2012 NBA PREVIEW ATLANTIC DIVISION:
TEAMS (in expected finishing order):
- NEW YORK KNICKS
- BOSTON CELTICS
- PHILADELPHIA 76ers
- NEW JERSEY NETS
- TORONTO RAPTORS
FREE AGENT SIGNINGS/TRADES/RE-SIGNINGS:
- Tyson Chandler-New York
- Mike Bibby-New York
- Baron Davis-New York
- Brandon Bass-Boston
- Jeff Green-out for the season-Boston
- Chris Wilcox-Boston
- Keyon Dooling-Boston
- Nikola Vucevic-Philadelphia
- Thaddeus Young-Philadelphia
- Spencer Hawes-Philadelphia
- Jonas Valanciunas-New Jersey
- Marshon Brooks-New Jersey
- Shawne Williams-New Jersey
- Anthony Carter-Toronto
- Aaron Gray-Toronto
- Gary Forbes-Toronto
Dwight Howard-STILL NOT IN NEW JERSEY
The Eastern Atlantic is looking different these days with a new Knicks team that’s likely to challenge the Celtics for Atlantic Division supremacy. The rest of the division isn’t putty either, judging from the Hawks’ elimination of the Magic in the first round of last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Sixers either—they’re healthy and coming into their own. It’s going to be another doozy of a year.
The Knicks aren’t faring THAT much better than the Celtics even with the addition of NBA Champion Tyson Chandler. Right now their back-court consists of some bedraggled guards from another generation: Mike Bibby and Baron Davis (once he’s healthy), and a bunch of youngsters that aren’t quite ready for the big time: Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert (Can you imagine any of these people trying to defend a pissed off Rajon Rondo?). That back-court isn’t going to cut it in the D’Antoni offense that rewards pass-happy and shoot-happy back-courts who can run. Bibby and Baron can’t run, Baron can barely move, so it’s unlikely the SSOL offense will lead the Knicks. More likely Amar’e and Melo will slow the pace and do a possession by possession game that features less wear and tear on their knees. Same for the addition of the often-injured Tyson Chandler. They really just need another coach that matches their personnel. Hello Phil Jackson? His specter will be hovering over every decision D’Antoni makes this season, which means D’Antoni will play his big three more than he should, and they’ll get injured.
The Celtics are a year older with a jam-packed schedule with back to backs and back to back to backs that will hurt them; they lost Jeff Green to a freak brain aneurysm and Glen Davis as a free agent (which is actually a good thing if you ask Celtics fans); they picked up Brandon Bass (a cheaper Davis) to supplement the loss of Davis; and there were so many trade rumors for Rondo that leaked, they may as well have lost their all-star point guard. Not a good vantage point to start this season at noon on Christmas Day against the Knicks. Also, their starting big man is Jermaine O’Neal, and there’s no way he’s making it through this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers had a bit of a turnaround last season under sometimes blond-coiffed coach, Doug Collins. Can they continue to improve this year with another year of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand together as their primary offensive weapons? Probably, but it won’t translate come playoff time. They’ll be the 3rd best team in this division, and may squeak out a playoff spot in the 7 or 8 position. That means another first round date with Miami, Chicago, New York or Boston and another first round exit. Until they get more talent, they’re doomed to mediocrity.
The New Jersey Nets, owned by two people who have spent a lot of time on yachts: one Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov, probably won’t be popping the Crystal this year. The Nets are basically the Deron Williams and Brook Lopez show. The rest of their team, even with Lithuanian import, Jonas Valanciunas, will be the reason why I can afford Nets tickets this season, but not my beloved Knicks.
The Toronto Raptors. What? No chance, when your best player is a 3-point shooting big-man that doesn’t block shots or try very hard on defense. Andrea Bargnani, aside from his feminine sounding given name, is a great offensive player, averaging over 20 ppg last season, but he’s really all they have. Jose Calderon continues to thrive off his performance as a back-up in 2007, and Jerryd Bayless will probably step in to start by season’s end. That being said, unless the Raptors can make a free agent splash this off-season (not likely—when you consider all the taxes Canadian players have to pay), they’re doomed to lottery obscurity and another losing season.
ART: Hooped Up VIA Caroline Blanchet