It was already common knowledge that the NBA’s Western Conference has long been stronger than the Eastern Conference. Critics continue to call for a conference realignment even when the odds of it happening are slim to none.
But now that the game’s best player has moved from the East to the West, the gap has widened even more, leaving many Eastern Conference players, including newly acquired Wizards’ guard Austin Rivers, more confident in their team’s chances to make a run at the NBA Finals, reports Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
“This training camp, this season is just gonna be a different type of mindset,” Rivers said. “[Before] you would play and you know you’re going to run into Golden State. Here, in the East, it’s really like everybody can get there. You can go to the Finals or the conference finals if you’re a playoff-caliber team, which this team is.
I think that puts a different confidence, focus and energy on a team. I think that will probably be a focal point in training camp, I’m sure the coaches and everyone will say this is something we need to take advantage of.”
Per Hughes, Rivers did acknowledge that the Celtics are probably the favorites now, having been Eastern Conference runners-up the last two seasons despite missing two of their best players during the 2017/18 playoffs. But, Rivers is excited to see what he and his new teammates are capable of after falling short in the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
There’s more out of the D.C. area tonight:
- Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated takes a look at the Wizards’ reported free agent signings of veterans Jeff Green and Dwight Howard. Woo gives both signings a “B” grade, calling both moves thrifty and low-risk due in large part to the one-year length of both deals.
- In another piece for NBC Sports Washington, Hughes gives his own analysis of the Howard signing, agreeing that the move is low-risk, high-reward. Hughes writes that Howard gives Washington an upgrade from last season at center and that he should be at his best surrounded by three-point shooters like Otto Porter and Bradley Beal.
- In another, albeit more under-the-radar move we relayed earlier this week, the Wizards claimed promising young big man Thomas Bryant off waivers from the Lakers after he was cut to increase L.A.’s cap room.