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What Happened to the Cavaliers?


Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” ~ Adam Hochschild

For two straight playoff series, the Cleveland Cavaliers not only looked unbeatable, they in fact were unbeatable.

They played eight games and won them all, winding up in the Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic. Then suddenly they were no longer unbeatable. They lost in six games, and now they’re home for the summer while Orlando plays for the title.

What happened?

Maybe the Magic were just better.

But it’s also possible that the Cavaliers lost their zone, that wonderful flow state in which everything seems clear and slow. Maybe those two playoff sweeps were just too easy.

Remember yesterday’s story about Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders, who said he was “scared” as his team roared toward the Stanley Cup? When asked why he felt scared, Trottier replied, “I’m scared that I might wake up one morning and not be in this zone.”

Trottier had every right to be scared about that. Zones are fragile. It takes a lot of hard work to get there, but a small distraction can ruin everything. As golfing legend Bobby Jones said, “The mark of a champion is to be everlastingly on the lookout against the self.”

I believe the first step in getting to the zone is respect. You must respect the game, the opponent, and the enormity of the challenge. If you have this kind of respect, you will attend to details. And if you attend to details, there’s no time to lose focus.

Whatever the reason, the Cavaliers, after winning eight games in a row, are out of the playoffs. Rafael Nadal, after winning 31 consecutive matches at the French Open, has lost to Robin Soderling in one of the greatest upsets in tournament history.

Was Soderling simply better? Or did Nadal lose some focus?

We may never know. But Bryan Trottier’s message echoes ever the louder: If you’re fortunate enough to get into a championship mental state, treat the zone like a treasure. Because it is.


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