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On The Beat - Eastern Conference - Atlantic Division - December 15, 2004

New York Knicks (11-10)

The Knicks have won three of their last four games (against New Jersey, Denver, and New Orleans) as they perch on the top in the victory-deprived Atlantic Division…  All-star G-Allan Houston made his season debut in a 106-104 loss to the Washington Wizards after recovering from knee surgery.  Houston also missed the last 32 games of last season.  In the three games since his return, Houston has averaged 6.7 points in just under 16 minutes a game.  Coaches will give him limited minutes to ensure a safe recovery…  Knicks GM-Isiah Thomas has reportedly been extremely active in negotiations with the Toronto Raptors to acquire their all-star G-Vince Carter.  Sources have said that Thomas has offered G-Penny Hardaway, F-Tim Thomas, and F-Jerome Williams for Carter and G-Jalen Rose.  The Raptors have not taking the offer seriously.  There is now growing speculation that the Raptors will be interested if G-Jamal Crawford, C-Nazr Mohammed, or F-Kurt Thomas is included.  The one trump card that the Knicks hold is their willingness to also take Rose and his high salary of the Raptors hands, something that no other interested teams are prepared to do.      

Boston Celtics (9-11)

The Celtics have won two straight (against Seattle and the LA Clippers) after dropping three in a row.  Coach Doc Rivers is at least content with the way his team have remain competitive till the end of games.  Of their last five losses, four of them were loss by 4 points or less…  Things have calmed down between Rivers and star player, Paul Pierce.  Pierce has apologized to Rivers after arguing with Rivers a day after he was benched in a slim 101-100 victory over Milwaukee…  So far Celtic’s Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has looked like a genius for trading for G-Ricky Davis last season.  Davis was then known as a scourge among NBA circles, known for his indifferent attitude, poor work ethic, and selfish basketball play despite being blessed with amazing and athletic talent.  It seems Davis has turned that all around in Boston.  Davis has been effective coming of the bench to be the second leading scorer on the club behind Pierce with a 15.2 points per game average.  More importantly, there have been no behavioral problems.  Rivers has praised Davis for his willingness to come of the bench, and help the team win in any way…  Payton returned back to face his former club, the Seattle Supersonics, for the first time as a Celtic.  He was greeted with a standing ovation, and he left satisfied especially after the Celtics defeated the Sonics (only their second forth loss this season).  Payton practically owns most of the Seattle’s records including all-time games, points, assists, and steals.

Philadelphia 76ers (9-12)

It appears the Sixers are hitting their stride now after winning three straight games (against Denver, Milwaukee, and Chicago) after their disastrous six game losing skid.  The winning streak can be largely attributed to the interior presences of C-Samuel Dalembert and F/C-Marc Jackson.  Dalembert, who has struggled earlier in the season, has bounced back to average 9.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4 blocks a game during the streak.  Jackson, a former Rookie Of The Year winner, has averaged 19.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game during the streak…  All-star F-Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson appears that he will miss the rest of the season because of ankle injury.  Placed on the injured reserve list all season, Robinson has been disgruntled for the last few months when he lost his starting position to F-Andre Iguodala.  He had demanded a trade to no avail, and will make $12-million for the season…  F-Kenny Thomas is showing signs of returning to the form that awarded him a multi-year contract this past summer.  In the last six games, Thomas has scored in double-digits in five of those games, highlighted by a 20-points, 17-rebound performance in the Sixer’s latest win over Milwaukee.  Previous to these games, Thomas had been mired in a long slump that saw him shoot around 30% from the floor. 

New Jersey Nets (7-14)

The Nets have looked significantly better with the return of all-star PG-Jason Kidd.  The Nets have won three of the five games since his return, and have overtaken the Toronto Raptors in the divisional standings.  The difference has been night and day since Kidd has arrived.  Kidd, who suffered from knee surgery, have given the Nets some semblance of organization, something they totally lacked without him.  He is making this impact despite playing limited minutes.  In the five games he has played, Kidd has averaged 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3 assists a game…  G-Richard Jefferson was awarded with the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Dec.6-12.  During that span, the Nets won three of four games, as Jefferson averaged 24.5 points a game, while shooting 51.6% from the field including 66.7% from 3-point range…  Former Nets star, Jayson Williams will be retried on a manslaughter charge in the shotgun slaying of a limousine driver.  Williams faces a retrial because of a mixed verdict delivered April 30.  The jury acquitted Williams of the most serious offense, aggravated manslaughter, but deadlocked on the charge of reckless manslaughter. 

Toronto Raptors (7-16)

Things are seemingly spiraling out of control for the Raptors as they became the cellar-dwellers in the division.  The Raptors have loss 15 of their last 18 games, including their current 7-game losing streak.  The absence of any interior presence for the Raptors have largely been their downfall, as opposing big men have had their way with the team.  Many of their losses stem from the team giving up too many offensive rebounds…  Backup PG-Milt Palacio has missed the last two games to attend to his ailing mother in Los Angeles.  Palacio, who has been a spark of the bench averaging 5.9 points and 3.2 assists a game, should be available when the Raptors face the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight…  G-Vince Carter has been placed on the injured list after he strained his achilles tendon in the Raptors 90-86 loss against the Pistons.  He is slated to miss the next five games.  Despite the injury, Carter still remains embroiled in trade rumors throughout the league.  The main suitor is the New York Knicks where GM-Isiah Thomas is said to crave the five-time all-star guard…  Besides Carter, other trade rumors have been circulating on G-Jalen Rose and F-Donyell Marshall.  Sources reported the Raptors were looking into trading Rose for Miami’s G-Eddie Jones.  Marshall’s name was mentioned in another trade scenario that saw him going to New Orleans for F-P.J. Brown.