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Fraternizing with the enemy? Some NBA coaches even set it up

Kristaps Porzingis, Paul Millsap, Kris Humphries Photo: AP. Kristaps Porzingis, Paul Millsap, Kris Humphries

November 22, 2016 03:24 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis came to the NBA from Europe as a 7-footer with 3-point range, so the comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki were inevitable.

Jeff Hornacek figured the best way for Porzingis to play like Nowitzki was to play with Nowitzki.

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So the New York Knicks coach called Dallas coach Rick Carlisle in the offseason and asked if his veteran star would be open to working out with the second-year forward.

Turns out, fraternizing with the enemy isn't only allowed, but some coaches even broker it.

"Most coaches, they want all the players in the league to do well," Hornacek said, "and so when you have a young player like that, if you have a veteran on your team and somebody calls you up and says, 'Hey, will this guy have him in his workouts,' a lot of these guys get together anyway so it's not that big a deal."

Hornacek arranged similar tutoring when he was in Phoenix, getting big man Alex Len to work with the Spurs' Tim Duncan. Carlisle wouldn't say if he ever made a request, but didn't think it was uncommon.

"Hey, things like this, they're great stories in our game and it's one of the reasons we have such a great game and the NBA is a family," Carlisle said.

Nowitzki and Porzingis couldn't find time in their schedules, but may in the future. Perhaps Hornacek will even call again.

"Guys, especially the veteran guys, they like taking young guys kind of under their wing, showing them some tricks and hopefully maybe someday we can get Dirk to work with KP," Hornacek said.

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HOWARD AND THE HAWKS

Atlanta brought Dwight Howard in and let Al Horford leave, and traded Jeff Teague so Dennis Schroder could start.

Most of the offseason focus was on how the Hawks changed, but for coach Mike Budenholzer, it's more about how they stayed the same.

The remainder of the roster is largely unchanged from the one that won a franchise-record 60 games two years ago and produced 108 victories over the last two seasons. So even after changing the point guard and center, perhaps the two most important positions on the floor, the Hawks are off to a 9-4 start that includes the only victory by a road team over NBA champion Cleveland.

"I think the thing we've been talking about since the first day of camp is we brought back 10 or 11 guys, too, so I think it's been a great balance of continuity with some significant change," Budenholzer said.

"And when you have 10 or 11 guys that have played together for a couple of years and had some success, and understand what we want to do and what's important to us, I think you can integrate some changes, including a point guard and Dwight. Maybe it just made it a little more possible for us to hopefully do it, I guess, with the results we're having so far."

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The NBA season reaches the one-month mark this week. A look at some things to watch:

ROLLING INTO THE WEEK: Golden State (seven straight wins) and San Antonio (five in a row) ride long winning streaks into the week but are still looking up in the West at the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the NBA's best record at 12-2.

HIGH SCORERS IN HOUSTON: DeMar DeRozan and James Harden, two of the NBA's top scorers and the reigning Eastern and Western Conference players of the week, go head-to-head Wednesday in Houston.

LUKE'S LAKERS: The Warriors will try to avenge a loss to their former assistant coach when they visit Los Angeles on Friday. Luke Walton's Lakers beat the Warriors 117-97 on Nov. 4, ending Stephen Curry's NBA-record streak of 157 games with a 3-pointer.

BATTLE ON THE BACKBOARDS: The NBA's top rebounders meet for the first time this season Wednesday when Miami's Hassan Whiteside, averaging 16.2 rebounds, tangles with Detroit's Andre Drummond (13.8).

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING: There are no games on Thursday, making Thanksgiving one of only three nights off during the NBA season. But Black Friday is stacked, with all 30 teams in action. The NBA also doesn't play on Christmas Eve or the night of the NCAA championship game, scheduled this season for Monday, April 3.

Credits

By BRIAN MAHONEY

(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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