Blazers and Lakers meet in Summer League Championship
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the best Western Conference rivalry in the NBA was the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. With star studded squads on both ends like Scottie Pippen, Arvydas Sabonis, and Rasheed Wallace for Portland, and Shaquille O' Neal and Kobe Bryant for Los Angeles, these two teams were the kings of the West. But after the Blazers forced a Game 7 at the Staples Center in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, this game was filled with controversy as missed calls and bad calls in the game lost the Blazers a trip to their fourth NBA Finals and Game 7 89-84, starting the Lakers dynasty.
17 years later, these teams will meet once again as they will have a chance to win the NBA Summer League Championship. The Blazers however have a tough order to complete as they will face the top college player in the country and second overall pick Lonzo Ball after finishing his last two games with a triple-double. But Portland has their own future stars featured in the game with Jorge Guitierrez, Jarnell Stokes, and Zach Collins. The Blazers have had a Summer League season full of upsets as they would beat the number one seed Toronto Raptors in the second round, the number eight seed San Antonio Spurs in the quarterfinals, and the number four seed Memphis Grizzlies 87-82 in the Semifinals.
If the Blazers are going to bring the Summer League Championship to Portland, they must get off to a fast start and play exceptional defense on Ball and neutralize him to as few points as possible and to not let him get a triple-double. And if the Blazers do win the championship, their young squad will preserve their talents for the upcoming season and may be a sleeper in the Western Conference and when the time is right, the Blazers will challenge the top teams in the West in order to become a dominant force just like they were in the 2000s and in the years to come.