January 1, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10) guards Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday (11) in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking Down the Atlantic Division: 12/27-1/2

The new year brings in some interesting news, at least for the Knicks. Raptors are on a 3 game winning streak and are creeping on the slumping Celtics. Sixers and Nets just float around. Actually, shortly after last week’s breakdown was posted, the Nets made a move.

Knicks: Yeah the Knicks got their big man back in Amar’e Stoudemire but apparently he can’t play defense. Here’s the quote for Amar’e:

“I think just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” he told Zwerling. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career, so to now have a coach that actually teaches defense and teaches strategies, and knows positioning and posture, how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful. I’m going to take it as a challenge, and I’m going to accept the challenge and try to improve as a player.”

Cute. Knicks lost in his season debut to the Blazers. For the week, Knicks lost to the Kings as well. They lost by a combined 6 points. No, I do not think Stoudemire will become a respectable defender. This week of games include the Spurs, Magic, and Celtics. Lose to the Spurs and I think they can beat the Celtics while also beating the Magic. We’ll see how they adjust to having Stoudemire back in rotation though.

Nets: We live in Brooklyn, baby. But we can win on the road. Nets went 3-1 this week. They did this without Avery Johnson as they fired him last Thursday. The wins were over Bobcats, Cavaliers, and Thunder. They got blown out by the Spurs. Was it fair for Johnson to be fired? Who will the Nets get for their new head coach?

In other news, Josh Childress requested he be released from the Nets as he felt he didn’t have a role on the team. Aw.

Nets have the Wizards, Kings, and Sixers this week. Seeing a win over the Wizards and Kings seems likely but that Sixers game is going to be interesting. Sixers will be playing their first home game after playing 8 straight on the road. You know that crowd is going to be a factor for what is appearing to be a road weary Sixers team. So while I would say the Nets win, these Sixers prove they can hang with the best if they want to.

Sixers: Sixers moved up this week in the divisional standings as the Celtics have been slumping. But the Sixers haven’t been on fire just going 1-3 for the week. But the win came against the Lakers in LA. It was impressive but the real test will come this weekend as they face the Thunder and Spurs; both teams lead their respective division and are clearly in the hunt for a championship. Just one win would be nice. Sixers lost in OT to the Thunder at home. Can they pull out a win on the road? Eh, I’m not feeling it. Spurs are probably going to win. It’ll be a test for Holiday as well as he’s facing stars in Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. If he wants to be an All-Star, he’ll have to play like a star vs other stars. Other games this week is vs the Nets and Raptors so they’ll be facing some divisional battles.

Celtics: Each year since the big 3 came together, we all used the “too old” at one point or another. Is that happening this time? Well, the average age for the Celtics is 29.8, which is 4th oldest in the league. So yeah, they are an old team. The defense hasn’t been as elite as it used to be and while the Celtics have always saved up for a playoff run, something tells me that they may dig themselves in too big a hole to climb out. I don’t think the departure of Ray Allen was the direct reason behind the struggles, but I happen to see it as a factor. Playoffs is a question now for this team. They better not trade Peirce though. This guy, as much as I don’t care for the Celtics, is a Celtic for life and it’s only right he ends his career with the Celtics.

This week coming up has them facing tough teams. Hawks, Knicks, Suns, and Pacers. If they only win one game, I would imagine it being vs the Suns, perhaps Hawks. But Celtics just are not showing signs of what they used to be. And if they continue to drop, Raptors appear to be playing better lately and could end up passing the C’s.

Raptors: They are riding a 3 game winning streak right now and here’s a record for you: 8-2. That’s the Raptors’ record this season while Andrea Bargnani has been currently injured. A 5 games winning streak and their current 3 game streak. Trade rumors have been running rampant as the fans of the Raptors have pretty much been calling for his head for a while. It’s been said that Bargnani said that the Raptors were the worst team in the league at one point though he later denied that statement.

So, is it fair to say that Bargnani was holding the team back? How long will the current success of the Raptors last? Or, are they legit and a team on the rise? This week may show us where they are. They face a bad team in the Kings, a great team in the Thunder, and an average team in the Sixers. I would say they lose to the Thunder and Sixers while beating the Kings. But, again with those Sixers, anything’s possible.

The division may not be the best in the league as I would have imagined, but the race to the top is still up for grabs by the teams and there are a lot of questions to be answered, as with each division.

Tags: Boston Celtics Brooklyn Nets New York Knicks Philadelphia 76ers Toronto Raptors

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