Alan Goldstein

NBA PREVIEW EASTERN CONFERENCE

November 01, 1990|By Alan Goldstein

Atlantic Division Boston Celtics Last season: Second (52-30), lost to New York in first round of playoffs, 3-2.

Coach: Chris Ford (first season).

New faces: G Dee Brown (draft), G Brian Shaw (returning from Italy), F Stojan Vrankov (free agent from Yugoslavia).

Departed: G Dennis Johnson (released).

Outlook: Jimmy Rodgers was fired as coach as much for slowing down the offense as for losing to the Knicks in the playoffs. Ford will speed the tempo, with Brown and Shaw pushing the ball up the floor.

Keys: Keeping the veteran front line of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale healthy. A major injury to any of the three could prove devastating.

Philadelphia 76ers Last season: First (53-29), lost to Chicago in second round, 4-1.

Coach: Jim Lynam (167-179).

New faces: C Manute Bol (trade), G Brian Oliver (draft), G Rickey Green (free agent), F Jayson Williams (trade).

Departed: F Cliff Robinson (retired), F Ben Coleman (released), G Scott Brooks (trade), G Derek Smith (released).

Outlook: Lynam, thanks to an MVP-type season from Charles Barkley, got the maximum out of the team last season. Shot-blocking Bol was acquired for a first-round pick to bolster a vulnerable defense.

Keys: Barkley appears to have recovered from shoulder surgery, but the bench is thin, and C Mike Gminski is on the downside. G Hersey Hawkins and G Johnny Dawkins must continue to improve.

New York Knicks Last season: Third (45-37), lost to Detroit in second round, 4-1.

Coach: Stu Jackson (45-37).

New face: F Jerrod Mustaf (draft).

Departed: F Johnny Newman (free agent).

Outlook: The weak half-court game was exposed last season. Rivals concentrated on stopping C Patrick Ewing, and the supporting cast failed to ease the burden.

Keys: Oft-injured F Kiki Vandeweghe still is vital to the perimeter game. Coach Jackson must keep demoted point guard Mark Jackson from becoming a divisive force.

Washington Bullets Last season: Fourth (31-51).

Coach: Wes Unseld (101-118).

New faces: F Pervis Ellison (trade), G A.J. English (draft), F Greg Foster (draft) G Byron Irvin (trade), G Larry Robinson (free agent), G Haywoode Workman (free agent).

Departed: G Jeff Malone (trade), C Mel Turpin (released), C Doug Roth (released), F Ed Horton (released), G Steve Colter (trade).

Outlook: Their fortunes depend primarily on two players who spurned training camp -- F John Williams and G Ledell Eackles. Both threatened to sit out the season in money disputes.

Keys: Ellison must supply inside scoring and rebounding, but Williams remains the key to success. The team is vulnerable at shooting guard without Malone.

New Jersey Nets Last season: Sixth (17-65).

Coach: Bill Fitch (779-778).

New faces: F Derrick Coleman (draft), G Tate George (draft), F Jud Buechler (draft), G Reggie Theus (trade), G Kurk Lee (draft).

Departed: F Charles Shackleford (playing in Europe), G Dennis Hopson (trade).

Outlook: Coleman, who missed training camp, is expected to bring order out of chaos. Youngsters Chris Morris and Mookie Blaylock must contribute more, but Theus will supply more firepower from the backcourt.

Keys: Injury-prone C Sam Bowie must remain healthy, and Coleman must mature quickly.

Miami Heat Last season: Fifth (18-64).

Coach: Ron Rothstein (33-131).

New faces: G Willie Burton (draft), G Bimbo Coles (trade), F Alec Kessler (trade), C Mark McNamara (trade).

Departed: G Rory Sparrow (trade), C/F Sidney Green (trade), G Scott Haffner (released).

Outlook: The Heat continues to improve, but suffered a setback in losing $28 million contract bid for Cleveland F John "Hot Rod" Williams.

Keys: F Glen Rice, the No. 1 pick in 1989, must show rapid improvement after a disappointing rookie season.

Central Division Detroit Pistons Last season: First (59-23), beat Portland in NBA Finals, 4-1.

Coach: Chuck Daly (378-237).

New faces: C Tree Rollins (free agent), G Lance Blanks (draft).

Departed: F David Greenwood (free agent), G Gerald Henderson (released).

Outlook: The nucleus of the repeat champions has remained intact, with the guard rotation of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson remaining as the backbone. Age is creeping into the frontcourt, with James Edwards, 35 in November, and Bill Laimbeer, 33.

Keys: Daly has to keep his team focused on a third straight title. G Dennis Rodman, the defensive stopper, is hobbled by an ankle injury.

Chicago Bulls Last season: Second (55-27), lost to Detroit in conference finals, Coach: Phil Jackson (55-27).

New faces: G Dennis Hopson (trade), F Cliff Levingston (free agent).

Departed: Jeff Sanders (released).

Outlook: The Bulls hope Hopson will take scoring pressure off G Michael Jordan. B.J. Armstrong is improving rapidly at point guard.

Keys: Levingston will add reserve strength to the frontcourt, but slow-footed G John Paxson is suspect as a starter. If F/C Stacey King matures, the Bulls could make a strong run at the Pistons.

Cleveland Cavaliers Last season: Tied for fourth (42-40), lost to Philadelphia in first round, 3-2.

Coach: Lenny Wilkens (725-647).

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