Thursday: Southwest Division
Today: Central Division
Saturday: Northwest Division
Sunday: Atlantic Division
Monday: Southeast Division
Tuesday: Pacific Division
Story to watch: Wither the Pistons? After sending a very strong signal he would shake up the roster that had just lost in the East finals, president Joe Dumars did nothing more dramatic than sign Kwame Brown. Flip Saunders got fired as coach and was replaced by highly regarded assistant Michael Curry, but it's the same group on the court while aging, minus any jolting transaction. It's great patience on Dumars' part to not make a move just to make a move, and Joe D is one of the best, but if he didn't like the direction at the end of last season, what does that say for the start of this one?
Player to watch: LeBron James. Of course LeBron James. Just try not watching. He is coming off averaging 30 points, 7.9 rebounds to set a career high and 7.2 assists to tie a career high. LBJ is 23 years old. He has a chance to be pretty good when he reaches his prime.
Coach to watch: Scott Skiles. John Hammond made hiring Skiles one of his first acts as new Milwaukee general manager to set the tone that he wanted the Bucks to play with an intensity. That's Skiles. A well-regarded coaching mind, he drives teams to get better and, if nothing else, gets them to go harder. It eventually leads to a backlash, but it could be good for a couple seasons. He is the Bucks' chance to be relevant.
Newcomer to watch: Former second-round pick Mo Williams had a big 2006-07 for the Bucks, got a big payoff with a six-year, $51.5-million contract to stay, was deemed expendable by Milwaukee and got traded to the Cavaliers. The entire East awaits his next move. Williams as a success relieves offensive pressure on James. Williams as a letdown again makes the Cavs the same one-on-five operation on offense.
Rookie to watch: Derrick Rose. Not merely the No. 1 pick with the hype machine of coming off a great tournament run, he's all that in his hometown. The Chicago kid is big and fast. If he can handle the job anytime soon, it gives the Bulls a draft payoff and also allows the flexibility to deal someone from their crowded backcourt. A promising point guard and additional trade possibilities is a nice return for one pick.
By the numbers: If the Pistons reach the East finals for a seventh consecutive season, they would move into a tie for third place on the all-time list for conference domination. The Celtics lead -- and always will -- with 13 in a row in the 1950s and '60s. ... Even with the leading scorer (James), Cleveland finished 24th as a team. ... Mike Dunleavy went from 11 points and 43.5 percent from the field his first five seasons to 19.1 and 47.6, respectively, in his first full season with the Pacers.
Predicted order of finish (with 2007-08 record):
- Detroit Pistons (59-23)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37)
- Chicago Bulls (33-49)
- Milwaukee Bucks (26-56)
- Indiana Pacers (36-46)