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News » For these guys, next season is a proving ground

For these guys, next season is a proving ground

For these guys, next season is a proving ground
Since we've learned that Kobe Bryant's mountaintop can be a Shaq-free environment, several other unreconciled NBA burdens of proof are ready to step forward and be counted.

Our candidates for attempted legitimacy can be arraigned by circumstance. For example, quite a few players didn't play up to previous standards or prevailing pay grades during the previous season and should feel quite put upon to produce in the 2009-2010 campaign.

Others will find themselves suspected of becoming frighteningly well-to-do in 2010 free agency, thus creating a need to perform at a level commensurate with the loot many teams may be willing to pay.

We also will include hot-seat-riding coaches and window-watching teams that may require big playoff efforts to sidestep wholesale dismantling.

With the pressure being ratcheted up all over the league, we've come up with a list of players, coaches and teams most likely to perspire in the coming months.

  • Elton Brand, Power Forward, Philadelphia 76ers: After leaving buddy Baron Davis high and dry at the Los Angeles Clippers' free-agent party, Brand promptly signed with Philly and transformed the Sixers from a bouncy, fast-break team into a slower — and less effective — model.

    While the Sixers slowed their pace to accommodate him, Brand averaged a measly 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, making only 45 percent of his shots from a modest range. His career averages are 20 points and 10 rebounds, with the field-goal percentage checking in at 50 percent.

    We'll see how Brand does after coming back from a shoulder injury that limited him to 29 games; the Sixers were four games under .500 when he left and finished four games over.

  • Greg Oden, Center, Portland Trail Blazers: In his first bid to prove he really isn't the second coming of Sam Bowie, the 2007 NBA Draft's first overall pick gave the Blazers nine points and seven rebounds per game.

    If Julian Wright could add shooting consistency from the wing, Scott might not be included as a potential hot-seat candidate.

  • Vinny Del Negro, Coach, Chicago Bulls: The guy who didn't even coach a fantasy team before getting hired last season certainly seemed a lot wiser after the Bulls added John Salmons and Brad Miller.

    But the Bulls have lost Ben Gordon, signed Jannero Pargo and drafted James Johnson, who may be a fine addition but not the low-post answer Chicago needs.

    The feel-good notion of that wild playoff series with Boston could be forgotten if Vinny and the Bulls fail to keep pace with their improving Eastern Conference cronies.

  • Rasheed Wallace, Power Forward, Boston Celtics: We know he can walk the playoff walk, but will 'Sheed talk the talk (to the wrong referee) and cost his team when it really matters?

  • Chris Bosh, Power Forward, Toronto Raptors: He's been legit for quite a while and will have Turkoglu to help him win games and inspire teams to offer riches beyond his wildest dreams (it should be noted that his agent's wildest dreams are right in that wheelhouse).

  • Carlos Boozer, Power Forward, Utah Jazz: This extremely rare 20-and-10 guy spent a great deal of time in street clothes, and his team didn't exactly fall apart.

    Sure, they're better with him, but the Jazz seem to think Paul Millsap is good enough to hold down the position for much less than Carlos has on the last year of his current contract or what he intends to make next summer.

    The 2009-2010 season needs to be a beauty (wherever it occurs) on the stat line and in the win column for Boozer to really cash in.

  • Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website:
    Added: July 29, 2009


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