For a team that is 3.5 games back of the eighth seed, there has been an awful lot of talk about the Portland Trail Blazers and whether or not they could beat the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs when the NBA resumes.
Blazers star Damian Lillard has already said he thinks his team has a real shot at an upset, an understandable enough sentiment considering he’s on the team — I mean, what else is he supposed to say? Less understandable was Charles Barkley, a TNT analyst and man who is ostensibly paid to have informed opinions about the NBA, straight up predicting that the Blazers would beat the Lakers if they got into the postseason.
Not have a chance against. Actually beat. Yeah. I don’t get it either.
Lakers guard Danny Green (unsurprisingly) wasn’t quite willing to go that far, but he did acknowledge on the latest episode of his podcast, “Inside the Green Room,” that the Lakers do see the Blazers as the biggest threat of any of their possible first round opponents:
“I wouldn’t say that we fear anybody, but if we were to choose to have a first round matchup, I think we’d probably lean away from Portland... They have more experience, they have Dame (Lillard), they have C.J. (McCollum)... They have a lot of threats and they have a lot of experience.
“I’m not saying those other teams don’t have threats, but they are a bit younger. Memphis is very young. (Fans and the media) want to see the New Orleans matchup, of course they want to see Zion, LeBron and AD, and of course that would be an exciting matchup for the fans, but for us realistically we probably see Portland as more of a threat because of their experience. Those other two teams are very good, but Portland is probably more of a threat to us because of their experience.”
That’s interesting perspective from Green into how the Lakers view things, because if New Orleans gets rolling enough to get in, just from a sheer talent standpoint they would seem to be the biggest hurdle to clear (not that I expect any of these series to go beyond five games, mind you).
But the Blazers are worthy of — and have clearly gained — the Lakers’ respect, and Lillard has demonstrated that he’s capable of stepping up in big games. It’s possible that if they catch the Lakers in the middle of dealing with an injury or two that their threat level could go up. Green and the Lakers are right to not fear anyone, but there is at least a case to be made that the Blazers are the most worrying of the three teams he mentions. He’ll just have to hope this isn’t too big of bulletin board material for the other two.
Let us know in the comments which team you think is the most dangerous, and for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.