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The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (5 of 7) 10.26.10 at 12:13 pm ET
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NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.

We’ll move to the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division with the fifth of a seven-part  series (Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) …


ATLANTA HAWKS
by Jason Walker, Peachtree Hoops

ON THE HAWKS: The Hawks spent the summer, once again, reinvesting in the status quo (see Johnson, Joe), which has seen them improve on their record every season since their 13-win nadir in 2004-05.

The major changes were on the bench, where the team replaced Mike Woodson with longtime assistant Larry Drew. Gone are the constant switching defensively and the heavy reliance on iso-sets offensively in favor of a motion offense and playing it straight defensively.

Such change should result in a rise in turnovers, a stat that has always kept the Hawks’ offensive efficiency near the top of the NBA but also kept their best defenders, Josh Smith and Al Horford, in better positions to help the team defensively.

The Hawks were also very fortunate last year in terms of injuries, so their lack of depth didn’t harm them in terms of their regular-season record.

Between the adjustment to new schemes and a likely injury or two to the main core, the Hawks should see the end of their annual increase in win total, but the continued improvement in their younger players (Smith, Horford, Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague) should help balance that somewhat, giving them another 50-win season, fourth in the conference — and getting bounced again in the second round of the playoffs.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics have a good thing going … and going … and going with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, led by one of the most exciting players in basketball in Rajon Rondo.

The true test of whether your franchise is a contender is when the regular season predictions don’t mean jack squat, and the C’s have been in that neighborhood ever since acquiring KG and Ray. It’s a great place to be, and this season is no different.

With a plethora of big men (Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Glen Davis) to supplement the core roster in case of any injury up front due to age (and there is considerable age there), Boston should be able to capture home-court again, which makes them a very tough out come postseason time, as they proved so well last season.

I believe they’re a lock for the Eastern Conference Finals.


CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
by David Arnott, Rufus on Fire

ON THE BOBCATS: The Bobcats will have a huge hurdle to overcome this season, having lost their starting point guard and starting center (Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler).

Barring a trade, they’re looking to replace them with D.J. Augustin, a young player Larry Brown seems to despise, and Nazr Mohammed, a center whose sell-by date is long-since passed (last season’s career year notwithstanding).

Even if Gerald Wallace remains an All-Star, and Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas continue playing as well as they did last season for the Cats, they’re going to struggle to get to 40 wins — and could easily finish with near 30 wins.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics’ window could be closed this season, given the likely continued decline of Pierce, Garnett and Allen.

There’s also no telling, really, how much Tom Thibodeau meant to the Celtics’ defensive excellence the past few years, and any kind of decline on that end of the floor might be the death knell for them as true title contenders, since no one on the team is a killer offensive threat.

So, give them 50 wins again.


MIAMI HEAT
by Benny Vargas, All U Can Heat

ON THE HEAT: After a much ballyhooed offseason, the Heat enter the 2010-11 season as legitimate title contenders.

The additions of Chris Bosh and LeBron James along with the re-signing of Dwyane Wade has caused a seismic wave throughout the league, which could signal the beginning of a new NBA dynasty on South Beach.

Miami will have to battle through glaring holes at the 1 and 5 spots, despite their newly assembled constellation of stars.

The Heat must find a way to become a cohesive unit, within an 82-game span, leading into the playoffs. Once the postseason gets underway, expect Miami to face difficult obstacles in Boston and Orlando. Both teams have been together longer and have big edges at the center and point guard positions.

Predicting Miami’s season is difficult, because so many factors come into play. Look for the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston and for the series to go seven games with the decisive contest being held in Miami.

The Heat will have a stellar regular season, earning the top seed in the East, but don’t expect them to match the record-setting 72 wins that the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls managed to get.

ON THE CELTICS: While Vegas odds-makers have listed the flashy names on the Heat lineup as favorites to win the Eastern Conference, one has to love the Celtics’ chances.

Boston solidified their roster this offseason with several free-agent signings. The additions only help to strengthen a team that was a Kendrick Perkins injury or a few more key rebounds away from winning an NBA title.

Boston has All-Stars at every position on the floor. While Allen declined a bit last year, Rondo’s emergence as an elite NBA player compensated for the slip in Allen’s game. KG and Shaq must be held back a bit during the regular season, so they can be healthy and rested for the playoffs.

Expect to see Boston easily win the Atlantic Division but to finish with the third seed for the playoffs. The Celtics showed last year that they don’t need to overexert themselves for 82 games in order to have postseason success.

No matter their seeding, the Celtics should be considered the Eastern Conference favorites once the playoffs begin. In the end, it will be Boston and Miami squaring off for a chance to dethrone the Lakers.


ORLANDO MAGIC
by Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post

ON THE MAGIC: I’m expecting bounce-back seasons from Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson, as well as another year of improvement for Dwight Howard.

I’ve pegged them for 62 wins, because although the East got stronger this offseason, the Magic certainly didn’t decline in talent level from the last two seasons, when they won 59 games apiece.

Carter worked hard on his body this offseason and appears to be much more comfortable on the floor. His jumper has rarely even caught the rim in preseason, as he’s getting his body square and legs into the shot before firing away.

Orlando brought Quentin Richardson aboard, largely due to his 3-point shooting, which will force the Celtics to think twice about leaving him open. The Celtics exposed Orlando in the conference finals last season by utterly ignoring Matt Barnes on the perimeter, due to his unreliable outside shot, which freed them to pack the paint, stymieing Howard inside and shutting down driving lanes for Carter and Nelson. Clearly, Richardson will be one key against Boston.

Orlando will likely win far more games than the Celtics do this season, but don’t let that disparity fool you: If these teams meet for the third consecutive postseason, it’ll be anyone’s series.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics proved last season that they’re a tough team to peg, at least until the playoffs roll around.

Given the continuity in Boston’s locker room, at least as far as leadership is concerned, I expect another season of Doc Rivers managing his players’ minutes closely, and the players conserving their energy.

This approach worked to great effect last year, as they took the defending champion Lakers to the brink in the Finals after most basketball observers counted them out, first against the Cavaliers and then against the Magic.

Overall, I’ve pegged the Celtics for a win total in the mid-40s, likely 46-36. If that seems low, or insulting, to the Boston faithful, I think it’s instructive to point out the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot to this team.

While I’m dubious that the Celtics can flip the switch again, so to speak, Rivers will keep that possibility open so long as he’s able to keep the veteran core fresh. And regardless of their health or engagement level, they’ll always be a tough matchup for the Magic.

The cost-effective additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal — along with Perkins — give Boston three of the top five Dwight Howard defenders in the league.


WASHINGTON WIZARDS
by Beckley Mason, Truth About It

ON THE WIZARDS: The Wizards enter the 2010-11 season with positive energy flowing out their ears.

John Wall has already proven to be a man-child not only as an ankle-breaking wunderkind, but as a steady-handed floor marshal — unafraid to put veterans in their place, literally, on the basketball court.

But however solid Wall may be this year, the squad as a whole is perforated with imperfections. Gilbert Arenas can’t guard anyone, only a couple players can hit 3s and the Wizards’ young posts have a history of weak rebounding and late help defense.

See, this is a team full of “you know, if…”s. Because, you know, if Gilbert stays healthy and embraces the off-ball responsibilities like he did in the preseason, if 30-year-old Josh Howard returns to his near All-Star levels of play, if JaVale McGee builds on his breakout summer, if Andray Blatche plays like he did down the stretch last year (21 points a game from January to March), and if Al Thornton eschews the mid-range game and focuses on becoming Count Dunkula, this could be a pretty good team.

That’s far too many ifs for the irresponsible optimism that pervades D.C. hoops fans — but an appropriate amount for a team heading into a 35-47 season.

ON THE CELTICS: Was the Celtics’ run to last year’s Finals the last violent spasm of a dying monster, or simply proof that the beast was slumbering throughout the regular season?

Rondo is superb (Hubie Brown voice) and the East’s best point guard, but the rest of the Celtics’ starting five is declining — that is, unless The Big Ticket really is bouncing back on that right knee.

Boston’s pride won 50 games last year and is replacing Perkins with the chalk outlines of the O’Neals, a significant downgrade defensively and offensively (KP is the best screener in the league). The frontcourt is deeper, but also less effective until Perk returns, and then at what level will he play?

The Celtics should also be concerned after losing Tony Allen, the East’s best perimeter defender and resident LeBron/Wade specialist. Who fills that void? Ray, Pierce, Nate Robinson, Delonte West all fall well short defensively.

On any other team, these concerns would lead one to declare, “They will be worse than last year.” But this is the Celtics, who, like the Spurs in the West, must be taken seriously until emphatically proven otherwise. Most of the East sucks yet again, so 50-plus should be in the cards once more — 55-plus if Garnett is truly “back.”

Stay tuned for Part 6 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, blogs, Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats
Wizards pull one out of the hat 05.18.10 at 8:32 pm ET
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The Washington Wizards won the NBA Lottery on Tuesday night in Secaucus, New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets had 250 of the 1000 chances or a 25 percent chance of gaining the first overall pick for the NBA Draft in late June. John Wall of Kentucky and Evan Turner of Ohio State are considered two of the likely choices to go first overall to the Wizards. The Nets actually finished third behind Washington and No. 2 Philadelphia.

“I have no idea,” Wizards general manager Ted Leonsis said when asked on ESPN whether he would take Wall with the No. 1 overall pick.

Irene Polin, the widow of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, represented the franchise and wore the world championship ring of her late husband when the franchise won its first and only title as the Washington Bullets in 1978.

Read More: Evan Turner, John Wall, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers
Flip: ‘We choked’ against Celtics 03.08.10 at 2:04 am ET
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Flip Saunders knows Kevin Garnett well enough. For 10 seasons, Saunders coached the perennial All-Star with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With all apologizes to Jim Croce, Saunders, now the head coach of the Wizards, knows you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t tick off the Big Ticket.

The last part of that equation was especially troublesome in Saunders’ eyes as he watched his Wizards blow a 79-66 lead with just over six minutes to go Sunday night.

‘€œWell, we choked,” Saunders began. “Six minutes to go, we’€™re up 13. We’ve got young guys, they don’€™t know what it’€™s like to be in a situation. We start talking to Garnett, start talking trash and everything else. Got Garnett and those guys juiced up and we just pissed down our leg the last six minutes.

“You have a veteran team that knows how to close out games against a young team that hasn’€™t been there, and instead of just letting a sleeping dog lie, we juiced up their energies. We had plays coming off timeouts and we had guys going to the wrong side of the floor, we were so discombobulated.’€

[Click here to hear Saunders rip into his team for coming unglued at the end of the game.] Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Flip Saunders, NBA, Washington Wizards
Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Wizards 03.07.10 at 10:00 pm ET
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If the Celtics are going to take back this game, they have just 12 more minutes to do so. They trail 66-62 after three quarters.

The C’s struggled to piece together a total team effort coming out of halftime. Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins were the only players to score for the first 5:49 of the quarter. The C’s also went scoreless during a 3:45 stretch in which the Wizards pushed their lead up to 11 points.

Ray Allen gave the Celtics a spark midway through the quarter with a pair of 3s. Then it was Rajon Rondo’s turn. He scored seven points two minutes to bring the Celtics back within four.

The Celtics have momentum heading into the fourth, but they still have to dig themselves out of a deficit. They are 7-14 when trailing after three quarters.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo, Washington Wizards,
Is Marbury Hinting at Retirement? 09.08.09 at 11:23 pm ET
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From eating Vaseline to performing ballet to crying uncontrollably on camera, Stephon Marbury has kept the NBA world scratching their heads this summer with his unpredictable antics on the video streaming sites Justin.tv and USTREAM. These outbursts seemed damaging to the free agent’s already-tarnished reputation and put his future in the NBA in doubt.

Now one of Marbury’s latest Tweets shifts the question from, “Where will he play basketball next season?” to, “Is Marbury retiring?”

“Basketball is just a game. I will say it again. 14 years 250 million. Hold that. I’m good.. Thank you jesus for the blessing. Thanks NBA, he Tweeted on Tuesday.

Earlier this summer there were rumors Marbury may be heading to the Washington Wizards to play for former head coach Flip Saunders. He also talked about the idea of playing ball overseas, saying that he would average 50 points a game if he made the move. No offers, however, have been publicly reported since Marbury turned down a one-year deal to return to the Celtics in July.

In a buyer’s market — one in which marquee guard Allen Iverson has yet to sign a new contract — it is hard to imagine that an organization would bypass dozens of talented free agents to take on a player whose recent actions have deemed him a liability.

So has Marbury decided he’s finished with the NBA after 13 seasons in the league? In spite of his Tweet and amid all the uncertainty he has stirred up this summer, one thing is certain — it is impossible to truly predict Marbury’s next move.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Stephon Marbury, Washington Wizards,
Reports: Marbury interested in Wizards? 05.26.09 at 9:58 pm ET
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Last week former Boston Celtic Sam Cassell was hired as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. Now there are reports indicating another Celtic PG may be interested in the Wiz.

According to the New York Daily News, Stephon Marbury contacted Wizards head coach Flip Saunders nearly every day during the playoffs. The Daily News reported, Saunders “would strongly considering adding Marbury to the roster if there is a vacancy.” Saunders coached Marbury, as well as Cassell and Kevin Garnett, during his tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Marbury is one of five members of the 2009 Celtics squad who will be exploring free agency this summer.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Stephon Marbury, Washington Wizards,
Watch out for the Wiz? 04.02.09 at 10:55 pm ET
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Suddenly the criticism that the Boston Celtics needed double-overtime to put away the Charlotte Bobcats doesn’t seem so bad. With Gilbert Arenas back on the court, the Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 109-101, on Thursday night. They snapped the Cavs winning streak at 13 games. The Celtics may have had trouble with the 34-win Bobcats, but this was only the Wizards’ 18th victory of the season. Do the Wizards have the potential to play the role of spoiler again? The Celtics will find out when they come to Boston for the last game of the regular season on April 15.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards,
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