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Cheeks Does Emotional Balancing Act

April 23, 2002|Elliott Teaford

Maurice Cheeks played with Charles Barkley with the Philadelphia 76ers, served on Larry Brown's staff as an assistant in Philadelphia, coaching Allen Iverson, and now he's in his first season as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Consider him something of an expert on emotional characters if you must, but Cheeks said he doesn't see what others have seen in the Trail Blazers.

"All I can say is that things I've heard do not exist with me," he said when asked about Portland's image as the Trail Gangsters. "Where that rap comes from, I don't know. They all play hard for me. All a coach can do is ask that his players play hard. Maybe the stuff with all those technical fouls is part of it.

"Somehow it's become part of our aura."

Last season, power forward Rasheed Wallace set an NBA record with 41 technical fouls. He also was ejected seven times.

During Game 2 of the Trail Blazers' opening-round playoff loss last year against the Lakers, Portland drew five technical fouls in the first quarter alone and Dale Davis was later ejected for throwing an elbow at Robert Horry. Davis was suspended for Game 3 for his actions, as was reserve Stacey Augmon, for leaving the bench in the Davis aftermath.

Cheeks gathered the Trail Blazers before the start of this season's playoff matchup against the Lakers, delivering a stern message to go easy on the referees.

So far, so good. The Trail Blazers were on their best behavior during their loss Sunday in Game 1.

It's not that Cheeks wants the Trail Blazers to play without emotion. He simply wants them to avoid going overboard. After all, as Davis put it last week, "This is an emotional team, an emotional group of guys."


Portland's Scottie Pippen helped the Chicago Bulls win six NBA championships in the 1990s. So when somebody wanted to know his impression of the two-time defending champion Lakers, he drew on an obvious comparison.

"They definitely have some arrogance about them," he said. "They deserve to have some arrogance about them. They have a swagger about them. They deserve to have it because they're winning games. To some degree they are [like the Bulls of the 1990s].... Other than Shaq [O'Neal], of course."


Overlooked statistics from Game 1: The Trail Blazers had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and trailed, 46-44. They took one in the second half and lost, 95-87.

Overlooked statistics Part II: Portland missed its first seven shots. The Trail Blazers also took five shots before the Lakers attempted one.

Elliott Teaford


The Trail Blazers will attempt to get more offensively out of Pippen, Damon Stoudamire and Bonzi Wells in Game 2. The three combined to shoot nine of 32 in the opener.

"We need to get Bonzi down on the post," Cheeks said. "I don't believe they really have a guy who can guard him down low."

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