Portland Trail Blazers fans went to an important Western Conference game Thursday and ended up running into the equivalent of their ex.

The enigma that is Rasheed Wallace was back in Portland on Thursday, and for the first time since his NBA playing and coaching career ended, he was at a Trail Blazers game as a fan.

Naturally, nobody really knew quite how to react.

When the team showed him on the big screen during a timeout, he was mostly cheered. But there was also a strong current of boos. Moments later, the fans in Section 314 started a “RA-SHEED WALL-ACE” chant that began to gain momentum around the arena.

Wallace stood and acknowledged the crowd, outstretching his arm and nodding to several sections from his second row seats, where he was a guest of Nike account manager Nico Harrison. It was such a stunning, unexpected meeting with our past that I’m not sure people knew what to do. It was like bumping into the ex on a downtown corner – what do you say, what do you remember, what do you forget?

Portland being Portland, Wallace was mostly cheered.

And I have to admit, I chuckled and smiled seeing him with a beer in his hand, and adorned in a baggy gray sweatsuit with gray stocking cap.

It was almost 11 years to the day that Wallace had left Portland, learning he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks while at a WWE wrestling event at the Rose Garden, and in that time it’s easy to forget what made him one of the most talented, controversial and mercurial players in Blazers history.

So here’s a Rasheed Wallace retrospective, touching on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly times in Portland:

THE GOOD

Rasheed Wallace crushes a ball through the hoop on Los Angeles Lakers forwards Robert Horry and Rick Fox. 

Back-to-back All Star appearances: Wallace was chosen for the 2000 and 2001 All-Star Games, seasons when he averaged 16.4 points and 7.0 rebounds and 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.

His best season, however, was in 2001-02, when he averaged a career-high 19.3 points and 8.2 rebounds.

A great defensive player: Probably the most underrated part of Wallace’s legacy in Portland was his defense. The Blazers seldom sent double teams to help Wallace, which set Portland apart from the rest of the West, who found themselves scheming and shuffling nightly to counter explosive power forwards like Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison, Antonio McDyess and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Wallace would take them all on, one-on-one, a luxury that coach Mike Dunleavy often pointed out.

At 6-foot-11, Wallace was long, and he had great feet and even better instincts. His teammates raved about his basketball intelligence, and on the court, nobody communicated better defensively with teammates than Wallace. Throughout the game, he would always counsel his point guards, yelling to them “By yourself, by yourself” meaning nobody was behind them preparing a screen, or directional shouts of which way the pick was coming.

Wallace KILLED Robert Horry in the 2000 WCF: In Portland, everybody remembers the Game 7 collapse against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals – a chunk of which included a poor fourth quarter by Wallace — but many forget how and why the Blazers got to Game 7: Wallace torched Robert Horry all series and the Lakers had no answer.

Wallace led the Blazers in scoring in five of the series seven games, including a Game 2 of 29 points and 12 rebounds, a Game 4 of 34 points and 13 rebounds, and 22 and 10 in Game 5.

In Game 7, Wallace was masterful through the first three quarters and he finished with 30 points on 13-of-26 shooting. But in the fateful fourth quarter, Wallace missed six consecutive shots and missed two free throws with the Blazers trailing 81-79.

Catchphrase King: Throughout his tenure in Portland (1996-2004) Wallace didn’t say much off the court – he despised and mocked the media – but when he did speak, it was often memorable.

In the 2003 NBA playoffs against Dallas, Wallace was fined $30,000 by the NBA after he answered every question “It was a good game; both teams played hard” while on the postgame podium. The fine was a buildup of years of media neglect by Wallace, who would usually stonewall any and every question, and it seemed to immortalize him among the rebellious, reject authority crowd.

“Both teams played hard” T-shirts were printed and years later other players still use the phrase. He was Marshawn Lynch before anyone knew better.

He also gave us “Ball Don’t Lie” in response to a missed free throw after what he perceived a bad call, and of course who can forget C-T-C?

As Blazers management tired of Wallace’s act, and trade rumors increased, Wallace was asked about his tenuous standing in Portland, to which he famously replied “As long as somebody CTC, I’m with them … for all you who don’t know what CTC means, that’s Cut The Check.”

That was after the sixth game of the 2003-2004 season. Wallace would last 26 days and 10 more games before he was traded to Atlanta with Wesley Person for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau.

THE BAD

Blazer Rasheed Wallace posed for pictures, signed autographs, delivered Christmas trees and handed out ornaments at the 5th annual Holiday Express Tree Giveaway in 2002 

The Yellow Hummer: In November 2002, after beating the Sonics in Seattle, Wallace and teammate Damon Stoudamire were allowed to drive home separate from the team. As passengers in Stoudamire’s yellow Hummer H2, Wallace and Stoudamire admitted to smoking marijuana after their friend, Ed Smith, was pulled over for speeding outside of Chehalis, Wash.

Wallace famously said “the truth will come to the light” after the incident, but he would never elaborate, even after he was given six months probation and a $650 fine.

Record-setting technicals: In the 2000-01 season, Wallace established a record that may never be broken: 41 technicals, which broke his previous record of 38 set the season before.

He was volatile, unpredictable, and most important, unreliable to a Blazers team constructed to win an NBA title.

Wallace was the team’s best player, yet the least consistent because of his volcanic temper with officials. In the 1999-2000 season, he was ejected six times by officials. During his record-setting season in 2000-01, he was ejected four times.

Out of shape: Despite usually being the highest paid player on the team, Wallace every season came into training camp out of shape, and needed months to work himself back into form. It was a poor example, and set the team back having to wait for the best player to round into form.

Deferring at crunch time: For all his talents, and all the money he made (he was making $17 million in his last season in Portland), Wallace never embraced the responsibility of carrying the team, or becoming its go-to-guy.

In fact, he would usually defer.

The problem was the plays in crunch time were usually designed post-ups for Wallace, yet he would pass out of them, even though he wasn’t being double teamed. It led to hurried shots by teammates and discombobulated possessions. Late in his time in Portland, his reluctance to take the big shot became as talked about as his temper, and that talk included his teammates. Damon Stoudamire, one of Wallace’s closest friends on the team, said at the time that Wallace’s reluctance late in games had “eaten” at the team.

Poor example: In 2003, in one of the last straws of his tenure in Portland, Wallace skipped a team function for sponsors on owner Paul Allen’s yacht. The team fined him $10,000 and privately griped about the example he was setting for players like Zach Randolph and Travis Outlaw.

THE UGLY

Portland Trail Blazers’ Rasheed Wallace argues his case with referee Jess Kersey during the fourth quarter of a game played in Portland, Ore. on Wednesday April 26, 2000. 

The Loading Dock: After recording 38 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over Memphis, Wallace confronted referee Tim Donaghy on the loading dock outside the Rose Garden. As Wallace was speaking with Grizzlies guard Brevin Knight, Donaghy made his way down the ramp. During the exchange, Wallace feinted a punch at Donaghy.

The act was witnessed by the other referees, and after an investigation that included interviewing Knight and other witnesses on the loading dock, Wallace was suspended an unprecedented seven games by the NBA.

Donaghy had given Wallace a technical in the third quarter of the game, and on the loading dock Wallace shouted obscenities to him that it was unwarranted. Donaghy shot back with his own obscenities, which set off a heated exchange.

“It’s tough on our ballclub,” Scottie Pippen said at the time. “For something like this to happen, with the direction we are going, is a loss.”

Easter Day embarrassment: In an act that was caught on national television on Easter Sunday of 2001, Wallace in anger threw a towel in the face of teammate Arvydas Sabonis during a team huddle.

Wallace was angry that Sabonis had inadvertently hit him in the face while falling back after a collision with Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal. One week earlier, Wallace was forced from a game, and missed practice, because Sabonis poked him in the eye while flailing backward.

Sabonis, one of the most popular players in franchise history, did not respond to the towel in his face, but the next day, the team suspended Wallace for one game – the season finale – marking the third time he was suspended that season.

A challenge to fight: Wallace was at the center of the Blazers’ epic collapse in 2001, when they went from best record in the Western Conference in March to a first-round sweep at the hands of the Lakers.

Coach Mike Dunleavy desperately tried to corral and temper Wallace, but each time he was ignored by the star. When Dunleavy went to Wallace’s home to counsel him about his temper and how it was hurting the team, Wallace slammed the door on Dunleavy. And after the Sabonis incident on Easter, Dunleavy confronted Wallace in the locker room, and Wallace charged the coach before being held back by three players. While Wallace was constrained, Dunleavy didn’t back down, shouting to the players to let Wallace go.

The playoffs were seven days away.

Jason Quick | [email protected] | @jwquick

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