Teams are listed, with records, in predicted order of finish:
Miami Heat (55-27)
COACH: Pat Riley.
LAST SEASON: 61-21.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Alonzo Mourning, C (19.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Tim Hardaway, PG (20.3 ppg, 8.6 apg), P.J. Brown, F (9.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Voshon Lenard, G.
DEARLY DEPARTED: John Crotty, G.
ARRIVALS: Terry Mills, F (10.8 ppg), Eric Murdock, PG (3.8 ppg), Duane Causwell, C (from Sacramento), Charles Smith, G (1st-round pick), Todd Day, G (from Boston).
THE LOWDOWN: The Heat will open the season without the warriorlike presence of Mourning, out 8-12 weeks. That may affect the defensive intensity that Riley preaches and could manifest itself in the won/loss column early. Nevertheless, with the likes of Mourning, Hardaway and Brown in their primes, this team is too talented and too deep to do anything but emerge as top dog in the division.
REMEMBER THIS: Miami hit 678 three-point shots last season and in the off-season added Mills, a long-range shooting star from Detroit. Can you say bombs away?
Orlando Magic (52-30)
COACH: Chuck Daly.
LAST SEASON: 45-37.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Penny Hardaway, G (20.5 ppg, 5.6 apg), Horace Grant, F (12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Rony Seikaly, C (17.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg), Nick Anderson, G/F (12.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: Dennis Scott, F (12.5 ppg; trade w/Dallas), Amal McCaskill (waived), Brian Shaw, G (trade w/Golden State), David Vaughn, F (trade w/Golden State).
ARRIVALS: Charles Outlaw, F (7.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Derek Harper, PG (10.0 ppg, 4.3 apg), Ed O'Bannon (from Dallas), Johnny Taylor (1st-round pick), Jason Lawson (from Denver on draft day), Mark Price, G (11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg).
THE LOWDOWN: The arrival of Harper brings the intriguing prospect of Hardaway's permanent move to shooting guard. But equally crucial is the health of Grant. The Magic needs him to rebound and help Seikaly stay alive in the paint. What the Magic has is depth. It can now go six deep. But does it have the killer instinct to prevail in a seven-game series with, say, the Heat? Penny will need Jordan-like numbers.
REMEMBER THIS: When Daly put together his Bad Boys championship team in Detroit he did it with defensive grit. So during the off-season the Magic signed Outlaw, one of the league's most tireless workers.
New York Knicks (50-32)
COACH: Jeff Van Gundy.
LAST SEASON: 57-25.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Patrick Ewing, C (22.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg), Allan Houston, G (14.8 ppg), Charles Oakley, F (10.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Larry Johnson, F (12.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: John Wallace F, (to Toronto), Walter McCarty, F (trade w/Boston), Dontae Jones, F (trade w/Boston).
ARRIVALS: Chris Mills, F (from Boston).
THE LOWDOWN: Every year seems the swan song for Ewing; this one's no different. The Knicks are aging and running out of opportunities. Of course, they can still play defense. After holding last season's opponents to .425 shooting (best in the NBA), they remain a force to contend with in the East. Mills' ability to create his shot will help.
REMEMBER THIS: In recent years, when Ewing went to the bench the Knicks had to look to Herb Williams. The signing of Chris Dudley from Portland, providing the NBA's appeal of the deal is denied, will provide a backup who at least can rebound and block shots.
Washington Wizards (50-32)
COACH: Bernie Bickerstaff.
LAST SEASON: 44-38.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Chris Webber, F (20.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Juwan Howard, F (19.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Rod Strickland, G (17.2 ppg, 8.9 apg), Gheorghe Muresan, C (10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: None.
ARRIVALS: God Shammgod, G (2nd-round pick).
THE LOWDOWN: The Wizards have improved steadily over the past few years and got a taste of playoff action last season for the first time since the 1988 season. With Webber and Howard continuing their development as two of the game's leading power forwards and Muresan showing signs he belongs in the league, the Wizards seem destined to return to the playofs. Strickland will bear that responsibility. If he's steady, so too will be the Wizards.
REMEMBER THIS: Citing the political incorrectness of being named "'Bullets" in D.C., Washington becomes the Wizards. For fans' sake, Bickerstaff hopes the players still have lots of offensive ammunition.
New Jersey Nets (32-50)
COACH: John Calipari.
LAST SEASON: 26-56.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Jayson Williams, C (13.4 ppg, 13.5 rpg), Kendall Gill, F (21.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Kerry Kittles, G (16.4 ppg), Sam Cassell, PG (15.9 ppg, 5.0 apg), David Benoit, F (8.2 ppg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: Jim Jackson, G (15.9 ppg), Eric Montross, C (4.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
ARRIVALS: Keith Van Horn, F (1st-round pick from Philadelphia), Michael Cage, F (from Philadelphia).
THE LOWDOWN: On paper, the Nets are brimming with young talent, and Calipari seems the right fit for that. Problem is the Nets don't have a true center and that will mean Williams, a true power forward, will be matched up against some of the bigger centers in the league. The Nets, will put points on the board, but a good bet is few of those points will come from first-round flop Yinka Dare.
REMEMBER THIS: Van Horn had an outstanding career at the University of Utah but brings more than just rookie potential. He brings maturity. The 6-10 forward is 22, married and the proud father of two.
Philadelphia 76ers (30-52)
COACH: Larry Brown.
LAST SEASON: 22-60.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Allen Iverson, G (23.5 ppg), Jerry Stackhouse, G (20.7 ppg), Derrick Coleman, F (18.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: Michael Cage, F (trade w/New Jersey), Don MacLean, F (trade w/New Jersey).
ARRIVALS: Jimmy Jackson, G (from New Jersey; 15.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Tim Thomas, F (1st-round pick from New Jersey).
THE LOWDOWN: Brown's biggest task will not be controlling Iverson, although that's no small chore, but getting enough balls around to keep everyone happy. A possible logjam at shooting guard, with Stackhouse, Jackson and Mark Davis, will add more problems. And exactly when and to whom will they trade Clarence Weatherspoon?
REMEMBER THIS: At any point this season, the 76ers could field a team with two No. 1 picks (Iverson and Coleman), a No. 3 in Stackhouse and a No. 4 in Jackson.
Boston Celtics (30-52)
COACH: Rick Pitino.
LAST SEASON: 15-67.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Antoine Walker, F (17.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Dana Barros, G (12.5 ppg, 3.0 apg), Pervis Ellison, C (2.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
DEARLY DEPARTED: Rick Fox, F (signed with Lakers), Todd Day, G (signed with Miami), David Wesley, G (signed with Charlotte), Eric Williams, F (trade w/Denver), Dino Radja, C (playing in Greece).
ARRIVALS: Tyus Edney, G (6.9 ppg), Ron Mercer, G (1st-round pick), Chauncey Billups, G (1st-round pick), Travis Knight, C (4.8 ppg), Walter McCarty, F (from New York), Dontae Jones, F (from New York), Andrew DeClercq, F/C (from Golden State).
THE LOWDOWN: Pitino's plan is obvious. The Celtics are going to resemble the Kentucky Wildcats in the athletic up-and-down style Pitino mastered over the last phree years. But the team entered camp with eight new faces, a new coach and new coaching staff. It will take the Celtics a while to be competitive, but once Pitino has his system matched by the personnel who can perfect it, the Celtics will be back.
REMEMBER THIS: The Celtics have three players on the roster who played with Pitino during his NCAA championship run at Kentucky two years ago. Walker, McCarty and Mercer bring instant credibility to Pitino's chances of bringing the up-tempo game to Beantown.
_ ROGER MILLS