Boston Celtics: Complete Eastern Conference Preview

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Jan 28, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) winces as he bends his knees while setting up for a foul shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Thunder 100-92. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks

Yes, they have Carmelo Anthony and the bejeweled Phil Jackson pulling the strings, but this team is going nowhere fast. They flamed out in the draft lottery and ended up with the 4th pick, selecting a 19-year-old (since turned 20) named Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia. He may turn out to be a fine player, but he’s struggling with injuries already and doesn’t seem like the obvious choice to lead the Knicks out of the basement.

After sitting out much of last year with a knee injury, Carmelo should be piling up the points as usual, but it won’t be nearly enough. This team’s other offensive options are scarce and New York will struggle to put the ball in the basket, as they did a season ago when they finished dead last in the league in scoring. 17 wins isn’t exactly a lofty benchmark, but it’s hard to see this team improving much with others in the conference taking obvious steps in the right direction.

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And just in case you’re into tabloid fodder, Knicks second-year head coach Derek Fisher is apparently embroiled in a domestic dispute with current NBA player Matt Barnes. According to multiple sources, Fisher has been seeing Barnes’ estranged wife Gloria Govan and when Barnes found out Fisher was at the home he and Govan used to share he hopped in his car and drove 95 miles to confront his ex-teammate. Ian Mohr of the New York Post wrote, “A fight erupted at 11:45 p.m. between the 235-pound Barnes and the 6-1, 200-pound Fisher. Cops were called, but Fisher left before they arrived, the sources said.”

Well then, not sure what kind of effect this will have on the Knicks’ season, but it definitely can’t be a good thing. Fisher enjoyed tremendous success as a player, but he still has a long way to go as a coach. Romancing the wife of another member of the NBA brotherhood is a big no-no. Fisher needs the trust and support of his players for New York to have any chance of improving this season, and this incident certainly didn’t help.

Philadelphia 76ers

One team the Knicks may have a shot at surpassing are the Sixers, who finished just ahead of them last year with 18 wins. They received some bad news this offseason when center Joel Embiid, the 3rd pick in the 2014 draft, suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken right foot and will likely miss his second full season. The Sixers also had the 3rd pick this year and they selected another big man, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. He will share the frontcourt with Nerlens Noel, the 6’11” forward Philadelphia took 6th in 2013.

Two lottery picks trying to prove themselves in the same painted area doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Then there’s the matter of who’s going to get them the ball. The Sixers dealt point guard Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks last year and have yet to establish his replacement. General manager Sam Hinkie insists he has a plan, part of which includes stockpiling a plethora of draft picks. Obviously, this plan has yet to result in success on the floor. Philadelphia is 37-127 the past two seasons and have a roster entirely devoid of proven commodities.

Maybe Okafor will end up being great. Maybe he and Noel can coexist in the same lineup. And maybe Joel Embiid will come back and contribute. But all these maybes are no doubt driving the fans in Philadelphia to their breaking point. It’s tough to support a team that seems okay with being an NBA embarrassment if it means a better shot at the next superstar. And here we go again with the maybes. At some point Hinkie needs to bring in some veterans who know what they’re doing, or all these young guys will have no one to learn from. For now, it looks to be a very long year once again for the Sixers, with growing pains all around. Okafor, who enjoyed an NCAA championship in his only season at Duke, will have some adjusting to do.

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