The season is approaching, folks. Training camps open in around one week (I’m in Prague right now, haven’t looked at a calendar in a while. Tuesday I’m off to hang out in Berlin for a week, then about 8 days in Amsterdam. I’ll be back in New York City right around the start of preseason.)

In the east, the Celtics remain the best of the conference, though I wonder if Ray Allen will drop off a bit this season. They also need to improve their bench.

The Pistons bring back last year’s team, with Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups a year older.

The Magic still need to improve their backcourt.

The Cavaliers add scoring punch with the addition of point guard Mo Williams, but it’s still the LeBron James show with a supporting cast that will have to work very hard to carry their weight.

The Wizards must once again play without Gilbert Arenas for a while, though even with him they’re a lower-level playoff team.

The Raptors have to hope Jermaine O’Neal regains former All-Star form; it’ll be tough.

The 76ers added a star by signing power forward Elton Brand, and that should definitely raise them in conference standings.

The Hawks aren’t locks to return to the playoffs, but it’s good they kept Josh Smith.

The Bucks improved on paper, adding a pass-first point guard in Luke Ridnour, but more importantly, a legit good forward in SF Richard Jefferson.

The Knicks have the same talented yet flawed roster, but a new coach. Can Mike D’Antoni work miracles?

The Nets are rebuilding and aside from Vince Carter and young Devin Harris, everyone on the team who matters is young and in development.

The Bulls have the same team as the last few seasons, though Ben Gordon remains unsigned. Will they play like the good Bulls from two years ago, or the disappointing ones from last season? Flip a coin, because they’re capable of going either way.

The Bobcats have nice swingmen in Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace, plus Emeka Okafor, but everyone else is young and in development.

The Heat could make a leap in the standings now that Dwyane Wade is healthy, plus Shawn Marion needs a new contract, and Michael Beasley doesn’t like losing. The supporting cast is still extremely weak, though.

The Pacers always do a bit better than expected. The bad news is, almost nothing is ever expected. Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavey and TJ Ford are very nice players, though. They may surprise a little, but not a lot.

I’ll share quick West thoughts tomorrow. Right now I’m off to hike up to the Prague castle. I’ll be right here in about an hour.

–Jeff