When it comes to political coverage, the debate tends to focus on perceived East Coast bias.
When it comes to NBA, opinion tends to run the other way, that the Western Conference yields the true power.
Even before the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak came to an end, Memphis Grizzlies All-Star forward Zach Randolph minimized it, telling the New York Daily News of the Heat's primary diet of Eastern Conference fodder, "The competition, it's easier for them."
And before that, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl was championing to the Denver Post a single playoff bracket, one that ostensibly would allow some of the best of the West the opportunity to feast on some of the least of the East in the early rounds.
The Heat heard plenty of that Western Conference bias during the streak. And there certainly can be a case made for the bottom of the West bracket being stronger than the bottom of the East.
"It doesn't really bother us, because, look, there's no easy matchups anywhere in the playoffs," he said. "And especially in the East, expect a physical, grind-out series every series you play. There's no finesse teams like out West."
While it would take some shuffling over these final two-plus weeks of the season, it is possible for the Heat to face an Eastern Conference playoff gauntlet of the Boston Celtics in the first round, Chicago Bulls in the second and either New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers in the East finals. It might not quite be a diet of Los Angeles Lakers, Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder that the San Antonio Spurs could face, but it's hardly a cakewalk.
"There's no easy road in the playoffs and that's the bottom line," Battier said.
The reality is that entering Sunday's road game against the Spurs, the Heat are 24-5 against the West. For that matter, in the streak there were victories over the Thunder, Lakers, Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, five-eighths of the potential Western Conference playoff pool.
"You look at it record-wise, you can say the West is better, but it's going to be just as competitive," Heat forward Mike Miller said. "You know, they said the same thing last year."
That's when the Pacers pushed the Heat to six games in the East semis and the Celtics pushed the Heat to seven in the East finals, ultimately more than the five games against the Thunder in the Finals for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
As far as the stereotypes, Heat center Chris Andersen, who, like Battier and Miller, spent much of his career in the Western Conference, said not true.
"Those guys, they bang," he said of the West competition he faced in the playoffs. "It's tough over there, it's tough over here."
Then again, the West won't have anything like the Milwaukee Bucks going to the playoffs, and it remains possible the Heat's opening two rounds could be a less-than-imposing path of Bucks followed by Atlanta Hawks.
"If you go by the point differentials, the Western Conference has more teams with a plus differential," Battier said. "And if that's how you measure teams, yeah, there's more of those teams in the Western Conference."
But, just like the streak, Battier said just line up the opposition in the playoffs and the Heat will go from there, no matter what some might consider the NBA's lesser half.
"I think back to March Madness at Duke," he said. "We were taught to worry about our own little sub-region, and worry about the four teams in your little region. That's all you can worry about."
IN THE LANE
AS EXPECTED: The reaction was as expected when it came to Mark Cuban's view of the Heat falling short of the NBA record of 33 consecutive victories. "It broke my heart," the Dallas Mavericks owner offered Thursday to reporters in Dallas, in full sarcasm mode. "Actually, I would have liked to see it go to 32. That would have been fun." The Heat's streak was ended at 27 in a row on Wednesday night by the Chicago Bulls. There was, however, also a measure of respect from the long-time Heat rival and part-time South Florida resident. "We’re not going to see that for another 25 years," Cuban said. "It's incredibly impressive. As much as I don't want to be, it is. It's not easy, that's for sure."
KAMAN CONUNDRUM: Several factors could have put Mavericks center Chris Kaman potentially into play for the Heat this offseason in free agency. Foremost, we know Pat Riley has had interest dating to the 2003 NBA Draft, when he had to be talked into instead selecting Dwyane Wade. Then there's the matter of whether the Heat will be able to retain Chris Andersen, therefore possibly opening a door at center. Beyond that, Kaman's price tag likely will plummet based on his uneven 2012-13 season. Except . . . not going to happen. Not after this during a Dallas radio interview, "I'm actually a LeBron James fan. I'm not much of a Dwyane Wade fan." That was followed by, "I just never really got along with [Wade]. I guess I just don't like his style or whatever. I didn't like the year the Mavs lost when he got all the foul calls. I didn't like that." This time if he has to choose between Wade and Kaman, an impending free agent, we can guess which way Riley would lean.
ACE RECRUITER: For those who question LeBron's willingness to recruit, the Chicago Sun-Times this past week offered up a story about James approaching Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson last summer during Olympic training about possibly bypassing a rookie-contract extension and moving on to the Heat this coming summer. Gibson, who was invited to scrimmage against the Olympic team, instead signed a four-year, $33 million Bulls extension in September. "We were kicking it around," Gibson said, "and he was saying, 'Come to Miami. Come in, and we'll treat you right there.' I was like, 'Nah, I'm cool with the Bulls.' " What's cooler is James' willingness to recruit, and, need be, even tamper.
FAMILIAR FACE: Among those who have helped push the Mavericks back into playoff contention is none other than former Heat point guard Mike James, he of the unceasing ego. "They keep trying to tell me that I'm not able to play this game, that the game has passed me by," James, 37, told the Dallas Morning News. "It's not about proving. But I'm out there having a great time."
FOUR PLAY: In the end, four players were part of all 27 games during the Heat's franchise-record winning streak, with James and Mario Chalmers starting all 27, and Norris Cole and Andersen appearing in all 27.
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