I think it’s time to give the Portland Trail Blazers the props they impressively deserve. After a month of excuses and write offs, the Blazers have proven to be not only playoff contender in the West, but a Western power.
With a conference-high 15-3 record and an 11-game win streak under their belt thus far, Portland is letting it be known that they are both an improved team and a force to be reckoned with.
If anyone (other than that Portland fan that yells “this is our year!” at everyone he knows, every season) were to tell you that the Western Conference 11-seed from last year would be atop the Western Conference this year after a month of play, then you would have the right to tar and feather them in the heart of Rip City itself. But not anymore.
On paper, this team looks improved from last year with the additions of Mo Williams and an actual large-bodied center in Robin Lopez, but eleven games over .500 better?
This team has been playing like a well-oiled machine so far. Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard looks even better than last year, showing he is more willing to drop dimes rather than drop 40 this year. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like he’s the best power forward in the league, averaging 22 and 9.
One factor that I believe can be attested for this quick surge for the Blazers is the loss of Greg Oden. Oden was their lovechild that didn’t pan out, that still held the hope of the city on his back, unable to support it with his wobbly knees. Portland has watched Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant excel past expectations for the past three years, all while looking at the first overall pick that went before him sit on Portland’s sidelines in a suit for the vast majority of his short playing career.
Portland needed to give up on Greg Oden. They had come to love him even if he didn’t play a single minute in an entire season, but his time and chance has passed. By dealing him to Miami in the offseason, the Blazers might have also dealt away all their misfortune, able to focus on the “could be” rather than the “could have been.”
The core for a great team is intact; the combination of Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Aldridge is one of the most potent offensive threats in the entire league. With Mo Williams off the bench, Portland finally has a team that can light it up for a full 48 minutes.
Behind these four, Portland is thrashing the teams it should beat, including all eight games against the pitiful East so far. More impressively, the Blazers boast wins against the stout opponents of Indiana, San Antonio, Chicago, and Golden State.
The month of December looks much more potent than that of November for the Blazers. With two games against the division-foe Thunder and a four-game in five-nights road trip, it’s time for Portland to put up or shut up.
Don’t expect another 11-game win streak to come out of this month’s schedule for the Trail Blazers, but don’t expect them to be any lower than eleven games over .500 either. This team can win games, and win games they shall continue to do. Enjoy it, Rip City. The Blazers are finally here to compete.