The Bobcats got off to a nice start as each starter contributed to their first 11 points. Those 11 points were good enough to put Charlotte up 11-4 early. One thing anyone Bobcats fan certainly liked to see was the play of Al Jefferson early in the first quarter. He was rebounding, assisting, stealing, and scoring with ease. MKG missed a one footer but quickly made that up by hitting a right wing jumper. Anthony Tolliver came out of the gates quickly, hitting his first two three point attempts while filling in for Josh McRoberts, who was not with the team as he was taking care of a personal matter. The Bobcats unravelled a bit near the end of the quarter by committing a lot of turnovers. However, they recovered nicely, as they ended up with a 27-21 lead.
The second and third quarters were both good for the ‘Cats as they were able to head into the fourth with the lead. Something concerning over that stretch was the play of Kemba Walker. He really struggled from the field. Kemba had open looks that he usually hits that were just not falling. After making his first, he missed his next 9. Jeffrey Taylor threw down two very nice dunks, and he neared a third but was rejected. The Bobcats had themselves up 71-64 heading into the final frame.
Charlotte closed this game out very nicely. They dealt with adversity throughout this game, but were able to stay in the lead throughout the whole game. This was a very encouraging win for the Bobcats. We saw a lot of good things tonight. Grading The Starters:PG: Kemba Walker: D
Kemba struggled very much in this game. His shot simply would not go down. As the leader of this team, he needs to keep shooting, he did that. Unfortunately, his shots simply failed to go in.
SG: Gerald Henderson: C
Hendo played well tonight on both ends, but we need more at of him, especially on the offensive end.
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: C+
Although MKG only scored 6 points and ultimately fouled out, he played a good defensive game and made Jeff Green work for his points.
PF: Anthony Tolliver: B
Tolliver gave Clifford solid minutes tonight. He continues to be a three point specialist, shooting 3-7 from the field, and 3-6 from downtown.
C: Al Jefferson: B+
Big Al had his struggles tonight, but considering his situation rust is still expected. He delivered late in the game with a tip in the gave the Bobcats a 6 point advantage with 17.7 seconds to go.
Next Bobcats Game:
The Bobcats will fly to Cleveland after the game, where they will take on the Cavs friday night. Center Andrew Bynum will not play in this game and Josh McRoberts is expected to return.
Charlotte got off to a nice start in New York early. Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all played well in the first quarter. Kemba was able to hit all three of his first three shots, two of those being three pointers. Gerald Henderson was also aggressive early. But what stuck out the most was the play of MKG. Kidd-Gilchrist came up big in the best game of his season thus far including a crucial play in the first half in which he got back on Carmelo Anthony and blocked an easy lay in. Then, he grabbed the ball went coast to coast and laid in the easy two. This is exactly what you want from MKG. We know he isn’t very gifted offensively, but if he is able to turn defense into offense like he did on that play, he will be just fine. Three starters stepped up early to provide energy the Bobcats needed to forget about their miserable loss in New Orleans.
Reserve Anthony Tolliver was rewarded for his solid play in New Orleans as he was involved in the rotation early. Jeffrey Taylor knocked off the rust as he hit his first three point basket of the year. That’s a very encouraging sign for a guy who showed so much promise in pre-season and summer league. The Bobcats found themselves up 31-28 at the end of a very strong first quarter.
Jeffery Taylor continued his strong play in the second period as he was contributing mightily both on the offensive and defensive end. The Bobcats dished out an impressive nine assists on their first fifteen field goals. The ‘Cats found themselves up eight points half way through. The Bobcats continued their strong showing finishing the first half up very nicely. They went in the locker room holding a 10 point lead. The boo birds were out in New York as Charlotte outplayed and out hustled the Knicks in the first half.
The third period was another strong one from a team who has really played a well rounded ball game through three periods. Kemba Walker was hurt in the third and briefly unavailable. MKG was also unavailable in the third, but reserves such as Anthony Tolliver were able to pick up the slack and propel the Bobcats to a 82-76 lead at the end of three. Jeffrey Taylor was in foul trouble and MKG was injured so this set up a difficult matchup for Gerald Henderson to guard the potent Anthony.
The fourth quarter was great for the Bobcats. They were able to seal the deal against a very talented New York team. Charlotte faught off adversity throughout the quarter and they were successful in closing the game out.
Grading The Starters:
PG: Kemba Walker - 25 PTS | 6 AST | 1 STL | 3 TO | 35 MIN: A+
Kemba played such an incredible game tonight. He proved to everyone why people think he is the backbone and future of this team. It was a scary moment when he was injured, but thankfully nothing serious.
SG: Gerald Henderson - 18 PTS | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 TO | 35 MIN: B
Hendo was solid tonight on all phases. He played the role that the Bobcats need him to play, sidekick.
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 16 PTS | 1 AST | 8 REB | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 26 MIN: B
MKG was very good on the defensive end tonight, which is all they really ask from him.
PF: Josh McRoberts - 2 PTS | 1 AST | 1 REB | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 MIN: B-
Although McRoberts wasn’t a factor in this game, in my opinion, he had a decent game.
C: Bismack Biyombo - 1 PTS | 0 AST | 6 REB | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 19 MIN: C-
Let’s just say that we are lucky Biz isn’t our regular starter at center as he has another poor performance. At least he some what contributed this time.
Player Of The Game: Kemba Walker (G)
- Kemba had a great homecoming, coming up big in the city of New York. He was the leader the Bobcats needed and his relentlessness was key in an impressive Charlotte victory.
- The reason the Bobcats had so much success in this game is simple. They wanted it more that the Knicks. Sometimes in sports it boils down to who’s got more heart. Charlotte is clearly overmatched as far as star power goes, but not will to win.
- The Bobcats out rebounded the Knicks 49-31. This is an important stat considering both teams were missing their best big men for the majority of this contest. Reserve Jeff Adrien came up clutch again grabbing 8 of those 31.
- Cody Zeller, Anthony Tolliver, Jeff Adrien, Jeff Taylor, and Ramon Sessions all came up big off the bench. With a strong bench, Coach Steve Clifford has a lot of options.
In My Opinion:
Why is Metta World Peace still in the league. It just amazes me the Knicks would sign him. Metta is one of the dirtiest, most inconsistent players in the NBA. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s great at defense, but he needs to understand his defensive role and not try to be the offensive hero. On two critical late fourth quarter possessions, World Peace airballed a three and then followed that by losing it out of bounds. The man formally known as Ron Artest will only cause the Knicks more trouble than anything else.
Raymond Felton once again proves to us that he is nothing more than an average NBA point guard. He is a great distributor for the most part, but when it comes down to making that clutch shot, he just doesn't have it. Felton missed several threes in the fourth quarter that could of made a huge difference in the game’s outcome.
This was a very impressive win for the Bobcats for many reasons. The biggest reason was that we were able to see how Charlotte would react after a very underwhelming performance in their previous game. A lot of that goes to the Head Coach Steve Clifford, who was clearly able to rally the troops as he had them ready to play.
Next Bobcats Game:
The Bobcats will travel back to Charlotte tonight and host the Toronto Raptors Wednesday at 7:00PM.
What To Watch For:Michael Kidd Gilchrist’s Defense: Let’s be honest, MKG is in the Bobcat’s starting lineup for his defensive ability, not his shooting touch or offensive game. Being matched up against Carmelo Anthony, this will be an opportunity for the second year swingman to solidify his defensive presence. Hopefully, Kidd-Gilchrist will be able to slow Anthony’s offensive attack in order to keep the Bobcats in the game.
- Teams: Charlotte Bobcats at New York Knicks
- Date: November 5th, 2013
- Time: 7:30
- TV: Fox Sports South
Projected Starting Lineups:
- PG: Kemba Walker- (16.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 STL)
- SG: Gerald Henderson- (9.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG)
- SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- (8.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.0 RPG)
- PF: Josh McRoberts- (8.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.3 APG)
- C: Bismack Biyombo- (5.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG)
- PG: Raymond Felton- (13.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 2.0 STL)
- SG: Iman Shumpert- (11.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 STL)
- SF: Carmelo Anthony- (21.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.3 APG)
- PF: Andrea Bargnani- (9.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.7 APG
- C: Tyson Chandler- (9.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.0 BLK)
- Al Jefferson is out for the ‘Cats because of a sore ankle that has forced him to miss all but one game this season.
- Bobcat’s point guard Kemba Walker was born and raised in Bronx, New York.
- New York shooting guard J.R. Smith will miss Tuesday’s game due to a five game suspension issued by the NBA last offseason.
- The Knicks and ‘Cats will play twice in four days this week: the first Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, and the second in Charlotte on Friday. Prediction:
New York wins: 110-94. Coming off a ugly 21 point loss against the Pelicans last Saturday, my confidence in the Bobcats has diminished. With more talented players and a deeper roster, expect the Knicks to route the Bobcats in New York.
The Bobcats got off to a rough start early. Very sloppy play on the offensive end led to just four points from Charlotte through the first four minutes of play. Kemba Walker was the only one who really showed up to play early as he accounted for the team's first 8 points. Gerald Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist both committed sloppy turnovers that led to New Orleans points. Finally, at the 3:49 mark, someone not named Kemba Walker found the bottom of the nets, as Ramon Sessions hit two free throws. The Bobcats found themselves down 33-15 at the end of one thanks in large part to the play of Anthony Davis. Davis scored 15 shooting four of five from the field and six of six from the line in the first. He quickly reminded Charlotte how unlucky they were by getting the second overall pick instead of the first in the 2012 NBA draft lottery.
The ‘Cats came out strong early in the second quarter, but were never able to sustain a comeback as they were down 45-27 just about half way through. McRoberts scored for the first time in 6 quarters as he drained a three from the top of the key. That three cut the lead down to 15. However, the Pelicans quickly retaliated and forced Coach Clifford to call a timeout to try and rally the troops. McRoberts continued his enthusiastic play as he delivered a touchdown like pass to MGK who converted with the lay in. He then converted at the free throw line after being fouled underneath. Anthony Davis’s alley-oop from Tyreke Evans was perfect closure to a first half where the Bobcats were outplayed by the Pelicans. The teams headed into the locker room with New Orleans holding a 56-41 lead.
The third quarter started off rough with two quick turnovers. Gerald Henderson committed one by not being able to inbound the ball within 5 seconds from the sideline. This sloppy play led to a mass substitution where Clifford substituted all five of his starters out. One of the bench players that came in was guard Ben Gordon. Gordon tallied his first bucket of the year within 30 seconds of his first playing time of the new season. The decision of in bringing the second unit in early in the third was clearly beneficial. This set a statement that the starters play early in the third was not going to be tolerated. The backups, who finished most of the third quarter, were not able to cut into the Pelicans lead. New Orleans held a 15 point lead at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was just the icing on the cake for the Pelicans who controlled the game the whole way. The Bobcats were flat the whole game and this one was pretty much over half way through the second period. For New Orleans, this was their first win of the year with a group of players that show tremendous promise. When forward Ryan Anderson returns from his injury, the Pelicans will only improve. They were on a mission to get their first win tonight and they did just that.
Grading The Starters:PG: Kemba Walker - 14 PTS | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 TO | 27 MIN: C-
Although Kemba got off to a hot start, his performance was very underwhelming as he failed to record an assist on the night. SG: Gerald Henderson - 7 PTS | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 TO | 27 MIN: D
Gerald didn’t do much of anything in this game. In fact, most of his points came when the game was already decided. Henderson looked very sloppy on both sides of the ball tonight. SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 3 PTS | 1 AST | 3 REB | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 MIN: D
In limited minutes, MGK was not productive as his stat line shows. On the night, Kidd-Gilchrist helped confirm that the difference between the first and second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was drastic.PF: Josh McRoberts - 9 PTS | 2 AST | 6 REB | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 MIN: B
In McRobert’s limited minutes, he looked good despite playing a surprisingly limited number of minutes. He was our most consistent starter tonight. However, that’s not saying much.C: Bismack Biyombo - 0 PTS | 0 AST | 6 REB | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 26 MIN: Incomplete
Biyombo never ceases to amaze us as far as his offensive abilities go, which are non existent. It is baffling to think that a man can play 26 minutes and not even really contribute. Player of The Game: Anthony Davis (F)
Davis played like an all-star tonight. If he continues this kind of play throughout the year, he will certainly find his way on the Western Conference's roster. The 2014 All Star game is ironically held in New Orleans this year, so that should help his case. Notes:
- Ben Gordon played for the first time all season.
- The Pelicans color scheme and design really grew on me throughout the game.
- Anthony Tolliver gave Steve Clifford some solid minutes off the bench.
- Ramon Sessions had his best game of the year as he was one of Charlotte’s best players.
- Jeff Adrien had 13 rebounds.
Next Bobcats Game:
- The Bobcats were unable to make free throws, shooting a miserable 58%.
The Bobcats will look to bounce back Tuesday night as they will travel to the big city and face the Knicks. Game Time is later than usual at 7:30 PM.
What To Watch For:
- Teams: Charlotte Bobcats at New Orleans Pelicans
- Date: November 2nd, 2013
- Time: 8:00 EST
- TV: Fox Sports South
- Jrue Holiday Vs. Kemba Walker: Once again, expect a great matchup between two talented young point guards in Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker. If Walker can continue his impressive play, expect Kemba to win the matchup and lead the Bobcats to victory.
- Bobcat’s Consistency Against Playoff Contending Teams: After an impressive win against a solid Cleveland ball club, watch to see if Charlotte can continue to play well against yet another playoff contending team in New Orleans.
- The Bobcats fell to New Orleans twice in two matchups last season.
- Pelican’s swingman Ryan Anderson (Toe) and forward Darius Miller (Foot) are both out for Saturday’s game. Al Jefferson will miss his second straight game with a sore ankle.
- New Orleans changed their name from the “Hornets” to the “Pelicans” last summer.
With the Pelicans having lost their first two games of the season to the Pacers and Magic, expect a confident group of Bobcat’s players to defeat a struggling New Orleans team.
What To Watch For:
- Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Bobcats
- Date: November 1st, 2014
- Time: 7:00pm
- TV: Fox Sports South
- Kemba Walker Vs. Kyrie Irving: As third year players, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are two of the most electrifying young point guards in the game. When the two face off against each other on Friday night, expect a great battle and fantastic entertainment.
- Al Jefferson: To put it kindly, Al Jefferson had a rough game in the season opening loss against Houston Wednesday night. Jefferson struggled offensively, shooting only 6-19 from the floor for a mere total of 13 points. Bobcat’s fans, let’s hope that Jefferson is just a little rusty after missing six of eight preseason games. Watch to see if Big Al can avenge his miserable start against the Cavs.
- Bobcat Hysteria: When Michael Jordan decided to change the franchise’s name to the Hornets, Charlotte basketball suddenly became relevant again. Expect a rejuvenated and excited Bobcat’s crowd to fill Time Warner Friday night.
- The Bobcats have an all-time record of 6-3 in home openers.
- The Cavaliers defeated the Bobcats in two of three match ups last season.
- Andrew Bynum (Knee) and Tyler Zeller (Appendectomy) are both questionable for Friday night’s game. Brendan Hayward (Foot) will be out for the ‘Cats.
Call me a homer, but I’m not picking against my Bobcats in a home opener. Charlotte wins in a close game 99-97.
The Bobcats fell to the Rockets 96-83 to fall to 0-1 on the young season. Despite the 13 point loss, the game was a lot closer than the box score shows. Houston held a six point stiff arm on Charlotte for much of the contest.
Charlotte got off to a nice start. They came out of the gates full of energy and forced Houston to call the first time out of the game, though the ‘Cats may have been a little too eager early, as they committed five quick fouls to give the Rockets the penalty bonus for more than half of the first quarter. The Bobcats continued their success by holding Houston to just 17 points in the first frame. Ultimately, they had a 19-17 advantage after one period of play.
The Bobcats were not as strong in the second as they gave up an 8-0 run which allowed the Rockets to take a 35-29 lead. After the Bobcats were forced to call timeout, we knew that the next few possessions would be key to try and slow the momentum of the Rockets. The second was a very sloppy period for both teams, but the ‘Cats put themselves in a good position being down a manageable six points at halftime. Charlotte also gave up too many three pointers in the first half, particularly to three point specialist Francisco Garcia.
The second half is one that the Bobcats would like to forget. Charlotte allowed the Rockets to shoot 50% in the third quarter which will simply not get it done in the NBA. Josh McRoberts shined for the Bobcats in the second half, showing why Steve Clifford chose to start him in game one.
The Bobcats put together a solid effort on the road against a team a lot of people are picking to win the Western Conference. They will have a great chance to bounce back against Cleveland Friday night. Grading The Starters:
PG: Kemba Walker - 12 PTS | 5 AST | 4 STL | 3 TO | 33 MIN B-
Kemba did a nice job in the first half. However, in the second half he failed to score. As of the stars of the team, Walker needs to step up and make plays when his team needs him. Unfortunately, he failed to do that tonight. SG: Gerald Henderson - 11 PTS | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 TO | 30 MIN: C
Hendo did a good job playing defense on James Harden, however, his offense was poor for the majority of the game. Henderson scored 8 in the first half while only tallying 3 in the second.
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 7 PTS | 2 AST | 8 REB | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 31 MIN: C-
Kidd-Gilchrist struggled tonight. He didn’t capitalize on free throw attempts, but had some good spritz every now and then.
PF: Josh McRoberts - 15 PTS | 3 AST | 4 REB | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 28 MIN: B+
Even though McRoberts had a couple noticeable mistakes in the fourth, the forward’s third quarter was excellent, keeping Charlotte in the game with two huge three-pointers.
C: Al Jefferson - 13 PTS | 1 AST | 8 REB | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 28 MIN: B-
Big Al had some occasional struggles in game one, as expected. If Jefferson is going to shoot as often as he did tonight, he is going to have to capitalize on more of his shots. Fortunately, his shooting should improve as Jefferson knocks off the rust and gets healthy.
- Dwight Howard had already collected 14 rebounds half way through the second quarter.
- Al Jefferson was rusty as expected. Jefferson only played in one of the Bobcat’s eight preseason contests due to a sprained ankle.
- In the second half MKG fell awkwardly to the floor. He stayed down for a minute, but eventually got up with no apparent injury. Some fans might remember that last year in Houston, Kidd-Gilchrist was hospitalized and kept overnight after falling to the ground with was eventually diagnosed with a concussion.
- Bismack Biyombo struggled in game one. He showed some good defense, but his offensive game must improve in order for him to be an impact player.
- Head Coach Steve Clifford did a nice job with the rotation in his first games as Bobcat’s coach. His decisionmaking should improve as the season goes on, but I was pleased with his management.
Next Bobcats Game:
The ‘Cats will return to Charlotte to host Cleveland Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. This will be Charlotte’s home opener. Game time is set for 7 o'clock.
Continue checking back with TCSB for all your latest Charlotte Bobcats news.
For the third time in as many years, the Charlotte Bobcats will be playing their season opener with a new head coach. This time around, they point to Steve Clifford. For Clifford, this will be his first head coaching job. However, he has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2001. Prior to joining the Laker’s staff last year, he was an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic.
Clifford is considered a defensive specialist and we have certainly seen that affect on the 2013 ‘Cats thus far, holding seven of eight preseason opponents to ninety points or less. That is a very impressive statistic from a young team and shows that they are buying into his strategy.
Bobcat’s fans certainly hope that he can lead this team to a bright future, but we aren’t the only ones for General Manager Rich Cho and President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins also wish for sucess. The ‘Cats front office has been criticized for a long time and only time will tell if they have made another poor decision.
Clifford will open his head coaching career this Wednesday as his Bobcats take on Dwight Howard and the new look Houston Rockets. This is a nice first matchup for Clifford as he previously coached Howard in Orlando and Los Angeles, thus fully aware of Howard’s capabilities and weaknesses.
- Al Jefferson remains a question mark for Wednesday night's game. His ankle will not be 100%, but it all comes down to how much pain he can tolerate.
- If "Big Al" can’t go, look for Bismack Biyombo to step up and play a tremendous role in shutting down Howard. Howard is a tough matchup in the post for anybody, but the young Biyombo has showed a consistent ability to guard him in their previous meetings. Ultimately, the outcome of Wednesday’s game will come down to the foul situation for the Bobcats best low post defenders.
Bobcats Vs. Rockets:
Where: Toyota Center (Houston Texas)
When: 8:00 PM (7:00 Local Time)
Tune in to Fox Sports South all season long to see all 82 games of Bobcats Basketball Televised. 610 AM The Fan is the flagship station of The Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bobcats will begin their season in Houston on October 30th against the new look Rockets: What To Watch For:
- Al Jefferson: As Bobcat’s fans, this will be our first opportunity to finally see Al Jefferson play for our ‘Cats in a regular season game. It will be interesting to see how well Jefferson meshes with other Bobcat’s players on the hardwood.
- Al Jefferson’s Health: Jefferson sprained his ankle in a preseason game against the Heat in early October, but states that he should be “good to go” for the season opener. Despite Jefferson’s confidence, don’t be surprised if he receives limited minutes due to soreness.
- How The Bobcats Fare Against An Elite Team: Even though one game is an extremely small sample size, this first contest against the Rockets could give us a good indication on how good or how bad this Charlotte team really is. Hopefully, our Bobcats can keep the game close and potentially pull ahead in the final moments.
- The Bobcats have won their season opener two years in a row: last year against Milwaukee, and in 2011 against the Pacers.
- The Rockets defeated the Bobcats twice in two contests last season.
- Both Houston and Charlotte acquired elite centers last summer: the Rockets signed Dwight Howard and the Bobcats agreed to terms with Al Jefferson.
Houston will win 101-93. Despite the final score, I do believe that the Bobcats will keep the game close, but the Rockets will just be too strong in the end. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for this 2013-2014 Charlotte Bobcat’s season.~Mark Calcagno
With the start of the NBA season just weeks away, here’s my view on how the Eastern Conference will stack up in 2013-2014:
15. Philadelphia 76ers: After a successful 2011-2012 playoff run in which the eighth seeded 76ers upset the top overall seeded Chicago Bulls in six games, there were high expectations for Philadelphia basketball the year after. Unfortunately, poor play and injuries lead to a dismal 34-48 record in 2012-2013, forcing the organization to make numerous personnel changes during the 2013 offseason. The most significant of these changes was the trading of Philadelphia’s franchise point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans Pelicans for rookie center Nerlens Noel. Due to the loss of Holiday and overall lack of talent, to put it nicely, the 76ers will struggle this season.
14: Orlando Magic: It’s fair to say that Orlando benefited heavily from the 2012 trade that sent franchise center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. In return, the Magic received three first round draft picks, center Nikola Vucevic, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, and small forward Maurice Harkless who all appear to be building blocks for the franchise. In addition to Orlando’s returning core, All American shooting guard and Indiana University product Victor Oladipo will be in a Magic uniform next season. Despite the apparent talent, it will take some time for these inexperienced players to develop to form a contending team.
13: Boston Celtics: Out of all of the Eastern Conference teams that made changes this past summer, Boston’s trade that sent all-stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets might have been the most significant. Without the presence of Garnett and Pierce, this will not be the Celtics team that basketball fans are used to. Instead of the NBA championship expectations seen in years past, Boston will be lucky to finish outside the bottom third of the Eastern Conference.
12. Charlotte Bobcats: With the presence of star point guard Kemba Walker, the addition of former Utah Jazz star Al Jefferson, and a new coaching staff, the Bobcats appear to have their best team in years. If rookie Cody Zeller can quickly adjust to the pro game, watch for Charlotte to win more games than anticipated.
11. Milwaukee Bucks: After an unsuccessful attempt to build a championship contending ball club with two shoot-first guards in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, the Bucks have transitioned into “rebuilding mode” in order to develop the talents of Brandon Knight, John Henson, O.J. Mayo, and Larry Sanders. Milwaukee will miss out on the playoffs this season, but look for the Buck's youth to improve as the year progresses.
10. Toronto Raptors: With the likes of Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto could easily be a playoff team this season. If mediocre teams such as Detroit, Cleveland, or Washington struggle, look for Toronto to be playing some playoff basketball next May.
9. Atlanta Hawks: After striking out on the Dwight Howard and Chris Paul sweepstakes in consecutive seasons, Atlanta is still missing a much needed superstar to carry the team into championship contention. This year, after losing forward Josh Smith to free agency, the Hawks might have a more immediate concern: making the playoffs. Unfortunately, due to Atlanta’s lack of front court size, the Hawks will find themselves out of the postseason mix.
8. Washington Wizards: After starting the 2012-2013 season with a 5-28 record, point guard John Wall returned to the Wizards in early January playing like a true superstar. After Wall’s return, the Wizards improved tremendously, winning 24 of their last 49 games. If Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal can continue to last year’s success, Washington can challenge for a playoff spot this season.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs are the wildest of wild cards in the East. If Andrew Bynum can return from injury in true form, if Anthony Bennett can live-up to expectations, and if Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, then Eastern Conference teams should start to fear games against the Cavaliers. On the other hand, if the “injury bug” hits Cleveland, then 2013-2014 could be another rough year for the Cavs. Despite the unknown, look for the Cavaliers to compete for a sixth through eighth seed in the conference in the 2013-2014 season.
6. Detroit Pistons: After an offseason in which the Pistons acquired the likes of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Chauncey Billups, Detroit has a new look, and a playoffs or bust mentality. While there is no shortage of talent in the Motor City, the chemistry between these talented Piston players might be an issue. With Jennings, Smith, and forward Greg Monroe on the roster, (all whom are shoot-first players) ball movement could be a huge issue for Detroit. If individual egos prevail, the Pistons could find themselves out of the playoff mix. If not, Detroit could make a run for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
5. New York Knicks: It’s fair to say that things worked out perfectly in the regular season for the the New York Knicks last season as they exceeded expectations in an conference lacking top tier teams. Unfortunately, in an improved Eastern Conference, New York won’t see that same success. Instead, the Knicks will struggle to compete with the likes of Brooklyn, Miami, Indiana, and Chicago despite the presence of 2013 scoring champion Carmelo Anthony.
4. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets are one of many teams in the East that benefitted from the opportunity in the offseason to improve their respective roster. In addition to all-stars Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Nets loaded their team with two more veteran superstars in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Look for the Nets to be among the top four teams in the East this season.
3. Chicago Bulls: With the return of 2010-2011 MVP Derrick Rose )who missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery), Chicago should be back into contention for an NBA championship. If Rose can stay healthy, the Bulls have one of the most complete rosters in basketball with few points of weakness. If injuries plague the Bulls once again, expect Chicago to struggle competing against top tier NBA teams.
2. Indiana Pacers: Indiana will miss former Tar Heel Tyler Hansbrough's hustle and defensive ability, but found themselves an adequate replacement in veteran Luis Scola. Scola will look to energize the Pacer’s second unit that backs up the likes of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson. Hopefully, Indiana and Miami can encore a fantastic Eastern Conference Final in 2014.
1. Miami Heat: Despite winning their second straight NBA title last season, Miami still has size issues that showed against the likes of larger centers such as Andre Drummond, Roy Hibbert, and Brook Lopez last season. Enter Greg Oden, the seven foot 275 pound center and once number one overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. Sources report that Oden won’t be a huge contributor during the first couple months of the season, but once the big-man he regains his defensive presence, he could become an important part of Miami’s frontcourt. Look for the Heat to compete for yet another NBA Championship.