Knicks rookie Cleanthony Early has had a difficult season thanks to numerous injuries and his conditioning level suffering as a result, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “Cle’s had an up-and-down year physically with a couple of injuries that slowed down his development this year,’’ coach Derek Fisher said. “He’s continued to work hard and shows it every day. Getting more comfortable and confident out there with [the] opportunity he’s getting to play each night since he’s back and healthy. It’s great to see that from him. That’s what you like to see from young guys. He’s showing he has a bright future as long as he has the right attitude.”
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Coach Brett Brown is happy that five of the Sixers‘ six remaining games are against teams still fighting for playoff spots, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Brown likes that his young team will get a taste of playoff intensity from Philly’s opponents, Pompey adds. “I think it is fantastic,” said Brown. “I get so excited because we talk about it so much and they hear me,” he added. “I am privileged that I have this experience and can explain that it [postseason] is a different sport [compared with the regular season] and they are seeing it. They are feeling it.“
- If the Knicks were to trade their likely top four lottery pick this year for multiple draft picks, one player the team could look to select is Duke freshman Justise Winslow, Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal speculates in his look at the player. Winslow is currently ranked No. 5 overall by DraftExpress and No. 6 by ESPN.com.
- Regardless of if he wins the Rookie of the Year award this season or not, the Sixers‘ Nerlens Noel has had a special year, Max Rappaport of NBA.com writes. “People have to really start talking about him for Rookie of the Year,” coach Brown said. “You don’t just repetitively bang out these types of performances and produce the numbers that he is producing. He is a complete game changer. He is a complete defensive presence when he’s lurking to block shots. He just continues to improve at this time of year. He keeps moving up the food chain and heading in the direction that we’re all so thrilled about.“