“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs,” Bryant told Sports Illustrated earlier this week. “We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever.
“I have zero nervousness about that.”
And why would he be? Because of home court advantage?
If the Lakers do make the playoffs they’ll be rejuvenated with what will feel like a second chance.
They’ll have a chance to make amends after their season full of miscues.
Which would be fantastic for them, because they have star players who have been to the playoffs and can at least make a worthy attempt to get by the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and into the second round.
But in the East, where the Miami Heat reign supremely as the favorite to make it back to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season, nobody wants to see LBJ and company until they absolutely have to.
If the standings finished the way they are today, then the Chicago Bulls – who were flat out dismantled by Miami last night – and the Brooklyn Nets, would battle in the first round with the prize of facing the Heat in the second round.
Not exactly ideal for those guys, right?
The Milwaukee Bucks made the biggest splash of the trade deadline, picking up J.J. Redick in an attempt to get off the playoff fence at the eight-spot and into the sixth or seventh slot so that they at least have a chance in the first round, likely against the Knicks or the Pacers.
When you’re the Milwaukee Bucks and your franchise doesn’t make the playoffs every year, fighting for positioning in the playoffs means something. Even though it doesn’t mean much to anybody else, the Milwaukee Bucks would love to make the second round of the playoffs.
Despite the fact that Popovich may have been alluding solely to the Western Conference, this topic of conversation is especially interesting as teams come down the home stretch in the final third of the season.
At the end of the day, though, Popovich’s point, per usual, is probably on point, especially considering his team’s situation. At this stage in the game he knows that as long as his team’s getting better, they’ll have a shot to win the whole thing – seeding be damned.
“I think every team can always get better,” said Manu Ginobili following the Spurs win last night. “We watch tape after every game and we see a lot of mistakes we always make. Basketball is a game of mistakes so you know, we can always get a little better defensively and turning the ball over. Every team can get better.”
The Spurs are one of the few teams fortunate enough to be worrying solely about improving.
While they’re one of the few teams in the league that have the ability to concentrate on their own fate, there’s no debating that there are some teams who would love to avoid unfavorable match-ups early on in the playoffs.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.