Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Noel, DeRozan, Raptors

“Lose more for Okafor” should be the Knicks‘ rallying cry for the rest of the season, contends Marc Berman of the New York Post. Nineteen-year-old Duke center Jahlil Okafor is the early favorite to be the first player selected in June’s NBA Draft. In Hoops Rumors’ reverse standings, New York currently leads the NBA with 29 losses, but has a slightly better winning percentage than the Sixers“At worst, you’re getting a young Al Jefferson — an 18 and 10 guy. At best, Tim Duncan,” said ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla. “He’s got potential to be a franchise player. Odds are it’s somewhere in between.’’

There’s more this morning from the Atlantic Division:

  • The KnicksDerek Fisher doesn’t want to talk about losing, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. The first-year head coach is trying to remain positive in the face of a disastrous 5-29 start. “Our fans have, I think, waited a long time from their perspective and how they feel about us,” Fisher said. “But this is a new beginning for us and we’re going through our growing pains right now. The people we have involved with what we’re trying to do, we have no doubt that we’re going to eventually be successful, and we’re going to keep working until we are.”
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown sees Nerlens Noel‘s future as a center, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The 6’11” Noel is averaging 7.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in his first season in the NBA after sitting out last year while recovering from knee surgery. “I think right now, it’s a five,” Brown said. “I feel that we’re going to have to do the right thing by him and grow his game, which will allow him to better play alongside Joel Embiid.”
  • Coach Dwane Casey hopes to phase DeMar DeRozan into the lineup slowly when the injured Raptor returns from injury, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. DeRozan has already missed 16 games with a groin and hip tendon injury, and although there is no set timetable for his return there are hints it could happen soon. “He can’t come back expecting to be a 19-, 20-point scorer first game, second game,” Casey said. “It’s going to take a while to get his rhythm back.”

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