On Feb. 28, Portland beat Philadelphia, 113-82, its 50th victory of the season. Publicist John White figured it was safe to release some research comparing the Trail Blazers with other great NBA teams.
It was the last time he bothered showing the material.
Since that day, Portland has won only five of 14 games and has been so decimated by injuries that Coach Jack Ramsay started a team of Corky Calhoun, Willie Norwood, Tom Owens, Lionel Hollins and Johnny Davis on Sunday in a 116-100 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia.
Center Bill Walton (Foot surgery) missed all 14 of those contests and top forward reserve Lloyd Neal (strained knee) the last 13.Maurice Lucas (bruised ankle) hasn't played in five games and missed nine earlier. Forward Bob Gross suffered a stress fracture of his left ankle. Thursday night and swingman Larry Steele has tendinitis in both feet.
Ramsay has filled in the gaps as best he could, picking up free agents Norwood and Jackie Dorsey and recruiting former NBA center Dale Schlueter from Oregon's state championship AAU team. The Trail Blazers' once seemingly insurmountable lead over Philadelphia for the best record in the league has dropped to 2 1/2 games with two weeks left in the regular season.
Walton and Lucas may return tonight at home against Boston before beginning a rugged road trip that has stops at Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle. Neal and Steele should be ready by playoff time but Portland would have to get into the conference championship series before Gross would be available.
"It got so bad that I typed up a new roster with Schlueter's name on it and sent it out," said White, "10 minutes later we added Dorsey and I had to do the whole thing over again."
If Ramsay can have everyone except Gross healthy by mid-April, doubt remains that can he get the club working like the machine that was steamrolling through the NBA only a month ago.