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  1. “We plan to go by, ’Donius!’ What do you think, Trae? Kinda catchy, huh?” Eastern Conference Contenders! Boston… Milwaukee… Brooklyn… Philadelphia… Miami… but, don’t forget about Cleveland! The Cavaliers made the big move of this offseason by acquiring Dejounte Murray to balance the backcourt with All-Star Darius Garland. Oh, and you can never count out Toronto… That’s the story we would have heard, in an alternate universe. Trae Young gets to woo his high-scoring All-Star buddy Donovan Mitchell to Atlanta at the end of June, thanks to Trae’s Hawks parting ways with three young players, three first-rounders and a pair of pick-swaps. Cool story, the NBA punditry would say. But right now, we’re turning our attention toward where Kevin Durant is about to land. A couple months later, the Cavs give up three firsts, one not even their own, with just one swap, and a disposable veteran contract for one of the league’s premier two-way guards in Murray, and Cleveland PBO Koby Altman would be credited with The Deal of the Century. Trae and Spida will score in bunches, the NBA consensus would concede in conciliatory fashion. But, but, what about backcourt defense? And depth, what with the extra players heading out? Murray and the defense-challenged Garland, meanwhile, would be heralded as the new best backcourt in the East, a lock to surge the Cavaliers into the Play-In-free upper crust of the NBA East. They’ll vault well past Young and the core of a team that bounced them from the Play-In here at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this past spring, even with Young’s Hawks now co-led in the scoreboards by Mitchell. Why were, and are, the reactions to the actual trades of these 26-year-old stars so divergent, at a national scale? As the re-tooled Hawks and Cavs tipoff for the first time in the real universe tonight (7 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM, BS Ohio), I reintroduce to you the all-too-familiar Benefit of the Doubt, generated by a player who no longer suits up here. Overinflated preseason prognostications are de rigueur in the fashionable NYC and LA basketball markets. Outside of there, and Boston, your reputation as an oft-bungling franchise that, in modern times, can’t ever win The Big One precedes you. For those of us old enough to recall, San Antonio and Dallas used to look on with scorn as their Texan rival, Houston, was heaped praise for whatever moves they made. Golden State needed something of a seismic effect to shed its decades-long standing as a laughingstock in the deep shadow of the Lakers. But the moment you break through, and achieve one (1) NBA championship, especially if you overachieved in some manner to get it done, the BOTD is bestowed upon you, and it takes many moons before you can shake it off. Toronto gets it. Milwaukee gets it. Miami never lost it. Cleveland gets it. Altman wasn’t sure he would ever get to enjoy the warmth of the BOTD aura LeBron James left behind in his wake. Not before a Cavs fanbase that was satisfied with riding out the Sexland portmanteau, with the help of some young promising big men like rookie Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen. Cleveland was already satisfied with riding Kevin Love’s contract into the sunset. So, the thinking went, grow the club under the watchful eye of another uncertain commodity, coach JB Bickerstaff, and see what awaits in a couple seasons on the other side of Love’s mega-deal. Maybe keep Altman around, or maybe move on. Then the 2021-22 season began, with the Cavs getting an unexpected boost from Ricky Rubio. Injuries to Collin Sexton and Rubio put Garland on with elevated usage, and he delivered at an All-Star level. Markkanen seemed to plug the gaping offensive talent hole at small forward. Mobley and Allen put a lid on the defensive rim, and Bickerstaff’s Bucks raced to a 19-12 start. Unexpectedly, the LeBron-less playoff drought looked to be in jeopardy. Here come the BOTDs! More injuries slowed Cleveland’s roll, the Cavs backsliding to a 25-26 season finish and losses to the Nets and Hawks in the Play-Ins. The response from Altman’s front office this summer was to add more offensive firepower, but with more efficiency, as Bickerstaff fine tunes the defensive approach. Robin Lopez was brought in with the returning Rubio, while Sexton and Markkanen and 2022 first-rounder Ochai Agbaji were the player prices to pay to win the sweepstakes for Mitchell. The rave reviews looked warranted as Cleveland (+6.7 Net Rating, 3rd in NBA) sprinted to an 8-1 start to this season. Garland (last 4 games: 35.0 PPG, 56.4 3FG%, 6.8 APG) has overcome an injury and early shooting struggles to get the double-barreled backcourt with Mitchell (early career-highs of 29.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 40.5 3FG%) blazing. With Mobley and Allen on patrol, opposing offenses know that won’t have a second chance to make a first impression (NBA-lows of 10.8 opponent second-chance points per-48, 43.9 opponent paint points per-48). But wear-and-tear ate at Bickerstaff’s rotations, beginning amid a West Coast road trip as the Cavs lost their next five games. Without either of Allen or Mitchell available, Garland poured on a career-high 51 points last week, but for naught, unable to close a 24-point deficit as Cleveland fell at home to Taurean Prince’s Timberwolves. The Cavs have yet to see Rubio (ACL surgery recovery) return to action, and with Markkanen now showing out elsewhere, Bickerstaff is back to plugging the leak at the 3-spot. Caris LeVert (out, sprained ankle) has struggled at both ends of the court, so the Cavs coach is extending Lamar Stevens an opportunity to lock down his non-guaranteed contract with a spot in the starting lineup. The possible absence of Love (questionable, hairline thumb fracture), along with Dean Wade (out, sore knee) and Dylan Windler (out, sprained ankle) keeps the ranks thin behind the starters. Injuries and illnesses seem to have beset the lion’s share of NBA teams and the Hawks (tied with Cleveland at 10-6) appear to be on the fortunate side, De’Andre Hunter’s questionable status due to illness and Bogi Bogdanovic’s extended recovery the sole blemishes on their pregame availability report. The Cavs righted their listing ship last night by cruising 113-87 past an injury-ravaged Miami team. That second win in Cleveland’s four-game homestand came two days after blowing a 12-point third-quarter lead, only to outlast the LaMelo-less Hornets 132-122 in double-OT. Mitchell’s booms at postseason time factor into his higher expectations with Cleveland, relative to Murray. But the busts, by Donovan and his former team, should be considerations, too. Beyond BOTD, a better rationale for the louder hype around Cleveland’s enhancements is that there is a higher ceiling associated with Mobley and Allen than there is around Clint Capela and a currently out-of-sync John Collins. As an extension, there is room for Bickerstaff’s strategies and rotations to evolve, relative to Atlanta’s venerated head coach. If Hunter is unable to go, Nate McMillan will rely more on rookie hero AJ Griffin (1-for-6 3FGs, but 8 of his 17 points in OT), who was stuntin’ like his daddy used to during overtime of Saturday’s wild finish in the 124-122 win against Toronto. Justin Holiday may get the veteran’s nod in the starting unit, but he has rarely been more effective on the defensive end than Griffin. If so, not enough to make up for Holiday’s 38.4 percent shooting from the field. Young and Murray may be able to freely get over, around and past Mitchell, Garland and whatever help defenders come their way. When they find space, their interior floaters and jumpers need to be on-point tonight, lest the Cavs seize ample defensive boards and grind the game to a crawl with low-tempo clock and possession control. Cleveland and Atlanta both have reasons to celebrate their teams’ biggest offseason moves. Although the scale of the reactions from the NBA world is markedly uneven, thanks largely to BOTD, the Hawks and Cavs can share equal joy that they stuck it to the Knicks. You’ll settle for Jalen Brunson and like it, New York. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  2. ~lw3 Prince in Minnesota jokes were right there for the taking. Ya Boi is slipping! ~lw3
  3. “Who’s prepared to pay the price? For a trip to paradise?” It’s the Cleveland State Vikings, and the Georgia State Panthers, in a play-in matchup to determine which team will get to face the top-seeded… oh, excuse me? Yeah, that’s right, don’t call it a play-in. Let’s try this again, with a dash of NBA flavor, to taste. Tonight, live from Atlanta, it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers, visiting the Hawks (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Ohio) in a race to determine who will be worthy of an opening-round matchup with the top-seed for the East Region. It’s May Madness in March! It’s Awesome, Baby! Dipsy-doo, dunkaroo! As I groggily draft this gamethread opener, I would like to know who it is, up at NBA HQ’s scheduling office, that could not grant the Hawks (18-20) that extra half-hour graciously extended to several of Atlanta’s hosts on the back ends of back-to-backs. I needed to Fall Back to savor last night’s romp over the Kings, as well as the Last Team Standing ACC Champions up in Greensboro. Alas, thanks to Daylight Savings, there is precious little time for celebration in The A. The league could have at least been sensitive enough to grant Trae, Kevin ‘n Bruno, De’Andre, Big O Smalls, and Skylar time to figure out how far their favorite college teams will make it down the brackets in Indy this year. Rondo and Cam, y’all just sit this one out. JC will help you figure out how to enjoy the hiatus, he’s good at this by now. Worse yet, the Hawks get to face the Cavs (14-23) on a day’s rest. Cleveland, once again, has been granted ample time to lick their wounds, taste their own blood, and scout out their favorite NBA opponent to sink their teeth into. The first time they met this season, in January, Cleveland’s visit came two days after a deflating 20-point loss to the Pacers in Indy, at that point their worst loss of the young season. The second time they met, in the Buckeye State last month, the Cavs were reeling from a 10-game skid, with nine of those defeats coming by deficits of 16 to 38 points. If you were not the greatest fan of former Cavs assistant coach Lloyd Pierce running the show in Atlanta, then you can thank your lucky stars for the Hawks’ outcomes against their lottery rivals. The 112-111 loss by the Hawks provided Cleveland with not just a trust fall catch, but a trampoline bounce, the start of their season-best four-game winning streak. Now they arrive at State Farm Arena after a 34-point loss to the Pelicans on Friday. Just 2.5 games back of the free-falling Raptors for the final “NCAA First Round” reservation, JB Bickerstaff hopes Atlanta will be there tonight, once more, to catch his team on the rebound. Speaking of rebounds, Kevin Love is back upright! It’s hard to get pre-owned cars off the lot unless the customer can first hear the engine running smoothly. While Andre Drummond is being spiffied up on the showcase spinner ahead of the Trade Deadline, Coach JB has the five-time former All-Star starting but on a minutes restriction, perhaps up a smidgen from the ten he received during Friday night’s 116-82 washout in New Orleans. “I don’t want to speak hyperbole or take it over the top, but this is probably the most mentally taxing – not the most physically taxing injury – but the most mentally taxing for me for sure.” Whacked in the leg during preseason action, then re-aggravated Gallinari-style during his first game back in December, Love shared with the Plain Dealer the challenges recovering from his latest setback, the calf injury that sidelined him for nearly three months. “Just playing basketball, that’s what I love to do. It’s so much a part of me. When you have it taken away from you and you feel like there’s not much you can do after working so damn hard, that can be really disheartening and a tough hurdle to overcome.” The returnee the Hawks should be more concerned about is Larry Nance. The Cavs forward was averaging 2.4 SPG over his first 15 games until he was slowed by a hand injury that required surgery. Only the Sixers’ Ben Simmons has as many per-game deflections (3..9) as Nance, an element to defense that the Cavaliers (112.5 D-Rating, tied w/ ATL for 22nd in NBA) have sorely missed. Keeping the turnovers down and the margins close were problems for the Hawks in the two games versus Cleveland thus far (20-15 and 19-15, respectively), but not so much over the past three Hawk victories (8 player TOs last night vs. SAC, tying a season low). Much like the winning field day enjoyed, until yesterday, by the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox, Collin Sexton enters today looking for a fifth consecutive victory over draft-mate Trae Young’s Hawks. The Pebblebrook High star has averaged 26.0 PPG (53.3 FG%, 40.0 3FG%) versus Atlanta, going back to December 2019. Young had 28-and-12 but sunk just one of seven three-point shots when the Hawks fell by a point last month. He was 0-for-3 in the final quarter while Sexton and Cavs rookies Dylan Windler and Isaac Okoro (combined 5-for-5 fourth-quarter 3FGs vs. ATL) were perfect from that range. To help spell Sexton and his backcourt mate Darius Garland (probable, missed Friday’s game due to a groin strain), Cleveland brought in Quinn Cook on a 10-day deal. Cook contributed 13 points in his 17 minutes at N’Awlins. Atlanta has to cut off passing lanes for Cleveland’s backcourt-centric offense (104.3 O-Rating, last in NBA; third-lowest 3FG%, lowest 3FGA rate, as per bball-ref), and must keep a hand in front of perimeter shooters and limit paint penetration without offering bailout fouls. Atlanta is a rational 16-7 when they permit 25 or fewer assisted buckets, so a little hero-ball from Sexton won’t hurt if it isn’t compounded by trips to the free throw line, wide open shooters, or second-chance shots. Clint Capela will find the going rougher securing defensive boards versus Jarrett Allen, JaVale McGee, Love and Nance, so he’ll need steady support and quality boxouts from John Collins and the small forwards to keep the Cavs at bay all day. I’m cutting off this gamethread opener early so I can get some beauty sleep. My Drexel Dragons are going Dancing for the first time in a long while, and I’m not gonna risk missing the reveal of which 2-seed they’re bound to upset this week because of the lost hour of shuteye. I sure hope the Hawks found plentiful rest last night, too. Go Jackets! (and Lady Jackets! And Lady Dawgs! And Lady Bears! We see you, Mercer!) Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  4. Will this JC be resurrected in Utah? ~lw3
  5. Like many of you, I saw Last Chance U coming from Elyria. ~lw3
  6. Cleveland's got no beef with this Koby. ~lw3
  7. He Zizzed when he should've Zagged. ~lw3
  8. I'd call it The Blatt Treatment, but LeBron's not even around for this one! I feel a... SENSE OF URGENCY up there! ~lw3
  9. “Just for that, playa, YOU get to go one on one with THE UNDERTAKER!” Whether you’re a Hue, or a Lue, it’s true, you’re feeling pretty blue. Despite arriving from altogether different paths, brutally misguided ownership and fumbled mismanagement greased the skids for lost jerbs of two Cleveland coaches. That’s right, Blatt – excuse me – Black Sunday and Black Monday came a tad bit early to the shores of Lake Erie. While the irascible Gregg Williams becomes the latest lackey to try revving up the Factory of Sadness, the shakeup on the hardwood leaves one familiar face to Atlanta Hawks Nation in a bit of a pickle. As the Hawks make their swift return to Quicken Loans Arena, the scene of a crime they committed just nine days ago to set Tyronn Lue’s ouster in motion, Larry Drew takes over as the interim coach for the Cavaliers (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Ohio in CLE). At least, he kinda will, so we think. If there’s anybody outside of Montreal who knows a thing or two about screwjobs, it’s Coach Drew. After a mediocre effort running the show under new management, the longtime Hawks assistant and ex-head coach got the “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” treatment from Danny Ferry in 2013, as the latter had an eye on replacing him with his bud Bud from San Antonio. Given a chance to linger around the Hawks War Room until he got his new gig coaching the Bucks, supplanting interim coach Jim Boylen, Drew soon stuck it to Ferry. He encouraged his new brain trust, led by GM John Hammond, to swipe little-known 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo right out from underneath Atlanta on Draft Night 2013. Taking over a bold-faced tankjob effort commanded by the likes of Brandon Knight and Ramon Sessions, John Henson and O.J. Mayo, Drew was ready to start reaping the rewards after Draft Night 2014, when the Bucks snagged Duke superstar Jabari Parker with the second-overall pick. Oh, but about that… Bucks owner Marc Lasry wanted his palsy-walsy Jason Kidd to take over the rebuild, working around Hammond to woo the soda-spiller from Brooklyn and unceremoniously dump Drew. While he never established a winner with the Bucks, it should be noted that Hammond would eventually leap at the first opportunity, parlaying the draft advice he wisely took from Drew into a cushy executive gig in sunny Orlando. Drew, however, was left out in the cold in the summer of 2014. That was until David Blatt offered up a lifeline. The new Cavs coach, Blatt already had the NBA’s highest-paid lead assistant, in Lue, to help raise up the neophytes on the roster. But plans got accelerated when it became clear that LeBron James and, soon, Kevin Love were coming to The Land, so Blatt wanted reinforcements among his staff. As a Hawks assistant, Drew coached Lue in Atlanta, from the point guard’s arrival in 2005 through the Bibby trade in 2008. Drew was also on the Lakers staff during Tyronn’s rookie season, back in 1999. Blatt figured this duo would surely work well together… under him. Perhaps unbeknownst to Blatt, James held retired NBA players Lue and Drew in high regard. Very high. So much so, in fact, that despite an NBA Finals appearance, an embarrassing mid-season loss to the champion Warriors was all that LeBron needed to get the shiv out on Blatt. That moved Tyronn and Larry up a chair just in time for luck to strike in the Finals and Cleveland’s championship drought to end. Lue gained media acclaim for his ability to kickstart his club coming out of timeouts -- a product, I am sure, of the X-and-O stuff that Larry “Drew” over the years on Lue’s behalf. Drew capably handled the top task last season during Lue’s medical leave, the Cavs winning eight of nine games. Along the way to several NBA Finals, sticking it to the Hawks team Ferry and Bud carefully crafted was a nice extra dose of comeuppance for Lue and Drew. It was all quite a fun run. Right up until LeBron tired of stringing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert along and set foot for L.A. Funny thing, if you go into the summer, a three-time reigning Eastern Conference champ, knowing you’re likely to lose James, and you supplant his production (and, sure, Jeff Green’s) with that of a wide-eyed rookie in Collin Sexton, free agent David Nwaba, and Sam Dekker, things aren’t bound to start out terribly well. They certainly won’t finish well if Love, granted a four-year extension just for being kind enough to want to hang around a bit longer, can’t stay healthy year-round. Already slow of foot as he is, fluid in Kevin’s toe is going to continue having the franchise face out of action for this game and, probably, well beyond, with Dekker getting his fifth-ever NBA start in Love’s place. I’m not sure what kind of magic Gilbert expected out of Lue, but it can’t be much different than the sorcery the Haslams expected to see by now from Hue. Where does all this leave us, with the Drew-lemma? The Conun-drew? Gilbert, naturally, wants Larry to just slide over into his dear friend’s seat and pretend nothing else – including the paycheck – needs to change. Jet propulsion isn’t Larry’s forte, yet it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this season is headed for whoever takes the reins from Lue. Should he choose to accept this position, Drew knows a dumpster fire bigger than anything ever seen in the Cuyahoga is headed his way. Oh, need it be mentioned, there are four games yet to play against the undefeated Bucks, starring the Greece Lightning kid that he, himself, tipped that clueless team about? A Bucks team, coached by that peevish dude Ferry tapped to take his jerb in Atlanta? Never mind Milwaukee, or Indiana, who shot 64.9 percent from the floor and cruised to a 119-107 win on this floor in Saturday’s swan song for Lue. Isn’t this the same Central Division that the lottery pick he tanked so hard for is still in? Only now Parker’s in Chicago, listening to associate head coach Boylan, the guy Drew supplanted in Milwaukee, and one of the Cav assistants Gilbert dumped this summer to save some pennies, while keeping Drew to stick around? Are you jotting all this down, Shakespeare? Yeah, if I’m Coach Drew, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be demanding top dollar. Guaranteed cash. And no, none of this “interim” business. If I’m gonna get canned by the end of the season anyway, at least make it clear that I’m nobody’s placeholder. Look at me. I’m the “acting” coach now. Oh, and doesn’t he and his agent have to negotiate with the king of subprime lending, the guy who thinks any young fool (sorry, Koby Altman, and you, too, Danny) could do the GM job on the cheap and be happy about it, to get a fair shake? You’d better ask for a second-year option, LD. Double-check the fine print, and the font, before you sign anything. Today, Drew has to gather the troops – old fogies like Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, and J.R. Smith, newbies like Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance and Dekker – rally them around all the One For All and Be The Fight catchphrases, and prepare the Cavaliers (0-6) for a must-win, payback match against… the Hawks. Of, course, Larry, it simply has to be the Hawks. I don’t write the tragedies, man, I just sit back and watch them unfold. Tonight’s contest sets a baseline for what the NBA can come to expect from the Love-less Cavaliers going forward, or, how soon some talented college freshmen may choose to add parkas to their winter shopping lists. The Hawks (2-4) are missing a talented body or two, as well. On top of that, they arrive for their first back-to-back of the young season after getting walloped in the second-half last night in Philly. This time out, I am quite confident that Drew has a better gameplan, than Lue, to brace for the wrath of Kentean Princemore. Anything is better than just sitting back and watching Princemore (12-for-29 FGs, 4 TOs in Atlanta’s 133-111 win on Oct. 21) jack up shots and driving to the hoop uncontested, while Trae Young (6-for-14 3FGs, 35 points and 11 assists @ CLE; 8 assists and no TOs @ PHI) takes target practice from the outside. A gameplan is great, but willful execution is a whole other ball of wax. Upon Hood, Osman, Clarkson and the less-expereienced members of the Cavs (30th in D-Rating and Opponent FG%), Drew needs to expound that if you’re content anticipating that Princemore (8-for-27 FGs, 5 TOs last night @ PHI) will eventually dribble the ball of its foot out of bounds, that the Hawks (37.2 FG% @ PHI) will keep missing all their shots and the rebounds will magically bounce into your arms, then you’d do just as well sitting beside him and letting The J.R. Swish Show take hold. What if Coach Drew doesn’t have a trick in his bag to make the Cavs go after opponents defensively? What if slipping up in this game is not the most embarrassing of defeats that lie ahead? What if he, and the vets, all mentally check out? Before November? What’s round at the ends, and has the initials for Hawks Nation right in the middle? “OH NO!” Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  10. **not sure if this could help or hurt our Cavspick lol** ~lw3
  11. Ooooh, I am for real... Were I Ms. Jackson, I'd have demanded the ownership's threats to be made clear, concise, and written in Comic Sans font. ~lw3
  12. "Next time, on Game of Runs!..." Nothing helps your headaches quite like arguing with your superstar player in front of a live audience! ~lw3
  13. "You like Brazilian music?” Our Hawks played the Competitank to perfection last night in Orlando (Dewayne Dedmon Stepback FTL!). Their reward is a trip back home to Atlanta, where The King, LeBron James, and a smattering of his subjects on the Cleveland Cavaliers have been waiting for one final head-to-head tonight (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Ohio). Aside from LeBron, who are left standing after “The Purge: Anarchy” unfolded off Lake Erie? The remnant Cavs making the trip down from the Buckeye State include a handful of vets: J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green, and ex-Hawks Kyle Korver and Jose Calderon. The new arrivals should help transform the locker room from something less like “Grumpy Old Men”, to something more resembling “Romper Room”. Cavs’ GM Koby Altman, who pulled the trigger on deals dispatching Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose to distant NBA locales, hopes the net effect will be positive for the homegrown star he can only hope will stick around a bit longer. “I think we’re going to get a rejuvenated LeBron James, and that’s the key,” Altman said to USA TODAY and media reporters, going so far as to invoke the always-popular C-word. “We were worried that what was going on, on the floor, and the Culture on the building, we thought we were marching a slow death. The window we have with LeBron and this time, it was the time to do something and have some sustainability going forward… I think we’re going to be fun, athletic, and exciting to watch.” Which direction that George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance will collectively nudge the Cavs, relative to Boston, Toronto and the title contenders out West, is anyone’s guess. But as was the case versus Minnesota, the directives to ensure a chance at victory remain the same. Don’t waste LeBron’s valuable time having to come help with the man who keeps beating you off the dribble. On offense, get the ball to LeBron, and clear out to the perimeter awaiting further instruction. Step up on the floor, or in the locker room, only when LeBron calls upon you to do so. This King’s newest subordinates will be far more apt to take heed. While Cavs coach Ty Lue would appreciate having the recipients from Cleveland’s mega-trades available, they’re still clearing physicals and stuff. So, it appears likely he will have to make-do with youngsters like Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and a pair of “European”-sounding two-way contractors (London Perrantes, John Holland) to fill in the gaps. T-Lue (2-1 against ATL) would also appreciate winning the season series against Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer tonight, something his reigning Eastern Conference champs could not accomplish last season (1-3 against ATL in 2016-17). He’ll start Calderon and Smith, plus Osman (the energetic rookie’s first NBA start) and Thompson alongside You-Know-Who. It’s hard to suggest any team featuring James (career-high 17 assists in a 123-114 win vs. ATL on Dec. 12) is “shorthanded”. But victory tonight for Lue’s “shorthanded” assemblage would help build much-needed momentum, after LeBron’s overtime heroics on Wednesday staved off a potential fourth loss in Cleveland’s past five games. As road games in Kyrie’s Boston and Russ’ OKC are forthcoming, the Cavs (31-22, 4.0 games ahead of the East’s 9-seed) might as well kickstart this road trip with a win streak. The Hawks might still get out-gunned tonight, but they won’t be out-manned. The only absences include future MARTA straphanger DeAndre’ Bembry, inactive since returning from a groin injury, and Tyler Cavanaugh, who will sit through the Break while rehabbing a tough ankle sprain he suffered up in G-League Erie. Everybody else is in decent shape for Atlanta (17-38), and trade-deadline holdout Marco Belinelli will be rested and ready to show NBA title contenders like Cleveland what they’ll be missing. The only intrigue for the Hawks will involve seeing whether Dennis Schröder can regain his resolve after getting the ShMackDown from former teammate Shelvin Mack late in last night’s game. While the Cavs’ roster is shallow, Calderon (4-for-5 3FGs vs. ATL on Dec. 12) and his help defenders will do what they can to get under Schröder’s skin and force another second-half short-hook from Coach Bud. The good news for Dennis (benched in the fourth @ CLE on Dec. 12) is that James will be needed more in the frontcourt and will spend less time creating mismatches at the point guard spot. Schröder will have to regularly and swiftly find Kent Bazemore (6-for-10 3FGs @ CLE on Dec. 12), Taurean Prince (8-for-10 FGs @ CLE) and whichever Hawk shooters spring open, of which there will be many, against Calderon, Korver, Thompson, Green, Smith and the G-Leaguers. Cleveland’s defensive woes won’t vanish right away. While Some Fans will have their eyes on one of the Hawks’ 2018 draft picks, there’s another one more likely to be impacted by tonight’s outcome. LeBron’s buzzer-beating jumper on Wednesday moved the Hawks’ Wolvespick (#25… man, another Adreian Payne deal would’ve been nice yesterday!) to within 1.0 games of where the Cavs reside on the Tank Rank, at #24. Another slip-up or two by Minnesota could scooch that Wolvespick up past not only Cleveland’s, but emerging Milwaukee’s. Considering that, you can forgive Some Hawks Fans for being doubly supportive of another “Nice Try” effort by the Hawks (no home wins vs. East foes since Dec. 27) in front of the home crowd. As for the folks showing up to The Highlight Factory in whine-and-gold tonight? Don’t mind them too much. They’ll probably be wearing #23 jerseys in wholly different colors this time next year. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  14. How does that Randy Newman song go? No, not I Love L.A., that OTHER one... ~lw3
  15. Okay, Cavs, slow down for a minute lol ~lw3
  16. I've heard about Bones of Contention... but geez! ~lw3
  17. “You’re just NOW finding out about Bobby Caldwell?” Dennis Schröder was about to have one of those quarters. He’s no Reggie Miller, but hey, seven points in 50 seconds! On the back end of a back-to-back, a tiring Knicks team was proving increasingly hapless trying to keep his layups off the glass. Their hard-earned fourth-quarter lead shrunk to a precarious two points. The Garden natives were getting restless. And at that moment, Mike Budenholzer recalled Luka Doncic’s 33 points versus Olympiacos. “Dennis! Come sit by me.” Such is life these days for Schröder and the Competitanking Atlanta Hawks, who will strive to stay close… but maybe not TOO close!... to the burgundy-hot Cleveland Cavaliers (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Ohio). Dennis, and Taurean Prince, know the deal, though. If Coach Bud is benching you or chewing you out on the sidelines during stoppages of play, it’s only because he cares. He cares enough about you, at least, to know that you’re an integral part of his team’s future, and that how successful he becomes is tethered to how much you improve – as a playmaker, a defender, a floor leader, a team-oriented competitor – over time, and how well you sustain that improved play during games. So, don’t expect Schröder (career-highs of 20.4 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 49.3 2FG%) to come home and kick his hookah over getting yanked at critical junctures. Sure, he was 9-for-12 inside the perimeter on Sunday evening. But why was his counterpart, the shoulda-been Hawks backup Jarrett Jack, going 6-for-8 from the field for the Knicks and getting to the line with ease? Struggling as he might be, why is rookie Frank Ntilikina getting the most open three-point look he has seen in his young life? Neither Isaiah Taylor nor Malcolm Delaney performed even marginally better as a ballhandler, but that’s beside the point. Budenholzer wants to see his core starters applying tangible defensive pressure, and that wasn’t the case in Gotham. The Hawks induced just 12 team turnovers out of a previously frustrated New York team on Sunday evening, and Atlanta was outscored off turnovers 25-9. Dennis knows the deal, that he and Taurean (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists @ NYK) are getting the treatment Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili once suffered, and endured. If Bud’s not flinching at your errors and oversights, it’s probably because you’re not going to be around here for terribly long or, otherwise, because you’re out there Bazemoring. At the other end of the spectrum, one NBA team has been soldiering on without a former league MVP, and doing just fine, since it’s not the only one on their roster. The Cavs (19-8) won 13 in a row before incurring the Wrath of Oladipo last week. Having righted the ship, coach Tyronn Lue’s club is out to establish a whole new streak after outlasting Embiid-less Philadelphia on Saturday. Cleveland eked out the 105-98 win over the Sixers without either of Kevin Love (hip) or Tristan Thompson (calf). Both big men are likely to suit up tonight against the Hawks (6-20), playing enough minutes that Mr. Do-It-All, LeBron James (30 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists vs. PHI), won’t have to live up to his MVP-worthy name. Love had 25 points and 16 boards (6 offensive) in the Cavs’ 121-114 win in Atlanta on November 30, allowing LeBron (24 points, 12 assists @ ATL) and his old running buddy Dwyane Wade (19 points, 3-for-5 3FGs, 4 steals off the bench) to give the Hawks something light. James will spend the evening deciding who he’d prefer to troll defensively, Schröder, or Ersan “Can’t Miss” Ilyasova (10-for-11 3FGs in past two games). Another well-intended target of Coach Bud’s short-hook, John Collins (shoulder) is healthy enough to take a pool dive in the snow for 400 bucks, but the Hawks’ brass wants him to get some practice in before returning to full competition. Johnny Bap will be right down the lakeshore from Quicken Loans Arena, in G-League Erie, making it tougher on the Hawks’ Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Cavanaugh to keep Cleveland out of the paint. Atlanta allows an NBA-high 14.2 second-chance points per-48. New York outscored Atlanta 50-44 in paint points during Sunday’s 111-107 win, a gap that was only widening before Schröder near-single-handedly popped the Knicks’ balloon. Dennis (27.5 PPG vs. CLE, most vs. any team played at least twice; 7.0 APG) has not had to keep up offensively with the likes of Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas (hip, out for at least another week) or Derrick Rose (bone spurs, out maybe for good), and he doesn’t have Iman Shumpert (knee surgery) around to keep him from wrecking shop via dribble penetration. But with LeBron not having to pack the paint, and with Thompson back, Dennis will find the forest in front of the hoop to be a little thicker, so he’ll have to contribute in ways beyond collecting gotheems, especially on the other end of the floor. If Schröder plays his cards right, he’ll scare the bejesus out of the Cavs once more tonight. And at that moment, he’ll get his congratulatory sideline towel. And then, maybe we’ll get to see if Josh Magette can "provide a spark"! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  18. I read somewhere the Raps' G-League still hold his rights (in the G-League, natch). Is that true? EDIT: here it go, confirmation... ~lw3