When the Portland Trail Blazers take the court in Texas for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, they'll wear a special red, white and black plaid patch paying tribute to the head coach who delivered the only NBA championship in franchise history, Dr. Jack Ramsay, who died Monday at age 89 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Here's a look at the patch, which was inspired by the legendary coach's famed (and period-appropriate) sartorial style during his time on the Portland bench, and which bears the number 77 in honor of the fast-breaking, extra-pass-making 1976-77 Blazers squad that he, Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas led to an NBA finals victory over Julius Erving's Philadelphia 76ers:
From the team's announcement of the tribute:
The patch will be worn by the Trail Blazers for the remainder of post-season play.
Wearing a patch in memory of Ramsay is the first of multiple salutes planned as the organization mourns the loss of the Hall of Fame coach and broadcasting great. “This is an emotional time for not just those who love the Trail Blazers, but also anyone who appreciated the greatness of Dr. Jack,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Moda Center. [...]
Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey said, "It's a very unique patch that pays perfect tribute to who Dr. Jack was. It embodies his time in Portland, his vibrant personality, and ultimately all that he meant to the Trail Blazers and the NBA."
The Blazers' other tributes will begin to roll out when the team next plays at home ... which, if they take care of business tonight, might not be for a bit.
Portland heads into Wednesday with a 3-1 lead on the Rockets in their thrilling best-of-seven series after a 123-120 overtime win in Sunday's Game 4. If the Blazers can close out Houston at Toyota Center, they'd advance to a second-round series against the winner of the matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, which is tied at two games apiece, with Game 5 in that series coming Wednesday, too. The earliest that series can end is Friday, with a potential Game 7 looming on Sunday. If the top-seeded Spurs prevail, the Blazers would open up Round 2 on the road and wouldn't return home until Game 3 a couple of weeks away; if the No. 8 Mavericks pull the upset, the Blazers would kick off the semifinals at Moda Center, drawing the continuation of the Dr. Jack celebrations even closer.
They could, of course, continue even sooner if the Rockets can stave off elimination with a win Wednesday night, sending the series back to Portland for Game 6 on Friday. With Houston's season on the line and Portland having a chance to advance to Round 2 for the first time since 2000, Blazers coach Terry Stotts has his mind set solely on victory ... which, sadly, means he won't bring back the personal tribute he paid to Ramsay in honor of Dr. Jack's 89th birthday back in February.
After Ramsay passed away Monday, there was curiosity whether Stotts, who on Feb. 21 wore the blue-and-yellow sports jacket on Ramsay’s 89th birthday, would break out the jacket for Wednesday’s Game 5 in Houston.
At Tuesday’s practice in Houston, Stotts said he decided against it. [...]
“We will be honoring him, and I’m sure I will bring out some 70’s apparel at some point down the road, but not right now,’’ Stotts said. “I was glad to be able to pay tribute to him when I did. But now, the whole basketball community in the United States is paying tribute to him, and that’s even better.’’
A series-clinching win wouldn't be bad, either.
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