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Found 28 results

  1. “…and then Trae can just lob it to Zion from right about… there.” Still slouching all weekend on the MLK Draft, so it’s Tidbits Time! First, Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs. Let’s get the particulars (8:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, KENS 5 in SATX) out of the way. The Spurs (17-22) ought to be the Patron Saints of Boomer NBA Twitter. If you long for the dying art of the mid-range jumper, DeMar DeRozan’s game is tailor-made for you. DeRozan will hoist the occasional triple shot, every other game or two, just for GP (General Principle, not so much Gregg Popovich). Yet the reigning Western Conference POW has been on a tear like few other NBA stars since mid-December (last 12 games: 65.1 FG%, 87.6 FT%, 27.3 PPG, 5.7 APG) while going almost entirely against the grain (0.6 3FGAs/game). Slashing for dunks and threes “The Old-Fashioned Way” (72.7 2FG% within 10 feet of the rim) has been enough to keep DeRozan’s scoring average high, but the main thing is that his jumper (62.9 2FG% on pull-up shots) has been as wet as a Riverwalk gondola. There have been only two NBA players in the past 35 years that have gone on a streak of 20-point games while shooting 52 percent or higher in each of them. Yet unlike His Airness, no one is out here making a silhouette out of DeRozan’s 15-foot pull-up. Breaking MJ’s “record” with Game #13 tonight (further, joining Kareem, Shaq, KAT, Mailman, and Greek Freak with 13+ game streaks of 20 points & 50 FG%, as per bball-ref) seems an easy reach, on paper, with Atlanta (115.3 road D-Rating, 28th in NBA) in town. However, Double D may first want to consult with fellow Texan James Harden, whose historic 30-point scoring streak ended at the hounding hands of DeAndre’ Bembry and the Hawks in Houston last year. Many Boomers’ least favorite NBA Boomer keeps the Spurs from being fully embraced by those who miss the days of Ginobili’s money elbow jumpers. There are signs, though, that even Coach Pop is relenting on his team’s mid-range mania. NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh notes that the Spurs are the last of the 30 NBA clubs to ever have a calendar month where they’ve shot over 30 three-point attempts per game. They came close in December (28.9 team 3FGAs/game), and they’re well on their way to getting it over with this month (33.1 January 3FGAs/game). The biggest factor is their big factor, LaMarcus Aldridge. LMA was just dabbling until going 3-for-5 from downtown, dropping 40 in a 30-point Spurs win at Memphis on December 23. From that point on, he’s been like Mikey eating Life cereal (2.7 3FGs/game, 53.6 3FG% in last 11 games, at least one 3FG made in each). Hey, LaMarcus likes it! Aldridge’s and DeRozan’s recent exploits are arriving too late for whippersnapper All-Star fan voters to put down their avocado toast long enough to care. But if they keep it up, and if the Spurs (1.0 game behind red-hot 8-seed Memphis) can stay in contention for their NBA-record 23rd-straight playoff appearance, media and coaches will be sure to make note. Wednesday’s 106-100 loss in Miami concluded a 4-game road trip for San Antonio (8-9 vs. NBA East), and the annual Rodeo Road Trip month of February is right around the corner. Despite a loss to the payback-seeking Grizzlies last Friday, they managed to steal two impressive wins, beating Boston and staging a triumphant return for DeRozan at defending-champion Toronto. Just 11-9 at home, the Spurs want to build some momentum at AT&T Center, since they’ve got just six home games left (incl. Hawks and heat this weekend) before the eight-game road swing that straddles the All-Star Break. Two days after losing in Milwaukee, the Spurs came home and bashed the NBA-best Bucks 126-104 on January 6, their last home appearance. The deluge came mostly off the bench, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills (combined 8-for-12 3FGs) scoring 38 of San An’s 59 bench points. Spurs reserves rank top-5 in the league in per-game points, rebounds, assists, and blocks, which can be amazing when one considers how tough it is for some to get a steady diet of floor time. Coach Pop’s Good Side is like the Holy Grail. Our old friend DeMarre Carroll (9 MPG, 22 DNPs and counting; salary guaranteed through 2020-21) is still searching for it. Rookie first-rounder Keldon Johnson (7 total minutes in 2 appearances) and sophomore Lonnie Walker (one pick before Kevin Huerter, who’s played 2400 more minutes) can’t find it. But once somebody succeeds in currying favor with Popovich, it’s hard for the coach to even consider turning to somebody else. Dejounte Murray spent all last season recovering from an early-season injury, only to find himself scrapping for minutes (and, for a while, starts) with Pop tart Derrick White. Like DeRozan, Murray is unlikely to be a safety valve along the three-point arc (1.3 3FGAs/game) and his assist production (4.1 APG, behind DeRozan’s 5.1) leaves a little to be desired. But Murray’s defensive game (3.3 steal%, 2nd in NBA) remains his strong suit, the kind of thing Coach Pop and the Spurs (111.5 D-Rating, 20th in NBA; worst D-Rating since 1996-97) used to profess to caring about. Murray finds his playing time gobbled up by the players Pop has grown enamored with over the years, whether it’s the slightly more seasoned White and Bryn Forbes (36.6 3FG% on a team-high 6.2 attempts/game), or aging wonders Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills (40.7 3FG%). Maybe Popovich is holding out for Dejounte to stretch the floor more effectively, or to provide more consistent offensive production. But the early returns on The Tony Parker Treatment don’t seem to be going well. Murray was benched mid-3rd quarter for the rest of the game in Toronto, before the Spurs’ comeback from 17 points down to win. Similarly sidelined by Pop in Miami on Wednesday, he returned in for a couple minutes midway through the fourth quarter. But after matching an offensive foul he drew with one of his own, Dejounte was pulled and never saw the floor again. Trey Lyles (12 boards in the 108-100 loss @ ATL on Nov. 5) lost his starting gig for a stretch, but Pop still re-Lyles on him to start. Despite the forward averaging 5.6 PPG on 38.6 FG% over his past 15 starts, Lyles’ penchant for occasionally having a big rebounding day keeps him on the top line, much to the chagrin of Jakob Poeltl (I’ll start pronouncing his name right if we bother to trade for him; 8.0 RPG and 2.3 in his paltry 7 starts this season). I’m going to have to give up on my Boomer mentality that one can’t possibly depend upon conventional power forwards to be full-time starting centers. That seems to be where Popovich is at, with Lyles adjacent to the new stretch-five Aldridge. For the time being, it appears to be Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce’s newfound stance as well. Help may indeed be coming soon for Trae Young, in the form of former Hawks good Jeff Teague (out for tonight along with Trevon Graham, paperwork, what’s the rush). As for Teague’s Demon Deacon alum John Collins (9.8 RPG and 3.0 BPG in last 5 games; one or more swats in 13 of 15 games, 30 of 61 games last season), “help” may have to eventually come in the forms of Bruno Fernando (re-activated tonight) returning from Collipark, and Jabari Parker’s shoulder and Alex Len’s back getting straight. Blotting out the Suns on Tuesday night was made a little easier for the Hawks, with Ricky Rubio out and a pleasant dash of home-cooking from the refs (Tired: protect the rim in transition. Wired: give up dunks but goad opponents into taunting techs). But it also was great to see Collins, Huerter and Young looking like the most melodious collective since Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. All three Hawks had double-doubles against Phoenix, the first trio in NBA history to do so before any of them hit their 23rd birthday. Huerter (15 rebounds, 8 assists, 4-for-5 3FGs and a steal on Tuesday) was particularly effective in making Kelly Oubre look more like Kelly Price. To keep recent history from repeating, Murray will do what he can to suppress Trae (29 points, 13 assists, 3 TOs vs. SAS in November) after the Spurs guard endured a nightmarish 4th-quarter stretch when the teams last met. The Spurs will also seek to overwhelm the Hawks with size upfront. Atlanta (9-32) offset any disadvantages with Huerter’s prowess, plus Young rewarding Damian Jones with post feeds for his activity off the bench. But the Hawks are really well-aided when De’Andre Hunter is a gatherer on the boards. Including his team-high 8 rebounds when the Hawks last beat the Spurs, the power forward by circumstance has only collected six or more rebounds in six games. Yet the Hawks are a sturdy 3-3 in those contests and hadn’t lost one of those games by more than 8 points (also back in November, when he snatched a season-high 11 rebounds plus 27 points vs. Milwaukee). At least for tonight, particularly when matched up against Lyles or Gay while Cam Reddish checks DeRozan, Hunter could be Collins’ biggest help of all. February 15, 1997. Boomers were thriving, bread was a nickel, Nique was a Spur, we know the story. Let’s just relax about the Alamo City losing streak for now. If the Hawks pull off an end to the nearly quarter-century run tonight, that’s great. If not, let’s all chill until Atlanta can build a sustainable core worthy of ending it once and for all. Schedule Watch! The Hawks aren’t in town, but I bet you can guess who is. That’s right! The Detroit Pistons get the second of their two-days’ rest in the ATL while awaiting the Hawks’ return from Texas for a game tomorrow evening (way fewer Tidbits tomorrow, I promise). This feels all so… familiar. Hey, NBATV, why don’t you pull a curveball and make Jeff Teague your special in-studio guest tonight? Oh, who am I kidding? It’ll probably be Andre Drummond. Might as well make use of the Big Penguin’s time, since it sounds like he won’t be chillin’ around town for long. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  2. Meanwhile... the last NBA visitors to lose at The Farm may or may not be handling the losing ways well. ~lw3
  3. “MIIIIIILES PLUMLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” Arriving in the mid-1990s, my first place of residence in Atlanta had no sunlight coming through the front windows. The rear windows allowed a picturesque view of the late John Portman’s stylized downtown skyline, almost exactly the one popularized in postcards and on TV shows. But by the time the sun’s light creeped through those windows, after work, it was already setting in the west behind those hulking skyscrapers. For the first year of my life in Atlanta, the imposing multi-story structure across the street shadowed my humble, 60-year-old studio apartment, the factory’s broad windows and former entrances solidly boarded. One fading word on that building gave a hint of its past glories: “Scripto”. The world-famous writing pen and butane lighter company was an Atlanta institution, with nearly a thousand workers at this plant for over four decades before moving to the OTP ‘burbs in 1977. Not long after the factory and office buildings were shuttered, the daylight was about the best thing anyone could hope for while living in that area. Here was the makeup of the block around this defunct building: a probably-unlicensed taxi company; a five-dollar barber shop; maybe the Northern Hemisphere’s last speakeasy; a tire repair company and storage lot; a pool hall; and a “dance” club, where there was more standing around and posturing than legit dancing. Surrounding this block: weathered, poorly-managed apartments; trap houses whose tales would soon make rappers famous; and Fulton County’s drug and alcohol treatment center, a package store within view of its front windows. The area around the Scripto building slept during the day, but the streets and their inhabitants came “alive” at night, especially on Friday and Saturday nights in the ‘80s and ‘90s. If, by, “alive,” you could count beat-heavy music bumping from cars, and ladies-of-the-evening, a few of them actual ladies, negotiating with suspiciously slow passers-by through their car windows. Bitter, boisterous, bullet-riddled arguments over lost wagers and bargained wages, were de rigeur on weekends under the moonlight. This scene wasn’t all that unfamiliar, I suppose fortunately, to Atlanta’s newest arrival from Philadelphia. Still, my one place of solace lied just two blocks south, at a tomb, surrounded by a reflecting pool, containing the remains of Atlanta’s, and America’s, most prominent civil and human rights advocate, situated between the church he and his father once led, and his birth home. This area was not always this way. It would not be for much longer. In December 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Oslo, Norway, accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace. The day after flying home from Scandinavia, the Nobel Laureate joined members of his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, marching in the Sweet Auburn streets with striking workers from the nearby Scripto Pen Company plant, demanding equal pay for both its skilled and nonskilled laborers. The year of ’64 was a pretty big one in the City Too Busy To Hate. Just days before King marched with the Scripto picketers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the owner of a hotel just across the freeway from the plant. In a landmark case, the Court found that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution allowed Congress to compel private businesses like his to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enacted earlier that summer. Many downtown businesses, notably Rich’s Department Store, were already taking the hint by then, thanks to student sit-in protests like the one in 1960 at Rich’s, where King was arrested. Atlanta’s public schools, like the all-black high school right down the street from Scripto that was celebrating multi-sport star and recent graduate Walt Frazier, were in their third year of wrangling over the federally-mandated demands to desegregate in earnest. Atlanta civic leaders, led by mayor Ivan Allen, were also pushing to become a major-league sports town in the early 1960s, but America’s pro sports associations were dealing with the stark realities of newly integrated teams needing to travel, lodge, and eat together. To facilitate the relocation of baseball star Hank Aaron’s Milwaukee Braves to The South, the city turned to a pair of local Jewish immigrant brothers turned hotel magnates, who constructed the Americana Motor Hotel downtown. Its opening years were marked by Klan demonstrations, and the resistant racists setting a fire in one hotel owner’s driveway, a scene similar to the cross-burning in King’s lawn a couple years before. But Dr. King and civil rights leaders, unintimidated, convened meetings and stayed at the Americana, even before it officially opened in 1962. The hotel deliberately featured no water fountains, since the city’s ordinance still required those amenities to remain segregated. By the spring of 1964, construction of Atlanta Stadium was underway, and the hospitality at the Americana would help convince MLB to move the Braves south. It wouldn’t be much longer before a pro basketball team from St. Louis would come east. In January of 1964, King was named Time’s Man of the Year. That same month, a collection of NBA All-Stars, including St. Louis Hawks draftees Bill Russell and Wayne Embry, threatened to strike and not participate in the game, if owners continued not to recognize the players’ union and its demands for worker accommodations like pensions. Facing the prospect of national embarrassment as minutes ticked by on their first nationally-televised event, the struggling league’s owners and commissioner relented. King may very well have been inspired by the bold 1964 NBA players’ boycott, as by the year’s end, he was touting the need for civil rights to expand its scope beyond public accommodations to issues of collective bargaining with local governments and private industry. In a TV interview discussing the Scripto strike that December, King declared: “We have decided that now is the time to identify our movement very closely with labor,” adding, “There will be many more to follow.” The Scripto strike and the national boycott of its products, promoted by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, proved successful within a matter of weeks. All employees were granted Christmas bonuses and wage increases, and Scripto’s CEO and other business leaders begrudgingly attended the city’s formal celebration of their newest Nobel Laureate. But the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement, under King, into matters of labor, industry and, soon, war-making, unnerved people across the sociopolitical spectrum. An array of “Stay In Yo Lane”-style warnings from Malcolm X to J. Edgar Hoover flooded into King, some cautions more threatening than others. Hoover’s malicious missive to King, masqueraded under the guise of an angry Black citizen, was typed shortly after King was announced as a Nobel Prize winner, yet King returned from Oslo to support the picketers anyway. An AP photographer who followed MLK during that time, and snapped a picture of him with the Scripto strikers, was forewarned by her mother. “Honey, be careful. I’m afraid, someday, someone’s going to try to kill that man.” The mother’s concerns proved prescient. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, 50 years ago this April, while in town convening with striking sanitation workers. Near coincidentally, just a month later, Atlanta developer Thomas Cousins and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders announced the St. Louis Hawks would come to play in King’s grieving city in the fall of 1968. Until a new arena could be built, the Hawks would hoop it up at a coliseum at Georgia Tech, the Deep South’s first higher-education institution to peacefully integrate without a court order. The wild-west-meets-dirty-south nature of the neighborhood I moved to in 1995 would change drastically within a few years, thanks to an oft-tempestuous but eventually productive relationship between divergent King Family members and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) to expand the King National Historic Site from Auburn Avenue to Freedom Parkway. The Scripto factory and surrounding buildings were cleared by the time of the Olympic Games, and the roughneck street became the tranquil parking entryway for the historic site, with its new museum, Gandhi statue, civil rights walk of fame, and Ebenezer church building. The King Center eventually became the nation’s most-visited site under NPS management. Signing a bill by Congressman John Lewis, the former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader, the President formally designated the memorial site an upgraded National Historical Park, the first in the state of Georgia, just days ago. What’s in the area now? The Freedom Parkway trail connecting downtown with east-side neighborhoods and the Carter Presidential Library. Gentrified (yet integrated) apartment and condo towers, including one replacing my old building, with fountains, porches, salons, a popular local drip-coffee shop, and far superior downtown vistas. While the surrounding area continues to have its share of struggles, the only drugs publicly sold these days now come from behind a CVS counter. Our Hawks are fortunate to play in an American city with such a rich history of advancing, however arduously, the principles of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. As Atlanta’s foremost citizen, Dr. King serves as not just an annual inspiration, but a daily one, that we should not feel shackled to the accomplishments and setbacks of the past, to the shortcomings of our present-day, or to the constraining expectations of others around us. A lot of things had to go right, and a lot of tugging in the direction of justice had to happen, before a kid would take the risk of reversing his once-enslaved family’s century-long migration north of the Mason-Dixon line, much less become a supporter and long-winded thread-writer for a local team where fans can, today, come together from all corners of life to cheer. While sleep was often a chore as a new resident, I was fortunate to be able to rest nightly within a stone’s throw of where Dr. King, and later his equally-advocating wife, Coretta, are laid to rest for eternity. The depth of our NBA team’s recent, deliberate downturn in on-court success pales, by comparison, to the unjust hills and valleys our citizens around the globe strive to overcome. Hawks fans might not get to enjoy victory today at The Highlight Factory, as Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs (3:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Southwest in SA, NBATV everywhere else) pay his disciple Mike Budenholzer a visit. The wins for the home team will continue to be few and far between for the foreseeable future. But we know things around here were not always this way. And they won’t be, not for much longer. Sunnier days, dreamier nights, and grander victories, will eventually come if Hawks players, fans, staff and owners commit to thinking smartly, endeavoring patiently, and celebrating our advance toward the NBA mountaintop, together. How long? Not long! Happy MLK Day! And Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  4. “No worries, Pop. That Collins kid will be back down in a second or two.” Vader and Skywalker clash once more! Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, looks to resume his homecourt mastery over the visiting Atlanta Hawks (8:30 PM Eastern. Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Southwest in SA), in the process reminding his self-described former “co-coach” that the student has not yet become the teacher. To which every team in The Association can surely attest by now, double-digit leads are nothingburgers these days, specifically those leads in the teens and twenties. In Atlanta, the Celtics eroded a 16-point first-quarter deficit and eventually found itself cruising to a 110-99 victory with whirling dervish Kyrie Irving at the wheel on Saturday. The day before that, OKC was up 23 points at the AT&T Center early in the second quarter before the Spurs stormed back, taking over on a Manu Ginobili three-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter and hanging on for the 104-101 win. The key to the turnaround, as only Popovich can describe it, was “an attitude change, from ‘poor me,’ to ‘screw you’!” While the Hawks-Spurs series has long been one-sided, particularly here in San Antonio (last Hawks win here in February 1997, 0-19 since), Atlanta has been like a bad penny, hard to shake loose. Four of the past five matchups with the Hawks here in Alamo City resulted in just single-digit winning margins for the Spurs, three of them within five points. A 15-point third-quarter lead by the home team last March was nearly erased, when super-sub Junior Hardaway heated up and a bucket by San An native Taurean Prince shrunk the Spurs’ lead to 86-85 with eight minutes to spare. Even going into the final minute up by 11, San Antonio had to endure threes by Hardaway and Prince and rely on 5-for-5 free throw shooting from Kawhi Leonard to keep the pesky Hawks at arm’s length. Leonard remains a no-go, he and guard Tony Parker missing the start of this season with quad injuries. Even with The KLaw on the floor, without the pesky Parker (DNP) around in March’s 107-99 Spurs win, Hawks guard Dennis Schröder (22 points 10-for-18 FGs, 10 assists, 2 TOs) proved to be a tough cover. With the help of Danny Green (4 steals vs. OKC on Friday, also 5-for-13 3FGs), Coach Pop will design a defensive scheme in hopes of similar fortunes as they had on Friday with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook (5-for-22 FGs, 9 assists and 2 TOs). While it never rose to the scale of “I Dont wanna be here,” LaMarcus Aldridge held an airing of grievances with Popovich prior to the start of training camp. Roundly criticized for his performance in the Spurs’ first postseason without Tim Duncan around, Aldridge felt that a higher volume of early post touches was the cure for his woes. “It was an afterthought [to feed Aldridge the ball early]. But it was both [probably his fault and the team’s] because I didn’t feel like I would get it,” Aldridge divulged to ESPN last month. “So, I probably didn’t run the floor as hard, or I didn’t seal as good. Then, they didn’t look for me. Then, when we [he and the ballhandler] both thought about it, it was too late.” Fortunately for LMA, he’s not in Phoenix but working for a stable franchise with a championship pedigree and a head coach that values input from his senior players. Popovich listened, and LaMarcus agreed to run the full floor. The early returns are promising, as Aldridge has posted a career-high in scoring efficiency (24.4 points per-36) at age 32, with upticks from last season in field goal shooting, three-point attempts, rebounding and assists. But how well the good vibes hold up remains to be seen, at least until usage-leader Leonard and Parker return to the fold. Running the floor is essential for Aldridge (8.4 RPG) and frontcourt mate Pau Gasol (8.2 RPG, team-high 3.8 APG) tonight, as it appears the Hawks (3-13) will have as full a complement of bigs at their disposal as they have had all season. Dewayne Dedmon made things difficult from the jump for Al Horford in Saturday’s return to his old stomping grounds, and there’s no telling how close the final outcome could have been had Coach Bud stuck with John Collins (18 points; 7 rebounds, 3 offensive vs. BOS) a little longer in the final frame against the Celtics. Sixth-man forward Rudy Gay (11.8 PPG) ranks second on the balanced Spurs in scoring, but has yet to fully imbibe his new team’s well-regarded defensive Kool-Aid. Mike Muscala (ankle) and Miles Plumlee (quad) may not get activated, but will be available to play, in Milester P’s case for the first time all season. Coach Bud has stated a preference to go just four-deep at the PF/C spots, and for Luke Babbitt (probable, back) to play more at the 4-spot. So, with former starter Ersan Ilyasova (DNP vs. BOS Saturday) getting back up to speed there may be limited room at the inn, which is a great problem to have. From the field, opponents have been outshooting the Spurs (45.9 to 45.1 FG%) on the season, and perhaps the key saving grace for Kawhi-less San Antonio (10-6) has been the iron being unkind to their foes at the charity stripe (NBA-low 70.8 opponent FT%). Atlanta has shot well away from home (78.9 road FT%, 10th in NBA) and must continue to take advantage on the rare occasions the Spurs (17.1 personal fouls/game, 2nd-fewest in NBA) send the Hawks to the line. Shots failed to fall for former Spur Marco Belinelli (2-for-6 2FGs, 0-for-4 3FGs) on Saturday, and the bench bomber should not hesitate to turn that around tonight. Literally, with the need to push the tempo on the Spurs (NBA-low 97.3 pace) and speed up possessions, shots by the Killer B’s (Belly, Kent Bazemore and Babbitt) have to be more of the catch-and-shoot, rather than the pump-faking, jab-stepping or spot-up, variety. Atlanta’s catch-and-shoot percentage of 41.6 3FG% ranks behind only Golden State’s 42.3 3FG%. On spot-ups, they’re also shooting NBA-highs of 43.7 FG% and 58.1 eFG%, but this can work against them versus a Spurs defense that prefers opposing shooters to be static in the halfcourt. San Antonio wants to shoo the Hawks shooters off the perimeter and put the ball on the floor, in hopes of producing turnovers and wayward shots. Poor me, or screw you? Will a Hawks team, one that isn’t yet playing like it knows either its record or its franchise’s decades-long futility in Alamo City, put the screws to an experienced yet incomplete Spurs squad? And can they do it long enough for Coach Bud to finally feel the proverbial force versus his longtime mentor? Let’s Go (not you Sea) Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  5. “How ‘Bout Them Apples?” The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs have a very real chance to seize the top spot in the West with a win tonight over the Atlanta Hawks (8:00 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL). The Hawks, despite entering Decade #3 of losing in the Alamo City, are aiming for another top-four seed finish in the East. They have a very real opportunity to win here for the first time since Steve Smith’s Hawks blew out Dominique Wilkins’ momentarily-bad Spurs way back on February 15, 1997. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (questionable, concussion symptoms) has a very real chance at being handed the Maurice Podoloff Trophy soon. The Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer, who politicked to get Kawhi in black-and-silver, has a chance to win the very not-real-at-all “Del Harris Trophy.” Coach Del was one pretty funky homo sapien during the 1981 Playoffs, where he navigated Moses Malone and the Rockets all the way to the NBA Finals after finishing the season with just a 40-42 record, the first team with a losing record to reach The Finals since 1959. The Rockets even made Larry Bird sweat it out a couple games before he could earn his first NBA ring. The following season, Harris pulled off his next trick. With Rudy Tomjanovich retiring, Calvin Murphy shifting to the bench, and Mike Dunleavy, Sr. adjusting to life with a namesake toddler and a three-point line, Houston struggled mightily out of the gate. The reigning conference champs started the 1981-82 season at 16-21, with about half of those losses by double-digit margins. But Moses and seasoned newcomer Elvin Hayes worked out their frontcourt kinks, leading to a big turnaround. A close loss to Mike Woodson and Larry Drew in Kansas City ended the regular season for a Rockets team that allowed three more points than it scored. Still, Houston checked in at 46-36 -- at that time, the most victories ever for an NBA team that was outscored over the course of 82 games -- then took Seattle the full three games in the opening playoff round. To this day, only one other NBA team has ever won more games while being outscored in a season. That team, also, was coached by Del Harris. Harris (presently helping Spud Webb run Dallas’ D-League outfit in Texas) took over the helm at The Forum in Inglewood in 1994, shortly after the failed Magic Johnson Coaching Experiment. Del inherited a Lakers lottery team with James Worthy retiring, Nick Van Exel coming off his rookie year and Eddie Jones entering his own, and he kept ex-Lakers Drew and Michael Cooper on board as his assistants. The 1994-95 Lakers continued taking their lumps in losses, but played strongly enough throughout the year to close at 48-34, despite being outscored by 18 points. Their win tally might have gone into the 50’s had Jones and top scorer Cedric Ceballos not missed time with mid-season injuries, or had they not lost eight of their last ten games. The turnaround was good enough for Harris to earn Coach of the Year, and his Lakers continued to impress in the postseason. They upset a 57-win Sonics team in the first round before falling in six games in the conference semis to the Spurs, a team featuring three D.R.’s (David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Doc Rivers) and a VCR coordinated, with aplomb, by a young Mike Budenholzer. After winning their last three games, Coach Bud’s Hawks (37-29) are on pace to win 46 games, despite being outscored by 28 points to this stage of the season. LeBron James’ 2007-08 Cleveland Cavs (45-37) were the last NBA team outscored over the course of a season to win 45 games, and no team not coached by Del Harris (contrary to rumor, not the love child of Lin Dunn and Frank Drebin) has ever won more. Should Atlanta manage to go 9-7 to close out the regular season without outscoring their foes by at least 1.75 PPG, they’ll tie the ’82 Rockets as the 2nd-winningest outscored NBA team of all time, and the 4th-most successful outscored team ever (in terms of winning percentage, behind the ’54 Knicks, those ’95 Lakers, and the ’51 Celtics, as per Basketball-Reference). It speaks to the nature of the Hawks’ season-long play that the above scenario is very plausible. Atlanta could unqualify themselves from this “honor”, however, if they play out the season with the tenacity exhibited during Saturday night’s resounding 107-90 victory in Memphis. This team willingly gives up lightly-contested threes to minimize easy halfcourt twos and clock-stopping free throws, but it’s on the opponents to make those three-pointers when they get them. Atlanta’s last three opponents, Brooklyn, Toronto, and Memphis (combined 19-for-88 3FGs) couldn’t cut the mustard. Tonight, do the Spurs have enough sauce? When a fuller-strength Spurs team visited Atlanta on New Year’s Day, they finished 9-for-27 from downtown, 6-for-19 in regulation (Leonard 1-for-6 on threes, in an uncharacteristic 3-for-12 shooting day; 13 points mostly on 6-for-7 FTs). They finished one make short of what was needed to top the Hawks, who prevailed 114-112 in OT thanks to crazy second-half scoring (27 of his then-season-high 32 points) and a clutch offensive rebound from Paul Millsap, plus a red-hot Tim Hardaway, Jr. (then-season-high 29 points, 9 in OT; 6-for-7 3FGs) and Kyle Korver off the bench. While it remains to be seen whether Leonard will be activated for tonight’s game, some of the Hawks’ starters are catching a break either way. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge is out for an indefinite period, following an unfortunate recent reoccurrence of heart arrhythmia. The crafty Tony Parker (10-for-18 FGs, 7 assists and 1 TO @ ATL on Jan. 1) gave Dennis Schröder fits when the teams last met. Struggling with back stiffness, Parker sits out tonight, as will his lengthy understudy, rookie Dejounte Murray (sore groin). Considering that 3-and-D specialist Danny Green (39.1 3FG%) and wily vets like Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, David Lee and David West will all suit up tonight, MVP candidates like Kawhi (NBA-high 0.278 WS/48; career-highs of 26.2 PPG, 3.4 APG, 89.7 FT%) have had a lot less to work with when trying to win games this season. If Leonard can play, he’ll once again be a handful for the Hawks’ defensive swingmen. But if he is a late scratch, the Spurs’ leading scorers coming into tonight consist of sixth-men: Gasol (12.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, recently moved to the bench), sniper guard Patty Mills (42.1 3FG%), and Ginobili. The trio would also be San Antonio’s leading remnant assist-men. Of course, the Hawks are notorious for playing down to the availability of their competition. They must avoid breakout games by the likes of Jonathan Simmons, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, and surefire Scrabble play Nicolas Laprovittola. Led by Schröder, Atlanta certainly must put the screws to Mills, the guard from Down Under who has helped the Spurs go 30-1 this season when he goes Up Over nine points in a game. He will try to get that many in the first quarter alone. Versus a visiting Warriors team that fielded only Zaza Pachulia among its routine starters, Mills contributed a team-high 21 points in a 107-85 rout on Saturday. He got help in the passing game from forward Kyle Anderson and Manu, the three combining for 16 assists and just 3 turnovers. Mills’ starting Dubs counterpart, Patrick McCaw, was flustered by San Antonio’s defense into an 0-for-12 outing from the field. But the Spurs had few answers for guard Ian Clark off the bench (36 points, 15-for-21 FGs), a development that could portend another green-lit performance by the Hawks’ Hardaway tonight. Playing just 21 minutes in Memphis, Timmy’s 8 points on Saturday concluded a solid 20-game streak of double-digit scoring. Although Dennis struggled defensively against Parker in January, he did drop ten dimes on the Spurs, the final three of them for crucial Hardaway triples that forced overtime and put the Hawks in front during the extra period. Despite dogged defense from Mike Conley and Tony Allen on Saturday, Schröder generated 8 assists, and his Hawks are 9-3 this season when he produces more than 8 of them. The more Mills needs help from Green and/or Leonard in impeding Schröder’s path to the hoop tonight, the better looks Hardaway and Kent Bazemore (15 points, 6-for-10 FGs @ MEM) will receive. If Mills has a rough outing against Dennis (3 steals @ MEM), the only alternative Gregg Popovich has at the point guard position would be rookie shooter Forbes (season-high 8 points in 25 minutes vs. GSW on Saturday), who has made just four assists in 23 games all season. More likely, Coach Pop would rely on Ginobili and Anderson to set up the halfcourt offense. Besides the challenge of countering Millsap without Aldridge around, Popovich will also need a strong effort from the improving Dewayne Dedmon (8.2 RPG and 71.8 FG% since taking over as a starter in January) to keep a fresh-legged Dwight Howard (DNP @ MEM; double-double in 8 of last 10 games) out of the restricted area. Pau is not excited about the notion of the Hawks pulling off a double-play on the road against the Gasol Brothers. When he’s in the game, Pau and Lee will try to play Atlanta’s bigs physically around the rim, in hopes of drawing fouls and opening up shooters outside the paint. If that fails, Pau will try to draw them outside (50.0 3FG%) and open up the floor for cutters. With or without Leonard available, it will require smart defensive wing play by Thabo Sefolosha, Bazemore and Taurean Prince, reading-and-reacting against San Antonio’s playmakers, for the Hawks to keep the Spurs offense sputtering. Whether tonight’s game ends with a close win or a blowout loss, the prospects for Atlanta keeping this season’s win-despite-losing string going is very real. Coach Bud may someday become our Coach Pop. In the meantime, he does just fine as our Coach Del. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  6. Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot, and Never Brought to Mind? ((Blame it on the champagne! Cutting this draft game thread short to get rested up for the games today. Catch y’all later!)) The block is hot, the block is hot! It’s a busy Sunday sports afternoon in downtown Atlanta. Hopefully, the NFC South champion Falcons will make quick work of the New Orleans Saints and sew up a #2 playoff seed. If so, at halftime, fans in the Georgia Dome may consider sauntering down Dominique Wilkins Way to see if the Hawks can keep the San Antonio Spurs (6:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Southwest in SA, NBATV elsewhere Sorry, ESPN lied to me) from extending their win streak to five. For Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, there’s been no letting up on his mastery over his former heir apparent. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is still angling for a first regular-season win over his ex-boss. The last time the Hawks defeated San Antonio in Atlanta, in March 2010, Coach Bud was on the Spurs’ bench, and then-Hawks coach Mike Woodson was almost on his way out of town, despite what would be a 53-win season. To counter Manu Ginobili’s 38 points and Tim Duncan’s 29 points plus 13 rebounds, to prevail 119-114 in overtime, Atlanta needed 22 points and 18 boards (!) from Al Horford, and 26 & 9 from Marvin Williams. San Antonio (27-6, 1.5 games behind Golden State) has since won 11 straight games over the Hawks, piling onto a head-to-head win streak in San Antonio that extends back to the mid-1990s. In addition, here are the resulting scores when Popovich’s Spurs visited what’s purported to be Atlanta’s “home” floor, ever since Budenholzer flew the coop and took the reins here: 105-79 in January 2014, 114-95 in March 2015, 103-78 in December 2015. A victory today is paramount, for Atlanta (17-16) to complete a 3-game homestand successfully. But short of that, the Hawks have to keep teams, whether it’s the Spurs or the Timberwolves, from leaving them in the dust. Tim Duncan has hung up his jersey for the final time, but Atlanta may catch an additional break if San Antonio’s leading scorer is unable to go. Hey, Kawhi Leonard? To kick off 2017, how about a greasy pork sandwich, served in a dirty ashtray? Leonard has struggled with a stomach bug and digestion over the past few days, missing his first pair of games this season. Having the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year (2.0 SPG), 2016 MVP runner-up, and San Antonio’s top offensive threat (40.1 3FG%; career-highs of 9.9 FTs/game & 92.2 FT%) taking another couple of days off would theoretically (these are the Hawks we’re talking about here) be beneficial to Atlanta today. Despite The Claw’s defensive prowess, Leonard is needed on the floor more than ever to keep the Spurs balanced offensively. Staying clear of foul trouble (1.5 personals per game, lowest since his rookie year) is perhaps the reason his shot blocking activity has declined (0.5 BPG, down from 1.0 last season). If he starts today, Atlanta will rely on Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore to shoo him off the 3-point line and settle for interior shots (career-low 49.9 2FG%). Dennis Schröder needs to get his wings post touches that force Leonard to defend the ball up high. Jonathan Simmons stepped up in Aldridge’s absence, the swingman putting up 19 points (most since his season-opener) to help the Spurs come back from a first-half deficit to beat the visiting Trail Blazers on Friday. A former ABL standout and D-League tryout, Simmons is highlight-reel-caliber, but has struggled enough with consistency and focus to keep Coach Pop suppressing his playing time. Kyle Anderson stepped into the starting lineup in Kawhi’s place, leading all starters with 8 boards against Portland. Leonard’s illness has also forced the issue on power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the five-time All-Star who has been hesitant to take over games. Facing his former team for the second time in 8 days last Friday, despite Kawhi being inactive, LMA took just 3 field goal attempts, finishing with 8 points (the Spurs still beat Portland by 18). Despite the 2015 free agent prize’s deferential nature, Aldridge did step things up in the prior three games (26.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 64.0 FG%). Aldridge’s team is eager to get him more mid-range looks. Given that they’re shooting fewer and fewer three-pointers each season (26.7 percent of FG attempts from 3-point range, 28th in NBA; NBA-high 41.0 3FG%), the Spurs are using Aldridge and newcomer vets Pau Gasol and David Lee to diversify the offense. Despite Duncan’s departure, the Spurs also keeping the tempo low (26th in pace) to accommodate their big men. To speed things up, the Hawks have to keep the pressure on Tony Parker (5 assists, no TOs vs. POR on Dec. 30) at both ends, and force someone else on the floor to make quick decisions with the ball. Dwight Howard (13.4 RPG, 2nd in NBA; 78.3 FG% last 8 games) and Paul Millsap have to outrun the Spurs’ bigs and be in position to score when Schröder and the Hawks’ ballhandlers are setting up plays. Kyle Korver (22 points, 3-for-8 3FGs vs. DET on Friday; 6-for-13 3FGs past two games) will be blanketed by Danny Green, but the more that Schröder and the Hawks’ wings can produce while Korver is away from the ball, the more likely Spurs’ defenders will draw help from Green and grant Kyle the cracks of daylight he’ll need to produce from the perimeter. Matching San Antonio’s diverse attack will keep the Hawks competitive for 48 minutes, something we haven’t seen against the Spurs in awhile. Happy New Year! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  7. http://en.yibada.com/articles/123587/20160514/nba-trade-rumors-san-antonio-spurs-jeff-teague-atlanta-hawks.htm
  8. http://www.inquisitr.com/3104024/nba-rumors-al-horford-leaving-atlanta-hawks-for-san-antonio-spurs/
  9. Hey Spursfan, in a close game Duncan didn't play hardly at all. Are you surprised?
  10. My legs haven't uncrossed in about an hour. Get well soon, Manu! ~lw3
  11. “You’re telling me, all I have to do is stand around and smirk for your product line? Where do I sign?” ((Too busy today for a full game preview, so have at it!)) In Springfield, Massachusetts, on a late summer evening in 2025, Gregg Popovich spans the crowd amid his induction speech. There they are, his NBA coaching tree: Ime Udoka, Quin Snyder, Becky Hammon, Mike Brown, Monty Williams, Brett Brown, Boris Diaw. All successful to varying degrees, thanks to his tutelage, and all grinning as they’re seated side-by-side. Coach Pop, however, reserves his best shade for his most trusty sidekick. “I could always count on my colleagues to give it the best they’ve got. As an example, Mike Budenholzer never could beat me in a regular-season game. But, you know what? At least you could tell he gave it his best!” The Atlanta Hawks could do something to thwart this event from happening (not the induction, you know what I mean) by putting a screeching halt to the San Antonio Spurs’ ten-game head-to-head win streak this evening at Philips Arena (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest). The last couple of meetings, the Hawks didn’t really seem all that up to the task. The Spurs mastery continued back on November 28, as the Hawks were held to just 12 second-quarter points, and just 88 for the game, as San Antonio easily pulled away. The crotchety Popovich expresses his begrudging disdain for the long ball: “I still hate it. I’ll never embrace it. I don’t think it’s basketball. I think it’s kind of like a circus sort of thing.” But his Spurs tied their own season-high with nine triples against the Hawks while holding Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford to one three-point attempt apiece (all misses), and limiting Jeff Teague (2-for-10 FGs) to 6-for-23 on threes. Millsap and Horford were rendered futile again on Thursday, as the Hawks (14-10) were hammered on the boards, 52-38, in Oklahoma City. Atlanta sat out Tiago Splitter, who also missed the first meeting versus his old team due to a hip injury, and his presence must be felt tonight to help minimize the rebounding disadvantage. Still, Budball almost pulled it out on the second night of a back-to-back, pulling within a point in the fourth quarter. But blown opportunities around the rim and at the free throw line proved too costly when Kevin Durant and the Thunder made their final successful run. Half-hearted execution and leaving points on the board won’t fly against a disciplined San Antonio team, looking to make amends after faltering to a DeMarre Carroll-less Raptors team in Toronto on Wednesday. It’s the Hawks with a bit of a rest advantage this time, and the Spurs (19-5) fly in from San Antonio after trouncing the Lakers last night. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  12. “I don’t always drink. But when I do, you can be darn sure it’s something better than Dos Equis!” The Professional Basketball Championship Selection Committee, chaired by Charles Barkley and consisting all manner of naysayers, have just two questions when it’s time to judge your worthiness for the postseason. Who did you play? And, who did you beat? To impress, you need to show you’re capable of beating those that impress the committee. The Atlanta Hawks’ 11-7 record doesn’t include gaudy victories, as only the Hornets (9-7), heat (10-5), Celtics (9-7), and the Grizzlies (9-8) have records above .500 on the young season. But vanquish the 13-3 San Antonio Spurs (8:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest), on their home floor (8-0) on the back end of a back-to-back, and you’ll get some Committee members to contemplate whether you’re worthy of more than mere NIT status. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich knows his protégé, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, has now gone two seasons without a regular season victory over his former employer as a feather in his cap. He also knows that, despite close calls for the Hawks in their last two visits to the AT&T Center, Atlanta hasn’t prevailed in San Antonio since Dikembe Mutombo bested Dominique Wilkins’ Spurs at the Alamodome in Coach Pop’s first season at the helm, in 1997. If Popovich had designs on simply letting Coach Bud and the Hawks off the hook, he would not have left Tim Duncan (career-low 27.6 minutes/game, 10.0 PPG, and 8.3 RPG; 2nd in NBA for Defensive Box Plus/Minus) and Manu Ginobili (+20.5 Points per 100 possesions, 3rd in NBA) back home purely for rest, while the Spurs traveled to high-altitude Denver to pan the Nuggets. The team’s two elder statesmen will be refreshed for tonight, as the Spurs face their seventh-straight visitor on the second night of a back-to-back set. It wouldn’t be surprising if Pop limits the minutes for some other Spurs tonight. Tony Parker (57.4 FG%, 1st among in NBA guards) could be capably spelled by speedy point guard Patty Mills (3.1 steals per 100 possessions, 9th in NBA). With Duncan back to rejoin free agent prize LaMarcus Aldridge (9.3 RPG, 15th in NBA), backups Boris Diaw (21.8 assists per 100 possessions, 1st among NBA bigs) and David West could each use a breather as well. Bud has learned the importance of strategic rest, granting Thabo Sefolosha the night off before the Hawks’ most impressive road victory to date, a 116-101 in Memphis. Sefolosha will need all his batteries recharged tonight as he comes off the bench to wrangle The Claw. Amazingly the second-youngest player on the Spurs’ roster, Kawhi Leonard (25 points, 4 steals and 5 blocks @ DEN) is as efficient a two-way player as you’ll find in the league (22.0 PPG; 46.8 3FG%, 6th in NBA; 6.8 TOs per 100 possessions, 7th-lowest in NBA; 4th in Win Shares per-48, 5th in Box Plus-Minus). It will be interesting to see if the defensive effort on Kawhi can be a sufficient balance for the offensive advantage Paul Millsap (23 points and 14 rebounds @ MEM) can have going head-to-head with LMA, who is still learning his role on the defensive end of the floor. Do-It-All Paul joins Leonard as one of four NBA players (Steph Curry and Paul George the others) in the top-ten for both Offensive and Defensive Win Shares. If Leonard roves off of the Hawks’ small forwards, Kent Bazemore and Sefolosha, to help defend Millsap, it’s up to Al Horford (16.3 assist percentage, 3rd among NBA starting centers) and Atlanta’s point guards to find the wings for open shots. The last time Bazemore, who returned for Friday’s victory after missing five games with an injured ankle, participated on the second night of a back-to-back, he exploded for a career-high 25 points against the woeful Wizards. It’s safe to assume tonight’s opponent will pose a greater offensive challenge. How good has San Antonio been defensively? Without Duncan around, they held the Faried-less Nuggets to 80 points, the tenth time a Spurs foe was held below 90 points already. Their defensive rating leads the league, and their relative defensive rating (relative to the rest of the league) momentarily ranks as the best in franchise history. As noted by the Jeff McDonald of the Express-News, the Spurs have won four consecutive games without needing to eclipse 100 points for the first time in five years. The Spurs don't plan on a Wild West shootout with Atlanta. Despite sinking three of his six 3-pointers in Denver yesterday, shooting guard Danny Green has been a bit of a mess on offense (33.8 FG%, 32.5 3FG%). But he still has enough defensive chops to put the clamps on Kyle Korver (63.8 eFG%, 3rd in NBA). The Grizzlies have the highest opponent ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts (35.1 opponent FTA rate), a factor that Millsap exploted successfully yesterday (11-for-13 FTs). The Spurs (20.5 opponent FTA rate) are right there with the Hawks (22.0) at the opposite end of the spectrum. Atlanta ranks 4th in eFG%, and needs to be meticulous in finding the best available shots, not waiting until the end of the shot clock when the Spurs can best sink their teeth into ballhandlers. San Antonio has much to be thankful for when it comes to Atlantans past and present. Besides helping the Spurs acquire just enough lottery balls to acquire Tim Duncan, giving up early on Diaw’s development, former GM and Dookie Danny Ferry committing to the development of Tar Heel Green, and then-Spurs coach Bud needling Spurs management to go after Leonard, Aldridge likely doesn’t return to the Lone Star State without the Hawks prying Tiago Splitter free. Splitter surely regrets not being able to play his former championship mates as he continues to give his hip a rest. In his absence, the Hawks will need continued yeoman’s work out of Mike Muscala (season-high 11 points and 6 rebounds, plus 2 blocks @ MEM). It will be tough for Budenholzer to resist the temptation of countering with Edy Tavares if Popovich tries to deploy fellow 7-foot-3 giant Boban Marjanovic, who started in a teasing six minutes in place of Duncan yesterday. In terms of games played, the Hawks do NOT hold the longest stretch of futility for an NBA team in the Alamo City. That mark actually belongs to one of the Spurs’ Western Conference opponents: the Golden State Warriors, losers of 32-straight. The Dubs don’t visit until March 19; if they’re still undefeated by then, we could have quite a titanic March Madness battle on our hands. Hopefully, The Committee will have Atlanta as a 2-seed by then. But the Hawks must impress people first. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  13. Spurs Hire Becky Hammon As Assistant Coach. Six-time WNBA All-Star thus becomes first female assistant coach in the NBA. Becky Hammon to meet local press in San Antonio this afternoon
  14. Marco with the Mack-o! He's got a future in New York politricks if he's ever interested! :-) He ain't tryna hear that! http-~~-//www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvYIpa1Ulvw http://www.balloverall.com/content/marco-belinelli-offers-girl-d-twitter-gets-put-blast ~lw3
  15. 1997-2012 Better Late Than Never, indeed! ~lw3