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News » NBA preview: Old faces, new places


NBA preview: Old faces, new places


NBA preview: Old faces, new places The NBA season opens Tuesday night with a four games, highlighted by a bout between Eastern Conference heavyweights Boston and Cleveland and the battle of Los Angeles between the defending NBA champion Lakers and the Clippers.

The 2010 title chase should be a wide-open competition. Several of last season's top teams made significant roster additions, most notably the Lakers, Orlando, Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio, Portland and Dallas.

FACES IN NEW PLACES

Shaquille O'Neal

Old team: Phoenix Suns.

New team: Cleveland Cavaliers.

Upside: In his first season with a new team, O'Neal might work hard and follow the same formula he used in 2005-06 with Miami, when he played a supporting role to Dwyane Wade and the Heat won the title.

Downside: At 37, does O'Neal have enough to withstand the riggors of another season and a long playoff run? Is he still a force or will he be flopping against centers other than Dwight Howard?

Allen Iverson

Old team: Detroit Pistons.

New team: Memphis Grizzlies.

Upside: As a veteran with nothing to prove, Iverson can help mentor young scorers O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. It's a chance to show that the Iverson-Carmelo Anthony pairing in Denver wasn't all his fault.

Downside: As a veteran with something to prove after having to take Memphis' one-year offer for the $3 million, Iverson might demand the ball and try to be the A.I. of old.

Vince Carter

Old team: New Jersey Nets.

New team: Orlando Magic.

Upside: He gives the Magic a true go-to scoring threat. And his game will fit in with Orlando's fast-paced, three-point shooting attack. As a veteran, he might realize that this is his chance to win a championship.

Downside: Carter isn't as versatile as the player he replaces Hedo Turkoglu. Without Turkoglu helping to initiate the offense, that puts more pressure on Jameer Nelson.

Ron Artest

Old team: Houston Rockets.

New team: Los Angeles Lakers.

Upside: Artest can be an effective third or fourth option on offense and give the Lakers a tough defensive stopper in the front court.

Downside: He's Ron Artest, and that could spell real trouble. His volatility could single-handedly torpedo the Lakers' chances of repeating as NBA champions.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS

These guys haven't been seen in a while, but their teams will be happy to get this All-Star-caliber collection back on the court.

Gilbert Arenas, Washington: Missed 80 games last season and 69 the previous season because of three operations on his left knee. He's back with a different, quieter attitude. "Fans, I think they just want to see me play," Arenas said. "I think they can live without me just rambling on about stupid stuff."

Elton Brand, Philadelphia: Missed the final 35 games because of a torn labrum. Now he gets a chance to start earning that $80 million the 76ers are paying him for five seasons.

Kevin Garnett, Boston: Missed 23 of the final 27 regular-season games, plus the playoffs because of strained ligaments in his right knee. He had surgery in May and looked good at the end of the exhibition season.

Al Jefferson, Minnesota: Missed the final 32 games because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Jefferson has come back 31 pounds lighter and appears recovered, but he has been troubled by Achilles' tendinitis.

Michael Redd, Milwaukee: Missed the final 35 games because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee. After surgery in March, he's still working his way back.

Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix: Missed the final 29 games because of a detached retina in his right eye. After undergoing multiple operations, he looked like his old self during the exhibition season.

Western CONFERENCE POWER RANKINGS

1. Los Angeles Lakers

For a championship team, the Lakers displayed a surprising lack of focus at times last season even during the playoffs. They won't get away with that this season. One of the keys to repeating will be the continued improvement of Andrew Bynum.

2. San Antonio

After limping out of the playoffs in the first round last season, the Spurs reloaded by acquiring Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff. Just like that, they have become NBA title contenders again.

3. Portland

The best young team in the league added a veteran presence in point guard Andre Miller, who will come off the bench after being beaten out by incumbent Steve Blake. Greg Oden has dropped 15 pounds and picked up some quickness.

4. Dallas

Free agent Shawn Marion will be one of the keys for Dallas. To make room for him, Josh Howard moves from small forward to shooting guard. The Mavericks also will be helped by one of the deeper benches in the West.

5. Denver

That Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade transformed the Nuggets into a Western Conference contender last season. But the West will be tougher this time around. Super sub J.R. Smith will begin the season with a seven-game suspension resulting from a 2007 reckless-driving conviction that caused the death of his friend.

6. New Orleans

The Hornets substitute undersized Emeka Okafor for oft-injured Tyson Chandler at center. Sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic will come off the bench, opening a starting spot for unproven Julian Wright. The keys to New Orleans' success will be All-Stars Chris Paul and David West.

7. Utah

The Jazz made a commitment to Paul Millsap during the offseason, signing him to an extension. Free-agent-to-be Carlos Boozer could have opted out, but opted to stay. He could be departing at the trade deadline. Can these power forwards play together in the meantime?

8. Phoenix

Trading Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland for essentially nothing will be addition by subtraction as the Suns return to hyper-speed. If Steve Kerr stays out of the way, the Suns can sprint back into the playoffs.

9. Los Angeles Clippers

There is talent here with Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Eric Gordon and No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin. General manager Mike Dunleavy put this roster together. Now can he coach it?

10. Houston

With Yao Ming out for the season and Tracy McGrady missing the first two months, a lot of pressure will fall on free agent Trevor Ariza. But how many wide-open three-point opportunities will the former Laker get with Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks as his teammates?

11. Minnesota

Kurt Rambis replaces the man who clotheslined him in the 1984 NBA finals (Kevin McHale). Rambis might take harder knocks coaching this sorry Timberwolves team.

12. Memphis

The Grizzlies' offense could be potent with scorers Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. But there's only one ball. And what will Memphis do with talented-but-troubled Zach Randolph?

13. Oklahoma City

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are a good start. But the front line of Durant, Green and Nenad Krstic is too soft in the rugged Western Conference.

14. Warriors

The scene has been set for a chaotic season as Monta Ellis searches for a way to play with rookie Stephen Curry and Stephen Jackson looks for a way out. Will coach Don Nelson stick around for the entire season?

15. Sacramento

Rookie Tyreke Evans tries to make the transition from combo guard in college to full-time point guard while breaking in to the NBA . Francisco Garcia will miss four months after having surgery on his fractured right arm.

Eastern CONFERENCE POWER RANKINGS

1. Boston

All title hopes rest on Kevin Garnett's right knee. But the Celtics do have a suitable backup in Rasheed Wallace. And they also picked up Marquis Daniels. Add in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, plus improving young players Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, and you have the team to beat in the East.

2. Cleveland

Shaquille O'Neal is the big addition, but his presence inside might make MVP LeBron James more of a jump shooter and less of a driver. Don't discount the impacts of new role players Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Leon Powe (when he returns from his knee surgery in February).

3. Orlando

Point guard Jameer Nelson needs to pick up where he left off before last season's shoulder injury if the Magic is going to challenge in the East. Dwight Howard needs to develop a real offensive game and learn to make free throws if the Magic is going to be a true championship contender.

4. Washington

New coach Flip Saunders will have plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal in Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison (when he returns from a shoulder injury), Mike Miller and Randy Foye. But what he really needs from these guys is some defense.

5. Atlanta

The Hawks added depth with the acquisition of sixth man Jamal Crawford, who might finally get a chance to contribute to a winning team.

6. Toronto

The Raptors scored in the free-agent market, landing Hedo Turkoglu in a sign-and-trade. He is one of the best all-around players in the league. He and Chris Bosh will form a formidable forward duo.

7. Miami

Dwyane Wade single-handedly carried the Heat into the playoffs last season. This time, he will need help from Michael Beasley and perhaps oft-injured Jermaine O'Neal.

8. Chicago

Derrick Rose is the reigning rookie of the year. John Salmons came out of nowhere (Sacramento, to be exact) to become a reliable scorer. But Luol Deng needs to stay healthy and show that he is worth that big contract he signed before last season.

9. Philadelphia

Will new coach Eddie Jordan's Princeton Offense help Elton Brand? How much will they miss Andre Miller at point guard? (Answer: A lot.)

10. Detroit

Ben Gordon was the big offseason acquisition, but he still will come off the bench behind starting guards Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey.

11. New Jersey

Devin Harris, in his first full season with the Nets, had an All-Star season. Second-year center Brook Lopez will have to become more of an offensive factor with the departure of Vince Carter.

12. Charlotte

The Bobcats lost their low-post threat when they traded Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for fragile Tyson Chandler. But Chandler will be a better defender in the middle. The Bobcats might have to make do without Raja Bell, who could miss four months if he opts for wrist surgery.

13. New York

The Knicks' roster is still a bag of mismatched parts, but at least it should be entertaining watching them run up and down the floor as the Eastern Conference's version of the Phoenix Suns. New York's main task this season is preparing for 2010 free agency.

14. Indiana

Danny Granger was an All-Star, scoring 25.8 points per game in the Pacers' high-octane offense. But can he or any other Pacer play any defense? Mike Dunleavy will miss the first two months while recovering from knee surgery.

15. Milwaukee

Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings' progress will be interesting to track. He went from high school to one season in Europe to the NBA . First thing he should learn is how to get the ball to Michael Redd as often as possible.

MILESTONES

Several notable achievements are within reach this season:

Players

Shaquille O'Neal, Cleveland: Needs 381 points to become the fifth player to score 28,000. He also needs 452 rebounds to move into 12th on the all-time list with 13,018. Sixty-six field goals would give him 11,000, which would be fifth all-time.

Ray Allen, Boston: Needs 339 points to reach 20,000. He also needs 262 three-pointers to pass Reggie Miller (2,560) and become the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history.

Allen Iverson, Memphis: Needs 1,017 points to reach 25,000. He also needs 36 steals to reach 2,000.

Jason Kidd, Dallas: Needs 136 assists to pass Mark Jackson (10,334) for second on the all-time list.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: Needs 1,180 points to reach 25,000.

Tim Duncan, San Antonio: Needs 754 points to reach 20,000.

Paul Pierce, Boston: Needs 1,397 points to reach 20,000.

Vince Carter, Orlando: needs 1,746 points to reach 20,000.

Steve Nash, Phoenix: Needs 495 assists to reach 8,000, which would rank eighth all-time.

Coaches

Don Nelson, Warriors: Needs 24 victories to pass Lenny Wilkens (1,332) and become the winningest coach in NBA history.

Teams

Lakers: Need 30 victories to become the first franchise (Minneapolis and Los Angeles) in NBA history to win 3,000 games.


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 28, 2009

 

 
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