Grant blazes bumpy new trail in Portland

December 04, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

As a miserable 1992-93 season was winding down for the Washington Bullets, forward Harvey Grant began making it clear that he wanted out. Still bitter with the 22-60 Bullets for matching a contract offered by the New York Knicks before the season, Grant longed to contribute to a team with a shot of winning an NBA title.

Grant got his wish, traded by the Bullets -- in exchange for Kevin Duckworth -- to a Portland Trail Blazers team that lost to the Chicago Bulls in the championship round twice in the past three years.

But, after 15 games in his new surroundings, Grant still is trying to find his niche.

Portland makes its only appearance of the year tonight at the USAir Arena to face the Bullets. And what the fans will see is a Harvey Grant in a much different role on the court.

The old Grant was the captain of the Bullets, a go-to player who led the team in scoring with an 18.6-point average. The new Grant is a player trying to adapt on a team with All-Star caliber players, averaging less than 11.0 points a game -- his lowest production since the 1989-90 season.

"I know I can play better, but I try so hard and then I mess up," Grant said in an interview this week with The Oregonian. "I have good game like in Los Angeles [season-high 22 points against the Lakers] and then the next game I score six points. That's not me. I've just got to hang with it."

On a team that features All-Stars Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, and potential All-Star Clifford Robinson, one would expect that Grant could take as much time as he wants to fit in. Portland has won at least 50 games each of the past four seasons.

But the Trail Blazers have struggled this season, with last night's 114-108 loss in Boston dropping them to 8-7. Center Chris Dudley, who was supposed to add a rebounding and defensive dimension, broke his foot and could be on the injured list for three months.

The mediocre start -- by Portland's standards -- has only placed an additional burden on the 6-foot-9 Grant, who is eager to show the fans and his teammates that he belongs.

"Eventually I'm going to love it in Portland," Grant said. "But right now I put too much pressure on myself and it hurts me."

Part of Grant's problem has been adapting to Portland's half-court style, which is unlike anything he's played since being a first-round choice of the Bullets in the 1988 draft.

"In Washington, we ran mostly a passing game, and with this team there's a lot more set plays," said Grant. "If one guy misses an assignment, the whole play breaks down.

"I had no trouble with the passing game, it fit my style very well," Grant added. "Here, it's been an adjustment to the set plays we've run."

Portland coach Rick Adelman realizes that Grant's adjustment will take time. "It's a matter of getting him more aggressive," Adelman told The Oregonian. "We struggled offensively early in the year, and that affects everyone. Working with a new cast, getting used to new teammates takes time. In Washington they looked to him an awful lot."

Grant, who last night scored only eight points, going 3-for-10 from the field, is hoping to find his confidence on the current six-game road trip.

He scored 15 points at Miami and 17 at Orlando in the first two games of the trip, hitting 14 of his 26 shots from the field (53.8 percent). Four of his five double-figure scoring games have been away from Portland.

"Right now I think I'm a better player on the road," Grant said.

NOTES: Duckworth, the other part of the trade, also is going through a period of adjustment. He's averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, and he's shooting 41.7 percent in 27.6 minutes a game. "I realize that my role is not to be a scorer here," Duckworth said. . . . Bullets general manger John Nash said the team could decide today whether Pervis Ellison (knees) or Larry Stewart (foot) will come off the injured list and make the three-game trip to Seattle, Utah and Phoenix that starts on Monday. "There's a good chance one, if not both, will be ready," Nash said.

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