The NBA Finals level the playing field, or court, for twenty-eight squads. You know them as the teams not in the finals.
The Portland Trail Blazers are one of them, just like those eliminated in the playoffs, like every other team in the draft lottery.
This time of year, Blazer fan sees Oklahoma City Thunder fan and asks, "What's it like for the defending Western Conference champ not making the finals?"
Thunder fan might lean on their regular season record as proof of superiority, but right now both teams are equal. Blazer fan might go the extra mile and offer condolences to Oklahoma for the tornado disasters to show good will. Oklahoma residents could use some nice words.
Portland could call Milwaukee out to ask how it feels making the playoffs with a losing record. There was no Fear the Deer for Miami in the first round. Western lottery teams Utah and Dallas won more games than the Bucks.
If Milwaukee shoots back with their five game regular season lead over the Blazers, it's time to go to the suds and remind Cheese Nation the beer here is head and antlers above their swill.
Unless Blitz makes a comeback.
Watching Indiana in the East Finals gave Blazer fans a taste of what might have been had Roy Hibbert come to Portland. He took the hits from LeBron at the rim, showed agile big man footwork, and a mean streak on and off the court. The Pacers were not in the East Finals because of former Blazer General Manager Kevin Pritchard, but they might stay there a few years while he's their GM.
NBA experts grilled the Heat about playing against huge power teams with the size Hibbert brings, but none mentioned what Portland knows by heart. Say it quietly to show you don't dwell on the past, but a healthy Greg Oden would have ruined LeBron’s day. Then take a breath.
The Eastern Conference played out as expected. When The King ordains victory, it shall be done. The newly energized Dwayne Wade showed the sort of Game 7 form of past champions, dragging a balky knee around like it was brand new. He made a poor choice after the Heat's Game 6 loss to the Pacers by saying he'd do better with more touches, but he was right. More touches, more points, and the win.
You hope he didn't say the same thing to the father of the seventeen-year-old high school student who invited Wade to her Senior Prom. We're used to famous athletes giving back to their community, but this seemed out of the ordinary. Do the Blazers have an internal memo about attending high school formals? In the era of one and done college players, they need to find a university mixer to boogie the night away.
Just stay away from Greg Oden's Dance Dance Revolution and leave early to ice your knee like D-Wade said he did.
San Antonio vs. LeBron and his sidekicks promises intrigue, but the rest of the West needs work. Will the Golden State Warriors improve after another year together, or will they need help from the one true warrior with a proven track record, Xena?
The Los Angeles Clippers need to grow more cohesive in the offseason. That means finding a coach the players won't chop off the bench, someone with enough acting skills to join Blake Griffin in his Kia spots and Chris Paul for State Farm. It'll take an LA guy.
The Rose Garden's "Beat LA" chant loses meaning when the Lakers and Clippers beat themselves.
Now is the time to focus on the good things ahead for the Blazers, to make a list of the positives from the past season. Start with nine teams with worse records including Detroit, Washington, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Orlando in the East, and Minnesota, Sacramento, New Orleans, and Phoenix in the West.
Finish with city that made a run at a team after getting robbed of theirs, and lost. Why bring up Seattle during an NBA conversation?
Because Portland is still better.