Blazers have gone from contender to lottery

Zach Randolph isn't a leader and the Trail Blazers have struggled to put together the right chemistry to be a contender.

Updated: March 4, 2005, 1:28 PM ET
By Greg Anthony | ESPN Insider
On Wednesday the Portland Trail Blazers fired Maurice Cheeks after a four-year run that saw the Trail Blazers transformed from a perennial playoff contender into a team that has a better chance at getting the No. 1 pick. What has happened to this once proud franchise with tremendous fan support and an owner with pockets deeper than the Pacific Ocean?

I was fortunate to be a part of some very good basketball teams in the late '90s and on into the new millennium, but while talented, there where legitimate questions about the team's character and also its chemistry. The GM at the time was Bob Whitsitt, and his willingness to do anything to get that team to the top was sincere and his resources infinite. A team is like a puzzle, each piece must fit with every other piece in order to complete the puzzle.

The problem for Whitsitt is that he didn't understand that and always tried to get the best available player, no matter what his issues or how he fit into the puzzle. I've said it a thousand times, you don't win in basketball (or any team sport for that matter) with the five best players, you win with the five players who play best together. Chemistry is as important as talent, because a team has to function as one, not as a bunch of individuals.
Former NBA guard Greg Anthony covers basketball for Insider. He joined ESPN in November 2002 as a studio analyst for the network's NBA coverage. He appears on all of ESPN and ESPN2's NBA studio shows.