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Welcome to “The Atlantic,” a weekly column where we ‘trend up’ and ‘trend down’ news and notes from the NBA’s Atlantic Division.
The Boston Celtics are riding Ray Allen’s hot hand. The Philadelphia 76ers are emerging as a powerhouse. Have the New Jersey Nets found their backcourt of the future? What’s going on this week in the Atlantic?
Who? Walter Norton Jr. and Dave Hopla may be the two people most responsible for Ray Allen’s ridiculous performance so far this season at the age at the age of 36. Walter Norton Jr. is the conditioning coach that helped Ray Allen regain his strength after double ankle surgery in 2007. Norton still consults Allen on his conditioning and diet. Dave Hopla is a legendary shooting coach that Ray Allen has studied, and studied under for years. The nuances in Allen’s shooting technique can be primarily attributed to Hopla. Kobe Bryant, who also studied under Hopla, is having an equally as miraculous season as Allen thus far. The basketball marvel that is Ray Allen will most certainly help the careers and future endeavors of both Hopla and Norton.
For as good as Ray Allen’s conditioning has been, the team’s conditioning as a whole has been terrible. Following an embarrassing loss to the Pacers that truly made the Celtics look old and out of shape, Doc Rivers literally made the team run for an entire practice. It’s pretty obvious what the message is that Doc Rivers was trying to send his players: Get in shape!
The 76ers were on a six-game winning streak (before losing Wednesday night); they still lead the league in points allowed and point differential. Philadelphia isn’t just beating their competition; they’re crushing it. The Sixers have had the same general rotation for the past 3 years. The team isn’t built around it’s superstars, but rather the idea that on any given night any player on the team can rise to the occasion. Team continuity should not be undervalued by NBA management. Let the Sixers management’s stance on it’s player development and team chemistry be a lesson to Danny Ainge and other NBA GMs.
All slow, un-athletic 7-footers eventually fall back to earth. Hawes had a tremendous run as on of the most productive centers in the league for about 2 weeks. However, the last 4 games have not been kind to Hawes. Hawes recent lackluster performance was capped off with 0 point, 0 rebound game against the Kings on Tuesday and a DNP against the Knicks on Wednesday (back muscle strain). Hawes is a starting center in the NBA, he just isn’t one the Sixers can expect to ride every night.
Over the last 3 games, Tyson Chandler is averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block per game. If Chandler’s recent productivity continues, he’s definitely worth $13 million a year. If Chandler numbers drop back closer to his career averages, the Knicks can add Chandler to a list that includes Eddy Curry, Jerome James and Anthony Mason of big men that they overpaid for.
The Knicks bench scored 3 points Monday against the Bobcats. The Knicks got the win Monday, so it didn’t matter, but if any of their starter were the slightest bit off, a 5-point win over the Bobcats is suddenly the second loss of the season to the Bobcats…yikes.
Last week, the Raptors lost by 12 to New Jersey and by 15 to the previously winless Wizards. The Raptors strength of schedule thus far has been amongst the weekest in the league. The four wins Toronto attained early on might be harder to double as the season moves forward. To make matters worse, they lost to Sacramento at home on Wednesday.
The Raptors are shooting 44 percent from the field on the year thanks in most part to two outings last week where they shot below 40 percent for the game. DeMar Derozan and Rasual Butler have been the biggest culprits of bad shooting. On Tuesday against the Wizards, Butler and Derozan combined to go 5 of 24 from the field.
If there has been a bright spot for the Nets so far this season, it’s been the scoring ability of Marshon Brooks and Anthony Morrow. Brooks is great at creating his own shot either at the rim or away from it. Brooks has shown zero lack of confidence and has had no problem being the Nets’ go-to scorer. Morrow got off to a rough start at the beginning of the season, but over the last three games, he’s shooting nearly 60 percent from 3. When Deron Williams gets healthy, he’s going to have options on the wings.
Brook Lopez’s foot injury has been devastating to the Nets franchise. Because of Lopez injury, the team is struggling and the future of the roster remains in flux. Had it not been for Lopez injury, the Nets would likely either be playing better now, or would have already acquired Dwight Howard; or both. As it stands, it’s going to be tough to reincorporate Lopez in the middle of a condensed season when he does return. By the time Lopez returns, it’s going to be hard to get wins, or re-convince Orlando that Lopez is the player they want for Howard. If the Nets can’t figure it out, excitement in Brooklyn will be low next fall.
Tags: Brook Lopez, DeMar DeRozan, Deron Williams, Doc Rivers, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, marshon brooks, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Ray Allen, Toronto Raptors, Tyson Chandler