Still potential for much more drama in NBA - NBC Sports

Still potential for much more drama in NBA
Will Lakers make playoffs? Who gets stuck playing Heat in first round? Coaches on hot seat?
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Can Kobe Bryant lead the Lakers into the postseason?
March 27, 2013, 1:03 am
  • The Heat's challenge to the 1971-72 Lakers' all-time winning streak.
  • Jason Terry and Brandon Knight pulverized by, respectively, LeBron James and DeAndre Jordan.
  • The rise and fall of the Clippers within the same season.
  • And the fall and rise, for that matter, of the Lakers in the same season.

Yet, even with a mere three weeks left in the regular season, there still is potential for more drama.

Such as:

Anything but No. 8 in the East
Remember, the Bucks already have the tiebreaker over the Celtics, so the race for No. 7 in the East is closer that it appears in Boston's side-view mirror.

While the Celtics (Jason Terry) and Bucks (Brandon Jennings) both have talked the talk when it comes to a lack of fear of the Heat, don't believe the hype, not when the Knicks, and, to a degree, even the Pacers are looking vulnerable in potential No. 2-vs.-No. 7 matchups (or even No. 3 vs. No. 6).

For Doc Rivers, it will be a challenge, considering having his veterans rested for the playoffs long has been a priority.

Based on how the East has shaped up this season, anywhere but No. 8 (and maybe but No. 4 and No. 5, the series that will feed into No. 1 vs. No. 8 in the second round), is the place to be.

A Lakers last gasp
While No. 8 might not be as treacherous a spot in the West, the prime real estate is getting to No. 6, and therefore avoiding the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round.

The Lakers appeared poised for such a move, and then came the recent lamentable loss at home to the Wizards. All the while, the Rockets, playing from the lead, have their own sights set on No. 6 in the West.

For all the Lakers have done to even make it make to playoff position, a climb that closes shy of No. 6 might still have an air of futility to it.

And don't look now, but the Mavericks are gaining in the West, possibly to make a run at the Lakers.

The warm seat
There have been times when P.J. Carlesimo has been an afterthought in the Nets' long view and times when he has been the heir apparent.

Win a playoff series, particularly against the Knicks, and Carlesimo might rise to the needed celebrity level for the Russian oligarch.

For the matter, a one-and-done playoff fate for the Knicks - and there are plenty of potential first-round landmines out there for New York, including the Bulls and Celtics - and Mike Woodson might follow Mike D'Antoni out of town.

Also hanging in the balance these final days of the season are Doug Collins in Philadelphia, Dwane Casey in Toronto, Lawrence Frank in Detroit, Larry Drew in Atlanta, Ty Corbin in Utah and Keith Smart in Sacramento.

The seat of uncertainty
Then there is Golden State's Mark Jackson, who, to a degree, is at a make-a-break point when it comes to his perception in the Bay Area.

It can be argued that short of the teams battling for the final spot in the West, Jackson may have as much at stake as any coach in the West.

Now or never
At least the Andrew Bynum fiasco has reached a resolution, even if it's not necessarily the one the 76ers were looking for.

But the clocking is ticking on Derrick Rose, Amare Stoudemire and Danny Granger. If not now, then when?

Unlike the 76ers and Bynum, the Bulls, Knicks and Pacers are playoff teams, teams that need to start getting their playoff rotations in order.

Sometimes it is best to accept that it won't happen and move forward. The Knicks are a different team with Stoudemire, because Carmelo Anthony becomes a different player. The same thing with the Pacers with Granger, when Paul George's role as leading man is not as clearly delineated.

Those teams need to know. Now.

Final rosters
As ludicrous as it sounds, teams have until the final day of the season to finalize their playoff rosters, and, yes, that includes adding a player who hasn't otherwise been in the league this season, as well as those who had been waived by March 1.

There is no rule in place to stop a team from adding a Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Eddy Curry , even Stephon Marbury, or any other player from China, whose season has wound down. The Celtics have already done that with Shavlik Randolph.

While other foreign leagues still in action can't be as easily raided, even D-League players who have not been with another NBA team after March 1 can be scooped up and be playoff eligible.

The Sacramento story
The worst part of a bitter ending is when you don't even know if it's over.

These final few home games in Sacramento will be tortuous to those loyal to the Kings. It is possible that when it's over for the season in Sacramento that it's over for Sacramento.

That way the politics are playing out, there won't even be time for a proper wake.

Lottery tanking
Unlike previous drafts when there was a clear prize at the top, there is no clear choice this June, which could cut down on the chicanery involving jockeying for ping-pong balls.

But when there is no reason to keep on winning, figure on some unique lineups, and plenty of injury absences, from teams already eliminated.

Seed stalking
The opposite side of the lottery equation are the battles for the top seed in the West and the top overall seed.

Yet while the Heat, Spurs and Thunder all could push for homecourt throughout the balance of the postseason, additional rest long has been the preference among the league's leading coaches.

This yet could be another year, certainly with Gregg Popovich involved, when the top playoff seeds are determined by default.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat .

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