On Friday, some of the NBA's top players and coaches gathered for a media interview session, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posed several questions to some of the NBA's top names. Here are the questions -- and several of the answers:
Q. You often hear it when teams lose in the NBA, to the point it's become cliche: "We didn't play with energy tonight. The effort wasn't there." To which the average fan might respond: "Shouldn't effort be a given all the time for professional athletes?" Why isn't it?
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio coach: I don't want to get too philosophical, but I think that runs more with the media than the fans and coaches. I think you guys assume way too much when somebody loses. Oftentimes the question will be 'Where was the energy? Where was the hustle?' Then you look at the score and it's 96 to 94. So one team didn't have any energy and the other team did because they lost by two points? It just doesn't really make sense. I think people miss the boat too much when a team loses to say, 'They didn't have energy. They didn't work hard. They weren't focused.'
Losses have a lot more to do with shooting well or shooting poorly, rebounding, turnovers, defensive errors, team errors. Guys go out there to compete. If you've ever competed, no one wants to make a fool of themselves by getting embarrassed or anything like that. Everybody tries hard. There might be an occasion when someone is on a road trip, everybody is dead tired. It's not from a lack of wanting to do it, the energy just isn't there. I don't think that happens.
Doc Rivers, Boston coach: Because you play 82 games. And you travel. It's tough. What you want is the mental toughness to fight through it, and most nights you do. But there are nights that you go to work at your 12-midnight shift and you have a bad night. [It's] the same thing with the players. It doesn't matter what they make, they are still human. You are going to have bad nights. And on those bad nights, you just hope you have enough other players, they have a good night and you can still squeak a win out. That's the way I've always looked at that.
Chris Bosh, Miami forward: People got to understand: Catch a flight, run up and down a court for an hour and a half, and then catch a flight again and do the same thing the next day and see how you feel. Just live in our shoes one day, and then if you are not tired the next day, kudos to you.
Q. The top four teams in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) are also among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference: Chicago, Boston, Orlando and Miami. The Hawks, meanwhile, rank 13th. What's it take to be a great defensive team?
LeBron James, Miami forward: You have go to want to do it first. Every individual has got to want to do it, and you have got to have a coaching staff that preaches it. If you don't have a coaching staff that preaches every day, 'We have got to get stops to be successful,' then it won't work.
Deron Williams, Utah guard: Everybody believing in each other. Nobody in this league can constantly stop players one-on-one. Players are too good, too quick. The rules don't allow it anymore. You have to be committed to each other and be committed to defense and getting stops.
Chris Paul, New Orleans guard: Everybody buying into it. You can't have three people playing defense and two not. Everyone has to be on a string.
Paul Pierce, Boston forward: I think it's going to take commitment. Everybody buying into the system. You look around our team, we've got a couple great defensive players, but I think everybody is committed to it. Everybody is buying into the system, and everybody is sacrificing at that end of the court. That's what's making us one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Q. Players are meeting this weekend about the labor situation. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in July. Are you concerned about the owners locking players out?
Carmelo Anthony, Denver forward: Nobody knows what's going to happen with the lockout. At the end of the day, if I was to sit here and say I'm not thinking about that, I would be lying to you guys. I don't want to go into no lockout. I don't think none of the players want to go into a lockout, so I hope that we can just come to an agreement. But that is in the back of my mind.
Rajon Rondo, Boston guard: It's a concern, but obviously we want to continue to play the game. We have a contract to play out this year, so just focusing on that.
James: Concerned? Not sure. I'm optimistic about it. Hopefully both sides can come away with an agreement that benefits both sides. No one wants to see a lockout, not the fans, not the players, not the owners. This game is too big and everyone enjoys it so much. Hopefully things can get situated before the start of the season.
Q. We're in Hollywood. If they make a movie of your life, who would you like to portray you?
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas forward: Woody Harrelson.
James: Will Smith is amazing. Denzel [Washington] is amazing. One of my favorites, Martin Lawrence.
Pierce: I really like Denzel. I really love Johnny Depp and Leonardo [DiCaprio], too.