Eastern Conference

NBA Preview

October 28, 2003|By Milton Kent

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

New Jersey Nets

Coach: Byron Scott (127-119 in three seasons, all with New Jersey)

2002-03 season: 49-33, won Atlantic Division, lost to San Antonio in the Finals.

Big offseason pickups: C Alonzo Mourning, G Zoran Planinic (rookie)

Key offseason losses: C Dikembe Mutombo

In a perfect world ... : Mourning, who missed virtually all of last season battling a kidney ailment, will give the Nets the active inside presence that has doomed them in the past two Finals, Richard Jefferson adds a jump shot to his growing offensive repertoire and Jason Kidd stays injury-free.

Nightmare scenario: Kenyon Martin smarts over not getting a contract extension, no consistent outside threat reveals itself, and everyone discovers that former assistant Eddie Jordan, now in Washington, really was running things.

Likely outcome: The Nets have enough to win a weakened Atlantic Division, but don't have the horses to knock off Detroit or Indiana, and Scott gets fired.

Philadelphia 76ers

Coach: Randy Ayers (first NBA season)

2002-03 season: 48-34, second in Atlantic, lost to Detroit in conference semifinals.

Big offseason pickups: F Glenn Robinson, C Marc Jackson

Key offseason losses: F Keith Van Horn

In a perfect world ... : Robinson becomes the long sought-after second scoring option behind Allen Iverson, Todd McCulloch finds a miracle cure to his foot ailment and gives the Sixers an inside presence and no one - least of all Allen Iverson - misses Larry Brown, who left for Detroit.

Nightmare scenario: Robinson not only dogs it defensively, but also clashes with Iverson for shots, Derrick Coleman isn't the answer at center and Ayers is no Brown.

Likely outcome: Another playoff appearance, but another quick departure.

Orlando Magic

Coach: Doc Rivers (170-158 in four seasons, all in Orlando)

2002-03 season: 42-40, fourth in Atlantic, lost to Detroit in first round.

Big offseason pickups: F/C Juwan Howard, G Tyronn Lue

Key offseason losses: None

In a perfect world ... : Howard mans the middle, allowing Drew Gooden to blossom at power forward, Gordan Giricek continues to develop at shooting guard and Tracy McGrady becomes the best player in the league.

Nightmare scenario: Howard, who didn't want to play center in Washington, doesn't want to play center in Orlando, and McGrady's back problems flare up all season.

Likely outcome: Rivers may need to make the second round of the playoffs to keep his job, and the Magic don't seem capable of going that far.

Washington Wizards

Coach: Eddie Jordan (33-64 in two seasons in Sacramento; first season in Washington)

2002-03 season: 37-45, tied for fifth in Atlantic, missed the playoffs.

Big offseason pickups: G Gilbert Arenas, F Jarvis Hayes (rookie)

Key offseason losses: G Michael Jordan

In a perfect world ... : All the Wizards' young talent - especially Kwame Brown - matures quickly, Jerry Stackhouse's knee problems aren't chronic, and the center by committee gets Washington 12 points and eight rebounds a night.

Nightmare scenario: Brown is revealed as a bust, Stackhouse's knee doesn't respond and his leadership qualities never arrive and Jordan is another head coach better suited to be an assistant.

Likely outcome: A playoff berth in the mild, mild East is a distinct possibility.

Boston Celtics

Coach: Jim O'Brien (117-95 in three seasons, all in Boston)

2002-03 season: 44-38, third in Atlantic, lost to New Jersey in conference semifinals.

Big offseason pickups: C Raef LaFrentz, G Mike James

Key offseason losses: F Antoine Walker, G Tony Delk

In a perfect world ... : Without Walker's questionable shot selection, the Boston offense flows more freely, LaFrentz becomes the serviceable center in the East that he couldn't be in Dallas or Denver and Marcus Banks becomes the next great point guard.

Nightmare scenario: Without Walker's offensive gifts, Paul Pierce gets double-teamed right out of the dressing room, Vin Baker's rebirth as a power forward goes the way of the dinosaur and O'Brien goes on the hot seat.

Likely outcome: New general manager Danny Ainge has started the rebuilding process, and it could go on for a couple of years.

New York Knicks

Coach: Don Chaney (322-470 in 11 seasons; 57-88 in two seasons in New York.)

2002-03 season: 37-45, tied for fifth in Atlantic, missed the playoffs.

Big offseason pickups: F Keith Van Horn, C Dikembe Mutombo

Key offseason losses: F Latrell Sprewell

In a perfect world ... : Van Horn finally becomes the quality offensive player people thought he would be in New Jersey, Mutombo gives the Knicks a low post threat and Antonio McDyess returns from his knee surgery.

Nightmare scenario: The booing for Van Horn can be heard in upstate Poughkeepsie, McDyess never recovers and Mutombo shows his true age.

Likely outcome: A new coach takes over before the All-Star break and Spike Lee finally heads across the Hudson to get on the Nets bandwagon.

Miami Heat

Coach: Stan Van Gundy (first NBA season)

2002-03 season: 25-57, last in Atlantic, missed the playoffs.

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