by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Damian Lillard is making a good case for a spot in the NBA All-Star Game.Talking Trail Blazers as we approach the holidays …

• Last season, Portland finished 33-49 (.402). The only team in NBA history that has had a winning percentage of .402 or worse and gone on the next season to win a championship was Boston in 2006-07. The Celtics won it all the year after going 24-58 (.293).

• Terry Stotts entered the season with a 148-217 record (.405) in five years as a head coach with Atlanta, Milwaukee and Portland. If the Blazers should win the NBA title this season, Stotts would become the first coach to achieve that with a losing mark going into the championship season.

San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is the closest, owning a 73-73 career record before he won his first championship in his third season as the Spurs' coach in 1998-99.

• LaMarcus Aldridge is getting plenty of mention as a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award. Bill Walton is the only Trail Blazer with that honor, but it wasn't during the championship year. It was the next season (1977-78), when the Blazers burst out of the gate 50-10, only to fall victim to a rash of injuries. That caused them to lose to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.

• If voting for all-NBA were held today, Aldridge would have a great shot at first team. It would be between Aldridge and Minnesota's Kevin Love at power forward. Love is tied for third in the league in scoring (25.2) and leads in rebounds (13.7) with 4.2 assists while shooting .447 from the field, .387 from 3-point range and .823 from the foul line. Aldridge is averaging 23.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting .464 from the field and .849 from the line.

They both belong along with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Miami's LeBron James and Indiana's Paul George.

• Damian Lillard is making a strong run at an All-Star Game appearance in his second season. Lillard is 12th in the NBA in scoring (21.3), second among point guards behind Golden State's Stephen Curry (24.3). Lillard is shooting only .407 from the field but .428 from 3-point range -- best of any of the league's top 18 scorers -- and .895 from the line, eighth in the NBA.

Lillard is only 18th in assists (5.9), but has two other factors going for him -- his run of clutch/game-winning baskets and Portland's status as one of the winningest teams in the league.

Lillard's primary All-Star competition out of the West will come from Curry, OKC's Russell Westbrook and San Antonio's Tony Parker. Plenty of other point guards are having excellent seasons in the conference, including Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas, Memphis' Mike Conley, Denver's Ty Lawson and New Orleans' Jrue Holiday.

• On the subject of All-Star Game selection: Don't fret that the Trail Blazers are far down the voting lists. That happens every year. The five starters are chosen by fan vote, but the rest of the teams are filled out by a vote of the conference coaches. They'll select Aldridge for sure, and if Lillard and the Blazers continue their strong play, he'll have a good shot.

• You could make a case that all five Portland starters are off to career seasons.

Aldridge is a "for sure." Lillard's numbers are all improved, other than his field-goal percentage (and he shot only .429 last season), from his Rookie of the Year season.

Wesley Matthews is at a career-best rate for scoring (16.2) and rebounds (4.1) and is way ahead of pace in field-goal percentage (.500) and 3-point percentage (.442).

Nicolas Batum is slightly behind last year's pace in scoring (14.1 to 14.3 in 2012-13) but ahead in rebounds (6.3) and assists (5.2) while shooting .470 from the field, .404 from 3-point range and .803 from the line.

Robin Lopez is averaging 9.3 points, a career-high 8.4 rebounds and 1.44 blocked shots while shooting .537 from the field and .794 from the line. Put together, it's by far Lopez's best statistical campaign. And that's not taking into account all the intangibles the 7-foot center provides.

• In Wednesday's 120-109 loss at Minnesota, the Timberwolves' Nikolas Pekovic outscored Lopez 30-2 and outrebounded him 9-5 while playing 11 fewer seconds. Lopez will rarely outscore Pekovic, but he's a better defender and equal in the rebounding department. Any evaluation of the Wednesday disparity has to take into consideration the Blazers were on their fourth game of a five-day road trip. Also, Lopez's numbers aren't as important as his contributions that don't show up on the stat sheet.

• Reports came from Houston this week that the Blazers are "an X factor" in multi-team negotiations to land Houston center Omer Asik. Asik is a nice player, an outstanding rebounder and an upgrade offensively from Lopez. But general manager Neil Olshey will surely be reluctant to break up the chemistry that has built through the early season in Portland. I'd be surprised if anything came of it on the Blazers' end.

• One-third of the way through the season, Portland is on pace for a 66-win season, which would better the franchise record of 63-19 set in 1990-91. At 12-3, the Blazers already have more road wins than they did all of last season (11-30). But only two of the teams Portland has beaten away from home owns a winning record -- Denver and Golden State.

Ahead lies a minefield of schedule, including a four-game trip in January with stops in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City. The Blazers are going to be a playoff team. The goal now should be to finish among the top four in the conference and gain homecourt advantage in the first round.

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