Atlanta Hawks Game Thread: Rockets vs. Hawks

Vivlamore reporting following the Hawks’ morning shootaround. Here is an early start on your game thread.

The Hawks will be challenged defensively on the perimeter right off the bat. For here comes the Rockets and newly acquired guard James Harden for tonight’s season opener.

Harden lit up the Pistons for a game-high 37 points, on 14 of 25 shooting, in the Rockets’ 105-96 season-opening victory Wednesday at Detroit. He also had 12 assists making him the first-ever NBA player to score 37 or more points and have double-digit assists in his team debut. The 6-foot-5 Harden could present problems for 6-3 Devin Harris and 6-5 DeShawn Stevenson, two who figure to draw much of the defensive assignment.

“I did,” Harris said with a slight smile when asked if he watched the Rockets-Pistons game. “He’s a good player. He’s a max (contract) player for a reason. He’s tough. We’ll throw a lot of different guys at him. The main thing is to try to keep him off the free-throw line and keep him out of the paint.”

Harden was acquired by the Rockets from the Thunder earlier this week. He also signed a contract worth a reported five years and $80 million. Stevenson said Harden will be brimming with confidence after signing such a deal.

Hawks coach Larry Drew said the challenge will be stopping the Rockets’ predominately pick-and-roll offense with Jeremy Lin and Harden.

“The best we can,” Drew said when I asked how he will defend Harden. “He is really good. We have to do a good job collectively. As I told the guys today, he won’t be just one man’s responsibility. We have to make sure that we zero in and just be solid. We’ve worked on a lot of different things over the preseason, particularly playing against guys like him. We have to stick with our concepts and stick with our principles.

“It will give us a good chance, as a measuring stick, to see where we stand, particularly defensively. You won’t play against as many guys as good and as aggressive as James Harden. It will be a good test for us.”

The Hawks will be without back-up center Johan Petro, who is out with a sore back. Drew said Petro is “getting better and better” but held him out for precautionary reasons.

That leaves the task of stopping the Rockets’ 7-foot center Omer Asik to Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.

“With Asik, he’s a load,” Drew said. “He takes up a lot of space in the middle. We are just going to have to do a good job on him. When he was in Chicago, he did really well for them and he seems to have found on home with (the Rockets). We may not be able to match size right off the bat, but we have to be able to match physicality. We really focus on what we need to do and if we do that, we should be OK.”

Drew, once again, declined to announce his starting lineup saying it was a “game-time decision.”

Check back before the game for updates.

- Chris Vivlamore

LATEST NEWS

* Q and A with Al Horford

* Smith on verge of statistical milestone

* Smith, Horford are interim captains

* Reasons for optimism

* Five things we learned from the preseason

* Teague, Pachulia return to full-contact practice, ready for opener

* Failure not an option for Tolliver

* Hawks ownership ‘extremely’ fortunate to keep stake in team

Follow me on Twitter at ajchawks

702 comments Add your comment

Grandad

November 2nd, 2012
2:13 pm

* [F T L B] *

Al`s true hgt = 6-8.75
The true Centers in the league are plus 7 ft.

Hibbert = 7-2 ?
Pau Gasol = 7-1 or 2
Mark Gasol = 7 ft +

Even some true 6-11 guys have 7-7 wing-spans … McGhee.
____________________________________________

Al has a Big enough Heart;
but why should we ask him to challenge these really big Bigs
when it`s not necessary.
Simply go get some Bigs of our own.
Al and Josh can still play together … `tis not a competition …
between Josh and Al.
I think that is what some of you guys have made it in your minds.

And it`s not !
I actually think the two of them agree on the fact;
we need some help inside … you reckon ?

Grandad

November 2nd, 2012
2:14 pm

Yee Haw – 1st;
now I`ll read the article !

Point-forward

November 2nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Will be in Phillips tonight. As Lou Williams says- TURN UP!

kwooden1

November 2nd, 2012
2:30 pm

The guys should be OK today starting Korver at SF, because Parsons is a very similar player. I’m OK with Stevenson on Harden and Horford against Asik. This should be a good game for Lou because Houston really doesn’t have anyone that can stay with him. I think if we shoot a decent % from 3, we should be in the game with a chance to win at the end. I watched the Houston/Detroit game and really it came down to Defino hitting 4 3s in the 4th and not Harden’s 37. I really wish we had spent money on him instead of Korver

GO HAWKS!

Jay

November 2nd, 2012
2:33 pm

Give us the starting lineup.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
2:36 pm

Defend the pick and roll..

Defend the pick and roll…

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
2:37 pm

I don’t know if this was already posted, but Grantland has a really fantastic article about the Hawks this year.

A lot of good stuff in there, but in particular:

Watching the players respond to him, however, during the closed shootaround, open practice, or a preseason game, it was clear Drew has had some help in making this team come together. His name is Josh Smith, he’s the clear leader of this team, and he is as important to the Atlanta Hawks as he ever has been.

Every new player who I chatted with noted that Josh and Al Horford were instrumental in bonding the team, but Josh is far and away the more vocal of the two veterans. And he seems to know and welcome the fact that while his stat line alone will not be the deciding factor in wins and losses, the burden of making sure this team comes together is solely his.

He’s the emotional focal point of the team, keeping people loose but focused, monitoring emotions on and off the court. He hasn’t been forced into leadership. He wants it. Before the season started, Josh told me he sought out Kevin Garnett (by way of high school teammate Rajon Rondo) to pick his brain about how to lead. “Listening to a guy that’s been in that situation, in that predicament, with Minnesota,” Josh said, “I think that it definitely helps me out from the mind-set of how to think the right way. He definitely told me you got to lead by example, you have to be that vocal leader, and each and every night, you have to let these guys know they have to give 150 percent. I definitely took that to heart, and I’m just trying to go out here like that for the rest of this training camp and for the rest of the season.”

Go read the whole thing — it is pretty long but it is worth your time.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
2:38 pm

Also interesting that Danny Ferry had no idea that the Joe and Marvin trades would be received so favorably by the fans.

prison mike

November 2nd, 2012
2:51 pm

Al needs to man up, next up for him Omer Asik. Josh came into camp around 230 last year and battled all comers. No complaints from him when Drew asked him to guard bigger, faster, stronger guys than him.

Ferry needs to pursue Cousins for Al. Al’s answer should have been “I’m a two time all star and look to build on that. The center position is changing and I can advantage of that.”

He’s part of the reason that they are eliminating the all star position at center.

kevkat

November 2nd, 2012
2:52 pm

Starting lineup is a game time decision? What the hell is that about? This is what concerns me about “no clue Drew”. How do you not know your starting lineup or won’t disclose it if you do on the day your season starts?

Astro Joe

November 2nd, 2012
2:54 pm

Najeh, I heard Josh talk about his visit with Rondo and KG on the radio but he didn’t share any specifics. Kind of interesting to hear hthem discuss the Minnesota experience (as opposed to Boston).

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
2:58 pm

Cousins for Al? Hmmmmmm

Could Al generate that kind of trade value in GM circles Prison Mike?

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
3:05 pm

There are legitimate reasons to consider trading either Al or Josh, but a few comments he made to Vivlamore are not one of them in my opinion.

FreshFromATL

November 2nd, 2012
3:07 pm

kevkat,

I’m pretty sure Drew knows what his lineup is gonna be, but since the Hawks have several different ways they can presents themselves on any given night, Drew likes to keep that info enclosed up until the tip-off.

tbhawksfan

November 2nd, 2012
3:09 pm

Maybe Josh will finally mature itno a player to match his talent. Get’em a BIG . Trade Zaza / Morrow / And we have a couple of picks. get’ em a BIG

Dasher

November 2nd, 2012
3:10 pm

So, is ESPN going to replace Hoopinion on it’s blog roll? Because it would be soooo Hawks for them to be the only team w/o a blog to start the season.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
3:15 pm

Najeh ,

Thanks for posting that article excerpt and link. Really good stuff. I’d like to see Josh Smith act even more on what he’s talking about.

Grandad ,

Agreed, but haven’t seen that happen yet. Boston had Perkins, but he went to OKC. I’d take an Omer Asik around here. I’d take any big goon worth his neanderthal brow…but we always seem to get the worst of the scrap heap.

I’m looking for Ferry to change that somehow.

But…don’t be surprised if we lose Horford in the process. Trading Josh = probably a big mistake now. Ferry may have been surprised about how well received trading Joe and Marvin was, but he can’t be blind to the effet that trading Josh will have.

Right now, I can’t think of a feasible trade that involves Josh Smith and makes us better. Not by itself…

It’s Here!!!!! « euphonious jabber

November 2nd, 2012
3:19 pm

Ra'mon

November 2nd, 2012
3:21 pm

CV, I must say you’re doing a wonderful job!

I’ve been quiet on the boards lately because I’ve decided to refrain from saying too much before an actual game is played.

FTPB, Al’s interview doesn’t surprise me. I’m not going to say much about it. I will just say a vast majority of the league are playing PF’s at the center position. Mia, Bos, Dal (even with Kaman he’s not a back to the basket player), Chi (Noah is someone Al guarded every day for 2 seasons- not overmatched). There are maybe five to seven classic back to the basket centers in the league, and two of them remain injured most seasons (Lopez and Bynum).

In my mind the center position is about four main assignments, and if you can excel at 2 or three of them, you’re a good center. 1)Rebounding , 2) Post defense, 3) Defending Pick and Roll, 4) finishing at the rim. If you look at MOST centers in this league, they can only do two of these things. Lopez truthfully only excels at one of these things and that’s finishing. He’s not good at defense nor rebounding. Perkins is an average rebounder, below average finisher at the rim, and he excels at post defense and pick & roll defense. If you look at the rebounding numbers, very few centers rebound better than a 9.0 rpg. However, Al has repeatedly done this in his career. Al is an average post defender. And he’s great at finishing at the rim, and defending P&R/Switch defense. So in my book, Al succeeds at the 3 of the 4 jobs of a center. So other than weight and height, I don’t see how he’s not a center. As I did the numbers before, Al has proven to be more efficient at the center position than in games when he played PF.

As a center, I like Al’s game, and I have very few complaints. As a power forward, I dislike the matchup it leaves and find many problems particular on the offensive end with Al going against defenders with quicker feet.

CV, has Ferry ever made ANY comment about Teague’s contract status? I ask because there’s no way that Teague should be paid over $7-8 Million a season.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
3:22 pm

Grantland is on fire today… this is not basketball related but doc and Slimjr might find this interesting.

FreshFromATL

November 2nd, 2012
3:22 pm

Thanks for the article Najeh.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
3:22 pm

prison mike ,

Cousins can be a beast. But before you make that move, you need two things. A savvy head coach and a shrink. Maybe a third and fourth thing – a leader at the pg spot and a shock collar.

Just sayin’…

A guy with that much size and talent…loads of potential. Went for 18 and 11 last season…give me him over Al Jefferson. But a headcase that shoots a lower FG% than he should. Gets in way too much foul trouble (averages over 4 fouls per game) which indicates a lack of defensive fundamentals.

In trading Al, I’d ask for a little more in return than Cousins, but I can’t say I wouldn’t do it. Depends on who the coach is. And we’d need a REAL big man coach on the staff, not whichever useless one we’ve been paying thus far.

One thing to laugh at – Cousins being mentored by Josh Smith, who did not have the luxury of a mentor his entire NBA career…that’s just not fair. Josh doesn’t need that headache and you know Cousins and Ivan will fight, LOL.

terrell

November 2nd, 2012
3:38 pm

Lakers shouldve just got Dwight, and left Steve Nash in Phoenix. Just doesnt fit what theyre trying to do. Go Hawks!

terrell

November 2nd, 2012
3:41 pm

Why are we still writing about Petro? I mean seriously. Who the …. cares? Just wasting space.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
3:42 pm

Kobe is fixin to run his coach out of town.. Let them lose two more in a row!

They are 0-10 with this new squad…[Preseason included]

prison mike

November 2nd, 2012
3:43 pm

Al will always be insistent on playing the 4. His agent, his father, even his grandfather if still alive are all pushing way too hard for it.

Most likely not, but this may be the next major issue in hawk land. If it’s a struggle down there, maybe some weight gain may be in order, just a wild theory. I would be impressed if he came into camp either ripped up or a good 260.

I can respect guys like Mourning. Undersized but it was the size of the fight.

terrell

November 2nd, 2012
3:45 pm

They wont trade Cousins for Al. smh. Just stop it.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
3:49 pm

Najeh,

next thing ya know these media types will be labeling the Cowboys receivers as [polarizing] if they have not already. Same ole ish….. Yawn….

terrell

November 2nd, 2012
3:50 pm

LD pullin some Lane Kiffin shizz. Just tell us the lineup for crying out loud. Whats the BIG deal?? Clown

Ra'mon

November 2nd, 2012
3:51 pm

The thing Al has to realize is if Zaza starts, and Al starts, then there is NO center on the bench if either or both gets in foul trouble. So even against bigger centers, it will be hard for the Hawks to start Zaza and Al.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
3:54 pm

Nothing Al said in that interview is inaccurate. He is too small to guard certain players (Dwight, Bynum, maybe Bogut, a couple of others). Zaza does need to help out when they play those bigger bodies. But with all that said, when the best team in your division is making a full time commitment to disregarding traditional positions and playing a natural PF at C and a natural SF at PF, it’s a pretty clear signal that this isn’t the NBA of Wilt, Kareem, Hakeem, and Shaq. Hopefully Al understands that in today’s NBA, against at least 25 teams in the league, center is his best position.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
3:55 pm

I’m really concerned about Al’s health..I do not want him matched up against Hibbert! That guy is huge and can hurt ya with out even trying…Too early in the season to lose him again!

Protect him Larry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
3:57 pm

“next thing ya know these media types will be labeling the Cowboys receivers as [polarizing] if they have not already. Same ole ish….. Yawn….”

I thought it was a pretty fair article. Let’s face it, there is a huge gap between what he should have been (and what he was at his peak in 2010) and what he actually is. The only real disagreement is why that gap exists — me and you are on the side that attributes it mostly to factors outside his control, while doc is on the side that attributes it to him, and none of us can definitively prove our point one way or another. That is the very definition of polarizing.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
4:06 pm

Agree Najeh, great points as always….

Astro Joe

November 2nd, 2012
4:10 pm

I know that Cousins is a big guy, but does he block more shots than Horford? And around here, that is the only way to define a center’s defensive worth.

terrell

November 2nd, 2012
4:11 pm

Josh is the BEST pf on the team. Why move Josh out of position just to make Al happy? Btw, Al hasnt really looked like s worldbeater at pf either. I actually like him better at center.

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
4:13 pm

RG3 will go where Vic was trying to get to.. He has similar physical attributes[4.3 speed] [cannon arm] with better touch..

But what most [media types] are shocked and more impressed with is his cerebral ability to understand the NFL game and what’s going on on the field as a rook..

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
4:15 pm

We heard from Al’s blood relatives all of one time. Haven’t heard anything since (somebody was smart enough not to interview them further…it’s not like they have much to say). Who cares what they have to say? It means absolutely nothing and I doubt they have a single ounce of influence on the Atlanta Hawks organization. Have you seen the Hawks do anything to assuage the “effective big man” situation? Nope. We keep getting Johan Petro and Jason Collins types….

Al would have been purely a PF in the 90s and even in the earlys 2000s. As Najeh said, that’s not today’s NBA. Just so happens that the defending NBA champs won their ring with NOTHING resembling an credible/believeable NBA center.

That said, my concern has always been Horford’s mentality.

But as I recall, the highly touted “it’s a conspiracy to undermine Josh” argument is based on one simple set of quotes where somebody asked Horford what he preferred .

If this was a developing problem between Josh and Al, you would not see Josh saying anything about being excited about the ensuing season, much less any sort of enthusiasm post-Joe & Marvin.

I think what’s not being said is VERY, VERY telling…..

And the Hawks STILL need credible help down low in the form of a rugged banger/space-eater.

Sorry for his fans, but Keith Benson was not and never will be THAT….

Slimjr

November 2nd, 2012
4:18 pm

YOU HAVE TO [Protect Al Horford]!

The Hawks cannot afford to lose him again for the whole season…..

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
4:22 pm

As for Alonzo Mourning…that ought to drive home a point that some folks are missing.

‘Zo was listed as a credible 6′10 or 6′11 (depends on who you read)…and about 260 lbs of pure muscle. That was considered undersized at the time. Funny, because those are very similar measurements to one guy named Dwight Howard….who ‘Zo would have beat up on regularly. Hell, ‘Zo would have made a younger Ben Wallace cry. The guy was a warrior and immensely strong. Still considered undersized…but would dominate the NBA these days, more so than he did in his heyday of 7′1+ guys who actually had game. Guess who else was undersized? Some 6′10″ guy named Olajuwon…

Similar is Emeka Okafor…another guy considered a center these days. Want a comparison to how it used to be if you don’t remember?

P.J. Brown was a PF his entire career…dude was a legit 6′11″ 245 or so….played PF next to ‘Zo.

Al really doesn’t compare favorably to any of the above mentioned guys from a physical standpoint…Okafor is the closest comparison. He’s not as strong as any of these guys.

Problem with him gaining weight is much like what happens if Smith gains weight…he loses lift and mobility. So that’s a no-go.

Either we upgrade through infusion of greater talent at other positions (what Miami Heat did) or we trade off Al/Josh, or we add an enforcer in the mold of OKC’s Perkins or something…otherwise things will remain the same.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
4:24 pm

Slim Jr ,

I wouldn’t worry too much about Horford vs. Hibbet. Al is too quick for him and won’t even bother trying to post him up. Look at their matchups for the past couple of years (last year really doesn’t count due to Al being out with injury). Al has gotten the better of him just about every time…easily.

As for RG III….he has everything inside his skull that MV7 and Cam “why am I still losing” Newton do not. That will be the difference, and it already shows.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
4:29 pm

Terrell ,

Seems to me Al consistently is the starter at center, so how is that moving Josh out of his position? I have yet to see where Al moves Josh out of his position.

The point is to have your best players on the floor. Two of them are Horford and Smith. Some matchups require more size, which means Al moves to the 4 and Josh to the 3. But that is not the norm, so don’t know what you and some others keep complaining about.

Show me where the team has played Al at the 4 to make him happy and simply disregarded Josh….and you’re going to have to go back more than a year because Al didn’t play last season for the most part…and when he did it was at center…

Rufus1

November 2nd, 2012
4:29 pm

Is Comcast having the NBA league pass free preview this year?

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
4:29 pm

AJ ,

I left that part off….but I had a feeling you wouldn’t, LOL

progeny

November 2nd, 2012
4:34 pm

Anybody think that its worth giving Eddy Curry a shot?

Najeh Davenpoop

November 2nd, 2012
4:35 pm

“RG3 will go where Vic was trying to get to.. He has similar physical attributes[4.3 speed] [cannon arm] with better touch..

But what most [media types] are shocked and more impressed with is his cerebral ability to understand the NFL game and what’s going on on the field as a rook..”

RG3, Cam Newton, Geno Smith, etc. are playing in an era where coaches (especially in college) have a much better idea of how to develop a scrambling QB’s passing ability. Vick came into the league during an era when scrambling QBs in college were told to look at their first read and then take off. The learning curve for Vick, McNabb, McNair, Culpepper, and even dating back to Steve Young was a lot steeper than the learning curve for scrambling QBs today, and it shows in how quickly RG3 and Cam have had success as passers compared to how long it took those QBs from the previous era to develop their passing skills.

Astro Joe

November 2nd, 2012
4:38 pm

If the Hawks go out in the first round again, the question isn’t which current member of the roster needs to stay, I think the better question is do any of them really need to stay? I don’t believe that either Josh or Al can be the #1 scoring option on a team that is a confernce finals contender. I’m not sure that KG would have accepted a bonafide #1 scoring option with the T’wolves (he got one when he landed of Pierce’s team) and I’m not entirely sure Josh would accept one in Atlanta.

Sam

November 2nd, 2012
4:42 pm

I wouldn’t trade Al Horford for that nutcase Demarcus Cousins in a million years.

Astro Joe

November 2nd, 2012
4:44 pm

Najeh, good point on the scrambling QBs. Of course, a willingness for the individual player to work hard and learn their craft is also a factor. Which is often the reason why one guy with X-level of physical gifts has different success than than another player with comparable physical gifts. Work ethic is too often unappreciated when discussing superlative athletes.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2012
5:02 pm

AJ ,

In a year that supposedly doens’t mean anything, I find it interesting that being put out in the first round of the playoffs has anything to do with how the team will be structured over the course of next summer….

Josh Smith might be the best/most talented player on this team, but if he was a #1 option, he would have also been a #1 pick and there’s no way that Sund would have let the market set the tone for his current contract….and we all know Al Horford isn’t that guy.

So the question isn’t should any of these guys stay, it’s which guy or combination thereof works with whatever Ferry’s plan is to build an actual contender. And I don’t think we have the first clue with how that is going to go.

I just think that trading Josh is a mistake if we don’t get significantly better at another position in a direct or indirect way. Those who call for him to be traded simply because he isn’t a #1 scoring option don’t understand what he does for this team and how we have to change that from a team dynamic, not a single player dynamic. In other words, trading him has to also make way for additional moves that change the way the team can play, the way it will play.

Josh Smith fans love how he can change a game defensively…so do I. But do I want to rely on that? Chicago doesn’t, and their defense is exponentially superior to ours….

I am glad however, that though Ferry didn’t know (and probably didn’t expect) how favorably received his trade of Joe and Marvin would be…he clearly wasn’t going to let that be a factor in his decision. Thus, I think we have little to fear as to whether or not he’ll be afraid to trade Josh or Al….

And maybe that’s one of the things I like most about him. Pleasing the fans is not the way to win championships.