NBA: Struggling Preseason Teams

    
October 21st, 2008
By: Wendell Maxey
Stop me if you've heard this before: preseason games are meaningless.

Probably so. But that mantra won't hold much water once the regular season gets underway in a matter of days. Rosters will be set. Rotations nailed down. Even still, a handful teams are in a world of hurt two weeks into the preseason. All are predicted to be better this season than last - they also have new head coaches.

The question now is, will they flip the switch when games start counting for good or just keep on keeping on?

HOOPSWORLD examines who is struggling though a painful preseason:

Miami HEAT  (0-4) - With a new nucleus of Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley this HEAT's team win-loss record has started to resemble last season's. They went 0-7 in the preseason before going on to finish an abysmal 15-67. Certainly chemistry factors in to Miami's current woes, but so do injuries. James Jones, Dorell Wright, Chris Quinn and Jamaal Magloire are all on the shelf which isn't helping continuity or production one bit, and there are still two starting spots up for grabs at point guard and center.

There's no doubt Miami's "Big Three" – Wade, Marion and Beasley - are impressive. The same can't be said about their record if the HEAT starts the regular season in the same fashion as this preseason.

Charloote Bobcats (0-5) - Larry Brown may be in a new city, but his Bobcats are playing like his former New York Knicks. Although Brown's stint in New York was short-lived, he continued to preach "playing the right way" to the bitter end. Now in Charlotte, he's spreading that message early and may have found a group of young talent that will actually embrace those words. It's just not showing on the court.

Brown's still trying to figure out his roster. He wants Jason Richardson to be more aggressive going to the hoop instead of living on the three-point line. Brown likes Gerald Wallace's energy, but the turnovers have got to go. And in customary Brown tradition, the point guard situation remains unresolved between Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin - although it appears Felton could be the starter. So what gives?

Right now it simply comes down to execution. And Charlotte isn't executing.

Milwaukee Bucks (1-4) - The vein in Scott Skiles' forehead has got to be protruding further than normal these days. He wants the Bucks to focus on defense, but instead Milwaukee is struggling both defensively and offensively in the preseason. They lost two close ones to Golden State and Detroit, while failing to show-up against Dallas in the second half and being completely blown-out by Minnesota. For Skiles and the Bucks though, such disarray is bound to happen heading into the regular season.

Not only does Milwaukee have a new general manager and head coach, but out of the 19 players currently in camp, 13 are new faces. Despite Skiles having a solid roster – Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva to name a few – these guys still have to put it all together and in a hurry.

Chicago Bulls (1-4) – Any time you implement new offensive schemes, players will have difficulty picking them up. Much like the case in Miami, Charlotte and Milwaukee, the Chicago Bulls are experiencing those growing pains under a new head coach.

There was much debate as to if Vinny Del Negro was the right man for the job. While that debate will likely thrive all season long, no one can argue that he has the talent to win with the first overall pick in Derrick Rose, a re-signed budding All-Star in Luol Deng and a scoring specialist in Ben Gordon (battling a toe injury). But while these three make heads turn, Chicago needs a strong start to the season from the likes of Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni  and Larry Hughes.

Their play could either make or break Del Negro's first year in Chicago.