This past Sunday morning, after the Pacers had evened the series with Miami and made LeBron think he was going to have to win the Eastern Conference finals Cleveland-style, I let my overmedicated, sleep-deprived imagination run wild. Before you call ESPN HR, let me explain:
A few weeks ago, I had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum (suffered during the vigorous throwing sessions we have in the cavernous Mag offices, I think). I wore a sling for a few days, generally tried to be careful and took a few doses of the pain meds the doctor prescribed. I was being very responsible. Sleeping was (and is) painful, and I woke up (and still wake up) more often than an octogenarian. But for the most part, I kept my head on straight. Then I started physical therapy, which is a wincing, laugh-to-keep-yourself-from-crying experience. Then, last week, I did a 36-hour, no-sleep tour of Vegas between Tuesday and Thursday for the International Conference on Gambling and Risk. By the time Saturday night rolled around, my shoulder throbbed and a dream-filled sleep was one of those things that only happened to the kid on "Game of Thrones" who sees ravens and can silence Hodor.
So, midway through the third quarter of the Pacers' blowout Game 6 win, I popped a double dose of the prescribed pain pills -- I emphasize prescribed, as in by a real doctor. I found that nice, comfortable lane of happiness and light.
When I woke up, I had an epiphany: If the Pacers reverse their zigzag trend of only showing up at home and LeBron is really playing as one, then this is something I need to get ahead on. It's not just about Game 7, but about next season. The Pacers can handle the Heat. The Bulls will be better. There's a chance, if the Heat don't win the Eastern Conference Finals, that they might not even be title favorites in 2014. I emailed my theory to Ed Salmons of the Las Vegas Hotel and said, "I'm curious if you think that perception will be shared by fans."
His response: "Shortest odds for 2014 will be Heat, Thunder, Bulls/Spurs."