SALT LAKE CITY — Some teams sometimes engage in, and get caught up in, the game — of trying to position themselves, that is, for a certain postseason matchup while trying to avoid a less-favorable one.
Or at least they're suspected of it.
They want no part of it.
"We have no choice," coach Jerry Sloan said. "I'm not gonna play that.
"I don't know how you can play that game, the way it is," he added with reference to the NBA's tight Western Conference. "Just go play whoever's out there. That's all I know."
Others, however, believe that some do play — and make a virtual sport out of it.
In recent days alone, a Raptors.com blogger wrote that "(Toronto's) Sonny Weems told me ... he thinks the Cavaliers may have rested LeBron (James, who sat out a Thursday loss to Chicago) because they want no part of Toronto in the first round," and an AOLFanhouse writer tweeted that "Celtics co-owner (Wyc) Grousbeck said on TV broadcast ... he'd rather face Milw(aukee) than Miami in first round." Wrote the AOL reporter: "Wonder if that's influencing Celtic play."
Then, out West, there's the matter of the defending NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich openly admitted he's doing all he can to see the Spurs are able to dodge the Lakers in a 1-8 first-round Western playoff series.
"The ones that say, 'We don't care who we play,' they're full of baloney," Popovich told reporters in L.A. "We're all trying to hide from the Lakers in the first round, and that's the truth."
"If you're any other team in the Western Conference, you want to be either the two, three, six or seven (seeds). That way, you're facing the Lakers when it counts the most, which would be the Western Conference finals," TNT analyst and ex-NBA star Reggie Miller said during a broadcast Thursday. "That's why there's so much pressure on, because you want to be able to face them when all the money is on the table. You don't want to face them in the second round, especially with a healthy Kobe Bryant and possibly Andrew Bynum."
Yet such behavior simply is not the way of the Jazz, who for now — with two games to go in their regular season, at Golden State and against Phoenix — are positioned for a 4-5 seed matchup with Phoenix.
And the winner of that series would be in line to face an advancing Lakers team in the second round, not the conference finals.
"We're ready to play whoever in the playoffs," point guard Deron Williams said. "It doesn't matter. That's just that. Who cares? It doesn't matter. It really doesn't."
All that matters to the Jazz, forward Carlos Boozer suggested, is earning home-court advantage for at least the first round of postseason play.
"We'll worry about who we match up with later," Boozer said.
"You know," he added, "I think the biggest thing is ... we've played in playoffs enough to know that to advance, especially in the West, you've got to play as many games as you can at home."16 comments on this story
Williams insists the Jazz don't feel any more confident against certain teams compared to others, even though they've won their season series with Dallas (2-1), Portland (a 4-0 sweep) and San Antonio (another 4-0 sweep); lost those with Denver (1-3), the Lakers (1-3) and Oklahoma City (1-3); and are up on Phoenix (2-1) with one to go.
Even though they've had a traditionally tough time winning in San Antonio and against the Lakers in L.A.
Even though Oklahoma City has so little recent playoff experience compared to several other teams in the West.
Even though Lakers star Bryant and Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki usually give them fits, and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant is a tough matchup too.
"Playoffs, anything can happen," Williams said. "Anything."