Berry Tramel: “So the West just keeps getting tougher, while the East shuffles deck chairs. A mediocre West team gets better by trading its superstar and improves its long-term prospects as well. That’s potentially a trade for the ages. And that’s why it’s better to be in the West. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. The East offers an easier path, both to the playoffs and in the playoffs, once you’re there. But the West is the fast lane. The West is the fast heat. You’ve got to be sharp in the West. Got to be fine-tuned to stay tough in the West. Teams find out how good they really are, playing in the West. You keep up, or you get run over. Get better, or get lost.”
Via the Norman Transcript, Russell Westbrook hung out with some Moore athletes: “Russell discussed his workout routines, gave advice to the students wanting to play at higher levels, gave advice to coaches about how to get the best out of their players, disclosed what his first purchase was after he signed his contract (a house for his mom), talked at length about his fashion decisions and everything in between. A recurring theme in his answers was the importance of education, focus and family. He told the crowd about graduating high school with a 3.9 GPA, how his father taught him the importance of focusing on achieving his goals. He also talked about his parents teaching him that faith and family were always top priority, followed by academics then basketball. He credits his ability to successfully balance all of the areas of his life to that lesson.”
Updated title odds have the Cavs at 5/2, the Spurs at 4/1, the Bulls at 11/2 and the Thunder at 6/1.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider breaking down the Cavs: “The playoffs are a slightly different story. There is evidence that good defenses tend to beat good offenses in the NBA Finals, and only one team has won the title with a below-average regular-season defense since the merger. (That team, the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, was a major fluke; those Lakers had the league’s best defense in the playoffs.) Of course, just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and we might look at the importance of defense differently had the 2007 Phoenix-San Antonio series played out differently. Still, the preliminary look at the 2014-15 Cavaliers suggests the most important newcomer on the roster isn’t James or Love; it’s Blatt, since his ability to mold this group into an above-average defense may well determine whether Cleveland can meet lofty expectations.”
Missed it, but James Herbert of CBSSports.com gave OKC a C- for its offseason a couple weeks ago: “The progress of Jackson, Adams, Jones and Lamb was a significant subplot last year in Oklahoma City, especially before the All-Star break. As the regular season came to a close, it was clear that half of that group had been lost in the shuffle. The Thunder have developed players better than almost any team in the league, but it can be tricky to do that in the thick of a tight race for the conference’s best record. Their relative inactivity in the offseason means that they’re betting on more playing time and experience for the new class bringing better results. This is risky, but each of them has a high ceiling. It could very well work out.”