Aug 1, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
The Heat have won the last four Eastern Conference titles, making them the first team with four consecutive conference crowns since the Celtics (1984-87).
But with LeBron James headed back to Cleveland, the Heat are no longer Finals favorites.
Who in the East is?
How about last year’s No. 1 seed and conference finalist? Couldn’t the Pacers just slide up one slot to frontrunner status?
“With Lance being gone and everyone thinking this is going to be a rebuilding year for us,” Paul George said during Team USA training camp this week, “immediately when LeBron went to Cleveland, that made them the front-runners.”
But the Pacers, with a strong core led by George still in place, are certainly not rebuilding, right?
“People do look at it that way,” George insisted, perhaps even trying to sell it. “I’ve got a lot of pressure and I’m coming into this year and I’m ready to live up to that pressure.”
George isn’t wrong. I’d take LeBron’s Cavaliers – and the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol coming on board – over Indiana. The Heat, Raptors, Wizards and Hornets – who stole Lance Stephenson, one of the Pacers’ top players – might belong higher in the pecking order, too. Without Stephenson, Indiana is not the same team.
But I don’t think George is interested in an accurate assessment.
The Pacers started 33-7 last season, overtaking Miami as conference favorites in the process. Then, under the weight of expectations, Indiana collapsed. The Pacers, plagued by in-fighting and finger-pointing, clearly weren’t ready for the spotlight.
George, correctly, believes Indiana performs better when viewed as the underdog. So, he’ll say what he can to help the team achieve that status.
Thankfully for him, LeBron remaining in the East all but guaranteed he won’t have to stretch too hard. Unless LeBron signed with Indiana, Milwaukee or Philadelphia, Indiana had minimal shot of being viewed as Eastern Conference favorites.
Jul 2, 2015, 7:07 PM EDT
The Wizards will only give up a future second-rounder.
Jul 2, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Butler just signed a five-year deal to stay in Chicago.
Jul 2, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
Toronto makes the list with DeMarre Carroll.
Jul 2, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT
Report: Mavericks and Pacers will discuss Monta Ellis/Roy Hibbert sign-and-trade if Mavs don’t get DeAndre Jordan
Jul 2, 2015, 5:24 PM EDT
The Pacers have been shopping Hibbert for a while.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:38 PM EDT
Aldridge doesn’t want to play center.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT
It would take an unlikely sign-and-trade to make it happen.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:26 PM EDT
They want to “get it right.”
Jul 2, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT
Also, who got overpaid so far?
Jul 2, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT
Phoenix is clearing cap space to land LaMarcus Aldridge.
Jul 2, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Thompson and Cleveland were reportedly nearing $80 million-plus deal yesterday
Jul 2, 2015, 2:49 PM EDT
More writing on the wall of LaMarcus Aldridge’s exit
Jul 2, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT
Now, can the Spurs get LaMarcus Aldridge to complement him?
Jul 2, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
Baynes will reportedly get three-year deal with player option
Jul 2, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT
Indiana shouldn’t feel good about this, even if it was their best option at this point
Jul 2, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT
Monroe agreed to a three-year max contract with Bucks
Jul 2, 2015, 11:51 AM EDT
Atlanta drafted Tavares in 2014
Jul 2, 2015, 11:16 AM EDT
Good deal for Milwaukee and Monroe
Jul 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Former Pacers forward said he opted out to win a title
Jul 2, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT
The Kings are going to have to overpay to get players to come to the Kings right now.
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