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Around the Atlantic: Woodson's option picked up

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Around the Atlantic: Woodson's option picked up

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks have picked up the option on coach Mike Woodson's contract for the 2014-15 season.

Woodson led the Knicks to a 54-28 record last season and their first Atlantic Division title since 1994. He is 72-34 since taking over for Mike D'Antoni late in the 2011-12 season, a .679 winning percentage that is second-best in franchise history.

New general manager Steve Mills said in a statement Monday that after spending time with Woodson recently that it was "clear that picking up his option is an easy decision."

Knicks: Anthony not talking free agency
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carmelo Anthony feels there is no reason to think about his potential free agency now.

The New York Knicks don't seem so sure.

The Knicks followed their first Atlantic Division championship team in 19 years with a strangely timed change in the front office, just days before opening training camp. Steve Mills returned to Madison Square Garden as president and general manager with a mandate from owner James Dolan to overhaul the organization and make the Knicks "the best that there can be in the NBA."

That might help keep Anthony in New York after this season, when he can become a free agent, and Mills made it clear that's a priority. But Anthony said Monday at Knicks media day that his future is "not something I've been thinking about" (see full story)

Nets: New-look roster eyes title
NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce won plenty of Atlantic Division titles during his days with the Boston Celtics, but at the end of the seasons when he exited the playoffs without lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy, none of those six divisional titles didn't carried any weight.

The only one that mattered was the one he captured during the 2008 season, en route to his first and only NBA title.

Pierce, along with his teammate Kevin Garnett, made it known that they're in Brooklyn for one thing only: to win it all in June. Beating out their new rivals, the defending division champs New York Knicks, isn't what's on Pierce's mind.

"Truthfully, that's not that important to me. I came here to win a championship. I don't even want to see an Atlantic banner put up if we win it," Pierce said during Monday's Nets media day session at Barclays Center (see full story).

Celtics: No timetable for Rondo return
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo won't be back in time for the start of the regular season.

Rondo says he doesn't know how long it will take for him to recover from tearing a ligament in his right knee in January. He has been working on his shooting and his ball-handling, but he doesn't take part in practice where there is any contact.

Rondo is the only remaining member from the team that won the 2008 NBA championship. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded to the Brooklyn Nets on draft night, and coach Doc Rivers defected to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Rondo says he is excited to work with new coach Brad Stevens.

The Celtics open training camp on Tuesday in Newport, R.I (see full story).

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.