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ON THE BEAT - Eastern Conference: October 18, 2004

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were dealt a major blow to their season as F-Chris Crawford suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Minnesota Timberwolves in pre-season exhibition play. Crawford planted to go up for the shot when F-Kevin Garnett came down hard on his back, sending Crawford crumbling to the floor. Crawford had shown promise in his injury-plagued career, averaging 10.2 ppg last year.....In two preseason games thus far, Atlanta is at 1-1, showing promise from their two key off-season acquisitions: SF-Al Harrington and PF-Antoine Walker. In their opening win against Orlando, Harrington scored 23 points. In their recent loss to Minnesota, Walker scored 22 points.

Boston Celtics

So far into the preseason, the Celtics are 1-2 under Doc Rivers run and gun system, which heavily relies on the player’s own judgment during the flow of a game. This system has been hugely popular with the players, and it appears Rivers have already won the respect of his team.....The race for the final starting G-position is a tight competition between Jiri Welsh and Ricky Davis. While Davis draws more attention for his athleticism, talent, and dunking ability, Welsh is excellent at playing without the ball, and within the confines of the team’s system. Star F-Paul Pierce has lobbied for Davis for the final starting spot, citing that Davis brings more defensively and will be more aggressive, offensively.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are winless in their first two exhibition games. The first game was a thrilling 126-125 double-overtime loss to the Washington Wizards. The team showed glimpses of promises as C-Primov Brezec had 26 points, 11 rebounds, and G-Gerald Wallace had 26 points, 12 rebounds, in the losing effort. In their second game, the Bobcats were routed 111-85 by the Portland Trailblazers. In this game G-Jason Kapono had 17 points, and Brezec had 12 points, 8 boards.

Chicago Bulls

In three preseason games, the Bulls are 1-2, beginning with a 30-point loss to Boston, a win at home against New Orleans, and a recent loss to Cleveland. Impressive so-far is C-Eddie Curry, and new rookies F-Luol Deng, F-Andres Nocioni, and G-Ben Gordon. Gordon was Sport’s Illustrated selection to capture the Rookie of the Year..... Nocioni has been endearing himself to Bulls fan, and has already become a fan favorite for his intense, all-out hustle. He’s been chasing down rebounds as if his life depended on it, and has played with general reckless abandon, hustling after loose balls, and aggressively defending his opponents.....G-Eddie Robinson is embroiled in negotiations with managements about release from his contract. Coach Scott Skiles and John Paxson are fed up with what they see as Robinson’s lack of dedication. Robinson’s would like a trade or outright release, which would be more preferable than waiving him. The Bulls still owe $14-million to Robinson.

Cleveland Cavaliers

In two preseason games, Cleveland is 1-1; an opening 102-94 loss to Memphis, and a recent 104-88 victory over Chicago......F-Drew Gooden, the replacement for departed Carlos Boozer has played well in the first two games, having 12 points, 13 rebounds against Memphis, and 9 points, 10 rebounds against Chicago. Gooden is hoping to shed his underachieving image with his new opportunity with Cleveland.....The Cavaliers have expressed interest in picking up troubled 3rd year F-Qyntel Woods, of the Portland Trailblazers, who has been suspended because of his supposed involvement with a dog-fighting ring.

Detroit Pistons

Coach Larry Brown has not been impressed with the performance of his team, as the Pistons dropped to 1-2 in their preseason schedule. In their last two games, losses to Minnesota and Miami, Detroit has committed 51 turnovers and shot poorly from the field. Granted, the Pistons have been without C-Ben Wallace (surgery rehabilitation) and F-Rasheed Wallace (back injury), and Brown has dedicated the first four exhibition games to giving extra playing time to the younger players...... Rookie Argentinean G-Carlos Delfino has been impressive so far in the preseason. Delfino has looked comfortable in the offense scoring 12 points in his last two games, and providing the game-winning shot in Detroit’s first game against Boston. However, his defense, or lack thereof, is drawing the ire from defensive-minded Brown..... C-Darko Milicic has been receiving considerable playing time this preseason, with a 5 point, 3 rebound, 3 assist, 2 block performance. Despite the improvements, Milicic will probably have a similar role on the team as last year - being pinned to the bench.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are off to a good 2-0 start defeating the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies. The game against Memphis saw the debut of the Pacers’ most significant off-season acquisition, G/F-Stephen Jackson. The chemistry between Jackson, and stars F-Jermaine O’Neal and G-Ron Artest, were immediate, which was good considering the trio will provide the bulk of the scoring...... Coach Rick Carlise says the Pacer’s offensive system will differ slightly this year. He intends on allowing PG-Jamaal Tinsley to improvise more, giving Tinsley a boost in confidence. Carlise wants less standing around and lobbing the ball into the post, and more movement and balance, fewer plays called and more penetration..... Pacer legend, G-Reggie Miller, is feeling optimistic about this upcoming NBA season. Finally feeling as healthy as his been in the previous few seasons, Miller plans on being more aggressive this season, and to improve on his career-low 10.0 ppg average, the lowest he’s had since his rookie campaign.

Miami Heat

The Heat won their last preseason contest against Detroit, evening their preseason record to 1-1. The Heat played without star C-Shaquille O’Neal, who had strained his left hamstring in practice during the week. G-Dwayne Wade scored 20 points for Miami in the victory. In their first game against Houston, Shaq’s Miami debut, the team lost 85-75. Shaq played a mere 22 minutes but scored 17 points, easily handling the opponent’s centers, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo..... With the release of former Laker coach, Phil Jackson’s, controversial tell-all memoirs on his last season’s Laker team, Shaquille O’Neal felt vindicated as Jackson had confirmed O’Neal’s point about the selfish nature of Kobe Bryant. He also went on to label Bryant, a weirdo...... Coach, Stan Van Gundy, will be heavily utilizing an inside-out offensive set, with Shaq as the focal point. The Heat has tried to surround the center with good perimeter shooters, so that they can benefit from the double to triple teams that O’Neal will undoubtedly see.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are 2-1 so far in the preseason, with wins over Minnesota and Denver (whom they also lost too)...... Coach Terry Porter have been using all his players so far, at times substituting all five players, to fairly evaluate his players. In future preseason games, Porter plans on limiting the amount of players he will use, so that the team gets used to the rotation schedule by the beginning of the season. Porter has stressed defense and rebounding in the exhibition season and thinks the team is further along in one area than the other..... C-Zaza Pachulia, from the republic of Georgia, has been impressive thus far. He is competing with C-Daniel Santiago for the starting position. In three games, Pachulia has posted 16 points, 6 rebounds; 12 points, 7 rebounds; and 11 points, 3 rebounds.

New Jersey Nets

With a recent 95-86 victory over the Boston Celtics, the Nets have evened their preseason record to 1-1. G-Rodney Buford led the team with 19 points in the victory. In their preseason opener, the team lost 92-84 to the New York Knicks..... In an article in the New York Post, former G-Lucious Harris, now with Cleveland, said he was at first disappointed by not being retained by the team, but now is happy considering the current status. He said, that when Kenyon Martin left to go to Denver, the team lost its fire, and now that leaves the team with a frustrated Jason Kidd..... G-Richard Jefferson has noticed that many teams are laying of the Nets, showing them some disrespect, but that suits Jefferson just fine, as he hopes the team uses this to its advantage..... President and CEO of the Nets, Rod Thorn, will be extending his contract very soon, as negotiations are drawing to an end.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are perfect so far in two preseason games. Their last game, a 98-84 victory over San Antonio demonstrated why G-Jamal Crawford was so sought after by general manager, Isaiah Thomas. Crawford made 10 of 12 shots for 25 points for the night. The potentially deadly duo of PG-Stephon Marbery and Crawford was effective in action, with Marbury penetrating and dishing out to an open Crawford...... G-Allan Houston, who has an injured knee was booed by Knick fans everytime his name was mentioned on the loud speaker. F-Shandon Anderson has been relegated to five minutes of garbage time in the first two exhibition games. Anderson had been in a feud with Isaiah Thomas.

Orlando Magic

The Magic won their first preseason game with a 114-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, putting their preseason record at 1-2. Trying to mesh 10 new players into a new system, the Magic had a sense of direction about them after looking disoriented in two consecutive losses...... F-Grant Hill has so far been impressive in preseason play. In the recent victory, Hill was reminiscent of his former past when he was arguably the best all-round player in the league. Hill scored 20 points, had 6 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Mavericks, and has been unhampered by injuries thus far..... F-Dwight Howard, the Magic’s first overall draft pick, has also been adapting to the NBA play faster than Coach Johnnie Davis had envisioned. In his 3 games, Howard has been solid, playing close to 30 minutes a game, and having an 18 and 17 point performance. One knock has been his overly aggressive nature on defense, which has caused him to foul out of 2 of the games.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are 3-0 in preseason play, with 2 victories over the hapless Toronto Raptors, and one against Washington. In their last game, a 108-103 victory over Toronto, G-Alan Iverson was ejected for yelling at a referee. So far, Iverson has picked up his intensity after promising to show more leadership following his solid Olympic performance..... Two talented youngsters will most likely play significant roles on the team, says new coach, Jim O’Brien. PG-Willie Green and F-Andre Iguodala, the 76ers 1st round draft choice, have played solidly so far in the preseason. Green and Iguodala teamed up for 16 of the Sixers’ 32 points in the final period to clinch the win over Toronto..... Defense has been pointed out as the team biggest weakness, said Coach Jim O’Brien. He has called the team’s transition defense, UGLY.

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors have lost their first two preseason games to the Philadelphia 76ers in close games.  Both games were played in Canada – a  99-97 preseason opener loss in Toronto; and a 108-103 loss in London, Ontario…..  The Raptors look more fluid in their offense, a far cry from the past few seasons where the team played half-court sets with F-Vince Carter as the focal point.  Under new coach Sam Mitchell, the Raptors are playing a run-and-gun style, emphasizing passing and balanced scoring…..  F-Vince Carter who made headlines this summer by requesting a trade was booed consistently in the preseason opener.  He would not comment about the fan response to the media…..  G-Alvin Williams did not play in the Raptors last loss to Philadelphia.  Playing injured for the better part of the last two seasons, the gimpy Williams, who is only 30, is deciding whether to play through pain over the course of this season, or opt for season-ending knee surgery.

Washington Wizards

Washington is off to a 1-2 start, winning their most recent game 126-125 against the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, who were playing their first NBA game.  In that game F-Jarvis Hayes had 31 points, and 14 boards.  In the game before that, a loss to Philadelphia, Hayes scored 23 points…..  Free agent, rookie PG-Gerald Fitch has been making a good impression on coach Eddie Jordan.  Jordan has been impressed with Fitch’s defensive instinct and tenacity.  The PG out of Kentucky has a good shot of making the team’s 15-man roster……   F-Kwame Brown, a former 1st overall draft choice, is optimistic about returning earlier from a broken foot than expected.  Brown was injured in a summer pickup game and had surgery in early August.  Earlier this week, he said doctors had told him he would be practicing at full speed by the end of November.