Eastern Notes: Porzingis, Hornets, Raptors

Kristaps Porzingis has already allayed Phil Jackson’s fears that he might be too slight of build to develop into a star player, Johnette Howard of ESPN.com reports. The Knicks’ president of basketball operations was worried during the offseason that Porzingis’ body shape might make him nothing more than an updated version of Shawn Bradley, who never developed into an All-Star caliber player. Porzingis’ swift development has been the talk of New York and he already leads the Knicks in rebounding and blocks, Howard continues. “I’m not scared — I’m not scared of anybody,” Porzingis told Howard. “I’m skinny and I’m light. Strong guys can still push me around. But I will fight back, and be aggressive and never back down from anybody. If I want to succeed at this level, I can’t be scared of anybody.” Porzingis moves far better than the league’s most accomplished European player, Dirk Nowitzki, and is a much better rebounder and shot-blocker than the longtime Mavericks All-Star, Howard adds.

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets’ improved 3-point shooting has given its main low-post threat, center Al Jefferson, more room to operate, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Charlotte is doing a better job of spreading the floor with the additions of Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky, as it is shooting nearly 37% on 3-point attempts compared to its league-worst 31.8% shooting from long range last season. That has been a boost to Jefferson, who is averaging nearly 21 points over the last four games, Bonnell adds. “There’s so much shooting on the floor that they’re a lot less likely to say, ‘Not tonight. He’s just not scoring. These other guys are going to have to shoot,'” Hornets coach Steve Clifford told Bonnell. “Now they can’t do that.”
  • It’s a misguided notion that the Raptors’ 9-6 start should be viewed as a mild disappointment, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca opines. Toronto has already endured the toughest portion of its schedule, including a five-game, eight-day West Coast swing, Lewenberg points out, and it’s only played four home games. Given those obstacles, the Raptors’ record to this point is commendable, Lewenberg adds.
  • Heat point guard Goran Dragic has been hampered by his lack of chemistry with backcourt partner Dwyane Wade and the team’s methodical pace, Ethan J. Skolnick of Miami Herald uncovered while taking a hard look at the team’s statistical trends. Wade has assisted on only one Dragic basket this season, a sign of their disconnect and of Dragic’s struggles to make his 3-point attempts. The Heat also rank 25th in pace and that hurts a player like Dragic, who prefers a more uptempo style, Skolnick adds.

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