The grueling 82-game regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. The annual journey typically separates the pretenders from the true contenders with relative ease during the six-month grind. But even at the top of the league’s hierarchy, among the few true contenders, things are complex – especially for teams looking to repeat as champions.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently limping into the All-Star break with big man Kevin Love reportedly on the shelf for the next six weeks after undergoing knee surgery. But even before Love’s injury was announced, four-time league MVP LeBron James had already spent the majority of the past month campaigning the Cavaliers’ front office for more help on the roster.
The pressure to repeat and maintain a level of excellence is real and Cleveland is showing signs of the strain it takes to absorb everyone’s best punch on a nightly basis.
But on the west coast, the Golden State Warriors are currently cruising at a different speed. The Warriors (46-9) own the league’s best record and already look the part of a well-oiled machine ready for a championship run.
The Warriors have faced injuries this season — namely to veteran big men David West and Zaza Pachulia. However, those guys aren’t currently All-Stars. The strength of the Warriors is their elite talent at the top of the lineup, boasting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. All four of these stars are either at or near their respective physical primes.
With the February 23 trade deadline just over a week away, the Warriors are in a position of strength while other teams, such as the Cavaliers, are still searching for a final piece or two. It doesn’t appear as though the Warriors will be active participants at the deadline as the franchise may be perfectly content to watch the trade festivities from the sidelines next week.
“We’ll take phone calls. We’re not going to initiate any,” Warriors Director of Player Personnel Larry Harris told the East Bay Times. “But we’ll take phone calls if teams are interested, if they need us maybe in a three-way deal or they see something that can help us. We’re certainly not generating calls. And not because we’re being arrogant or anything.
“With the loss of Zaza (Pachulia) and (David) West, we’ve had a chance to evaluate our guys up front,” Harris said. “[Kevin] Looney’s done a nice job in his minute he’s played, and obviously [JaVale] McGee’s been terrific. As we look at our roster moving forward, I think where we’re going to grow is within our own team.”
The ability to avoid the injury bug is essential for any team looking to contend. The Warriors have been fortunate to date, with relatively good health. Durant has played in all 55 of the team’s contests, while Curry (54), Thompson (53) and Green (52) have all registered at least 50 appearances. Veteran forward Andre Iguodala, who leads the team in minutes played off the bench, has played in 53 games so far this season.
Pat Riley Planning to Stand Down At Deadline Due To Recent Hot Streak
Just a month ago, the Miami HEAT looked dead in the water and headed for the draft lottery. But heading into the All-Star break, the team has rebounded significantly and now is a few games out from the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.
Team president Pat Riley recently spoke to season ticket holders, according to the Palm Beach Post, and reiterated he won’t meddle with the team due to its recent turnaround.
“We have a pick in the draft this year,” Riley said according to the Palm Beach Post. “About 12 games ago it looked like it might be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But you don’t ever mess with the karma of winning. Never. You let the game of basketball take it where it will take you, OK. And I think this might take us somewhere. So I will defer the pick for winning because that’s what we’re all about here.”
Riley’s stance is important as it re-emphasizes his philosophy of not making panic moves without the long-term vision of the franchise in mind. For now, it appears the HEAT will be fine with staying in the shade as the trade deadline approaches.
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