Archive for December, 2010

Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic: Collins starts so Al doesn’t have to ‘wrestle’ Dwight

OrlandoTwin is starting at center.

Say what you want about his effectiveness but L.D. has stuck to his pledge of using Collins so Al can play more at power forward. Assuming he doesn’t hack Dwight every other play and foul out in five minutes, after this game Twin probably will have played more minutes this season than he did all of last year.

Basically Collins gets the call tonight so Al doesn’t have to tangle with Dwight.

“What has been good to us thus far when we play the Magic is using him at the four,” L.D. said. “That frees him up to not have to wrestle with a center that is bigger than him and much stronger than him.”

Al will get to work against Rashard Lewis. Advantage: Al. Of course, Stan Van Gundy won’t let Rashard get abused for too long before he loads up against Al.

Atlanta’s offense stagnated when the Heat did that after Al took it to Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony in the fourth quarter the other night.

“We have to be mentally strong so if that first option is not …

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Atlanta Hawks: Magic sick to their stomachs

The Magic are being attacked by some kind of stomach flu bug so there’s a chance they will be without Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick tonight against the Hawks.

(Update: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says he’s optimistic Howard, Pietrus and Redick will play tonight though he’s not sure how much energy they will have. Nelson is doubtful)

From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Stan Van Gundy left Wisconsin hoping that Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick will recover from their stomach virus in time to play Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.

But Van Gundy also emphasized that he had no idea whether the foursome would be healthy enough.

“Monday night, I think, is still pretty iffy for a lot of guys,” he said.

Redick came down with the illness first, beginning to experience symptoms early last Wednesday morning. Four days later, he still wasn’t ready to play in Milwaukee.

Howard and Nelson became ill on Friday. So, if their …

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Atlanta Hawks: Heat 89, Hawks 77

Hawks crashed back to earth against Heat. (AP Photo)

Hawks crashed back to earth against Heat. (AP Photo)

Miami– After this one Mo wasn’t in the mood to be proud about a near-miss against a good team while missing J.J.: “Another ‘moral victory’ but we had one of those against Orlando last time. Those don’t count for anything.”

– Add Phoenix, Utah, and Dallas to that list, too. The margin of error is slim for the Hawks against good teams and so far they haven’t proven they can make the handful of positive plays at winning time to get Ws.

– Or maybe more to the point they haven’t been able to avoid the negative plays that lead to these kind of losses. “We had some opportunities and we had a couple of missed assignments and a couple of turnovers in that fourth quarter, and then the game got away from us,” L.D. said.

– There was Josh Powell’s turnover that led to a layup by D-Wade that started a 7-0 run with the Hawks down 66-63. Smoove had a turnover during that run, too.

– The Hawks one last run at it when Jamal scored to cut …

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Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat: Josh Smith to team: My bad

L.D. , as I suspected, didn’t see (or didn’t want to see) any of Josh’s antics at the end of the bench during last night’s game.

He ignored Josh when he scowled and yelled as he came off the court after L.D. yanked him. He didn’t pay attention to Smoove’s griping to teammates or staying away from the timeout huddles.

“I was coaching the game,” L.D. said.

Lots of other people saw Josh’s behavior, though, and it wasn’t a good look for one of Atlanta’s captains. They’ve seen this before but my sense was that this was worse because Smoove has been playing so well and for the most part had kept his emotions under check.

What we didn’t see,m though, is what happened in the Atlanta locker room after the game.

“First thing he did after the game, I came in to address the team and he said, ‘Hey, coach, I just want to apologize to everyone for how I handled the situation,’” L.D. said. “He didn’t have to do that but he did. I think he knows in his heart he didn’t handle that the right …

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Atlanta Hawks: Big game tonight . . . for the Heat?

Miami–So we know the Hawks think this game tonight is the start of a stretch that will let us know what they are about. Listening to the Heat at shootaround today, they think the Hawks are a test, too.

Fresh off a beatdown of the Cavs following a few days of LeBron-centered turmoil, Miami is headed out on a four-game road trip after this.

They say they consider this game against the Hawks a big deal.

“For a couple different reasons,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “For us to build on these three games, but also we are playing a hot team, regardless of Joe Johnson being out. And they are ahead of us [in the East]. We don’t need anymore motivation than that.”

I suppose the Hawks can be considered “hot” considering their five-game winning streak, though it’s not the word I’d use after that weird W last night. Definitely “resilient” and also “fortunate.” At this point they could use a victory against a good team just for some confidence.

In any event, it’s Atlanta’s offense …

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Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 93, Sixers 88

– Bizarre night at the Highlight Factory. Smoove gets benched in the fourth quarter and the Hawks are better for it. Jamal misses clutch free throws. Zaza grabs a key rebound. Marvin gets it done all night. Al couldn’t get anything going much of the night but owned the final moments.

– I’m still trying to figure out how the Hawks won when they basically 10 minutes of solid basketball. I suppose that’s all it takes to best the Sixers but, man, sucks for them to take it to the Hawks all night and then collapse when it counted (just one point in the final 4:57, with Lou Williams’ missed dunk on a fastbreak the low point).

– That’s not to slight the Hawks, who rallied for their fifth straight W and avoid a deflating L before heading off for the formidable Florida swing. “We got down but we were never out,” Marvin said. “A couple years back we would have folded. We are all older guys now.”

– “You’re not going to put the perfect game together every time,” L.D. said. “There’s going …

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Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks: Life after Joe

OK, blog people, I’m back in action. I can put together some halfway coherent thoughts and just had my first solid food in two days (mmm, chicken). Thanks for the well wishes.

Lots of chatter about whether the Hawks will be better off without J.J.. I understand the sentiment. He hadn’t been himself and so basically the Hawks have shed their highest-volume, lowest-percentage shooter and now those shots will be spread around elsewhere.

Yet J.J. also is second on the team in assist percentage. He has an even lower turnover rate than Bibby, who never turns it over. Joe draws lots of attention from defenders. And he can defend three positions (with varying degrees of success, but even halfway competent perimeter defenders are cherished on this roster).

The Hawks are going to miss some of that just a little bit, right?

Anyway, the debate soon will be moot as we can see how all the hypothetical arguments regarding J.J. play out over the next few weeks. It will be interesting, at …

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Atlanta Hawks: Damien Wilkins asked to provide defense, toughness

The Hawks declined to sign a defensive-minded wing player over the summer or after Marvin Williams and Mo Evans went down with injuries last month.

They quickly added that type of free agent in the wake of Joe Johnson’s surgery, signing veteran swingman Damien Wilkins to a prorated veteran’s minimum contract today.

“I think we’ll get a hard-nosed player, a guy who plays hard,” coach Larry Drew said. “A good defensive player who gives us a guy with size that can defend the [shooting guard] and the [small forward] spot. I’m more focused on his energy and the toughness that he brings and he’s a solid defensive player. That’s something you can never have enough of. We are very pleased to have him on board.”

Drew said Wilkins would get a “crash course” in the team’s schemes today but he wasn’t sure if Wilkins would dress for tonight’s game against Philadelphia.

Wilkins, 30, is a six-year NBA veteran who played last season with Minnesota and appeared in two preseason games with …

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Memphis Grizzlies at Atlanta Hawks: No go for Joe Johnson (Update: J.J. to have surgery, miss 4-6 weeks)

Update: The Hawks announced that Joe Johnson will have arthroscopic surgery to remove “loose bodies” from the elbow. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Johnson woke up with discomfort Tuesday and underwent tests later in the day. Johnson sought a second opinion today from Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala. Andrews will perform the surgery.

“This is something that clearly had to be looked at,” Drew said before the surgery was announced. “As of yesterday, he could not extend his arm.”

Drew said Mo Evans would start in Johnson’s place tonight vs. Memphis. He said Jamal Crawford and possibly rookie Jordan Crawford would see increased playing time.

Johnson had played in all 18 games this season and had missed just eight games due to injury since the 2007-08 season. His injury comes as the Hawks face a difficult stretch of the schedule this month that includes road games against Miami, Orlando, San Antonio, Boston and New Orleans.

“I certainly have to make some adjustments because …

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Atlanta Hawks: Is Joe Johnson simply slumping?

J.J. is forcing some shots but he's also missing lots of open looks. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

J.J. is forcing some shots but he’s missing lots of open looks. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

As J.J.’s offensive struggles have continued he’s started to force things. He’s still a willing passer but he’s also tended to fall back into his habit of holding the ball, setting up his man and going one-on-one. And it just doesn’t seem like he’s been as good as that as usual, a development that’s in stark contrast to how his teammates have taken to the L.D.’s more balanced offensive approach.

But beyond those issues, my perception is that J.J. simply has missed a lot of good, open shots, particularly spot-up 3-pointers. Those are the kind of shots that tend to have little to do with forcing things. By definition, they don’t require J.J. to create his own shot. A teammate already has already made the play to create space; all J.J. has to do is catch the ball in rhythm, square up and make an open shot.

I think J.J. just hasn’t been able to do it consistently this season, but that’s …

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