Top Storylines: Southeast Division
Atlanta Hawks – The Defense Rests.
*Photo via AP
Atlanta Hawks forward, Thabo Sefolosha has had an eventful summer. On April 8th, Thabo suffered a broken leg via NYPD after failing to flee the scene outside of 1 Oak nightclub in NYC where Indiana Pacers forward, Chris Copeland was stabbed in a separate incident. The injury kept Thabo off the court, while the Hawks fought their way through the Eastern Conference to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, of playing, Thabo dealt with the law, and was acquitted of misdemeanor charges including: of obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to ESPN.
Thabo was the victim of obsessive force from the NYPD and if he chooses to sue, has the full support of Michele Roberts, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. Despite the encouragement, Thabo wants to put the off-court drama behind him and focus on this upcoming season with the Hawks. The 60+ win team from a year ago isn’t expected to mirror last year’s results but are expected to contend, in which Thabo can be a key piece to the puzzle. After losing the defensive and versatile, DeMarre Carroll, who signed with the Toronto Raptors, Thabo will be looked upon to fill that void and continue the winning formula that made the Hawks the no.1 seed in the East a season ago. – Greg Alcala
Charlotte Hornets – We’ve Seen This Before.
*Photo via AP
I wrote a similar story before last season, I believed the Hornets were a sleeper in the East. They were coming off a playoff appearance, in which they went head to head with the Miami Heat and looked to be an upcoming threat. However, adding Lance Stephenson and a few other pieces had the Hornets, taking five steps backwards and out of the playoff picture. This offseason the Hornets again had a face lift. They dished away Stephenson traded away some role players. The Hornets added Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, and Kemba Walker’s backcourt mate from college, Jeremy Lamb and also drafted Wisconsin big man Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky. The Hornets have a young team lead by Walker and Al Jefferson, but the talent is there. Trading for veteran and experienced Batum was a move overlooked by much of the NBA. Now losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the season is a blow, but this team can rally. If this Hornets team can play consistent, team basketball a playoff appearance is not a long shot. The Hornets can slip into the Eastern Conference playoffs. – Kory Waldron
Miami Heat – The Godfather Part IV?
*Photo via AP
So you’re telling me that after an eye sore of a campaign in 2014-15, Miami looks poised to challenge for a Finals berth out of the Eastern Conference…without LeBron? Pat Riley really is the Godfather. His tenure with the Miami Heat has propelled the franchise to three NBA championships, and his work acquiring pieces in the last eight months may lead to a fourth. He’s assembled a talented core with quality and versatile depth, but it’s a roster with injury concerns and without any real on-court chemistry…yet. In fact, the starting five has yet to play regular season minutes together. With that being said, Riley’s done his job incredibly well. It’s now up to Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff to fit those pieces together to ensure a White Hot summer in South Beach. – Parth Goradia
Orlando Magic – Scott Always Goes Out of Skiles.
*Photo via Getty Images
The Magic have an incredibly young roster and a new head coach, which should make for an interesting storyline this year. Scott Skiles was hired this summer to become the Magic’s 12th coach in franchise history. Yes Skiles has a reputation for building solid defensive teams, but there’s a serious risk to this hire.
As Zach Harper of CBS Sports put it, “he [Skiles] eventually wears out his welcome with his players through a grueling and overbearing style of coaching that can wear thin”.
That’s not good. The team has budding stars in Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo to go along with a crop of young talent and it’s crucial for Skiles to mold these guys into a winning bunch.
The Magic’s front office obviously knew what they were getting when they hired Skiles, and that is a guy with a career record of just over .500 (which is solid considering none of the teams he coached were loaded with talent), but also someone who often creates too much friction with his players. With Skiles’ track record of being fired at every job he’s had, we’ll see if he can right the ship in Orlando. – John Aiello
Washington Wizards – Watch Me Nene…to the Bench?
*Photo via USA Today
In 2012, Chicago based rapper, Chief Keef, dropped his hit song “I Don’t Like”, which peaked at #15 on Billboard’s top rap songs of the year. In the song, Keef reiterates that he doesn’t like “fake shoes”, “fake trues”, “a snitch” and most importantly, “thirsty a** b****”; ordinary things that you and I wouldn’t like either. Now imagine if Chief Keef released an “I Don’t Like” Washington Wizards remix. The opening line would sound a little something like this:
“Fake big men, that’s the sh** I don’t like”
Why? Because Chief Keef hates fake. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Nene, their starting power forward, has been just that. The team’s so called “enforcer” averaged a measly 5.1 rebounds per game, tied for 31st amongst the league’s power forwards. While 5.1 RPG would be sufficient for Anthony Bennett or Channing Frye, Nene has built a reputation around the NBA as one of the league’s tough guys. He head butted Jimmy Butler, tossed Russell Westbrook to the floor and most famously, clocked NBA bust, Michael Olowokandi, on national TV. Sadly, it was all an act; fake, just like “shoes” and the “trues” Chief Keef raps about. If the Wizards have any chance of contending in the East this year, Nene needs to log on to YouTube, search ‘Dennis Rodman highlights’ and learn to crash the boards with ferocity. If not, head coach, Randy Wittman, MUST make a rotation change. Put in Kris Humphries. Hell even put in Dejuan Blair if you have to. The Wizards deserve a starting power forward who isn’t afraid of breaking a fingernail.
Nene, it’s up to you. Please, for the love of God, box out and get a damn rebound! Chief Keef already dissed you on the remix. You don’t want him channeling his inner Drake and going back to back. – Jeffrey Kee