It’s time. After a whole summer of talking and a little bit of action in the preseason, it’s time for Atlanta Hawks basketball — proper. This Thursday, at Philips Arena, the Hawks tip off their season against the Washington Wizards. And let’s be honest, we have no idea how this Hawks team is going to fare this season in the Eastern Conference. We’ll get to why that is in a bit, but first let’s go over what the Hawks did this summer and we’ll take it from there.
In: Dwight Howard, Malcolm Delaney
Out: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich,
Drafted: Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry
For better or for worse?
Al Horford is gone — gone because the Hawks didn’t want to max him (and not even the max as it turned out) for five years and gone because he wasn’t the front office’s top priority. It’s as simple as that. Jeff Teague requested a trade, that was granted and now he resides in Indiana. The two most important positions on the court are, arguably, the point guard and center positions and now the Hawks have to plug in new players into those respective positions. That’s always a concern heading into a new season, especially for a team that preached continuity at the end of the season.
To replace Horford and Teague the Hawks added Dwight Howard and gave the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder.
I still believe that Schröder is not ready to be a starting point guard in this league. I feel he’s still too erratic and one of those players where he’ll do something and you’ll sit there and think “What the flip was that, Dennis???”. And that happens often too. I also worry about his shooting. One of the better things Teague did last year was shoot 40 % from behind the arc — a team best. Schröder shot 32% from behind the arc. Offensively, Jeff just makes better decisions and is a better offensive player than Dennis. But the one thing Dennis does have going for him is his defense — his defense is absolutely ready for a starting role and he should improve the team at the point guard position from a defensive point of view. I still think it’s too soon though…
The Hawks picked up their second victory of the preseason with a 99-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wait… The Hawks actually beat the Cavaliers?? The 11 game losing streak that has run since the 2015 Conference Finals is over?? What’s that? It doesn’t actually count because no relevant Cavalier played and it’s only a preseason game? Oh…
Anyways, they picked up the win and it was so good to finally be able to watch the Hawks in action after their first two games of the preseason (against the Grizzlies and the Spurs) were not televised.
Let’s just get stuck in, shall we?
Dwight Howard shines in Philips debut
Dwight Howard’s first competitive game at Philips Arena was a decent one, you could say. He scored 26 points (on 11-of-15 shooting), collected eight rebounds, and blocked two shots in just under 24 minutes of action.
He was so dominant in the first quarter and there’s so much to digest, I don’t know where to start. But before we get stuck into the footage, do — please — keep in mind that this is preseason and the opposition Dwight was playing against was not of the highest quality. Important to note, as some tend to get carried away after one game.
Defensively, we always knew what Dwight we were going to see — so long as he was locked in. But we all knew if he was locked in that Dwight was always going to be a force to be reckoned with at the rim. As Jordan McRae found out the hard way…
Oh my goodness, it’s finally here. Even if it’s only preseason, Atlanta Hawks basketball is back!
Tipping off in Memphis on Thursday, we’ll finally be able to get a look at the Hawks in a — somewhat — competitive environment. This is definitely the most I, and I’m sure many others, have been looking forward to seeing the Hawks in action in a while given the summer they had — letting Al Horford go, trading Jeff Teague, signing Dwight Howard and giving the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder. I am fascinated to see how the overall jigsaw is going to assemble on the court.
I’m not sure how many preseason games are actually going to be broadcasted (be it from the Hawks’ side or from their opposition’s side), but here are some things to look out for when you are watching them in action.
How Dwight Howard fits into the offense
On the face of it, I would not call Dwight Howard a Hawks-y type of player. He’s not a very diverse player on the offensive end (limited to mostly dunks and post moves, the latter seeing varying levels of success), he’s not the greatest passer of the ball (certainly not as a good of a passer than Al Horford was/is), he can’t stretch the floor like Horford did with his mid-range/three-point shot and he bogs down his team’s offensive flow when he is hacked, due to teams wanting to take advantage of his very poor free throw shooting percentages.
How will Dwight actually fit into this complex offense that the Hawks run? Is he going to be as willing of a passer as Horford was? Is he going to be invested into the system where it’s about “we” not “I”? Will we see him dip into that expanded mid-range game we’ve seen him practise all summer with his shooting coach, Lethal Shooter? Can he knock down that shot in real game situations? Undoubtedly — not through “hack-a” mind you, unless teams are feeling very mean in preseason — we will see Dwight at the free throw line at some stage. Will he give any indication, any confidence, that his free throw percentage is going to increase this season, enough to the point where teams think twice about hacking him? How will his rim-rolling help the Hawks’ offense? What will it open up for his teammates? Will pick-and-rolls involving him help free up the shooters, like Kyle Korver?
We’re not going have all our Dwight Howard questions answered right now, but the picture should be a little clearer once preseason is over.
The recent police killings of Keith Scott and Terrence Crutcher have rocked this nation once again giving credence to the actions of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s intentions are to challenge the sacred American flag that is supposed to represent equality and liberty. As an athlete he’s chosen not to take the easy route by counting his millions and staying silent like so many of his opposers would like for him to do. On one of the most exciting days in franchise history for basketball reasons, the Atlanta Hawks team chose not to remain silent on the current state of America.
“Hopefully we’ve started a conversation with our players, not just what’s going on with the national anthem but what’s happening in our country, said a thoughtful Coach Budenholzer Monday. We will be incredibly in support of our players. I think the more thoughtful– the more respectful we can be, if we are those two things our country can will be better.”
If anyone on the team ever needed to speak with a victim of police brutality face to face then Thabo Sefolosha would have plenty to talk about after his 2015 nightclub incident with the NYPD. Thabo was falsely accused, attacked (which led to a broken fibula and ligament damage to his ankle) and arrested outside 1 Oak’s nightclub where former Pacer Chris Copeland had been stabbed. So when Sefolosha saw the video footage of Terence Crtucher being gunned down, it immediately brought him back to that night in New York and caused him to feel fortunate.
“I think it’s been a problem and keeps happening and its sad to see. To be honest looking at some of the footage we see with the guy in Tulsa and charlotte I feel lucky to be here and be able to talk about what happened to me.”
Like Thabo, when veteran Jarrett jack first saw the shooting of Terrence Crutcher a sense of “oh not again” accompanied his other initial emotions.
“Man it’s a combination of things like confusion, anger and sadness Its hard to understand when you apply logic to the situation and try to understand where it causes for that type of force to be applied in these instances. You look at it and understand that it was wrong but then it becomes a constant situation where it’s becoming repetitive and we end up getting the same result. We get causality and someone that doesn’t seem to want to take the responsibility for the actions that were taken.
Those like Philando Castile, Alton Sterling,and the remaining 796 victims in 2016 unfortunately weren’t lucky enough to tell their story like Thabo. We will never hear their voices again, which prompts millions of Americans everywhere who feel silenced; to look to professional athletes like Kaepernick, to denounce injustice on a large platform. Three-point specialist Kyle Korver has embraced the responsibility to do just that whether people believe an athlete should or should not.
“It’s a great opportunity for athletes to have a voice in this. I guess some people say that we shouldn’t but there are a lot of people out there that have asked us to be role models. I think that there are problems in this country and that athletes can have a role in this conversation. Its up to us to continue to educate ourselves”
Not every athlete feels its necessary to speak about this particular issue. A stance Michael Jordan was greatly criticized for taking throughout his career until this summer when he ended his silence in a self written piece for ESPN’s undefeated. Charles Barkley’s “I am not a role model” commercial in 1993 sparked many debates around the country on whether or not athletes are unfairly burdened with pressures to always conform to the opinions of the people.
Hawks rookie Taurean Prince has chosen to take this route for the time being not solely because he may feel it’s not an athletes place, but more so a lack of personal experience.
“Man I worry about me and mines, I worry about what I can do to control the things that I can control in my life. Obviously that stuff has affected the people of my culture but at the same time it hasn’t affected me personally so I really don’t get into that stuff. I just shut my mouth and keep it moving until it directly affects me or my family then I’ll decide to speak on it”
Recent signee Will Bynum, a Chicago native, at 33 years old surely has plenty first hand experience of witnessing police conducting themselves inappropriately. But For Bynum he’s looking at all that factors that stricken his cities socioeconomic path towards peace. When your government officials fail the education system, when the culture of policing views you as a number instead of a human being, when family structures are fragile, you end up with a sense of loss hope that becomes contagious. In Bynum’s eyes those who are fortunate enough to leave, secure their families financially and reach a high level of success should make time to return to their neighborhood to instill belief.
“As far as the successful guys that come from the city, they have to come back. A lot of guys get out of it and then they don’t come back, but its what we should do, said a passionate Bynum. We come from there and only we can articulate what’s really going on, because nobody really understands us. Like they are saying we can shut down every single public school, but they do not understand these kids in the radius of five blocks are crossing 5 different gangs so they are not going to go to school. Especially if your mother is working 9-5 everyday, she cant make you be there, so its critical we provide more opportunities for the city and guys like myself come back and give the knowledge that it took to make it out”
Full interview with Will Bynum here
In a city with one of the highest African-American population in the country, in the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, a community that never hesitates to protest when they sense inequality; this Hawks team has already taken this issue head on a month before the season begins. Media day for Atlanta could of easily been consumed by the acquisition of Dwight, Kent Bazemore deciding to return, Dennis Schroder becoming a starter; but more importantly these players looked eager and prepared to discuss a topic that’s very emotional to those susceptible to it every single day of their lives. Athletes who are socially and outspoken used to be taboo throughout American history,now its imperative.
“As athletes we stand for equality and treating everyone fairly. Thats what this hawks organization is about”, said a confident Kris Humphries
Training camp is only a few days away. That’s it. And on October 6th the Hawks’ preseason schedule kicks off in Memphis — that’s how close we’re getting to the start of the season. And while the Hawks have their most important summer affairs with regards their roster in order — the signing of Dwight Howard, trading Jeff Teague etc — there’s still one more order of business to address: the 15th and final roster spot.
So, you have your usual suspects here, your Korver’s, Scott’s, Millsap’s etc. The names you probably don’t recognise (besides perhaps Malcolm Delaney, who you can learn more about here) are the training camp invites.
They are: (former Piston) Will Bynum, (former Laker) Ryan Kelly, (former Michigan Sate alum and member of the Hawks’ summer league team) Matt Costello and (former California Golden Bear) Richard Solomon.
There are only 15 roster spots available and 20 training camp participants. You don’t need a PhD in maths to know that 20 does not go into 15 evenly, which means five players will have to be cut before opening night. The Hawks, however, are in an interesting predicament when it comes to their 15th man. Even before they announced (a long time ago at this stage) the signing of their first training camp invite, Matt Costello, the Hawks already had 16 players under contract after the signing of Jarrett Jack was announced. This means, excluding the training camp invites, that the Hawks have a decision to make. Which man out of the their existing roster do they cut?
Have you ever known a thing — or a person — to be present in your life for nine years, only for them to walk out/exist no more after one June night? Well, that’s the reality of what happened to Hawks fans with Al Horford this summer — the All-Star center who left the only professional team he has ever known to join the Boston Celtics.
Horford was a constant in Atlanta ever since the day he was selected by the Hawks with the third overall pick in 2007, and the thought of him not being a part of the pre game player announcements (and part of the Hawks as a whole, of course) is certainly an odd thing to think about now, let alone actually seeing (or not seeing him in this case) the reality of situation on opening night.
Normally the thought of Al Horford leaving Atlanta would have been near catastrophic as the Hawks aren’t normally known for attracting the top free agents, thus filling the void Horford left (who certainly ranks among the better centers in the league) would’ve proved very difficult. But the Hawks did not leave anything to chance in an unpredictable free agency and decided to bring a center on board, even before Horford announced his intentions to sign with the Celtics.
But the Hawks didn’t just acquire any center, they acquired a high profile center — at least in terms of his name — in Dwight Howard. While the Hawks aren’t getting the best version of Dwight Howard, he was a very big fish for the Hawks to catch — the Hawks don’t normally sign players with a name as big as Dwight Howard’s. But what his signature provided the Hawks with was a very decent safety net in the event Horford did choose to leave, which he ultimately did. With Dwight’s signature agreed upon, losing Horford was not as catastrophic as it could’ve been.
Normally I’d begin a column with some sort of introductory paragraph, loosely relating to the general topic of the column — in some sort of way — before getting on with the topic itself. Today I don’t feel like doing that, so we’re going to just jump straight into it — no foreplay today…
Last night the Atlanta Hawks’ regular season schedule was released, and there’s much to dissect and discuss.
The Hawks will have the benefit of beginning their season at home on October 27th against a division rival, the Washington Wizards — one of three games the Hawks will contest in October before the season shifts into gear in November.
We’re going to go through each month individually, but before we do there are some significant dates and items to mention:
The oh-so awaited return of Al Horford (and the Boston Celtics) to Atlanta is January 13th, which is way too long to wait, in my opinion. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN and it should be a fantastic game. Jeff Teague will make his Atlanta return on March 15th, but the Hawks and Pacers will meet in Indiana before that on November 27th. Atlanta’s marquee signing, Dwight Howard, will make his return to Houston on February 2nd, and I can’t imagine he’ll receive a video tribute or a warm reception from Houston and their fans respectively. The Rockets roll into Atlanta early enough in the season though, November 5th.
Very controversially, the Hawks will not host a game on Martin Luther King Day. Instead the Hawks will travel to New York where they’ll face the Knicks on MLK Day. This has left fans incensed and very upset at this scheduling decision made by the NBA. Since I’m not from the United States, I don’t fully understand or feel the same range of emotions that a lot of Hawks fans are feeling about this decision, but I understand that this is a big deal. The guys over at Peachtree Hoops shed some light on why the Hawks not hosting an MLK is a strange occurrence.
A lot can happen in 12 months — those possessing any meaningful life experience can attest to that. And it’s a statement that’s going to ring very true when the Hawks tip off again in October.
Last year, fans watched Dennis Schröder head to the scorers table in the latter stages of the first quarter, kneel down, and prepare to replace starting point guard, Jeff Teague. This year — instead — they’re going to watch Dennis Schröder head to the bench to check out, as Hawks PA Announcer Ryan Cameron announces to the crowd Dennis’ replacement “In for the Hawks, number five, Malcolm Delaney!”
And for the uninformed/average fan (heck, maybe even the slightly above average Hawks fan) the next word that will be on the tip of many fans’ tongues will be “Who???”. And perhaps other fans may ask, in addition, “Who is this dude, and why does he kind of look like Mike Scott??”.
(Please tell me I’m not the only one who sees the resemblance…)
On the left, Malcolm Delaney, and on the right, Mike Scott
When the Hawks signed point guard Malcolm Delaney, who had last played stateside five years ago as a senior member of the Virginia Tech Hokies, it was the culmination of nine years of official and unofficial scouting. The current Atlanta Hawks assistant general manager, Jeff Peterson, got a firsthand look at his talent and almost a decade later Peterson is finally employing Delaney’s services.
After going undrafted in 2011, Delaney bounced around overseas on a journey that took him across two continents. The list of teams he has played for is almost indecipherable for those unfamiliar with the Euroleague. His first three years playing internationally were season-long stops as a member of Elan Chalon of the top-tier French LNB Pro A, then the Budivelnyk Kyiv of the Ukrainian SuperLeague, then a year with a sporting club you may have actually heard of in Bayern Munich.
The last two years, Delaney spent with PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban, which based in Krasnodar, Russia and a part of a newly formed top-tier league in Russia. Their league, VTB United League, is mostly comprised of Russian teams but essentially covers a large swath of Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, from Kazakhstan to the Czech Republic.
In all, it’s a remarkable journey for a player who could have laid his NBA dreams to rest after going undrafted. Similarly, for the Hawks, this contract is the culmination of much more travel, note-taking and deliberation than the casual fan would realize. Continue Reading…
With an 89-79 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies last night, the Atlanta Hawks wrapped their Summer League adventure. Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Isaia Cordinier were all rested but the Hawks still managed to get the job done, and wrapped up their Las Vegas trip with a 4-2 record.
This seems like a good opportunity to go over how well Atlanta’s draft selections got on in their first taste of NBA basketball. Well, NBA-ish basketball, there’s an awful lot of guys who (sadly) won’t be on rosters, but anyways… Oh, we’ll also talk about Edy too.
Before we get cracking, I’d be remiss to mention Lamar Patterson at this point, who I thought played very well in the three games he played before he was waived. He has been claimed off of the waiver wire by the Sacramento Kings, so that’s good news for LP. Ha-ha, well, good that a team claimed him, maybe not good that it’s Sacramento. Anyways, all the best, Lamar.
If you’re interested in how players like Brandon Ashley, Kevin Pangos etc. got on for the Hawks during Summer League, you can check out the team’s stats here. Also, I know Lamar Patterson got cut during Summer League, but there’s no need to not type his name out. He exists, you know. Ah, forget it…
(Just one more piece of housekeeping, just a heads up there’s a lot of footage to be shown today. Not so much analysing/breaking down footage, but more so just showing it, but just a heads up)