Boston–Links from around the Association . . .
When Al signed a contract extension with the Hawks that was nearly identical to the one signed by his Florida teammate and friend Joakim Noah, I figured that was about right.
They are comparable players with nearly identical win shares per 48 minutes. Al is the superior offensive player. Noah (probably) is a better post defender, though Al’s defensive versatility can’t be discounted. The areas in which I thought Al had the advantage over Noah were age (he’s more than a full year younger) and durability.
Noah missed 18 games last season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which has to be a concern for a big man. Now comes word that he will have thumb surgery and miss up to 10 weeks:
“It sucks,” Noah said. “It’s not what I want. But I have to get back to playing at a high level. I’m tired of taking anti-inflammatory (pills) every time I play. I’m tired of not dribbling with my right hand.
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“I’m going to miss playing. It’s frustrating because I feel we have a chance to be really, really good. But I know in the long run, this is what needs to be done.”
Even with the bum thumb, Noah went for 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in Chicago’s victory over Toronto. I watched the game alongside Celtics-Knicks (good one, though shocking to see C’s play no D in fourth quarter)) at the sports bar in my hotel and Noah looked pretty good, his ridiculous ‘do (even by his standards) notwithstanding.
The Bulls don’t have much in the way of backups to Noah, unless Omar Asik or Kurt Thomas excite you. Derrick Rose also has been hurting.
Obviously it’s good for the Hawks if the Bulls cool off without Noah, so now we will see if Chicago can hold it down the way the Hawks (so far) have managed to do without J.J.
Magic slumping, not sick
In another item from the “It’s good to be in the East” department . . . .
The Magic are teetering. That’s of course assuming they don’t all still have the flu and aren’t just playing worse than their opponents who are playing bad. Those were the excuses offered by the Magic after Atlanta’s W in their building last week.
“(It was) not mismatches, not fatigue,” a fuming Van Gundy said. “It was a lack of effort, lack of toughness (and a) lack of any desire to defend anybody … We’re finding every b.s. excuse in the book right now. That’s what we’re doing.” . . .
“It was the same in every game of the trip, even the Clipper game,” Van Gundy said. “We just had a big enough lead at the half to survive. Our offense died in the second half of every one, and we play no defense. We play no defense, whatsoever.
“On this trip we were one of the worst defensive teams in the league. If that doesn’t change, we will be a very bad basketball team.”
(Can’t lie, seeing “a fuming Van Gundy” made me wistful for the days when I could regularly enjoy some good Stan rants.)
Notably, at the Orlando Sentinel’s Magic blog “flu” or “ugly basketball” were not among the choices for a poll asking readers to ID the Magic’s biggest problem. At last look, “Lack of a go-to player,” “Lack of defensive intensity,” and “Lack of effort” were getting blown out by “All of the above.”
After Atlanta’s L at Detroit Jason Walker at Peachtree Hoops offered the following (thoughtful) critique of Horford’s offense:
I’ve lauded Al Horford time and time again, so allow me to nit pick regarding his performance tonight. Many times Horford holds the ball too long at the top of the key. I know he’s looking to pass because the play calls for it, but there are times when nobody is open and his defender is nowhere in sight that he has to go to the basket with the ball. He defers way too often when he doesn’t have to and sometimes it puts the Hawks in a position where there is no time left (because we initiate the play with 10-12 seconds left) and all that can be done is a long, contested, jump shot.
Walker says Al needs to take the ball to the basket (which he notably did just the other day at San Antonio with great success). I’d add that Al also too often passes up that jumper in those situations. With the way he’s shooting from that range, it’s not like he’s going find many better options passing it around.
Jamal, square peg
Walker also weighed in on what will probably be a continuing theme, the dilemma Jamal faces when asked to run the team:
Crawford takes way too long to get the team going in an offensive set, sometimes defaulting to breaking down his man off the dribble to create some offense for himself. Last night in Detroit, there were times when the shot clock got to 10 and the ball was still in Crawford’s hands without a single pass.
Crawford is misused in this capacity, he needs the freedom to spot up, come off picks, and score the basketball. Getting guys in the right position and cranking up an offense is not his forte. Getting guys to foul him while knocking down a three is.
Sometimes you can just see Jamal yearning to bust out like he did in his days with Woody. It’s what he does best, after all, and it’s not that he isn’t willing to set guys up, it’s just that it goes against his instincts.
Jamal, by the way, is iffy to play against the Celtics due to a sore back. Shaq apparently has ruled himself out for the game, so Doc will have to somehow get by with Big Baby, KG and surprisingly serviceable Turk rook Semih Erden in the power rotation.
ESPN.com CBA guru Larry Coon lists the players who can be traded starting today (which is different from saying they are in fact tradeable). J.J., Josh Powell, Etan and Twin make the list for the Hawks, though Collins can’t be traded without his consent under CBA rules.
So take a look at Coon’s list and dream up your own trade scenarios, blog people. I’ve noticed that 90 percent of the conversation on most NBA blogs is devoted to this pursuit, and that a higher percentage of those scenarios tend to be unrealistic. I know it’s fun, though.