LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had the best record in the league this year but lost to the Celtics in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Not to take anything away from the Celtics but I think the distraction of LeBron James' impending free agency cost the Cavaliers dearly. All the players were constantly asked about it and the Boston fans even mocked the team with chants of "New York Knicks" and "Lebron is leaving".
When the Cavaliers lost I couldn't help but think of the 1978 New England Patriots. They had one of the best teams in the history of the Patriots with 5 All-Pro's including running back Sam Cunningham, tight end Russ Francis, linemen John Hannah and Leon Gray plus cornerback Mike Haynes. A young Steve Grogan led the team on offense and a young Steve Nelson led the team on defense. This was a Super Bowl caliber team but a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs mainly because the team was distracted by the contract status of head coach Chuck Fairbanks who had agreed to become the head coach of the University of Colorado after the season. I clearly remember the first round game against Houston and how distracted the whole team seemed and played. If Chuck Fairbanks waited till after the season to sign a contract then I really believe that 1978 team easily could have won the Super Bowl.
I mention this now because I see the same distractor-factor building in Los Angeles with Phil Jackson and the Lakers. Suddenly the Lakers are in a tough fight against the Suns and it can be argued that Jackson has been out-coached. If the Lakers lose to the Suns look for the distraction angle to be played up in both the local and national media. If the Lakers make it past the Suns then look for the distraction of Phil Jackson's contract status to become an even bigger story.