NBA Preview 2009-10, Eastern Conference

Sean CottenCorrespondent IOctober 27, 2009

MIAMI - FEBRUARY 01:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat greets LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers before the game at American Airlines Arena February 1, 2007 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Last year I didn't make the time for a preview and no one missed it, so to celebrate I'm making a huge comeback after a one-year (old son) hiatus last year to put my expectations into cyberspace to get fired up for the opening tip.  I've subscribed to league pass and I'm ready, though I feel like Jason Williams, rusty after my one-year hiatus.  Here goes with part one, the Eastern Conference...

Atlantic Division
Boston Celtics - KG's knees.  How much are you willing to bet that KG's knees will hold up from April to June after puffing through October to April? I for one haven't taken a mortgage out on my house (pardon the poorly-timed reference). That being said, how far would the Celts have gone with Rasheed playing "Scalabrine" minutes for a team that fought to the death with Orlando last spring?
New Jersey Nets - No joke, the three highest paid guys on this team are Devin Harris, Bobby Simmons and Tony Battie.  Oh and Beware! Courtney Lee's gonna try to play the revenge card a la Hibachi. But really now, how bitter is a 1st round pick from a small school that made it to the finals as a rookie? Oooh... scary.
New York Knicks - Are they playing any games in 2009-10?  How else can they explain the way they handled NateRob and David Lee.  Who was going to pick up the slack of 33-16-6, Eddy Curry and Larry Hughes? Puh-puh-please! If DWade and/or LeBron don't end up in NY (and I'm guessing they won't) this team is gonna be U-G-L-Y for many years to come.
Philadelphia 76ers - Intriguing, but not really.  Brand's like the slow alternate on the Jamaican 4x100 team, problem is he's a very highly paid slow alternate and, as such, the team as a whole has to suffer to get him some shine.  Playoffs?  I suppose so because they won 41 games last year, but I'm not comfortable about it.

Toronto Raptors - I love Hedo, I really do. I'm an old Kings fan and have seen glimmers of his ability through the years.  However, he just got paid for a ridiculous run for the Magic in the playoffs where he managed to hide the fact that he wasn't playing well behind a few clutch buckets (this reeks Al Davis).  In the end, his playoff line reads 16-4-5-.429 and only the FG% is above season average and was abysmal.  Getting the picture?  Hedo is not carrying this 33-win Raptor team over the threshold.  Hey Chris, like Miami?Central Division
Chicago Bulls - Loul Deng, you've inherited Ben Gordon's clutch shooting!  Good, cuz if you haven't then this team is going to underperform.  In my eyes, everything says this team will be worse than last year except two things. First, Derrick Rose is (add Bill Walton superlative here).  Second, they battled a KG-less Celtics in a (add 2 Live Crew superlative her) first-round playoff loss.  That's right, 41 wins, a first-round playoff loss, they lost their second-best player and they've filled the gap with 2 players from a team that won 17 games. Sensing a lack of optimism?

Cleveland Cavaliers - Let me discribe the key players in this team's rotation. 37-year old center, Zzzz, gunner point guard, crazy point guard, Euro-Parker, Latin-Andy, Jamario (jumps over the) Moon... stop me when you hear something you like and don't say Mo (the Bucks averaged 27 wins from 2006-8). Then there is the KING.  This team minus the upgrades of Shaq and Moon (Big Ben and Wally) won 66 freaking games last year.  How good is LeBron?  Think about that.  Then think about 35-9-7 in the playoffs and that his per-36-minute points, rebounds, assists, FG%, FT%, and blocks were career highs (3% and steals 2nd best) and his turnovers were down and man... where does this guy go from here at 25 years old? I say titletown.
Detroit Pistons - Joe Dumars, apologize to Allen Iverson right this minute! Seriously, you drug AI through the hell of replacing Chauncey (Chown-SEE!) for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva?  Good luck with that charma.  If Rip didn't like losing minutes to a legend, how's he liking losing minutes and clutch shots to BG? I smell trades... or is that burning tires? 
Indiana Pacers - Blah blah blah, Danny Granger, blah blah blah.  I can tell you this, I will not adjust my calendar to watch a Pacers game this year. Good for Tyler Hansbrough for getting drafted by a team where he might get some PT and I hope Roy Hibbert shows something but that this team won 36 games last year is amazing. 
Milwaukee Bucks - The good news is that Brandon Jennings can flat out play the point.  The bad news is he'll be running one-man fast breaks with Bogut, Kurt Thomas and Michael Redd out there with him and I'm thinking the Michael Redd with both ACLs. 
Southeast Division
Atlanta Hawks - Now we're having fun! Josh Smith swinging from the rafters, Joe Johnson residing in the not-quite-elite superstar realm and capable, if not very good rotation players.  This team is definitely fourth best in the East.  It makes you wonder if management is ready to pick up a difference maker at the trade deadline to fight off the broom in a series against Cleveland.  Keep the phone line open to Washington just in case.
Charlotte Bobcats - I think it's about time for me to stop being optimistic about the Bobcats future.  My man-crush on Gerald Wallace is about to expire, their two-headed PG isn't getting it done (Tyson Chandler is rolling over in his grave) and at least two of their three starters shouldn't be.  Larry Brown is walking proof that good NBA coaches are all about great NBA players.
Miami Heat - Beasley's T-weed-s have distracted from the fact that the Heat showed all sorts of promise last year and then did nothing, nada, zippo to get better this year.  See you guys in the summer of 2010 when I hope Dwyane Wade can convince someone ("Thank you for your sweater and jacket donations Mr. Bosh!") to join him before he is convinced to leave. 
Orlando Magic - Bold prediction of the season: Jameer Nelson leads the league in alley oops and it won't even be close.  Time to raise the rims to 12' and get it on in Orlando.  I think this is the year we all stop associating Vince Carter with selfishness and his bailout in Canada and start realizing that he is and has always been a special player.  However, I think the LeBrons have made the necessary changes (and the trade of Hedo removes a 6'11" piece of cryoptonite) to get past the Magic in a tough series next May. 
Washington Wizards - Along with KGs knees, the question in the East has to be "how hot is the Hibachi?"  Can Arenas get back to his bad-ass, blogging, altitude chamber, super swagger self or is he going to be a different player or... gulp... hurt again?  Regardless, you have to like the determination management has that this team is a contender when healthy and instead of overhauling, has built a nice rotation with Foye and Miller, not to mention Oberto.  I for one suspect that this team will get back in the playoff race and if healthy battle Atlanta in the second tier, if not, Wizard fans won't recognize the product on the court in April.