by Russ Bengtson
SLAM 119 // CONTINUED FROM PAGE 71
those skills to see them atrophy.
That’s it. That’s all you missed. A little anticlimactic, hey?
Wasn’t anybody’s fault. It’s happened before and it’s happened again. Someone at the printing plant re-spaces a paragraph, an extra line is created, and the end of the story drops off the page. When I saw it, I knew that only a couple words were missing. For those of you who hadn’t read it yet—or, well, written it—it could have been cut off halfway through. It wasn’t. But, seeing that you had to wait so long to read those last six words, here’s a couple more Q’s and A’s with Glide to make up for your trouble.
(Keep in mind that this conversation took place way back in December.)
SLAM: It’s been interesting times for both of your former teams. The Blazers seem to be going in the right direction…
DREXLER: They have a great nucleus of good young talent that has to develop, but certainly they’ll be much better off defensively when they get Greg Oden on the floor with that nucleus.
SLAM: I know it’s not fair, but can you see why there have been the comparisons with Sam Bowie?
DREXLER: I don’t want to do that. That town has been through that big guy problem before with Walton, Sam Bowie—to go deeper than that, LaRue Martin. They’ve had big guy problems. LaRue Martin, Walton and Sam Bowie—one couldn’t play that well, the other ones were injured. Now Oden is injured again. So that certainly has hurt their chances for more titles in the past. Sabonis, they couldn’t get him when he was healthy, they got him post-injury—so they’ve had some problems, I could name four or five instances. But hopefully Oden will have a stellar career, it’s hard to judge on the first year.
SLAM: Could you feel for what they were going through?
DREXLER: Absolutely. Because you go from euphoria, thinking you got the best player in the draft, to knowing that he’s gonna have to take a year off. But the thing is, the future is very bright, the fans up there are excited—I was up there about a week ago and there is a lot of hope for the future of the franchise.
SLAM: I was trying to think of a current player who kind of fits your mold, and the guy I thought of first was Tracy—he plays in Houston, I know he’s struggled to get out of the first round and you had a run where it took a little while.
DREXLER: I made it to the playoffs every year. We made it to the second round my second year—we beat Dallas my second year. Nah, we beat Dallas my second year, then the next two or three years we played the Lakers in the first round. [He was right, of course—they lost in the first round five of his first six years, with the exception being that second year. I misread the Blazers’s Basketball Reference page and paid the price. So of course I plowed ahead anyway.]
SLAM: But is Tracy someone…
DREXLER: Tracy is certainly one of the finer players in the League, he has a lot of talent, and a good guy, and I certainly enjoy watching him play. But I don’t like to compare players. Not even if they even close. Our games are similar in the fact that we’re very talented and make it look easy. But there are certain aspects of our games that I think are completely different. Because I was more of a passer, a penetrator, making my teammates better. I really worked on efficiency, making the game easier so we could rest and get ready for the next game. So those are my thoughts, and Tracy is more of a scorer, he’s gonna score in bunches. I coulda done that, but I was really focused on making my teammates better and making the game easier.
SLAM: It’s funny watching some of the elements of your past come together now with Rick Adelman coaching Houston.
DREXLER: It’s unbelievable. I think he’s the right guy for that team at the right time. Because they’re hungry, they haven’t made it out of the first round—now, he’s the guy to get them over the hump, if they can stay healthy. If Yao and Tracy are healthy, they have a better complement of players that can help them this season—Luis Scola, Mike James, Steve Francis, he can help them, Bonzi Wells, so they got a better complement of players to go along with Yao and Tracy and Shane Battier. That’s seven good players, that’s my magic number. [Francis, Wells and James, oh my.]
SLAM: Could you imagine having gotten to play with someone like Yao in your time?
DREXLER: No. Could you imagine? Well, I played with Hakeem, at the end of my career. How about playing with those guys when I was young? Yao’s the best center in the League. I think Shaq has declined a little bit, he’s held that mantle for many, many years—I think he passed it to Yao last season.
SLAM: Who do you enjoy watching the most now?
DREXLER: I enjoy watching all these guys. You look at LeBron, I love to watch Carmelo, Kobe is spectacular, Tracy McGrady is really fun to watch, Wade is not bad. Arenas is perhaps one of my favorites—love to watch Gilbert. So quick. He reminds me of myself, he just outruns everybody. That was my game! Just run right by you. Make it easy. I don’t want to beat you off the dribble, I want to run right by you.
SLAM: Do any guys nowadays ask you for help?
DREXLER: Some of the current players will come up to me and they’ve wanted me to work with them in the summer and better their game, give them more weapons offensively just to see what they could do to improve their overall game. And that’s really a nice compliment, I love to teach, love to give back—and obviously we know since we’ve done it. There’s only a few guys in the world that know. That would be like if Bill Gates retired, he’d be a good consultant for any software company. So that’s what ex-great NBA players, or decent NBA players, can do. Because they’ve been there. It’s like, how can you tech a skill that you’ve never learned? Well, the guys that have learned it can teach it! That’s how they learned it! And so I don’t see why there’s not more of that going on in the League. So you have a lot of what I call video coaches, guys that look at video and try to coach. But they never learned the moves themselves. I can imagine trying to learn, like, martial arts from a guy that looked at a video.
SLAM: Have you worked with any guys that are in Houston now?
DREXLER: I’ve worked with a few guys—I don’t wanna name any names—just to help their overall games. I’ve worked with a lot of younger kids. I have two sons, 17 and 14, and we’re always at the gym and I work with the kids on high school teams just to better their games. But at the same time, I’ve been busy enjoying retirement. And so that’s been big for me, just to have some free times to enjoy the things I like. I have four kids: 20, 16, 16 and 14. Two boys and two girls. Watching them grow up has been a joy. Obviously. I still work. I have real estate, I have airport concessions, I still endorse product, in this country and in China. I stay somewhat busy, but not really. My main focus is working on my golf game.