Talk Eastern Conference title contenders, and three teams quickly come to mind — Chicago, Detroit and Boston. A former Beast of the East, though, could re-emerge with good health, a little luck and thanks to a recent trade.
Talk Eastern Conference title contenders, and three teams quickly come to mind — Chicago, Detroit and Boston.
A former Beast of the East, though, could re-emerge with good health, a little luck and thanks to a recent trade.
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — just two seasons removed from winning an NBA title — reminded everyone they still plan to be a factor by acquiring the athletic Ricky Davis.
Davis comes to South Beach along with forward Mark Blount in a five-player deal that sent the rapidly aging Antoine Walker and two others to Minnesota.
Yes, Miami’s long-range success depends on the health of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. But the addition of Davis and the serviceable Blount, not to mention the subtraction of Walker, should be a plus.
Davis, 28, gives the Heat a much-needed scorer on the perimeter. He can heat up in a hurry as shooter and gets to the basket.
And one look at Miami’s average of 85.9 points per game during a winless preseason reveals the need for more offense.
As the Heat await Wade’s return in about a month from knee and shoulder surgeries, Davis can start at shooting guard. Once Wade is back, Davis can move over to small forward. Plus, it rids the team of Walker, who has clashed with Riley. Walker, 31, was a key piece to Miami winning its title in 2006. Things have soured since as his weight and conditioning became more of an issue.
Davis, too, is not perfect.
There’s a reason he has played for Miami once before, Charlotte, Cleveland, Boston and Minnesota. Cleveland fans will forever remember him as the guy who intentionally shot at the wrong hoop in garbage time to grab a rebound for a triple-double.
It’s no stretch to imagine Riley and Davis having their clashes.
But for a chance to play for a winner with the likes of Shaq and D-Wade, Wrong Way Ricky certainly can help himself by looking to be a piece to a larger puzzle.
Not done yet
Minnesota’s acquisition of Walker does not mean the Timberwolves are done making deals. Walker could be sent packing, as could Mark Jaric and Juwan Howard. The T-Wolves already have parted with Kevin Garnett, Troy Hudson, Mike James and Trenton Hassell this offseason.
“There’s still dust in the air,” VP of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Any more dust in the air is not going to bother anything. These next few days always will be interesting. Then we’ll let it settle and see what it is.”
Ready to soar?
After eight years out of the playoffs, numerous coaching changes and constant roster upheaval, the Atlanta Hawks just might be ready to rejoin the NBA as a relevant team.
The Hawks went 7-1 in the preseason, their best mark in 25 years. They have an All-Star in guard Joe Johnson to go with talented young forward Josh Smith.
And in recent drafts, they have accumulated at least a good college All-American team — forwards Marvin Johnson and Shelden Williams, forward-center Al Horford and guards Acie Law and Josh Childress. Just close your eyes and remember Dick Vitale raving about those five.
Of course, with 69 wins during the last three seasons, the Hawks have to prove they have changed their ways. Sports Illustrated picked 13th (out of 15) in the Eastern Conference.
“When you’re not making the playoffs, that comes with the territory,” Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s why the pressure is on us this year to end this nonsense, man, and finally break through. We do that, and people can say whatever they want. We do that, and maybe we’ll shut a few of those people up, too.”
A good way to start would be by winning an opener for once. Atlanta has lost eight straight season openers, the longest active streak in the league.
It should surprise no one that San Antonio owns the longest active streak for winning season openers. The Spurs have won 10 straight.
- The New Jersey Nets, as part of a community outreach effort with the NBA, WNBA and Toyota, donated $50,000 to a Boys & Girls Club in New Jersey. The club’s gym was destroyed by an April storm that left it underwater, and it looked unlikely to be repaired in time for its youth league next month. The large donation changed that. Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson were among the Nets who dedicated the new court Wednesday.
- Former McKinley High School standout Eric Snow long ago established himself as one of the league’s good guys. The Cavaliers guard also appears to be a coach-in-waiting. In the sixth annual NBA.com GM survey, the league’s general managers picked Snow as the active player making the best head coach someday. Two-time MVP Steve Nash, last year’s pick, was second on the list.
- The Pistons suffered a setback when rookie Rodney Stuckey broke his left hand. The former high-scoring Eastern Washington guard was making a solid transition to being an NBA point guard. He already had emerged as the backup to Chauncey Billups.
- Another banged-up rookie is Kevin Durant (sprained ankle). He missed Seattle’s final preseason game. The smooth 19-year-old averaged 18.8 points a game in the preseason, tops among rookies.
Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345.