Blazing newer trails

Don't look now, but guess who's coming to Target Center this week with the West's best record, second only to Indiana in the NBA?

That's right, the 19-4 Portland Trail Blazers, who play the Timberwolves on Wednesday.

Fans were chanting "MVP, MVP" at the arena formerly known as the Rose Garden on Thursday night when Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge willed his team to victory over Houston with a 31-point, 25-rebound night. Those 25 rebounds were a career high and helped him trump Rockets star Dwight Howard's 32-point, 17-rebound game.

Already this month, Aldridge has pushed the three-point-loving Blazers to home victories over Paul George and Indiana and Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City.

"He's just growing," teammate Wesley Matthews recently told reporters. "He's just getting better."

Mark it down

Sunday is Dec. 15, the day all players who signed free-agent contracts last summer can be traded.

A heavyweight fight

Apparently, getting ready to play big, physical Wolves center Nikola Pekovic takes a certain mind-set.

Here's what Miami's Chris Bosh said before facing big Pek one day earlier this month: "I'm confident: I lifted weights yesterday, did a couple push-ups and watched 'Rocky,' so I feel good."