Official Game Thread: Pelicans at Hawks


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1 hour ago, cam1218 said:

It is nice to see to see the team learn how to play together plus get some wins with it. Nate has done wonders with our team. Even when we lost some games out west, you could see our growth.

I was so mad at Lou during that series against the Pacers years ago when it was 1/8. I think this could be a good spot for him to give us a year or two to finish out his career at home.

Me too man, but think about it this way, back then we NEEDED Lou to carry us, now if he is stinking it up we put in Trae. Huge difference there. 

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Wow, what a game... Trae's most impressive stat for me tonight was a 4 assist:turnover ratio.  When he is locked in and not making lazy TOs, we're so dangerous. BOGI BOGI BOGI!!!  To add

Not bad for the 16th best young player in the NBA 

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1 minute ago, Atlantaholic said:

Me too man, but think about it this way, back then we NEEDED Lou to carry us, now if he is stinking it up we put in Trae. Huge difference there. 

I thought he was probably washed, but he looks like he still has it. 

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Just now, Atlantaholic said:

Can't blame Zion for the Pels sucking anymore than you could blame Trae last season. That Pels team is garbage outside of Zion. Zion is impressive for a second year player, and at some point will be the first player in NBA history to average 30ppg in over 60% shooting. 

Zion is amazing, no question. His scoring efficiency is generational. 

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1 hour ago, Lurker said:

Nice win. 

If he can get in shape, I would be perfectly happy with a Trae/Bogie/Hunter/Collins/Capela lineup.

Bro, insert Hunter the way he was playing before his injury to this starting unit atm and we are elite. No hyperbole. Of course Bogi will HAVE to come back down to earth a little bit, but still. 

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3 minutes ago, Atlantaholic said:

Can't blame Zion for the Pels sucking anymore than you could blame Trae last season. That Pels team is garbage outside of Zion. Zion is impressive for a second year player, and at some point will be the first player in NBA history to average 30ppg in over 60% shooting. 

Ingram?

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1 minute ago, bleachkit said:

Zion is amazing, no question. His scoring efficiency is generational. 

Lonzo is decent, Ingram is incredibly overrated, if anyone should be getting the empty stats label it should be that guy. Steven Adams has also been a massive dud of an addition, has played really terribly on that team. The rest of the team is made up of players I honestly don't even know who they are unless I look them up. 

Just now, terrell said:

Ingram?

That's your empty stats guy, one of the worst rated defenders in the entire NBA. 

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2 minutes ago, marco102 said:

Bogi is playing at an allstar level these last few games.

DATE OPP RESULT MIN FG FG% 3PT 3P% FT FT% REB AST BLK STL PF TO PTS
Tue 4/6 vsNO 30 8-11 72.7 5-8 62.5 0-0 0.0 4 4 0 0 2 2 21
Sun 4/4 vsGS 33 3-10 30.0 3-6 50.0 1-2 50.0 3 5 0 2 2 2 10
Fri 4/2 @NO 33 9-17 52.9 6-11 54.5 2-2 100.0 7 7 1 1 4 2 26
Thu 4/1 @SA 45 12-17 70.6 4-5 80.0 0-0 0.0 5 5 2 1 5 0 28
APRIL 37.0 8.0-14.7 54.5 4.3-7.3 59.1 1.0-1.3 75.0 5.0 5.7 1.0 1.3 3.7 1.3 21.3

He tends to be a slow starter. He was playing really well at the end of last season too.

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5 minutes ago, bleachkit said:

He tends to be a slow starter. He was playing really well at the end of last season too.

His efficiency is off the charts.  Really glad he's coming around. After tonight, Bogi's at Carrer Highs in all shooting categories (FG %, 3pt%, and free throw %)

Can't imagine this team with an inform, Trae, John, Clint, Bogi, Hunter, Kevvin, Gallo, Lue, Cam, and Dunn.

That's actually a pretty scary team!

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3 minutes ago, marco102 said:

His efficiency is off the charts.  Really glad he's coming around. After tonight, Bogi's at Carrer Highs in all shooting categories (FG %, 3pt%, and free throw %)

Can't imagine this team with an inform, Trae, John, Clint, Bogi, Hunter, Kevvin, Gallo, Lue, Cam, and Dunn.

That's actually a pretty scary team!

We got as much shooting as anyone.

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7 hours ago, bleachkit said:

I just like that he can take a backseat now sometimes. Letting our shooters cook in the 3rd was beautiful. 

It’s crazy how the whole Trae needs to score 30+ to win narrative was only true when playing for an absolutely turrible coach

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    • By lethalweapon3
      “Aaron-ald Mac-Donald, YOU’RE NEXT! What am I, a clown? Do I amuse you?”
       
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    • By lethalweapon3
      “Mind if I hitch a ride to Magic City? Lou kicked me out the car.”
       
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      Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      “I’ll allow one chair throw at halftime, Mel. ONE. Make it count!”
       
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      25 years of defensiveness and diviseness over a trade that’s become the stuff of legend will wear on anybody. When the quarter-century anniversary of the day of the 1996 Draft comes around, on July 29, and again on 8/24 Day, when the “What If?” thinkpieces make their way back around the Internet, Charlotteans will rather just dip into their shells than go around snapping at people. “12 other teams could’ve had him before he fell to us! We weren’t even trying to draft him!” Okay.
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      Literally the next hour after trading away SGA, Charlotte sent the Hawks a pair of second-rounders for their selection of Devonte’ Graham, who carried the Hornets through the dregs of last season until the pandemic disruption. While his interior scoring skills have been wretched, Graham has been the league’s premier backcourt on-ball defender (NBA-best 4.20 Defensive Real Plus-Minus, as per BSPN; only Mike Conley and Pat Beverley are in the low 3’s), a literal “3-and-D” point guard that could have been a more useful complement as a backup to Trae Young (questionable for today, bruised calf; 4th-lowest among tracked PGs with a minus-3.23 DRPM).
      A couple days later, Charlotte got the least-stiff among Timofey Mozgov, Julyan Stone, Jerian Grant and Bismack Biyombo in a multi-team deal. Biyombo knows his role – block a shot, dunk a ball, try not to get hack-a-smacked, sit the heck down – and plays it well enough that he’s starting now.
      With the departure of John Wall and Aaron Gordon to other teams, there remain just two NBA players who have yet to leave the team that drafted them Top-5 in 2013 or any years prior. There’s Jordan Brand ambassador Bradley Beal, with the Wizards at least for now. And there’s Cody Zeller, who has remained serviceable in Charlotte for as long as he can stay upright. The big-bag contract extension he signed in 2016 (we’re gonna need a documentary on that train-wreck of an offseason, too) comes off the books after this season, allowing the Hornets space to be players this summer (autumn?) during free agency.
      Living up to his name, Kemba walked in 2019, but Kupchak still managed to get Terry Rozier for his troubles via sign-and-trade. Since leaving Boston, Terry’s jumpshot is no longer scary (40.5 3FG% this year, 40.7 percent last season), and he has embraced his role of being the reliable finisher in the clutch (3.5 clutch PPG, 0.2 PPG more than Young; 52.2 3FG%). Charlotte is 16-6 in clutch situations with a league-best +3.7 team plus/minus, spearheaded by Rozier (+4.0, best among NBA’s highest clutch scorers, min. 15 clutch games played). Mitch also pried agent Gordon Hayward free from Boston’s clutches this past year, netting extra second-rounders in the process, and folks still wonder why the Celtics don’t look so formidable this year.
      The flip side of screwing up drafts so routinely is, you tend to find yourself back in similar spots with a chance to make amends. Charlotte lucked out by leapfrogging Atlanta (and Cleveland, New York, Detroit, and Chicago) to wind up with the 3rd pick in the NBA Draft, and needed only to do so much work as to let LaMelo Ball fall into their laps.
      Coupled with the Hornets’ crunch-time viability, Ball and the flashy play that accompanies his flashy family’s name (team-high 7.7 assists per-36), is what made Charlotte a League Pass darling. Until a broken wrist a few weeks ago derailed his nightly threat of achieving triple-doubles (made good, for the first and only time, so far, in Charlotte’s 113-105 win over the visiting Hawks back on Jan. 9), Ball’s 2.9 Win Shares metric was blowing away the rookie competition (your per-48 Win Shares leader in the rookie clubhouse? Onyeka Okongwu, naturally).
      You can’t say the Hornets would have fared much better, or any worse, under the tutelage of Steve Clifford, but James Borrego has been proving himself to be capable of designing winning plays when the talent is healthy and growing together. Charlotte has suffered a few big losses in games since the All-Star Break, but no actual disappointing ones, unless you count losing by 30 in Boston last Sunday, just days after the oft-injured Hayward (out for at least three more weeks) sprained his foot. They’re back home following a six-game road trip that took them no further west than Oklahoma City.
      A question. When was the last time a reigning Eastern Conference champion kept their coach and their core intact entering the following season, and then failed to win their Division? I’d venture a guess that it has been a minute. Hawks ace assistant Melvin Hunt was with then-player development coach Lloyd Pierce in Cleveland, when GM Danny Ferry’s 2008 Cavs ceded the Central Division to the Rip Hamilton’s Pistons. Coach Bud was primed to pounce, in 2015 with the Hawks and in 2019 with the Bucks, when LeBron bailed from respective locales of Miami and Cleveland, but James was essentially the core, so those teams don’t count.
      With apologies to firestarter Solomon Hill, the Miami heat’s biggest loss in the 2020 offseason was starter Jae Crowder, the Villa Rican heading west to Phoenix in free agency. Literally everyone else returned. Miami added a Top-20 draft pick and sought out mid-season upgrades in the form of guys named Oladipo and Bjelica. And it still might not be enough to secure a Southeast Division title.
      So, sure, at this stage of the season, this Hawks fan is getting greedy. I want another banner to gawk at when peering up in the State Farm Arena rafters next fall. Context, schmontext. Someone is going to have one that says, “2020-2021 Southeast Division Champions”, with no asterisks sewed in, and I’d much rather that joint be dangling in Georgia, than in North Carolina or Florida. Hawks fans had to wait over two decades for our last division title, why hold out any longer for another?
      Atlanta (28-25) can’t win a tie-breaker over the Hornets (27-24, ahead by percentage points for 4th in NBA East), thanks to the defeats at the latter’s hands during the same week back in early January. But the Hawks could get at least one more win in hand in the race not only for a coveted 4-seed, but the Southeast Division title.
      Our futbol brethren, Atlanta United didn’t sit around waiting for old-hat clubs and wannabe regional upstarts to enjoy their days in the spotlight, first. Josef and the Five Stripes entered the sport, named it – We’re the Kings of the South – and claimed it.
      Even as Ball sits, the national media is prepping for Jimmy Butler and Bradley Beal to hand LaMelo the baton as the marquee-ready fresh face of the NBA Southeast. Trae Young’s Hawks, however, have a great opportunity to seize not only the division, homecourt advantage over perhaps the Hornets or heat, and a momentous first-round victory, but the prevalent narrative, of who is the Southeast favorite going forward, in the process of it all. Ready, or not.
      Barring a playoff meeting, it looks like the Hornets will avoid the wrath of Tony Snell (out, sprained ankle) and, in they’re lucky, Danilo Gallinari (questionable, sore foot), the latter of whom came alive 15 fourth-quarter points in the Friday’s 120-108 win over the Bulls.
      Graham, Rozier and the Martin Twins, Zan and Jana, were able to sink their teeth into Young (combined 7-for-28 FGs, incl. 0-for-8 3FGs, 13 assists and 12 TOs vs. CHA in January) largely because he had next-to-no perimeter help. Everyone aside from Kevin Huerter in the 102-94 loss at home on January 26, shot 5-for-28 from downtown. Aside from Hill (3-for-5 3FGs) a few nights later in Charlotte, things didn’t get much better (11-for-40 3FGs everyone else).
      The one fellow who could change the outlook today, easing things up for Young (1-for-6 3FGs vs. CHI, but 11-for-14 FTs and copious floaters for 42 points, plus 8 boards and 9 dimes) and/or Lou Williams (15 points and 3 steals vs. CHA w/ LAC on March 20), is Bogdan Bogdanovic. Bogi is eager to avoid a slump after missing all four three-point attempts in Atlanta’s comeback win over Chicago (I’m told Zach LaVine is still at The Farm this morning, trying to break Wilt’s record).
      Having outside shooters the Hornets must take seriously will open up the paint (CHA’s minus-1.9 paint points-per 48 is 3rd-largest differential in NBA East, worst among East playoff contenders) for Clint Capela (22-and-10 vs. CHI), Okongwu and the Hawks’ driving guards. If Atlanta is to avoid a season sweep today, they will want to do as other opponents have done and put Charlotte to bed early, avoiding a late charge led by Scary Terry.
      Hornets fans will be tuning in to the game, cheering their team on in hopes of victory in this Sunday matinee of Southeast Division rivals, then turning their watching devices off and unplugging everything for 24 hours. I can’t blame them. It’s not like their team passed up on That Man for Priest Lauderdale or something.
       
      Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      “Myyyyy kind of big, CAPELA is…”
       
      According to the tale told by the United States Golf Association, a former manager at New York City’s prestigious Waldorf Astoria hotel and part-owner at the Biltmore, was playing a round at a golf course where he was a member, the Country Club of Montreal. The native Canadian, David Mulligan lined up, swung from his shoe-tops at the tee, and was way, way off. Looks like no Masters for you, Davey Boy!
      His foursome buddies found it all the more hilarious that, instead of heading for the forest to play that ball, he reached for another one, and simply teed off again. He called it his “correction shot.” His bon amis found it more apt to name the ploy after him.
      Returning to America, in the NYC suburbs at the legendary Winged Foot Golf Club, Mulligan carried the name to the game that would bring his surname fame. About a century later, the “Mulligan” is granted in the oft-casual play of many of sport. As a more professional example of its application, the Atlanta Hawks earned themselves a Mulligan from fans, for their defensive breakdown this past Wednesday against a similarly short-handed and at least equally-tired Memphis Grizzlies team.
      The “Mulligan” is a fine example of how immigrants influence the nomenclature, the etymology behind so much of our American sports lingo, if not the sports themselves – word to James Naismith. German immigrants in Chicago, after all, are considered to be the fathers of “Cracker Jack,” the snack product that makes peanuts feel a bit redundant at the ballpark. It begs the question: should a Swiss-born center and Trade Deadline acquisition that’s capable of turning around an NBA lottery-level team’s fortunes be called a “Capela”? Or, rather, a “Vucevic”?
      The recent and, one hopes, thoroughly uneventful retirement of former Chicago Bulls rookie and Hawks glue-guy Thabo Sefolosha leaves the NBA with three Schweiz natives. Aside from Portland’s Swiss-Turkish expatriate Eric Kanter, there’s our old friend Nikola Vucevic, the two-time All-Star newly of the Bulls, and the Hawks’ First Team All-Defense finalist Clint Capela. The latter two, born on opposing shores of Lake Geneva, could tip things off tonight (8 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, NBC Sports Chicago) in Atlanta’s first game versus an Eastern Conference foe in 26 days. That is, if Capela can be cleared after sitting out the Memphis game with a sore Achilles.
      He may originate from Geneva, but Clint’s defensive prowess and impact on the Hawks (27-25), since being activated this season, has been far from conventional. By modern NBA standards, he was quite the ironman throughout Atlanta’s West Coast road trip and the extension of the Hawks’ winning streak during the first two games back home. He averaged 15.7 points and 13.7 boards while blocking 2.3 shots in 30.4 minutes per contest. Further, Swiss Bank had been money at decent percentages, for him, around the rim (57.7 FG%) and at the free throw line (73.8 FT%). Capela definitely earned at least a couple days to heal up nagging heel and hand pains.
      Chicago’s newest tag team of executives, Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley (“Karsley”?) want that kind of Army-knife impact for themselves. It’s why they went out at the Trade Deadline and nabbed not just one quality Euro import in Vooch (22.6 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.9 APG in 7 Bulls contests), but a second one, the German ex-Celtic Daniel Theis. While Capela was acquired by Atlanta in 2020 for what I believe was a croque monsieur with Emmental cheese, Chicago was willing to part ways with this years’ (top-4 protected) and 2023’s first-round picks for the chance to double-up on their All-Star roster count while making a sincere run at a Top-6 playoff spot.
      The last two times Capela was shelved, for mid-March contests against Cleveland and Houston, Hawks coach Nate McMillan made do by elevating Italian stallion Danilo Gallinari to Atlanta’s starting five, alongside dunkin’ Deacon John Collins. Neither was available this past Hump Day, and rookie Onyeka Okongwu (13 points, two blocks, 11 boards vs. MEM, his first of many career double-doubles) and public relations director Solomon Hill proved to be valiant but, to the surprise of few, inadequate substitutes against Jonas Valanciunas and friends.
      Atlanta guards, caught overcompensating for the absence of Capela and Collins to help out in the paint, found themselves susceptible to all manner of open gunners and transition runs from their Grizzlie counterparts. Kyle Anderson, shooting 54.5 percent on the night, was the sole Memphis starter making field goals below a 55 percent clip. Despite Trae Young being neutralized along the perimeter and at the charity stripe (0-for-4 3FGs, 2-for2 FTs), the Hawks’ overall offense was fine on Wednesday, but due to the slumped effort at the other end, it was like fighting fire with a Bic lighter.
      New Bulls coach Billy Donovan can only hope for similar generosity from the Hawks’ defenders today. After an adjustment period that stretched a losing skid to six games, Chicago (22-28, 10th in NBA East) has begun hitting their stride. They’re looking to win their fourth consecutive contest after escaping the sidewalk-slamming Raptors in Tampa last night to expand their lead for the final Play-In seed.
      Lead scorer Zach LaVine’s shot has been wayward lately (40.4 FG%, 24.4 3FG%, 72.7 FT% in his past six games). Still, Chicago hopes the Hawks’ struggles to thwart runouts after turnovers and misses will convert one end of the State Farm Arena floor into a runway at O’Hare for LaVine. (Whenever you’re ready, Mr. Dunn, jump right on into the fray).
      The Bulls have been giving their top-10 first-rounder, season-long starter Patrick Williams, trial by fire ever since the season-opener, a 124-104 win by the Hawks in the Second City on December 23, pairing him lately with veteran forward Thaddeus Young.
      The replacement of Wendell Carter and Otto Porter with Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu, plus, frankly, the departure of bench detritus in the multi-team deal that brought in Theis and swingman Troy Brown, affords Billy D the opportunity to re-fashion Finnish big Lauri Markkanen (18 points, 8-for-10 FGs, team-best +23 plus-minus @ TOR yesterday) as a luxury reserve. The transformation of the Bulls into a club that can go comfortably two-deep across all positions gives their postseason prospects new life.
      If Gallo (questionable, sore ankle) and Capela are no-goes yet again today (like Collins, De’Andre Hunter will remain out for several more games, too), Nate Mac may want to grant Nathan Knight, the two-way big who has the size and athleticism to at least track Vucevic inside and out, and the offensively-challenged but functional rebounder Bruno Fernando more minutes at the five-spot, allowing Okongwu to instead split duties with Hill against the Bulls’ healthy and deeper frontline.
      The goose and gander proverb applies today to LaVine, who had three steals last night but also committed five turnovers, and the Bulls on a SEGABABA. On the season, Chicago allows 18.4 points per-48 off turnovers (3rd-worst in NBA), and their team turnover percentage of 15.4 is equally ranked. Donovan’s club ought to be getting a tad road-weary as well, as they’ve played just once at home in their past six games, and won’t see United Center for another three, when Vucevic’s former team from Orlando pays them a visit next week.
      The Hawks are demure when it comes to forcing turnovers (12.6 opponent TO%, tied-3rd worst in NBA) and, because Hawks, Cam Reddish isn’t available to help in that department, either. But the increasingly limited security around the rim should compel a change in defensive calculus for Atlanta. The team’s active leader in thefts, Kevin Huerter, has registered a goose-egg in steals in seven of his last nine games, and the Hawks would do well to have him take a gander when the Bulls’ ballhandlers are caught overdribbling.
      Getting LaVine, Vucevic and Coby White to put the ball on the floor, getting strips, loose balls and outlet passes, and outracing the Bulls to the other end, should help Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic (last six games: 21.8 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 56.5 3FG%) create for themselves and other Hawks. LaVine’s latest starting backcourt mate and defensive stopgap, Tomas Satoransky, had 19 points, 11 assists and a pair of steals on Sunday to help Vucevic and LaVine beat the KD-less and Harden-less Nets in Chicago on Sunday. But if Atlanta takes off repeatedly in transition, the Czech guard can’t conceivably check both Hawks guards by his lonesome.
      Home games today, and on May 1, represent the buns Atlanta will consume on a 13-game Dagwood sandwich of Eastern Conference opponents, a crucial stretch that could accelerate the path toward a coveted Top-6 playoff spot. The Hawks have spent most of the past 30 days watching these teams from afar, rooting on those teams’ opponents to victory while aiding them in the standings. But now Atlanta is tasked with taking care of business, directly, to sew up the postseason themselves.
      If the Hawks (Play-In Magic Number: 14, Top-6 Magic Number: 19) can come away with at least seven wins over that 13-game stanza, then, indeed, that would be a tasty burger. It sure would taste better, though, with plenty of Swiss chard and Swiss cheese. And pile that cheese high, please, because as we know, too many holes is known as a “Kanter.”
       
      RIP, DMX! Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      “Hi, there! It’s me, Jaren Jackson, Jr.!”
       
      Taylor Jenkins gets it. This is no time for hibernation!
      The Memphis Grizzlies pulled themselves together in what was supposed to be the middle of last season. They climbed to 28-26 before the All-Star Break, then bounced back from a post-All-Star swoon, and the loss of Jaren Jackson, Jr. to a sprained knee, with a run that included a pair of games pants-ing the Atlanta Hawks to return to .500 basketball. The playoffs, in year one for rookie coach Jenkins and rookie star Ja Morant, were in full view.
      Then, in a series of unfortunate events, COVID struck, and by the time the season resumed, it was summertime in the Bubble. Jackson returned to play the first three resumptive games only to exit once more after realizing he was trying to play through a meniscus tear.
      Surpassed in the seeding games by Portland, Memphis’ 2-7 finish to the season left Jenkins’ team heading for home before the Playoffs could even begin. They finished 2019-20 with the same record as Phoenix, at 34-39, a half-game behind the 8-seed Blazers. But the way in which the Grizzlies cratered, and the Suns surged, produced teams with divergent sets of outlooks for the season to come.
      This spring, the air has a familiar, funky feeling. Memphis sits in the 8-seed spot, likely too far removed from Dallas to catch the Mavericks or any of the Top-6 teams above them in the NBA West. But a late slip or two, and any number of rival clubs beneath the Grizzlies could surpass them. It could be just like 2020, but with the added indignity of falling out of Play-In contention, too. Coach Jenkins can feel it coming in the air. Oh, Lawd.
      Among head coaches, Jenkins could very well be the Andy Reid of the NBA – in the bad sense, if the reports about his eldest son’s escapades around the Memphis ‘burbs hold true. The Ivy League grad would very much like to have some good comparisons with The Big Tomato to share, but that cannot happen anytime soon, not if the NBA team he coaches bows out of the postseason running two seasons in a row. It’s hard to say he has received much support from his front office.
      Team counsel-turned-GM Zach Kleiman is still holding out hopes that last season’s Trade Deadline move for Justise Winslow (career-low 34.2 FG%), who missed the first two months and is out yet again with a thigh contusion, will pan out. Winslow was key to the multi-team deal that sent Solomon Hill and the bubble-wrapped Andre Iguodala to Miami. The only other Grizzlies addition from that trade, Gorgui Dieng, was waived two weeks ago after Kleiman failed to find a helpful trade partner for him or, seemingly, anybody or anything else.
      Dieng’s departure thins out a Memphis frontcourt, led by Jonas Valanciunas (12.5 RPG, 3rd in NBA, ahead of Z-Bo’s franchise record of 12.2), that is heavily dependent on dominating the glass. Second-year pro Brandon Clarke (out tonight) has been in-and-out of the lineup with a sore calf, leaving Jenkins more reliant upon second-rounder rookie Xavier Tillman lately.
      It sure would help if Jenkins, and the team, had a concrete plan for the return of Jaren “Godot” Jackson, Jr. The club, and Out-of-Action Jackson himself, have been stringing along media and fans with statements of an impending return since mid-January. After insisting his return was just about near at that time, the goalpost has since shifted to just before the All-Star Break, to just after the All-Star Break, to sometime “this month,” the latter statement one can only hope wasn’t issued on the 1st.
      The Grizzlies’ low-point came on March 19, with a bad loss at home to Steph Curry-less Golden State. Since then, things have been looking up, especially since the Grizzlies (25-23) and the Dubs have traded places in the standings. Memphis beat them the next night in the back-to-back series to kickstart a three-game winning streak. They were swept three times in six nights by Jenkins’ former fellow Bud disciple, Quin Snyder, and his West-leading Jazz. But they’ve prevailed in every other game, to this point.
      This week, the Bad Blues Bears knocked off the Sixers in Philly and, last night, shortly after the Hawks’ resounding win over New Orleans, the Grizzlies stifled the heat down in Miami. Now, Memphis is seeking a fourth-straight road win in Atlanta (8 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in both ATL and MEM), its third this week with a game at Madison Square Garden coming on Friday.
      After going 3-9 in the first six pairs of back-to-backs, Atlanta (27-24) is seeking to sweep a back-to-back set for the fourth time in a row under coach Nate McMillan, who got the ball rolling with the victories in Miami and Orlando before the All-Star Break. Comparatively, Memphis is still on the hunt for their first back-to-back sweep this season. This game will definitely be good practice for what lies ahead.
      Everyone’s schedule is tight in the run-up to the mid-May season finales. The Grizzlies’ is especially arduous given they’ll have to play through SEVEN back-to-back sets AFTER this one concludes tonight. That’s 14 of their final 23 games. Memphis had three January games postponed and crammed into the back half of the schedule, due to at least one positive COVID test and associated protocols. They have not had, and will not have, more than one off-day since returning from the All-Star Break.
      Quality roster management is key to enduring these quick turnarounds. Early on, Jenkins was trying to make-do with short seven-man and eight-man rotations on game nights. One problem was that he was leaning heavily on Morant, Dillon Brooks, Valanciunas, and Kyle Anderson (36.0 3FG%; 3-for-6 3FGs @ MIA last night, but 7-for-25 in the prior 8 games), his most-utilized 4-Man lineup as per bball-ref, yet only the latter was hitting threes above a 34 percent clip.
      Jenkins has come to understand that he needs one of Grayson Allen (40.5 3FG%), injured guard De’Anthony Melton or rookie Desmond Bane (45.3 3FG%) on the floor at all times, at least until his hard-to-pin-down stretch-four finally makes it onto the hardwood.
      The other challenge is tied to Jenkins’ success in Bud-balling the notoriously, historically slow tempo of gritty, grindy Grizzlie hoops (6th in Pace, same as last year; 30th the prior season under JB Bickerstaff). Second Spectrum clocks Memphis’ speed on defense at a league-high 4.00 miles per hour, a particularly impressive feat for a team whose heaviest frontcourt minutes belong to a 265-pound behemoth and a gentleman that understandably goes by the nickname, “Slo-Mo”.
      That’s a sign that the Grizzlies (15.5 opponent TOs per-100 possessions, 2nd-most in NBA) are roving all around the perimeter, doing all they can to thwart opposing ballhandlers’ penetration and limit passes to open shooters beyond the three-point arc. They lead the league in steals (9.6 team SPG) by committee, with six players averaging one swipe per game and Morant (0.9 SPG) just a shade behind them.
      When Memphis is connecting on triples (7-1 when hitting 14 3FGs or more, the sole blemish a one-point loss vs. DEN) and winning turnover battles, they’re hard to stop. But they can get in their own way, at times, with excessive fouling. Back when it was still defined as basketball, Trae Young was the beneficiary in Memphis on December 26. He was held to just 1-for-7 shooting from downtown but earning 15 of his 36 points from the free throw line, nine coming in the pivotal fourth-quarter as Atlanta pulled ahead and away for the 122-112 victory.
      Young (9 assists @ MEM on Dec. 26) also committed just two turnovers on the evening, tag-teaming with reserve guard Kevin Huerter (4-for-5 3FGs, 21 points, 4 assists @ MEM) to neutralize the Grizzlies’ withering defensive blitz.
      Atlanta has added a few extra offensive tools to help Young (30 points, 6-for-7 3FGs, 12 assists, 3 TOs yesterday vs. NOP) since then, notably Danilo Gallinari (questionable for today, sore ankle), Lou Williams and Tony Snell, to go along with a vastly more confident Bogdan Bogdanovic. All have taken turns during the Hawks’ winning run, including in last night’s 123-107 win over the Pelicans (NBA-record 11-for-11 team 3FGs in the third quarter), putting their offensive wares on display, forcing coaches with the singular Trap Trae and Hope for the Best defensive scheme to head back to the drawing boards.
      As demonstrated by Young’s understated performance against Curry’s Warriors, and Morant’s play of late (9.7 PPG on 7.7 FGAs/game, 39.1 FG%, 57.1 FT% in last 3 games), both the Hawks and the Grizzlies are figuring out how to survive, and even thrive, without their precocious lead-scoring guards finding it essential to go for 30-plus on the regular. From the looks of things, though, the Hawks have more tools on the floor now, and more coming, than the Grizzlies have to prepare for the road ahead, thanks to superior roster construction. Atlanta has won their last four games when Trae finished under 15 points (0-2 in games prior).
      Memphis, meanwhile, will be scrambling to get Jackson, Clarke, Melton and Winslow back in the mix. They’ll have to iron out the kinks in the middle of an unrelenting season-ending schedule that, if all goes swimmingly well, will still have them wrangling in a Play-In for the right to take on a 1-seed or a 2-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
      If things don’t continue to go well, Jenkins is bound to catch sneers for Memphis, despite being a young, hobbling and rebuilding team, fumbling away a chance at reaching the playoffs yet again. If he has learned anything from Coach Bud, he will know what to do when the criticizing sharks circle about, and the front office starts to make it look maybe like he’s the problem. Get those resumes printed out, stat!
       
      Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3