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Little help please, from a weakened Western Conference
Timing is everything in this business, and the Trail Blazers may have chosen just the right time to put together a good, cohesive team. The Western Conference in general, and Portland's Northwest Division in particular, appear to be in decline as, for the first time in years, the balance of NBA power shifts to the East.
The Thunder and Mavericks will continue to be the class of the West, with the Blazers and Clippers running right behind them for high playoff seedings, but after that the West looks like a whole bunch of guys named Al Harrington.
The Lakers are struggling to find themselves in the early going and look old; the Spurs just lost Ginobili to a broken hand. Denver continues its decades-long search for an identity. Utah, Minnesota, Houston, Phoenix and Golden State all look like .500 teams who will beat each other up for the last playoff spots in the West, and Sacramento, the Hornets and Minnesota continue to be bottom-feeders.
It's early, sure, but the Trail Blazers are fun to watch and off to a good start. Even if they don't produce an All-Star again this year (Aldridge, man up), and if they can stay healthy, they'll be in the mix at the end of the season, too.