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“DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR CRAZY UNCLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!”
Friday Tidbits! A gaggle of Atlanta Hawks will convene at The Farm tonight and try, once more, to beat the Miami heat (7:30 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, BS Sun in MIA).
I can’t let this month pass without serving up some Squawklove for our top-flight Public Address Announcer. Just last April, it was sounding like 6-to-8 weeks, or months, would be a great prognosis for our local radio legend, Ryan Cameron.
Sepsis was the case that they gave him, on top of his longstanding congenital heart condition, and he spent weeks in touch-and-go status in the ICU after undergoing surgery. Cameron fought it off, was back on the airwaves by August, and holding down the mic at State Farm Arena’s center court when the Hawks’ season commenced in December.
I can’t tell you how much joy I get hearing those golden pipes get put to the test. By Tony Snell against the Nuggets. By Danilo Gallinari against a Celtics team that still doesn’t know what hit them. By Steph Curry and All-Stars that made the arena rims look like troughs. Lately, by our fearless Leader of Horde, Bogi Bogdanovic. By Red Velvet against the Pacers. And as always, by Trae Young, whose return from a Grade 2 lateral ankle sprain (out at least a couple games, including Sunday’s versus Milwaukee) will be worth the wait. “FOR THREEEEEEEEEEEE!” All hail The Ryan King!
The bad news? We’re reaching the point where Nate MacMillan and the Hawks’ coaching staff will have no choice but to sort out optimal rotations, involving returning would-be-starters and bench guys, on the fly after the regular season concludes (Magic Numbers: 7 for Play-In, w/ WAS; 12 for Top-6 Playoffs, w/ MIA). The good news? I was worried our other players returning to the floor jussssst in time for Trae/Clint Capela/John Collins to catch demoralizing injury bugs was destined to be a May problem, not April.
Capela (questionable, bruised back, because Atlanta Sports) nearly summoned the spirit of Willis Reed during Wednesday’s OT loss at Madison Square Garden. His will to fight through obvious discomfort, in vain hopes of salvaging a late lead for victory after Young was carried off, should be inspiration to some on the Atlanta IL to get off their dunn, er, duff, and overcome whatever currently ails them. Let’s go, “KD”. (Snell has been upgraded, to doubtful, so that’s something. Gallo remains questionable).
Due to an inflamed knee, Miami star Jimmy Butler wasn’t available to save his team on March 2, when the heat got the deep-freeze from Ice Trae (13 fourth-quarter points) in a 94-80 win that proved to be a pivot point for the Hawks (32-27). In the fourth quarter, MacMillan was able to rest Collins for a game the next evening, a win in Orlando. The Hawks win dropped Erik Spoelstra’s reigning conference champs back below .500, and recovering to their current standing, at 31-28 has been a long slog.
They’ve won three straight since Butler called out his team’s effort as “sawft”, following a loss in Minnesota this time last week. Miami would love to dig themselves out of the Play-In hole and, like the Knicks, dip past the Hawks in the standings with a win tonight, especially with the knowledge somebody not named Trae has to beat them. They’ll fly home tomorrow for a two-games-in-three-nights affair with the 11th-seeded Bulls, a team that’s also figuring out how to make-do without their headlining, double-team-drawing star guard.
Be it Brandon Goodwin (under 10 career mins. vs. MIA, half of them w/ DEN), who starts in place of Young tonight, his Gwinnett chum Lou Williams, Point Huerter or Point Bogi setting the plays, execution on offense must be at a premium. Atlanta committed a combined 38 turnovers in the two-game series straddling the turn to March down in Miami, including a heat season-high 16 steals despite the Hawks’ victory in that latter meeting.
Miami, meanwhile, must make like a streetballing barbershop quartet and stay mindful to pass the ball. The heat are 0-5 when they assist on 20 or fewer baskets, including a season-low 15 when they last lost to the Hawks. Only seven heat turnovers in that game, too, but if you’re shooting 37.3 from the field, you’re not having a field day playing iso-ball (41.7 iso-play eFG%, 24th in NBA). Combined with a deliberately slow pace, Miami has finished six games so far without exceeding 90 points (all losses; 5 times in 73 games last year), which is unacceptable in this day and age unless your last name is Spoelstra.
They’ve been without Trade Deadline pickup Victor Oladipo (out, sore knee) and Tyler Herro (questionable, sore foot), but their absences may only help with their perimeter marksmanship. Miami has shot just 35.0 3FG% as a team (24th in NBA). Thanks to Kendrick Nunn in this week’s home wins over Brooklyn and Houston (11-for-20 combined 3FGs), and Herro shaking off the barnacles in San Antonio on Wednesday (5-for-6 3FGs), the heat have outshot their foes on threes in nine of their past 10 wins (the exception involving a kid named Steph, naturally).
Even if Capela’s a late scratch, rookie Onyeka Okongwu will need to be ready to help Collins and former heat forward Solomon Hill, particularly to keep Bam Adebayo guessing if it’s ever safe to vacate the paint. The heat depend not on blocking shots (4.1 team BPG, 29th in NBA) but making opponents take contested interior shots over height, without fouling.
Their mediocre team rebounding, though (72.6 D-Reb%, 4th-worst in East; 2.8 opponent putbacks/game, 3rd-most in East) can allow Collins and Okongwu plenty of chances at cleanup duty when tough shots go up. In the aftermath of Kelly Olynyk’s trade to Houston and Meyers Leonard’s career immolation, former Hawk starter Dewayne Dedmon has been brought in and is already munching away at rookie Achiuwa’s precious floor time.
Over the past 25 NBA seasons, only one team, the 2009-10 Trail Blazers, have had to watch opponents shoot over 80 percent from the charity stripe (80.3 opponent FT%). Our Fine Feathered Friends ought to be feeling a bit ruffled, this deep in the season, as their foes shoot 80.5 FT%, a percentage that only dropped a smidgen as the Knicks made 20 of 25 foul shots on Wednesday.
It’s a shame, since the Hawks themselves have been reasonably good in this area (81.0 team FT%, 2nd-best in NBA), and a prolonged absence by Young (career-highs of 87.4 FT% on 8.8 attempts/game) may worst be felt here. Kevin Huerter and Bogdanovic have combined to take 1.9 FTAs per game, less than Williams’ 2.5, and our demure wing duo could stand to draw more contact on their trips to the paint. Goodwin’s 62.9 FT% (37-for-41 in prior two pro seasons, 22-for-35 in this one) may be more of a small-sample anomaly, but he’ll need to be on-point when earning points from the line this weekend and going forward.
I know I’m not the only Hawks fan who notices this, too. On the legally obligatory “Without the Expressed Written Consent” ad during any NBA game, the rolling graphic of team logos begins with Boston’s, continues three-by-three in exact alphabetical order by NBA team locale, and ends, after Washington’s, with Atlanta’s. As KRS-One might say, “Why Is That???”
Also, I figured out the Hawks players did their “Take The Shot” pro-vaxx PSA in some swanky Emory Healthcare facility (I think they just replaced the TV ad with Clint’s great one-liner, sadly, after some Uncles got in their feelings and called Hawks Customer Service. Still up on the radio, though!). And I was relieved, because I was ready to hand Johnny Bap the max early, after catching him on the balcony up those fancy curved stairs with that monstrous chandelier, in what I thought was Collins’ MTV crib selfie. “Pay the Man!”, I shouted at first, “because I know the Man has some bills due!”
I’m still not going to games or public events, including the latest MLK-themed Unity Night today. But I did rather enjoy kicking back in a socially-distanced stadium seat mid-day yesterday, watching crew members drawing up the play lines for Atlanta United’s MLS home opener tomorrow versus the Chicago Fire (Saturday night, 8 PM Eastern Bally Sports South).
I had time to chill in The Benz after getting poked, awaiting side effects that never came. Spicoli’s CORE Response, Uncle Arthur’s foundation, and the team of Army soldiers delivering the shots, themselves vaccinated by the Georgia National Guard, had that whole joint running smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy. Now, it helped indubitably that there were next-to-no lines, although I can’t speak for the rush hour crowds (hours vary if you go without an appointment, but they’re open until 4:30 today, and have been open as late as 10 PM mid-week).
A full 24 hours later? To disagree just slightly with our dear rock-band buddies from Athens, it is NOT the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine. Take The Shot! (Qs and As are at https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/taketheshot/... Hush, Uncle Karl, hush!)
Let’s Go Hawks!
“Don’t sweat the game tonight, Trae. Just chalk it up to a Bad Hair Day.”
STATEMENT FROM THE ATLANTA HAWKS BASKETBALL CLUB
ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- “Accountability matters,” says Principal Owner, and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club, Tony Ressler. “When we’re losing for weeks on end, and the performance on the floor is not up to snuff, someone has to be held accountable.”
For that reason, the Hawks have relieved Lethal Weapon 3 (“LW3”) of his duties as Head Gamethread Writer (“HGW”) at HawkSquawk.net, effective immediately after tonight’s game with the Miami heat (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Sun).
“We need insightful, portable analysis ahead of games if we have any chance of reaching the Playoffs,” said Ressler. “Like my wife’s performance in Twister, I demand precision and perfection out of everyone around me. When we’re about to play the Hornets, we can’t afford Storytime With Lethal veering off-topic about his ten most favorite Charlotte Flair matches. I’m sorry, but that’s not what I’m not paying for!”
President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk made the announcement today. “We needed a new voice for the second half of our season, to get us where we needed to go,” said Schlenk, adding, “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”. The Hawks (14-20) have won just 10 of 29 games after a promising 4-1 start to the 2020-21 season, including four wins in their last 15 contests.
Over his seven-year career as HGW on HawkSquawk (“The Squawk”), LW3, a Philadelphia native in his third decade as an Atlanta transplant, averaged 84.7 Gamethread Posts Per Season (GaPPS). In that time, he amassed 14.3 season tickets per year, 3.5 likes per post and 0.99 stars per thread.
“Lethal’s injury updates, ultimately, were an unfair reflection of where our Club is improving, health-wise,” said Mildred Ratched, R.N., Vice President of Athletic Performance and Sports Medicine. “Particularly our free agents. In fact, we’re wheeling out Bogdan Bogdanovic for a few minutes, in time for this next game. Kris Dunn is getting better by leaps and bounds, although, I admit, we’re still working on the whole leaping-and-bounding part. And Rajon Rondo would be activated by now if he would just bother to return my calls. Excuse me, he’s what?”
“Anyway, just to find the positive news in the Gamethreads, you’ll get some silly sidebar from Lethal about memorable scenes from Mommie Dearest,” said Nurse Ratched. “I mean, enough about Tina and the Axe, already! Ugh!”
“He’s a fine enough fellow, who cares way more about Atlanta and its sports history than any sane sentient being should. But, frankly, have you seen the ego on this guy? Unmanageable!”, added Uniform Fashion Guru, Organizational Fire Ranger and Chief Executive Officer Steve Koonin. “Believe me, I’ve had to work directly with Future on a weekly basis, so I know unmanagea— just a minute, folks, I’ve got to take this call… Hey, Camye. Hold on. What do you mean, that was 2Chainz?”
“Don’t nobody look at me,” said Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God. “I’m totally just in this for the sweet, free jerseys. Do these come in full-length?”
Gamethread viewership on The Squawk peaked in Atlanta’s 60-win season in 2014-15, and during LW3’s perennial Trade Deadline Karaoke. He has assailed over 600 current and former players, coaches, TV analysts, owners and general managers, and occasionally Russell Wilson, during his tenure as HGW.
“Indeed, this month is the ten-year anniversary of when Dominique gave that former referee and suit tailor a shiner,” noted Head Coach Lloyd Pierce. “And while that’s nice trivia to know, it’s not the content I need when I turn to The Squawk to prepare for the Miami heat game. I need to read about how we’re going to get Trae to move without the ball after a double-team, how on Earth we’re going to keep Kendrick Nunn from getting wide-open corner jumpshots in transition!”
“I depend on the Squawk to alert me, our scouts, my staff, and my players, that we’ve got to be physical,” said Pierce. “That we’ve got a tag on rollers. We’ve got a punch-on. We have to wipe the post. We’ve got to be into bodies and go over screens. We’ve got to be up to touch in the pick and roll. We’ve got to tag rollers. We have to get to closeouts. We have to force hot shooters to dribble. We’ve got to make our adjustments at the level to screen. We’ve got to X out on the perimeter. We’ve got to be multiple effort. We’ve got to be airspace on the closeouts. We got to pick up full court and get into bodies and change directions and try to spin some ballhandlers. We’ve got to deflect on the ballhandlers. We’ve got to make sure that, when they’re making their crossover, someone’s sitting there. When there’s a driving gap, we’ve got to be in the gaps. We’ve got to make sure that there’s an extra pass on every single possession. When there’s an extra pass, we got to make sure we get out and contest. We’ve got to do it with discipline, so that no one is fouling shooters on the perimeter. We’ve got to make sure we find bodies on the perimeter. We’ve got to come in and make our hits. We’ve got to rebound the basketball, so we can get out and run… oh, fellas, this is Tony on the line, I’ll finish my thoughts later. After all, we’ve got a big rematch with the heat coming up! Nate, wrap up practice!”
“Can you believe nobody realizes I’m still here?”, asks Senior Basketball Advisor and former General Manager Rick Sund, from the Hawks’ corporate headquarters on Marietta Street. “Just between us? Nobody knows I’ve been The Mole this whole time. Shhh! I’m hiding out in an office behind the Coke machine!”
The Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club has won one National Basketball Association championship in its 75-year history, as the St. Louis Hawks in 1958. They have won one Southeast Division championship in the years since LW3 assumed Gamethread duties on The Squawk. In the interim, Hawks fans will post random team stats and stat leaders, betting lines and trends, until they can convince Hubie Brown to take over HGW duties. For more information, please visit hawksquawk.net.
Let’s Go Hawks!