If it weren’t for the 11-3 Blazers, who’ve won eight in a row, the Northwest Division would resemble one of the groupings from the Eastern Conference. Portland is the only Northwest team above .500, thanks in part to the offseason acquisition of backup center Chris Kaman, who’s averaging 10.9 points in 19.1 minutes to boost a bench that was a clear weakness last season. There’s more on another Blazers center who’s made a difference amid the latest from the Northwest:
- Robin Lopez has enjoyed his season and change with the Blazers and isn’t thinking about moving on when he hits free agency in the summer, as he tells The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman. That’s just what his teammates want to hear, as many of them let Freeman know of their affection for Lopez, whose arrival last year coincided with the team’s ascent in the standings. “I really love it here,” Lopez said. “I feel like I’ve really found a niche. Nothing is set in stone, but I’m comfortable here, I’m happy here.”
- Dante Exum, this year’s No. 5 overall pick, is off to a modest start, averaging just 4.9 points and 2.6 assists in 18.4 minutes per game, but the Jazz and coach Quin Snyder want to bring the 19-year-old phenom along slowly, as Aaron Falk of The Salk Lake Tribune details. Exum is “doing everything that we expected of him” so far, Snyder said.
- Nuggets coach Brian Shaw acknowledged the pressure on him earlier this season, but he’s been in too many winning NBA locker rooms to panic, and Denver’s five-game winning streak makes it clear he never lost control of the team, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.