Early-season success is what Blazers fans deserve

It took only a quarter of the first preseason game to see the change in the Portland Trail Blazers from last season - they dove for the ball. On every play. Like wild, hungry animals.

This is just what Portland fans have been waiting for ... at least since last season ended.

The Blazers exploded onto the NBA scene in the first week of regular season action with four wins in their opening five games, including an impressive win in Oklahoma City Tuesday night. Power rankings for both ESPN and Sports Illustrated put the Blazers in the top eight in the league after opening the season in the teens.

There's plenty of reason to think they can stay in the Top 10, too, mainly because of that hungry level of play. What a change from a week before the season began, too, mainly because of the addition of Jamal Crawford, and then signing of Kurt Thomas to give the team depth, at least for one game at a time.

After Tueseday's win, the Blazers had played two fewer games than the Thunder. So, more games in fewer days is upcoming, starting with Thursday's home game with the Los Angeles Lakers - on TNT.

Thursday's game is a perfect follow-up to Tuesday's win, a game to see how the Blazers, especially All-Star-to-be LaMarcus Aldridge, will play under the glare of national attention. The Lakers play under it every time they step onto a court, and that's a factor in getting prepared for a run to the league title.

Blazers fans want to see a win Thursday, which the team can take care of by scoring more than the Lakers. That's something they can only partially control because the Lakers will be scoring, too. The thing the Blazers can control is that hunger for the ball, and as long as that keeps up they'll be at the top of the league in all kinds of categories and keep getting the national attention they need to be able to make a playoff run.