Nba East 2006/7

The Miami Heat came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and now appear poised to take it to the next level.
Led by All-Star centre Shaquille O’Neal, who has averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for 13 straight seasons, the Heat have the cornerstone for a competitive team.
But then add point guards Gary Payton, Jason Williams and forward Antoine Walker to the mix and you have a team ready to challenge for the title after last season’s game seven loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Led in the backcourt by gritty, high-scoring Dwyane Wade, the Heat should at least match last year’s East-leading 59-23 record. They begin their season on November 2 at Memphis.
The Indiana Pacers figure to make a run at the Heat for the top spot in the East, hoping to leave the memories of last year’s on-the-court and in-the-stands brawl against the Pistons behind them.
The NBA suspended Pacers All-Star Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal. Coupled with a slew of injuries last season, the 44-38 Pacers had the maximum 12 players in uniform for only 17 of 82 games.
The Pacers were hurt by the retirement of Reggie Miller, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, but are hoping guards Stephen Jackson and Fred Jones can fill the void.
O’Neal, who averaged 24 points and nine rebounds a year ago, is set to become the team’s maestro following the departure of Miller, the NBA’s three-point king.
We are, without question, moving into a new era,'' said coach Rick Carlisle. On the other hand, we have a group of players now who have been together for a while who are ready to carry the torch forward.’’
The Pistons have lost coach Larry Brown but made few changes from last year’s 54-28 team, which is good news for Flip Saunders.
With free agencies and with the way things are it is tough to keep teams together,'' the coach said. Not only to keep a starting five, but to have 12 guys or 11 guys back from a team, that just doesn’t happen very often. Continuity is always good.’’
The New Jersey Nets look loaded, with guard Jason Kidd’s knee healed and swingman Richard Jefferson ready for a full season following a debilitating wrist injury.
LeBron James averaged 27 points a game last year but the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to have to give him some help if they are to improve on their 42-40 record.
The third-year small forward was the first player to lead the league in both minutes played and field goals made since Michael Jordan in 1988-89.
Washington won a playoff series for the first time in 23 years but will sorely miss guard Larry Hughes, who moved to the Cavaliers.
The Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers should make the postseason once again but it will be a struggle for the New York Knicks, who scored a big off-season coup by landing Larry Brown as their coach.
The nomadic Brown, who has won everywhere he has been, has his work cut out for him coaching the Knicks, who were 33-49 last season.
Every day we go out and practice. We are all getting better,'' said Knicks guard Stephon Marbury. Especially at the mental aspects of the game.’’

``We are beginning to see the outlines of something much, much better happening here.’’
Milwaukee, Boston, Orlando, Toronto, Atlanta and Charlotte will battle for the postseason.

Heat are strong this year, but then again you have to look at spurs from the west. Returning champions with pretty much no player losses, but two major signings (both 10ppg + players). Aslong as these signings do not ruin team chemistry, then the spurs are looking at a possible 70+ Wins season!

I don’t know about the 70 wins thing, but I definately think that the Spurs will win it all again. I think they’ll win 60+ this season unless there are some injuries to key players (Duncan etc.).

look for the spurs to move berry for sure.

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 - Reigning champion San Antonio will seek a fourth crown in eight years while a host of improved rivals take aim at the Spurs when the National Basketball Association’s 60th season begins on Tuesday.
The Spurs outlasted Detroit in a dramatic seven-game showdown in June’s NBA Finals, but the Pistons return as a serious threat to dethrone San Antonio along with Miami, Indiana, Phoenix, Denver and Houston.
They know we didn't kick anybody's butt in the playoffs,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. There are still six, seven teams that can win the championship and we’re one of them. But we don’t have any illusions about who we are.’’
Star forward Tim Duncan sparked the Spurs with 20.3 points and 11.1 rebounds a game last season and together with French guard Tony Parker and Argentina playmaker Manu Ginobili nudged San Antonio into a championship.
But foes are gathering. Shaquille O’Neal left behind Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers to make the Miami Heat a contender and Indiana will have Ron Artest returning after an early season brawl dimmed last season’s title hopes.
I told them, 'Shaq wants to win the championship. He wants to prove he can do it without Kobe. Detroit wants to get it back again,''' Popovich said. It’s not like we kicked their (rears) last year.
Indiana was just as good as anybody but they blew it up. And there are three or four teams out West just like those in the East.'' The defence-minded Spurs added veterans Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley, who figure to play key roles off the bench, to the skills of Ginobili, who had 16 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game, and Parker, who averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Duncan remains the pivotal player in San Antonio's bid to extend the reign after prior titles in 2003 and 1999. The pieces have to fit around him,’’ Popovich said. The fortunate thing for us is that it seems that, given enough talent, all pieces fit around Timmy. He figures it out.'' The Heat, led by O'Neal and star guard Dwyane Wade, won 59 games last season but lost to Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals. Miami has added forwards James Posey and Antoine Walker and guards Jason Williams and Gary Payton. If Miami coach Stan Van Gundy can manage the egos and unify the talent, the Heat should be hard to beat. But the coach said the Spurs are the team that knows itself better than any rival as the curtain rises. There’s no question in my mind that they have the best understanding of what their game is,’’ Van Gundy said.
The Pistons replaced Larry Brown, now coaching the New York Knicks, with Flip Saunders, who takes over a team that knows how to win and came within a game of back-to-back NBA crowns.
Before when you had coaching changes, you always wonder what he's going to do new,'' Pistons center Ben Wallace said. I’m confident in this team. Right now we could play for any coach. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching us.’’
Artest’s return alongside Jermaine O’Neal boosts Indiana’s chances, with European star guard Sarunas Jasikevicius trying to replace retired long-range legend Reggie Miller.
Phoenix won 62 games last season but could not overcome the Spurs in the playoffs and Canadian guard Steve Nash, the NBA Most Valuable Player, will be without centre Amare Stoudemire for at least four months after knee surgery.
Shawn Marion and Jim Jackson provide scoring punch for a Suns’ squad hoping to find some defensive intensity to match its offensive aggressiveness.
I think we can still spread the floor and we can create some mismatches,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. We scored on them last year. It’s just that we couldn’t stop them. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a little bit better job.’’
Carmelo Anthony could lift Denver into contention while Chinese centre Yao Ming and star guard Tracy McGrady ignite Houston’s offence in a bid to advance beyond round one of the playoffs.
LeBron James vows to lift Cleveland into the playoffs at last.
There should be no excuses for us not getting to the playoffs,'' James said. Anything is possible, but I won’t let it happen, not this year.’’
Phil Jackson returns to coach the Lakers and Bryant, whom he once dubbed ``uncoachable’’.
NBA scoring champion Allen Iverson looks for team success in Philadelphia while top draft pick Andrew Bogut of Australia attempts to revive Milwaukee.
Damage from Hurricane Katrina will force the New Orleans Hornets to play most of their home games in Oklahoma City, which might help the poorest-drawing team in the NBA improve upon attendance figures.