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With The New Additions, Can The Pacers And Nets Knock The Miami Heat Off Their Throne?

(Photo via Getty Images)

(Photo via Getty Images)


The Miami Heat are the reigning champions. They escaped sure defeat in Game 6 on the heroics of LeBron James and Ray Allen to come up with another championship. The veteran Spurs just could not muster enough to win in Game 7 as the Heat pulled away in the end. But going into next year, the Heat will not only have competition from the West but from teams in their own conference. Looking at the Heat as the barometer, the Indiana Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets made some interesting changes to bolster their team. But is it enough for them to beat the Heat come playoff time?

The Pacers pushed the Heat to the brink last season in the Eastern Conference Finals. But in Game 7, their youth showed up as point guard George Hill and wing player Paul George disappeared at the wrong time. The one thing the Pacers had that damaged the Heat a lot last postseason was their post game. Big men Roy Hibbert and David West were hitting the Heat with body blow after body blow and the Heat could not do anything with them. But the one thing that hurt the Pacers inside was they did not have that third big man to give the Heat problems. Well, the Pacers think they have resolved that issue. According to Yahoo! Sports, the Pacers have acquired veteran forward Luis Scola and sent forward Miles Plumblee, guard Gerald Green and a protected 2014 1st round draft pick to Phoenix. This move, along with the re-insertion of sharpshooter Danny Granger and swing forward Chris Copeland, makes the Pacers a stronger offensive team while still retaining the toughness that they are known for. Imagine if they would have had Scola, Copeland, Lance Stephenson and veteran point guard CJ Watson coming off the bench. They would have been even tougher last year.

But with the additions, the Pacers are still missing a lead guard to initiate the offense. George Hill is good, but he is not a point guard. And we all saw what happened with him at point guard when the pressure picked up against Miami. His uneven play cost them big time. They don’t necessarily need a star point guard, but a guard that won’t turn the ball over in crucial times. And other than Hill, the only other guy that can initiate that offense is the newly acquired Watson. If the Pacers could rely on a guy like Granger or Paul George to initiate the offense, then maybe they would be fine with Hill (who is really an undersized shooting guard) playing the point. But because of no solid addition at the point guard spot, the reservations are still there about the championship aspirations of this team. For the Pacers’ sake, they better hope Hill has learned from last year and will be better when the pressure comes his way.

In Brooklyn, the thirst of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for a championship is real. And to quench his thirst to make the Nets a serious contender, he has thrown money and caution to the wind. The Nets made a trade that brought them veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics. Immediately the expectations of the team went through the roof as some touted them as the biggest contender to the Heat. The starting lineup they now boast will be Garnett and Pierce at the forwards, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams at the guard spots and Brook Lopez at center. But not only will they have those guys starting for them, the Nets re-signed backup big Andray Blatche, signed forward Andrei Kirlenko to backup Paul Pierce, brought in guard/forward Allan Anderson to backup Joe Johnson along with having the aforementioned Jason Terry to backup Deron Williams. This team has all the tools to make a run.

But one thing that has to be looked at is the age of their key additions. Paul Pierce has been an incredible player for Boston his whole career, but over that time he has broken down. Injuries have taken away some of his explosiveness and with that, some of his effectiveness as a player. Signing Kirlenko was a good thing, but if he is playing more than Pierce when it really counts, then the Nets basically wasted money to bring him in. Another thing that may be an issue with Pierce is how he fits in Brooklyn. After being in Boston so long and becoming a legend there, how will playing in a new city for a new team for the first time in his career affect him? It could be excellent, but it could also be something that goes like Joe Namath when he played for the Los Angeles Rams. Kevin Garnett has been very durable during his entire career, but last year he started to show signs of breaking down. He ended up missing 14 games last season and he also had the lowest rebound and point totals of his career last postseason. Garnett brings intensity and passion when he plays, but what happens when your body is telling you that it cannot produce like it used to? It seems like in the case of Garnett and Pierce they are battling two enemies: the Heat (as the defending champions) and Father Time. The Nets will need these two to be at their best to win the East. We shall see if they can get it going when the time is right.

Both squads made perceived improvements. But in the end, it is still in question whether it is enough to defeat the Heat.

Follow me on Twitter @General_MP or hit me up on Facebook at Mike Patton The General for more conversations on sports and other things.

Playoff Time Is The Chicago Bulls’ Time Too?

(Derrick Rose picture via http://www.bleacherreport.com)

The playoffs have finally descended upon us and now it’s time to separate the contenders from the pretenders. People have talked about the Miami Heat. People have talked about the Oklahoma City Thunder. But is anyone talking about the Chicago Bulls? And if people are, should they?

The Bulls once again had a big regular season. In this strike-shortened season, the Bulls finished with 50 wins, obtaining the best record in the NBA and locking up homecourt advantage for the entirety of the playoffs. But this year, they did it most unconventionally.

The Bulls brought in veteran shooting guard Richard “Rip” Hamilton from the Detroit Pistons in hopes of him being able to relieve some of the pressure on Derrick Rose. But what the Bulls didn’t expect was the injuries to pile up. Rip hasn’t even played 20 games this year, as he has dealt with a groin and shoulder injury. He’s been back in the lineup for a good stretch, but can we expect to see the old Rip Hamilton or will we see him continue to breakdown like he has all year?

Rip hasn’t been the only player with an injury this year. Derrick Rose suffered five separate injuries this year and missed a ton of the season as well. Luol Deng also is playing with a torn ligament in his wrist and has been toughing it out all year. He has missed some games as well. But despite all of this, the Bulls have made it through. And some may wonder why or how they have. They have made it through because of their bench.

At some point and time, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, CJ Watson, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer have stepped in and picked up the slack for the Bulls. With this added experience, the Bulls have an advantage with depth and potency coming in off the bench.

But is this more experienced bench going to be able to help the Bulls make it to the next level? The answer is no. The Bulls will only go as far as the star power of Rose and the veteran leadership of Rip will lead them. When Rose gets doubled, Rip is their best threat and playmaker and he has to be effective. Another huge factor will be the play of Carlos Boozer. The Bulls brought him in to help lead their team and now it’s time for him to step up. He disappeared in the Miami series last year and has played uneven against them this year. He has to give them something in the post so they can at least have a little bit of a semblance of a post game. In the end, defense can only carry you so far and the offense has to step it up. It should be interesting to see if they are ready or if they are just following the same path they did last year in their Conference finals’ embarrassment versus the Heat.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Bulls are ready to take the championship this year or do you think their regular season was Fool’s Gold?

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