Season by Season
1976 to 1977
in Merger Season
Prior to the season, four teams from the ABA--the New York Nets,
Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs--were admitted
as NBA franchises for a fee of $3.2 million. The rest of the ABA players,
including imposing 7-2 center Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels,
were disseminated throughout the league in a dispersal draft. The
NBA now had 22 teams, and the Playoff system was restructured so that
12 teams qualified and each of the four division winners received
a bye through the First Round.
Portland, which had yet to post a .500 record in its first six seasons
in the league, was greatly improved under Jack Ramsay, who had previously
coached the 76ers and Buffalo Braves. Bill Walton, the 6-11 center from
UCLA who had been hurt most of his first two seasons, now had a scoring
and rebounding partner in 6-9 Maurice Lucas, who came in the ABA dispersal
draft. The rest of the team was comprised of consummate role players
like small forward Bobby Gross, point guard Dave Twardzik and shooting
guard Lionel Hollins. Despite not winning their division, the Trail
Blazers defeated Chicago, Denver the Lakers and the 76ers, who now had
ABA superstar Julius Erving, to become the improbable NBA Champions.
PORTLAND BY STORM
Before 1977, many fans barely acknowledged that Portland had been fielding
a team in the NBA. The Trail Blazers didn't command respect, averaging
28 wins in six seasons and failing to earn a Playoff berth. But in just
one magical season, NBA fans everywhere were introduced to "Blazermania."
The Pacific Northwest embraced the Trail Blazers and their decidedly
unconventional red-haired center from California, Bill Walton. Portland
played the team game which thrilled basketball purists and which had
brought first the Celtics, and later the Knicks, NBA World Championship
NBA History Season by Season
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