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NBA: Down the Stretch They Come

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/14/2010

Does anyone really care in the NBA? I'm not talking about fans, I'm referring to the players. Certainly a lot of players have pride and want to give their best. But this is the time of year when some NBA players don't care, and it can be reflected in their play on the court, and their performance against the spread.
The playoffs are on the horizon and it's clear many NBA teams are playing hard every night. Those that are on the playoff bubble are giving 100%, or those that are battling for division titles or playoff seeding. If you check out NBA website news or local newspapers, even the players are talking about "catching so and so" or "we can smell a division title." Naturally, that kind of incentive is more enjoyable for athletes to get excited about coming to work.
Several teams, however, are not in that kind of situation. Take a look at what Clippers have been going through the last month, stumbling like a bunch of Keystone Kops. They are on their second coach, can’t shoot or play defense. In a home loss to the Bucks, Chris Kaman had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Drew Gooden had 20 points. Pretty good numbers, but they still got blown out, 107-89.
Many times players are more focused on padding their own stats than playing a team game (such as passing or defense). I recall a similar situation with Orlando a few years ago, when a new coach took over late in the season. They were riding several losing streaks, and couldn’t win or cover on the road (11-24 SU, 13-22 ATS start). All the frustration got to guard Steve Francis when he kicked a courtside photographer in a loss at Seattle. That’s a sign a team has packed it in mentally or is not together. Keep a close eye on imploding teams, especially ATS, because a team that is unhappy and doesn't care can continue to be a great go-against.
That same season the Atlanta Hawks packed it in down the stretch. That was a group that, in essence, management took the rug out from under them even before the first game. They let their best players leave or were traded, cut salary, and failed to upgrade the talent level. This cannot be a happy working environment, knowing you're going to lose most nights.
The Hawks get outscored on the road by 12 points per contest, starting 3-30 SU, 13-20 ATS on the road. With the season winding down, who could blame them if they just go through the motions, especially on the road?
In Detroit the coach is trying new players, which has caused veterans and starters to grumble. Think the Pistons care? Not when you look at their recent numbers, such as a 0-10 SU/ATS run! A good handicapper keeps his eyes open for teams like this that might start sliding ATS or ones that continue to pack it in.

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