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NBA Preview: Central (11/17/03) --
The Leonardite.com NBA preview wraps up today with the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. For any of the previous installments, click the links below.

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Indiana Pacers

While the town may be best known for the 2.5 mile speedway at 16th and Georgetown, the state is known most for its basketball tradition. This makes the Pacers’ situation even more excruciating for those associated with the team. The team’s pinstriped uniforms, which have been in use for more than five seasons, seem to still be creating mass confusion among the sporting public.

“Yeah, man, I just don’t know what to say,” said Pacers’ star, Ron Artest. “When I’m at the free throw line and the fans are all yelling, ‘Hey batter, batter’, I mean, how am I supposed to shoot?”

What was originally thought to be just a clever taunt by opposing fans has borne itself out to be legitimate confusion on the part of the sporting public. On a recent trip to Chicago, the Illinois fans began to show support for their team by chanting “Here we go Cubbies, here we go!”

“Things really got out of hand when the people in the nosebleeds took their shirts off and they all tried to sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ after the third quarter.” Pacers’ President, Larry Bird, remarked after the game.

Things aren’t any better in their hometown. Local TV reported that the Pacers had hired a new “manager” when the team inked Rick Carlisle and it was announced in the newspaper that Pacers’ 3rd Baseman Jermaine O’Neal was seeking to renew his contract.

“Clearly some education needs to be done. We understand that our baseball-style uniforms are ridiculous, but all this confusion is even more so.” added Bird.

New Orleans Hornets

The Charlotte, check that, New Orleans Hornets, are just about ready to throw in the towel on the whole NBA thing. After being shown the door by the city of Charlotte, the Hornets now are starting to see that same apathy in their new city of New Orleans.

“The empty seats here at the New Orleans Arena certainly aren’t what I envisioned when I relocated this team.” said team owner, George Shinn.

Shinn also added that he was about ready to “(expletive) the whole NBA thing” and start concentrating on other avenues. But the interesting twist is that he wants to retain all the intellectual properties of the ballclub, he just doesn’t want to have that franchise have anything to do with basketball anymore.

“I’d say that if attendance doesn’t pick up in the next two years, you may see the Hornets go in a new direction.” commented Shinn.

This certainly is alarming news to the NBA, who figured they had at least stabilized the volatile franchise by granting the move to Louisiana. What they are now finding, however, is that the Hornets may be ready to implode.

The NBA has apparently asked that the Hornets attempt to sell at 95% of capacity for the next two seasons. The Hornets, fearing their doom, are instead formulating a backup plan that has a higher chance of success. They are creating a nuclear-powered robot that dispenses food rations to disadvantaged nations and can travel by land, air, or sea.

“The Horn-Bot will probably be all that’s left of the franchise in two years. Find a way to sell 95% of our tickets? Come on, we’re not geniuses here.” said Shinn.

Detroit Pistons

If the Pistons have said it once, they’ve said it one thousand times: “We’re sorry for putting a horse with fire coming out of its ears on our uniforms. We’ve learned our lesson.”

Apparently they haven’t learned it well enough for some Detroit fans.

Press photo from the logo debut
“Hey, I understand that they pulled it off the jersey, but they’re still using it in their logo.” pleaded life-long fan, Jonathan Melvin.

The Pistons, fully respectable in their red and blues during their championship run in the late 80’s, executed what can only be described as an ill-advised decision when they changed their colors to teal and their logos to flaming horses.

“I was a player when it happened, so don’t blame me.” Joe Dumars, Pistons President, said. “At least I got the uniforms changed and the logo, while still the inferno filly, back to red and blue.”

Not good enough, say some fans. “They owe us money for that monstrosity. We’re used to getting embarrassed by the Tigers, but when you have two teams in town that make a mockery of the Motor City, that’s where I draw the line.” protested Jake Runlan, a Detroit native.

The Pistons, dressed in red and blue and hiding the horse logo as much as possible, are currently third in the Central.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks dismantled their team in the off-season. With the loss of Ray Allen, and Gary Payton, the man they traded Allen for, the Bucks are ready to start from ground zero. Hoping to keep the fan base realistic, the Bucks are launching their, “At Least We’re Not the Brewers” advertising campaign.

The fans are being reminded that while they may blunder on the court, that is nothing compared to the giant suck station that has become Miller Park. Even when they may start losing games, they won’t be surgically attached to the cellar like the Brew Crew.

But at least the Brewers have Bernie sliding into the mug, right? Well, the Bucks have Toni Kukoc. That has to count for something.

Don’t agree with Bucks’ ownership? At least they’re not owned by a Selig. And unlike what happened two years ago at Miller Park, the Bucks are GUARANTEEING there will not be any ties at the Bradley Center this year.

So while Jose Hernandez had to be benched to avoid setting a MLB low for strikeouts, the Bucks will just be humbly and inconspicuously losing games. Can we as a sporting public honestly ask for more than that? The people of Milwaukee are being asked by Bucks' ownership to respond “no.”

Toronto Raptors

Who really would have thought it would come to this? The Raptors, for all of their identity issues, were mistakenly placed on a series of milk cartons this past week in Ontario.

“We humbly apologize for the oversight. The employees in our Missing Persons Department did not realize that the Raptors were still in town.” said a spokesman for the local creamery, “Vitamin D n’ Stuff”

The report, on the back of the carton, read:

“Missing: Toronto Raptors, NBA Basketball Team
From: Toronto
Date of Birth: 1995
Last seen: Losing games
Missing persons should be assumed terrible and should not be handled by Isiah Thomas.”

One can hardly fault the creamery for this mistake. With numerous uniform variations, a multitude of different coaches and players, and an unresponsive hockey-crazed fan base, it was easy to see where someone wouldn’t realize the Raptors were still functioning.

Vince Carter, in a conciliatory mood, had this to say about the matter: “Yeah, we have no hard feelings about it. But if someone has any idea what mind-altering substance I was on the day I re-signed here in Canada, please contact me as soon as possible. I have some friends in Portland that are interested in buying some of that.”

Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are entering the season as the favorites.

“There’s not a group in the league that’s going to stop them.” said Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, before the season.

But of course he wasn’t talking about the actual NBA team. Buss, like others around the season, are absolutely terrified by the Bulls squad that will take the court in the executives’ pickup tournament during the All-Star Break.

“I mean, look at them. They have Bill Cartwright, BJ Armstrong, Bill Wennington, and John Paxson on staff…………and oh yeah, Mike Jordan, too.” said Buss.

This is a group that nobody around the league will be able to contend with. The Sixers are attempting to give George Mikan a job as a janitor, but the elderly legend apparently has no interest in All-Star weekend pickup basketball. The Rockets even tried to claim that Yao Ming also doubled as a secretary in the front office, but were nearly kicked out of the tournament before withdrawing their claim.

The tournament’s organizer, former Sixers owner Pat Croce, only said, “I just hope that the Bulls don’t kill someone. I’m not talking about in basketball, I mean actual manslaughter. But oh well, at least one team in their organization will have a winning record.”

Atlanta Hawks

THe Atlanta Hawks knew that ticket sales would be down, but nobody envisioned the bottoming out that has occurred. In a monthly publication released by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Hawks highest-attended game ranked 15th on the "Most Attended Events" list. That placed them below an Ace of Base concert, the Atlanta Southwest Middle School fall play, and the annual concession inventory day at Turner Field.

Representatives from the team aren't commenting publicly, but clearly this is weighing on the team. At a recent game, the PA announcer actually gave the following speech:

This rendering was done to demonstrate attendance projections
"Attention fans: Tonight's attendance for YOUR ATLANTA HAWKS...........Bill Anderson, Marge Bonner, Harry Blonski, Mike Peterson..."

"I can't believe this..." said guard, Jason Terry, "I went to my nephew's 9 year-old game the other day and there were at least three times as many people at that game. I mean, I know we suck, but come on, people!

The Hawks are desperate for anything that may spur fan interest. Ideas being kicked around include "Switcharoo Night" where the twelve fans and twelve players will switch roles. They are also considering "Gold Club Night" where the legendary gentlemen's club will provide entertainment for the night.

One thing's for certain: They are hoping to conquer the Girl Scout Troop #115's weekly meeting, which placed #14 on the "Most Attended" list.

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James isn't the only new name on the Cavaliers' roster this season. Feeling that they were going to be overshadowed by the 18 year-old phenom, the other Cavaliers collaborated and came up with an idea: Change their names into something more exciting that would get them noticed.

"We all decided it would be a good idea to do, ya know, so people would have a reason to realize that we are on the team, too." said coach Spongy Cunanan, formerly Paul Silas.

The Cavaliers decided to take the example of shock rocker Marilyn Manson's band, the members of which have been combining the names of actors, serial killers, and anything else to come up with new monikers.

"Yeah, man, it was pretty weird. Here comes Ricky Davis, and all of sudden he's like, 'Yo, the name's Choke McBuckner.'" said James, "I was like, 'Whoa.'"

The fan base has apparently been energized by this move, much as the team had hoped for. Here is the starting five this year for the Cavs:

C- Mike Jones (formerly Zydrunas Ilgauskas)
PF- Pastel Lombardi (formerly Carlos Boozer)
SF- Choke McBuckner (formerly Ricky Davis)
SG- Norway Spengler (formerly Dajuan Wagner)
PG- LeBron James (formerly an actual person)

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