“He has a screw loose”: Those were the legendary “Jail Blazers”

Around the year 2000, the Blazers in Portland had assembled a squad that could keep up with the top teams in the league in terms of sport, but still made the majority of the headlines off the field: the “Jail Blazers” were born. On the occasion of Isaiah Rider’s 52nd birthday, a look back.

GM Bob Whitsitt (right) made his mark on the team beginning in 1996, when he rejuvenated the franchise and garnered talent but cared little for the indiscipline of his players.

In 1999 and 2000 the Blazers went to the Conference Finals (0-4 Spurs, 3-4 Lakers). The experts agreed: the future belongs to these guys. But other highlights were not added with this staff.

The first round ended three times, the team gradually broke up and went down to the bottom of the table. Rebuilding followed around Aldridge, Roy and Oden. But before that, it was these players who made headlines as the “Jail Blazers.”

GUARDS – DAMON STOUDAMIRE (1998-2005 in Portland)

12.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds at 40.5 percent FG and 35.9 percent from distance (529 games)

The “Mighty Mouse” traded to his hometown from Toronto in 1998 and led the team as a starter on the one. He was caught multiple times with marijuana. After his third arrest in 2003, he received a hefty fine.

He later expressed his frustration at how the city and the media treated the team at the time and pushed the sporting success into the background. “We were just kids,” he said of the Jail Blazers’ heyday.

BONZI WELLS (1998-2004)

13.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists at 47.4 percent FG and 34.4 percent from distance (310 games)

He was co-captain of the “Jail Blazers” with Wallace – and lived up to this role on and off the court. On the one hand there is a franchise playoff record (45 points) at the time, on the other hand verbal and real middle fingers to the fans.

STEVE SMITH (1999-2001)

14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists at 46.1 percent FG and 36.9 percent from distance (163 games)

A potent scorer who previously had several 20-point seasons in ATL. In Portland he placed very well behind Wallace and Pippen and played well in the 2000 playoff run. He later went on to win Olympic gold and the title with the Spurs.

ISAIAH RIDER (1996-1999)

16.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists at 43.5 percent FG and 35.0 percent from distance (197 games)

A stewardess on the Blazers plane would later say of him, “He’s got a screw loose!” Once he missed a plane and is said to have spat on an airport employee – later also on a fan. In 97/98 he was the team’s top scorer.

DEREK ANDERSON (2001-2005)

12.0 points, 3.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds at 40.2 percent FG and 34.9 percent from distance (244 games)

Traded off the Spurs for Smith and Kerr. A solid third option for the Blazers, albeit struggling with multiple injuries. In 2011, he was charged as a drug ring financier but not convicted.

STEVE KERR (2001/02)

4.1 points and 1.0 assists at 47.0 percent FG and 39.4 percent from distance (65 games)

One season with the “Jail Blazers” was enough for the five-time champion with the Bulls and Spurs: “What a great experience! That was perhaps the funniest year of my career. I’ve never seen such a poorly functioning team before.”


11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assist at 44.0 percent FG and 31.9 percent from distance (272 games)

After an unlucky year in Houston, the Bulls legend traded to Portland in 1999. There he helped the Blazers to the West Finals again in 2000, but towards the end of his career he no longer had the influence of earlier days.

QYNTEL WOODS (2002-2004)

3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds at 41.4 percent from the field (115 games)

The 2002 first-round pick was fired after just his second season for his involvement in illegal dogfights. Tried to identify himself at a police check with a basketball trading card. Also caught with marijuana.


9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists at 51.0 percent from the field (341 games)

Came to Portland as a registered sex offender after attempting to rape his babysitter. Not well liked by the team, Zach Randolph broke his eye socket in a fight in practice.


6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists at 42.8 percent FG and 40.0 percent from distance (103 games)

Schrempf and the “Jail Blazers” – that didn’t fit at all! The German actually wanted to leave after a year. However, owner Paul Allen insisted on the valid contract, when Pippen injured himself, Schrempf had to play again.

DARIUS MILES (2003-2006)

13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists at 48.7 percent from the field

Miles made headlines in the 2004-05 season when he used racial slurs on head coach Cheeks. A year later, a serious knee injury put a curb on the forward’s career.


16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks at 49.7 percent from the field (544 games)

The franchise star and king of technical fouls. Athletically, he led Portland as a two-time All-Star but was also caught with marijuana. He also fit into the “Jail Blazers” image, ambushed Refs or threw a towel in Sabonis’ face.

ZACH RANDOLPH (2001-2007)

16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds at 46.6 percent from the field (387 games)

Only later in Memphis did he become a respected all-star, as a young big in Portland he went down the wrong path. In addition to marijuana crimes, he was also caught with two loaded pistols in an illegal car race.

ARVYDAS SABONIS (1995-2001 and 2002/03)

12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks at 50 percent from the field (470 games)

In 2001 he was fed up with the “Jail Blazers”, publicly complained about his colleagues and took a break. Sabonis is considered one of the best Europeans of all time, but he didn’t experience his prime in the NBA. Didn’t come to Portland until he was 30.

DALE DAVIS (2000-2004)

7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks at 50.8 percent from the field (313 games)

Davis came to Portland in 2000 in a trade for Jermaine O’Neal, who would go on to become the Pacers franchise player. Away from the court he was not noticed negatively, in two years he helped the Blazers as a starter after he even became an All-Star in Indiana.

BRIAN GRANT (1997-2000)

10.2 points and 8.0 rebounds at 49.5 percent from the field (172 games)

To get Shawn Kemp, Portland sent Grant away in a three-team trade. This deal shouldn’t pay off. In his three years with the Blazers, he played well as a starter and later off the bench in playoff runs.

SHAWN KEMP (2000-2002)

6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds at 41.8 percent FG (143 games)

GM Whitsitt knew Kemp from the Sonics days together. However, the six-time All-Star was no longer the same athletically – and his debut season in Portland ended prematurely with a trip to a rehab clinic.


162-139 in the regular season (53.8 percent), 3-7 in the playoffs

He was “not particularly proud” of his team’s image, he said back in 2003, but he couldn’t bring about a change. Twice it was already over for him in the first playoff round. At least he made headlines when he supported a young girl singing the national anthem when she forgot the lyrics.


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