In the past I've been extremely critical of how hardcore Blazers fans react to what they think is disrespect or ignorance from the national media. When I wrote my Portland Tribune piece back in August, which was criticized on this very site, I said that a lot of Blazers fans were delusional, and I said that because a lot of the fans get too attached to the Blazers, and in their own mind, they can justify the Blazers being a much better team than they actually are.
This fanpost isn't about bashing the Blazer fans, the players, or the commentators. It's actually about doing the same thing that I criticized Blazer fans for doing this past summer.
When the Blazers played Houston on TNT about a week ago, I watched the halftime show and it seemed to be unanimous among the panel that the Blazers could not keep this up, and Charles Barkley said that they only have one real post threat, that of course being LaMarcus Aldridge, and the rest of the team is full of jump shooters, and jump shooting doesn't win in the playoffs.
After the game I watched the first 20 minutes or so of Inside The NBA. Barkley then followed up his halftime comments by saying that he thinks Oklahoma City is the best team in the west. Let me know if I'm wrong here, but do the Thunder even have one legitimate post threat? Yeah, I understand that they have one of the best scorers in the league in Kevin Durant, and one of the most explosive point guards in the league in Russell Westbrook, but they don't have anyone who can score down low consistently. All they have is awful Kendrick Perkins who just fouls guys and stares at the refs.
Are the Blazers the best team in the west? I'm not sure, I'm not a Comcast customer anymore so I can only watch the KGW games and the nationally televised ones. Sometimes I'll go find an online stream (a completely legal one of course) and watch them on my computer, but I've only done that a few times. But to me, the big test is getting out of the first round because two of their core players (Batum & Aldridge) have never been out of the first round, and Damian Lillard has never been to the playoffs. If they end the season with the number 1 seed then it should be no problem, but if they drop down to the 3rd or 4th seed I'd be a bit worried.
Outside of the first round, though, I think the Blazers biggest test is San Antonio. Most people would throw OKC in there, but they're literally a two man team who doesn't have a consistent and legitimate 3rd option or a bench. As everyone knows, San Antonio has been the big dogs of the western conference for over a decade. Tony Parker is the best point guard in basketball, Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, and you can't bet against their experience.
Now to get back on track, the national media seems to be underselling the Blazers, saying things like "we're only a quarter of the way through the season, so we still don't know how good they really are." which I'm sure they'll be saying the same thing when we're halfway through the season and so on. However if the Knicks were on a tear like the Blazers have been, the national media would be talking about the Knicks winning the title.
Sure, I've seen some national media sources give the Blazers some respect, but it's not the respect I've seen other teams get in previous years when they start off the season hot. This team has 2 all star caliber players, so does Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Yes, I get it, San Antonio has won 4 titles and OKC has had success in the playoffs, however, I've seen national media people saying that the Clippers are better than the Blazers. Again, I get it, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are bigger and more popular stars than LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but Griffin certainly isn't better than LaMarcus and the Clippers are not better than the Blazers.
Remember when their used to be an argument over who's the best power forward in the NBA? Now there's no question about it, it's LaMarcus Aldridge. He's better than Kevin Love, and he's much better than Blake Griffin. Damian Lillard is in the top 5 at his position, and I'd even argue that he's top 3 behind Chris Paul and Tony Parker.
Do I think the Blazers can make the NBA finals? Sure, why not? This isn't just a homer, fan boy post either. When I watch Damian Lillard play I shake my head in disbelief, I mean, I loved Brandon Roy, but B-Roy was no Damian Lillard. Also, watching how much LaMarcus has improved brings a smile to my face. Back in his first couple of years I'd get frustrated watching him throw up 15 to 18 footers, getting pushed around in the post, and being a mediocre rebounder. Now he's a pleasure to watch, and can do it all on the low block, and he still has that mid-range shot that he can bury at any time. He's a completely different player than he was. Maybe he can teach Dwight Howard a thing or two on how to actually get better during the off-season, and how to not be a decade into your career and still have a lackluster low post game.
In the end, the Blazers aren't getting the praise that they deserve. They seem to be an afterthought and the national media is pretending that these first 20-something games have been a fluke. Maybe I'm just being a homer, but I think the Blazers are for real. They have the best record in the west for a reason, and for the first time in a long time they have a team that makes sense, and all of the pieces fit together nicely. At the end of the year, I see the Blazers losing in 7 games to the Spurs in the western conference finals, but of course like all of you, I'm hoping for a finals appearance and championship!
Take care Blazersedge, and happy holidays :-)