The facial expression of Travis Outlaw, above, says it all. It was probably unintentional; just a relaxed pose as he watches the game of his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Sure. But there’s a lot to suggest that Outlaw and his buddy Steve Blake would not be happy about arriving with their new squad, after being traded for Marcus Camby.
Let’s count the reasons.
1. Friendships — Both Outlaw and Blake have always been beloved members of the Portland Trail Blazers organisation. It’s a tight-knit team, with every reporter out there proclaiming it to be a little haven of love in the Blazers locker-room. And now this duo has been forced to leave that family. On top of that, Outlaw has a strong friendship with Blazers superstar, Brandon Roy. It can’t be easy to leave that behind.
2. Winning — This is the Clippers. Imagine you’ve just left a young team on the rise, full of promise for a title run in the next couple of years and you’ve now landed on a squad that is famous for its failures on and off the basketball court. It has got to be a huge letdown. The Clippers have essentially admitted that the season is over for them — motivation would have to be lacking in that gym.
3. Longevity — Both players have spent a sizeable amount of time in Portland. Outlaw was drafted by the Blazers in 2003, back when the team was full of outlaws, by name rather than nature. He has seen the team transform into what it is today. Blake was enjoying his fourth season in Rip City after also having stints with Washington, Denver and Milwaukee. Portland was by far his longest-tenured home. Moving on from the city you’re used to, the relationships that you and your family have fostered and the organisation you were part of for all of those years is difficult for most. Even well-traveled NBA players.
4. Scenery — There is a big change in style between living in Portland and living in Los Angeles. Blake and his wife Kristen may enjoy the lifestyle opportunities afforded to them there — I’m not entirely clued in on what his personality dictates. At least he is originally from Hollywood; but not the LA one, rather, Hollywood, Florida. On the other hand, in past features on Outlaw, he has been portrayed as a small-town guy. After all, he is from Starkville, Mississippi. I don’t know how the quiet fishing will be in LA for him.
5. It’s the Clippers.
Take a look at this video (via Bustabucket — a great place for Blazers news) of the pre-game press conference the Clippers held last night to welcome the Portland duo to LA. Tell me that the body language and overall expression doesn’t say everything that needs to be said:
Blake played his first game for the Clippers last night, against the Atlanta Hawks. He started at the point in what was a quiet debut. Sure, this move will likely provide both players with additional court time. Outlaw might be able to flourish in this revamped Clippers roster in the final 27 games of the season remaining. But the likelihood of both returning next season will be an interesting proposition, regardless of the Bird Rights attached to contract negotiations.
I’ve said this since the beginning, there is every chance that all three of the players in this trade (Camby included) will end up returning to the teams they came from. Perhaps not next year (particularly for the Blazers pair), but at some point in the future. None of them burnt any bridges on their way out and none of them were players that their organisations truly did not want to see again.