Clyde Drexler: Blazers Are #1 Western Conference Threat to Lakers

While I was busy setting the expectations for Brandon Roy's destiny Scarface Sky-high yesterday, John Hollinger was gassing up the Blazers over on ESPN Insider...

Nobody talks about the Blazers as serious contenders in the West, but we should. Portland had the best scoring margin in basketball after the All-Star break last season, and as I keep repeating, scoring margin predicts future success better than winning percentage.

Yes, they went one-and-done in the playoffs, but this team should be better this time around.

...

One of the league's youngest nuclei gained a valuable year of experience and cut its playoff teeth. Watch out for these guys.

Mere hours after J. Hypotenuse committed those words to print, I chatted briefly with Blazers Legend and current Rockets Broadcaster, Clyde Drexler, a man that knows a little something about being "serious contenders in the West."

Good news: Clyde was happy to help inflate expectations for the Blazers.

Blazersedge: Looking forward to next season, people see the Lakers as the favorites in the Western Conference. Who else do you think will give them a run for their money?

Clyde Drexler: Obviously, the Blazers are first and foremost on my list.

I think the Rockets, with the injury to Yao Ming, they're going to be good but unless the young players really step up they may not be in the top 3 teams in the West.

You look at some of the other teams that will be back: San Antonio. If Duncan stays healthy they could compete for the title. Other than that, that's my top 3.

Dallas I don't think got any better.

New Orleans may be there -- it depends on the chemistry with their new center (Emeka Okafor) -- they could be there. Chris Paul is special.

That's about it. I don't see any other teams doing much with the Lakers.

The cause for our conversation this week? Drexler is being honored as a member of the 1992 Dream Team: the entire roster is being inducted into the United States Olympics Hall of Fame.
The U.S. Olympic Committee and Allstate Insurance Company announced the members of the Class of 2009 who will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate.

...

The star-studded inductee list includes Michael Johnson (athletics), Picabo Street (alpine skiing), Teresa Edwards (basketball), Willye White (athletics), Mary T. Meagher (swimming), Sarah Will (Paralympic alpine skiing), the 1992 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Team, longtime Men's Gymnastics coach Abie Grossfeld, skiing veteran Andrea Mead-Lawrence, and special contributor Peter Ueberroth.

Drexler told me this morning that the induction was "an honor" and he called the Dream Team "the original, the best, the only." Asked where the 1992 Olympics stood in his list of career accomplishments, Drexler said, "to win a Gold Medal for your country, it doesn't get any better than that."

Congratulations to Clyde on this much-deserved recognition. For more info about the induction, click here.

Our full conversation with Clyde Drexler -- in which we talk Olympic hoops, Andre Miller, Brandon Roy and more -- will be included in Podcast Episode 3, which should hit the internet Friday.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

PS in case you missed it, here's a link to an interview I did with Clyde back in January.

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