- By Tim Wallis, Day 1, 2022
PORTLAND - The Portland Lumberjacks have completed a trade with the Mexico City Jaguars that will reunite center Akieem Martin with his former GM Tim Wallis and former teammate, point guard Keith Humphries. Leaving Portland will be Janev Ciszkiwicx, Paul Rhodes, Marcus Benton and both of the Lumberjacks' picks in the 2025 draft.
"Trading Akieem from Oakland has been one of my greatest regrets in this league," claimed Wallis at this evening's press conference. "I was selfish, trying to cover myself in glory on my way out of there, and I made a move that was pretty desperate. It felt wrong as soon as it happened, to be honest. This one feels right. Akieem's a warrior, one of the toughest, hardest guys in the league. He's well respected and I'm sure he'll quickly become an important figure in the locker room as well as on the court "
Martin, for his part, seemed re-energized by the move south of the border. He averaged 19.3ppg 13.5rpg and 2.2bpg over the remainder of the season, but there were concerns that he was taking up space that the Jags would prefer were occupied by Kahlil Hooker, the future of their franchise. It's a similar situation to the one Martin watched unfold in Oakland between established power forward Simon Hartford and budding superstar Marcus Ivory, but this time it's Martin who will make way for youth.
Of the departing Tritons, Rhodes and Benton were already on thin ice, set for a training camp showdown that would see one of them cut from the roster. With shooting guard being the Jacks' weakest position, both had opportunities to lock themselves into the rotation, but neither was able to keep veterans Luke Williams and Shaun Burrell out of the lineup. Ciszkiwicx performed admirably as the starting center last season, averaging 11.9ppg 7.1rpg and 1.5bpg in just over 23 minutes but is undoubtedly upgraded with the arrival of Martin.
"Cisco was incredible for us last year," claims Wallis. "He's just a calm, stabilizing influence out there. He's a top shelf rim protector and that gave our young guys a lot of confidence at the defensive end, just knowing they had him behind them."
The trade sees the Portland roster shrink from 18 to 16, leaving those local fans who were looking forward to Rhodes v Benton with another contest to watch. The Lumberjacks signed up two undrafted small forwards at the end of the free agency period with the intention of cutting one before opening night. It's an interesting tactic, with Portland essentially paying a player a million dollars to attend training camp. It will be interesting to see whether either Isaac Webb (Wisconsin) or Troy Jackson (Virginia) proves worthy of the investment.