Brief profiles of Eastern Conference teams
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference ahead of the 2012-13 season.
NBA titles: 17 (2008, 1986, 1984, 1981, 1976, 1974, 1969, 1968, 1966, 1965, 1964, 1963, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1959, 1957)
Head coach: Doc Rivers
2011-12 record: 39-27; Beat Atlanta in first round of playoffs and Philadelphia in second round before losing to Miami in Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics' Big Three became the Big Two when key free agent Ray Allen left for rival Miami. Still, with the re-signing of center Kevin Garnett and the return of All-Stars Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to play with fellow starters Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley, Boston should be the best team in the division. Addition of reserve Jason Terry should help but age is creeping up on Garnett and Pierce while the Knicks and relocated Nets are improving.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Avery Johnson
2011-12 record: 22-24; Have missed the playoffs and posted a losing record in each of the past five seasons.
The losing years appear to be over for the rebranded Nets. By re-signing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace and adding Joe Johnson, the former New Jersey club should make its move to Brooklyn and a new arena a successful one. They are in position to finish as high as second in the Atlantic Division.
NEW YORK KNICKS
NBA titles: 2 (1973, 1970)
Head coach: Mike Woodson
2011-12 record: 36-30; Finished second in division but eliminated in first round of playoffs by the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.
The Knicks, with new guards Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd to go with returning All-Star Carmelo Anthony and fellow forward Amar'e Stoudemire, should be back in the playoffs. But how far they advance depends on how well Anthony and Stoudemire play together. The Jeremy Lin experiment at guard is over (He now plays in Houston) and it is time for the Knicks to development more chemistry if they are going to challenge Boston and perhaps Brooklyn in the division.
NBA titles: 3 (1983, 1967, 1955)
Head coach: Doug Collins
2011-12 record: 35-31; Finished third in division; Surprised East top seed Chicago in first round of playoffs before losing to Boston in second round.
All-Star center Andrew Bynum in a Philadelphia uniform should improve an already good 76ers defense. But the Sixers need more firepower than just Bynum. There is not a returning player on the team who averaged 15 points or better last season. Do not be surprised if big man Spencer Hawes and Bynum often are in the lineup at the same time. In the backcourt, Jrue Holiday has developed into a good playmaker.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Dwane Casey
2011-12 record: 23-43; Finished fourth in division and failed to make playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
There is improvement over last year's team but a less-than-impressive starting five will temper any playoff hopes for the struggling franchise. The biggest addition is rookie center Jonas Valanciunas, a strong rebounder from Lithuania. The team also need forward Andrea Bargnani to overcome injuries that slowed him last season.
NBA titles: 6 (1998, 1997, 1996, 1993, 1992, 1991)
Head coach: Tom Thibodeau
2011-12 record: 50-16; Shared best record in the NBA but were stunned by eighth-seed Philadelphia in first round of playoffs.
The Bulls found out last postseason how life can be without All-Star guard Derrick Rose. The picture will be no rosier in 2012-13, at least for several months and maybe the whole season, as the former NBA most valuable player recovers from surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Kirk Hinrich will try to fill the void until Rose returns. The remainder of the starting lineup is strong with All-Star forward Luol Deng, center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer. That will get the Bulls in the playoffs but they may not be the best team in the division.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Byron Scott
2011-12 record: 21-45; Finished last in division and failed to make playoffs.
The young Cavaliers will show improvement, but not enough to make the postseason. Rookie of the year Kyrie Irving has developed into an outstanding point guard but will need lots of help from returning forward Tristan Thompson and rookies Tyler Zeller at center and Dion Waiters at shooting guard. This is a team for the future not the present.
NBA titles: 3 (2004, 1990, 1989)
Head coach: Lawrence Frank
2011-12 record: 25-41; Finished fourth in division and missed playoffs for third consecutive season.
The Pistons, who lack both a strong starting lineup and a solid bench, appear headed for another season that does not include the playoffs. Center Greg Monroe remains the team's biggest asset. Detroit hopes draft pick Andre Drummond will help up front.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Frank Vogel
2011-12 record: 42-24; Finished second in division; beat Orlando in first round of playoffs before being ousted by Miami in second round.
Move over Chicago, Indiana is the top kid in the Central Division this season. The Pacers showed last season how strong they can be, taking two games off Miami in the conference semi-finals. Forward Danny Granger remains the Pacers' top scorer despite a slow start last season, Roy Hibbert is an effective center, David West serves as the power forward with Paul George and George Hill at the guards. Improved play will be needed from George this season if the Pacers are to go far in the playoffs. He struggled last postseason.
NBA titles: 1 (1971)
Head coach: Scott Skiles 2011-12 record: 31-35; Finished third in division to miss playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
The Bucks have enough talent to sneak into the playoffs as predictions that they will finish anywhere from second to fifth in the division show. But proving it has always been a weakness for Milwaukee. The answer this time might depend on the ability of guards Brandon Jennings, who may not be back until January from foot surgery, and Monta Ellis to play together. Both can give Milwaukee the scoring it needs.
NBA titles: 1 (1958 as St. Louis Hawks)
Head coach: Larry Drew
2011-12 record: 40-26; Finished second in division but lost to Boston in first round of playoffs.
The Hawks traded All-Star guard Joe Johnson and forward Marvin Williams but with forward Josh Smith and center Al Horford still in the fold, there is enough talent for Atlanta to finish second in the division again. Jeff Teague has matured as a point guard and rookie John Jenkins adds a long-range shooter. Height in the frontcourt is a question mark.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Mike Dunlap
2011-12 record: 7-59; Had worst winning percentage (.106) ever in NBA as they lost final 23 games.
After the worst record ever in the NBA, the Bobcats tried to shake things up, drafting forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and acquiring guards Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions and center Brendan Hayward to work with returning top scorer Gerald Henderson and new coach Mike Dunlap. There should be improvement but whether the Bobcats can escape the NBA cellar remains to be seen. If only owner Michael Jordan could play.
NBA titles: 2 (2012, 2006)
Head coach: Erik Spoelstra
2011-12 record: 46-20; Won division title and then beat New York, Indiana and Boston in the playoffs before claiming first NBA crown of LeBron James era by defeating Oklahoma City in five games in the finals.
The Heat silenced critics by winning their first NBA title since the joining of league most valuable player LeBron James and fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Big Three can now go to work on a repeat title. The Heat seemed to figure out how to come together with certainty during the postseason, whipping up on the Thunder in five games. Adding former All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis will be a bonus.
NBA titles: None
Head coach: Jacque Vaughn
2011-12 record: 37-29; Finished third in division and were ousted in opening round of playoffs for the second consecutive year, falling to Indiana this time.
The best player and the biggest distraction for the Magic is gone as Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers. So where does Orlando stand without the All-Star center? In trouble. The Magic, with 10 new players and a new coach, have slipped from perennial playoff contender to a team that will be lucky to escape the division cellar. The Magic hope shooting guard Arron Afflalo will add scoring as the newcomer teams with Jameer Nelson in the backcourt, Orlando's strongest area.
NBA titles: 1 (1978 as the Washington Bullets)
Head coach: Randy Wittman
2011-12 record: 20-46; Escaped division cellar for first time in four seasons but still missed playoffs.
In a very weak division, the Wizard could climb as high as third this season. Much will depend on the play of top returning scorer John Wall and rookie Bradley Beal in the backcourt. The addition of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to play with last season arrival Nene in the frontcourt will be a boost defensive. Still, the Wizards have a ways to go to be a playoff team.
(Compiled by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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