We are now now less than 24 hours from the Portland Trail Blazers season opener, where they will attempt to win their first home game for the seventeenth year in a row, when they face LeBron and the Lakers Thursday night.
Portland has been under the radar throughout the off season, and did not give fans much to talk about in their preseason play. The team went 3-2, beating the Suns twice and the Kings once, while losing to Toronto and Utah.
The Lakers on the other hand, have been the most discussed team of the league during the offseason, almost entirely due to the arrival of LeBron James in Los Angeles.
While his playing time has been limited, James has already showed he looks ready to take over the West. A week back, he scored 15 points, while tacking on 10 rebounds and 5 assists, all in just 18 minutes of playing time.
Beyond James, Los Angeles looks to be an exciting and dangerous team throughout the season. Featuring young exciting talent as well as experienced veterans, the Lakers are certainly a new time this year.
The Blazers will certainly be hoping L.A. hasn’t changed too much. In the past few years, the Blazers have swept the Lakers and have not lost to them since March of 2014.
Portland has not changed much since the last time the two met. A handful of rotation players have changed the roster while a few departed this summer. Beyond that, the core of the Blazers’ roster is near the same as last season.
Essentially, the matchup between the two sides will serve as a way to get a glimpse of how different the Lakers look in the regular season, assuming coach Luke Walton ends the limited playing time of stars such as LeBron James and Lance Stephenson.
One player who was not in the mix for Portland was year is small forward Jake Layman. He spent 2017 playing for G-League team the Windy City Bulls, but was invited back to the main roster following a successful summer league stint.
Layman finds himself in a position to earn playing time and prove his value in the next few months.
It has been reported that Terry Stotts is creating a plan for the year where small forward Evan Turner will lead a group of five off the bench in an attempt to keep C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard together whenever they are on the floor.
Meanwhile, small forward Moe Harkless is still struggling with a knee injury and expected to only see limited minutes in the first few months of the season.
While preseason performances and minutes often do not mean a thing, Layman produced fairly successfully as a starter in their five games, scoring 28 in a win against Phoenix.
If Layman is selected to start, he will immediately be faced with guarding LeBron James, arguably the hardest player to defend in the game of basketball.
While Portland has made slight tweaks to their lineup, their returning backcourt of Lillard and McCollum will be the most important aspect of their play.
Several basketball media sources argued Portland should split up the duo, trading one and building off the other. This does not seem to be in the club’s plans, meaning the two will have to give their all and prove they work best with one another.
Portland does not have the luxury of relying heavily on other members of their roster. Whenever the backcourt has an off night, chances are the Blazers will be walking away with a loss. If Portland does not look in the best form come the midway point of the season, chances are talks of trade will once again begin.
As Portland enters a season that could potentially be the end of an era, Los Angeles is just beginning a new one. The two go head to head Thursday night at 7:30 Pacific Time.