Dec. 18, 2007 --
Back in June when the Blazers selected Greg Oden with the first pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, speculation ran wild that Portland would be challenging for the Northwest Division title in a few seasons.
Apparently Brandon Roy didnít get the memo. And if he did, he has decided not to follow it.
Without any help from Oden, who is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his right knee in September, the streaking Blazers find themselves sneaking up on Denver and Utah for supremacy in the division right now.
Roy, last seasonís Rookie of the Year, has shown that not all second-year players suffer from a sophomore slump. After a luke-warm start to the season, he has heated up and the Blazers have followed in the footsteps of their leader.
Portland won just five of its first 17 games, but has reeled off eight straight victories to move within 1.5 games of first-place Denver.
Roy, who is the first Portland player since Clyde Drexler in 1987-88 to win back-to-back Player of the Week honors, is averaging 24.1 points, 6.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds during the Blazersí eight-game run.
There have been several impressive performances recently by Portland, highlighted by two victories over the Jazz and wins against the Hornets, Nuggets and Warriors.
What makes the Blazersí on-the-court accomplishments even more noteworthy is the fact that standout forward LaMarcus Aldridge has missed the last five games with plantar fasciitis.
Taking the floor nightly without two of your key ingredients would prove to be a formula for disaster for most clubs. Roy has made sure that isnít the case in Portland.
The heartbeat of the leagueís youngest team, Roy is a combo-guard who can shoot the rock, has great handle and because of his size (6-6, 230 pounds) and quickness, can defend multiple positions.
In the guard-heavy Western Conference, it is going to be extremely difficult for Roy to be selected as an All-Star. Still, that hasnít stopped him from playing like one.
Last Week's Rank - 2
Ray Allen sat out the past two games with a sore right ankle and all the Celtics did was notch victories No. 8 and 9 of their current win streak. KG is not putting up the stats we became used to when he was the man in Minnesota, but at 20-2, he has people in Boston thinking 70 wins is a possibility.
Last Week's Rank - 4
Bryant injured his groin last week against the Warriors, but he stayed in the game and played in the Lakers next contest against the Clippers. The Lakers are playing their best ball of the season, having won five of their last six. Is this the season that the best player in the league finally wins the MVP?
Last Week's Rank - 3
The Wolves and Heat are two of the worst teams in the NBA. Did the Suns really lose to both of them last week, including a home defeat to Miami? Throw in the fact that the two-time MVP also chipped a tooth in a game and last week wasn't one of the best for Nash.
Last Week's Rank - 5
Paul, who is enjoying the finest season of his brief career, had a strange week. He gave out just three assists in a loss to the Mavericks and scored just 11 points in a loss to the Blazers.
Last Week's Rank - 9
The changing of the pecking order in Denver is complete. Iverson is the No. 1 scoring option, while Carmelo Anthony is No. 2. A.I., who is shooting a career-high 46.6 percent from the field, is also giving out the second most assists per game of his career.
Last Week's Rank - 10
James returned to action last week after missing a handful of games with a sprained left index finger and continued to fill up the box scores like he had been prior to the injury. Unfortunately, even his return to the lineup wasn't enough to prevent the Cavaliers from losing two of three.
Last Week's Rank - 7
Tim Duncan has missed time with injury. Tony Parker has missed time with injury. The one person who has been there on a nightly basis for the Spurs is Ginobili, who cooled off a bit this week after a hot streak.
Last Week's Rank - 19
As hard as it is to believe, the Wizards, who have won four games in a row and six of their past seven, have just one more loss than the front-running Magic. Butler has scored in double digits in every game but one this season.
On the Outside Looking In (averages - last week's rank)
The Jazz have a Hall of Fame coach, one of the best inside-outside duos in the league and a roster full of players who each know their roles. Sounds like the formula for a team that can contend for supremacy in the Western Conference, right? Of course. That is why I can't understand how come Utah is struggling right now. The Jazz have lost seven of eight. Although Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams are both playing at an All-Star level, I could no longer justify having both of them in the R2MVP. With the exception of Dwight Howard, Boozer has been the best big man in the league, therefore Williams is the one who is out of the top 20.
I know you read it, but in case you didn't, check out Race to the MVP from the 1961-62 season.