Among the themes for the Portland Trail Blazers this season is to embrace the idea they belong with the elite teams in the West.
The Blazers exceeded expectations last year by winning 54 games and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
The Blazers return nearly the entire roster from that team, including All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, and fellow starters Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. The team addressed needs in the offseason with the acquisition of center Chris Kaman and the return of guard Steve Blake.
Portland's stability is a big reason why most onlookers don't see last season as a fluke. Now the Blazers need to believe that, too, general manager Neil Olshey said.