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Blogfather got fitted for his championship ring this weekend (just kidding).  Henry writes...

Who are the NBA's four elite teams, based on Hollinger's formulas and the early returns? With all the normal early season provisos, and in order, they are: the Los Angeles Lakers (36.8% chance of winning the title), the Cleveland Cavaliers (30%), the Boston Celtics (13%), and ... my Portland Trail Blazers (10.9%).    

All in all, you can sense (and hopefully share) his giddiness. It's been an incredible first 18 games (18 games already?)  As Dave pointed out, it's been awhile since things have been this good.

But the funniest thing about Henry's piece?  The paragraph that people are emailing me angry about is this one....

 Look, I'm not getting ahead of myself here. I realize that Portland still has flaws, and will not be winning a title this year.

... Apparently there are many of you ready to spray champagne.  Let it all hang out.  Show them what you're working with.  I won't stop you.  But remember that all of this, everything, runs through Brandon Roy.  I need not remind you what happened last season when he went down.  Booooo, buzzkill, boooo.  Sorry about that. But things can change quickly in the NBA.

On to the rest of today's links.

Don't know if you caught this in yesterday's postgame thread, but Torrid Joe from Loaded Orygun, one of Oregon's preeminent political bloggers, announced that he is planning to step up his Blazers coverage.  As a pro-active, thoughtful citizen reporter/blogger, TJ is a kindred spirit and I highly recommend you check out his work. Yesterday he took a long look at LaMarcus Aldridge.

LaMarcus plays 90 feet, however, and was able to nusiance the otherwise nonchalant Wallace into misses and general offensive irrelevance. On the other end, Aldridge was dynamite and Wallace was pathetic. Leading all scorers with 27 and players with 40 minutes, LMA just made Wallace and the rest of the Pistons look impotent to stop him. He showed all kinds of range, hitting short baseliners and deep twos from the perimeter. He grabbed three offensive baords, and really--this cannot be underestimated--he intimidated Rasheed.

Martell Webster, due back in a week or two, saying all the right things to Jason Quick

"It doesn't matter if I come back as a starter," Webster said. "All I want to do is contribute positively to this team. I just want to win. I want to win. If that means me coming back and only playing 15, 10 minutes a game ... well, there has to be a reason I'm in there for that 10 to 15 minutes. So I'm going to use it to my advantage."

More Quick, with a look at Nic.

Turns out, Batum does like Outlaw and the rest of his teammates, though he finds himself gravitating toward the other foreign players on the team -- Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez.

"I'm very quiet because I'm shy," Batum said. "And I'm young, I'm from France, and I'm trying to learn English. But it's cool. I love my teammates."

Brian Hendrickson talks recognition with Joelzilla.

"I don't need that hoopla and people coming at you," the ninth-year center said. "I know fans respect what I do. ... I know it's out there. I just don't get the print in the newspaper. It don't bother me any. I've been like that my whole career and it doesn't bother me."    

You guys spoke out about Greg Oden last week and it sounds like Greg Jayne heard you.

I can understand the defensiveness of some fans; they're being fans, and you have to love 'em for it. Oden's plus/minus numbers certainly are not a definitive evaluation of his play. I mean, the guy is nine games into his career, for goodness' sake; there's a long way to go.    

But the numbers from the past two games are really, really disturbing. Oden has played a total of 33 minutes in those games, and the Blazers - who are very good and very deep - have been outscored by 40 points when he's on the floor. That is not good, even though it's not entirely Oden's fault.

It needs to be said: during yesterday's win against the Pistons (Oden's first real chance to play during crunch time) he finished +26, second highest on the team. Imagine that! You increase his playing time alongside Brandon Roy and his plus/minus improves dramatically.

Greg is doing fine.  It's not a "fan" thing, it's reality.

SJ from Rip City Project with an impassioned reaction from yesterday's win at Detroit.

 I don't want to hear the excuses. I know they are coming on SportsCenter when someone in the stat department decides to point out that the Pistons play horribly on Sundays. And then *insert anchor's name* cracks a joke about AI missing practice/cracks a joke about the Pistons stucking on Sunday. No, sir. The Red and Black Attack went out and got the job done. Plain and simple. Winning in Detroit is hard enough, but going in there and shooting 52% from the field. Come on now. Come. On. Now. The Pistons have slipped defensively but not that much.    

Dwight makes a number of good points. First on Billups/Nuggets

Meanwhile, the Nuggets are a different team with Billups on the floor. They're suddenly defending a little bit, sharing the ball and playing with some direction. Billups is one of those players you don't really appreciate until he's gone. And I really cannot believe Detroit made that trade. It has changed the dynamics of both conferences.    

We could easily be in for a season long three-way dogfight with the Jazz and Nuggets in our division.  Will a tight division race serve as a motivator for KP to make a splashy trade using Raef's contract?  That would be fun. If RLEC does get traded we should make that day a holiday on Blazers Edge. You would have our permission to take off work.

More Dwight on Greg Oden's lack of enthusiam during pregame introductions

God love you, Greg. Maybe it will start a trend. Save every ounce of energy for the games. Protect your body to better withstand the punishment you get every time someone passes you the ball. Be cool . . . and let the other teams win the intros.    

As long as he plays in sync like he did Sunday, he can sleep during pregame introductions. Did you see the smile on the court during the 4th quarter yesterday?  I think Greg's turning a corner.

Ike Diogu owns every single Playstation 3 game on the market?  Even this one? Am I reading this right (From Joe Freeman)?

He buys new games whenever they are released -- he owns every PlayStation 3 title -- so he can both stay on top of the latest trends and satisfy his artistic curiosity.

NBA Power Rankings:

Last but not least, Brother Wendell checks in with a story about former coach Eric Musselman. I've been reading Eric Musselman's blog a little bit recently, looking for some jewels about leadership and coaching.  Why now, you ask?  Because if the Blazers' success continues at this clip, Nate will be odds-on for Coach of the Year.  Listening to him speak after games is getting to be hypnotizing; the last thing I want to be doing is taking that kind of sustained excellence for granted.

-- Ben (