Atlantic Notes: Horford, Rose, Raptors 905

Al Horford has enjoyed one of his best individual seasons as a professional so far this year and he owes it to increased time at the four. The big man has lined up as the Celtics power forward alongside the springier and lankier Amir Johnson.

Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe recently explored the new opportunities created by head coach Brad Stevens when he made the decision to utilize this type of lineup.

When I was playing [center] for many years, one of the things was I wasn’t able to impact as many shots as I wanted at the defensive end, because I was always having to go against bigger guys,” Horford told Himmelsbach. “Now, I feel like I’m seeing guys more my size, and I’m able to play more freely, which just opens up my game.

Horford’s 2.3 blocks per game, nearly one block more than he’s averaged in any other season prior to 2016/17, rank fourth in the NBA. His 5.4 assists per game are nearly two higher than he ever averaged in nine seasons with the Hawks.  The Celtics currently sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 15-12 record.

There are a few more headlines from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors are making the most of their D-League affiliate in nearby Mississauga, Ontario and point guard Fred VanVleet is a shining example of the value that having such a resource can bring. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star explains how the franchise has found success shuttling players back and forth.
  • Derrick Rose has emerged as a critical piece of the Knicks, writes the New York Post’s Fred Kerber. Head coach Jeff Hornacek says the team has been “scrambling” ever since the point guard went down with back spasms last Tuesday. The team expects Rose back in the lineup Tuesday.
  • With Rose sidelined for much of the past week, undrafted rookie Ron Baker has made the most of his time as the Knicks‘ backup point guard. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that Baker and his coach, a late draft pick out of Iowa, see themselves in one another and consider themselves to be cut from the same cloth.

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