Conspiracy Theories and Cap Space!: A Look at the NBA's Atlantic Division

The season's less than a month away, so we'll begin our NBA previews by examining the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division. Check back throughout the day for emerging analysis.

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Team-by-Team Goals for 2009

Looking at 2009, each of our bloggers were asked to talk about their goals for the upcoming season. We'll start with Liberty Ballers and the Philadelphia 76ers:

The number one goal is to make the playoffs and win a series. The Sixers came close the past two seasons, but failed to close out game four not once, but twice. This year, they have the most talented team they've had since Iverson, and two years of playoff experience. If they miss the playoffs or lose in the first round the season will be considered a failure.

My second goal might be first on some fans' lists: the development of the young core. As far as Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams go, I think this will be their final year to drastically improve. However; Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, and Marreese Speights have a long way to go before their reach their full potential. Whether or not they improve this season will determine whether or not this year is a success in the eyes of many Sixers fans.

And Poasting and Toasting has some goals for the Knicks:

A playoff berth would be a nice surprise, especially considering that New York's upcoming first-rounder is in the hands of the Utah Jazz. Beyond that, though, New York's eggs are in a different basket (or I should I say LeBasket?). A roster that has changed very little since they won 32 games last year is blessed with low expectations, so developing young talent and showcasing trade assets are reasonable goals as well.

So, if you're keeping track at home those Knicks goals would be... "(shoulder shrug) make the playoffs?, develop young talent, and (drops to knees) PLEASE GOD BRING LEBRON NEXT SUMMER SO WE CAN CARE ABOUT THE KNICKS AGAIN.

Likewise, Slippery When Nets says that this year is an opportunity to assess what the Nets have going forward:

The Nets need to use this season to clearly see what their assets are truly worth. Clearly, Bobby Simmons, Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, Eduardo Najera, and Trenton Hassell will not be back next year. What can Terrence Williams achieve in the league? Is Courtney Lee the starting shooting guard for the team's future? Is Yi Jianlian or Chris Douglas-Roberts worthy of a roster spot? Are Josh Boone and Sean Williams just busts, or major busts? Is there room enough to keep valuable veterans like Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes around?

The way I see it, wins are an added bonus for the team this season. If the Nets go through another season and still don't know the value of their prospects, it will be a failed season.

While the guys at Raptors HQ aren't sure what to think:

I think if you were to ask any of the players what the goals are for this team it would be to make the playoffs and hopefully make some noise. What is interesting however, is that there is little consensus as to whether this is a realistic goal. This team could win 50 games or it could win 30 and in either case I would not be that surprised.

Perhaps the biggest goal for this team is to prove to Chris Bosh that Toronto is the place where he would like to be long-term. The best way to do this is to win games. This season, much hangs in the balance.

And the Celtics have the simplest goal of all:

4. What are the goals for this team?

Another banner.  Nothing else matters.

 

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What Can Fans Expect from Hedo Turkoglu?

SBN’s Raptors HQ came through with a fantastic preview of the ‘09 Raptors, a team that’s seen more turnover on their roster than anyone in the league. Bryan Colangelo doesn’t mess around, and, dissatisfied with last season’s results, he brought in freakish athletes like Amir Johnson and Demar DeRozan, and bruisers like Jarrett Jack and Reggie Evans. But chief among the additions was Hedo Turkoglu. Raptors HQ offers their take:

5. What can fans expect from Hedo Turkoglu?

The acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu did not come without criticism. Hedo has been given a handsome contract for someone who is likely on the downside of his career and there will be high expectations on him to perform near an All-Star level. The expectations as of today are very high.

Unfortunately when a player comes into a new situation with high expectations the results are often mixed. It will take some time for all of these new faces to gel and create solid chemistry. There will be some bumps in the road as Hedo, Bosh and Bargnani all learn to work together. What is concerning is that reports are indicating that Hedo is worn out after last seasons run to the Finals and this summer playing with his National Team. If Hedo does not come into camp fully healthy, thus delaying this team’s ability to develop as a unit, this could prove very detrimental to this teams aspirations. I fully expect a rocky start but hope I am wrong.

You have to give them credit: the Raptors HQ guys are being realistic. Acquiring Hedo was far riskier for the Raptors, than say, it would have been for Portland, where he nearly ended up. Toronto’s a young team approaching a crossroads— with Chris Bosh set to decide whether he’ll stick around Toronto for a longterm deal, this year’s critical—and a rough year from Hedo could bode very poorly from a team that otherwise has plenty of bright spots.

Still, if Hedo struggles, Bosh could be looking at a team whose locked into a longterm contract with a second option (Hedo) that’s not very good; surely, the open market figures to offer some greener pastures. The Raptors have been on the verge of contending for a few years now, and between Jose Calderon, Bosh, and now Derozan and Amir Johnson, they’re going to be a hell of a team to watch. With that in mind, let’s hope Turkoglu proves to be the final piece of the puzzle, and not a misfit that wrecks the game for everyone.

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New York's Hilarious, Fascinating Sham Sports Profile

The best website on the internet is ShamSports.com. You can have your YouTube, Cracked.com, and Wikipedia pages, MY favorite way to waste time these days is to comb through ShamSports' delightful team salary pages. Did you know Rashard Lewis is making $22 million in 2012? No? Then you obviously don't read enough Sham Sports.

Fun Sham Sports facts for all the Atlantic Division teams:

  • Samuel Dalembert will make more than 12 million dollars-a-year for the next two years. Ordinarily, I'd see some injustice there, but since Dalembert's Haitian, I feel like we're seeing that contract is part of some reparations package being put forth by the universe. At least that's what I tell myself.
  • Boston's Rasheed Wallace will make more than $6 million-a-year for the next 3 seasons. He will be 38 years-old during that final season. Last year, he played in just 66 games and and averaged only 12 points. I feel like these things should be mentioned in light of the above contract details.
  • Hedo Turkoglu's real name is Hidayet. And he's making what!?
  • Bobby Simmons will make $11 million dollars this season. Interesting. But will he score more than 11 points, 11 times?

But by far my favorite Sham Sports page is that of the New York Knicks, where you can see either the makings of a future dynasty, or a naive blueprint gone awry, depending where you fall on the optimism spectrum. Obviously, the Knicks aren't exactly a juggernaut going into '09, but after that they're pretty much a blank slate. Granted, I understand this was the plan all along, but to see it on paper? I mean, good lord. Just check it out.

My favorite part? Amid the stripped-bare future for the Knicks, we still Eddy Curry's massive, bloated contract protruding out from the balance sheet. The would be the same Eddy Curry who last week tore a muscle that exists in only 40% of humans. Muscles, buffet spreads, salary caps: If it exists, Eddy Curry's probably ruined it.

(Enormous hat tip to Sham, and Sham Sports for aiding in my procrastination efforts all summer long. Awesome.)

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The Greatest Offseason in the History of the World

You know, it's a good thing we don't have a Nets blogger at SB Nation (Interested? Email here or here) because I'd probably punch him in the face. It's just not fair. Somehow, the Nets have stumbled into the most perfect situation in the entire league. Let's examine what's happened over the past three months:

  1. They traded that scourge, Vince Carter: Now, when I call Vince Carter a "scourge", I mean it in the best way possible. Like, he's not actually killing off the people around him. But that's pretty much the nicest thing I can say about his game at this point in his career. He doesn't attack the rim, his perimeter game detracts from the offense, and his sulking demeanor just has to infect the players around him. Not the type of player you want to go to war with, to put it mildly.
  2. Who'd they get back? Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston. True, giving up Ryan Anderson to Orlando hurts, as he was sneakily promising, but I suppose it was a fair concession considering they were getting a partial refund for the Vince Carter Experience. And Courtney Lee is good. We're still not sure if the Orlando Magic realized what, exactly, they had in Lee. But between his perimeter defensive abilities, his ability to handle the ball/attack the rim, and his deft shooting, we're talking about a fairly intriguing 2nd-year player. Not someone that's going to make or break a team's fortunes, but a very solid building block.
  3. They drafted Terrence Williams. I guess it's too early to give a standing ovation for any of the '09 draft picks, but of all the first round additions, Terrence Williams is one of the three or four players most likely to help a team. There weren't many (any?) franchise players up for grabs after Blake Griffin went first in this year's draft, but like Courtney Lee, T-Will is a seriously intriguing building block. He averaged nearly 9 rebounds a game as a small forward for Louisville, he's got range out to the three point line, and he's displayed above average passing ability. Again, not someone that can carry a team, but next to a few stars, someone that makes a big difference.
  4. Mikhail Prokhorov Bought the Team. This is about eight different kinds of awesome. First off, Nets fans get the entertainment value of the NBA's Roman Ambramovich. The Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" joke is getting played out, but Prokhorov really does have a legitimate claim to the title. He first made a fortune making acid-wash jeans, he's 6'9 but has never played basketball, he's an avid kick-boxer, and he's the world's preeminent nickel magnate. Uh... What? He's also infamous for hard-partying and has underworld ties that once inspired the following sentence: "When the cops ascertained that none of the women were actually professional call girls or prostitutes, they released everyone without filing charges."
  5. Mikhail Prokhorov Bought the Team. Also, Prokhorov's involvement means the franchise has been infused with hundreds of millions of hard-won nickel profits--overnight, they've gone from hemmorhaging money under Bruce Ratner, an owner frantically trying to offload a failed investment, to still losing money, but this time for a billionaire owner that asks, "what is zeese 'profits' and 'balance sheets' you speak of? Can I buy zem?" Yeah, I'd say that's a good transition.
  6. Mikhail Prokhorov Bought the Team. Did you hear? A Russian billionaire bought the Nets and is going to move them to a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn! Crazy, right!?

To say nothing of the Jason Kidd-Devin Harris trade, it's fair to say we're talking about a franchise that's been charmed for the past few years. And suddenly, the red-headed step-child of the New York basketball scene has one of the best foundations in the league (Harris, Lee, Williams, Brook Lopez, $25 million in cap space this summer), its wealthiest owner, and is about to move into the fastest growing borough in New York City, with a brand new stadium. Yeah, I'd say it's a pretty good time to be on the Nets bandwagon.

Sure, they'll probably struggle this year, but if they add a superstar next summer, suddenly role players like Lee, Lopez, and Terrence Williams become a whole lot more a valuable and the Nets are probably the most talented team in the East. Do you think Lebron James is reading this?

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Great Moments in Tweeting, New York Knicks Version

Also, from Newsday's Alan Hahn, came this gem last week:

Picture_26_medium

Aww....

(But don't forget, Nate ain't no punk.)

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Who Is Danilo Ganillari?

You can check out SBN’s entire New York Knicks preview here, but here’s one of their points I found most intriguing:

After being controversially drafted 6th last season, Gallinari promptly injured his back and became something of a punchline. Well, (knock on wood) Gallo’s back is healthy, and he looks ready to warrant his high selection. The kid is lights-out from downtown, with far more handles than a man his size should have and a bit of an edge as well. Danilo hustles, takes the big shots, and won’t back down on defense. He impregnates nearby women with just a flick of his wrist. He flosses twice daily. He heals with his hands and turns water into Chianti. Who is Danilo Gallinari? He’s the next big name in New York basketball. Thanks for asking.

And they might have a point, over there a Posting and Toasting. Anyone who’d written him off as last season’s disappointing debut might want to pause and soak in the some of the superlatives emerging from Knicks camp. From Howard Beck of the New York Times:

“…watching a healthy, energetic Gallinari run the floor and make plays underlined what D’Antoni, the Knicks’ coach, has been saying all along: the kid can play.

"I’m excited," D’Antoni said. "I’ll try to tone it down. But you see that he knows how to play."

The superlatives and expectations keep growing for Gallinari, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He showed no signs of discomfort in Tuesday’s two practices, or any indication that he had undergone minor back surgery five months ago.

"I just admire his game," said Donnie Walsh, the team’s president. "He looks to get his teammates involved, he can shoot the ball, he can handle the ball and he’s a pretty tough kid."

See, that last quote. That’s what has me convinced. Mike D’Antoni, sure, I could see him resorting to hyperbole here and there when describing his players. But Donnie Walsh? That’s guy been around the NBA block a few times, and he doesn’t seem like the type of guy that offers praise lightly. Danilo Ganillari has always been rumored to have a jaw-dropping array of skills, but now, it seems like more and more, those rumors are being confirmed.

So keep an eye out for “Big Cock" this year... (What?! Click the link! That’s his nickname!)

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The Problem with Brand on the Sixers


--"Looks like there's gonna be a brawl. You going to play somethin' good?"

"Hell yeah! Rolling Stones, 'Street Fighting Man'. G-Sevvvvvvvvvvvoooooonnnnn!"

--"Uh, you just hit G8."

That's dedicated to the Philadelphia 76ers. After they signed PF Elton Brand last summer to a 5-year, $80 million contract, GM Ed Stefanski had this to say (via the Associated Press):

"This guy can run," Stefanski said. "This is the prototype power forward."

"I feel even stronger and tougher once I've got Elton Brand behind me," Stefanski said. "I'd have to say, yes, we have closed the gap."

Uh, you hit G8, bro. Elton Brand has been consistently solid--if unspectacular--throughout his career, but this signing was doomed from the start. Not only was Brand coming off a season-ending injury, but the Sixers were inviting all sorts of negative karma by signing a guy who'd previously promised the Clippers and Baron Davis he'd re-sign with Los Angeles. So, let's see... Injury-prone power forward + bad karma ... yup, that makes for a season-ending ACL injury.

But what's obscured by the Brand injury last year is that he wasn't a great fit for them, anyway. The Sixers were 12-17 with Brand in the lineup, and the team lacked any true identity. They'd come on strong toward the end of 2008 and in the '08 playoffs thanks to a collection of freakishly talented wings running breakneck up-and-down the court, and the two Andres--Iguodala and Miller--orchestrating the madness.They weren't going to challenge anyone for the title, but they could compete with some of the league's teams, as they showed in pushing Detroit to six games in the '08 first round. In terms of a team biding its team until a franchise player can take them to the next level, that's not a bad group to tread water with.

With Brand, I guess they thought they'd found that franchise player. And they would have a half-court option to augment their fast break. But Instead, they had an $80 million albatross, and a team that had been so good--and so, so much fun to watch--at pushing the pace was suddenly anchored in the halfcourt. So much for "closing the gap" on the Eastern Conference elite.

Instead of embracing what had worked so well for them toward the end of '08, the Sixers anxiously snatched whatever big name they could, and ended up handicapping themselves with a bloated contract and an injured star that didn't fit their personnel. If you like pina coladas! Gettin caught in the rain!

HOWEVER: Eddie Jordan could change all of this. With Jordan at the helm, the Sixers have a coach who'll do a better job at integrating the varied talents of his personnel, and he might just be the ingredient Philadelphia needs to reinvigorate Brand. SBN's Liberty Ballers alludes to this in their preview:

1) The Sixers are not a better team without Elton Brand. He wasn't 100% healthy last season, and never had a coach who knew how to use him. This season will be different. Don't expect 20-10 Elton, because that isn't what the team needs from him. His presence will be felt on defense and on the boards.

Indeed, if the Sixers can find a way to utilize Brand's presence on the boards and still maintain their pace, they're a better team with him. But his defense isn't that great, and I still say, we're talking about a team who decided to anchor its future around Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand as its franchise players. Both are nice players, but particularly given the price tag for Brand, it just doesn't make sense.

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Kevin Garnett is Tupac Shakur

Really. No man has generated more false rumors, myths, and conspiracy theories since Tupac's excursion in Vegas. What do we know? Kevin Garnett, himself, says the knee is pain-free. He told the Boston Globe as much on Saturday:

"I don't have any knee problems. I don't have any knee problems. I'm not trying to get in depth with my injury and all that but the things are bothering me are secondary and not even primary. So I'm excited about that because it's nothing be strengthening the knee and playing again. You gotta remember, I have been out since what, March? I haven't done anything since then. I have just been rehabbing, strengthing. Nothing simulates basketball play. The pounding, the churning, the reactions, the stuff you have to react to in games you can't get that in trying to that with the rehab and the trainers and all that other stuff.

"I feel really good, I wouldn't (BS) you guys if I was hurting I would tell you. I'm pretty straight up with everything that's going on with me. I feel good. I'm excited about how we are and I'm just trying to get my part together to make sure I'm ready for when we need to be like we need to be."

Then again, the debate still persists. Because let's be honest: Garnett had knee problems all last season, and when he finally went on the injured list, it wasn't supposed to signal the end of his season. Then he was out for a month. Then he was out for two months. And then he missed the playoffs. So who knows whether we're getting the whole story from Garnett and the Celtics, both of whom insist he'll be 100% come the regular season.

Casting doubt on that theory, Bill Simmons cites Will Carroll, also known as "the Injury Expert" of Basketball Prospectus, and says that the knee surgery was far more serious than the Celtics let on. Anytime I hear "staples" involved with any medical procedure, I'm inclined to wince. When "staples" are connecting "tendons," I wince twice. Did you know Garnett's played 1,100 games throughout his career? Knees don't last forever (unless you're Kobe Bryant).

Anyway, it's sparked all kinds of debate, including an icy exchange between SBN's own Jeff Clark and Carroll, the aforementioned "injury expert." Is Tupac alive? Is Kevin Garnett healthy? Both good questions, and the latter should be answered before too long, here. Until then, you can watch this video (via Celtics Blog) and form your own opinions:


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Conspiracy Theories, Cap Space! and Crazy Russian Owners: A Look at the NBA's Atlantic Division

Well, it’s October, and that means four things: football, football, football, and baseball. But might it be time to add another? Because basketball’s coming. And while the majority of you are probably rhapsodizing about Drew Brees right now—or, more likely, bitching about having to sit through 12 hours of FAVRE this afternoon—NBA bloggers from around the internet are working up previews for their favorite teams, and we’re here to get you ready for basketball season. Or at least show you maniacal photos of Kevin Garnett like the one above.

With each of SB Nation’s team blogs preparing season previews for 2009, I’ll be putting together divisional previews, as well, highlighting stuff they've discussed, reveling in irrelevant quotes and anecdotes, and generally biding my time as NBA editor until the season finally begins in little less than a month.

In any case, enough prelude.We'll be updating this stream with scattered thoughts on the Atlantic Division for the rest of the day, so be sure to check back. And check out the team-by-team previews, as well, because they're excellent.

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