Archive for the ‘Hawks / NBA’ Category

Al Horford may be near return — and Hawks need him

If Al Horford could provide just a little defense like this, it would go a long way for the Hawks. (AP photo)

If Al Horford could provide just a little defense like this in playoffs, it would go a long way. (AP)

There were good signs, things you want to see before the playoffs: Marvin Williams channeling, well, somebody other than Marvin Williams (29 points, including three straight possessions in which he hit two three-pointers and then drove to the hoop for an and-one); Jeff Teague scoring and then smack-talking with Carmelo Anthony (impressive); the 6-1 Jannero Pargo going nose-to-belly button with the 6-11 Amar’e Stoudemire (funny).

Then there were things Hawks coach Larry Drew would have preferred not seeing from an NBA team in a late April game: An extended halftime slumber that enabled the New York Knicks to go on a 12-1 run to open the second half; defensive breakdowns (like forgetting to cover Carmelo Anthony in transition); 19 turnovers (for the second straight game).

So let’s reaffirm with this when it comes to the Hawks: Nobody really knows what to expect when they …

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Hawks barely hang on to defeat Celtics Lite (Updated)

Josh Smith and the Hawks found the second-string Celtics a little more difficult to handle than expected. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Josh Smith and the Hawks found the second-string Celtics a little more difficult to handle than expected. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

(Last update: 10:17 p.m.)

Dwight Howard, once again reaffirming that there is no “team” in “I,” decided this week to have back surgery now rather than get an injection, bite a bullet, look away from the vanity mirror and wait until after the NBA playoffs to have his procedure.

This decision will not only submarine Orlando’s postseason aspirations, it fairly cemented that the Hawks and Boston will finish as the Eastern Conference’s Nos. 4 and 5 seeds and ensure they will meet in the first round of the playoffs. So at least in some sense, Friday’s Hawks-Celtics game was a postseason preview.

But the Hawks had better hope what we just witnessed will bear little resemblance to what happens next week.

The Celtics played their second string. The Hawks merely looked second-rate.

Facing a Boston lineup that was missing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, …

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If Hawks lost and avoided Boston, would that be so bad?

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

After losing at home by 16 points to the lottery-bound Toronto Raptors one night and then body-slamming the very same team by 22 points the next, it’s less certain that the Hawks are a serious playoff threat right now than they are a case study for an abnormal psychology class.

Then again, every team is a little psychotic this season. This is the byproduct of a post-lockout schedule that allows for water breaks roughly every 27 quarters. Even the Chicago Bulls, the league’s best team, just lost at home to the 14-46 Wizards. (The box score now hangs in the Smithsonian, adjacent to a picture of Stonehenge.)

But let’s try to apply a little bit of logic here: The Hawks have clinched a playoff berth. They have five regular-season games remaining. They probably will finish fourth or fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. That would set up a likely first-round …

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Joe Johnson finding his rhythm — and so are Hawks

The look says it all as Joe Johnson sinks a jumper to seal the Hawks' four-overtime win over Utah Sunday night. (AP photo)

The look says it all as Joe Johnson sinks a jumper to seal the Hawks' four-overtime win over Utah Sunday night. (AP photo)

There is a tendency in pro sports to measure pro athletes by the number of digits in their paychecks. It follows that expectations of what Joe Johnson is supposed to be reside somewhere just south of Zeus-ian.

So let’s start with this: Yes, Johnson makes a lot of money. He will continue to make a lot of money. He probably has an ATM in his pantry, just to the left of the case of Beluga caviar.

He is the only person in Atlanta who this week will drive past that billboard that reads, “Mega Millions: $356 million” and think, “You know, I just don’t know if I want to fill out all of that paper work for another direct deposit account.”

But in what is turning into a rather remarkable Hawks’ season, Johnson has been far more than a dollar sign with ears lately. The guy known for 2-ton-W-2, with too few big moments and too few big games, has been a …

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Hawks showing us something new — they can take a punch

Larry Drew never quite knows who is going to be in his huddle. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Hawks coach Larry Drew never quite knows who is going to be in his huddle. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

One guy has a strained hamstring. Another guy has a bad hip. Another has a bad back.

Another somehow found a way to make a road trip to Cleveland worse than even the usual road trip to Cleveland: He had an appendectomy.

These are your Hawks — or at least what’s left of them — after 46 games that seemingly should be wrapped in medical gauze and a mutant schedule created in David Stern’s nickel-squeezing torture chamber that has seen the team play nine consecutive games in nine different cities (two games were at home, but not in a row).

“Two or three years ago, we would’ve just quit — we would’ve folded,” general manager Rick Sund said Tuesday. “This year we seem to have more resilience. Frankly, before the game [Monday] night, it was amazing to me that we were seven games over .500.”

And that really is what’s worth talking about with the Hawks.

Are they flawed? Of …

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Furman Bisher: We lost a legend, I lost a friend

Not many are worthy of the word "legend" attached to their name, but Furman Bisher is one. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Furman Bisher: One of few worthy of "legend" being attached to his name. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Every few weeks, the same thoughts would roll through my head:

I just had a conversation with the man who sat on the front porch sipping ice tea with Ty Cobb.

I just exchanged emails with the man who scored the only interview with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

The man who watched Cy Young pitch, the man who saw Joe Louis box, the man who covered the very first post-bootlegging NASCAR race — one of the few people who legitimately deserved to have the word “legend” attached to his name — just dialed my cell phone to say, “Hello, young man. I like what you wrote . . .”

I’m sad today, not just because I lost a friend and former colleague in Furman Bisher but because this is like a door to history slamming shut  for all of us.

In a few weeks, I’ll be going to Augusta for the Masters and I won’t be able to turn to my right and exchange thoughts with the man who played golf with …

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Mike Woodson steps into inferno: New York Knicks’ coach

If Mike Woodson thought he had headache before, he just inherited top job from Mike D'Antoni (right). (AP photo)

If Mike Woodson thought he had headache before, he just inherited top job from Mike D'Antoni (right). (AP photo)

Mike Woodson believes he never was treated fairly by the Hawks or fully appreciated by the fans or the media in Atlanta (me in particular, unless I just misread the glares and/or strings of expletives any time I said hello).

Well, if Woodson wanted another chance to prove himself as an NBA head coach, he just got it. He has been handed the keys to CarmeloGate, Linsanity and everything else that goes with being the head coach of the New York Knicks (at least on an interim basis). Yahoo! Sports was the first of multiple outlets to report Wednesday that Mike D’Antoni has “resigned” as the Knicks’ head coach and will be replaced by Woodson, who was an assistant on his staff.

It may be only a short-term position for Woodson. (What isn’t short-term in New York?) But at the very least, he presumably will coach the team for the remainder of the regular season and in the …

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Hawks don’t see trade deadline as Josh Smith deadline

Josh Smith would be an asset for any team at both ends of the court, but Hawks don't seem likely to comply with his trade request. (Sacramento Bee photo)

Josh Smith could help any contender, but it's not likely the Hawks will comply with his trade request. (Sacramento Bee photo)

Teams generally fall into one of three categories at the trade deadline: 1) buyers; 2) sellers; or 3) “Wait, there’s a trade deadline? That’s today?”

The difficulty in categorizing the Hawks as we approach Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is that it really doesn’t matter how they view themselves because they have only one player of significance that other teams want — and he’s probably not available.

Josh Smith wants out. That was reaffirmed publicly recently, even if behind the scenes it wasn’t news. He has wanted out all season.

The only thing that really has changed is why Smith wants out. Before, he wasn’t happy that he was viewed as the weak support beam seemingly every time the Hawks crumbled. Now it’s more about needing a new start, wanting to play for a true title contender, his perceptions of the way the Hawks have dealt with him in …

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Josh Smith wants out of Hawks — and it’s hard to blame him

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season.  (AP photo)

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season. (AP photo)

By the end of last season, the criticism had started to become too much for Josh Smith.

When something went wrong, he got blamed. When the Hawks lost, he got blamed. Certainly, any time he did something silly and made one of those pouty, lower-lip-touches-the-tip-of-the-nose boo-boo faces, the city’s basketball fans held their nose in disgust and screamed, “Feh!”

At some point, it all figured to be too much for the hometown kid – and now it is.

Smith wants out of the Hawks. Out of Atlanta. I don’t blame him. I wrote a column following last season’s playoff exit that it might be best if the two parties went in opposite directions, and that was meant less as criticism of Smith than it was a read of the unhealthy situation. It was clear how he and those in his camp felt about the situation.

Our Michael Cunningham reports that, while external criticism of …

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Smith jobbed again: Stern picks Rondo for All-Stars

Josh Smith has been a force at both ends of the court this season. (AP photo)

Josh Smith has been a force at both ends of the court this season. (AP photo)

(Updated)

On Monday, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Rajon Rondo two games for throwing the ball at a referee. On Wednesday, he named him to the All-Star game.

Too bad Rondo didn’t also throw a shoe, or he might’ve clinched the MVP award.

Who gets jobbed again? Josh Smith, of course. On the same day Hawks guard Joe Johnson pulled out of All-Star weekend in Orlando, Stern, who makes the call on replacements, picked Boston guard Rondo over Smith to replace him.

It’s the second time Smith got bypassed as an Eastern Conference reserve. I guess he should just get used to the fact that nobody likes him.

Smith should have been named to the squad two weeks ago. He had a case for playing in his first All-Star game either of the last two seasons, but his exclusion this season was the biggest pratfall of all. This seems to be a case of conferences coaches, who chose the reserves, still having this vision …

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