For the weekend I want to open a discussion regarding who the Blazers' biggest rival is going to be over the next couple of years. BUT WAIT! Before you make the instant "L*kers!!!!!" comment understand how we're defining rival for the purposes of this discussion.
- A rival has to be someone in your conference. You can't have a rivalry playing a team you see twice a year and who doesn't count in the standings against you except in the NBA Finals or lottery. Or at least you can't have that kind of rivalry until you've made the Finals against a team a couple times, which we haven't.
- For these purposes a huge part of the definition of "rivalry" is team strength. Your rival is the guy who is neck and neck with you in talent and usually in the standings. Every game is tense because it means something and it's up in the air, fought tooth and nail until the very end. This should pretty much hold true for BOTH teams in the rivalry. They should be as nervous to meet you as you are to meet them. This aspect should weigh quite heavily in your deliberations and really narrow down the field to a few teams.
- Most people think of animosity--perhaps between the teams, certainly among the fans--when considering rivalries. That's part of our definition as well. However remember we're talking about future rivalries here, ones that will develop and/or sustain over the next couple of seasons at least. Hard-fought battles and close disappointments tend to foster these feelings. Obviously you can't tab somebody as a rival if your relationship is always going to be sweetness and light. But the most hated team isn't necessarily your closest, most intense rival either. Weigh this a little, but weigh the close competition and the rivalries which will naturally evolve from it more.
You can pick an up and coming team you think will challenge the Blazers in the next few years. You can pick a team the Blazers are already close to if you surmise that condition will continue and intensify. You can pick a team ahead of Portland (yes, even the L*kers) if you believe the Blazers will ascend to that level and cause them to worry about us as much as we worry about them. Basically the question is, "Which team are we going to be so close to that we fight like cats and dogs shut in a closet?"
I'll share my thoughts as the weekend progresses. For now, what's your call?