(WSCR) – LeBron James joining the Miami Heat was the signature moment during the free-agent rush last summer.
However, it wasn’t the only move that has shaken up the Eastern Conference standings early this season.
While Miami added talent, glitz and glamour, the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers made acquisitions that might have received more attention most years, but were seemingly lost in the hoopla surrounding James’ televised choice to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
New York and Chicago tried desperately to land James, but they are doing fine without him.
The Bulls wanted to improve on last season’s 41-41 finish, and added Utah’s Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. The Bulls entered Thursday with a 16-8 record.
New York picked up free agent forward Amare Stoudemire and point guard Raymond Felton as part of an overhaul that brought 10 new players. The Knicks went 29-53 last season, but are 16-10.
Indiana went 32-50 last season and didn’t have the salary cap room to pursue James. The Pacers, already boasting a young core featuring Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush, waited patiently before trading for point guard Darren Collison and veteran forward James Posey in a three-way swap that sent Troy Murphy to New Jersey. The Pacers are 11-13, but they have won at Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers, and would be a playoff team if the season ended.
“Now, the East is really a totally different scenario with all the trades that happened,” Granger said. “It’s really wide open. I kind of like how it’s different than it has been in past years.”
Chicago has won seven straight, with Boozer leading the way. The power forward missed the first month of the season with a broken hand, but he has averaged 17.6 points and 8.4 rebounds since his return.
Boozer had 22 points and 18 rebounds Monday against Indiana, and 34 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday against Toronto.
“He’s a guy that is attacking the rim, which what we like to do,” Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. “He’s starting to finish better and starting to get into the groove for the game.
Korver is averaging 10 points and shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and Brewer is adding six points per game and shooting 53 percent from the field.
Rose averages 24 points and 8.4 rebounds.
“He (Rose) has a lot of weapons and then Boozer is setting picks for him,” Pacers guard T.J. Ford said. “He’s got shooters out there like Kyle Korver and Luol Deng. You can tell they’re getting chemistry with Boozer coming back. They are one of the top teams that everyone is looking forward to competing with.”
Boozer’s breakout came just in time. Center Joakim Noah will miss eight to 10 weeks following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
But Boozer believes things are looking up.
“It’s still growing, which is exciting,” he said. “To be where we are, to be trying to get better – it’s an exciting time to be a Chicago Bull because we’re improving while we’re winning.”
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