MIAMI - Before the season started, a poll suggested that the Miami Heat were the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA title, collecting a whopping 76 percent of ballots cast.
The voters weren't some know-nothings, either.
No, this was a polling of NBA general managers.
Things seem quite a bit different now. The Heat don't seem like locks for a third straight title anymore. San Antonio and Indiana are top seeds. Brooklyn, Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City, Golden State, Houston, Portland, and the Heat all figure to have a legitimate chance at being the club to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Usually, the NBA playoffs aren't so wide open. Things might change over the next couple of months.
"There are 16 teams that have a chance to win it," said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, whose team is seeded No. 2 in the West. "If you're in the playoffs, you have a chance. There are some good teams. Any team can beat each other. The West is deep. There are two teams that are really good that didn't make it and had great years. It's definitely open. There's a lot of good basketball teams fighting for the championship."
For as good as San Antonio and Indiana were all year - well, for most of the year in Indiana's case, before the Pacers faltered down the stretch - it's never a certainty that the No. 1 seeds reach the NBA Finals. It has happened that way only 11 times in the last 35 years.
Then again, the last time that there wasn't either a No. 1 or a No. 2 in the title series was 1978. So while upsets can happen, it's not all that common to see bracket craziness - akin to No. 7 and No. 8 seeds Connecticut and Kentucky playing for the NCAA title earlier this month - happening in the same NBA playoff season.
"It is going to be tremendous from a fans' standpoint, watching," Golden State coach Mark Jackson said.
Brooklyn's Jason Kidd has plenty of postseason experience as a player. He believes the NBA championship is up for grabs, but also probably knows history doesn't favor his sixth-seeded club.
Since 1979, only five teams seeded No. 4 or lower in their conference have reached the finals. But Kidd sees reason for hope.
"It's always wide open," said Kidd, the first-year coach of the Nets - a veteran-laden team put together to win a title this season. "You guys sometimes limit it to just two teams, but guys that are playing on a daily basis in the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference feel like they've got a chance."
This year, that doesn't just seem like coachspeak.
Sager has cancer
TNT analyst Craig Sager will miss the NBA playoffs as he undergoes treatment for leukemia.
A sideline reporter famous for his brightly colored suits, Sager showed his sense of humor was intact in a statement released by Turner Sports on Friday.
Sager described the postseason as "my favorite time of year - city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights." He said that "a dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia. From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes."
Sager joked about the often-terse in-game interviews with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop."