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NBA Central is a Three-Horse Race, For Now

Derrick Rose

Rose is getting closer and closer to returning to action for Chicago.

If you look  at the National Basketball Association’s Central Division of the Eastern Conference you’ll notice a case of extremes. At one end of the extreme is the top which is dominated by the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks who are all within 3.5 games of each other. The other end of this spectrum is the bottom where the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers are 11.5 and 15.5 games respectively out of first place.

While I’m certainly no Svengali, I have a feeling there could be some changes to this division at both ends of the extreme equation.

First of all, Chicago can only get better when Derrick Rose returns from his ACL injury right? Well, yes and no. Joakim Noah continues to battle a foot problem that most believe will hamper him for the rest of the season and then forward Carlos Boozer is dealing with a hamstring issue. Toss in Kirk Hinrich’s elbow problem and the Bulls are suddenly not quite as ready to run away with this thing as we might have once thought.

There’s no question that the Bulls do become better with rose in the line-up, but he won’t be in a position to carry this team right off the bat. He will need guys like Luol Deng to help carry the load until he gets in game shape and gets his feet under him so to speak.

The other end of the spectrum features a team that I believe will make a run for the playoffs although I’m not willing to say they’ll get there. The Detroit Pistons played in New York last night and welcomed, finally after visa issues, new point guard Jose Calderon who came over in the three-team trade with Toronto and Memphis. This is the deal that sent Rudy Gay to Canada.

Losing Tayshaun Prince to Memphis as they have, the Pistons lose their last link to their 2004 NBA Championship team and more importantly a guy that could do a little of everything for them. With Calderon though, I think they’re getting a guy who will get others involved and will create some excitement for the fans.

Will Bynum

Will Bynum see more touches with Calderon running the show?

Right now, Detroit is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference about seven games out of the final spot. Why I like the Pistons to make a run is based on two things. First, the team currently in the final spot is Boston who has lost Rajon Rondo for the season. With that and numerous reports that the team may be shopping other veterans, I believe they will fall off the pace.

The second reason I like the Pistons to make a run is that with Prince departing, that means more time for guys like Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko and potentially more touches for Brandon Knight and Will Bynum. I also believe that Calderon will do a better job of getting the bigs like youngster Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe involved more as well.

Again, I’m not suggesting you lay money on the Pistons making the ‘second season’ but I strongly believe they will make a decent attempt at as Spring rolls around the Motor City.

Central Games to Watch

Atlanta at Indiana – Both teams are 5-5 over their last ten games but I really like the Pacers whenever they play at home.

Brooklyn at Detroit – Good second measuring stick for the Pistons after playing the Lakers and then the Knicks last night. I like the Nets though.

Chicago at Utah – The Bulls head West where the Jazz are always tough at home and I believe they’ll be too much in this one. The Western Conference is just better right now.

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