Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Knicks, DeRozan

Knicks coach Derek Fisher is focusing on his squad’s intangibles and professionalism, rather than lament the fact that New York didn’t land any of the top names in free agency, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “Character, professional mindset,’’ Fisher said when listing the team’s strengths. “You’re not in the NBA if you’re not talented. We don’t have to get into who’s talented. The character of our group and the way we’re approaching what’s going on daily, those are going to be the strengths. We’ll have rough nights, rough stretches. We have the beginnings of at least a group able to handle some of the adversity and setbacks that come with a long NBA season. The basketball part will take care of itself as long as we become a team. We have the type of guys that are interested in being a team.’’

When asked if the professionalism he was speaking of was an improvement over last season’s team, Fisher said, “It’s just different. Until the season starts and we figure out who we are, you can’t really say it’s better. But it’s different. We’re all different. Teams have different strengths and weaknesses. The strength of this particular group is not in having what people consider the sexy names or guys who didn’t come play with our team, but guys who truly want to be here. I think it’s going to help us.’’

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers owner Josh Harris admits that while he wishes that his team was further along in its rebuild, he is content with the progress that is being made, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I think we are making progress,” Harris said. “I’m an impatient person at heart. I would rather get to the end point as fast as possible. But at the same time, the goal is still the same goal: to be an elite extremely competitive team that goes deep in the playoffs. But at the same time, there aren’t shortcuts to it. So you have to react to the realities . . . I certainty wish it was going faster. But at the same time, I’m happy with the progress.
  • Since being acquired at last season’s trade deadline, Isaiah Thomas has been the Celtics‘ best player, and this coming season will provide him with an opportunity to take the next step toward being recognized as one of the top players in the league, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes.
  • DeMar DeRozan is eligible to opt out of his current deal with the Raptors and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he is adamant about wanting to focus on the coming campaign, and not his next pact, Eric Koreen of The National Post relays. Discussing the wealth of questions he receives about next season, DeRozan told Koreen, “I hate that, honestly. I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing [in Toronto]. A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me. Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.
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