Atlantic Notes: Hornacek, Okafor, Nets, Miles

After an entire season of uncertainty under former Knicks team president Phil Jackson, head coach Jeff Hornacek has the freedom to coach his team without interference, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis said that without Jackson in the way, Hornacek — and even the team itself — feels more relaxed and capable of running the offense and defense efficiently. Last season, it was widely reported that Jackson insisted that Hornacek run a triangle offense; at one point, Jackson reportedly sat in on Knicks practices to make sure the offense was being implemented.

“He just has more freedom,’’ Porzingis said of the Knicks’ head coach. “He’s running the stuff he wants to run. He’s more comfortable and balanced. You also feel that confidence from [the coaching staff] in what they’re doing. Players always feel that. There’s a difference between last year, definitely.”

Entering play on Tuesday, the Knicks sport a record of 16-14, tied with the Wizards for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Offseason predictions were that the Knicks would not sniff the postseason picture but a strong start has propelled the team into playoff discussion.

“It’s a positive vibe at the Garden,” Porzingis said. “We’re having fun, playing hard. It’s different without [Anthony]. He was here a long time. My first two years we didn’t make the playoffs. We were supposed to make the playoffs. It’s different. We as a young team, expectations are not as high. If we keep playing at this level, the playoffs are realistic for us.”

Check out other Atlantic Division news below:

  • Jahlil Okafor got his wish when he was traded to the Nets, ending a troubled tenure with the Sixers. However, the big man is not in NBA game shape and head coach Kenny Atkinson said Okafor would not see regular action until his conditioning improves, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.That’s why I’m happy I’m here with the actual NBA coaching staff that’s taking care of me every day,” Okafor said of leaving the Sixers. “When I was in Philly I was figuring it out on my own. I had my own trainer [Rick Lewis] that I’ve been working with since eighth grade working me out. But it’s a different level when you’re actually working with an NBA staff.”
  • In a lengthy, in-depth feature, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer examines the Nets‘ rebuild after a disastrous 2012 trade involving future Hall-of-Famers and valuable draft picks that changed the future of the team.
  • Offseason free agent signee C.J. Miles has been an impactful player for the Raptors this season, but he could provide the team with even more value, Blake Murphy of The Athletic writes (subscription required and recommended).
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