Unless you're a hardcore basketball fan, you would not recognize much of the Indiana Pacers' roster. This goes for their head coach Frank Vogel and new general manager Kevin Pritchard. With a 4-2 pre-season record, the Pacers have shown that youth, defense, and team ball can produce results. They should win the Central Division, unless Chicago's Derrick Rose makes a miraculous recovery, and finisesh second in the East.
Last year the Pacers finished 42-24 behind the Bulls in the Central Division and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat. The Pacer's average years of experience in the NBA is 2.2, not including David West and Danny Granger at nine and seven years respectively. The only new name that the average person might recognize is Donnie Walsh, who is back and replacing Larry Bird as President of Basketball Operations.
Critical for the Pacers to do well in the Eastern Conference will be their defense. Because they don't have an elite scorer, they will also have to rely on crashing the boards.
Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova, 6-4, 6-3 in 89 minutes in the WTA Tour Championship this weekend in Istanbul, Turkey, while Venus Williams beat Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-3 last weekend to win her only title this year, the Luxembourg Cup in Luxembourg. Venus winning her 44th singles title puts her second only to her little sister Serena who holds 46, among active players. Serena finishes the year with a world ranking of No. 3 and Venus finishes at No. 24. Either sister would have more titles if they had not played each other in 8 Grand Slam and 3 other finals, with a career head to head record of 13-10.
Serena defeated all the top players this weekend again, however, she could only finish as high as No. 3 on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Rankings because of WTA rules based on her amount of play. According to the WTA, Serena has won 48 out of 50 of her last matches, winning all 18 of her last matches against the top players in the world: 1) Victoria Azarenka, 2) Maria Sharapova, 4) Agnieska Radwanska, 5) Angelique Kerber, 6) Sara Errani, 7) Li Na, 8) Petra Kvitova, and 10) Caroline Wozniacki.
Atlanta Hawks Season Preview: Trades of Joe Johnson And Marvin Williams Put Hawks In Rebuilding Mode
Only five Atlanta Hawks players remain from last year on a team that has made the last five postseasons. New General Manager Danny Ferry and new Head Coach Larry Drew are re-building, although they insist that they are not according to statements on Media Day. Even though the Hawks bolstered their back court with quicker players, they didn't do much for the front court especially in size, which aided in last year's play-off loss to the Boston Celtics. With so many changes, with new players and new staff, it will be difficult for the Hawks to make it to the post-season this year.
The Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose opened the pre-season Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies with a 92-88 win. Returning starters: Luol Deng (18 pts.), Richard Hamilton (13 pts.), Joakim Noah (10 pts.), and Carlos Boozer(6 pts.) contributed, and will be expected to keep stepping it up trying to replace Derrick Rose's 15.3 avg. points. With their solid start the key concern for the starters is to stay healthy, as surprisingly, injury prone Boozer was the only one not out with an injury last year. Secondly, someone new will have to contribute for the Bulls to stand a chance to get to the post-season, even if Rose returns, which the Bulls will need to advance.
The biggest concern for the Bulls is, when or if Rose will return from torn ACL and MCL injuries to his left knee. Other minor issues will be the adjustment and chemistry with the team before and after Rose returns, and personally will Rose still be his old quick and agile self, especially in his forte cutting.
In the AFC South division other than the Texans at 4-0, every other team has a losing record, so the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1-3, don't promise much competition for the Chicago Bears at 3-1 as 4 1/2-point favorites. This should be an easy spread to beat because the Bears with one of the better offensive and defensive teams has shut down the run and forced several turnovers will face the league's worst offense.
Last week, the Bears who beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-18 on the road Monday night, will take their 27.0 point avg . of 307.5 yards, (26th n the NFL) with only 206.5 yds. in the air (25th), and 101 yds. rushing (16th). Tied with Minnesota for the lead in the NFC North, Chicago and the Green Bay Packers at 2-2, have been the real surprises. Marshall has been a great addition to DE Julius Peppers, WR Devin Hester (who Cutler just remembered was on his team last week) and QB Jay Cutler but the team has had inconsistencies, injuries, and the decision making (especially by Cutler) as their weaknesses. The real test for the Bears is making it through the season and overcoming their weaknesses to get to the play-offs.