Continuing on with our Previews Review series, we look at the Central Division.
How many people picked the Bulls to be the team to beat this year? How many people expected the Pistons to start declining, in particular after their uninspired loss to the Cavs last year? How many times will the Pacers tear it up and start over again? How many fans of the Bucks are there to even read this review? On to the reviews!
For review, here's the list of Previews from the preseason.
Cobra Brigade - Jack Cobra
Bull Riding - Kolsky
Well, this will probably come as a surprise to nobody, but my expectations for the Bulls this year FAR exceeded their performance. And I didn't even have them winning the Eastern Conference (unlike the general consensus of ESPN.com writers). All in all, this was a year that disappointed Bulls fans beyond what any of us could have imagined. Even people who didn't like this team didn't see a complete collapse – and that's what 2007-08 was for the Bulls. In my view, here's what happened… The front office counted on small steps forward from Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, and big steps forward from Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas. Instead, they got steps backwards from the first three and a very small step forward from Thomas (though it's hard to say for sure what might have been if he had received any consistent playing time). The team also counted on leadership and veteran presence from Ben Wallace, and the only thing he led them in was dogging it and suspending a fellow player. Basically his year-plus in Chicago was an unmitigated disaster and an utter failure for John Paxson as a GM. It was a lost year altogether for the Bulls.
Cavalier Attitude - Amar Panchmatia
We pointed to "defense" and "rebounding" as the Cavs’ mantra for this season and beyond (or at least as long as Mike Brown remains on the sideline), but that can only take you so far when your team is built around an explosive superstar like LeBron James. The team still lacks an All-Star complement that it desperately needs to put next to The King, and GM Danny Ferry finally threw in the towel on the Larry Hughes Experiment. However, this will be the first time in LeBron’s five-year career that the Cavs didn’t improve or at least match their win total from the previous season. James will have to carry them single-handedly once again if they want a chance to improve on their postseason results from last year, and the only way to improve on that would be to bring home the championship. Without a true star sidekick next to him to help shoulder the load or a fluid offense to maximize his talents, LeBron’s heroics will have to surpass almost anything we’ve seen before from any professional athlete. Don’t put it past him, but don’t hold your breath, either.
Pistons Nation - Jesse
As for the preview I was pretty spot on. I'm the greatest thing that ever happened to blogging and the internet for that matter. Seriously though it was no mystery going into the season who this Pistons' team was and what the goals were. They've already won more than the 52 games I predicted (woo-hoo Eastern Conference). We have a formidable bench again that helped to curb the wear and tear to the starters who appear more ready and focused on the post season than the last couple of seasons. All that is left to fulfill the blog's prophecy if to get the hardware...or "shiny stuff" as Starbury might call it.
Empty the Bench - Brian Spencer
As the regular season draws to a dramatic close, the Detroit Pistons have the second-best record in the NBA and are comfortably positioned as the Eastern Conference's 2nd seed (as we predicted). Along the way they've also successfully addressed a number of the team goals we listed, as well as their main weakness.
Midway through the season, as youngsters such as Amir Johnson and Rodney Stuckey starting getting "it," the coaching staff expanded the rotation to ten, sometimes eleven players deep, and seem to have a firm grasp on what to expect from their regulars as the playoffs loom. In turn, the starters' minutes as a group are the lowest they've been since the 2003-04 season---when they won the title. And while they still have a tendency to take teams of lesser talent more lightly than they should, the "flip the switch" mentality that has plagued the Pistons in recent years has not manifested itself as much this season.
One big question from our preview still remains to be answered, however: can head coach Flip Saunders take this team to the NBA Finals--and win it? Stay tuned.
Indy Cornrows - Tom
I must say my season preview was pretty accurate although I underestimated how well the Indiana Pacers would play this year. No, the Pacers won't reach the 40 win total I predicted, but that number was based on a healthy roster. With Jamaal Tinsley and Jermaine O'Neal missing half the season, the fact that this team can surpass their win total of last year (35) is incredible.
With Tinsley out, both Travis Diener and Andre Owens were afforded plenty of opportunities to make their mark on the season. Both struggled at times, but over the past two months, Travis Diener seized a significant role in the playing rotation and proved he can impact an NBA games without making a shot.
This team has a long way to go but the effort and improvement shown after struggling through a harsh January and February reveal a team that has adapted to Jim O'Brien's style. The team has struggled defensively but they just don't give in. Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger emerged as consistent scoring options for the Pacers and the overall play has allowed the Pacers to keep chasing their goal of making the playoffs through the final week of the season.