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Tag:New York Knicks
Posted on: February 18, 2012 2:17 pm
 

New York Knicks Midseason Report

I know many Knicks fans out there (including myself) have had a whirlwind season thus far including highs, lows, and ofcourse....LINSANITY! The Knicks have turned around a season that looked doomed a couple weeks back and things are starting to look bright again. Along with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks have many things to look forward to. The team will have a healthy Carmelo Anthony back soon. Baron Davis should also make a return and help give Lin more rest during games while also providing a reliable veteran with good skills on the floor. The Knicks have also just signed J.R Smith who can provide help on the perimeter which they desperately need. The Knicks' defense has been great of late with Chandler, Shumpert and Jeffries all creating havoc with their efforts. Most importantly they are gaining confidence which they lacked early in the year and are starting to create a culture of winning. Here is my take on how these factors could help the Knicks make a nice run in the second half of this season.

Jeremy Lin, aka LINsanity, LINcredible, LINning etc etc etc, has been a fantastic story this season. We all root for underdog stories and this is truly a magical one thus far. Along with the fact he has soared to popularity and solidified his place in the NBA, he has also brought the Knicks exactly what they needed: a point guard who can make plays. There is no doubt that many of the Knicks' early struggles could be attributed to the fact that they were struggling at the point guard position. D'Antoni's system relies on having a capable point guard and the Knicks did not have one. Lin has come in and played great and has helped improve the chemistry of this team and more importantly has helped them LIN, I mean win (sorry I had to do it at least once). The Knicks were 8-15 just a short time ago and seemed to be sinking in the standings. The team was forced to play without their superstars for a stretch and it seemed as if they would fall out of contention in a hurry. However, Lin stepped in and most of the entire world knows what happened next. They went on to win 7 straight games before a disappointing home loss to the Hornets last night and are now in good control of the 8th playoff spot with a few teams ahead within striking distance in the standings. The good thing about all of this is Lin is continuing to work hard and stay focused amidst all of the media attention he is getting. Lin has a bright future ahead and I hope he can help take the Knicks to new heights.

Now, let me address the notion that Carmelo's return may hurt the Knicks' current chemistry. I have been very critical of Carmelo's game this season, especially all of the isolation plays he was commanding early on. I thought he was taking the team out of any type of flow and was trying to do way too much. With that being said, I do not think he really had a choice, the Knicks were lacking talent, chemistry, a point guard, and overall depth and they were actually relying on Anthony to do everything. I do not think it was possible for him to be successful given those circumstances and on top of that maybe we should start to believe the fact that his multiple injuries were having an effect on him. I think the rest he has been able to get along with the play of Lin and the team overall will be the best thing for him. I think he now sees that he will not be required do to everything and can focus on what he does best, which is to score and put pressure on opposing defenses. I think he is excited to get back and play with Lin as they can work together to make each others' jobs easier which will hopefully help them dominate and be a force down the stretch. Another thing to mention, is the fact that it was Carmelo who actually suggested to Mike D'Antoni to give Lin an opportunity so let's forget all the talk of him being selfish. I think he is excited by the fact that Lin has emerged and many are creating these obstacles. Overall, I am not concerned with Carmelo not fitting in with Lin, in fact I believe that with less pressure on him, Carmelo is going to come back strong and improve in all areas.

Baron Davis, in a way may have saved the Knicks season without even playing. I say this because had he returned by now, the Knicks would have probably cut Lin. Thankfully, the Knicks gave Lin a chance and the rest is history. With that being the case, where does Baron Davis stand in all of this? He has essentially lost the starting point guard job which was destined to be his.  So what will his role be and how can he help? That answer is easy. Lin emerging may be the best thing for him as well as he will now be able to transition himself back onto the court without being relied on to play heavy minutes right away and without having so much pressure on him to be the "savior" for the team. This will allow him to be more relaxed and also give him adequate time to get healthy. Once he returns, he will be a solid contributor off the bench and he will help the Knicks contain Lin's minutes while also being a mentor to him. There is no doubt in my mind that Davis will still serve a valuable role on the team down the stretch without disturbing the success of Lin.

J.R Smith could prove to be a valuable addition to the Knicks. I have never been a fan of him because of all the negative aspects of his presence. His poor discipline on the court, attitude, and antics on the court have always made him a player that I never was a fan of. However, the Knicks have forced my hand once again and as a devoted fan of the team, I will embrace his addition. With that being said, Smith's weaknesses are more recognized than his strengths. He is an outstanding three point shooter and an overall great scorer. Those attributes will both help the Knicks drastically as they have struggled from three point range this year and have also struggled with their scoring off the bench. Smith could immediately address both of those needs and being that he has been playing in China, he should be in game shape and ready to contribute right off the bat. If he can get his game under control and play within the system, he may even earn himself an extended job with the Knicks that goes beyond this season because there is no doubt that his skills cater to the system. He also brings some athleticism to the team which they have also been lacking this season. I will be curious to see how D'Antoni divides the minutes between Lin, Davis, Shumpert, Fields, and Smith once they are all in the lineup but I think it will be easy to get them all involved as many of them could play multiple positions. The important thing with Smith will be to prove he has matured and show more discipline on the court with his shot selection and I think he will be successful and really help the Knicks.

The Knicks' defense has been extremely underrated thus far this season and has looked great as of late. This is definitely the best defensive team that D'Antoni has ever showcased in his coaching career. To me, Tyson Chandler, has been outstanding and may even be the team's MVP. He plays hard every night, defends well, is scoring at a pretty high level relative to his career stats, and most of all he has been a great leader. He has done exactly what he was brought in to do and that is to anchor this defense. To me, Chandler has exceeded expectations and might even be the Knicks' most consistent player. Iman Shumpert and Jared Jeffries have also played valuable roles in the team's improvement on defense. Shumpert is amongst the league leaders in steals and his on the ball defense has been great in the backcourt. Jeffries is having a record season in regards to how many charges he is drawing and he is doing all the little things to help the team win. I was never a big fan of Jeffries because of his offensive limitations but the guy truly hustles and makes winning plays on a consistent basis. These factors have helped the team allow nearly 10 less points a game and become a decent defensive team. This will really help the Knicks come playoff time.

Another side note to mention for the Knicks will be the return of rookie Josh Harrelson, who was having a great rookie season prior to getting injured. His toughness, defense, and outside shooting will also help the team going forward. He will probably battle Steve Novak for minutes as Novak has also emerged as a good contributor for the Knicks.

All of these factors are helping the Knicks build a "winning culture" and gain confidence, which is so important in sports. The Knicks are now playing to win instead of playing not to lose. Most sports fans know that there is a huge distinction between the two. Hopefully, all of the chips will fall into place for the Knicks and they can continue to play spirited basketball and build a strong winning culture. I think the next step for the team is to become a more dominant team at home. It bothers me that the Knicks cannot protect their home court on regular basis playing in the "Mecca" so that will be something for them to work on going forward. But overall, I think the Knicks will be an exciting team in the second half of the season and I think they will continue to rise in the standings and who knows what the end result will be. With the way they are playing and all of the additions to their lineup with the signing of Smith and the return of key injured players they are capable of beating anyone. I am very excited and delighted (forgive me for rhyming I've been listening to Clyde too much) to see their season turned around and I hope they can build upon this and contend for a championship.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 7:36 pm
 

Howard to the Knicks for Stoudemire/Chandler?

Being the Knicks fan that I am, when I hear major Knicks news, especially trade scenarios involving superstars, I have to voice my opinion. The latest news has the Knicks acquiring Dwight Howard for both Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Obviously, Orlando would have to include other players to make this deal work. The likely candidates would be Hedo Turkoglu (whose hefty contract would definitely be one that the Magic will include in any trade scenario for Howard) and Ryan Anderson

Before I give my input on this deal, let me just say how crazy things can get in New York. The Knicks are never in a state of rest (in regards to player movement) and seem to never be content with their roster. Patience is never practiced with this team. They are always in "win now" mode yet they have not won a title since 1973! It is nice to see that the Knicks are always trying to find ways to get better but most of the time their aggressiveness in making trades backfires on them. With that being said, allow me to evaluate this potential trade. The deal would like this:

NY Knicks Receive

Dwight Howard ($18 million)
Hedo Turkoglu ($11 million)
Ryan Anderson ($2 million)


Orlando Magic Receive

Amare Stoudemire ($18 million)
Tyson Chandler ($13 million)


From Orlando's viewpoint, this is a pretty good deal. They are receiving a star player in Stoudemire and a great defender in Tyson Chandler. The biggest problem for the Magic in losing Dwight Howard is the loss of his defensive abilities. He is irreplaceable as a defender, however, Chandler may be the next best thing for the Magic from that standpoint as he would be one of the best candidates to make up for the loss of shot-blocking and rebounding that Howard provides. Chandler can also finish well around the basket and would play well in the Magic's uptempo system. Stoudemire, despite the common perception right now, still has a lot of game left in him. He is struggling right now with New York because of the lack of chemistry with Carmelo, who has the ball in his hands the majority of the time and flourishes in isolation sets, and also because of the lack of a playmakers on the team. He is working way too hard to find his offense. He is best in pick and roll sets and as a slasher, he needs the ball while moving. He is not the type of player that you can post up or expect to create shots on his own and that is essentially what the Knicks have forced him to do thus far this season. Stoudemire is a hard worker and is coming off a great season last year in which he was an MVP candidate prior to the Carmelo trade. I think the idea that he is on the decline and that he has weak knees and a bad back are all non-factors. Stoudemire conditions himself better than most players in the league and he does not seem to be plagued by any injuries in recent history. He can definitely still produce at a high level and would be a great player to become the new face of the Orlando Magic. Offensively, Stoudemire is much more dynamic than Dwight Howard. Howard is a dominant center but he is one dimensional as a scorer. Stoudemire on the other hand is versatile on offense. He can shoot from the perimeter, slash to the basket, and is a good free throw shooter. He actually fits in Orlando's offense very well.  Let us not forget that it was Amare who brought life back to the Knicks after they missed out on all of their other free agent targets in 2010 and he served as a great leader to the team before the Carmelo trade last year. I think this deal actually makes the Magic a more complete team. I believe that if they made this trade they are actually a more dangerous team. I think this is the best deal the Magic will get unless they can convince the Lakers to give up both Bynum and Gasol. Otherwise, they would have to make this deal if it were on the table because they cannot risk losing Howard for nothing and it is a far better deal than the Nets or Clippers can offer (assuming the Clippers would not part with Griffin or Paul). The only drawback to this deal for the Magic from a basketball standpoint is that even though Amare prefers to play power forward, he is more productive at the center position. The reason this is a drawback is because Tyson Chandler is a center and after watching every Knicks game this year, I could make the argument that it is actually Chandler's presence on offense that is making things difficult for Amare as the two have not gotten their spacing down. Chandler is only effective around the basket so he stays in that area but he is also clogging up space in the lane for Stoudemire. This could limiting the area that Stoudemire has to work with and could be a bigger reason why he is struggling. Remember, Carmelo and Amare found ways to score together last year, that could be a result of Billups being there last year but Stoudemire's struggles this year could somewhat be the result of Chandler's presence. I could be wrong about this but it is something to think about for the Magic. Even if it were true, the Magic may be more successful than the Knicks in creating schemes that help the two stay out of each others way and flourish together offensively.

From the Knicks viewpoint, this is a trade that they would have to consider. I love Amare Stoudemire and he is my favorite player on the Knicks but he is not meshing well with Carmelo, whom, the organization will never give up after they gave up the farm to get him just less than a year ago. I would hate to see Amare go but it seems like Howard is a better asset to the Knicks right now. Howard is the best defensive player in the league and would instantly help them with their rebounding and shot-blocking deficiencies. It also seems as if he would fit in offensively with Carmelo better than Amare because he does most of his work in the paint. He can post up and draw double teams to help create space for the Knicks (which is something they lack). Also, the addition of Ryan Anderson would give the Knicks some three point shooting (which they desperately need) and a player who Howard is used to playing with. They work well together as Howard is now comfortable kicking the ball out to Anderson for open shots when he is being double-teamed. Hedo Turkoglu could also be an asset for the Knicks. He would most likely be included in this deal as a salary dump. However, he could really flourish with the Knicks and have a very valuable role. He could come off the bench and serve as the leader of the second unit. He has good offensive skills as he is a good shooter, can create his own shot, knows how to draw contact and get to the free throw line, and he also has good playmaking abilities. The Knicks currently lack depth and their offense lacks flow and cohesion, this trade definitely addresses both of those problems. From that perspective the Knicks should definitely consider making this deal. Especially if it meant they could somehow add Deron Williams to the mix next summer via free agency or trade (which would be a longshot but something to keep an eye on).

One caveat to this deal which may be a blessing in disguise for the Knicks, is that Tyson Chandler cannot be traded until March 1 (due to free agent signing rules). The reason this may be a blessing in disguise for the Knicks is that it will force them to be patient with their current team and give them some team to get it together. I really like Baron Davis, I do not expect him to be the "savior" for the team but I also do not think that the Knicks are currently a "savior" away from winning. I think Baron Davis can give this team what they are missing; a smart, veteran point guard who can make plays and has the experience and poise to play with superstars like Amare and Carmelo. He fits the offensive system very well and it is worth waiting to see if he can give them what they are currently missing. It would be foolish for the Knicks to make this trade without giving the team a chance to all play together before breaking them up.

In the end, this is all just speculation. But if there are any legs to this rumor and the Knicks continue to struggle and Dwight Howard's trade demand remains then it is definitely a deal both teams should consider. It is a rare deal in that it may actually make both teams better. We will see what happens..............
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:31 pm
 

Mike D'Antoni.......Your time is up in NY

Another loss, another loss to a bad team at home, another pathetic offensive performance, and more excuses. This has been the storyline for the Knicks early on this season. A season in which they had championship aspirations coming in. I have been very patient with the Knicks thus far this year and I am never one to call for a coach to get fired. However, enough is enough already! Mike D'Antoni is just not getting the job done right now. The worst part of it is that the Knicks are failing at what is supposed to be Mike D'Antoni's strength, OFFENSE! For years the Knicks have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league, yet, this year they have improved drastically on the defensive end and now they are struggling on offense? If someone would have told me that the Knicks would allow nearly 10 less points per game to their opponents, I would think they would have won the majority of their games and are being considered title contenders. This has obviously not been the case as the team has now dropped to an unimpressive 6-8 record. The main reason for this is clearly the offense. The Knicks offense right now is just terrible (and that is an understatement). I have seen better offense run at local gyms in pickup games. There is no flow, no movement, and way too much isolation. Carmelo Anthony (as talented as he is as a scorer) does not play well within the flow of an offense. He is a total ball stopper and he needs to be held accountable by coaches because that style and lack of discipline on the court will not get the team very far. Carmelo takes every single one of his teammates out of the flow on offense. This is becoming a huge problem that needs to be addressed.

So how do the Knicks address this problem? Well, I could take the high road and preach patience especially when Baron Davis is on the verge of joining the lineup which should certainly help. The only problem with doing that is the fact that this season is only 66 games. Time is of the essence for the team. The pressure is on Mike D'Antoni to get this team playing up to their ability. Sure the team lacks depth and the personnel is not characteristic of a D'Antoni led team. But there is enough talent on the Knicks to play better than they are playing right now. They are wasting good defensive efforts every game because of their inability to score. Any team with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire should not struggle to score. That is just unacceptable. It seems like their inefficiencies on the court are not even addressed which makes me wonder what they are focusing on when they watch film and practice. They are not moving the ball enough, not getting any dribble penetration from their guards to help create high percentage shots, and are allowing Carmelo Anthony to isolate whenever he wants. The coach needs to stress more discipline and make Carmelo buy into the system instead of trying to change it. Easier said than done as the team has far more invested in Carmelo than they do Mike D'Antoni, which brings up the question: Is D'Antoni the right coach to lead this team?

As an avid Knicks fan and one who watches all of their games without missing a play. I think that answer is no. Again, I hate to call for a coach to get fired and I also do not believe it is ever a good move to do that mid-season but it is the right move for the Knicks right now. His system clearly does not cater to the personnel that he currently has and he doesn't seem to have the answer right now. The team definitely has talent and needs a coach that preaches discipline and can implement an offense that focuses more on halfcourt sets. Who might that be? Jerry Sloan sure fits that bill, bring Jeff Van Gundy back, convince Phil Jackson to come out of retirement, or maybe allow Mike Woodson to take over and give him the rest of the season to audition and allow the Knicks to make a long term decision on a coach after this season. I don't see Mike D'Antoni turning this season around for the Knicks and I cannot be the only person who feels that way. I know many of you may think that I am just a typical Knicks fan who turns on them when things are not going well but the proof is in the pudding. A coach can only be given so much slack. The team is clearly not playing well and I have yet to see the coach make a positive adjustment from one game to the next. They continue to approach each game with the same plan and are continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again. Something needs to be done to give this team a spark. Maybe getting rid of the coach will light a fire under all of the players. It could possibly inspire them to play better. The bottom line is that if the Knicks do not see Mike D'Antoni as the right coach for this team, then they have little to lose by letting him go now as he is in the last season of his contract. The Knicks need to make a statement, and that statement is that this type of play is unacceptable and everyone should be held accountable. In this case Mike D'Antoni is going to have to be the one who is held accountable.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:07 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:16 pm
 

NBA Headlines 2 Weeks Into The Season

Nearly 2 weeks into this 66 game NBA season so much has already happened. With just a short part of the season underway, what headlines have been the most notable? Well here are a few things that have grabbed my attention thus far:

1) Being a New York Knicks fan, their slow start (2-4 record) has been very noticeable for me. I know this team probably needed a full training more than any other team. They acquired Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline last year and Tyson Chandler this offseason and have not had any preparation time to build any chemistry or flow on either end of the floor. With that being said, they have also had to deal with injuries early on this season (Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Jared Jeffries, Mike Bibby and ofcourse Baron Davis) which has also contributed to their slow start. They were supposed to be better on defense this year with the addition of Chandler but have only showed it in spurts thus far. I think there is still a ton of room for improvement on the Knicks and the 2 most important things that will lead to improvement are (1) Consistent effort on defense by the whole team but especially Carmelo and Amare, as the leaders of this team, they need to lead by example (2) the health and production of Baron Davis, I believe Baron still has a lot of game in him and he addresses a lot of the problems that the team is currently suffering through. Another thing to pay attention to with the Knicks is the job status of Mike D'Antoni. I think D'Antoni will not last through the season if the Knicks do not improve drastically and even if he does he is in the last year of his deal and the guy who hired him, Donnie Walsh, is no longer in charge. Questions about "retired coach" Phil Jackson will surely arise. Doesn't it seem like going back to the Knicks (was a player for the Knicks and on their last championship team in 1972) and having success there, is the only thing missing from the Zenmaster's illustrious career. I think the Knicks will turn it around and make a nice run...........or at least I hope so.

2) The Minnesota Timberwolves have become one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. Ricky Rubio has been great thus far for the team and the city. Kevin Love is looking like an all-star again. JJ Barea has produced nicely and the team is just filled with so much young talent. This team has the same vibe that the OKC Thunder had a couple years back. I don't expect them to make the playoffs this year but they are on the cusp of being a very good team for years to come. One thing to keep an eye on for the T'Wolves is Michael Beasley. I think Beasley is very talented but from what I have seen this year, he just doesn't seem to fit in. He still seems to be a bit selfish on the floor and I just think he becomes expendable if Derrick Williams continues to play well. I am curious to see if they try and trade him for another veteran player to help this team grow. Regardless, I think the future is looking bright in Minnesota.

3)  "The Injury Bug" has hit several teams this year already. Stephen Curry injuring his ankle 3 times in 5 games has to be concerning for Warriors fans out there. I had to make a note of that. It seems like he rolls his ankle every time he plays. You would hate to see a player that young have chronic ankle problems. Hopefully that is not the case and he takes some time to allow himself to heal before getting back on the court too fast. Zach Randolph, who was one of the main reasons for the Grizzlies success last year, is out 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. That could seriously damper the hopes of Memphis buliding on last year's success especially in a shortened season. Manu Ginobili is out at least 6 weeks with a broken hand, this is devastating to the Spurs as he is the primary scorer and playmaker on this aging roster. It will be interesting to see how they fare while he is out. Kobe Bryant seems to be doing fine with his wrist injury thus far hopefully he can make it through the season because without him the Lakers will sink.

4) The World Champion Dallas Mavericks have had a rough start to their season (3-5 record) and have taken a beating in some of those losses. I think many of us expected them to decline a bit after losing Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and JJ Barea this offseason but I don't think anyone expected it to be this bad. Sure, they will improve once Lamar Odom and Vince Carter become more comfortable with the team, but I have to say they look old and don't look like a team that will be a real threat this year. The good news is they have a great coach in Rick Carlisle and he will do his best to right the ship.

5)  The Miami Heat so far have looked dominant and unbeatable this year. They are playing at an extremely high level to start the season and have addressed may of the problems that they faced last year. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have silenced the critics with their lack of three point attempts this year and are doing all of their damage closer to the basket. I think many other teams are wishing the critics would have kept their mouths shut and let them stay on the perimeter because those two may be the best finishers in the league right now and are starting to work really well together. I think they are more relaxed and are playing so good on both ends of the floor. Right now they are definitely the team to beat. One area they could improve on is working on beating those zone defense schemes. (That was hard for me to say considering I am a Heat hater, but I have to say the truth)

6) Sacramento Kings fired head coach Paul Westphal after only 7 games and after his clashing with DeMarcus Cousins. This was a little surprising and it seems like the Kings' owners chose to back their players over their coach on this one. My thought on that is Cousins and Tyreke Evans better be as good as the Kings expect them to be because they just got their coach booted.

These are just a few notable observations early in the season and I look forward to sharing more throughout the year. Overall, it has been an exciting start to the season and I can't wait to see what will happen next............
Posted on: December 4, 2011 3:16 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:40 pm
 

2011-2012 NBA Season Preview

I am excited for the upcoming season as I'm sure most NBA fans are as well. Now, we can finally talk NBA basketball again instead of lockout updates and players playing with teams overseas. We can actually prepare for NBA basketball. With that being said here are some headlines to follow leading up to the start of the season.  What can we expect from the upcoming season? How could it possibly top last year? Which players will change teams? Which coaches are on the hot seat? How will Miami fare in Year 2 of the "Big 3"? Who will be the surprise team(s)? Who will be crowned 2012 NBA Champions?

This season should shape out to be a very entertaining season for more reasons than one. For starters, it will be another season that will include the "surprise element". What I mean by that is there is no clear cut favorite to win the title this year. The Dallas Mavericks surprised most of us last year after their impressive championship run and there is a strong possiblity that we may be surprised again. Parity amongst teams has increased drastically in the NBA over the past few years, it's hard not to believe that every team has a chance. The Western Conference has been very competitive for years now, sometimes only a few games separated the first seed in playoffs from eighth seed. Now, I think the same will start to happen in the Eastern Conference as some of the teams who have been bottom feeders for years now are ready to contend. Its clear now that any team could lose any given night and that makes every game exciting. 

The offseason and free agency is typically one of the most exciting times of the year. Due to the lockout dragging on as long as it did, it will be a very short free agency period. However, that just might make it even more exciting. Free agency is set to begin on Dec. 9 with the regular season set to start on Christmas. That leaves just a couple weeks of time for teams to pursue free agents as well as securing their own current free agents. Also, in addition to that, the amnesty provision could result in even more players being available than expected, perhaps even big names. Expect things to get very competitive in a hurry. Some notable free agents to track include:

Tyson Chandler                   
Marc Gasol
Nene
Jamal Crawford
David West
Samuel Dalembert
Grant Hill
Tayshaun Prince
Jason Richardson
Jeff Green
Caron Butler
JJ Barea
Shannon Brown
Josh Howard
Michael Redd



Some names rumored to be made available via the amnesty clause include:

Mike Miller
Baron Davis
Brandon Roy
Gilbert Arenas
Rashard Lewis
Vince Carter
Elton Brand
Richard Hamilton
Travis Outlaw

In addition to those names, we can't forget about the uncertain futures of superstars such as Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams who are all in the last year of their contracts and all sorts of doubt surrounding them resigning with their current teams. We will hear rumors all year similar to the chatter that went on with Carmelo Anthony last year. I believe that at least 2 out of those 3 will be moved prior to the start of the season or by the trade deadline. With all the free agents, amnesty casualties, and superstars available; player movement this year should be nothing short of spectacular.

This will be a vital season for many new coaches and current coaches to produce results. Some coaches may not have too long of a leash and others may be subject to very high expectations to meet. Here is a list of coaches to keep an eye on:

Mike Brown (Lakers- Large shoes to fill in LA with a team that expects to win......and Kobe Bryant
Erik Spoelstra (Heat)- Pressure to win with Big 3.....will Riley get impatient?
Mike D'Antoni (Knicks) - Last year of contract, Donnie Walsh gone, pressure to win in NY after acquiring Melo/Amare
Mark Jackson (Warriors) - Last coach was only given one season, Jackson has no coaching experience. Will he impress or fall flat?
Stan Van Gundy (Magic) - Has he lost this team? Doesn't seem like any of his players would mind if he was replaced.
Vinny Del Negro (Clippers) - Clippers have talent now, that leads to expectations. Will those expectations be met?

Everyone's favorite team to hate or love last year was clearly the Miami Heat. After a rocky start the team ended up 2 games shy of winning it all. That would be considered a successful season to many teams, however, it was clearly a disappointment in regards to this team. So what lies ahead? Do we see a similar result? Will they take the next step and win it all? Will they take a step back? To answer those questions adequately, we must see what additions/subtractions the Heat will make to their roster. They do not have any cap room so they will have to be creative in acquiring real talent. One of those ways could be to use the amnesty clause on Mike Miller and create cap room to sign a big man or a point guard, Because of how much Wade and Lebron dominate the ball, the money would be much better spent on a big man who could provide a defensive presence and rebound. The big names out there are out of their budget so they may be looking at the likes of somebody like Dalembert or take a chance on somebody like Eddy Curry. They could also use some more reliable shooters. Redd would be an ideal fit for them from an ability standpoint and a financial standpoint. One question that has to be asked is will the Big 3 all play out their full contracts with the Heat, or is it possible that management will deal one of them for a player who fits the team better? With names like Paul and Howard out there, it would have to be at least a possibility that the Heat throw in the towel on their current Big 3 and choose to include one of them in a deal. The Miami Heat will definitely contend next year, I don't expect them to be crowned champions just yet, but they are still a great team and definitely have a chance. It will be interesting to see how their roster looks coming into the season and what adjustments they make to get to the next level. 

As the teams stand right now (after free agency this picture will be very different), which teams/players will be surprising? Many teams will surprise us with their success and others might surprise us with their lack of success. One team to keep a close eye on will be the Boston Celtics. The window is closing on this team as father time is catching up to their Big 3. Trade rumors have already began to swirl surrounding Rondo which could create a problem. A compact schedule which will include games on three straight nights on several occasions certainly is not a formula for success for this team. They are obviously still a playoff team but I do not expect them to win their division or have home court advantage in the playoffs. The Celtics era with the current Big 3 has seen its best days. On a similar note, the Los Angeles Lakers, may be facing the same problem. They are just a year removed from back-to-back titles and three straight finals appearances, yet they seem to be headed in the wrong direction. A shortened offseason after bringing in a new coach will certainly hinder the team. The point guard position needs to be addressed as Derek Fisher is clearly past his prime and cannot hang with the likes of starting guards in the Western Conference such as Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, and Barea/Kidd. The Lakers simply lack the necessary youth, toughness and athleticism to compete in the Western Conerence. The fact that they have who I still consider to be the best player in the league, Kobe Bryant, still gives them a chance but they definitely need to improve in many areas. The Portland Trailblazers will be an interesting team to watch. They have an abundance of talent on the roster and some players with health concerns that decisions will need to be made on. The team has great young talent in Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and the newly acquired Raymond Felton. They also have Gerald Wallace, who was acquired at the trade deadline last year, along with Marcus Camby, Brandon Roy (who they may choose to cut via amnesty clause) and also free agent Greg Oden, who they intend on bringing back. This is a loaded roster with no real weaknesses. If they can stay healthy, and thats a big if in Portland, this team is good enough to beat anybody and has a great home crowd to support them. I see them as a top 4 seed in the Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies, who were last year's surprise team, should also be able to build off their success last season. Lionel Hollins proved to be a very good coach and helped this team gain the confidence they needed to believe that they could compete. With Rudy Gay returning from a season ending injury the team improves on paper, but hopefully he buys into the team's concept when he was out as it proved to be more successful. If he messes up the chemistry the team had late last season, the team may be better off tradind him for a player who fits the team better. Retaining Marc Gasol is their most important task for the time being. If they lose him with nothing in return, the team will suffer dramatically. I see Gasol as the intangible on that team and maybe the most important next to Zach Randolph. Lastly, the New York Knicks will be a team to watch. This is another team that made some big moves last year and seem to be heading in the right direction. The questions surrounding the Knicks will be, who they add in free agency, if they somehow acquire Chris Paul this year, and if D'Antoni is truly the right coach for the team. The Knicks obviously need to be better on defense if they expect to contend for a title. They added Mike Woodson to the coaching staff to address that but it will also take a commitment from their players (especially Melo and Amare) to truly improve in that area. The team also needs to use their cap space wisely to surround their superstars with the right role players. The Knicks lack overall depth, size, and true shooters and if these areas are addressed they could be a legitimate contender. Without knowing what happens in free agency it is hard to pick a favorite to be crowned 2012 NBA Champions, but if I had to pick a few candidates I would say Heat, Bulls, or Knicks from the Eastern Conference and Thunder, Trailblazers, Mavs, or Lakers in the Western Conference. My predictions will be bolder as the season goes on.

These headlines as well as many others will make this season very exciting to follow. Hope you are all as excited as I am!!!

By: Derrick Karim
 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com