View Full Version : Steve Kerr takes a look at both conferences; East on the rise

08-04-2004, 01:02 AM
Link (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylc=X3oDMTBpYTg2ZTBwBF9TAzk1ODYxOTQ4BHNlYwN0 bQ--?slug=sk-eastrise&prov=yhoo&type=lgns)

East is on the rise
by Steve Kerr, Yahoo! Sports
August 2, 2004

Steve Kerr's analysis of the NBA offseason thus far:
Eastern Conference | Western Conference

Last summer Jason Kidd had the world at his fingertips. He faced a choice: Accept a $100-million offer from the team he led to the NBA finals in consecutive years, the New Jersey Nets, or sign a max contract with the San Antonio Spurs, where he was assured of playing with Tim Duncan and competing for championships the rest of his career.

The money from the Spurs was a little less but certainly not enough to make a difference in Kidd's life. Either way, he was going to be fabulously wealthy forever. Kidd chose to stay in New Jersey.

Fast forward to this summer. The Nets are being dismantled by their new ownership. Kidd must be doing his best Bill Walton impersonation "What was I doooooooing?"

How quickly things change in the NBA. New Jersey had been an elite team in a weak Eastern Conference. Now the Nets are gutted and perhaps headed for the lottery as the rest of the East grows stronger.

The irony is that not only must Kidd be lamenting his decision to re-sign with the Nets but also New Jersey must be ruing the day it re-signed him. The team is in cost-cutting mode and going nowhere, and the Nets surely will try to trade Kidd and his enormous contract.

In the meantime, the Detroit Pistons are the reigning NBA champions, Shaquille O'Neal is lighting up South Beach, and LeBron James is ready to elevate the Cleveland Cavaliers to new heights. The Indiana Pacers, who had the best record in the NBA this past season, also seem stronger.

While the Nets' run is over, the rest of the Eastern Conference is only getting better.

Let's examine the new-look East in more detail.

Detroit Pistons
Detroit will enter next season as the favorite to win the East. GM Joe Dumars has had a terrific summer, re-signing Rasheed Wallace and adding Antonio McDyess to replace the departed Mehmet Okur.

Despite a spate of injuries during the past few years, McDyess was healthy and played well with the Phoenix Suns in the final month of last season. His defense, experience and leadership make him a great fit with Detroit.

The Pistons remain the best defensive squad in the league, and they now have the confidence that comes with being a champion. They will be difficult to dethrone.

Miami Heat
The Miami Heat instantly became championship contenders by adding the Big Daddy to a roster led by terrific young guard Dwyane Wade. The Heat still have work to do before October. Their front line, Shaq excepted, is a question mark. But as coach Stan Van Gundy said recently, "We don't have to add stars we have to add good role players." If Pat Riley can secure a shooter, a backup point guard and a viable big man, Miami could be in business.

Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have stayed under the radar this offseason, which suits Rick Carlisle just fine. Indiana wanted to get more athletic in its backcourt, and Stephen Jackson will help. He is a fearless slasher and a clutch shooter, and he will help Indiana overcome the scoring deficiencies that plagued them in the playoffs.

Carlisle's challenge will be to rein in the emotional Jackson without thwarting his offensive punch. And with Ron Artest already testing his patience, Carlisle faces a difficult job next season. Still, the Pacers will be a year better and should contend for a championship.

Cleveland Cavaliers
The up-and-coming Cavaliers looked to be the team of the future before Carlos Boozer's stunning decision to go back on his word and sign with the Utah Jazz. Still, LeBron James is so good that he will carry this team into the playoffs next season.

Eric Snow was a terrific pickup who will improve the team's defense and leadership, and Drew Gooden will try to replace Boozer. Cleveland also added Luke Jackson from Oregon in the draft. He is a terrific young scorer and will really complement James.

Orlando Magic
Orlando fans won't recognize their team, which probably is a good thing. In exchange for Tracy McGrady, a brand new backcourt arrived from the Houston Rockets in the form of Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. If top overall pick Dwight Howard is as good as advertised, the Magic should be a better team than last season's 21-61 disaster.

With that said, Howard will take a few years to develop fully, and it's tough to imagine this team contending for the playoffs.

New York Knicks
The Knicks are one Eastern team that has been surprisingly quiet so far this summer. Isiah Thomas constantly is looking for moves to make, and New York ownership has given him an unlimited budget. His efforts to land Chicago Bulls guard Jamal Crawford have gone unrewarded so far.

But with two months to go before camp starts, there is plenty of time for Thomas to make a move. The question for the Knicks isn't talent but whether they can put the right pieces together.

Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send him a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.


Link (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=sk-dustwest&prov=yhoo&type=lgns)

Addition by subtraction
by Steve Kerr, Yahoo! Sports
July 20, 2004

Steve Kerr's analysis of the NBA offseason thus far:
Eastern Conference | Western Conference

Now that the dust has settled and the frenzy of the draft and the first week of free agency is behind us, it's time to sum up the seismic shift of power in the NBA. Shaquille O'Neal's departure to the Eastern Conference changed everything, and the race in the West is now wide open.

Let's take a look at the contenders.

San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have made huge strides this summer by re-signing Manu Ginobili and solving their backup point guard woes with the addition of Brent Barry. Gregg Popovich's team will be a year better anyway, as Rasho Nesterovic will be more comfortable with his role and Tony Parker more experienced.

Barry adds the lights-out shooter the Spurs have missed in the playoffs against the Lakers, and will fill the void on the wing left by Hedo Turkoglu, who signed with the Orlando Magic. The combination of an outstanding summer and Shaq's departure leaves San Antonio as the conference favorite next season.

Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are not far behind the Spurs. Flip Saunders' team won't change much, but it needs better health, especially for point guards Sam Cassell and Troy Hudson. The Wolves feel like they are in a natural progression toward a championship. Re-signing Trenton Hassell would help, but he is getting interest from a lot of teams around the league and the Wolves may not be able to afford him.

Houston Rockets
Tracy McGrady joins Yao Ming. Wow, what an intriguing combination. Jeff Van Gundy's challenge will be to get T-Mac to play both ends of the floor and to take control of games in the clutch. McGrady is still young and has a lot to learn. But Van Gundy is the perfect coach to take him to the next level and Yao is the kind of big man who can dominate games and share the load. The Rockets now need a point guard to lead the offense.

Utah Jazz
If the Jazz could win 42 games last season with little talent, how far can Jerry Sloan take them this season with the additions of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur? What a nice transition this team has made just one year removed from the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone. This will be a team to be reckoned with for years to come.

Los Angeles Lakers
As much as Kobe Bryant denies it, he had plenty to do with the departure of Phil Jackson and Shaq. As the old saying goes, "be careful what you wish for." Rudy Tomjanovich will take over as coach and you can expect Kobe to have the ball in his hands as often as he likes. Bank on him leading the league in scoring, but will his team have enough defense and size to be very good? They look like a playoff team, but not a very good one.

Phoenix Suns
The Suns will be better, thanks to new point guard Steve Nash and a year of maturity. But everything depends on the development of Amare Stoudemire. If he can round out his game and learn to defend and dominate, this team could be good. If not, the Suns will score a lot of points and win half of their games.

Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies were the surprise of the NBA last season, but can they take another step forward? Signing Brian Cardinal was a surprise, because the wing position was a strong point for the team last year with James Posey, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Bonzi Wells all fighting for time.

Jerry West wouldn't pay Cardinal a reported $37 million if he were going to let him sit on the bench. Look for West to try to package some of his assets to make a play for a big man because that's the only way for this team to improve on last season's success.

Dallas Mavericks
Last season's shakeup didn't work, resulting in too many chefs and not enough busboys. And now Mark Cuban's gang is without Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, perhaps his two most unselfish players. The Mavericks' plan is to build around Dirk Nowitzki and young talent, but it's hard to envision this team being a contender next year. Can't wait to see how Pavel Podkolzine fits into Don Nelson's beloved "small-ball" philosophy.

Sacramento Kings
The Kings have been quiet, and now they have lost Vlade Divac to the Lakers through free agency. Divac's possible departure was the reason Brad Miller was brought in a year ago and the Kings should still be very good without him. With a healthy Bobby Jackson, Sacramento very well might have beaten Minnesota in the playoffs last year, so maybe they'll just sit still and find out what they have in October.

Like everyone else in the West, the Kings' chances improved simply with Shaq's departure.

Next week I will tackle the contenders in Shaq's new conference, the East.

Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send him a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

08-04-2004, 03:52 AM
Carlisle's challenge will be to rein in the emotional Jackson without thwarting his offensive punch.

Don't shrug this off as some uninformed analyst going with popular opinion. Remember, Kerr played with Sax in SA.

08-04-2004, 07:28 AM
Carlisle's challenge will be to rein in the emotional Jackson without thwarting his offensive punch.

Don't shrug this off as some uninformed analyst going with popular opinion. Remember, Kerr played with Sax in SA.

Coach Brown was a big influence on Jackson in San Antonio, so he should be able to help guide him here as well.

08-04-2004, 08:04 AM
I always liked Pie. :p