I don't know how y'all feel, but I think OKC is by far our biggest rival. Going back to the Seattle days the I-5 rivalry was always my favorite. You don't really hate them like you hate the Lakers, to where it's pure unadulterated animosity, but you want to beat them bad because it's like playing the guy you've known since you were a kid and you might even kind of be friends, so the rivalry means all that much more. Then a bunch of mouth-breathing hicks from Oklahoma stole the Sonics from Seattle and most of us kind of thought the rivalry was dead.
But then, low and behold, the 2007 NBA draft lotter happened and we got the #1 pick and Seattle got #2. And when the draft came around we had a big decision to make. And a lot of people became pretty emotionally invested in that decision and most of us wanted the big GO, and we got him. And OKC took Durant with #2. Forever history will link these two players and these two franchises for that fateful day. And we all know how history has unfolded to date. Durant is currently the 2010-2011 league scoring champion and Oden has had two freak unexplained season ending knee injuries and one freak mid-season fractured patella season ending knee injury. For those keeping track at home that is 3 season-ending knee injuries in four years. Meanwhile, KD played for the USA team last summer, lead the team in scoring, proved he was a winner and he and his running-mate Russel Westbrook (UCLA product, blech) became the darlings of the NBA prognosticators.
All of a sudden, even though OKC ended last season in the 8 seed in the west and Portland finished higher with the 6 seed, all these "experts" were picking OKC as the young team de jour. And Portland was being picked to finish 8th! No major roster changes, no other reason than Durant is the darling of the NBA and people just wanted OKC to be better. And as a Blazer fan, that made me angry. Our team, talent-wise and based on history, should have been picked to win more games than OKC. And yet everybody was picking those red-state ignoramuses' team to beat out the Blazers. Well, suffice it to say, I was was saying to myself "we'll just see about that."
And then, low and behold, it came true. Oklahoma City beat the Blazers head to head the first time they played this season in a game I thought Portland should have won. Brandon Roy became a shell of his former self and our best player was effectively a liability, and OKC kept winning more games than the Blazers and they remained in the top half of the western conference standings we the Blazers, with injuries heaped on injuries, did not. It almost seemed like the Zombie Sonics heard everybody's predictions that they were good, believed them, and played accordingly. Meanwhile, Portland dealt with emotional blow and after emotional blow when Greg Oden, the Brandon Roy, and then Marcus Camby went down with injuries and they stood there and took those blows but they were tired, beaten up and fuzzy-headed from all the beatings they had taken. OKC was handed everything this season. Everybody liked them. everybody told them they were better, they lived the charmed golden boy life of a chosen, anointed winner. Meanwhile Portland was everybody's sad, cautionary tale about what can happen.
Now here we are. The last chance this season to preserve some small bit of pride against a team that I maintain, player for player, should not be as good as the Blazers. And once again us Blazer fans are thrust into the underdog role. Nobody believes in us, everybody feels bad for us, but ultimately nobody cares because we're just some small market team without a superstar, without the cache of a proven #1 scorer, without much hope. Except that little does everybody know that we have heart, a new guy named Gerald Wallace who will flatten you, two cagey veterans who know all the tricks, fundamentally sound young Wes$ and Nick Batum who play both team offense and defense the right away, a Spaniard who's weird shooting slump has to end sometime, a beasting power forward that can beat you inside and outside, an alien who stole Brandon Roy's body but still has Roy's skill and clutch scoring ability, and a secret weapon in a magical aboriginal medium who creates an otherworldly link between the spirit of the basketball and the spirit of the bottom of the net. So I say let's make this our game seven before we get to an actual game 7.
I for one relish this one last opportunity to shove it down OKC's throat. Because no matter what people may say, this Blazer team is better than OKC. Serge Ibaka is okay, obviously Westbrook and Durant are good players, and Perkins adds toughness that you have to respect. But beyond that this OKC team is not nearly as good as they think they are. And I would really love to cut them down a notch.
Well, that's my story of why I think OKC is our biggest rival, why I'm bitterly disappointed to have lost 3 games to them this season, and why I really hope we blow them out tonight. Go Blazers!