Eastern Conference Notebook

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Can the Celtics challange the Miami Heat for the title?

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Ranking the Offseason Moves
1. Miami Heat  It doesn’t get much better than re-signing Dwyane Wade and adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh —and convincing all three to take less than max dollars. Miami also re-signed Udonis Haslem while bringing in Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard and Eddie House to fill key roles.

2. Boston Celtics  Quietly, the Celtics brought back their core — coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — and re-upped role players Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels. The addition of the O’Neals — Jermaine and Shaquille — gives Boston some support down low while Kendrick Perkins works his way back from knee surgery.

3. Chicago Bulls  Chicago hit a home run by hiring Tom Thibodeau as head coach and became the Utah Jazz of the Eastern Conference by inking Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. The addition of Kurt Thomas helps mitigate the loss of Brad Miller, while C.J. Watson will help spell Derrick Rose.

4. Milwaukee Bucks  Scott Skiles’ squad will have help in the scoring department after bringing in Corey Maggette from Golden State, and re-signing John Salmons. Keyon Dooling will give Brandon Jennings a solid backup following the departure of Luke Ridnour. The Bucks also added some interior depth with Drew Gooden and Jon Brockman.

5. New York Knicks  Knicks fans were hoping to land two max players last summer but will have to settle for one in the form of Amar’e Stoudemire. New York also landed Raymond Felton via free agency and Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike from the Warriors in the sign-and-trade deal for David Lee.

Time to Shine
The following players are primed for breakout seasons in 2010-11:

Jeff Teague, G, Atlanta
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago
Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
Terrence Williams, F, New Jersey
Anthony Randolph, F, New York
Andray Blatche, F, Washington


All-Eastern Conference
First Team
Chris Bosh, F, Miami
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
LeBron James, F, Miami
Rajon Rondo, G, Boston
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami

Second Team
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee
Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta
Paul Pierce, F, Boston
Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, New York

Third Team
Carlos Boozer, F, Chicago
Danny Granger, F, Indiana
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando
Gerald Wallace, F, Charlotte

All-Rookie Team
Ed Davis, F, Toronto
Derrick Favors, F, New Jersey
Greg Monroe, F, Detroit
Evan Turner, G, Philadelphia
John Wall, G, Washington

Coaches on the Rise
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
The defensive specialist’s style should translate well in Chicago. He’ll also have a lot of talent to work with.

Avery Johnson, New Jersey
After the Nets’ near-record losing season, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Scott Skiles, Milwaukee
Skiles’ hard-nosed approach nearly landed the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs even without Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd.

Coaches on the Hot Seat
Jay Triano, Toronto
After losing the services of Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, Triano won’t have a whole lot to work with this season.

Jim O’Brien, Indiana
O’Brien has presided over three straight losing campaigns in Indiana, and things aren’t likely to turn around anytime soon.

Erik Spoelstra, Miami
Spoelstra is Miami’s coach … for now. With the legendary Pat Riley peering over the railing of his front office seat, the onus is on Spoelstra to prove he can lead a team constructed to win big and win now. Remember that Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy early in Miami’s 2005-06 championship campaign, so the precedent has been set if Spoelstra hits a rough patch.

Sliding Back
Don’t be surprised if the following players take a step
(or, in some cases, another step) backward this season.

Ray Allen, G, Boston
Leandro Barbosa, G, Toronto
Elton Brand, F, Philadelphia
Richard Hamilton, G, Detroit
Devin Harris, G, New Jersey
Josh Howard, F, Washington
Rashard Lewis, F, Orlando

Under-the-Radar Signings
Mike Miller, Miami (five years, $29 million)
Miller will get plenty of open looks in Miami with opposing defenses concentrating on the Big Three.

Kyle Korver, Chicago (three years, $15 million) 
Every team needs a good shooter, and Korver is an excellent one. He shot an NBA-best 53.6 percent from 3-point range last season.

Amir Johnson, Toronto (five years, $34 million) 
What has Johnson proven to deserve this kind of money? He finished the season strong but still averaged just 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 2009-10.

Joe Johnson, Atlanta (six years, $124 million) 
While the market was willing to reward a player of Johnson’s caliber, the question has to be asked: Was the 29-year-old really worth max dollars?

 

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