Eastern Conference Basketball
Posted Dec 16 2003 8:59AM
Eastern Conference teams traditionally have displayed a more physical, half-court style of basketball than their Western Conference counterparts. They have embraced a slower paced game, focusing on tough defence and strong play from the perimeter players. Many Eastern Conference teams have used this style of play to win NBA Championships.
A Historical Perspective
The Boston Celtics of 1958 to 1969 won an unprecedented 11 NBA titles. Led by Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach, the team was noted for its ability to play as a team and its all-round defensive game. Centre Bill Russell was a member of each of these teams, changing the sport with his ability to rebound, block shots and begin the fast break with outlet passes to his teammates. The Celtics, despite Hall of Fame players on their roster, won their first NBA title on a free throw by tough role player Jim Loscutoff, a player known for his strong interior play and commitment to defence.
The tradition of championship basketball continued for the Celtics in the 1980s with the arrival of Larry Bird. Like its teams of the past, the Celtics were very strong defensively and were able to execute flawlessly in the half-court game. The half-court style of Eastern Conference basketball sharply contrasted the "Showtime" fast breaks of the Celtics' rivals, the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers. Bird was the versatile swingman in the half-court offence, able to hit the open shot, pass to teammates and post-up close to the basket.
The 1990s were a decade of dominance for the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls were led by the incomparable Michael Jordan and his sidekick Scottie Pippen. Despite the obvious offensive talents of Jordan and Pippen, it was their exceptional defence that allowed the team to succeed in the postseason. Because the defence tightens and the pace of the game often slows during the playoffs, the importance of being able to play half-court basketball heightens. Chicago's aggressive defence and ability to play within the half-court Triangle Offence led to six championship seasons.
A Look at the Eastern Conference in 2003-04
The Atlanta Hawks hope the re-signing of guard Jason Terry will provide the outside firepower to complement the inside scoring of Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Walter McCarty provides a big lift for the Boston Celtics when he enters the game as a long-distance threat and matchup nightmare.
The hopes of the Chicago Bulls are resting on the young shoulders of big men Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. These "Baby Bulls" team with their veteran big men to provide low-post scoring and interior defence.
LeBron James brings a world of potential to the Cleveland Cavaliers with his overwhelming athletic ability and court vision. His passing skills will create easy baskets for promising big man Carlos Boozer.
New coach Larry Brown will hand over the point-guard reins to emerging star Chauncey Billups who teams with Richard Hamilton to give the Detroit Pistons one of the best back courts in the East.
The Indiana Pacers' versatile cast of guards and forwards supports the superstar talents of Jermaine O'Neal, arguably the East's best power forward.
In Miami, rookie Dwyane Wade will play point guard for a strong group of Heat swingmen, including Eddie Jones, Caron Butler and free-agent signing Lamar Odom.
With the departure of Sam Cassell from the Milwaukee Bucks, Tim Thomas will be expected to assume more of the scoring burden and realize his unlimited potential.
The New Jersey Nets look to reach the NBA Finals for the third year in a row. Richard Jefferson is expected to reach All-Star status after a summer playing for the U.S. National Team.
Toronto native Jamaal Magloire may be the breakout star of the Hornets front court in 2003-04. Magloire's tireless rebounding and ever-improving post play provide an inside presence for New Orleans.
The New York Knicks hope a healthy Antonio McDyess can provide a secondary scorer to support two-guard Allan Houston, one of the NBA's top shooters.
The newly acquired Juwan Howard and star Tracy McGrady provide the Orlando Magic with two low-post threats who can draw double-teams and shoot from the outside.
Derrick Coleman, Glenn Robinson and Allen Iverson, three first-overall picks in the NBA Draft, make the Philadelphia 76ers a dark-horse pick to win the Atlantic Division.
The Toronto Raptors have made efforts to strengthen their front court with the arrival of new faces Jerome Moiso, Mengke Bateer and Chris Bosh. Lamond Murray and Morris Peterson provide depth at small forward.
The 2002-03 NBA Most Improved Player, Gilbert Arenas, teams with head coach Eddie Jordan to improve their new team, the Washington Wizards.