSTER

Billy Ray Bates
Ron Brewer
Bob Gross
Roy Hamilton
Mike Harper
Kevin Kunnert
Calvin Natt
Tom Owens
*Larry Steele
Mychal Thompson
*Dave Twardzik
Jim Paxson
Kermit Washington

*I believe that Steele and Twardzik started the season on the injured list; see the Notes/Discrepancies section below.

Notable unsigned draft pick: Kelvin Ransey.

IN-SEASON TRANSACTIONS

In the list below, anything which is underlined is the subject of discrepancies or guesswork, or is the result of further research beyond my usual sources.

10/10/80 – Signed first round pick Kelvin Ransey.

10/11/80 – Waived Roy Hamilton.

11/10/80 – Waived Larry Steele.

12/19/80 – Traded Ron Brewer to the Spurs for Mike Gale and a future 1st round pick.

2/2/81 – Placed Kevin Kunnert on the injured list; signed Geoff Crompton to a 10-day contract.

2/13/81 – Signed Geoff Crompton to a second 10-day contract.

2/24/81 – Signed Geoff Crompton as a free agent.

2/27/81 – Activated Kevin Kunnert from the injured list; placed Geoff Crompton on the injured list.

Note: I believe that the Blazers finished the season with 13 players on their roster, including two on the injured list (Dave Twardzik and Geoff Crompton). The 11 players who had finished the regular season on the active roster continued to make up the active roster for the playoffs.

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

Kelvin Ransey & Roy Hamilton:

When I began assembling the Blazers’ in-season transactions, I noticed an anomaly. The Blazers had waived a player a few days into the season (Roy Hamilton), but none of my sources had a corresponding transaction showing them acquiring a player. They had seemingly started the season with one too many players. This pattern sometimes indicates that a player started the season on the IL, but that couldn’t be the explanation here. A player placed on the IL would need to spend five games there before being activated, and Hamilton was waived earlier than that.

My next guess was that a player had started the season unsigned. A Google News Archive search confirmed that this is what happened, and that the player in question was rookie first round pick Kelvin Ransey. Several newspaper articles in the Archive from 10/8/80, 10/9/80, and 10/10/80 indicate that Ransey had not yet signed, although the two sides were negotiating towards an agreement (opening night rosters needed to be set at the end of the day on 10/9). Numerous additional articles from 10/11/80 and 10/12/80 indicate that Ransey signed a contract with the Blazers late in the evening on Friday 10/10. According to an AP wire service article in the 10/12/80 Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, Ransey signed his contract at 11:22 p.m. Pacific Time, at the Los Angeles-area home of his agent, Howard Slusher. That was opening night, but obviously after the Blazers had played their game. Ransey made his debut in the Blazers’ second game of the season, on 10/12.

There’s one problem with this timeline. Multiple sources show Roy Hamilton being waived on 10/13/80, including the NBA Register, the Blazers Media Guide, and b-r.com. (It’s very possible that the NBA Register was where this originally came from, and the others used the Register as their ultimate source. From that point of view, the Register may really be the only source here.) As we’ve discussed in the past, it appears that at this time a team acquiring a new player didn’t need to immediately clear a roster spot for that player, but may have had a certain length of time to do so, possibly until their next game. So the mere fact that Hamilton wasn’t waived until a couple of days after Ransey signed isn’t necessarily a problem. But if Ransey played on 10/12, he must have been on the active roster by then. So I don’t see how Hamilton could have been waived any later than 10/12. Hamilton’s waiving never appeared in the transaction column in the Globe, and I couldn’t find any references to it in the Google News Archive, either, so we don’t have any contemporary news sources to check against.

Maybe there is simply a typo in the date in the NBA Register, and the other sources cited above used the Register as their source. Then again, maybe there’s more to it; we’ve seen this pattern before – see the discussion under the Lakers concerning the waiving of Tony Jackson – and this probably won’t be the last time we see it. In a nod to the “baseball style” theory raised in the Lakers article, I’m writing up Hamilton’s waiving as having happened on 10/11. Or is there just some aspect of NBA waiver procedure in this era that I’m not grasping?

Larry Steele:

I believe that Steele began the season on the injured list, although I do not have any documentation of Steele being placed on the IL. The Google News Archive contains the following articles with references to Steele:

--An AP wire service story in the 9/11/80 Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard: “Larry Steele says he isn’t ready to join the Portland Trail Blazers’ training camp because of his injured knees but neither is he ready to abandon National Basketball Association play…[Steele] missed all but 16 games last season due to knee problems…[Steele] has one year left on his current contract”.

--An AP wire service story in the 9/29/80 Register-Guard: “Blazer Director of Player Personnel Stu Inman said guard Larry Steele, bothered with a knee injury, probably will be placed on the injured reserve list unless Steele wants to be waived in hopes of making another NBA team”.

--A column in the 9/30/80 Lewiston (Me.) Journal: “Larry Steele of the Portland Trail Blazers desires to have a trick knee operation but the club feels the nine-year NBA veteran would not come through with flying colors and is seeking to convince him that he should retire and take the disability payoff”.

--An AP wire service story in the 10/10/80 Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard, previewing the Blazers’ season, scheduled to begin that evening: “Injury-troubled Dave Twardzik and Larry Steele will begin the season on the injured reserve list and their future in the league is questionable at best”.

The transaction column in the 11/11/80 Globe says the following: “PORTLAND - placed veteran forward-guard Larry Steele on waivers. Steele, who had been on the injured reserve list since last November, will continue to serve as color commentator on locally televised games.” The Globe is my only source for this transaction. Somewhat surprisingly, I cannot find any sources in the Google News Archive covering this story. In light of the articles above, I would guess that the Blazers bought out Steele’s contract and/or convinced him to retire.

Based on the above sources, I have written up Steele as starting the season on the IL, then being waived on 11/10/80, without having been activated from the IL or appearing in any games.

Steele’s entry in the all-time player register section of the Blazers Media Guide writes up his departure from the team as “Retired in 1981 because of injury”. Meanwhile, the Media Guide’s recap of the 1979-80 season states that Steele “retired at the end of the [1979-80] season due to injuries”. In light of the information above, neither of those explanations appears to be accurate.

Dave Twardzik:

As with Larry Steele, I believe that Twardzik began the season on the injured list, although I do not have any documentation of Twardzik being placed on the IL. Unlike Steele, Twardzik appears to have stayed on the IL all year. The Google News Archive contains the following articles with references to Twardzik:

--From a UPI wire service story in the 10/7/80 Bend (Ore.) Bulletin: “Guard Dave Twardzik, who missed all the exhibition games with a sore back, is making no progress, [Blazers trainer Ron] Culp said.”

--From an AP wire service story in the 10/10/80 Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard, previewing the Blazers’ season, scheduled to begin that evening: “Injury-troubled Dave Twardzik and Larry Steele will begin the season on the injured reserve list and their future in the league is questionable at best”.

--An article in the 10/11/80 Register-Guard, covering the Blazers’ signing of Kelvin Ransey, indicates that Twardzik was “on the injured list”.

While I don’t have any absolute proof that Twardzik remained on the IL all season, I can find no evidence suggesting that he didn’t. Note the following:

--The 1981-82 NBA Register has an entry for Twardzik. His career stats show him with Portland in 1980-81 with the notation “Missed Entire Season – Back Injury”.

--The Blazers Media Guide has a 1980-81 team photo which includes Twardzik. The rest of the players in the photo reflect the Blazers’ roster as it looked after the All-Star break (Geoff Crompton and Mike Gale are in the photo), so it must have been taken in the later part of the season.

--According to three newspaper articles in the Google News Archive – the 10/2/81 Reading (Pa.) Eagle, the 10/2/81 Milwaukee Journal, and the 10/3/81 Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review – Twardzik announced his retirement during the 1981-82 preseason, on 10/1/81. The most extensive of the three, an AP wire service article in the Eagle, states that Twardzik “missed last season and much of the 1979-80 campaign because of a back ailment”.

--Twardzik’s entry in the all-time player register section of the Blazers Media Guide writes up his departure from the team as “Retired because of injury, 1981”, which is consistent with his having retired in the preseason before the 1981-82 season. On the other hand, the Media Guide’s recap of the 1979-80 season states that Twardzik “retired at the end of the [1979-80] season due to injuries”. In light of the information above, that doesn’t seem to be accurate.

Draft pick in Brewer/Gale trade:

Although modern reference sources typically show the 1st round pick going from the Spurs to the Blazers in this trade as “1982”, the write-up in the Globe’s 12/20 transaction column states that it was in “either 1982 or 1983”. Several other newspapers in the Google News Archive also have transaction columns on 12/20 with similar wording. An AP wire service article on the trade, which the Google News Archive has in the Reading (Pa.) Eagle and Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette, provides a more detailed explanation. The pick was Top-7 protected in 1982. If the Spurs’ pick fell into the top seven that year, the Spurs could defer delivering the pick to the Blazers until 1983. The Spurs’ 1982 pick ended up being #16 overall, so the Blazers got that year’s pick.

Kevin Kunnert & Geoff Crompton:

On 2/2/81, the Blazers placed Kevin Kunnert on the IL and signed Geoff Crompton to a 10-day contract. This was reported in the transaction column in the following day’s Globe, and is also in several 2/3 papers in the Google News Archive. pst.com has Crompton signing a 10-day contract on this date, but not Kunnert going on the IL.

While I can find no documentation of it, Crompton must have signed a second 10-day deal about 10 days after the first one, because he continues to appear in box scores beyond the point where the first 10-day deal would have expired. In addition, two of the newspaper articles covering the 2/24 transaction discussed in the next paragraph, in the Eugene (Ore.) Record-Guard and the Gadsden (Ala.) Times, note that Crompton had been playing under his second 10-day contract.

On 2/24/81, the Blazers signed Crompton as a free agent. This was reported in the transaction column in the following day’s Globe, and is also in several 2/25 papers in the Google News Archive. pst.com has this transaction as well, likely sourced from a newspaper. Crompton appears to have been signed to a regular free agent contract continuing beyond the end of the 1980-81 season, not a “remainder of the season” deal, as these sources describe what he signed as a “multiyear contract”. The Blazers ultimately traded Crompton to the Bucks in the offseason, which is consistent with the idea that he had been under contract to the Blazers for the 1981-82 season.

On 2/27/81, Kunnert returned to action. While I have no documentation of this, he must have been activated from the IL on or shortly before that date. The Google News Archive has an article from the 2/27/81 Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard which states, “Portland Trail Blazers officials had not decided as Kevin Kunnert worked out with the team on Thursday [2/26] whether the center would play in tonight’s [2/27] game against the Phoenix Suns”. The article notes that Kunnert had been on the IL since 2/2.

When Kunnert was activated, someone must have been placed on the IL to make room for him on the active roster. While I have no documentation of who it was (the article discussed in the previous paragraph makes no suggestion of how the Blazers might make room for Kunnert), by all appearances it was Geoff Crompton. Crompton did not play in any games after 2/27 – in fact, he didn’t play in any games after 2/19 – but I can find no evidence suggesting that he didn’t remain with the team through the end of the season. So he appears to have been placed on the IL.

The above sequence raises a few questions. If Crompton was originally picked up as a fill-in for Kunnert, why would the Blazers sign Crompton just a few days before Kunnert returned? Did they sign Crompton mainly to get him under contract for the following season? That sort of thing is more common today, but would have been an unusual move in 1981. Note that Crompton didn’t play in any games after 2/19 – was he already injured when the Blazers signed him on 2/24? Or did he get hurt right after he signed that contract on 2/24, perhaps forcing Kunnert to come back sooner than expected? Did the Blazers know Kunnert was coming back soon, but were concerned about his durability, and wanted to stash Crompton on the IL just in case?

The NBA Register simply shows Crompton signing outright with the Blazers on 2/3/81, with no mention of it being a 10-day deal or of any subsequent contracts. As we’ve discussed in previous installments in this series, the Register typically wrote things up that way whenever a player who initially joined a team on a 10-day deal stuck around for longer than that, and shouldn’t be read as inconsistent with what the Globe and pst.com show. b-r.com and the Blazers Media Guide show the same thing as the Register. They likely used the Register as their source.

GAMES STARTED INFO

MEDIA GUIDE

With the Blazers, we find ourselves in a position we’ve been in once before, with the Pistons. The 2012-13 Blazers Media Guide has regular season games started stats going back to the 1970-71 season, the franchise’s first year in the NBA. But the figures for 1980-81 can’t possibly be accurate, because they don’t add up correctly. For an 82-game season, the games started totals for a given team’s players should add up to 410 (82 times 5). The totals in the Blazers Media Guide add up to 404, which is six games short.

For the record, here are the totals in the Blazers Media Guide (bearing in mind that these can’t possibly be 100% accurate, since they don’t add up correctly):

Paxson 79
Thompson 75
Natt 62
Ransey 57
Owens 47
Washington 45
Gross 24
Brewer 10
Bates 4
Kunnert 1

TSN BOX SCORES

All but three of the TSN regular season box scores for the 1980-81 Blazers appear to list the players in “starters first” F-F-C-G-G order. The three exceptions were games on 11/26/80, 2/15/81, and 2/22/81.

The game on 11/26/80 falls at a transition point between two changes in the starting lineup. For the previous several games, the Blazers had started Tom Owens at center, Mychal Thompson and Kermit Washington at forward, and Jim Paxson and Bob Gross at guard. By the time of the next game after the one on 11/26, Calvin Natt had replaced Washington, and Kelvin Ransey had replaced Gross. So who started on 11/26? The three starters who remained in the lineup (Owens, Thompson and Paxson) presumably did. On the other hand, Washington couldn’t have started on 11/26, because he didn’t play in that game (or the next four that followed). And who started at the other guard slot, Gross or Ransey?

The first five players listed in the 11/26 TSN box score, in order, are Thompson, Owens, Gross, Paxson and Natt. I am assuming that these five players were the starters, with Natt shown out of order. This means that Natt replaced Washington beginning with the game on 11/26, while Ransey did not replace Gross until the following game.

The game on 2/15/81 falls at another transition point. For the previous several games, the Blazers had started Tom Owens at center, Mychal Thompson and Bob Gross at forward, and Jim Paxson and Kelvin Ransey at guard. By the time of the next game after 2/15, Kermit Washington and Calvin Natt had taken over as the starting forwards, with Thompson moving to center, and Owens and Gross going to the bench. The two starting guards (Paxson and Ransey) remained constant and presumably started on 2/15, but who made up the starting frontcourt on 2/15?

The first five players listed in the 2/15 TSN box score, in order, are Natt, Washington, Paxson, Thompson, and Ransey. I am going to assume that these five players were the starters, with Paxson and Thompson shown out of order. This means that the lineup change described above took effect starting with the game on 2/15.

The game on 2/22/81 fell during a period when the starting lineup adopted on 2/15 was still in effect. The first five players listed in the box score, in order, are Natt, Washington, Paxson, Thompson, and Ransey (same as the 2/15 box score). I am again going to assume that these five players were the starters, with Paxson and Thompson shown out of order.

With the above assumptions, this is how many games started I am getting for each player:

Paxson 79
Thompson 77
Natt 62
Ransey 59
Owens 48
Washington 44
Gross 25
Brewer 11
Bates 4
Kunnert 1

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

The games started figures from the TSN box scores (with the above assumptions) and the Blazers Media Guide don’t match for a number of players. That’s not really a surprise, though, since the media guide is short six games. The TSN box scores credit several players with an extra start or two, which makes perfect sense. These include Thompson, Ransey, Owens, Gross, and Brewer.

There is one discrepancy where the numbers between the two sources can’t be reconciled, however. Kermit Washington is credited with one fewer start in the TSN box scores (44) than he is in the media guide (45). If the numbers in the media guide are merely incomplete, not outright inaccurate, that makes no sense. In other cases where we’ve had discrepancies in games started totals, I’ve tried to narrow down the source to a specific game or group of games. I am not really able to do that here. Due to the incomplete data in the media guide, I can’t even figure out which player is getting credited for the start in question on the other side of the ledger. Note that the discrepancy cannot be resolved by adjusting my guesses as to who started the three games whose box scores do not appear to list the Blazers’ players in “starters first” order. Washington only played in two of the three, and I am already assuming that he started both of those games. Those games can’t be the source of the discrepancy.

I also tried to figure out if there was any pattern to the six starts the media guide is missing. For example, do the media guide numbers appear to omit one specific game, which would account for five of the six missing games? This doesn’t seem to be the case. There were a number of games that four of the affected players started (Thompson, Ransey, Owens, Gross), but my analysis of the TSN box scores doesn’t show Brewer starting any game that Ransey or Gross did. Paxson and Bates collectively occupied one backcourt slot for every regular season game, but neither of them have any “missing” games. Ultimately, your guess is as good as mine as to which games started are omitted in the media guide, and why.

In Part II below, I have used the games started numbers from the TSN box scores, noting the media guide numbers in the text (if different), and the discrepancy in Washington’s case. With the incomplete data in the media guide, and the issue with Washington’s total, these games started numbers can’t be held out as definitive. They should be good estimates, though, which have to be close to accurate.

PLAYOFFS

As far as I can see, the Blazers Media Guide does not have games started stats for the playoffs.

The Blazers have a playoff game whose TSN box score doesn’t appear to list the players in “starters first” F-F-C-G-G order, the second time we’ve encountered this. The game in question was on 4/3/81, Game 2 of the series against Kansas City.

The box score for Game 1 shows the starters as Natt, Washington, Thompson, Paxson and Ransey. That makes sense, as that was the Blazers’ normal starting five in the later part of the regular season. Game 3 shows the same lineup expect that Bates replaces Paxson. That also makes sense, as Paxson didn’t play in Game 2 or Game 3, and Bates was his usual fill-in.

So who started Game 2? I would expect to see the same lineup as game 3, the usual starters down the stretch but with Bates filling in for Paxson. The first five players listed in the box score are Washington, Natt, Thompson, Bates and Kunnert. The first four make sense, but the fifth (Kunnert at guard) doesn’t. The next player listed is Gale, followed by Ransey. One possibility is that Kunnert and Gale are listed out of order, but I’d be surprised if the Blazers started Gale in this game. I am going to assume that the Blazers actually used their expected lineup in this game, with Ransey starting at guard. That leaves us with the following numbers:

Natt 3
Ransey 3
Thompson 3
Washington 3
Bates 2
Paxson 1
Last edited by MCT on Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:12 pm

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – PART II

PLAYER INFORMATION

Players are listed based on a snapshot as of late February. This reflects the roster after the Blazers had gone back to a starting C/PF combo of Mychal Thompson and Kermit Washington, and after Kevin Kunnert had returned from the injured list to the active roster.

MYCHAL THOMPSON

History: 1st round pick of Blazers in 1978.

Games Played (Regular Season 79 G, 35.3 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 44.0 MPG): The three games in which Thompson did not appear were on 10/29/80, 1/29/81 (last game before the All-Star break), and 2/24/81.

Games Started (Regular Season: 77; Playoffs: 3): The Blazers Media Guide – with the caveat that its numbers seem to be incomplete – credits Thompson with 75 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that Thompson started 77 regular season games, along with all three playoff games. The only two games the TSN box scores show Thompson playing in but not starting were on 10/10/80 (opening night) and 11/14/80.

According to the TSN box scores, Thompson’s starts were divided between center and forward. Early in the season, Thompson typically started at center. In mid-November, he was switched to starting at forward, where he stayed until mid-February. At that point, he went back to starting at center. For the season as a whole, my analysis of the TSN boxes has Thompson starting 43 regular season games at forward, versus 34 regular season games (and all 3 playoff games) at center. Further details:

--I don’t know what the Blazers’ original plans for the season were, but the opening night lineup on 10/10 featured Tom Owens starting at center, Kermit Washington starting at power forward, and Thompson coming off the bench.

-- Owens didn’t play in the Blazers’ second game on 10/12, so Thompson started at center. From this point through 11/10/80, Thompson started 12 of the Blazers’ 14 games at center. Thompson continued to start at center even though Owens returned after missing only one game. Owens instead went to the bench. The two games in this stretch that Thompson did not start at center were 10/17 (started at forward) and 10/29 (did not play). For the game on 10/17, the TSN box scores shows Kevin Kunnert starting at center, Thompson starting at power forward, and regular starting power forward Kermit Washington playing off the bench. I’m not sure why this was done for just that one game, but it seems to be accurate, as the Blazers Media Guide shows Kunnert starting exactly one game, and this is the only game the TSN box scores show Kunnert starting.

--In the Blazers’ next game following the above stretch, on 11/14, Owens started at center, and Thompson went to the bench, just like on opening night. Owens would continue to be the Blazers’ regular starting center until mid-February. Again, I don’t what the Blazers’ original plans for Thompson were, but he would only come off the bench for that one game before taking on a different role.

--In the Blazers’ next game on 11/15, regular starting small forward Calvin Natt did not play. Thompson started at forward in his place. From this point through 2/13/81, Thompson started 42 of 44 games at forward. Natt only missed one game, but Thompson continued to start, even though this meant that the Blazers were starting two forwards who were both natural PFs (Thompson and Washington). When Washington missed a stretch of games later in November, Natt returned to the starting lineup, and Washington went to the bench. This created a more conventional lineup with Thompson at PF and Natt at SF. The two games in this stretch that Thompson did not start at forward were on 11/29 (shown starting at center), and 1/29 (did not play). The 11/29 box score shows Thompson and Owens switching places for that one game, with Thompson starting at center and Owens starting at forward. It’s possible that this isn’t accurate; the two are on adjacent lines of the box score, and could have been switched around inadvertently. But this move doesn’t seem implausible.

-- On 2/15, with 22 games left in the regular season, the Blazers shuffled their starting lineup again. Owens went to the bench, Thompson shifted back to starting at center, and Washington returned to the starting lineup at power forward. Of the Blazers’ last 22 games of the regular season, Thompson is shown starting 21 at center, plus all three of the Blazers’ playoff games. The only exception is the game he didn’t play in on 2/24.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for most seasons of career, including 1980-81. Two seasons are shown as PF (1984-85 and 1986-87). While Thompson undoubtedly saw a lot of time at both C and PF this season, I am somewhat skeptical of b-r.com’s conclusion that Thompson’s primary position was C rather than PF (he started significantly more games at PF than C), though I cannot definitively prove or disprove it.

JIM PAXSON

History: 1st round pick of Blazers in 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 79 G, 34.2 MPG; Playoffs 1 G, 4.0 MPG): The three regular season games in which Paxson did not appear were on 12/26/80, and two consecutive games on 3/27/81 & 3/29/81 (last two games of the regular season). In the playoffs, Paxson appeared in Game 1 of the series against Kansas City – playing only four minutes – then was absent from the two remaining games. I assume that Paxson got injured with a few games left in the regular season, then tried to come back for the first game of the playoffs, but was unable to continue.

Games Started (Regular Season: 79; Playoffs: 1): The Blazers Media Guide credits Paxson with 79 regular season starts (every regular season game he played in). My analysis of the TSN box scores agrees with this number. The TSN box scores also show Paxson starting Game 1 of the playoff series against Kansas City, which was the only playoff game he appeared in.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard-Forward. Primary position is shown as SG for most seasons of career, including 1980-81. His last two seasons (1988-89 and 1989-90) are shown as PG.

KELVIN RANSEY

History: 1st round pick of Bulls in 1980; rights traded to Blazers on draft day.

Games Played (Regular Season 80 G, 30.4 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 43.7 MPG): Ransey did not appear in the Blazers’ game on opening night (10/10/80) because he had not yet signed a contract with the team. After signing a deal later that evening, he made his debut in the Blazers’ second game, on 10/12. From that point, Ransey played in every remaining game except for one, which was on 12/21/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 59; Playoffs: 3): The Blazers Media Guide – with the caveat that its numbers seem to be incomplete – credits Ransey with 57 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that Ransey started 59 regular season games, along with all three playoff games. The TSN box scores show Ransey coming off the bench for about the first month and half of the season, although he did make one start during this period, which was on 11/4/80. That was the first game after Ron Brewer, who had begun the season as a starter, was benched. After just that one game, however, Bob Gross took over as the starter. Ransey subsequently replaced Gross as the starter beginning on 11/28/80. At that point, the Blazers had 59 regular season games remaining, and Ransey started 58 of them. The only exception was the game he did not play in on 12/21/80.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for all seasons of career.

CALVIN NATT

History: 1st round pick of Nets in 1979. Acquired in trade with Nets, February 1980.

Games Played (Regular Season 74 G, 28.5 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 31.7 MPG): The eight games in which Natt did not appear were on 11/15/80, 1/16/81, five consecutive games from 1/29/81 (last game before the All-Star break) through 2/8/81, and 3/29/81 (last game of the regular season).

Games Started (Regular Season: 62; Playoffs: 3): The Blazers Media Guide credits Natt with 62 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores agrees with this number. The TSN box scores also show Natt starting all three playoff games. During the regular season, Natt started the first 16 games (through 11/14/80); 25 consecutive games from 11/26/80 through 1/14/81; and 21 consecutive games from 2/15/81 through 3/27/81 (ending with the second-to-last game of the regular season). The 20 games Natt didn’t start were 6 consecutive games from 11/15/80 through 11/25/80 (didn’t play on 11/5, played off the bench in the remaining five), 13 consecutive games from 1/16/81 through 2/13/81 (only played in seven of these games, all off the bench), and the final game of the regular season on 3/29/81 (did not play). Further details:

--Natt’s 16-game starting streak to begin the season was snapped by the game he didn’t play in on 11/15. Mychal Thompson started that game in Natt’s place. Even though Natt returned for the next game, Thompson continued to start for a time, with Natt coming off the bench. This was the case even though it meant that the Blazers were starting two forwards who were both natural PFs, Thompson and Kermit Washington.

--When Washington missed a stretch of games beginning on 11/26, Natt returned to the starting lineup. That began a streak of 25 consecutive starts. It was snapped by the game Natt didn’t play in on 1/16. This time, Natt seems to have been dogged by injuries for a bit, and it took longer for him to work his way back to the starting lineup. Natt returned to action after missing just one game, but after coming off the bench for five games, he was absent from a stretch of five games running from 1/29 through 2/8. Returning from that, he played two more games off the bench, then finally returned to the starting lineup on 2/15. Bob Gross started at SF in all of the games in between.

--Natt started every game from 2/15 on, except for the last game of the regular season (3/29), which he didn’t play in at all.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as SF for all seasons through 1983-84, including 1980-81; as PF for all seasons from 1983-84 through 1987-88; and as SF during his last two seasons, 1988-89 and 1989-90.

KERMIT WASHINGTON

History: 1st round pick of Lakers in 1973. Acquired from Clippers in free agent compensation transaction, September 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 73 G, 29.0 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 42.7 MPG): The nine games in which Washington did not appear were five consecutive games from 11/26/80 through 12/4/80, and four consecutive games from 12/17/80 through 12/21/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 44; Playoffs: 3): There is a discrepancy between the Blazers Media Guide and the TSN box scores on the number of games Washington started. The media guide credits Washington with 45 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that he started 44 regular season games, along with all three playoff games. The TSN box scores show Washington starting 21 of the first 22 games of the season (every game through 11/25/80 except for 10/17/80), a single game on 1/29/81, and the last 22 games of the regular season (from 2/15 on), plus all three playoff games. Further detail:

--Washington began the season starting at power forward, with Calvin Natt in the small forward slot. According to the TSN box scores, Washington came off the bench for one game on 10/17, when Kevin Kunnert started at center and regular starting center Mychal Thompson was moved to power forward in Washington’s place. Why this was done for just that one game isn’t apparent to me, but it seems to be accurate, as the Blazers Media Guide shows Kunnert starting exactly one game, and this is the only game the TSN box scores show Kunnert starting. In mid-November, Tom Owens took over as the starting center, but when Natt missed a game, Thompson took over his starting forward slot. Thompson then started alongside Washington for the next several games, even though Natt returned to action after missing just one game, and even though it meant the Blazers were starting two forwards who were both natural PFs.

--Washington’s run as a starter was snapped by the streak of games he was absent from beginning on 11/26/80. Natt then returned to the starting lineup, and the Blazers stuck with Thompson and Natt as the starting forwards even after Washington returned, with Washington relegated to coming off the bench. Of the 38 games the Blazers played between 11/26/80 and 2/13/80, Washington played in 29 but only started one. That was the game Thompson didn’t play in on 1/29/81.

--On 2/15, with 22 games left in the regular season, the Blazers shuffled their starting lineup again. Tom Owens, who had been starting at center since mid-November, went to the bench. Mychal Thompson, who had started at center early in the year but had been starting at power forward more recently, shifted back to center. This opened up the power forward slot for Washington, who returned to starting duty. Washington started each of the 22 games remaining in the regular season, plus all three playoff games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward-Center. Primary position is shown as PF for all seasons of career.

TOM OWENS

History: Began pro career in ABA, 1971. Acquired in trade with Rockets, August 1977.

Games Played (Regular Season 79 G, 23.3 MPG; Playoffs 1 G, 5.0 MPG): Owens is credited with appearing in 79 regular season games, but I only noted him in 78 TSN box scores. The four box scores from which Owens is missing are 10/12/80 (second game of the season), 3/8/81, 3/20/81 and 3/24/81. b-r.com’s game log feature also shows Owens in only 78 regular season box scores. It is possible that Owens was omitted from one box score in which he did not compile any stats that would have been shown in the box score.

In the playoffs, Owens only appeared in one of the Blazers’ three games, which was Game 2 of the series against Kansas City, and only played five minutes in that game. I assume that he suffered an injury (or exacerbated an existing injury) sometime between the last game of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.

Games Started (Regular Season: 48; Playoffs: 0): The Blazers Media Guide – with the caveat that its numbers seem to be incomplete – credits Owens with 47 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that Owens started 48 regular season games. 45 of these 48 games were consecutive, from 11/14/80 through 2/13/81. The other three games were on 10/10/80 (opening night), 10/29/80, and 2/24/81. If the TSN box scores can be trusted, Owens made 47 of these starts at center, and one at power forward. Further details:

--On opening night (10/10), Owens started at center, with Mychal Thompson playing off the bench. For the second game of the season (10/12), Owens did not play, and Thompson started. I don’t know what the Blazers’ original plans had been, but Thompson continued to start for the next month, with Owens relegated to the bench, even though Owens returned after missing only one game. Owens did make another start on 10/29, when Thompson did not play.

--On 11/14, Owens took over as the starting center. He would continue in the role through mid-February, with Thompson instead starting at power forward through most of this stretch. The 11/29 box score shows Owens and Thompson switching places for that one game, with Owens starting at forward and Thompson starting at center. It’s possible that this isn’t accurate; the two are on adjacent lines of the box score, and could have been switched around inadvertently. But this move doesn’t seem implausible.

---On 2/15, with 22 games left in the regular season, the Blazers shuffled their starting lineup again. Owens went to the bench, and Thompson shifted back to center. After this point, Owens made only one more start. It was on 2/24/81, when Thompson did not play.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for most seasons of career, but 1980-81 is one of three exceptions listed as PF. The other seasons listed as PF are 1973-74 and 1981-82. While I cannot definitively prove or disprove it, I am skeptical of b-r.com’s conclusion that Owens’ primary position this year was PF; I think it was more likely C.

BILLY RAY BATES

History: 3rd round pick of Rockets in 1978. Signed as a free agent, February 1980.

Games Played (Regular Season 77 G, 20.3 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 38.3 MPG): The five games in which Bates did not appear were five consecutive games from 11/2/80 through 11/10/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 4; Playoffs: 2): The Blazers Media Guide credits Bates with 4 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores agrees with this number. The four games were on 12/21/80, 12/26/80, and two consecutive games on 3/27/81 & 3/29/81 (last two games of the regular season). All of these were games in which regular starting guards Jim Paxson or Kelvin Ransey did not play. Based on the TSN box scores and the assumptions discussed earlier, I believe that Bates also started the last two of the Blazers’ three playoff games (4/3/81 & 4/5/81). Paxson did not play in either of those games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as SG for all seasons of career.

BOB GROSS

History: 2nd round pick of Blazers in 1975.

Games Played (Regular Season 82 G, 23.6 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 20.0 MPG): Gross appeared in every game the Blazers played.

Games Started (Regular Season: 25; Playoffs: 0): The Blazers Media Guide – with the caveat that its numbers seem to be incomplete – credits Gross with 24 regular season starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that Gross started 25 regular season games. This includes 14 games at forward and 11 games at guard. Gross is shown starting 11 consecutive games at guard from 11/7/80 through 11/26/80 (during the period after Ron Brewer had been benched, but before Kelvin Ransey took over permanently as a starter), 13 games at forward from 1/16/81 through 2/13/81 (during a period when regular starting SF Calvin Natt appears to have been struggling with injuries), and one additional game at forward on 3/29/81 (last game of the regular season, Natt did not play).

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward-Guard. Primary position is shown as SF for all seasons of career.

KEVIN KUNNERT

History: 1st round pick of Bulls in 1973. Acquired from Clippers in free agent compensation transaction, September 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 55 G, 15.3 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 14.3 MPG): The 27 games in which Kunnert did not appear were on 10/10/80 (opening night), two consecutive games on 11/7/80 & 11/8/80, 12/5/80, five of the six games from 12/26/80 through 1/6/81 (the only game Kunnert played in during that stretch was on 1/1), 17 consecutive games from 1/20/81 through 2/24/81, and (after Kunnert had returned for one game on 2/27) 3/1/81. Kunnert was on the injured list for much of the 17-game stretch, from 2/2/81 to approximately 2/27/81. While Kunnert was on the IL, the Blazers signed Geoff Crompton as a fill-in.

Games Started (Regular Season: 1; Playoffs: 0): The Blazers Media Guide credits Kunnert with one regular season start. My analysis of the TSN box scores agrees with this number. The game Kunnert is shown starting is on 10/17/80. Why Kunnert started this game isn’t obvious to me; he displaced regular starting center Mychal Thompson to power forward, which in turn displaced regular starting power forward Kermit Washington to the bench. For the Blazers’ next game, everything went back to normal.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for all seasons of career.

MIKE GALE

History: Began pro career in ABA, 1971. Acquired in trade with Spurs, December 1980.

Gale started the season with the Spurs, but was traded to the Blazers on 12/19/80 with a future 1st round pick for Ron Brewer.

Games Played (Regular Season 42 G, 11.3 MPG; Playoffs 3 G, 17.0 MPG): The Blazers played games on the day Gale was acquired (12/19), and the following day (12/20), in which he did not appear. He then made his debut with the team in its next game, on 12/21. At that point, the Blazers had 47 regular season games remaining. Gale played in 42. The five games after 12/20 in which he did not appear were on 1/10/81, 2/22/81, 2/27/81, and two consecutive games on 3/20/81 & 3/21/81. Gale had played in 35 games for the Spurs prior to the trade, giving him a total of 77 regular-season games played for the year.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): The Blazers Media Guide indicates that Gale made no starts. The TSN box scores also do not show Gale starting any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position switches back and forth between SG and PG, with SG predominant in the middle part of his career and PG predominant in the later part. All seasons from 1979-80 on are shown as PG, including 1980-81.

MIKE HARPER

History: 3rd round pick of Blazers in 1980.

Games Played (Regular Season 55 G, 8.4 MPG; Playoffs 1 G, 6.0 MPG): I’m not going to list out exactly which games Harper appeared in and which he didn’t, but his appearances in the TSN box scores do add up to his official games played total. Harper’s two heaviest periods of usage were the period from 10/28/80 through 11/20/80, when he played in 12 out of 13 games, and from 1/6/81 through 3/1/81, when he played in 22 out of 25 games. The latter may be partially explained by Kevin Kunnert’s extended absence from the lineup during January and February. In the playoffs, Harper only appeared in one game, which was Game 3 of the series against Kansas City.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): The Blazers Media Guide indicates that Harper made no starts. The TSN box scores also do not show Harper starting any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as PF for all seasons of career (note that even though Harper’s position in the header is listed as “Center-Forward”, his primary position for both of his individual seasons is shown as PF).

INJURED LIST:

DAVE TWARDZIK

History: Began pro career in ABA, 1972. Signed by Blazers to NBA contract, June 1976 (the Blazers owned Twardzik’s NBA rights because they had selected him in the 2nd round of the 1972 NBA Draft; Twardzik had ceased to be under contract to the ABA when the Virginia Squires folded).

Games Played: Twardzik appears have been on the injured list all season, and did not play in any games in either the regular season or the playoffs.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for all seasons of career.

GEOFF CROMPTON

History: 4th round pick of Kings in 1978 (rights traded to Nuggets shortly after draft). Signed to a 10-day contract, February 1980.

Crompton did not start the season with the Blazers. He was signed to a 10-day contract on 2/3/81, filling the roster spot vacated when Kevin Kunnert was placed on the injured list on the same day. Crompton apparently later signed a second 10-day contract, followed by a regular free agent contract on 2/24/81.

Games Played (Regular Season 6 G, 5.5 MPG): The six games Crompton appeared in were two consecutive games on 2/4/81 & 2/6/81, and four consecutive games from 2/13/81 through 2/19/81. When Kevin Kunnert was activated from the IL in late February, the Blazers seem to have made room on the active roster by placing Crompton on the IL. Crompton doesn’t appear to have been on the active roster at any time after that point, including the playoffs.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): The Blazers Media Guide indicates that Crompton made no starts. The TSN box scores also do not show Crompton starting any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center. Primary position is shown as C for all seasons of career.

NO LONGER WITH TEAM:

RON BREWER

History: 1st round pick of Blazers in 1978.

Brewer started the season with the Blazers, but was traded to the Spurs on 12/19/80 for Mike Gale and a future 1st round pick.

Games Played (Regular Season 29 G, 18.9 MPG): The Blazers played their 34th game of the season on the day Brewer was traded. I’m not sure if the trade happened before or after that game was played, but Brewer had appeared in 29 of the 33 games the Blazers had played prior to that date. The four games he had been absent from were three consecutive games from 12/5/80 through 12/9/80, and one additional game on 12/17/80 (last game before the day of the trade). After the trade, Brewer played in an additional 46 games for the Spurs, giving him a total of 75 regular-season games played for the year.

Games Started (Regular Season: 11): The Blazers Media Guide – with the caveat that its numbers seem to be incomplete – credits Brewer with 10 starts. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that Brewer started 11 regular season games. These were the first 11 games of the season (through 11/2/80). All of Brewer’s remaining appearances for the Blazers are shown as off the bench.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as SG for all seasons of career.

LARRY STEELE

History: 3rd round pick of Blazers in 1971.

Steele apparently started the season on the injured list, then was waived on 11/10/80 without having been activated from the IL or appearing in any games.

Games Played: Steele was on the injured list for the entire portion of the season he was on the Blazers’ roster, and did not appear in any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard-Forward. Primary position is shown as SG for all seasons of career except for one (1979-80, which is shown as SF).

ROY HAMILTON

History: 1st round pick of Pistons in 1979. Signed as a free agent, September 1980.

Hamilton started the season on the Blazers’ active roster, but was waived to make room for Kelvin Ransey when the unsigned Ransey finally inked a deal following the Blazers’ first game of the season. As discussed earlier, there is a discrepancy as to exactly what date Hamilton was waived, but he seems to have been off the active roster no later than 10/12/80.

Games Played (Regular Season 1 G, 5.0 MPG): The game Hamilton appeared in was on opening night, 10/10/80. This was the only game the Blazers played with Hamilton on their roster.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): The Blazers Media Guide indicates that Hamilton made no starts. The TSN box scores also do not show Hamilton starting any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for all seasons of career.
Last edited by MCT on Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:14 pm

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – PART III

PLAYERS BY POSITION

STARTERS

Picking a “snapshot” lineup for the Blazers is a bit of a challenge because the team used two different starting C/PF combos for large portions of the season, involving three different players. Picking either combo will result in a player who started for much of the season being excluded, but you can’t fit three players into two positions. In the early and later parts of the season, the Blazers started Mychal Thompson at center and Kermit Washington at power forward. In between, they started Thompson at power forward and Tom Owens at center. I decided to use the former lineup for our snapshot. It was what the Blazers used both during our traditional snapshot period of late February, and down the stretch and into the playoffs. In addition, Washington played significantly more minutes than Owens for the season as a whole. From that point of view, it would be a bit counterintuitive to classify Washington as a reserve and Owens as a starter. Note that, even though this selection results in Thompson being treated as the center in our snapshot lineup, he may have actually spent more time playing at PF than at C across the season as a whole.

Calvin Natt was the clear starter at the other forward slot, with Jim Paxson and Kelvin Ransey at guard. Natt was in and out of the lineup a few times, probably due to injuries, but started far more games at forward than any other player. Paxson started almost every game at one of the guard slots. The other guard slot was originally occupied by Ron Brewer, then Bob Gross for a time, before Ransey took it over in late November. Ransey would hold it down for the rest of the season.

At forward, b-r.com has Washington as the PF and Natt as the SF. That seems pretty clear-cut. When Thompson was starting at forward rather than Washington, he also would have been the PF (b-r.com shows his primary position as C). Guard is pretty clear-cut, too. b-r.com has Ransey as the PG and Paxson as the SG, and I agree with that assessment.

An interesting question, though, is who started at PG before Ransey took over. Brewer and Gross both seem to me to be pure SGs/wings. Paxson, on the other hand, is shown with a primary position of PG for a couple of seasons later in his career, although even he doesn’t seem to me as an especially PG-oriented guard. I’m guessing that Paxson handled the PG role until Ransey was ready to start, or perhaps Brewer or Gross could handle playing PG for stretches. From the time Ransey signed until the Blazers acquired Mike Gale in December, Ransey was the only player on the team with a primary position of PG. The Blazers presumably didn’t set out to have a roster with a single reserve as the only PG, but Dave Twardzik’s injury coupled with Ransey’s delay in signing may have left them in these circumstances. The Brewer-Gale trade, swapping a pure SG for a combo guard who played mostly PG during this phase of his career, was probably intended to address the deficiency at PG.

Thompson led the team in mpg with 35.3, followed by Paxson at 34.2. The other three starters in our snapshot lineup all averaged between 28.5 and 30.4 mpg. During the Blazers' brief playoff run, the starters played heavier minutes, with three over 40 mpg and a fourth player at 38.3. Paxson appears to have gotten injured towards the end of the season and was limited to just four minutes in the playoffs. Billy Ray Bates replaced him in the lineup.

RESERVES

The Blazers’ first three reserves were Bob Gross (23.6 mpg), Tom Owens (23.3 mpg) and Billy Ray Bates (20.3 mpg). Gross and Owens both started a significant number of games, which probably inflates their mpg totals a bit; as discussed earlier, whether to classify Owens as a starter or a reserve is a bit of a judgment call. Bates by contrast was more of a pure reserve, starting only a handful of games. Gross was an SF who also played some SG, as he started at guard for a time early in the season, before Kelvin Ransey moved into the starting lineup. Owens was a big man; whether he played primarily PF or C is a question. b-r.com has Owens listed with a primary position of PF, but he has to have played significant minutes at center, as the TSN box scores show him making 47 starts there. I am actually skeptical of b-r.com’s conclusion and think C was Owens’ primary position, though it is difficult to prove or disprove. Bates is much more clear-cut, as an SG.

The next two players on the depth chart were Kevin Kunnert (15.3 mpg) and Mike Gale (11.3 mpg). Kunnert only played in 55 games for the regular season, but this appears to have been due to injuries. When healthy, he was an everyday player. Kunnert was a C and Gale a PG. Classifying Owens as a center means the Blazers had two backup centers in the rotation, but bear in mind that the Blazers didn’t really have a full-time backup PF. Mychal Thompson, who we are calling the Blazers’ starting center, has to have played a lot of minutes at power forward. Thompson started at PF for about half the season, and may have played some PF even during the portions of the season when he was starting at center. It’s also possible that Owens and Kunnert played some PF. Against that backdrop, there is room for both Owens and Kunnert in the rotation.

The last player on the Blazers’ bench was rookie third round pick Mike Harper. b-r.com shows his primary position as PF. Harper only played in 55 games, and averaged only 8.4 mpg when he did play.

POSITION NOTES

Center-Forwards

A lot of teams have players listed by b-r.com as playing both center and (power) forward, and it isn’t always obvious who played how many minutes where. The Blazers had five such players. Mychal Thompson and Kevin Kunnert are listed as C-F with a primary position this year of C. Tom Owens and Mike Harper are also listed as C-F, but with a primary position this year of PF. Kermit Washington is listed as F-C with a primary position of PF. With this many players involved, it’s impossible to work out who played how much at which position.

With both Thompson and Owens, where they started the most games and what b-r.com shows as their primary positions do not match. Based on my analysis of the TSN box scores, Thompson made 43 regular season starts at forward, versus 34 at center, but b-r.com shows his primary position as C. Owens made 47 regular season starts at center versus 1 at forward, but b-r.com shows his primary position as PF. I can’t definitively say that b-r.com’s designations are wrong – it’s conceivably possible, for example, that even when Thompson was starting at forward he spent most of his time playing center – but I am curious as to why b-r.com reached those conclusions, particularly in Owens’ case, and I am ultimately somewhat skeptical of them. At the very least, Thompson must have spent a significant amount of time playing at PF and Owens playing at C. It seems more intuitive that Owens’ primary position was C, and that Thompson saw significant playing time at both C and PF but probably played more at PF.

As for the other players, I suspect that Kunnert played mostly at C, and Washington at PF. I have a hard time seeing either one playing extensively at the opposite position. Harper is a bit of an oddity in that b-r.com lists his position as exclusively C (not C-F), but shows his primary position for both of his NBA seasons as PF. Since he was the last player on the bench, it’s hard to tell how much he played where, but there would seem to have been more room for him at PF.

Thompson, Owens, Kunnert and Crompton collectively played 5508 minutes. That’s 1537 minutes more than were available at center. If we assume that Thompson was the only one of this bunch to play any forward at all, so the 1537 minutes represent his playing time at forward, that would leave him 1253 minutes at center. To me, that seems plausible. To the extent that Owens and Kunnert played some PF as well, Thompson’s split between the two positions would swing back towards center, but I’d be surprised if Thompson’s playing time was any more center-centric than splitting his time roughly evenly between the two positions.

The playoffs were different. Thompson, Owens and Kunnert played only 26 minutes more than were available at center, which works out to 8.7 mpg. Assuming that all of those minutes were Thompson playing at forward, that would still leave Thompson playing about 80% of his minutes at center versus about 20% at forward. Owens only played five minutes in the playoffs, however – I assume that he was injured – so this doesn’t tell us much about how Thompson and Owens were used in relation to each other when both were healthy.

Forward-Guards

The Blazers had two players listed at these two positions. Paxson is listed as a G-F, with a primary position of SG, while Gross is listed as an F-G, with a primary position of SF. I don’t see why the Blazers would have had any pressing need to play Paxson much at SF, although he could have picked up a few minutes there, especially during times when Natt was out. I think that Gross played the vast majority of his minutes at SF, but he must have seen some time at SG as well, as he started 11 games there in the early part of the season. It’s possible that most of Gross’ playing time at guard was early in the season, before Kelvin Ransey had gotten settled in (Ransey would ultimately take over from Gross as the starter).

If you add up the minutes played by every player on the Blazers whose primary position was in the frontcourt, and you add up the minutes played for every player on the Blazers whose primary position was in the backcourt, there is a shortage of 221 minutes in the backcourt, and an overage of 221 minutes in the frontcourt. If that represents an approximation of how many minutes Gross played at guard, it works out to two or three minutes per game, and about 10% of Gross’ total minutes. As noted earlier, though, it’s possible that Gross’ minutes at guard were heavily concentrated in the first quarter of the season. They may have accounted for a much larger amount of time during that shorter period. For the playoffs, the same exercise yields a shortage of seven minutes in the backcourt and an overage of seven minutes in the frontcourt. This is consistent with the numbers from the regular season.

TRIVIA

Oldest Player: Tom Owens, born 6/28/49 (age 31 throughout the season).

Played in ABA: Tom Owens, Mike Gale, Dave Twardzik (Twardzik was injured all season and did not play in any games).

Longest continuous service with team: Larry Steele, who had been with the team since the 1971-72 season, was on the Blazers’ roster early in the season, but was on the injured list, and was waived in November without having been activated or appearing in any games. Among players who actually appeared in games this season, the leader was Bob Gross, who had been with the team since the 1975-76 season.

Highest original draft position*: #1 overall – Mychal Thompson.

Lowest original draft position*: 4th round, #70 overall – Geoff Crompton. Tom Owens was also a 4th round pick, but at a higher overall pick position (#58).

Youngest Player: Kelvin Ransey, born 5/3/58 (age 22 throughout the season).

*Which player was chosen with the highest/lowest selection, by round and/or overall pick, with no regard to whether any players may have been drafted under circumstances not reflecting their “true” value (e.g., player was a junior eligible who had not committed to turn pro right away, player was already under contract to ABA).
Last edited by MCT on Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:21 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby Mike Goodman » Wed Oct 21, 2015 12:22 pm

Harper is a bit of an oddity in that b-r.com lists his position as exclusively C (not C-F), but shows his primary position for both of his NBA seasons as PF. Since he was the last player on the bench, it’s hard to tell how much he played where, but there would seem to have been more room for him at PF.

On his player page, Mike Harper is said to be "Power Forward".
http://www.basketball-reference.com/pla ... emi01.html

Maybe they just corrected it? On this page -- http://bkref.com/tiny/PCb89 -- he doesn't appear among Portland players at F-G, F, or F-C during his time there.
Only when you toggle on the C-F button does he appear.
So they've partly corrected it?

To the extent that Owens and Kunnert played some PF as well, Thompson’s split between the two positions would swing back towards center, but I’d be surprised if Thompson’s playing time was any more center-centric than splitting his time roughly evenly between the two positions.

Mychal Thompson was the shot blocker of the 3. He blocked about as many, per minute, as Owens and Kunnert combined. Whether he played more defensive center because he was the shot blocker, or vise versa, it makes sense to assign his minutes (or duties) mostly to Center.
Owens was never much on blocks; but Kunnert had about twice the frequency in 1979-80 (when Thompson did not play) as he had in 80-81.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:32 pm

Mike Goodman wrote:
Harper is a bit of an oddity in that b-r.com lists his position as exclusively C (not C-F), but shows his primary position for both of his NBA seasons as PF. Since he was the last player on the bench, it’s hard to tell how much he played where, but there would seem to have been more room for him at PF.

On his player page, Mike Harper is said to be "Power Forward".
http://www.basketball-reference.com/pla ... emi01.html.

I think I'm the source of the confusion here. In late 2013, shortly after I began this project, b-r.com changed the position information that appears in the header on each player's page. I am still using the old information, because I find it more useful. I provided an explanation at the time, in the introductory thread to the series:

MCT wrote:One clarification: Part II makes reference to players' positions as shown in the header of their player page at b-r.com. b-r.com has recently changed its format for this, and my posts reference the former format, not the current one.

The positions shown in the header used to be "Center", "Forward" and "Guard" (not "Power Forward", "Shooting Guard", etc.), with up to two positions listed. These appeared to have been drawn from a database completely independent of the positions listed by b-r.com as a player's primary position for each season (which are shown as C, PF, SF, PG and SG). A player whose primary position is "SG" for all seasons of his career may have been shown as "Guard and Forward" in the header. I thought that this format was useful in providing a clue that the player may have played some SF at some point in his career, at least as a secondary position.

Under the new format, the positions shown in the header are broken down to the level of "Small Forward", "Point Guard", etc., again with up to two listed, but appear to be nothing more than a compilation of the positions shown as primary for each season of a player's career. If a player's primary position is "SG" for all seasons of his career, his position in the header will invariably be listed solely as "Shooting Guard". The only way a player would be listed as "Shooting Guard and Small Forward" is if he had seasons where each of those positions was listed as his primary position, with SG being the more numerous of the two, and SF the less numerous.

I find the old header format to be useful for what I'm doing, and when I speak of positions as shown in the header, I am referring to the positions listed under the old format. I am also taking the information in the new header format into account, in the sense that this information simply echoes the positions listed as primary for each season, which I had already also been using.

Having posted that explanation, I realize that there is nothing on the individual team threads indicating that the header information I'm using isn't what b-r.com currently shows. I've been thinking about doing some cleanup and changing the wording to "old b-r.com headers" to alleviate the potential for confusion (at least that would give readers a clue that what I'm talking about may not match what they're currently seeing on b-r.com).

Mike Goodman wrote:Maybe they just corrected it? On this page -- http://bkref.com/tiny/PCb89 -- he doesn't appear among Portland players at F-G, F, or F-C during his time there.
Only when you toggle on the C-F button does he appear.
So they've partly corrected it?

Interesting. Maybe the information on that page was linked to the old headers, and was never updated when the headers were changed over.

Mike Goodman wrote:
To the extent that Owens and Kunnert played some PF as well, Thompson’s split between the two positions would swing back towards center, but I’d be surprised if Thompson’s playing time was any more center-centric than splitting his time roughly evenly between the two positions.

Mychal Thompson was the shot blocker of the 3. He blocked about as many, per minute, as Owens and Kunnert combined. Whether he played more defensive center because he was the shot blocker, or vise versa, it makes sense to assign his minutes (or duties) mostly to Center.
Owens was never much on blocks; but Kunnert had about twice the frequency in 1979-80 (when Thompson did not play) as he had in 80-81.

What I'm getting hung up on is the sheer number of games Owens started at center, and a sense that Owens "seems" like he was more of a pure center. If Owens was playing 23 minutes a game at center, and Kunnert 15, that only leaves 10 for Thompson. Kunnert did miss some time due to injury, and it's possible that Owens and Kunnert spent some time at PF (b-r.com shows Owens' primary position in 1981-82 as PF, although he was no longer with Portland), so there may really be more than 10 minutes per game available, but I have a hard time seeing Thompson playing a clear majority of his minutes at center. And remember that, according to the TSN box scores, Thompson was listed as a starting forward in significantly more games than he was listed as the starting center.

On the other hand, maybe Owens was used more at power forward than I think, simply to make room for Thompson at center. And to Mike's point about Thompson playing defensive center, positions are somewhat artificial labels. There is no rule that a team has to put five players on the floor who fit squarely into the definitions of C, PF, SF, PG and SG, to the exclusion of the other four players. I am reminded of a comment I made about Caldwell Jones in my 76ers post:

MCT wrote:It occurs to me that whether we label Jones as a center or a forward in any given circumstance may be just a matter of semantics. Did he just play his game, and his teammates adapted around him? Do we call him a forward when paired with Dawkins, and a center when paired with Bobby Jones, but it didn’t really make much of a difference from his point of view?

Maybe Thompson was a center in terms of the game he played, but because there were times he was on the floor with another player who also had a claim to the title "center" (e.g., Owens), one of them had to be nominally labeled as a forward, and that player was often Thompson.

Heading into the season, Thompson may have been somewhat of an unknown quantity, and Portland may have been unsure how they wanted to use him. He had played one season in the NBA, then had lost the next year to injury, as Mike alluded to above. Shortly after the end of the season, Portland traded Owens to the Pacers for a future 1st round pick. After seeing Thompson's development during the season, the Blazers may have concluded that Thompson and Owens were getting in each other's way, and it didn't make sense to keep both of them if they could cash in one of them (the older Owens) for something of value in return. The pick they got for Owens turned out to be the #2 overall pick in the 1984 draft, aka the Sam Bowie pick.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:38 pm

I just made a few updates to the original posts. I don't usually make note of these in a separate reply, but wanted to make clear that these elements weren't present when Mike made his post above:

1) In Part II, in the b-r.com position info, changed "header" to "old b-r.com header"

2) In Part III, in the analysis of how much Thompson, Owens and Gross played at each position, I added comments about the playoffs. I usually do include this information, but had neglected to do so when I originally wrote these posts, discussing the regular season only.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:05 pm

In my first post in this thread, I discussed the gaps and inconsistencies in transaction information around Geoff Crompton’s time with the Blazers in 1981. An oddity is that all available transaction data indicates that Crompton remained with the team through the end of the season and beyond (after two 10-day deals, he signed a “multiyear” contract with the Blazers on 2/24/81, and was later traded during the following offseason), but if you only looked at which players appear in box scores, you might assume otherwise (Crompton didn’t appear in any games after 2/19, and he couldn’t have possibly been on the active roster after 2/27). My earlier post suggests some plausible explanations, but the whole thing is still odd.

I recently realized that there is one more source I could check to confirm that Crompton remained on the Blazers’ roster through the end of the season. For the 1980-81, 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, the team-by-team statistics in the annual NBA Guide designated players who didn’t finish the season with a team by placing an asterisk before the player’s name. While this convention was dropped after 1983, the asterisks remained in the stats for these seasons until the NBA Guide was reformatted around 1992. If you crack open an NBA Guide from that era, and flip to the stats for one of these three seasons, you’ll see the asterisks.

I checked the 1981-82 NBA Guide, and sure enough, Crompton’s name doesn’t have an asterisk in front of it, indicating that he finished the season with the team. The Blazers team roster published in the Guide, probably reflecting how things stood as of late August or early September, also has Crompton listed on it.

While some aspects of Crompton’s stay with the Blazers remain a mystery, it seems pretty clear that he remained on the Blazers’ roster in some capacity (on the injured list would be my best guess) through the end of the season.
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Re: 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers Games Played/Started & Tr

Postby MCT » Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:38 pm

A while back, Mike G. posted some material in the Spurs thread, with position information for 1980-81 sourced from Neft & Cohen’s NBA Encyclopedia. I recently posted about this in the introductory thread to this series, noting that I planned to post and comment on this data on a team-by-team basis. See the eighth post in the introductory thread for more information.

Here’s what Neft & Cohen have for the Blazers:

Mike Goodman wrote:
Code: Select all
tm     player         pos   Min     PO   Min
Por   Mychal Thompson Cf   2790     Cf   132
Por   Jim Paxson       G   2701         
Por   Kelvin Ransey    G   2431      G   131
Por  Kermit Washington F   2120      F   128
Por   Calvin Natt      F   2111      F    95
Por   Bob Gross       fg   1934     fg    60
Por   Tom Owens       cf   1843         
Por   Billy Ray Bates  g   1560      G   115
Por   Kevin Kunnert    c    842      c    43
Por   Ron Brewer       g    548         
Por   Mike Gale        g    476      g    51
Por   Mike Harper     fc    461         
Por   Geoff Crompton   c     33         


MCT wrote:A lot of teams have players listed by b-r.com as playing both center and (power) forward, and it isn’t always obvious who played how many minutes where. The Blazers had five such players. Mychal Thompson and Kevin Kunnert are listed as C-F with a primary position this year of C. Tom Owens and Mike Harper are also listed as C-F, but with a primary position this year of PF. Kermit Washington is listed as F-C with a primary position of PF. With this many players involved, it’s impossible to work out who played how much at which position.

With both Thompson and Owens, where they started the most games and what b-r.com shows as their primary positions do not match. Based on my analysis of the TSN box scores, Thompson made 43 regular season starts at forward, versus 34 at center, but b-r.com shows his primary position as C. Owens made 47 regular season starts at center versus 1 at forward, but b-r.com shows his primary position as PF. I can’t definitively say that b-r.com’s designations are wrong – it’s conceivably possible, for example, that even when Thompson was starting at forward he spent most of his time playing center – but I am curious as to why b-r.com reached those conclusions, particularly in Owens’ case, and I am ultimately somewhat skeptical of them. At the very least, Thompson must have spent a significant amount of time playing at PF and Owens playing at C. It seems more intuitive that Owens’ primary position was C, and that Thompson saw significant playing time at both C and PF but probably played more at PF.

Thompson, Owens, Kunnert and Crompton collectively played 5508 minutes. That’s 1537 minutes more than were available at center. If we assume that Thompson was the only one of this bunch to play any forward at all, so the 1537 minutes represent his playing time at forward, that would leave him 1253 minutes at center. To me, that seems plausible. To the extent that Owens and Kunnert played some PF as well, Thompson’s split between the two positions would swing back towards center, but I’d be surprised if Thompson’s playing time was any more center-centric than splitting his time roughly evenly between the two positions.

The playoffs were different. Thompson, Owens and Kunnert played only 26 minutes more than were available at center, which works out to 8.7 mpg. Assuming that all of those minutes were Thompson playing at forward, that would still leave Thompson playing about 80% of his minutes at center versus about 20% at forward. Owens only played five minutes in the playoffs, however – I assume that he was injured – so this doesn’t tell us much about how Thompson and Owens were used in relation to each other when both were healthy.

Subsequent to my original post, we debated a bit on how much Thompson and Owens played at each position. Neft & Cohen’s take is that both played primarily center, with forward as a secondary position. That’s certainly plausible, although it doesn’t really resolve the question of what proportion of their playing time each spent where. I continue to think that Owens was slanted much more heavily towards center than Thompson was, and that Thompson’s split between center and forward had to be fairly close.

Note that Neft & Cohen’s conclusions contradict b-r.com’s identification of Owens’ primary position as PF (which I had disputed in my previous analysis).

MCT wrote: As for the other players, I suspect that Kunnert played mostly at C, and Washington at PF. I have a hard time seeing either one playing extensively at the opposite position. Harper is a bit of an oddity in that [his old b-r.com header] lists his position as exclusively C (not C-F), but [b-r.com] shows his primary position for both of his NBA seasons as PF. Since he was the last player on the bench, it’s hard to tell how much he played where, but there would seem to have been more room for him at PF.

Neft & Cohen have Kunnert as exclusively a center, and Washington as exclusively a forward. They have Harper as “fc”.

MCT wrote:Paxson is listed as a G-F, with a primary position of SG, while Gross is listed as an F-G, with a primary position of SF. I don’t see why the Blazers would have had any pressing need to play Paxson much at SF, although he could have picked up a few minutes there, especially during times when Natt was out. I think that Gross played the vast majority of his minutes at SF, but he must have seen some time at SG as well, as he started 11 games there in the early part of the season. It’s possible that most of Gross’ playing time at guard was early in the season, before Kelvin Ransey had gotten settled in (Ransey would ultimately take over from Gross as the starter).

If you add up the minutes played by every player on the Blazers whose primary position was in the frontcourt, and you add up the minutes played for every player on the Blazers whose primary position was in the backcourt, there is a shortage of 221 minutes in the backcourt, and an overage of 221 minutes in the frontcourt. If that represents an approximation of how many minutes Gross played at guard, it works out to two or three minutes per game, and about 10% of Gross’ total minutes. As noted earlier, though, it’s possible that Gross’ minutes at guard were heavily concentrated in the first quarter of the season. They may have accounted for a much larger amount of time during that shorter period. For the playoffs, the same exercise yields a shortage of seven minutes in the backcourt and an overage of seven minutes in the frontcourt. This is consistent with the numbers from the regular season.

Consistent with this, Neft & Cohen have Gross as “fg”, and Paxson as exclusively a guard.
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