Turner Sports analyst Glenn "Doc" Rivers, a former NBA player, gives his thoughts on 1997-98 season.
I think the East is going to be really interesting. Obviously, you have to pick Chicago as the team to beat until someone beats it. Then after that, I think everything goes up for grabs. I think the team that finishes eighth could possibly finish second. Even New Jersey could make a run. That's how wild I think the East is going to be.
Starting from the bottom, you could go anywhere from Indiana, Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, Miami, Atlanta and New York. Those teams are almost even, although I do put New York and Miami ahead of the rest. Both have a chance; they both have the mentality that they can beat Chicago. I think they enjoy competing against Chicago where other teams fear it. I'd give the Pacers a shot in that regard, too, if they're playing well because they don't have any fear of Chicago. I think that's the key. All the other teams do have a fear of Chicago. They will say they don't, but they really do.
In the West, it's tough at the top. Before John Stockton got injured, I had Utah having the best record. Then I had the Lakers, San Antonio, Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Portland and Minnesota. I'd say those final three could all change. Houston could slip down or win the West.
As for players to watch, I think Jason Kidd will shine his star again and have a huge year with Phoenix because he's playing the style of basketball he likes and he's free again and he's happy. I think Reggie Miller is going to have a big year, too, because he wants to prove to Larry Bird that he can play and because of the no-forearm-check rule, which will really open things up for him. If you don't crowd Reggie Miller, he can get his shot off and score some points.
Also, I think Scotty Burrell in Chicago is a sneaky pickup and will help tremendously. I think Allan Houston, if healthy, will have a bust-out year.
When you look at the rookies, Tim Duncan (San Antonio) is going to have a good year. Everyone says Keith Van Horn (New Jersey) is too, so I'll go on record as saying I think he has a chance to be a heck of a rookie. And I think Chauncey Billups (Boston) has a chance because he's going to get the minutes.
Another guy who's going to be a surprise player is Walter McCarty. Getting traded to Boston (from New York) is going to be good for him.
I'm not a proponent of the rule changes (no forearm checking and longer three-point shot) to make more scoring, although I have to say I can't imagine guarding Michael Jordan without being able to get into him. I'm a proponent of leaving the game alone rule-wise and changing it other ways. But I do like moving the three-point line back. They shouldn't have messed with it in the first place.
I think the new rules will change things somewhat, but not much. Before, you either dunked or you shot a three. I think now guys will do the in-between game and I think the in-between game is the most important shot in the game.
In the end, I see Chicago and L.A. in the finals. But I'll tell you this, I don't see the Bulls breaking up after this year. I know everyone's saying that will happen, but if the Bulls win again as they did this year, going 15-4 in the playoffs, and Michael says he wants to come back, I think all bets are off. I think he's committed to staying until he feels he can't win it anymore.