Hope everyone is enjoying some time off. This will be brief, and we’ll get to game time. I just saw the most interesting thing. Well, maybe that’s overselling it.
The Hawks have a practice gym next to their locker room at Philips Arena, and I was walking through there from the locker room to the media room. Joe Johnson had just left the locker room to go shoot, and when I saw him in the gym, I saw him throwing a ball to the far end of the court.
When I walked in the gym, I saw who (I assume) he threw the ball to – Shaquille O’Neal, who was practicing jump hooks with a Cavs staffer. Johnson left and got another ball, and started shooting with a team gopher. Mike Bibby came in shortly after, to work with Johnson on something, and as soon as Shaq saw Bibby, he makes a joke about a fixed game. I didn’t hear what they were talking about, but I’m guessing it had to do with Tim Donaghy’s allegations.
Bibby went to Shaq’s end of the court, and they continued talking about that game, all in good fun, just two friends giving each other a hard time. Johnson, meanwhile, started taking 3-pointers. There was little to suggest an important game was about an hour away. It was a quiet gym with guys taking shots at either end.
I may remember that as much as anything from the time I cover this team.
Anyway, some brief thoughts. I don’t know that this game means as much to Cleveland as it does the Hawks. The Hawks are talking about these two games as measuring sticks, and apparently, the Cavaliers were talking about their Christmas Day game with the Lakers the same way.
My prediction is that Jason Collins will play. I don’t know how much Joe Smith can give, and I’m sure that Mike Woodson is going to spend a lot of fouls on Cleveland’s big guys.
Something to watch – how Joe Johnson does. It’s not quite the same thing, but Johnson has outplayed Brandon Roy, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams when they came to town. LeBron James is a different creature, of course, and a different position, but I think Johnson will want to perform, regardless.
Also, Al Horford. He didn’t play hardly at all in the playoffs – as I wrote in today’s notebook, he said in hindsight, he shouldn’t have even played and put himself at further risk of injury. He’s been on a roll and this, obviously, is a giant challenge (and also opportunity) for him.
Gotta start writing. Enjoy the game.