Basketball

NBA EAST PREVIEW

1. Boston Celtics: They were special last season because none of the big three (Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen) had a me-first attitude. Retain that approach, and no one in the league can touch them. Plus, Rajon Rondo was quite a find.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: What's a luxury tax? The owner will spend whatever it takes to convince LeBron James his best chance of winning long-term is staying with the team that drafted him.

3. Orlando Magic: Athletic shooting guard Mickael Pietrus was a great little addition to a team with the league's best true center in Dwight Howard. Now, can they afford to retain Hedo Turkoglu?

4. Philadelphia 76ers: Signing Elton Brand makes this the best two-year makeover in the league. They have dependable scoring (Brand and Andre Iguodala), a shot-blocker (Sam Dalembert) and a point guard (Andre Miller). That's a sound roster.

5. Detroit Pistons: Joe Dumars promised big changes after last season, but nothing really happened. This team is getting old, but it's better off reshaping the roster when Rasheed Wallace's contract expires after this season.

6. Toronto Raptors: Trading for Jermaine O'Neal is an interesting gamble. There's a lot of mileage on that body, but he should open up the floor some for Chris Bosh. You have to love the Raptors' depth.

7. Atlanta Hawks: Maurice Evans and Flip Murray fill some of the void left by Josh Childress' departure. But Marvin Williams slows a team that has to run to be at its best.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Acquiring Richard Jefferson from the Nets gives the Bucks a leader-finisher. This team had some nice parts, starting with Andrew Bogut, but it often looked young and disorganized.

9. Washington Wizards: Injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood mean Antawn Jamison is going to have to carry them the first two months to stay in playoff contention. This could be an expensive mess of a season.

10. Chicago Bulls: So how will Ben Gordon react to impending free-agency? Will he be a team player or just run up statistics? Derrick Rose will play, rather than be slowly worked into the mix, and Luol Deng is a deep roster's best player.

11. Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Brown will make a difference, but he's a coach, not a sorcerer. This team needs more defenders and fewer players living off their jump shots.

12. Miami Heat: The Heat is lucky to have moved Shaquille O'Neal and the $40million that was left on his contract. Dwyane Wade and rookie Michael Beasley are a nice duo around which to rebuild.

13. Indiana Pacers: In a Portland Jail-Blazers kind of way (think back a few years), the Pacers managed to poison a market where they were beloved. Dumping a few guys who didn't know how to behave is the first step to stitching themselves back into the community.

14. New Jersey Nets: You know that term “holding action?” The Nets are willing to bet that hoarding a whole lot of cap room for down the road equals signing a superstar. Historically, that plan failed for the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls. Will it succeed for a team just across the river from Gotham?

15. New York Knicks: Bad as these guys are, hiring Donnie Walsh gets them back on track. They'll get worse to get better, and then they might steal LeBron James once he's a free agent.

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