Wait is finally over as the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers get ready to embark on the new season, with both teams aiming to battle for a top four spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Damian Lillard has his eyes on winning the Most Valuable Player award, something that may very well be in his grasp if the reloaded, and deeper Blazers excel with Lillard's play continuing at a similar rate to his performance once he was "snubbed" from the All-Star game.
"MVP," he said. "I want to be the MVP. If we come out and do the things we're capable of doing as a team, if we win games, that means my performance will be at the level of an MVP."
Damian does have help, as the Blazers retain their entire roster that upset the injury ridden Clippers before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals, with a boost of Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli shoring up the rotation. He finished 8th during that campaign.
For Utah, however, they missed the playoffs and many people have them penciled in as the dark-horse of the season, essentially getting rid of the dark-horse tag. With Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, they have among the league's best front courts. Guard play was an issue, and that was shored up with the additions of George Hill, a solid vet, along with Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson to bolster the youth on the franchise. Plus, Dante Exum should finally be ready to go.
Hayward and Alec Burks won't make the trip to Oregon, so Utah's depth will be tested early as Quinn Snyder looks to get his first taste of the post-season.
NOTE: DERRICK FAVORS HAS JUST BEEN RULED OUT. BORIS DIAW WILL START IN HIS PLACE.