The Quick Hit: For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Orlando Magic, it’s all or nothing.
The all is having Commissioner David Stern hand over the Larry O’Brien trophy in two months and pronounce them world champions in a champagne soaked ceremony.
Only the all will do. Only the all will satisfy their demanding fan base. Only the all will satisfy their demanding owners, who have taken on multi-million dollar luxury tax payments for this precise moment.
While nothing, or falling short of an NBA Title, will force Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Orlando to make wholesale changes this off-season. Right or wrong, fair or not, these are the stakes when playing for a contender.
Gregg Popovich, the brutally honest and sometimes abrasive coach of the San Antonio Spurs, summed up what every team in the Western Conference was thinking when he told us all that no one wanted to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. In doing so, he broke one of the unwritten rules of sports: Never let your opponent know you're afraid of them. You can be afraid and they can know you're afraid, but you can't actually say it. Once you do, they have an advantage over you. They don't only know that they're better than you, they know that you know they're better than you. And at that point, they're free to impose their will upon you and send you home in four or five games.
"We're all kind of fighting to try get our position or move up and nobody is giving any ground to anybody else," he said.
The Quick Hit: There are many theories on the Los Angeles Lakers' recent struggles.
Perhaps, they’re bored having all but locked up first in the Western Conference standings. Perhaps, players are distracted by the trappings of Hollywood. Perhaps, they miss injured giant Andrew Bynum more than they care to acknowledge. Perhaps, Kobe Bryant’s on-going contract negotiations and unknown future was unsettling. And perhaps, tension exists between Bryant and Pau Gasol over shots and touches.Read More