Atlantic Notes: Jackson, Fredette, McConnell

The Knicks will have to struggle to make it into the playoffs this season, but the league has come to view the franchise as one in the midst of a sturdy rebuild rather than one undergoing a messy collapse, writes Harvey Araton of The New York Times in his look at the current state of the team under executive Phil Jackson. The Times scribe points to the selection of Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 NBA Draft as a watershed moment for the team, with the fanbase now viewing the rookie as the team’s potential savior rather than the aging Carmelo Anthony. Also counting as successes for Jackson are the offseason additions of Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams and Robin Lopez, who is a better fit for the team than original target Greg Monroe would have been, Araton adds.

Here’s more from out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks‘ reported signing of Thanasis Antetokounmpo to a 10-day deal instead of Jimmer Fredette, who plays for New York’s D-League affiliate, surprised some since the team had been evaluating the shooting guard for a potential roster spot, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. New York wasn’t enamored with Fredette’s defense, something that Antetokounmpo excels at, Berman adds. The Knicks also considered signing Tony Wroten, but preferred Antetokounmpo’s familiarity with the triangle offense instead, the Post scribe notes.
  • This season’s version of the Raptors are superior to last season’s thanks to the improved bench, tougher team defense and the improved chemistry and roster cohesion, Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun writes. “I think it’s guys playing more years with each other, understanding what we want to do and more people buying into their roles,” is how James Johnson described the difference in this season’s team.
  • Point guard T.J. McConnell has carved out a role for himself on the Sixers thanks to his toughness and unselfish play, Jessica Camerato of writes. “I think he’s been pretty good from the get-go,” coach Brett Brown said of McConnell. “I feel like he’s starting to understand the rhythm of the game, the tempo of the game, who needs the ball, what plays should be called, defensive rotations, on-ball pick-and roll-defense. … He’s constantly in pick-and-rolls. He’s developed in a big way there.
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