ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless devoted a lengthy segment to the play of the Portland Trail Blazers so far this season after defeating the Thunder 111-104 on Wednesday. While Bayless is reserved when it comes to declaring the Trail Blazers are more than a nice early-season story, Smith goes in hard. While he stops short of saying the Trail Blazers are a NBA Finals contender, he says they’re not far off.
“I’m not saying that the Portland Trail Blazers are going to win a world title this year,” says Smith. “But I’m telling you, with the team they have assembled, they can pose a threat to anybody. They can beat anybody on any given night. I could easily see them in the semifinals or the conference finals. I think they’re better than Houston, as far as I’m concerned. And oh, by the way, they are just a piece away from winning it all. A piece away. They’ve got those kind of troops.”
It’ll be interesting to see if being showered with adulation changes the outlook of this team. I wouldn’t imagine that to be the case, as everyone in the locker room seems to be keeping their eyes firmly affixed to the next game and nothing else, but as the chorus gets louder and louder, it’s will be more difficult to block out. Then again, that’s a good problem to have.