So . . .we were going to discuss two issues. Naruto's feelings for Sakura, and Hinata's purpose. There are geniune arguments to be made for both subjects that are more than founded, using context and an estimation of author's intent.
Opponents of NaruSaku tend to make the relationship out to be a "crush" or a "brotherly-sisterly" relationship. Which is it? One will always contradict the other. Unless its both . . . but if you have that, you are coming dangerously close to love.
Hinata does have a serious lack of development in Shippuden. She still holds all of her same feelings, but its dangerous and as you both put it "unfounded" to assume that her purpose, when it does develop, will remain the same as it was in part I. Neither Hinata nor Naruto face the need to prove themselves quite so much anymore.
Lets begin with Naruto and his view of Sakura. (And perhaps we agree for the moment that Sakura's feelings are the most complex in the series, so I'm going to avoid lighting that fire for right now.)
Context: Naruto had a crush on Sakura in part I. His desire to be accepted by Sasuke in time overshadowed that crush. During the fight with Gaara, however, that relationship deepened for Naruto. At this point in the story, Naruto declares Sakura as precious to him. (So does Sasuke for that matter, and though they don't realize it, the conflict between the two deepens as they both feel closer to Sakura, an interesting moment. Ironic that Sasuke is the one who makes him realize it.) Page 11-16 of this chapter is what I refer to. There is a lot going on, yes, but Sakura is the catalyst.
So now we have crush + deep friendship worth giving your life for = what? Brotherly? I doubt it, but this is the part that is affected most by bias.
Moving on, we come to another critical point. Page 17 and 18.
Seems this famous moment gets interpreted by bias on both sides. On one hand you could say he is only accepting Sakura's feelings for Sasuke. But if you read deeper into what Tsunade says on the next page, you also have a third party opinion of a Naruto who is hurt by the what he sees.
Kishi masterfully creates a conflicted love trianlge here, but this moment is telling of Naruto's character. Its a well written example of the old addage that
"If you truely love someone, you are willing to le them go." This is what Naruto does.
But he also throws up a barrier. He still professses his attraction to Sakura in Shippuden by asking for or trying to win a date on technicalities. (Not to mention the peeping incident)
But now the deeper feelings are buried deep down, and throws up defensive walls, like when he cuts Sakura off from telling him it was really him she was worried about.
So what you end up with is a person who behaves like he has just a natural attraction that he doesn't take very seriously. But you have to look at the context of the story as to WHY he acts this way or you miss out.
Now, having said all this doesn't mean that a closer relationship with Hinata isn't going to happen. In fact, NaruHina fans shouldn't feel threatened by how Naruto feels about Sakura, (and I think many of you do, otherwise it wouldn't be such an issue) because in the end it has absolutley no factor on how Naruto could potentially feel about Hinata at this point.
This was a long post so I'll delve more into Hinata (ummm . . . so to speak!) next time.