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Friday, October 3, 2008

A cursory glance at the NBA

NBA training camp is finally in full swing, so it’s the perfect time to update you on the finer aspects of each team.

The Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

"Anything is possible" (see Garnett, Kevin) with the reigning champions. Since lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June, the Celtics have experienced some changes in personnel. Gone are the veteran figures of James Posey and PJ Brown, but the Cs should be able to count on the improvement of Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo and Leon Powe to bridge the gap in talent. Rookies JR Giddens and Bill Walker should also be able to work their way into the rotation this season.

Anyway, any team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen playing within a team concept should be able to sweep the East easily for another two seasons.

New Jersey Nets

Does anyone still remember a guy named Vince Carter, the guy who's formally known as "half-man, half amazing"?

It's time to dust off those Nike Shox in the closet if you're a Nets fan ‘cause he's the only star you've got on the team next season, with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson gone to the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks respectively.

For people slightly more curious about the team rapper Jay-Z co-owns, remember the name Sean Williams. The forward is fast improving under the tutelage of coach Lawrence Frank, and we should see some flashes of brilliance from the forward, when he gets easy dunks in the new Dribble Drive Motion offence the Nets plan to unleash on the League in October.

Side note: Yi Jian Lian is on this team, go Team China!

New York Knicks

The big joke in the Big Apple continues, at least for another season.

Troubled guard Stephon Marbury appeared on Media Day blabbering about his legacy and offering to pray for reporters. Eddy Curry appeared for training camp in possibly the worst shape of his life, and is sitting out practice due to a "bacterial virus", meaning it'll be some time before the center gets a chance to get back in playing shape and assimilating himself into Coach Mike D'Antoni's famed "seven seconds or less" offence.

The only bright side of the media circus known as the Knicks is the addition of Donnie Walsh (Isaiah Thomas' replacement as the President of basketball operations) and D'Antoni, and maybe the US$21.9 million expiring contract of Marbury.

Expect to see the Knicks in the lottery come Draft day.

Philadelphia 76ers

Ed Stefanski is a genius, at least on paper.

The GM of the Sixers managed to entice Elton Brand to head east to Philadelphia, immediately elevating the team into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

The Duke product will provide the inside scoring punch that the Sixers sorely missed last season, freeing guards Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala to freelance further on the perimeter. Brand's rebounding and post defence will improve the already potent Philadelphia transition offence, and give center Sam Dalembert license to bomb forward on the break.

The All-Star forward may not be able to make the Sixers shoot better from the outside, but his ability on the block should free shooters to get better shots this season, a basic platform for the team to attract free agent sharpshooters to sign before the Playoffs.

Toronto Raptors

The guys up north are this season's dark horses of the East, especially after trading for oft-injured center-forward Jermaine O'Neal.

The former Indiana and Portland player will provide interior strength, defence and savvy to bolster Toronto's rail-thin frontline (yes, I'm talking about you Chris Bosh!), provided he stays healthy this season.

O'Neal powered a star-studded Pacers team to an Eastern Conference Final back in 2004, can he do the same in 2008?

Time will tell.

By Vincent Lai

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