It's hard to root against the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite losing Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla--and now their cornerstone, Brandon Roy--they posted 50 wins for the second straight season and are in contention for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. And even after losing 307 games to injury this season, they are the team best poised to pull an upset in the usually upset-free NBA playoffs.
Which is why the Lakers should be breathing a sigh of relief. After a battered, but feisty, Rockets team took them to seven games last year, they want no part of a smart, determined veteran team that has given them fits over the last few years. A first round match-up against the very green Oklahoma City Thunder, who will get production out of Kevin Durant, but will have to deal with the jitters of a first-time playoff appearance, is just what the Lakers need to get back on track after a lackadaisical end to the regular season.
But, back to the Blazers. Anchored by veterans Marcus Camby and Andre Miller--and boosted by a raucous fan base--the Blazers represent all that's great about sports. All season they've showed immense focus, heart and an unwillingness to give into seemingly never-ending obstacles. A lesser team led by a lesser coach than Nate McMillan would have packed it in before the All-Star break. But the Blazers didn't. And if Dallas, Utah or Phoenix think they'll be content just to be in the playoffs, they're in for a big surprise.
I'm not saying they'll win. Without Brandon Roy, that will be close to impossible. But, we know they won't quit, which is why everyone should be rooting for them this postseason.