Eastern Conference

November 05, 1992|By Alan Goldstein

TC S$ (In predicted order of finish)

Atlantic Division

New York Knicks

Last season: Tied for first (51-31), lost to Chicago, 4-3, in conference semifinals.

Coach: Pat Riley (584-225 career record)

New faces: G Rolando Blackman (acquired from L.A. Clippers), G Doc Rivers (acquired from Clippers), G Bo Kimble (acquired from Clippers), F Tony Campbell (acquired from Minnesota), F Charles Smith (acquired from Clippers), G Hubert Davis (draft).

Outlook: Riley, who proved how much difference he could make, now has talent and depth at every position.

Keys: Blending in all the new faces and finding a proven small forward.

Boston Celtics

Last season: Tied for first (51-31), lost to Cleveland, 4-3, in conference semifinals.

Coach: Chris Ford (107-57 career record)

New faces: F Xavier McDaniel (free agent), G Jon Barry (draft, unsigned)

Outlook: The Celtics face life without legendary Larry Bird. Reggie Lewis is cast as new take-charge guy.

Keys: Aging Robert Parish and Kevin McHale must survive another season.

Miami Heat

Last season: Fourth (38-44), lost to Chicago, 3-0, in first round of playoffs.

Coach: Kevin Loughery (547-631 career record)

New faces: F John Salley (acquired from Detroit), G Harold Miner (draft), C Matt Geiger (draft).

Outlook: The youthful Heat made giant strides last season and also gained playoff experience. The explosive Miner could prove a real steal.

Keys: G Steve Smith's continued development and keeping C Rony Seikaly healthy.

New Jersey Nets

Last season: Third (40-42), lost to Cleveland, 3-1, in first round of playoffs.

Coach: Chuck Daly (476-303 career record)

New faces: G Rumeal Robinson (acquired from Atlanta), F Chucky Brown (free agent), C Dwayne Schintzius (free agent), F Jayson Williams (acquired from Philadelphia), C Dan O'Sullivan (free agent).

Outlook: Daly's reputation as a winner and taskmaster should speed progress.

Keys: Seeing whether promising G Kenny Anderson is ready to run the offense.

Orlando Magic

Last season: Seventh (21-61), failed to make playoffs.

Coach: Matt Guokas (189-164 career record)

New faces: C Shaquille O'Neal (draft), G Litterial Green (draft), G Lester Conner (acquired from Milwaukee), F Donald Royal (free agent).

Outlook: If O'Neal lives up to half his hype, the Magic will become instant contenders.

Keys: How premier outside shooter Dennis Scott returns to form after playing only 18 games last season.

Washington Bullets

Last season: Sixth (25-57), failed to make playoffs.

Coach: Wes Unseld (150-227 career record)

New faces: F Buck Johnson (acquired as free agent), F Tom Gugliotta (draft), F Don MacLean (acquired from Clippers), G Brent Price (draft).

Outlook: Only F Harvey Grant and reserve C Charles Jones remain from the team GM John Nash inherited two years ago. With a heavy accent on youth, the Bullets will experience growing pains while getting acquainted.

Keys: How quickly Gugliotta and MacLean make meaningful contributions, and whether either will become Unseld's much-needed rebounder in support of C Pervis Ellison.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last season: Fifth (35-47), failed to make playoffs.

Coach: Doug Moe (609-492 career record)

New faces: G Jeff Hornacek (acquired from Phoenix), C Andrew Lang (acquired from Phoenix), F Tim Perry (acquired from Phoenix), F Clarence Weatherspoon (draft), C Eddie Lee Wilkins (free agent).

Outlook: The 76ers were in decline, even with Charles Barkley on their side last season. The trade with the Suns provides more depth, but who will replace Barkley?

Keys: Moe is a proven winner, but he will need time to win confidence of an odd-fitting lot.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Last season: First (67-15), won NBA championship.

Coach: Phil Jackson (183-63 career record)

New faces: F Rodney McCray (acquired from Dallas), G Corey Williams (draft), G Trent Tucker (free agent).

Outlook: The Bulls, looking to "three-peat," lost Craig Hodges, Bobby Hansen and Cliff Levingston, but added valuable reserves in McCray and Tucker.

Keys: Jackson will have to keep Olympians Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen fit and focused after their year-round basketball marathon. Will Perdue and Stacey King must support aging Bill Cartwright.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last season: Second (57-25), lost to Chicago, 4-3, in conference finals.

Coach: Lenny Wilkens (815-721 career record)

New faces: G Gerald Wilkins (free agent), F Jerome Lane (free agent)

Outlook: With a solid, experienced nucleus, the Cavaliers again will pose a strong threat to the Bulls, but have tough time matching Chicago at shooting guard and small forward.

Keys: Mark Price provides the glue for the Cavaliers.

Charlotte Hornets

Last season: Tied for sixth (31-51), failed to make playoffs.

Coach: Allan Bristow (31-51 career record)

New faces: C Alonzo Mourning (draft, unsigned), G Tony Bennett (draft).

Outlook: The Hornets made giant strides last season and can only improve with maturity of Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill.

Keys: By missing the entire training camp, Mourning will be playing busy game of catch-up.

Indiana Pacers

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