Current Donation Goals
Recently Browsing 0 members
No registered users viewing this page.
“Go to The General and save some time!”
Sorry, Chicago Bulls. Looks like you won’t have Trae Young to kick around this time!
While our Atlanta Hawks head back up to Chicago to wrangle with those wascally Bulls (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, NBC Sports Chicago), kicking off yet another multi-game road trek, Trae the Tank Engine is going to stay behind for now. In the process of trying to keep the Hawks relevant during what was shaping up to be a washout home loss to Giannis-less Milwaukee last night, Young turned his ankle, and a red-eye flight to The Land of Lincoln was certain not to help matters.
The last two times the Hawks had to deal with Jim Boylen’s club, the Hawks were coming off a back-to-back. The Bulls flew to Atlanta back in early November and dusted, by 20 points, a Hawks team that had beaten the Spurs one night before, but was still reeling with John Collins unavailable and Kevin Huerter minutes-restricted.
That was their biggest margin of victory this season. Until this month, when the Hawks, coming off a squandered overtime game in Miami, flew north and within 24 hours watched their dreadful defense head south. In what was becoming a theme for Atlanta (6-twentysomething) this season, the opposition scored their most regulation points, in a 136-102 blowout, since the time when Illinois’ Senator Obama was prepping for the Pennsylvania primaries.
With those last meetings in mind, one wonders, without Trae in tow for the Hawks, how much of a breeze this game will be for the Bulls will be in the Windy City. Laser-focused on keeping Young restless since getting torched throughout last season, the Bulls have held Atlanta’s young star to 12.0 PPG (26.9 FG%, 7.1 3FG%) and a season-low 78 O-Rating. Might their gameplan be thrown off more than Atlanta’s?
Kevin Chouinard noted postgame last night, when Lloyd Pierce was asked about his team’s table-setters in Trae’s absence, Atlanta’s head coach rattled off several inexperienced options: two-way contractor Brandon Goodwin, Kevin Huerter (team-high 3 assists in 27 minutes vs. MIL on Friday), Cam Reddish, even De’Andre Hunter. Perhaps, when it comes to keeping his true designs under wraps, LL Cool P is doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well. But don’t nobody share the Hawks coach’s response with E.T., The Extra Tradebait.
Chicago-adjacent native Evan Turner (last player off ATL’s bench yesterday, 2 assists in 10 minutes) was conspicuous by Pierce’s omission. Well into the midst of trade season, this is as good a time as any for Pierce, with a little prodding by PBO/GM Travis Schlenk, to allow vets to showcase their wares.
Atlanta should allow Turner (5.6 assists per-36, 2nd-highest on team), Chandler Parsons, Allen Crabbe (20 points, 4-for-7 3FGs, 3 steals vs. MIL) to offer flashes of what they could provide, if not the Hawks, then some other NBA team in the back end of this season, beyond their huge expiring contracts. But for whatever reasons, opportunities for Turner (probable, hammy strain from sitting on benches so long) to impress LL Cool P have been crushed like pink cookies in a plastic bag. Three turnovers in under 13 garbage-time minutes here back on December 11 didn’t help Evan’s cause.
A daunting schedule awaits the Bulls (1-11 versus teams currently above-.500) after today, with Bud’s Bucks in town on Monday and games versus Utah and Boston and at Dallas to uncork the new year. At least in the local media’s machinations, Boylen is still on a hot seat, and his team cannot afford to stumble tonight after some questionably inconsistent performances.
Of note, there was the 83-73 home loss to Charlotte two days after pasting Atlanta; a late-game collapse at Dennis Schröder’s OKC; a 1-point win at the whittled-down Wizards; 14 fourth-quarter points in a 103-95 loss at Orlando pre-Xmas break.
Coming into tonight’s action, Lauri Markkanen (tummy flu) remains questionable to play. Leading scorer Zach LaVine (shoulder strain) and top rebounder Wendell Carter (abdominal) are listed as probable, while Otto Porter’s return (foot fracture) has been delayed until probably February. As much as Boylen would prefer to rest them all and allow Tomas Satoransky, Coby White (7-for-11 2FGs vs. ATL on Dec. 11) and Thaddeus Young (9 rebounds and team-high 6 assists off-bench vs. ATL on Dec. 11) run roughshod tonight, he knows his Bulls will need as many points as they can get to keep shorthanded Atlanta at bay.
On a planet that includes the Hawks (103.6 O-Rating), Chicago (12-20) has somehow managed to be the league’s least-efficient offense (103.5 O-Rating). They’re not very good rebounders (bottom-ten in both O-Reb% and D-Reb%), they’re not great at protecting the rock (9th-worst TO%), and they’re not all that big on rim protection (4.4 blocks per-48, 25th in NBA). Imagine those ratings if they hadn't already played Atlanta twice.
But much like George Gervin’s famous finger roll, Boylen’s Bulls can do one thing, really well. As Young can attest, they are masters at dispossessing opponents of the ball. With a little bit of a playoff push, Kris Dunn (NBA-high 4.2 steal%) would become a worthy All-Defensive Team candidate for the Bulls (2.5 GB 8-seed Orlando; 101.4 December D-Rating, second in NBA only to Milwaukee), the league’s leaders in thefts (9.7 steals per-48, no other team with 9 or more) and the NBA East’s standard bearer for deflections (17.1 per game).
Much maligned in the past for his lack of defensive effort, LaVine (career-high 1.3 SPG) and the Bulls (+3.1 December Net Rating, 3rd in NBA East) are modeling for Atlanta how beneficial an aggressive defense can be for a struggling offensive team.
The Hawks won’t have Young (11 TOs in 2 games vs. CHI) tricky-dribbling into the teeth of Chicago’s defensive coverages tonight. But with some well-designed DHO actions and strong-side post feeds featuring Collins (ATL season-high 16 boards last night), they could limit Chicago’s ability to pile on the points off Atlanta’s turnovers, staving off the Bulls’ desire to grab this game by the horns early.
Still, steady low-risk ballhandling will be key, and it’s up to Pierce to identify the players on his roster who could provide that. After two Bulls’ bashes this season, might a Turner bout be fair play?
Let’s Go Hawks!
“Ha! Now I’m up 9-3 in this here 3-point contest, 2Chainz. You know my last make was the DAGGER!”
Okay, Atlanta Hawks, let’s shout it together. “No More Games Unnecessarily Dragged into OT on the First Night of a Back-to-Back While the Next Opponent Rests at Home” ON THREE. ONE-TWO-THREE!!
While the Houston Rockets were on the last night of a three-day respite, just two weeks ago, they kicked back, relaxed, and watched the Hawks engage the Pacers in a knockdown, drag-out. Trae Young’s baskets and dimes (21 fourth-quarter points vs. IND) pushed Atlanta ahead of Indiana three times in what should have been the final nine minutes of the contest.
But for a series of blown bunnies in the final minute of the 4th by Jabari Parker, Alex Len and everyone’s favorite crunch-time Hawk, DeAndre’ Bembry, the Hawks could have enjoyed a pleasant late-night charter from Indiana to South Texas. All of that, and an 18-point second-quarter lead that devolved into a 7-point deficit before the final quarter began. Instead, Young (8 OT points, too, out of his 49 in a losing effort) and the Hawks’ team bus and plane had to idle another hour before departure.
All that energy would have been nice to have saved up for the next night’s game. Instead, Our Fine Feathered Friends found themselves treated to The James Harden Variety Show (60 points in three quarters) as the Rockets meticulously wrapped the Hawks into a Popeyes Po’boy.
Fast forward to the proceedings last night down on South Beach. Sandwiched in-between some insane 23-8 and 24-4 runs by the hosts, the Hawks actually played some decent team-oriented basketball. Then Len did NOT blow a dunk opportunity created by Trae with 59 seconds to spare, putting the Hawks back up by six. That alone should have been worthy of glee, but Young failed to heed my warning (“Do NOT taunt #FloridaMan!”), re-enlivening the hosts for a final curb-stomping that extended all the way into the extra stanza. Hold that plane!
Tonight’s opponent, the Chicago Bulls (8 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, NBC Sports Chicago) are quite grateful for the Atlanta Hawks’ pre-flight plight. They can empathize, too. After all, they were on the same floor as the Hawks were, on Sunday night, clinging to a 1-point lead they gained with under a minute to go. But then Zach LaVine missed a layup with seconds to spare.
While LaVine made up for that with free throws to force OT, instead of flying home triumphantly to face the Raptors the next evening, the Bulls found themselves circling in a holding pattern until The Tyler Herro Hour was through. That show was sponsored by Chicago’s old friend, Jimmy Butler, who assisted on five of Miami’s final six buckets.
Now having dropped three straight, amid growing reports of turmoil around his team, Heisenberg-hunting DEA special-agent Jim Boylen could not have hand-picked a more suitable opponent stumbling into Chi-town (8-17) without a full day of rest.
Lambasted in the media, “social” and otherwise, since taking over for the meek Fred Hoiberg a year ago, for military-grade practice tactics and a “Leadership Committee” intended to quell player feedback, Boylen has to balance pleasing his defensively-deficient scoring star with the need to get stops when the outcomes of games hang in the balance (sounds a bit familiar, no?).
When Butler’s heat forged a 13-0 lead a few weeks ago to start the game against the Bulls, Boylen shelved LaVine in hopes of a spark. “I felt there were some defensive mistakes that didn’t need to be made,” Coach Boy-ar-dee would say postgame. I thought [LaVine] needed to come over and think about it for a minute.” Or, six.
Things didn’t get any better, the Raptors running around undeterred like shoplifters at Sears as Zach E. Fresh sat out the next six minutes. While Chicago’s final charge made the 8-point home loss to Jimmy Buckets and Miami look halfway respectable, all thoughts turned to LaVine and the players’ near-mutinous relationship with the coach.
“I guess I was to blame for it,” LaVine (22.2 PPG; career-high 39.6 3FG%, but 44.6 2FG%) stated not all that cryptically about that loss. “I’ve got pulled early before by him. I guess that’s just his thing to do.” Having cycled through five head coaches already, now in his sixth season in the league, I suppose the 24-year-old LaVine’s a bit of an expert on pro coaching styles after all.
LaVine (6th-lowest Defensive PIPM among players with 650+ minutes; you already know who’s #1) fanned the flames a bit further in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, when asked if his head coach “trusts” him. “I feel I earned that trust, but I guess he feels differently.”
What LaVine may not have figured out by now is, Boylen is doing exactly what he was hired to do. He’s drawing a LOT of the slings and arrows that once flung in the direction of the two-headed management monster known around town as GarPax. Deferring organization-wide criticism away from Jerry Reinsdorf and Garpax, that is Job One.
No future draft picks were coming when the Bulls’ “brain” “trust” shipped Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Bulls fans hoped that Hoiberg would be the guy GarPax insisted could transform the young recipients from that deal, LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn into Rated-R superstars.
Mayor Fred’s already a distant memory. Dunn has been relegated to a Bembry-style defense-ish role off the bench behind free-agent pickup Tomas Satoransky (team-high 27 points and 8 assists in the Bulls’ 113-93 win in Atlanta back on Nov. 6). Marky Markk has been no sweet sensation. He’s a seven-foot forward who can’t shift to the 5-spot, shooting 37.8 percent from the floor, averaging under seven boards and two assists in over 30 minutes per game.
If it’s Otto Porter you’re looking for (3-for-4 3FGs @ ATL on Nov. 6), well, he’s been out with a bum foot after dancing on a ceiling. Tank prizes Coby White (hammy) and Wendell Carter (tummy) are soldiering through ailments of their own, as are Daniel Gafford (finger sprain) and Denzel Valentine (ankle). The one fellow who could conceivably push the Bulls over the top on any given night, LaVine, is on a mission to fry his egg-headed taskmaster, not recognizing Boylen is really just the Teflon. Dark waters, indeed.
You can see why Trae turned his tongue into a lozenge after given opportunities by postgame media to hurl his own coach under the team bus last night, following a crucial final-minute benching. To be fair, Young may have worried that idling bus might run out of gas before the Hawks (6-18) could finally roll out of town. But the young star’s countenance showed he was as hurt by his coach’s non-substitution as anything The Chairman, Melvin Hunt, might have lobbed in his direction.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” Young repeated, in his best imitation of A Tribe Called Quest while his fans back home were screaming, “Oh My Gawd, Pierce! Oh My Gawwwwd!”. Trae could hardly Keep That Same Energy on Twitter, his emoji-laced postgame “Welp” comment met with derision by Butler and the heat star’s newfound #FloridaMan friends. Today’s “Another Day, Another Opportunity (100)” as Trae likes to say. But, for what?
If Boylen is “You,” then Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce is the warm-seat Lottery Land coach “Your Significant Other Told You Not to Worry About.” Boylen would have pointed the finger at his subjects, then had them running suicides hours before today’s game. Pierce, rightfully, directed the bus wheels to roll right over him. Going “defense-offense” isn’t all that risky a strategy, unless you don’t go all the way through with the plan, and wind up with Bumble-bry trying to save the day with the ball in his hands as Trae watches from afar, “pulling for [his] teammates” from the sideline.
“We ended up getting an empty possession on the offensive end (whodathunkit?), and then they come down and hit [Butler], it’s a big 3 to tie it up,” Pierce re-hashed to the AJC and postgame reporters. “And that’s on me… I feel bad. I think I had an opportunity to call a timeout after that first 3. In hindsight, you look back and think of what you could have done.”
No bald-faced lies detected there. But as the Hawks approach tonight’s second opportunity to secure a winning road trip, it’s like arriving for a fancy feast with a horrible taste in your mouth that you can’t get rid of. Hawk-itosis!
As far as riddance goes, Pierce has very little to worry about. The only media roasting he has to deal with is from us key bangers out in social media, most of us threatening not to fill arena seats we already don’t occupy, as the local sports media apparatus is way more toothless and way less ruthless than anything you’d find in the Second City. (Whoever that is over at Techwood Drive who pulled this game from TNT at the last minute, gracias.)
Coming up short of the win in regulation, as his Hawks did last night, might even have earned Pierce some golf claps if we were solidly in the Competitanking™ phase of the season. Like last March, when a Vince-led ragtag group in Miami morphed from defenders into dodgeball competitors in the waning moments and lost by one. “D’oh! (wink, nod)”
LP keeps relationships cordial and forthcoming with the beat writers, solid with the few locals that have any pull. Plus, he’s got unwavering support from the boss who picked him in PBO/GM Travis Schlenk, who only half-pretended this summer that his Hawks were immediately on the come-up to placate ownership and season-ticketholders. But the one way Pierce gets got is if his relationship with his star player deteriorates.
If Young remains as much of a defensive liability as Pierce let on with his late-game substitution decision, that’s not so much a player issue as a problem for the staff and the guy who’s gained acclaim as a “defensive-minded coach” (hmm, what local team have we heard that from before?) and a “developmental coach.”
Absurd runs like the heat, and various and sundry opponents, enjoy against Atlanta, at any time of a game, led by third-tier players whose individual contributions are worthy of induction into Springfield (wait… Duncan Robinson ISN’T the cake-mix guy?), isn’t squarely the fault of the players on the floor, but it can be attributable to the person who puts obviously shaky lineups and combos out there.
In Chicago, LaVine doesn’t have the pull he needs to bend his front office’s ear. But the minute Young, bearing the brunt of mounting losses, decides to declare Pierce to be his Paul Westhead, his Doug Collins, LP would be at risk of getting the AX. Pierce must become as responsible with players on the court as he is relatable with them off it, especially his most important one.
Atlanta’s first 20-point loss of the season came on the back end of a back-to-back, that November game against Chicago where Trae followed up a virtuoso performance against the Spurs by going 0-for-8 from downtown/burbs. Uncle Vince (3-for-4 3FGs, plus 5 rebounds in 16.5 minutes) was again the X-factor that kept the game remotely interesting for Hawks fans.
That defeat came to the Bulls at home, after a satisfying win. What can be expected of this team on the road tonight, after a humbling loss? Hopefully, not another Houston-style game that has LaVine looking like Harden, and a rando like Satoransky looking like vintage Westbrook.
Last month, the Hawks didn’t really have reliable contributions yet from De’Andre Hunter (career-high 28 points, 5-for-10 3FGs @ MIA), who needs to be more than an on-ball guardian to be effective defensively (no more than one steal or one block in past 12 games), and fellow rookie Cam Reddish (7 rebounds @ MIA, most since the season-opener).
Getting these two, plus the returning Kevin Huerter (7 assists, 1 TO in 26 minutes), lots of looks tonight will be essential for Young to fend off a Bulls defense (NBA-high 9.4 team SPG, led by Dunn’s 1.9 and Sato’s 1.5; NBA-high 17.8 opponent TO%) that basically consists of guards pressuring ballhandlers into submission.
Securing the defensive rebounds will be essential against the Bulls, whose 42.5 FG% is ahead of only the Knicks. Another rookie, Bruno Fernando, has been limited to under 10 minutes per game in his last four appearances, and should have a key role in Pierce’s frontcourt rotation to match Carter’s, Thaddeus Young’s and Gafford’s physicality. Yes, we’re still weeks away from John Collins’ return, but relying so heavily on “YPJ” to terminate opponent’s possessions hasn’t been a “PYT”.
Good news! Our Hawks won’t have to deal with another back-to-back for 17 days after tonight. Barring an unfortunate trip to Vitamin World by John Collins, we’ll have him back to participate in all the fun and frolic by then. Maybe Huerter won’t be on a short leash by that time, either.
The bad news? The first night of the back-to-back is against Giannis and Bud’s Bucks. Then, it’s another cross-country flight to… oh, wonderful, Chicago. Yeah, let’s just consider this here game a practice run, shall we? “Keep Bembry Off the Offensive Floor in a Tight Game” ON THREE. ONE! TWO!!
Let’s Go Hawks!