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PACIFIC DIVISION

Last season: 56-26, lost to Pistons in NBA Finals, 4-1.

Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich, first season with Lakers, 13th season overall, 503-397.

Added: F Lamar Odom, F Caron Butler, F Brian Grant (trade with Heat), G Chucky Atkins, C Chris Mihm, F Jumaine Jones (trade with Celtics), C Vlade Divac (free agent, Kings), G Sasha Vujacic (draft, No. 27, Snaidero Udine, Italy).

Lost: C Shaquille O'Neal (traded to Heat), G Gary Payton (traded to Celtics), F Rick Fox (retired), F Karl Malone (free agent), F Bryon Russell (free agent, Nuggets), C Jamal Sampson (expansion draft, Bobcats), G Derek Fisher (free agent, Warriors).

Better or worse?: That's the million dollar question following the breakup of the league's marquee team, mainly through the trade of O'Neal and the departure of coach Phil Jackson to clear the way for the re-signing of free agent Kobe Bryant. The Lakers acquired quite a bit of talent in the O'Neal trade, and the addition of Tomjanovich means an end to the triangle offense that so cramped Bryant's style over the past five years. Size is a concern unless Malone decides to return after his knee heals from offseason surgery.
Last season: 55-27, eliminated by Timberwolves in second round, 4-3.

Coach: Rick Adelman, seventh season with Kings, 296-136; 15th season overall, 658-411.

Added: C Greg Ostertag (free agent, Jazz), G Courtney Alexander (free agent, Hornets), G Kevin Martin (draft, No. 26, Western Carolina).

Lost: C Vlade Divac (free agent, Lakers), F Gerald Wallace (expansion draft, Bobcats), G Rodney Buford (free agent, Nets), G Anthony Peeler (free agent, Wizards), F Tony Massenburg (free agent, Spurs).

Better or worse?: Actually, they were worse from the moment Chris Webber returned from a knee injury last season. Brad Miller went to the bench and the team lost half of its final 24 games. Peja Stojakovic asked for a trade in the offseason, and Sacramento reportedly shopped Webber without finding any takers. Miller can move back into the middle as the starting center now that Divac is gone, but how much does shooting guard Doug Christie have left? This seems to be a franchise whose window of opportunity is quickly closing.
Last season: 29-53, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike D'Antoni, second season with Suns, 21-40; third season overall, 35-76.

Added: G Steve Nash (free agent, Mavericks), G Quentin Richardson (free agent, Clippers), C Steven Hunter (free agent, Cavaliers).

Lost: F Antonio McDyess (free agent, Pistons), C Jahidi White (expansion draft, Bobcats), F Donnell Harvey (free agent, Hawks).

Better or worse?: Significantly upgraded their backcourt with signings of Richardson and Nash but didn't add much height to a squad whose quickness is its strength. Rumors have swirled for months that the Suns would trade Shawn Marion for a big man to play alongside Amare Stoudemire. Plenty of teams would be eager to acquire Marion, a strong defender and all-around offensive threat, but there's a better chance Joe Johnson gets traded first.
Last season: 37-45, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike Montgomery, first season.

Added: C Dale Davis (trade with Trail Blazers), C Eduardo Najera (trade with Mavericks), G Derek Fisher (free agent, Lakers), G Brandon Armstrong (free agent, Nets), G Ansu Sesay (free agent, SuperSonics), F Andris Biedrins (draft, No. 11, Skonto Riga, Latvia).

Lost: C Erick Dampier, C Evan Eschmeyer, G Dan Dickau (traded to Mavericks), G Nick Van Exel (traded to Trail Blazers), F Brian Cardinal (free agent, Grizzlies), G Avery Johnson (retired).

Better or worse?: Hard to see any improvement coming from a team that dealt away two of its top three scorers and received very, very little in return. Jason Richardson has developed into a top-level talent among the league's shooting guards, but there's little else to get excited about here.
Last season: 28-54, missed playoffs.

Coach: Mike Dunleavy, second season with Clippers, 28-54; 12th season overall, 426-444.

Added: G Kerry Kittles (trade with Nets), G Shaun Livingston (draft, No. 4, Peoria Central (Ill.) H.S.), C Zeljko Rebraca (free agent, Hawks).

Lost: G Quentin Richardson (free agent, Phoenix), G Eddie House, F Melvin Ely (traded to Bobcats), C Predrag Drobnjak (expansion draft, Bobcats), G Keyon Dooling (free agent, Heat).

Better or worse?: Kittles and Richardson are somewhat interchangeable parts, but a knee problem has sidelined Kittles throughout the preseason. A franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 1993 has zero chance of ending that streak.
Chris Sheridan, Associated Press

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