Team-by-team preview

NBA 1991-92

November 01, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

(in predicted order of finish)

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Boston Celtics

Last season: First (56-26), lost to Detroit in conference semifinals, 4-2

Coach: Chris Ford (56-26 career record)

New face: F Rick Fox (draft)

Outlook: A rejuvenated Larry Bird has the Celtics thinking title again.

Key: Keeping the aging front line of Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale healthy and active.

New York Knicks

Last season: Third (39-43), lost in first round of conference playoffs to Chicago, 3-0

Coach: Pat Riley (533-194 career record)

New faces: Riley, F Xavier McDaniel (acquired from Phoenix), C Tim McCormick (acquired from Atlanta), G Greg Anthony (draft), F Anthony Mason (free agent)

Outlook: Riley has imbued the Knicks with renewed confidence and restructured the defense. McDaniel, a proven scorer and rebounder, will allow Kiki Vandeweghe to fill the sixth-man role.

Key: Keeping Patrick Ewing focused and upbeat after the All-NBA center lost in salary arbitration.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last season: Second (44-38), lost to Chicago in conference semifinals, 4-1

Coach: Jim Lynam (211-217 career record)

New faces: G Tharon Mayes (free agent), C Charles Shackleford (free agent), G Mitchell Wiggins (free agent)

Outlook: The 76ers lost muscle and leadership after waiving F Rick Mahorn, but the backcourt has been solidified by the return of point G Johnny Dawkins, who missed most of last season after a knee injury.

Key: The undersized 76ers will need oft-troubled Shackleford to fill the rebounding void left by Mahorn.

Miami Heat

Last season: Sixth (24-58), failed to make playoffs

Coach: Kevin Loughery (509-587 career record)

New faces: Loughery, F George Ackles (draft), G Steve Smith (draft)

Outlook: C Rony Seikaly and F Glen Rice made big strides last season, and rookie Smith has been impressive in a trial at point guard, but the Heat lacks depth.

Key: Playmaker Sherman Douglas, a proven leader, remains a contract holdout.

Washington Bullets

Last season: Fourth (30-52), failed to make playoffs

Coach: Wes Unseld (131-170 career record)

New faces: G Michael Adams (acquired from Denver), G LaBradford Smith (draft), F Albert King (free agent), F Larry Stewart (rookie free agent).

Outlook: The Bullets will start the season minus their 2 best forwards, Bernard King, recovering from knee surgery, and John Williams, who held out. Adams, replacing traded Darrell Walker at the point, adds quickness and 3-point range.

Key: Trying not to dig too deep a hole until Bernard King returns to action.

Orlando Magic

Last season: Fourth in Midwest Division (31-51), failed to make playoffs

Coach: Matt Guokas (168-203 career record)

New faces: F Brian Williams (draft, unsigned), C Stanley Roberts (draft)

Outlook: The Magic improved dramatically last season, winning 13 more games than in its inaugural season and going 20-18 over the last 2 months. Scott Skiles is among the NBA's most effective playmakers, and F Dennis Scott had a strong rookie season.

Key: The defense still is suspect, and any team with Greg Kite as its starting center can't be treated as a serious contender.

New Jersey Nets

Last season: Fifth (26-56), failed to make playoffs

Coach: Bill Fitch (805-835 career record)

New faces: G Kenny Anderson (draft), F Rafael Addison (free agent)

Outlook: The Nets showed signs of growth last season, with a strong rookie effort by power F Derrick Coleman and offensive boost from G Drazen Petrovic.

Key: Getting Anderson signed and tutored to trigger a major rebuilding job.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Chicago Bulls

Last season: First (61-21), won NBA championship

Coach: Phil Jackson (116-48 career record)

New face: F Mark Randall (draft)

Outlook: Stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen led the title drive and established a new blueprint for building a championship team with athletic versatility.

Key: Standing pat is often counterproductive for defending champions, and Jackson must keep egos in check.

Detroit Pistons

Last season: Second (50-32), lost to Chicago in conference finals, 4-0

Coach: Chuck Daly (428-269 career record)

New faces: F Brad Sellers (free agent), G Darrell Walker (acquired from Washington), F Orlando Woolridge (acquired from Denver)

Outlook: After winning consecutive titles, the Pistons were humiliated in a playoff sweep by Bulls. Daly unloaded veterans James Edwards and Vinnie Johnson, seeking quickness in a sagging offense.

Key: Isiah Thomas, not chosen by the Olympic selection committee, will try to prove a point to his mounting NBA critics.

Indiana Pacers

Last season: Fifth (41-41), lost to Boston in first round of playoffs, 3-2

Coach: Bob Hill (52-71 career record)

New face: F Dale Davis (draft, unsigned)

Outlook: Hill gave the quixotic Pacers stability after replacing Dick Versace. Indiana has an explosive offense, led by Reggie Miller, Chuck Person and Detlef Schrempf, but still is vulnerable defensively.

Key: C Rik Smits must rebound from a disappointing third year in the NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last season: Sixth (33-49), failed to make playoffs

Coach: Lenny Wilkens (758-696 career record)

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