Laker rivalry will only get better
I've been writing about the Trail Blazers since 1984 and can tell you there's nothing in the regular season like the nights when the Lakers show up in Portland.
Been that way for years.
'It was that way in the days when I played for the Blazers,' says Mychal Thompson, the center who played for both teams. 'They are the glitzy team in the league, and everyone gets pumped up. Always have. And when you have that kind of atmosphere …'
You get some wild nights. The Lakers vs. the Blazers - that's on a different level. The emotions are wild. The play is scintillating. And it rains. At least that's what Phil Jackson, the Hall of Fame Laker coach with an ego to match, always says.
Every time someone asks him why the Blazers seem to dominate his team in Portland, he mentions the weather. 'It's always raining up here,' he says. The man said it again Tuesday night, when the Blazers gave his team a spanking.
His remark came off about the same as it always does - tasteless. Instead of giving the Blazers a little credit, Jackson hands out a stale one-liner. I think he is trying his best to belittle the young Blazers and keep them down.
Trust me, he knows what's ahead. Everyone knows.
Thompson, a former Portland broadcaster and probably the all-time most popular sports-talk host in this city, works in Los Angeles. He co-hosts an afternoon show and does color commentary on Laker radio broadcasts. But in many ways his heart is still in Portland. He loves it here.
He was drafted by the Blazers, won two championship rings in L.A., and he has a good feel for the future of the NBA.
'When the Lakers come up here, they don't take the Blazers as seriously as they should,' he says. 'But that will stop after this season. When Greg Oden is in the lineup, it's all going to change.
'I can't wait to see the big fella play. He reminds me of a bigger Bill Russell. He's going to be a dominant defender, a dominant rebounder and a great teammate. He doesn't have to be a great scorer because they've already got that taken care of with (Brandon) Roy and (LaMarcus) Aldridge. They'll have the right pieces around him.
'He's going to battle Andrew Bynum for the next 10 years. It's going to be the 10-year Titan Tussle. He's going to make Portland a championship contender for the next 15 years. But in the next five, the Lakers are going to be favored because of Kobe. After that, though, the Blazers will be favored.
'It's going to be fun.'
It's already fun. Nearly every time the teams play, there are physical confrontations, close games, screaming at the officials and even fights in the stands as Laker fans try to get their share of Rose Garden seats, then scream for their team.
And as surely as it's going to rain here, if everyone is healthy on both sides, this rivalry is only going to get more heated. Much more heated.