Official Game Thread: Hawks at Magic

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“Trust me, Lloyd, this head coaching biz can make you grow gray hairs fast. In places.”


Supersonic motivating rhymes are creating. And everybody knows that Ohhh heyyy! It’s Ya Boi. Thanks to some divine intervention from our #1 Atlanta Hawks fan, The “Don’t Call Me Olivia” Pope (“What am I,” he groused, “some kind of miracle worker?”), it looks like I’m back in my happily unpaid internship gig, on the grind to deliver more long-winded pregame commentary. Through this NBA All-Star Break, at least.

At this season’s long-awaited tip-off, if you told me about The First Eastern Conference Coach Who Got The Axe Despite a Crap-Ton of Untimely Setbacks, I’d have had no doubts you were referencing Steve Clifford.

Don’t bring that noise up here, Orlando Magic fans would tell our Atlanta Hawks ahead of tonight’s first regular season meeting between the Southeast Division rivals at Amway Center (8 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Florida), about how you’ve missed Bogdan Bogdanovic sooooo much. “I’ve got a man down!” They’re not tryna hear that, see.

Longtime followers of the program know how long I have marveled at how, in a state where seemingly everybody’s less than 100 feet above sea level, Coach Cliff has managed to keep his head above water. The Magic (13-22, 9-22 since starting out 4-0) are hoping to stave off a losing streak, heading into the Break, that would stretch to five games, one that began by splitting a series at home with whatever Detroit throws out there. But for the fact that it’s the Hawks led by interim coach Nate McMillan coming to town, Clifford would have good reason to feel like he could spell relief, P-I-E-R-C-E.

I mean, look at this hot mess. The athletic defensive maestro Orlando waited through most of last season to return from a knee injury makes it into the Bubble just in time for yet another debilitating knee injury that has him on the shelf for all of this season. The one significant addition that team prez Jeff Weltman made last season (that kinda sorta worked, at Bubble time) has been in-and-out of the lineup dealing with a calf issue.

The oft-injured, prized point guard project Weltman pried from Philly made it almost eight games into this season before going down with a torn ACL. Fine. Get out there, emergency backup first-rounder project, and a break a leg! No, they said a leg, not a rib! Now they have to settle for the aging point guard project Philly prized before the last one, who himself just returned from injury after missing over a month.

Also missing over a month, this season, was 2019’s lottery prize, the Atlanta native who spent all of last season recovering from a March Madness injury sustained while playing for Auburn. 2018’s lottery prize, and Cam Reddish’s lauded shot-blocking high school teammate, caught a bad case of COVID. He’s finally back, but he can hardly go for 15 minutes a night without looking like a SpongeBob meme trying to catch his breath.

Also out of commission: the guy most known for hurdling mascots-on-hoverboards at Slam Dunk Contests (so glad John Collins didn’t get dragged back into this with his prop planes on Sunday… anybody seen Harry around?). He’s been out for over a month with a sprained ankle. Their un-Googleable hanger-on three-point shooting swingman, in town since 2012, who just can’t seem to find the exit, has been stuck in the revolving door with injuries, too.

When Hollywood execs get around to adding a dash of Florida Man to the nightly array of medical trauma p0rn on TV, producers won’t find a more perfect setting than the Magic’s medical team offices.

Floridians have grown increasingly accustomed to weathering storms, and they can find inspiration during the non-hurricane seasons by looking to Clifford and his All-Star-caliber center, Nikola Vucevic (29 points, 5-for-8 on threes, 15 boards, 8 dimes in Monday’s home loss to the visiting Lukatics).

Our dearly departed head coach here in Atlanta didn’t have the luxury to point at the incessant inertia that is Weltman’s front office as an excuse. At least our GM tried, this past offseason, when pushed to do something. While we were going Bongo for Bogi, the Magic went after just one guy in free agency, and that was a side of Dwayne Bacon, a Struggle Bus straphanger from Coach Cliff’s earlier years in Charlotte.

Clifford is threatening to fall about 5.0 games below the .500 mark, which is about where he was in his final two seasons before the Horcats cut him loose in 2018. Yet even as Orlando gets relegated, however momentarily, to the third-most respected NBA outlet in The Sunshine State, Clifford isn’t getting pushed out because, it appears, nobody in a suit-and-tie is pushing anyone around Central Florida.

“It sucks,” Clifford remarked on Tuesday, parroting other coaches around the league as news of Lloyd Pierce’s sacking made the rounds. “He’s done a really good job. He’s a tremendous person. Yeah, this is a hard one.” You won’t need Key & Peele’s Obama Translator to know Cliff is simply saying what he’s supposed to say, and to avert any undue attention that might come his way if people peek at the direction the Magic seem headed, under his and Weltman’s watches.

We all still think of Nate Mac as a Pacific Northwest guy, what with his longtime affiliations with the Sonics and, later, as coach of the Trail Blazers. But for the first decades of his life, McMillan was Mister Raleigh, from an age where people at that end of the Carolinas thought John Wall was some sort of brand-name particle board. He’s a Southern dude, through and through, one who grew up at a time when the Hawks and Bullets were the only pro hoops teams around. No one was even thinking about swampy Florida becoming a hotbed for pro basketball, or any athletic endeavor not known as baseball or jai alai.

If all goes reasonably well in The ATL, McMillan will get a good chance to pad his stats. Now at 662-588 in the regular season for his career with last night’s 90’s Throwback victory in Miami, this year, he ought to pass the Hawks’ Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello (667-548; thanks, Nique!), and Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni (672-527), moving into the Top 20 on the all-time NBA regular-season wins list.

Nate’s playoff record is less than stellar, his only playoff series win out of nine tries coming way back in 2005 with Rick Sund’s Sonics (have a Coke and a smile, Rick). But that sounds pretty good right now to Tony Ressler, the Hawks’ owner in full Oleta Adams Mode, thirsting to get his franchise back in the NBA’s postseason party however he can.

There’s added motivation for McMillan to excel, as well. If the Hawks (15-20) figure things out tonight and secure their first pair of wins on back-to-back nights this season (last Hawks B2B road sweep: Jan. 4-5, 2017 @ ORL and NOP), and if all the other home teams do them a solid tonight and tomorrow (go Cavs! Go Pels!), McMillan can go into the All-Star Break looking down at his former employer, the plummeting Pacers, in the standings. And the Bulls, too. Enjoy your time in our hotel rooms this weekend, Zach and Domantas.

With just this one win, Atlanta could move up as high as 9th in the Leastern Conference, a half-game behind LaMeloville and one game behind the default division-leading heat. Nate knows, in this conference, a two-game hot streak is like a couple dashes of hot sauce on, well, anything (I got This Old finding out Texas Pete is actually made in Winston-Salem).

For all things to go reasonably well, at least tonight, the Hawks cannot rely on the Magic settling for 80 points, like the stifled heat did yesterday. Greasing the skids for Pierce’s ouster was Atlanta making the league’s most dysfunctional offenses – Cleveland, OKC – look like the second coming of the 2016 Warriors, and the Magic (26th in O-Rating, dead-last in eFG% and TS%) poses a similar threat.

Orlando thrives off of rebounding (NBA-best 76.1 D-Reb%) and winning second-chance-point margins. They’d really have something if they had the guards and shooters capable of pushing the rock off the defensive boards (NBA-low 1.03 transition points per possession). Fortunately for Atlanta, McMillan rested John Collins as his Hawks boat-raced Miami 31-14 in the final quarter. He can give Al-Farouq Aminu, Khem Birch and Gary Clark fits if both he and Clint Capela (questionable, foot pain) can stay out of foul trouble.

Neither Atlanta (14.1 points per-48, 2nd-lowest in NBA) nor Orlando (14.2, 3rd-lowest), gets much juice out of scoring off turnovers, so a repeat of the Hawks’ 23 player TOs last night (one off their season-worst), while not ideal, won’t be a killer against this particular team. But there was much more experimentation in Atlanta’s halfcourt possessions yesterday, specifically passing out of the post and working Trae Young (16 games w/ point+assist double-doubles, tied-2nd in NBA behind only James Harden’s 21) off-ball, than we’ve seen in recent games. While Trae coughed up the ball on eight occasions, so did the combination of Capela and Solomon Hill.

If the Hawks can cut down on the second-guessing and pump-faking, going up quickly on the catch-and-shoots, they’ll produce enough points that Vooch and the combo of Evan Fournier (26 points, 5-for-8 3FGs vs. DAL on Monday) and Terrence Ross won’t be able to keep up even if they’re all hot.

There is a parallel universe somewhere, as @thecampster and other Squawkers rightly infer, that has upstart Atlanta nicely situated at 20-15 instead of 15-20, with Trae happily preparing to host the ASG as a reserve, and LP getting praise as a viable COTY candidate. Alas, all the Hawks can do going forward is look themselves in the mirror and, with McMillan’s help, begin cleaning up the problems we can all see, while resting up this weekend.

Atlanta got no breaks from Da Schedule Godz in the back half of the season, what was already a tall order with several games versus Detroit and Minnesota already in the rear-view. Only three home games this month, oughta-wins versus the Kings and Cavs (on a back-to-back, no less) and the Thunder, precede a torturous road trip out West that will carry our team into next month. The Hawks putting intrinsic talent advantages, versus downtrodden squads like the Magic, to their own advantage, will aid them in bouncing back faster than a Spalding off Grant Williams’ heinie. Wins in-pocket now can only help when sidelined players like De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish return to action.

The one fortune our Hawks have had, relative to many teams, are the precious few impacts, to the roster and the schedule, from the still-simmering pandemic. I’m hoping that wellness continues, not only for the players and staff, but for the fans and the readers of this here forum.

In my twenties and thirties, I recall scratching my head, first during the Olympics, then during Freakniks, then during the Superb Owl, of all the tales of Atlantans hightailing it as far out of town as gas prices could take them. Then came 2003’s ASG, with the streets gridlocked with low-riders, the sidewalks loaded with ladies in the telltale Mariah-Carey-meets-Betty-Rubble get-ups, when I started to get The Hint.

As crazy as that weekend was, there weren’t national health and associated socio-economic emergencies hovering over our heads. This weekend, our pothole-stricken roads will be filled with people, mostly out-of-towners, pretending not to notice and Doin’ Too Much on the off-chance their favorite NBA Baller might sneak out for some late-nite lemon pepper wings. Or, on the slightly less off-chance some Insta-model greased up in clear heels, unable to find said Ballers, will willingly settle for bump-and-grinding these aforementioned Jordans-rocking Busters at The Compound.

We had shootings at The Blue Flame and INSIDE the Gold Room (the notorious old “Gold Club”, with a fresh coat of paint), and that was just LAST weekend because the evening temperatures were unseasonably swell. It helps that Da Weather Godz are putting a deep freeze on this weekend's evening lows, but still, Tallulah Gorge is suddenly sounding kind of nice. In all likelihood, though, this fuddy-duddy 404’er is gonna stock up and hole up in his Lethaldome until at least Monday, and I avidly encourage folks in and around The Perimeter to follow suit. Don’t be a Buster out here in these streets. Not this weekend, anyway.

I don’t want to hear about any Squawkers this weekend being victimized by the wraths of either COVID-19 or COLT-45. Stay safe, preferably at home, and we’ll see you all next week!


Let’s Go Hawks!


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When Hawks games become more enjoyable than Lethal’s game threads we’ll be cooking with Crisco.

If Capela can’t go or is limited that’s tough with certified Hawk-killer Vuc.  I still believe John eats and eats well toward an 8 point win. Can’t believe we haven’t had B2B road success since El Chapo was evading every law enforcement body in the Americas.  Let’s Go.

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Looks like Cap is a no go!

Who get's the start?  Might as well go with Bruno - he's the biggest body we have to match Vuc, but he is so crafty.  Or, hell just give the rookie his baptism by fire.






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2 hours ago, lethalweapon3 said:

it looks like I’m back in my happily unpaid internship gig,


2 hours ago, lethalweapon3 said:

this is a hard one.”


2 hours ago, lethalweapon3 said:



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I think it’s time for my boy Okongwu to step up and fill those huge shoes 👟 of Capela. Keep in mind he’s a rookie but if he gets the start (prolly won’t but who knows) he might make a bunch more of you smile like I’m been smiling (sorta, at least about Okongwu) for the last few months since we drafted him.

Lets go 2-0 under Nate for fun. I wanna hear more from KG about how coaches don’t really matter that much and that Lloyd was just as good as Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkens but wasn’t given the chance to prove it due to injuries. 😊 


Playoffs here we come!


Go Hawks! 


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Hawks ML -150 and spread is -3 


Surprisingly line for being a road team, but then again we are hot 🥵 and on a one game winning streak. Also, the Magic have their own issues.

I might slam a G on this (ok a c-note)! I think we get this! (No jinx 🤞🏾)



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Man I did not wanna see Brunot Fernandon't. 

Vucevic gon' feast 'n beast.

Atleast that certified Hawk-killah, Fournier is out.  I mean, seriously.  Call PETA on that fool.  He hates birds.

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1 minute ago, TheNorthCydeRises said:

The more things change.  The more things stay the same.




Let me be the first to put that out there, before ya'll copy me.


Hey, it might work, we have a new coach.

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      Atlanta had an expanding interstate freeway and a spiffy new rail transit system coursing through its central city, a transport backbone feeding directly into an airport, regional hub to both Eastern and Delta Airlines, that was swiftly asserting its place among the world’s busiest. Young’s city also had what was emerging as the nation’s largest convention center, in the shadow of the Omni.
      Witnessing the success Peter Ueberroth had in leveraging private finance to offset the local costs of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, Payne sought to copy that model. He recognized the value gained by using existing sporting venues, like the Omni and UGA and Georgia Tech’s coliseums, for prospective Olympic events.
      Further, it helped to establish ready-made plans for post-Games operations of new venues, from the Georgia International Horse Park, the forthcoming Georgia Dome, and Tech’s new aquatic center, to the notable conversion of Olympic Stadium into a new home for the Bravos. Tech’s central location and mostly-empty summertime campus made for an ideal Olympic Village site. The city and state paired up to clear land near the Omni for an Olympic fan celebration zone, transitioning the space into intown parkland.
      Beyond his corporate mavericks, like Goizueta, and his public-private partnership mavericks, like Young, Payne also had the ear of a sports and media maverick. The sitting owner of the Atlanta Hawks and his self-styled baseball version of “America’s Team”, Ted Turner was thriving, even when his local teams were spinning their wheels. This was due to the wildfire success of his 24-hour news network, and his sports-flavored “superstation”, latching onto the rise of cable and satellite television.
      An avid sailor who earned the nickname, “Captain Courageous” as 1977’s winner of the prestigious America’s Cup, Turner the media exec established the Goodwill Games in 1986. They were ostensibly his attempt to ease pressures on amateur sporting due to capitalist-communist policy fights disrupting participation in the Olympics. He proved capable of not just successfully fielding the events in Moscow, but also showcasing the power of his Atlanta-based television networks, broadcasting a multitude of live contests internationally while limiting the need for tape-delays.
      Payne didn’t begin petitioning his dream in earnest until 1987. Yet by the spring of 1988, with the aid of maverick leaders like Young, Goizueta and Turner, Atlanta had eclipsed Nashville, San Francisco, and the early favorite, Minnesota’s Twin Cities, to nab the US Olympic Committee’s bid as America’s submission to the IOC.
      Ranked 36th among cities in U.S. Census population at the time, Atlanta making it through the “first round,” and decisively so by a 14-2 vote over Minneapolis, raised plenty of eyebrows, plus a few guffaws and snickers around big-sports-media towns like New York and Philadelphia. “It’s Atlanta? Seriously?”
      The USOC’s president considered a 1996 victory for America an impossibility, given all the attention demanded by the freaky Greeks. Other USOC officers agreed that any serious push to field another Games in the States, following L.A. and Lake Placid, was premature. To the US committee, Atlanta was intended as merely a sentimental vote, a tip of the cap to Payne and the local leaders’ hopes to be acknowledged as a worldly, big-league metropolis. Here’s to you, Atlanta. Who knows? You “might” even win, someday!
      If any North American nation was securing an Olympic repeat anytime soon, the prevailing thought went, it would have to be Canada. Despite the debacles of ’76 in Montreal, the Canadians were submitting their second-largest city, Toronto, and their nation’s mild summer climes, for the ’96 Games, shortly after concluding a critically lauded Winter Games in Calgary. Yet while Toronto’s bid came with ardent opposition willing to travel to IOC meetings in protest, Young and local leaders were able to keep foes of Atlanta’s promotion relatively small, localized, and late to the party.
      By starting its formal efforts late in the USOC and IOC processes, Atlanta’s contingent stymied the foment of organized local, and international, resistance. They sent a multi-racial “Dream Team” of enthusiastic women and men to the IOC meeting in Tokyo for Selection Day in September 1990. The perception of a prepared and diverse American crowd ready and eager to roll out the welcome mat for the IOC, standing alongside bitter Canadian protestors, would not go unnoticed by the committee.
      Georgia’s diverse 300-person delegation also contrasted with those brought by Manchester, England, and Bogdan Bogdanovic’s hometown. Belgrade was awash in ethnic strife and political unrest. With the Yugoslavian city eliminated in opening-round IOC voting, as Mike Davis at The Medal Count blog noted, top-seeded Athens found itself surrounded by four “Anglosphere” challengers.
      As one city would be eliminated in each round of IOC voting, those delegates largely cast their votes for another Anglosphere city, rather than Athens. The former ambassador Young’s pull with African, Middle Eastern and Asian voters carried underdog upstart Atlanta through each round. Feeling the heat, the Athens contingent went from feeling self-assured of victory to crying foul about this well-heeled, and amazingly prepared, American interloper.
      “The Olympic flame will not be lit with oil,” a grouchy Athenian newspaper editorial complained, “but with Coca-Cola.” The Greeks entered Tokyo with its main message to the committee being, “regardless of our flaws, you’d better hand us the Centennial Games, or we may never bid again,” a threat that proved idle, and unwise. They demanded their A-plus, without taking their homework, or anyone else in their class, seriously.
      Coke, being a longtime Olympic sponsor, gave Atlanta a leg-up that no competitor was prepared to counter, until it was too late. So did the application of American technical wizardry, including computer-generated animation by a firm that would later be known to larger audiences as PIXAR, in the 1990 U.S. bid presentation.
      That September, it all came together. And yet, as Juan Antonio Samaranch decreed, “The International Olympic Committee has awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to the City of… At-lanta!”, the moment was a stone-cold global stunner, and an over-the-top-rope regional plancha. The scene around Underground Atlanta seemed every bit as surreal as it was jubilant.  Specifically in all-matters sports, Atlantans were unaccustomed to good fortune in competition, and especially clinching what they worked so zealously to earn.
      “Atlanta?”, had become, “It’s Atlanta?” within roughly a calendar year. In the space of two-and-half more years, “It’s Atlanta?” had become, “It’s Atlanta!” On this September day, there was joy in Losersville, as Atlanta was a genuine “world champion” in the arena of sports for the first time. Other towns could fuss with each other about “Rings” until the cows came home. But for us, five colorful, interlocking ones would do just fine.
      One overjoyed attendee at Underground’s celebration shared with the AJC: “We finally won something!” Each word leaps from the page, as an exclamation unto itself. We! Finally! Won! Something!
      Indeed, Atlanta did win something. To a greater extent, Georgia prevailed. The South, in a good way, prevailed. America prevailed. But none of it happens without a maverick willing to defy “It’s not your turn,” “They’re not sophisticated enough,” and, “He’s too little!” customs, seeing past all the reasonable doubts and unreasonable constructs to paint a bigger picture that no one else, at the outset, could.
      The Georgian who made the Olympic Dream happen couldn’t see it quite as clearly as he would in another significant capacity decades later, but Billy Payne would come to learn that, even to a self-made maverick, big dreams cannot be realized in a vacuum. A committed collective of talented mavericks, diverse in ways that are more than just skin-deep, have to coalesce in order to turn notions of “Impossible!” into, “I’m possible!”
      That’s the feat that faces one of Atlanta’s, and America’s, biggest sports mavericks around today. Trae Young graces State Farm Arena (You made it! Welcome back, Hawks fans. 7:30 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL) before an adoring crowd and an opposing team from Dallas that fashions itself as “Mavericks”. Not even six months ago, a nationally-televised, highly anticipated season-opener on TNT Thursday featuring Young and 2018 draft-mate Luka Doncic – in Trae’s downtown Atlanta NBA building, no less – seemed impossible. And yet, here we are!
      A quarter century has passed since Atlanta made good on its promise and welcomed the world. Between Samaranch’s mealy-mouthed attempt to qualify praise of the hosts’ endeavors, the sting of the mid-Games park bombing, and the central city’s economic lurches once the Olympic high died down, you could understand the locals feeling a bit jaded, in the aftermath and ensuing years of ‘96.
      Anyone expecting Atlanta to become some American utopia as a result of the Olympics coming to town was due to be in for a good measure of disappointment. But the region has transformed, in strange and unpredictable ways, including on the sports pages (remember sports pages?). Over the course of the past 25 years, Atlanta has shed its “Losersville” pro-sports wound. The new scar to rip off is called, “Can’twinitallville”.
      The Bravos would shock the baseball world with a worst-to-first sprint in 1991, then run headfirst into one wall after another until the year before the Olympics. In defiance of their first 25 years of existence in town, they’d proceed to win ten more consecutive division titles after breaking through with its first World Series win in 1995. They would claim seven more such banners over the past 12 seasons, including four in a row. And yet, fans can only hope the second World Series trophy will arrive very, very soon.
      The Falcons. You all know what happened. No, not that time, that other time. The Dream. Hmph. Hey, the Hawks won 60 games that one time, that was cool. Thrasher? Why, I hardly know her!
      At least Atlanta United was able to defy the “Can’twinitall” gravity in our sport-mosphere, once in its first couple seasons of pro-soccer contention. We’re nearly three years removed from their breakthrough MLS championship. Largely, though, because of the other longstanding teams finding creative ways to come up short, if they come up at all, the MLS Cup celebration at Magic City still feels fresh.
      Through it all, Atlanta has had its share of athletic mavericks blaze into town -- the Prime Times, the Number Sevens and Number Elevens, the Highlight Films, the Fab Five Freddies, the Angels and the Ices. It helps to have architects, like Alex Anthopoulos, Darren Eales and the Hawks’ Travis Schlenk, with the skills and foresight to identify them, and to build high-caliber teams around them.
      While these standout athletes get Atlanta close to the pin on occasion, to do what King Josef accomplished and nail a hole-in-one, these otherworldly talents must assess the maverick spirits within the people that surround them, and then forge environments in and beyond the sporting venue conducive to championship-quality contention.
      Such are the tasks that face Trae Young (9.4 APG, 2nd in NBA in 2020-21, and 25.3 PPG), coming off an ascendant NBA Playoffs run (28.8 PPG, 9.5 APG) that now has the rising fourth-year point guard on a first-name basis in sports markets like New York and Philadelphia that, no matter their own shortcomings, could always take Atlanta and its “Can’twinitallville” reputation for granted. Until now.
      Bold and unbothered, crafty and cunning, recalibrating and unrelenting, Trae exudes the qualities that are hallmarks of people we identify as mavericks. But to achieve his ultimate ends, he needs other mavericks, willing and able to collaborate with him, letting him lead as he continues applying what he learns along the way.
      There’s the top-20-winning-coach maverick in Nate McMillan, who learned much about himself along the way to dismissing his “Can’twinatplayofftime” reputation, perhaps once and for all. There’s the league-leading-rebound maverick in Clint Capela, and the model-of-efficiency-with-mad-boosties maverick in John Collins, who will now spend years together redefining what a modern NBA frontcourt looks like. That’s thanks to real estate maverick Tony Ressler, who showed this summer that parsimoniousness, unlike some owners of NBA clubs on the rise, won’t get the best of him.
      There’s the net-scorching perimeter-shot maverick in Bogdanovic, whose surge as a healthy starter this past April, together with tactical improvements from McMillan, set the stage for the Hawks’ fascinating turnaround (27-11, following a lackluster 14-20 start) to become the NBA’s unexpected Southeast Division champions.
      Then, there’s the legion of mavericks-in-training, from De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish at the wings, to local product Sharife Cooper at the point, to Cooper’s fellow rookie Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu. Whether it was during critical junctures in the Playoffs or the free-wheeling Summer League, these up-and-comers have already had some shining moments, each demonstrating that when it comes to revealing true maverick potential, they have only scratched the surface.
      There’s a definitive difference between being a maverick and being, well, a “Mav”. It is possible to be both. Sharing space with Trae under the net on the SI magazine cover, as Reilly’s former rag previewed the NBA’s 75th season, Luka Doncic has been brilliant on the court (11 triple-doubles over 66 games in 2020-21) while lugging former Internet maverick Mark Cuban’s franchise back into perennial playoff position.
      How much further the big-M Mavericks can navigate, through the rough-and-tumble Western Conference during the regular season, and whether they can become much more than an intriguing first-round exit, depends on how well-conditioned Doncic can remain, and how many other small-m mavericks Doncic has at his disposal.
      While I know little of his overseas offseason regimen, this summer, Luka has certainly thrown his considerable weight around. He pushed out his championship-winning head coach, the on-paper longtime GM, and Cuban’s riverboat-gambling maverick pal, the fellow that seemed to be truly pulling basketball-operation strings behind the scenes. The point guard who helped Dallas’ prior star maverick claim their franchise’s first NBA title a decade ago, Jason Kidd takes the head coaching reins.
      Kidd has spent many of his recent years on the sidelines fine-tuning the point guard skills of superstars who would customarily be forwards. He’s expected to do more of the same with Luka (35.0 usage%, 2nd in NBA last season; 8.6 APG, 4.3 TOs/game), who doesn’t have much of a learning curve in that department. To advance this club further, Luka and Kidd need their one-time unicorn to morph into the transformative maverick that Dallas (and previously New York) thought they were getting.
      Averaging just over 13-and-5 in Dallas’ seven-game series loss to the Clippers, while shooting under 30 percent on threes, 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis is now Dallas’ full-time option at the four-spot, with Dwight Powell serving as the starting pivot. “I want him to be who he is, and that’s a basketball player,” says Kidd, proponent of the league’s fashionable “position-less basketball,” of Porzingis. “I want him to feel comfortable on the floor in any spot.”
      Like former Mav and new Hawk backup point guard Delon Wright, the Mavs have an adequate assistant ball-caddie in Jalen Brunson. But Kidd needs his other basketball players, from Porzingis on down, to commit to moving the rock (22.8 assists per-48 in 2020-21, 26th in NBA, even with Doncic), especially in the rare moments Doncic gets a breather.
      If not Porzingis, can the returning Tim Hardaway, Jr. be a maverick in thus-far unforeseen ways? Can it be Dorian Finney-Smith (9.8 PPG), who finished third behind Luka and Timmy in floor time, or former Knicks shooter Reggie Bullock, or Bucks bench man Sterling Brown, expanding their repertoire? Can a young gun, like second-year swingman Josh Green, emerge to be that reliable second- or third-wheel that helps free the offense from stagnation?
      Dallas finished its preseason scrimmages tied for first with Golden State in averaging 29.8 assists per contest, while committing just 13.0 turnovers (3rd-fewest in NBA), and it wasn’t all Luka doing the dishing. If Coach Kidd can get successful ball movement to carry over into the next 82 games (please, hoop gawds, let there be 82 this season), and find more on-ball stoppers to cluster around Doncic as his own defense improves, Dallas might be a legitimate postseason threat for reasons beyond #77. If not, Doncic may be demanding more staff members, on and off the court, to hit the bricks.
      Unfettered by any star-player distractions or setbacks, Atlanta enters 2021-22 with a clearer understanding of who their current and future mavericks are, certainly more so than the “Mavs.” For the Hawks, it’s a matter of teammates helping each other realize their full capabilities, individually and collectively, and Trae Young is proving to be the kind of facilitative maverick that makes this happen.
      Despite this summer’s postseason breakthrough, no one among the NBA media is out over their skis about the Hawks’ chances at title contention, not just yet. Rather, they’re resuming the position the USOC gave Billy Payne and Atlanta back in 1988. Great effort, here’s your laurels. While the world turns their attention back to the prohibitive favorites, Atlanta, just stay at it and, who knows? You “might” even win something, someday.
      By season’s end, with the rise of Atlanta’s many mavericks, we could bear witness to a stunning and groundbreaking outcome -- one where “might” makes right!
      Thank you, Squawkdonors! Let’s Go Hawks!
    • By lethalweapon3
      B? Leave.
      Ugh! Another PEG (Playoff Elimination Gamethread), already? We were just starting to have some fun around here! Anyways, some Tidbits.
      The “Atlanta Sports” narrative is the Hawks let the head coach who sought his independence by abandoning this franchise, some four score and three years ago, walk out of town on Independence Eve with a glittery Eastern Conference trophy ball under his armpit. The competing, “Believe Atlanta” narrative ain’t tryin’ to hear none o’ that mess.
      If the Milwaukee Bucks have learned anything from the 76ers, it’s that these Atlanta Hawks don’t fear The Reaper. With all respect due to the Blue Öyster Cult, and to the happy people of Starkville, Mississippi, do you know what the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals series could use? A little more Collins. We have Finals Fever, and the only prescription is, more Collins! Ring it up!
      We’re going to insist that John Collins (0-for-5 FGs with neither a board nor an assist in Game 5’s troubling first quarter) really explore the studio space, this time. That goes for Game 6 (8:30 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL, Postgame coverage on Bally Sports Southeast), before a rambunctious, standing-room-only State Farm Arena crowd, and once more in a couple days back in Wisconsin. He’s got to make enough noise, with his two-way play, that it becomes downright uncomfortable for anyone who has to share the stage with him.
      At the risk of summoning the FULPers, Collins’ prior head coach, seemingly as a point of pride, indicated on many occasions his gameplans run, paraphrasing, “literally not a single play” for an athletic, energetic fella, one who was supposed to go out and rack up 20-and-10s just off vibes. Since his rookie-year coach skipped town, John has thrived on offense by waiting to be served an array of lobs, layups and open threes, often courtesy of point guard Trae Young (questionable, bone bruise in foot), while feasting on stick-backs when his teammates’ jump-shooting offense stalls and clueless opponents get lax with boxing out.
      Speaking of boxing out, Collins alone cannot be blamed for the lack of rebounding presence in Game 5. Even Khris Middleton (team-high 13 rebounds on Thursday) had a field day on the glass as all five Buck Starters collected at least two offensive rebounds in Antetokounmpo’s absence. Thanks in part to early second-chances, Milwaukee’s 66-36 paint-point advantages rendered Milwaukee’s subpar shooting day (31.0 team 3FG%) and Bogdan Bogdanovic’s breakthrough (team-high 28 Game 5 points, 7-for-16 3FGs) moot. A team effort to keep the Bucks one-and-done is essential going forward, but Collins can do more to lead the way in that regard.
      It is true that this is just Collins’ first playoff foray, as it is for many an Atlanta Hawk. But the constrained development, to date, is why a guy about to receive ginormous contract offers in a few weeks can look so painfully pedestrian (2-for-8 FGs in Atlanta’s Game 5 win) in halfcourt sets, especially without Young to offer guidance. After going 10-for-11 on 2FGs in the Hawks’ successful series opener, Johnny Bap has hardly made a blip on the inside (15-for-27 combined 2FGs in past 4 games) while game outcomes are still up-for-grabs.
      One should note that this is only Bobby Portis’ second playoff run, the punchy Bucks forward’s first since a brief trip in 2017 with the Bulls. Yet the first-time starter, filling in in a pinch for Giannis Antetokounmpo (out again for Game 6, hyperextended knee), looked like a completely comfortable veteran in getting what he wanted in Game 5. It’s an awkward time to start running plays with Collins as a focal point, but Atlanta Playoff Basketball on Independence Day Weekend is, by definition, an awkward time.
      In these NBA Playoffs (Knicks and Sixers series included), JC has managed to shoot a sturdy 64.0 eFG% on post-up plays, his 1.13 points per possession placing him a smidge ahead of Philly’s center Joel Embiid and not far from The BK’s Kevin Durant. But it’s hard to recognize this, since he’s had the option to post-up on just 1.8 plays per game, according to Synergy stats on, roughly half of Antetokounmpo’s 3.4 and a far cry from Embiid’s 8.5, or even KD’s 4.4. Collins also hardly draws foul-worthy contact (6.7% FT frequency) on those few plays.
      Efficiency-wise, the only postseason player still standing who has fared better is Danilo Gallinari (1.18 PPP, on just 2.2 post-ups per game), who has shot at a slightly lower eFG of 57.1% but gets to the foul line (21.1% FT frequency). With Giannis down for the twenty-count once more, Collins and Gallo ought to receive more post-ups, peeling Brook Lopez and Portis away from helping on guards while elevating the Bucks’ risk of early foul trouble.
      Whether they emanate from Young, Lou Williams, Kevin Huerter or Bogdanovic, Collins in particular has to do a better job of getting in position to receive passes on the low block, and he needs to maintain his dribble until either a decent shot goes up or he gets the whistle. Of course, it would be nice if one of his prior coaches had the power forward honing his post-up game in real time, prior to and during the regular seasons, but that issue for a more well-heeled Collins can wait for 2021-22 to get here.
      We all can wait for 2021-22 to get here, but I remain hopeful our Squawkers and the rest of Atlanta Hawks Nation can do what they can to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and upright, in what will soon be a very brief interim period.
      For those of you heading intown or to some friendly watering holes this evening, you’ll likely notice we have a wilder group of companions in the mix. 99 percent of us are up to some good, but there are a few jackboys, gun-runners, sliders, club-busters and raging drivers out to make “fun” for themselves on this busy weekend by spoiling somebody else’s. In what we can still hope will be a warm-up act for Game 3 of The Finals, have a great, boisterous time tonight, but be cognizant of your surroundings and avoid confrontations on your way to and from the arena and wherever you go to enjoy the proceedings.
      If our Hawks still don’t fear The Reaper… we’ll be able to fly!
      Happy Fourth! Believe Atlanta! Let’s Go Hawks!
    • By RandomFan