TUALATIN – It’s probably going to be the biggest three-ring circus of an opening night that the Trail Blazers have ever staged.
There is just so much going on to make the event unlike any other home opener –- maybe any other regular-season game – in the 49-year history of the team.
- The Trail Blazers are working on a 17-game win streak in their home openers.
- Portland also has a 15-game win streak against Thursday night’s opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers.
- This will be the first home opener in three decades that the team will play without Paul Allen as its owner. Allen passed away Monday after losing a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
- The game will be telecast nationally via TNT.
- And oh yes, a fellow by the name of LeBron James will be playing his first regular-season game as a Laker.
James’ appearance has led to the an unprecedented amount of credential requests from national media. The media sections will be packed.
Even with all those special things going on, it’s important to point out that opening night is always something special for players. In any sport, every team is undefeated before the first game. And those teams have an optimism and even a confidence they may not have later in the season. Even the downtrodden teams don’t know how really bad they are until they play a few games.
“First day of school, that’s a good way to put it,” said Damian Lillard. “I remember my first day of first grade, of kindergarten, I was excited to go to school. Put that new outfit on.
“Same thing in the NBA. I think regardless of how many years you’ve done it, there’s nothing like opening night. The energy’s there, everybody’s expecting it to be their year and it’s another opportunity to go at it.”
The Trail Blazers may go into the game at full strength, which did not happen for any of the preseason games. Maurice Harkless, who missed all of the preseason games, says he’s “probable” for the opener – the same listing he had for the final three exhibition games.
Harkless would be a big help against the Lakers for his defense. The Trail Blazers usually match Al-Farouq Aminu against James but having Harkless in the lineup would allow the two to switch on screens, if necessary, and also give Aminu a rest off James.
If Harkless can go.
If not, it’s anyone’s guess who will fill the small forward spot. Jake Layman had a big preseason as the fill-in but has started only two games in his career. This would be a very big stage for him.
Because of TNT, the game is scheduled for a 7:30 start and special tributes to the team’s late owner will take place throughout the game.
The Trail Blazers will wear a patch on their uniforms bearing Allen’s initials, “PGA.”
“I think everybody in the league is ready to open the season,” said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. “It’s time. There’s a lot going on, a lot of anticipation – I think that’s a good thing.”