Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Simmons, Kyrie, Knox

After Al Horford left for bigger free agent riches in Philadelphia this summer, the Celtics signed scoring-oriented Enes Kanter as a cheap replacement, hoping that Daniel Theis, Kanter, Robert Williams and rookie Grant Williams could compensate for Horford’s absence piecemeal.

So far, that has proven to be the case during Boston’s 11-4 start. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston preaches caution against disrupting team chemistry by trying to trade for a major center upgrade like Clint Capela or Karl-Anthony Towns

Instead, Blakely notes that 7’5” rookie Tacko Fall, on a two-way contract, has impressed in the G League thus far. Blakely suggests that Fall might be an option who could shore up the Celtics’ interior defense in spot minutes. Boston should also monitor the buyout market and top Chinese Basketball Association centers, Blakely opines.

There’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After making his first NBA triple in a 109-104 win over the Knicks, Sixers All-Star point guard Ben Simmons mentioned his desire to play for the Australian national team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports. Sixers coach Brett Brown was recently announced as the Australian national team’s coach for the event.“We have a great relationship,” Simmons said of Brown in his postgame comments. “I’ve known him my whole life. I’m excited to put together a great team.”
  • Prized offseason Nets acquisition Kyrie Irving has missed the past four games with a shoulder impingement. Though coach Kenny Atkinson insists that the ailment will not be a long-term issue, he concedes that Irving is not healthy enough to play, as the New York Post’s Brian Lewis relays. “We have a protocol before a guy comes back to play. Usually we’re not just going to throw you out there without seeing you. We have these kind of set standards in the past,” Atkinson notes. “We’re not at that point yet. Hopefully, he will get there soon.”
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale has challenged second-year forward Kevin Knox to improve his defense, according to Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “I am definitely riding Kevin, to challenge him to go to another level, especially defensively,” Fizdale confirmed, before praising his improved offense. “His shooting percentage is up, finishing around the rim is much better, he’s seeing the floor better. But I want him to take a big jump forward defensively… He’s got the physical tools to do it.” Braziller points out that Fizdale has been quicker with the hook for Knox lately. The 6’7″ forward from Kentucky has averaged 14.7 minutes across the team’s last four contests, a far cry from the more generous 23.6 minutes he was allotted over New York’s first 11 games.
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