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Found 12 results

  1. G'bye, matey? If Jingles bolts, is it possible he Fosters other veterans and Aussies to follow suit? ~lw3
  2. Rappers from this town are known as the Scapholunatics. ~lw3
  3. Will this JC be resurrected in Utah? ~lw3
  4. “She BLINDED me! With SCIENCE!” They’re playin’ BAD-sket-ball! We loathe that BAD-sket-ball! “Escape From New York” wasn’t even on the cutting room floor the last time the Knicks put up 143 regulation points on a team as hapless as our Atlanta Hawks. They escaped, quite scathed, from New York. But waiting for them at State Farm Arena is another NBA opponent slowly climbing out from its early-season struggles. An “SLC Funk!”, if you will. Quin Snyder’s Utah Jazz (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, AT&T SportsNet in SLC) hope to be the next team to use the Hawks as a steppingstone. So you don’t have to look it up, Utah’s regulation scoring record is 151 points, twice in 1982, four seasons before the Jazz scored 153 while still in New Orleans. There’s a clear cleaving of the NBA’s Top 11 squads away from the… Others. If the Commish were to entertain the rest of us with a mid-season Badsketball tourney, the Jazz (16-11) would be the #1 seed and prohibitive favorites. The Hawks would probably need to head to Dayton to reach the second round. GM Dennis Lindsey knows that, just because all your offseason moves aren’t panning out, your team doesn’t have to take a dive. Utah’s biggest acquisition, Mike Conley was supposed to be the defensive backcourt complement to center Rudy Gobert (career-high 13.9 RPG, season-high 19 boards vs. ORL on Tuesday), supplanting Ricky Rubio, and he was supposed to give diminutive off-guard scorer Donovan Mitchell (career-high 25.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG, career-low 2.3 TOs/game) more time playing off-ball. His hamstring, sadly, just will not cooperate. Conley’s out maybe for a few more weeks after his attempt at a return from a weeks-long absence failed, in Tuesday’s 109-102 home loss to Orlando. His struggles to create inside on drives (36.9 2FG%) has a lot to do with replacing a high-post center, namely his former Memphis partner-in-grind Marc Gasol, with a post-plugging pivot in Gobert (67.8 eFG%, above his NBA-high 66.9% from last season). Ed Davis (1.7 PPG) was supposed to help make up for the team dealing away Derrick Favors for future second-round picks. Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be the quality guard depth that Dante Exum was not. Jeff Green (38.1 FG%) was supposed to be no worse than the Jeff Green the Wizards got last season. These things aren’t really working out. But one free agent signing is hitting it out the park, and it may be enough to save the Jazz’s season. Bojan Bogdanovic’s interior scoring (44.4 2FG%, down from 53.8% last year w/ IND) is suffering similar to Conley’s due to the Gobert Effect. But that’s not why he was brought here. The former Eurostash has been canning triples (46.1 3FG%, 9th in NBA) to become the Jazz’s other reliable 20-plus-point scoring threat (career-high 21.1 PPG). His 8-for-13 3FGs and 8-for-10 FTs helped Utah stiff-arm the Warriors last Friday. Bojangles then paired up with Mitchell to score 30 apiece (incl. 17 of Utah’s last 19 points in 4.5 minutes) as the Jazz came back late to dust off the Magic. Conley (team-high 4.6 APG) returning to the shelf leaves a lot of the passing duties in Snyder’s offense to Joe Ingles (4.1 APG, 1.8 TOs/game), the 32-year-old swingman who Lindsey signed to a two-year contract extension back in October. His jump-shooting was setting off not Jingle, but alarm bells, well into the start of December (35.8 FG% through first 22 games). But his recent turnaround (55.3FG%, 6.6 APG in last five games; season-high 23 points in a win at Minnesota on Dec. 11, the Jazz’s last road game) has rebuilt Utah’s confidence as the team has won four of its past five. The Jazz really cannot afford to mail it in. Their contributing core is essentially set through at least the trade deadline of next season. The 2020 first-rounder they shipped to Memphis for Conley is protected only 1-7 if they fail to make the playoffs. So it’s 2020 postseason or bust, and while a nice run could entrench them in the back end of the Western Conference, a road slide or two could have them scratching and clawing with as many as seven conference peers for the final three playoff slots. Although they hope to keep up their winning ways going tonight, the Jazz have hit a few sour notes. Over the past three weeks, they’ve suffered losing margins of 19, 20, 9, 25, and 14, mostly to contenders, although their last one came ten days ago at the hands of 6MOY/MIP candidate Dennis Schröder and visiting Northwest Division rival OKC. Minnesota, Phoenix, Golden State and Memphis have been the Jazz’s sole road wins. They’re hoping to build up their record versus Eastern Conference teams with this 3-game swing through the Southeast, after recent losses at Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Indiana. The best defensive rebounders in the West (75.6 D-Reb%, 3rd in NBA), and the most accurate three-point-shooting team in the league (38.6 3FG%), Utah has found itself slipping whenever they leave the Beehive State (72.2 D-Reb% and 36.8 road 3FG%; 16.2 road TO%, 5th-worst in NBA). While the bench situation is not as dire as it has been for Atlanta (league-worst -4.1 bench plus/minus), Snyder has struggled to get productive minutes out of his reserves when it comes time to hold leads or keep deficits close (41.3 bench FG%, league-low 1.7 bench SPG; -2.0 bench plus/minus, worst among teams with winning records). The good news for Utah is they have spent about as much consistent time working out in Atlanta (6-whatever) as the Hawks seemingly have. The scheduling run with few breaks has taken its course for Lloyd Pierce’s club, as a string of 4-games-within-5-nights that has been ongoing since the season opener ended, with Tuesday’s loss in New York, a break of sorts that continues through January 3rd. But the lack of confidence-building homestands in the forthcoming schedule remains glaring. A two-game road trip for Atlanta follows tonight’s game. Then, when the Hawks come back from Xmas break to have Giannis and the Bucks waiting for them, a three-game road trek follows that. The first three game homestand of the New Year offers no cupcakes (Indiana, Denver, Houston), while the three-game stretch at State Farm Arena around MLK Day won’t be much easier (Detroit, Toronto, Clippers). To turn things around before the season gets completely away from them, Atlanta is going to have to string together wins, and impressive ones, in front of the home crowd. And the lack of defensive awareness evident in the Big Apple, particularly in transition and on halfcourt screen actions, cannot rear its ugly head again. The Hawks must force turnovers out of a Jazz team that is likely to get Badsketball-sloppy with the rock, with Conley out of the picture. Atlanta must run and convert transition opportunities into points by pressuring the rim, forcing Utah’s bigs into foul trouble, and by finding open shooters in the corners on the fastbreak. Players cannot get stagnant in the halfcourt offense, allowing Ingles and Mitchell to pick away at perfunctory passes. As was the case in New York, it is simply a matter of being mindful and making things easier on themselves to be in position to win by night’s end, especially players not named Trae Young. The Hawks learned in NYC there’s no Snake Plissken swooping in to rescue them from their Badsketball-playing themselves. Beginning tonight with Utah in town, we will see if the Hawks take advantage of their latest wake-up call and straighten up like SLC’s Stevo. If Atlanta’s “supporting” cast, specifically the veterans wasting away on the bench, don’t figure things out, soon, they could go out as sad as Sean the Beggar and Heroin Bob. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  5. Can we get a Veteran's Exception clause for getting popped for weed (assuming it's that and not some wild strain of Swiss chard)? Ol' Boy Thabo been through a LOT. On second thought, it is Strike Three, so it is what it is. So glad this is April 2018 and not April 2015! ~lw3
  6. “Life moves pretty fast, Shareef…” Putting the “tank” in “stank” with lousy perimeter shooting and lousier interior defense against the Bulls on Saturday, our Atlanta Hawks have licked their wounds and will try to return to the winning column tonight versus the Utah Jazz (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain in SLC), a team where many budding NBA careers have gone to grow stale. But, perhaps, not for much longer? The steam you see rising out west is coming from California, where the O’Neal household is miffed about Shaquille’s son, Shareef, not making the cut for the heralded McDonald’s All-American High School Boys Team last week. “It hurt, a lot, actually,” Reef told ItsOvertime.com, “because that was a childhood dream for me.” Various and sundry FOSses (Friends of Shaq) within the NBA universe reached out via the social media stratosphere to express their resentment of the folks beneath the Golden Arches, for snubbing the Arizona commit. Recent retiree Matt Barnes, unsurprisingly, was most vociferous in his e-displeasure, insisting he and his children will stage a boycott of McNuggets, a protest that ought to work out well for his kids in the long run. Do they still use pink foam for that stuff? Shareef don’t like it. But he should understand that getting named to that select prep squad is not all it’s cracked up to be. If anything, it’s not a bellwether of future pro stardom. All-NBA talents from Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and Jimmy Butler to Paul George, Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard are still trying to figure out how their invitations got lost in the mail. And roll back the calendar just nine years ago. Sure, Boogie Cousins made the team, as did Lance Stephenson. But, hey, so did Bud-faves Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Neither is such an honor insurance of lasting fandom. If you ask nicely, Reef, I’ll bet you Derrick Favors will let you borrow his MVP trophy from the 2009 Mickie D’s All-American Game (the 2018 game will be right here at Philips Arena, on March 28). The former South Atlanta High and Georgia Tech phenom can assure you, as he has learned, that winning that award, and even becoming a #3-overall draft pick, doesn’t make you all that and a bag of fries. Sure, Favors is still starting in the league, so he deserves a break today. But since getting picked third-overall by New Jersey in the summer of 2010, then dealt mere months later to Salt Lake City in the aftermath of the Jerry Sloan-Deron Williams nuke-fest, heightened expectations by Jazzfans of Favors (12.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) someday blossoming into superstardom have given way to merely being satisfied if he can be anything more than a role player from one night to the next. The player Utah drafted in 2009 that eventually did turn into something like a phenomenon, Gordon Hayward, departed for Boston last season, turning the heat lamp more squarely in Favors’ direction. On the floor, he’s aided by Ricky Rubio (team-high 4.8 APG), the once-hyped point guard whose jury is no longer just out, they’ve rendered their verdict and gone home to spend time with their families. Unable to stretch his range or move the rock like many of his positional peers, Favors is finding himself subbed at turns by former Hawks star Joe Johnson (41.6 FG%, lowest since 2002-03), by Jonas Jerebko (team-high 43.4 3FG%), and by Joe Ingles (42.7 3FG%, 4.3 APG), each of whom exceed Favors by several years of global hoops mileage. That’s to say nothing of Thabo Sefolosha, who was getting minutes as a small-ball four before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury. Since Favors’ arrival, lottery picks and draft-day acquisitions by the Jazz haven’t fared much better. Enes Kanter is despised in SLC more than anywhere on Earth, and that’s saying something. Former All-Rookie 1st-Teamer Trey Burke is just happy to be getting minutes somewhere. Armed with a ten-million dollar salary from the Jazz, Alec Burks is getting yo-yo’d in and out of the G-League. Dante Exum (shoulder) can’t seem to get back on the NBA hardwood, while Trey Lyles waited until he was dealt to rival Denver to start showing out. A decade full of dampened dreams are gnawing on Jazzfans’ patience, even though Player Whisperer and head coach Quin Snyder runs the show. One season after being treated to 51 wins (with Hayward) and a Conference Semifinals appearance, fans have grown unnerved as Utah (19-27) subsides. Their frustrations with promising players failing to emerge recently boiled over in a way that could some day harm the team’s chances of keeping their most exciting rookie guard since the days of Dr. Dunkenstein. Like the legendary Darrell Griffith, Donovan Mitchell (team-high 19.3 PPG) leapt and bounded his way out of Louisville, eager to prove wrong prognosticators that urged passing on the high-flying shooting guard due to his 6-foot-3 height. While Mitchell was getting acclimated to the pro game, and while center Rudy Gobert (minutes-monitored after a recent return from knee soreness) struggled through injuries, fourth-year guard Rodney Hood (career-high 16.7 PPG; career-low 43.7 2FG%) took the mantle and carried the scoring load for the Jazz at the outset of the season. But Hood’s hot start was unsustainable, and when his jumper tailed off (30.0 3FG% this month), his skeptical home fans serenaded him last week with audible boos. That didn’t sit well with Mitchell, the reigning Rookie of the Month (and, it should be noted, a 2015 McDonald’s “snub”, unlike our old friend Diamond Stone) who replaced Hood in Snyder’s starting lineup back in November. “Can’t believe people were booing Rodney tonight,” the rookie tweeted last Monday, following a 15-point loss to Indiana. “…for people to boo him is insane.” Further defending Hood (out tonight, due to a sore knee) Mitchell added in all-caps, “WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT!”, his inclusive “WE” referring to those apparently transplanted Eagles fans in the arena stands. Once his rookie deal expires and extensions run out, might Mitchell “Take Note” as to how Utah’s fans sour on young players, like him, once they have seemingly regressed or leveled off? (Former Jazz draft-and-tradee Taurean Prince, consider yourself a lucky man.) That subset of Jazzmen includes Favors, still just 26 years of age, who has gone out of his way to re-emphasize his personal joy of playing in the Beehive State over the years. The once-grateful sentiments from the fanbase have worn thin for Favors, in the aftermath of Paul Millsap and Hayward leaving. No longer waiting for him to step up, fans are urging Dennis Lindsey and the Utah brass to help Favors step out, before February 8’s trade deadline arrives. While Mitchell adds dashes of excitement, Utah as a team has been slow at the start of the first (minus-10.2 1st quarter Net Rating, 28th in NBA) and second halves (minus-8.3 3rd quarter Net Rating, 26th in NBA), but eventually strives to gain traction (2nd in Net Rating in 2nd quarters; 6th in the 4th quarters). Those rankings are low even with Saturday’s home win, where the Jazz outscored the Clippers 39-29 in the opening frame and held serve in the third along the way to a 125-113 victory. To help slow opponents’ rolls, Utah will rely heavily on Gobert and Ekpe Udoh (1.9 steals and 2.9 blocks per-36, DNP-CD vs. LAC) to seal off the rim from drive-heavy players like Dennis Schröder (17.6 drives per game, 2nd in NBA), especially if they can afford to abandon their man while defending in the paint. They also depend a lot on the late-game guile of veterans like Ingles (4 steals vs. LAC), Jerebko and Joe, so as not to overload the trio of Mitchell, Gobert and Rubio in crunch time. Schröder will have to weather the storm in the halfcourt by relying on a mid-range game that betrayed him at times versus Chicago. But he and the Hawks can get to the rim, unencumbered by their slower and injury-addled opponents, by initiating a fastbreak and transition offense. The Jazz (27th in pace) have been stout defensively in these categories, but not so much on the road, where their record (5-18) almost mirrors Atlanta’s NBA-low of 4-19. Dennis has been effective in finding open teammates (20 assists, 1 TO in past two games), but the Hawks will find themselves behind the 8-ball repeatedly if they don’t hit those shots, especially versus strong defensive-rebounding teams like Chicago (81.1 D-Reb%, 3rd in NBA) and Utah (79.2 D-Reb%, tied-6th in NBA). Favors has been out of rotations at the ends of Jazz games, but he can be integral to another good start by keeping his fellow ’09 All-American Plumlee off the glass from the start, freeing up Gobert to help with blocks on the defensive end. Shareef already knows he is likely unable to fill his father’s sizable shoes, but he needs to chart his own unique course into, and through, the pros. To be in a position where he’ll be coveted by the likes of the Jazz and the Hawks in the future, he needs to stray as far away from anything associated with McDonald’s for a while. If he’s unconvinced, he could ask for tapes of Daddy Diesel playing in his thirties. In closing… It’s Tank Karaoke Time! Kick it, Bud! “Para drafta Mo Bamba, para drafta Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley, una Luka, Trae, Musa Una Luka, Trae, Musa, para mi, para ti Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Porter, okay? Porter, okay! O, DeAndre!” “Tu no pick Marvin Williams Tu no pick Marvin Williams, ‘kay, Travis-san? ‘kay Travis-san? Draft mi Ayton!” “Mo, Mo, Bamba Isaac Bonga Mo, Mo Bamba… Bam!” Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  7. “Sorry, Bryon. Us Legends are Born This Way!” What was all this #InBrotherhood stuff about, after all? It’s a sobering recognition that -- no matter how long you’ve been in greater Atlanta, no matter what part of the metro you live in, no matter how much you’re currently prospering -- in this Woulda Coulda Shoulda sports town, you and the local team you root for are no better, and no worse, than anybody else around these parts. We might as well embrace one another. On Sunday night, one half of semi-professional pigskin was all that kept the Hawks from becoming the sole major male pro sports franchise to never win a world title for Atlanta (the Blaze, and Atlanta United, are free to join us on the couch someday soon). Fans of the Hawks’ visitors tonight, the Utah Jazz (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, ROOT Sports Utah), can commiserate with Falcons fans like few others could. Two decades ago, their team, with destiny on the line, left themselves exposed to a Legend. And made something of a legend out of themselves in the process. Around town, I’ve got colleagues, so-called Atlanta sports fans, that have offered up every excuse for living in the ATL for decades and never embracing the Hawks. Never mind coming (or staying) downtown to pull for them every blue moon. I’m talking about simply turning on the television, or radio, and tuning in on the regular. “It’s too late at night, walking 100 feet from my SUV can be scary, the traffic and parking sucks and I don’t wanna take MARTA because, well, y’know.” Some of the same people proceed to grab their foam tomahawks and spend four hours with their families in Summerville for some Freddie Freeman bobblehead night. Others will soon leap at the chance to flaunt their PSLs on Northside Drive, in eager anticipation of some Thursday Night Color Rush versus Tampa Bay. Why not watch your local NBA team? “They don’t have the kind of players I like to follow”, I get that a lot. But they can recite the life histories of all 75 players on a training camp roster as they haul it up I-985 to Flowery Branch to watch “their” heroes prep for a preseason game. I ain’t mad, tho. “The Hawks had shady ownership for so long.” Right, and what was Rankin Smith, again? “The Hawks drag you along all season, just to collapse at the end,” said the 2011 Barves fan, without so much as a wink. “The Hawks are a treadmill team that disappoints in the playoffs,” okay. And then we slap on our facepaint and scream and dance and chop for teams that are, at least as of Sunday night, the very definitions for end-of-season disappointments in their respective sports (move aside, Buffalo). And they don’t even get to the playoffs every year, at least not anymore. Yes, it’s lousy timing for anyone to needle Falcons fans who, up until a month ago, had rationally measured expectations about how much their team might achieve this season. But if we’re truly “In Brotherhood” (or, accounting for the Dream, “In Siblinghood”) we don’t black-sheep our brethren just to uplift the favorites in our family. All across the ATL, inside the perimeter and well beyond, Hawks fans are giving long-suffering members of the Falcons faithful a sorely-needed hug today. If we’re all truly “True To Atlanta,” though, it’s high time we start demanding a little more embracing of our Hawks, flaws and all, in return. For far too long, Hawks fans are compelled to Feel The Pain for other pro teams’ letdowns in the winters, and autumns, but get treated like Torch Red-headed stepchildren in the springtimes, garnering far more ridicule than reciprocation. Falcon, Bravo, and Dawg/Jacket fans, must become more than just “True To The Segments of Atlanta I Choose to Associate With.” Hawk fans must no longer accept our allegiances getting pushed down to some lower, substandard tier. Speaking of pushing… “I know that some argue that He did not push off,” said Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant just a couple weeks ago, while addressing the state legislature, adding, “most of them live in Chicago.” “He,” naturally, is Michael Jordan, already the greatest to ever bounce a basketball in most people’s eyes, but a man who needed a foil to cement his otherworldly legacy. The foil directed his way was Utah Jazz player Bryon Russell, who moments before was about to help his team reach Game 7 of the NBA Finals and maybe break Utah’s NBA bridesmaid hex, once and for all. The Jazz had a chance to put Game 6 away, but Karl Malone fumbled the ball, leaving just a sliver of daylight open for a Legend to create a legend. And 20 years later, it takes a judicial act just to try and take the bitter taste out of Jazz fans’ mouths. “After much consideration, I am now prepared to rule,” said Durrant. “He pushed off. And if you think I don’t have the power to decide that, you haven’t read the Utah Constitution.” So it goes in Atlanta, and Salt Lake City. Because our teams’ leaders are not prepared to rule, we turn to judges to do the work for us. Can somebody around here overturn that Infield Fly thing? Coincidentally, the Hawks’ color analyst was drafted-and-traded by the Jazz to become Atlanta’s iconic basketball player. Yet his teams suffered tough postseason defeats at the hands of Legends like Larry Bird and Isaiah Thomas, and he found himself on the outside of the NBA’s 50th anniversary team looking in. Nearly two decades later, his team’s owners and management nearly tore each other, and the franchise, asunder over the central question of whether Atlanta’s basketball legend, one of the 15 leading scorers in NBA history, was worthy of a statue in front of the basketball arena. Like Matt Ryan, or Michael Vick before him, Dominique Wilkins understands quite well the feeling when you’ve failed to cast your own legacy in gold. Nique’s best known feats of fancy weren’t achieved at Philips Arena, but one player coming off the bench for the Jazz sure had a few in this building. Joe Johnson is still getting it done as best he can at age 35, his 18 points and 4 assists helping Utah (32-19) shoo away the visiting Hornets on Saturday night. At his prime, Johnson was never going to star in “Space Jam”, or get his own corn-syrupy-drink ads. But like modern-day Paul Millsap, Joe was Atlanta’s multiple-year All-Star, and deserved to be welcomed as such, unconditionally. Rather, because Joe’s teams failed to outshine the Paul Pierces, LeBron Jameses and Dwight Howards in the postseason, he became reviled around town, especially after accepting a salary that would have cost teams an extra $10-15 million annually today for the same scales of production and accomplishment. His Hawks jersey will someday be retired, but his was not the Red #2 many Atlanta sports fans were willing to tout. Despite the ghosts of would-be-championships past, Utah sports fans held little disagreement over whether John Stockton or Karl Malone were “monumental” figures. They are also quite content with the present state of affairs, especially now that their primary pro sports team is ensconced in the state, thanks to a new Miller family legacy trust. Now on a more manageable $11 million annual deal, the esteemed veteran Johnson is well-accepted around SLC, even while being arguably the second-best Joe on coach Quin Snyder’s team. He shares bench duties these days with Joe Ingles, the Aussie breaking out with a 43.2 three-point percentage (4th in NBA). Either Joe can spell Gordon Hayward, the Jazz leading scorer (career-bests of 22.0 PPG, 87.1 FT%, 5.7 RPG; 33 points vs. CHA on Saturday) who is headed to his first All-Star Game. Coaches’ votes for the ASG were probably headed toward teammate center Rudy Gobert (99.8 D-Rating, 3rd among NBA players with 30+ MPG; NBA-high 2.5 BPG), until Chris Paul’s injury compelled voters to take Clipper center DeAndre Jordan in the frontcourt instead. Nonetheless, even with third-year swingman Rodney Hood (sprained knee) unavailable and young Alec Burks coming back slowly, Utah boasts exceptional depth of skill and experience at the wing spots. They’ve been deep enough to absorb injury setbacks across the board, a competitive advantage that has kept them comfortably in the midst of the Western Conference playoff chase. Boris Diaw’s espresso-fueled stints have been efficient enough to alleviate Gobert while making the emergence of either Derrick Favors (a dying-hard Falcons fan, born in Atlanta during the summer of the Bravos’ 1991 worst-to-first campaign) or Trey Lyles less urgent. Relying on ex-Hawk Shelvin Mack and Dante Exum, the Jazz weathered the storm while George Hill (5-for-8 3FGs vs. CHA on Saturday) recuperated from injury. Snyder’s Jazz embrace a style, if you will, of space-and-trace. They keep the tempo at a snail’s crawl (NBA-low 93.4 pace), and don’t waste time gambling for live-ball turnovers (6.6 team SPG and 12.2 opponent TOs/game, 29th in NBA). Instead, the Jazz excel at contesting shots (NBA-best 48.5 opponent eFG%), using Gobert and the bigs to secure the defensive boards (78.2 D-Reb%, 4th in NBA), and then controlling the rock and draining the clock until they find an advantageous matchup on offense, like Hayward or Hill (8-for-14 FGs apiece vs. ATL on Nov. 25). Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks know this firsthand. Playing right into their opponent’s hands, the Hawks scored just 68 points in Utah’s arena back in November, Atlanta’s lowest output since a forgettable 97-58 loss in Chicago back in January 2013. It had been that long since a Hawks team shot as poorly as 31.3% from the field. Mack chipped in for Utah with five assists, plus steals that accounted for four of Atlanta’s mere 14 player turnovers. Johnson collected 10 D-Rebs in 24 minutes for a Jazz team that was more than happy to let Kent Bazemore, Junior Hardaway, Malcolm Delaney and Mike Muscala fire away (combined 3-for-24 FGs) while their defenders blanketed Kyle Korver (1-for-3 FGs). Even without Derrick available for Utah, it was Howard and Millsap (combined 6-for-20 FGs, zero assists) that did their team no Favors on that November evening. Adequately contested at turns by Gobert (10 D-Rebs and 5 blocks vs. ATL on Nov. 25), Diaw, Lyles, and Jeff Withey, Atlanta’s starting frontcourt duo could produce neither buckets nor second-chances for Atlanta (11.5 O-Reb%, second-lowest of the season), as half of the team’s six offensive rebounds came from Thabo Sefolosha (out again tonight) off the bench. The Hawks mimicked Quinball as best they could (84.4 team D-Reb%, 39.1 opponent eFG%) in Saturday’s 113-86 mastery of the Magic, an outcome that could have only been more dominant had Atlanta found a way to keep Orlando (25-for-28 FTs) off the free throw line. Key to the rare relaxing victory was Dennis Schroder, shedding his recent slump by controlling the ball, directing player movement, and defending well (10 assists, 2 TOs, 2 steals), while helping all five Hawk starters shoot above 50% from the field. Delaney, off the bench, and Hardaway also provided some sorely needed perimeter shots (combined 5-for-10 3FGs) to help keep the Magic at bay. A similar effort from Atlanta’s guards will result in a far more competitive effort against Hill, Hayward and the Jazz. Three-pointers will be hard to come by for Schroder, with Hill (98.2 D-Rating, 1st among players w/ min. 30 MPG) in his face for much of the game. But if Dennis can find some space for mid-range shots off his drives, he can draw Gobert away from the rim and open up Howard and Millsap inside. Whenever Gobert’s teammates effectively rotate, the frontcourt players in turn must keep the ball moving and identify open shooters and cutters. For the next several months, there will be no blitzing, no five-step drops, no onside kicks. And there is, sadly, no parade preparation in the wings. But there is no excuse for our Rise Up chanters to Pack Up and Settle Down. There remains a prominent Atlanta team, a presently and consistently winning one at that, to rally around. Until the next kickoff at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the more recalcitrant among our Falcon-fan “Brotherhood” ought to take some time to acknowledge, and support, the field goals being converted right down the street at Philips Arena. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  8. “Ssssssmokin’! Okay, okay… vapin’, but still!” One of the most significant draft picks in Utah Jazz history returns to Salt Lake City tonight, as the Jazz prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks (9:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, ROOT Sports Utah) at whatever Vivint Smart Home is Arena. That’s right, you know who I mean. Welcome back to Salt Lake City, Kris Humphries! There wasn’t an NBA draft lottery back in 1984, when the Jazz took a little-known John Stockton from a little-known Gonzaga. Utah didn’t even need the inaugural lottery the next season, when they took a barely-known Karl Malone out of barely-known Louisiana Tech. Thanks mostly to those two future Hall-of-Famers, and superb coaching by Jerry Sloan, the Jazz would not have to resort to Lottery Fever for 19 years. The first season without either of Stockton or Malone, the 2003-04 Jazz surprised NBA pundits but, by just two games, missed out on playoff qualifying for the first time since 1983. With the final lottery selection, they took a fresh-faced 19-year-old big man out of Minnesota. Humphries was taken one pick ahead of Boston’s Al Jefferson, a decision Utah would come to rectify six seasons later. While he was no SLC Punk, Humphries was never going to live up to the shadow of The Mailman, and perturbed Sloan with a tendency to look for his own shot ahead of all other options. Hump was traded two seasons later to Toronto for the great Hoffa Araujo, who lived up to his nickname by disappearing off the face of the Earth. Three weeks after trading away Humphries in 2006, the Jazz had back-to-back second-rounders. After selecting Dee “Not the Dude with the Pump” Brown from Deron Williams’ Illinois, Utah decided to draw from the La-Tech well again. This time, they brought in collegiate uber-rebounder Paul Millsap. In the time between the Jazz being D-Will’s Team and becoming Al Jefferson’s team, Millsap developed and ably filled in the gaps. Utah reached the postseason for four straight seasons from 2007 and 2010, Millsap coming alive off the bench in a first-round series win over Carmelo Anthony’s Nuggets. Paul then helped right the ship after the Sloan-Williams implosion left the Jazz barely missing the playoffs in 2011. After making the 2012 playoffs as an 8-seed, Utah fell short in 2013, and watched Millsap leave via free agency to Atlanta. The Jazz never got to see either Millsap or Humphries playing on their team while reaching their individual NBA career-peaks. Tonight, Jazz fans may get to see them on the floor in tandem, as Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer seeks out the optimal frontcourt pairings to offset Utah’s newest young stars, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Acquired on Draft Night 2013 from Denver for the low-low price of second-rounder Erick Green and cash, Gobert (4.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, 1st in NBA; 6.2 Block%, 2nd in NBA) has blossomed into one of the most fearsome defensive players in the league, at just 23 years of age. Meanwhile, the heir-apparent upon Millsap’s departure, the 24-year-old Atlanta native Favors (51.7 FG%, 12th in NBA; post-Break 18.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG) is enjoying arguably his best season. With Gordon Hayward (career-best 20.1 PPG) and now his former Butler teammate, Shelvin Mack, in tow, coach Quin Snyder and the Jazz are cultivating a mix of youthful but experienced players, and even younger talents possessing superstar potential. Utah’s “The Kids Are Alright” roster-building plan would be even more obvious if they had guards Dante Exum (out for season, ACL surgery) and Alec Burks (sprained ankle, back in a couple weeks) healthy. Another Draft Night 2013 acquisition, Hawks pick Raul Neto, and 2014 first-rounder Rodney Hood (87.0 FT%, 16th in NBA) have filled in ably in Exum’s and Burks’ absence. Favors and Gobert have missed significant time as well. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey would never admit to trying to rub it in, but last month he brought in Green, waived earlier this season by the Nuggets, to join the team for a pair of 10-days, before replacing him with Mack. It’s not the only way that Utah (29-33) hopes to organizationally stick it to their Northwest Division foes. Making the playoffs for the first time since Millsap’s 2011-12 season would likely come at the expense of either Houston (1.5 games ahead) or Portland (3 games ahead), each of whom owe a lottery-protected first-rounder to Denver this summer. They’d really love to make Denver wait a little longer for the Houston pick to show up, especially if doing so includes a couple extra visits by the Warriors to the Beehive State in late April. It helps that, of their remaining road schedule, just one of Utah’s remaining opponents is presently playoff-bound. They’d also love to be humble-bragging about that other Draft Night 2013 trade, the one with the Timberwolves that netted them guard Trey Burke. Sadly, Burke’s development seems to have cratered again (post-Break 34.4 FG%, 29.6 3FG%, 6.5 PPG and 2.0 APG), justifying the Jazz brass’ search for a postseason-tested and well-rested guard that could quickly acclimate himself to Snyder’s gameplans ahead of a playoff charge. It’s Mack, the former third-stringer Hawk, that is filling the bill. Shelvin has started for Utah in the last seven games at the point, and has averaged 11.3 PPG (44.3 FG%, 30.0 3FG%) and 3.8 APG. It won’t be much of a stretch for Snyder, a former lead assistant under Budenholzer, or Mack to prepare a game plan for Atlanta’s Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder. Both of Atlanta’s lead guards did just a fine job of leading on Saturday night against Chris Paul’s Clippers in Los Angeles, absorbing the Clippers’ best offensive punches in the opening quarter before stifling them the rest of the way. Teague (22 points, 3-for-4 3FGs, 7 assists, 2 TOs @ LAC) played smart defense and hit big shots at the other end, while Schröder (6-for-10 FGs), moving right up the list of the league's top sixth-men, provided offense that kept L.A. on their heels for much of the night. Helping to keep their hosts at arm’s length, Schröder and the Hawks’ starters missed just one free throw while taking advantage of Clipper center DeAndre Jordan’s Achilles’ heel (7-for-17 FTs). Will we see a similar Hack-a-bert approach by the Hawks (35-28) tonight against Utah? It’s quite likely to happen, albeit to a more judicious extent. Gobert (78.2 FT attempts per 100 FG attempts) gets roughly the same proportion of his scoring (28.8%) as Jordan (27.9%) from free throw line trips. While DeAndre’s 43.2 FT% pales in comparison, Rudy’s 59.1 FT% (post-Break 51.6 FT%) is still fourth-lowest in the league among shooters with 100 or more attempts. Favors’ 71.0 FT% (10th-lowest among current NBA qualifiers) is just slightly better. The Jazz big men are at their competitive best when opponents allow them to camp around the rim in search of dunks, swats, and putbacks. A rested and more acclimated Humphries should help Atlanta keep the likes of Gobert, Booker (10th and 9th in NBA for O-Reb%, repsectively), Favors and Jeff Withey at bay. Edy Tavares is in Austin with the Lil’ Spurs, putting off the possibility of the league’s longest-limbed competitors for another day. The Hawks’ offense will try to spread out the Jazz defense, with pick-and-pop jumpers from Al Horford and Paul Millsap dragging Gobert and Favors out of their comfort zones. Help from Hood and Hayward will further open up Atlanta’s wing shooters, as Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore (each 2-for-5 3FGs @ LAC) continue to comb out their offensive kinks. Persistent penetration by Teague and Schröder, and weakside cuts by Thabo Sefolosha and Bazemore, should have Utah’s defensive bigs in pick-your-poison mode for much of the contest. Despite their youthful energy, Utah is the league’s slowest-paced team by far (93.4 points per 100 possessions; 8.2 fastbreak points per 100 possessions post-All-Star-Break, 29th in NBA), and it will be up to the Hawks to get the lead out. Hayward, Burke, Favors and Mack will soak up as much of the shot clock as they can, so Atlanta defenders need to pressure them into hurried shots and unwise decisions whenever they put the ball on the floor. The Hawks (51.6 eFG%) are a shade-behind Cleveland and the East’s most-accurate shooters from the floor, but rank last in the NBA with four or fewer seconds to go on the shot clock (33.9 eFG%; 11.9 TO% 2nd-worst in NBA), which is right where Utah wants them. Halfcourt discipline by Teague and Schröder should lead to wise first-shot opportunities early in the possession, and fastbreak options are available when Utah’s bigs get caught cherry-picking too frequently. Learning to dictate the tempo in Utah will be good practice for the Hawks, who face similarly deliberate yet more seasoned and successful teams (Toronto and Memphis) in their next two games. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  9. “SOON.” Once again, we’ll likely miss Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer roaming the sidelines for this early Sunday tilt against the Utah Jazz (6:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain Plus), leaving the X’s and O’s to his trusty assistant, Kenny Atkinson. Like Coach Bud, one of former trusty assistants, in particular, can always be counted on for hard-hustling teams, along with downright hilarious stares and glares from the sideline. At first glance, Russian-meat-jello afficionado Quin Snyder looks like one of those meanie parents with their children tethered to leashes whenever they’re out in public, just daring anybody to try telling them how to raise their yung’uns. In reality, he’s molding a youthful but spirited team, and building a mindset that they need not settle for less, that “on the verge of being good” isn’t good enough. “I think we’ve realized we really haven’t accomplished anything,” remarked Gordon Hayward (16.7 PPG), whose shot has gone wayward (39.8 FG%, 30.3 3FG%) at the outset of this season. Utah’s leading scorer was briefly reflecting upon the second half of last season, when the Jazz went 19-10 after the All-Star break and nearly backed into the eighth and final playoff spot. He asserted than it’s not the players, but the media, who have been “really hyping us up and hyped us up all offseason, and we really didn’t deserve any of that.” If Snyder could play one instrument in a jazz orchestra, he’d go for Sad Trombone. “I’m not dampening any enthusiasm,” he said, before assuredly dampening someone’s enthusiasm, “but I am being realistic about who our group is – and that’s what our group needs. We need to be realistic about the level (of NBA competition) that’s out there and, if we want to reach it, it’s a hard road.” This young Jazz team (4-5) isn’t relying on social media and pundit outsiders to give them feedback. Just Snyder, and Snyder alone. And my, what a young crew this is. The oldest player on the roster is a Millsap – the third youngest of the Millsap hoop clan, Elijah, who just turned 28 three months ago. But rather than cowering, they’re rallying around their crotchety second-year coach and adopting his precepts for re-building a successful franchise. Speaking of hard roads, the Jazz’s four-game road trip, wrapping up today in the ATL, really wasn’t too harrowing. A four-point loss in Cleveland, after giving up a fourth-quarter lead, was followed by a one-point setback, in Wade-less Miami, that was close to the vest throughout despite Utah missing human eraser Rudy Gobert (ankle), who’s second in the league with 3.1 BPG. Gobert, who grew up a couple hours north of the site of the recent tragic events in Paris, missed Utah’s 102-93 loss in Orlando and remains questionable to play this evening, as is second-year swingman Rodney Hood (foot). Both players were participants, however, in shootaround this morning. Snyder’s troopers have generally had to mold together away from Salt Lake City. After this evening’s affair, Utah gets two days off before Toronto visits, for what will be just the Jazz’s third home game out of 11 so far. He was a Hornet in high school, a Yellow Jacket in college. Now in his sixth professional season, Atlanta native Derrick Favors is really putting the sting to opponents. Averaging nearly a double-double with 15.0 PPG and a career-high 9.1 RPG, Favors is now contributing a Millsapian 2.4 SPG (2nd in NBA for steals per 100 possessions) to go along with 1.7 BPG. Plus, his per-minute turnovers and fouls are as low as ever. It’s hard to ask for much more, but if we were Quin, we’d curry Favors to raise that free throw accuracy up above 66%. Favors forms an offensive triumvirate with Hayward and sixth-man Alec Burks (55.0 3FG%, 3rd in NBA), who missed the back end of last season after suffering a shoulder injury. Unless point guard Trey Burke emerges, however, this season will feel like a bit of a wild card for Utah. They’re certainly missing Australian import Dante Exum, who is out this season after tearing his ACL in offseason play for his national team. Instead of starting Burke, Snyder has gone with former Hawks second-round pick Raul Neto, who hasn’t done much yet to earn a Stat of the Night (3.4 PPG, 2.0 APG, 27.0 FG%), but seems to have picked up defensive concepts better than Burke (46.4 3FG%, 11th in NBA) to this point. Burke (team-high 16 points @ ORL, 7-for-12 FGs, 4 assists, 1 TO) will come off the bench and do all he can to forget his last meeting versus the Hawks in SLC (2-for-19 FGs, 0-for-11 on small-t treys). Burke did contribute a season-high 11 assists at the Highlight Factory during a close loss to one year ago, when the Hawks held the Jazz to nine fourth-quarter points and seized the lead on a Kyle Korver three in the final minute of play. Burks (22 points, 8-for-10 2FGs @ ATL last November) and Hood have filled in the playmaking gap for Utah’s slow-cooking offense. But for the Hawks, the best playmaker on the floor today needs to be Dennis Schröder. Jeff Teague gets to rest his rubbery ankle after spraining it before halftime of Atlanta’s 106-93 loss in Boston on Friday night. Schröder will continue to get some help from point-center Al Horford (8 assists, no TOs @ BOS on Friday). Horf will continue daring centers to step outside the paint, but he must be a more active body at the other end to keep opponents on their heels. Horford has grabbed more than five defensive caroms just once in his last six appearances. Favors will do all he can today to slow his old mentor. While it is understandably a small sample size, Paul Millsap’s averages of 20.5 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 3.3 APG are career-high marks versus any NBA outfit, and there’s little denying he enjoys showing his old employer all the new tricks he’s picked up since leaving the Wasatch Range behind. Anybody who came to the game tonight to see a head-to-head between the windmill-armed centers Gobert and Walter Tavares will likely come away disappointed. But both Tavares and Lamar Patterson are back on the roster after having a productive two-game stint with D-Leaguers in Austin. Less likely is a matchup between ex-Wolverine star guards Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. What fans will want to see is a renewed commitment to team defense by the Hawks (8-3) that has slipped in the past week or so. Opponents’ offensive efficiency has exceeded 100.0 points per 100 possessions in Atlanta’s last three contests, and four of their last five games. Their 3.2 steals per 100 possessions versus Boston was by far the lowest of their season, compounded by a 63.8 D-Reb percentage that was the lowest since its opening-night loss to Detroit. Kent Bazemore and Justin Holiday will need to seal off the perimeter, allowing former Jazzmen Korver and Millsap to help secure the defensive boards and ignite the fastbreak for Schröder. Things get no easier if Rudy (12.1 O-Reb%, 12th in NBA) is a Go for today’s action. But in addition to Horford, if Tiago Splitter (career-low 5.3 D-Rebs and 0.6 Blocks per-36; one block in last eight games) cannot be more productive as a defender, it will be harder for the Hawks coaching staff to keep Tavares in tutorial mode. Even without Gobert, rookie Trey Lyles and vets Trevor Booker and Jeff Withey loom around the rim. Snyder is in as good a position as any NBA head coach to gameplan against the Hawks and help the Jazz stem their three-game slide. How well the Jazz sop up his mad-scientist wisdom will go a long way toward determining how competitive today’s action will be. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record