NBA Playoffs
The Pulse of the NBA - Week 8

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor

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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - Will the shake-up in Orlando create some real magic? Boston and Miami keep on streaking and the Knicks get a reality check. That's what's on tap in my latest take on the NBA.


    Team president Otis Smith finally noticed the obvious; that his team as it was presently constructed was not a championship contender. So on Saturday, Smith performed a major facelift on his roster with a pair of headline-making trades. He dealt Rashard Lewis to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas and sent Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, a 2011 first-round pick, and cash considerations to the Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

    The trade addressed one of Orlando's biggest needs; players who can create shots for teammates. The Magic's pitiful 18.3 assists per game ranks them next- to-last in the league. The addition of Turkoglu, one of the better passing forwards, and Arenas, who can create off the dribble much better than Jameer Nelson, should be a big help to an offense that relied way too much on perimeter shooting.

    While the trade may benefit the Magic on the offensive end, it also leaves them very thin up front as far as big bodies are concerned. Brandon Bass, who was recently inserted into the starting lineup, is an undersized power forward at 6'8", and there's really nobody on the bench behind him that can provide some muscle and rebounding. And with Marcin Gortat going in the deal, Orlando is left without a bona fide backup center.

    I think the Magic will be a better team as a result of the two deals, but once again, I still don't think they're legitimate championship contenders.


    I warned giddy Knicks fans to curb their enthusiasm until this team proved they could do more than beat up on bad teams. After extending their longest winning streak in 16 years to eight games with a win over the Nuggets, the Knicks lost in the closing seconds to the Celtics, were blown out by the Heat, and were beaten by a Cavaliers team that was in the midst of a 10-game losing streak.

    There's no doubt this team is much improved, fun and entertaining to watch, but there are major deficiencies. They have a thin bench and are flat-out a bad defensive team. But that is mainly due to the Knicks having to play a natural power forward (Amar'e Stoudemire) at center, and a small forward (Wilson Chandler) at power forward. Of course, if team president Donnie Walsh had selected Brook Lopez or Roy Hibbert in the 2008 draft, rather than the defensively challenged Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks wouldn't have this gaping hole in the middle. And it will be difficult for Walsh to fill this hole, as he looks to spend big bucks on future free agents like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.


    The Heat are still red-hot with its winning streak now at 12 games, but they got a helping hand from the referees clearly swallowing their whistles in the final seconds of Saturday's win over the Wizards. Kirk Hinrich drew contact from LeBron James and Chris Bosh on his drive for the potential game-winning basket, but as his shot didn't come close to drawing iron, he heard nothing but silence as far as the ref's whistling a foul. "I felt like I got fouled," Hinrich said. "I saw the replay and thought it was an obvious foul."

    The no-call kept the Heat's winning streak alive, but they'll face some very tough tests this week as they host the Mavericks on Monday and face the two- time defending champion Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. Only four of Miami's twelve wins during the streak have come against teams with winning records, so it'll be interesting to see how they fare against some of the upper echelon clubs.


    The league's longest current winning streak belongs to the Celtics, who have won 13 in a row. What's even more impressive is that Boston has had this run despite not being at full strength at times. Rajon Rondo missed five games, Shaquille O'Neal four, while Jermaine O'Neal has been sidelined during the entire run. The Celtics have the depth and talent to survive these losses, something which Miami isn't capable of. Sunday's win over the Pacers was a perfect example. With Rondo out, Paul Pierce took over the playmaking role, dishing out 12 assists as part of his triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds).< br>

    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.

    Copyright 2010

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