Archive for the ‘Hawks / NBA’ Category

Larry Drew deserves credit for holding Hawks together

Larry Drew has held the Hawks together despite the loss of Al Horford. (AP photo)

Larry Drew said last season's Hawks "would've surrendered" in Minnesota. (AP photo)

A curious thing has happened since Al Horford’s pectoral exploded: The Hawks’ season hasn’t exploded along with it.

They have won three straight. Granted, Charlotte, Minnesota and Toronto are somewhat like the last three ingredients listed on the wrapper of a QuikTrip microwave burrito. They make you think, “Huh? What’s that?”

But it says something that a notoriously fragile team such as the Hawks hasn’t caved. It says something that a bunch that trailed by 18 points late in the third quarter against Minnesota not only didn’t roll over, but actually rallied to win.

“Last year in most cases like that, heads would’ve been down, and we would’ve surrendered,” coach Larry Drew said.

Now, this is not to project that the Hawks will be just fine without Horford (who was scheduled for surgery Tuesday and is a long shot to return before the playoffs, if even then).  But it says …

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Al Horford was one player Hawks couldn’t afford to lose (UPDATED)

Center Al Horford is the biggest of losses for the Hawks.

Center Al Horford is the biggest of losses for the Hawks.

(UPDATED: 7:50 p.m.)

Not that anybody had been worn out by victory parades at any time in recent history (or ancient history). But it seems like the Atlanta pro sports world has been strapped to a wrecking ball lately.

Since last May, an NHL franchise was crushed by local ownership, then packaged, sold and shipped to Winnipeg. The Braves collapsed down the stretch of the season and missed the playoffs. The Falcons could’ve avoided a lot of pain by missing the playoffs, for when they got there they were dismembered again.

The Hawks had been our shining light. OK, maybe a 60-watt bulb. But they eliminated Orlando in the first round of the playoffs last season and gave Chicago a run in Round 2.

Then on Thursday, Atlanta gravity pulled them back down into the rubble.

Al Horford — the one player the Hawks could not afford to lose, the one player on the roster that other teams actually want, was counted out by an MRI. Horford …

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Hawks owners want to know what you think of them (sort of)

Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson look like they expect positive results from the survey.

Hawks owners Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson look like they expect positive results from the survey.

(Update at 1:15 p.m.: The Hawks declined to comment on the survey.)

(Update at 9 a.m. Friday. The poll already has been shut down. Guess they got their answer.)

It seems the Atlanta Spirit’s past of running the Thrashers into the ground, selling them to a group that moved them to Winnipeg and possibly various decisions during their tenure with the Hawks have led them to wonder if that’s one reason fans aren’t going to basketball games.

Thanks to reader and former Thrashers season ticket holder Everett Duke for tipping me off to this: An Atlanta-based marketing research group, Alexander Babbage, sent out a survey via the Philips Arena account on Twitter Thursday morning, reading, “We need your help! Please take a moment to answer a few questions about the Atlanta Hawks.”

The Tweet includes this link to a survey, which is intended to gauge fans’ interest and …

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Hawks roll again (and what’s this about Dwight Howard?)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 10:45 p.m.)

They won their season opener by 36 points at New Jersey. They won their home opener by an easy 18 over Washington on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.

They have a point guard (Jeff Teague) who is dishing, a sometimes-maddening star (Josh Smith) who is playing under control, a team that is defending and … wait, did somebody just show Marvin Williams where the paint is?

So this is what Hawks’ bliss looks like. Feels like. Sounds like.

Well, maybe not sounds like. Considering this was the home opener, the crowd in Philips Arena was remarkably small (generously announced at 17,750) and relatively staid. But if the Hawks can continue to play like this against teams that figure to finish well north of New Jersey and Washington in the standings, they’ll get some deserved attention. Maybe even a sellout. Maybe they’ll even attract a buyer.

Williams, who has had a largely …

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Hawks’ core possibly facing final chance to show something

Can this Hawks' core battling odds to make it past second round. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Can this Hawks' core battling odds to make it past second round. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

After an offseason that saw the Hawks lose their starting point guard (Kirk Hinrich) to an injury, their only bench scorer (Jamal Crawford) to budget constraints and a would-be new owner (Alex Meruelo) because the NBA didn’t trust his financial house of cards –you know, as opposed to the model of stability that currently exists in the front office – here comes the new NBA season.

Ready? Or not?

Maybe the Jeff Teague we saw in the postseason wasn’t an aberration. Maybe the new slimmed-down Josh Smith really is as motivated as he seems. Maybe Tracy McGrady (year 15) and Jerry Stackhouse (year 17) and other remnants of players on the bench can make up for the loss of Crawford’s scoring. But that’s a lot of maybes to count on.

Hopefully, you like mysteries. Two-game preseasons don’t offer much in the way of preview.

This much, we can be fairly certain of: Whatever the Hawks – and …

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Can this really be a new Josh Smith for Hawks?

Josh Smith has dropped 25 pounds and is down to 225, the lightest since he was drafted. (AP photo)

Josh Smith shed 25 pounds and is down to 225, the lightest he has been since being drafted.

When the playoffs ended last season, Josh Smith was ready to say goodbye to Atlanta. The excitement he felt by the Hawks’ postseason success (beating Orlando, throwing a scare into Chicago) was tempered by the anger of once again being the lightning rod for criticism, seemingly every time something went wrong.

The extreme ups and downs of his career with the Hawks had worn on him, just as it had worn on so many who watched him. As Smith put it, “When you’ve been in one place for a while, it crosses your mind: Maybe I want to get lost. Punch the GPS a few times.

“I’ve been here a long time. I’ve never lashed out at the organization. All I ask for sometimes is, when I raise my hand, maybe somebody can help me up, so I’m not always the person who’s trying to [defend me from criticism]. It would be nice if somebody else said, ‘This guy’s a pretty good player.’”

Smith …

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If McGrady replaces Crawford, Hawks have problems

Tracy McGrady can't score like he used to. (AP photo)

Tracy McGrady can't score like he used to.

The Hawks are scheduled to play their lone home exhibition Dec. 22 against Charlotte.

Let us hope the Atlanta Spirit doesn’t plan to fund raise between quarters.

The Hawks plan to sign veteran Tracy McGrady to a one-year contract for the NBA minimum. This can be taken either as a pretty good sign or a really bad sign. It’s a good sign if McGrady’s addition is meant only to add depth on the bench. It’s a bad sign if his signing is intended to soften the blow for the possible loss of Jamal Crawford.

This is the McGrady of 2011. He is long past his All-Star days in Orlando and Houston, but he can still play a little bit. He

Jamal Crawford averages over 15 points per game. (Johnny Crawford)

Jamal Crawford averaged over 15 points per game for the Hawks last season. (Johnny Crawford)

showed last year in Detroit (39 starts, 72 games) that he can still handle the ball and give the Hawks some quality minutes off the bench.

What he can’t do is provide the scoring Crawford can, and this is where the Hawks’ …

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Hawks should trade any two players for Dwight Howard

If it takes trading Josh Smith and somebody else to get Dwight Howard, do it. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Orlando wants Josh Smith and another player to get Dwight Howard, fine (Curtis Compton)

NBA teams are starting to open their facility doors to players, having conversations with agents and formulating plans for their respective rosters.

What a great time for the Hawks to push for the one move they could make that would grab everybody’s attention, fill Philips Arena and possibly move them closer to title contention: Trade for Dwight Howard.

I realize this is a long shot. But Howard almost certainly is going to be traded some time over the next several months. He can opt out of his contract after this season and there’s no indication that he wants to stay in Orlando.

Howard never has stated that he wants to come back home to Atlanta to play center for the Hawks. But let’s put the team’s potential sales pitch to him on hold for just a minute.

Here’s the plan, after my high-level talks with Michael “Ice Man” Cunningham: Tell the Magic they can have any two players they want.

At …

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NBA lockout: Nobody won, now league must fight for attention

David Stern's league will start amid NFL playoff races. Not great timing. (AP photo)

David Stern's league will start during NFL playoff races. Not great timing. (AP photo)

The NBA lockout unofficially ended. Almost everybody was asleep. How’s that for irony?

The owners and players reached a tentative agreement on a new deal at about 3 a.m. So congratulations to both sides for proving once again that in all CBA talks, money generally trumps stupidity at some point.

Players lost paychecks. Owners, at least those who make money, lost revenue. The NBA, a winter league that’s constantly fighting for attention in the window between football and baseball, suffered an unnecessary shot to its image.

All of the ushers, peanut vendors, parking attendants and business owners near NBA arenas who lost a month’s worth of revenue are out of luck

Wasn’t that worth it?

It’s nonsensical to declare winners and losers. Everybody lost. Just leave it at that.

If the players approve the deal as expected, the league will resume play on Christmas. Teams will play a 66-game season. The …

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NBA players just committed a major blunder

NBA players union chief Billy Hunter, flanked by Derek Fisher (left) and other players, have no leverage. (AP photo)

Union chief Billy Hunter, flanked by Derek Fisher (left) and other players, has no leverage.

The NBA players can tell themselves that the owners created this mess. They would be right.

They can say it was the league’s owners who handed them the last collective bargaining agreement, the owners who gave them long and lucrative contracts, the owners who have done inexplicable things like give Joe Johnson a $119 million contract. And they would be right about all that, too.

But this was the bonehead move of all bonehead moves.

The NBA players decided Monday to reject the owners’ latest proposal for a new CBA. They plan to decertify the union and take the league to court for antitrust violations. This is what it looks like when an entire league of players commits suicide.

If the players are serious about all this, forget this season. At least.

Commissioner David Stern said Monday, “If I were a player, one of 450, I would wonder what it is [NBPA] Billy Hunter just did.”

Stern also …

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