We're back, and the previews are really starting to pick up around here, as the it's time to take a look at the Central Division. First, we'll start with some of the stated goals for '09 from SBN's bloggers.
From SBN's Detroit Piston's blog, Motown String Music:
For any team, the goal should be winning a championship. Call it cheesy, PC, unrealistic, etc., whatever you want. I don't think Detroit is going to win a championship in 2009-2010, but they need to continue working toward that goal. They need to work hard to create the right team chemistry and play hungry on a gamely basis. Ultimately, after Joe Dumars makes that one or two final moves, this team is hopefully going to be a legitimate contender for the NBA Championship, as they were for seven of the last eight seasons.
After back-to-back 36 win seasons, the Pacers are looking to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. That's the goal this team talks about at every opportunity and when you look at all of the close games the team dropped last year it doesn't take long to find a few more wins which would've put them in the playoffs.
Only problem is that there are several more teams in the mix in the Eastern Conference this year. Once you skim the cream off the top you could make the case that every team in the EC could make the playoffs if they stay healthy and play well. That alone exposes a mediocre middle of the conference, but the opportunity is there. Some teams don't necessarily have to stay healthy nor play exceedingly well, but the Pacers are one of the teams that will indeed need good health and must come together to play better than the sum of their parts in order to make the playoffs.
Media, fans, players – certainly they all have different ideas, though all can agree that after five straight last-place finishes in the Central, escaping the division basement would provide a long overdue baby step in the right direction and toward respectability. If that doesn’t happen, well, don’t count the national media among those surprised – they have lower expectations for Milwaukee this year than their usual, remarkably low expectations. Most who follow the team closely however probably peg the Bucks as a similarly capable side to last year. The offseason headlines naturally tilt toward actual player transactions, but if the team’s two most important chips (Redd and Bogut) return to health, the Bucks should be a mildly competitive team.
So, what should Redd and Bogut aim for, realistically? They are mainstays on these last-place finishers, but the last time either played 80 games, they both did - and the Bucks won 40 games and made the playoffs (2005-06). The chances the Bucks do the same this year are probably the same as the odds Redd and Bogut both stay on the floor without a scrape. Likely? No. Possible? Possible.
"Likely? No. Possible? Possible." Now that sounds like an NBA preview. I'm pretty sure I said those exact words when my girlfriend (who just moved to D.C.) asked whether the Wizards could win the NBA Title this year. Likely? Ehhh... Not so much. But possible. In October, anything's possible. Even...
(Sorry, it was obligatory.)
Back to the previews, where Matt from Blog-a-Bull is keeping things realistic:
Seeing how a first-round playoff loss to a team missing its best player was seemingly treated with such extreme excitement and praise, no doubt it will be important for the Bulls to at least look like a team on the rise, whether it's true or not. And to do that they have to make the playoffs again, entering 2010 free agency as an attractive destination for players looking for a competitive team with the cap space to pay up.
A season where the playoffs are missed could bring a repeat of Bulls free agency past, where Jerry Krause had a league-worst roster and whiffed on plan A through plan Ron Mercer.
And finally, from our Cavs blog, Fear the Sword:
Easy - Win the NBA Championship. Anything else for this group would be considered a letdown. I don't know if winning the title, or not winning it, will have any affect on what LeBron James does next summer, but this group was put together to win this season.
Doesn't get much simpler than that: win everything, or it's a letdown. Be sure to check back throughout the day on Friday for various thoughts on the Central Division, and check out all the previews, as our blogger's have done some tremendous work with these.