Who’s up next?
The Portland Trail Blazers have seven preseason games officially under their belt, which means that the 2012-13 regular season is just around the corner.
Despite a 3-4 preseason record, this team had better to be ready to compete, as the young squad will be put to the test in their first five games.
Oct. 31 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The new-look Los Agneles Lakers are set to come to town on Halloween night in what will be Damian Lillard‘s regular season debut.
This one’s going to be fun.
In the first game of the season, the Blazers take on the hated Lakers, and the crowd at the Rose Garden Arena is going to be loud enough to make anybody believe that the team is a championship contender on opening night.
The Lakers have a number of variable heading into this game. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are both questionable because of injuries, and how well this team is going to be playing with four superstars is going to be interesting to watch early in the year.
Nov. 2 @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Damian Lillard is going to be put to the test early in his young career, as he’s set to go against one of the best point guards in the league, Russell Westbrook, in just his second game of the season.
The Lillard-Westbrook matchup is one that may help spark a rivalry between these two teams as the years move on, but as for now, it’s going to be a fun way of telling how good the Blazers’ rookie is right away.
As for the rest of the team, these two squads faced off four times last year, and while the Thunder ended up owning the series 3-1, the first two times they played were battles that went down to the wire.
Nov. 3 @ Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets look about as different as any team could possibly look heading into the 2012-13 season. Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby and Luis Scola are all gone, while Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and James Harden are officially on board.
Over the summer they attempted to hoard draft picks in an attempt to trade for Dwight Howard, but when that didn’t work out, they found themselves with a load of young talent.
This is a team who, like the Trail Blazers, is in the midst of a massive rebuild.
These two squads should be competing for the same late seeds out West this year, so a matchup early in the season will be good for both teams to figure out where they stand.
Nov. 5 @ Dallas Mavericks
The Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks have established a quiet little rivalry over the past few seasons, so it makes sense that the two of them would face off early in the season.
The Blazers may have gone through some monumental roster changes this summer, but the Mavericks are the team with a whole new look heading into the new year. Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman will all see time Nov. 5 despite none of them being in the rotation a year ago.
Like the Trail Blazers, Dallas will likely struggle with chemistry issues early in the year, but unlike Portland, their star player is out for the early part of the season.
Dirk Nowitzki will not be on the floor Nov. 5, which gives LaMarcus Aldridge a clear-cut advantage at the power forward position.
Nov. 8 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The Trail Blazers get their first chance to impress a national audience against the Los Angeles Clippers Nov. 8, and it will be the first time the country gets to see Lillard at work.
This is going to be a game featuring two marquee matchups. First, Lillard and Paul will create for one of the more exciting point guard battles Blazers fans will get to see all year. Second, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge will put to the test who the better power forward really is.
The Clippers are considered contenders out West this season, and while the Blazers are simply fighting for a playoff spot, the energy on the court for this game will be an exciting byproduct of two teams who love to get up and down the floor at a fast pace.
Through five games, the Blazers will either be thriving off of energy and youthfulness, or they’ll have a good idea of where they stand against the league’s best for the wrong reasons.
This team isn’t given any slack in the early part of their schedule, and five games in, they will have already faced off against five Western Conference challengers.