Wednesday, April 22, 2009
No More Doubt From Outlaw
With as long as he’s been in Portland, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Travis Outlaw is only 24 years old. In many ways, Outlaw is the last man standing from the years in which Blazermania took a hiatus, the only guy on the team who remembers what things were like before Rip City returned. Knowing what those days were like gives Outlaw a unique appreciation for where the Trail Blazers are at now, despite his relative youth.
“What I went through, I like to say that everything was worth it,” said Outlaw. “Everybody was like, ‘Maybe he should have went to college’ and all that. There’s no doubt in my mind that I should have come to the league first. I think me going through all that, it kind of made me the person who I am today.”
While most fans look back hardheartedly on the seasons that laid the groundwork of Outlaw’s career, he prefers, as is his nature, to reflect upon the positive.
“I remember watching Bonzi play, watching his footwork,” said Outlaw. “For him being that small, he could post up anyone. DA, his shots was always flowing. Damon with the pull up. Sheed with the fade to the base. I kind of liked watching them, seeing what they were doing, seeing how they was reading each situation. It kind of makes me who I am.”
There were bouts of self doubt and regression, especially when Nate McMillan took over in 2005. Outlaw didn’t know if he fit into the new coaches’ plans or how he would adjust to a new system as a player who was just starting to find some sense of stability in his third year.
“Nate came and at first it was kind of a step back for me,” said Outlaw. “Just a new system and everything. There’s a coach you’ve been knowing for a while, and now he’s gone. The guy who drafted me was gone. The coach who ended up working with me ended up leaving. So it was just a whole new process for me. Then you start hearing the media say, ‘Ah, he can’t get the plays.’ But that kind of built me up even more, made me want it even more.”
Outlaw also found motivation in Portland’s drafting of small forwards. It seemed like almost every season the Trail Blazers drafted a player to be Outlaw’s replacement, which he admits troubled him at times.
“It like, man, we’re always drafting 3’s,” said Outlaw. “I remember one time it was like, if they don’t like me here I wish they would just go on and trade me. But after a couple of talks with Nate, he was like, ‘I like your game, we just need to polish some areas.’ And I’m like, that’s understandable. And then Mont came into my life.”
“Mont” being assistant coach Monty Williams, whose tutelage both on and off the court has helped Outlaw transform from a shy, gangly project from Mississippi into established NBA player with a personality that seems to grow more gregarious by the day.
“He came in with The Word and it kind of made me realize that what you’re feeling is normal, but it ain’t the end of the world,” said Outlaw. “It gave me confidence. Him spending more time with me helped.”
Thanks to the help of Williams, Outlaw has elevated his game to a level many thought he would never reach coming straight from high school to the NBA. But now Outlaw has a new challenge: helping the Trail Blazers advance to the second round of the playoffs, and beyond.
“I feel like it’s a payoff to get to the playoffs,” said Outlaw, “but my goal ain’t just to get to the playoffs. If we can win it all this year, let’s go for it. That’s how I am. The playoffs are cool, but you’ve got to realize that a lot of teams go to the playoffs. I ain’t trying to go to the playoffs for an early exit. That’s how I look at it.”