Hawks’ 2nd-year forward DeAndre Bembry isn’t used to watching his team play from the sidelines.

The 23-year-old wing out of Saint Joseph hadn’t dealt with an injury that has held him out as long as the fractured wrist he suffered in the Hawks’ season-opening win against the Dallas Mavericks back on Oct. 18.

This season, a season in which Bembry was expected to have a significant role increase for the Hawks, he’s been hit with two injuries that have kept him off the court. Bembry also sustained a strained right tricep in September that kept him out for about a month.

“I’ve never with injuries throughout my career, other than rolled ankles and stuff like that,” Bembry said. “It’s been funny, I got two injuries in a row with the arm muscle and then right after that I fractured my wrist, this is my first time and I’m just pushing through it.”

The initial prognosis called for Bembry to miss four-to-six weeks. Three weeks after his surgery Bembry is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for his return. Prior to Wednesday’s win over the Sacramento Kings Bembry was able to get up some shots pregame.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Bembry said. “Going into three weeks off of surgery, the scale was between four-to-six weeks and I’m probably going to get another X-Ray to see how it’s looking this week just to check on it and see what’s inside and how its healed so far. That’s going to be the start of whenever I can come back. I’m working out, I’m shooting jumpers… The process has been going well so far.”

Bembry was indeed back soon, as he was listed as probably in the Hawks’ injury report on Friday. Bembry finally returned to game-action against the Celtics on Saturday, but was quickly put back on the bench when it because clear that thinks still weren’t 100-percent for him.

As Bembry said before, he doesn’t want to be hampered by the injury when he is on the floor.

“It’s full throttle when I get back, that’s why we’re having this process now, going through the motions of working out and seeing how much I can take as far as the pressure of pushing people and getting back out there,” Bembry said.

One Bembry is ready to fully return, Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer’s bench gets deeper as the addition/return of Bembry adds another versatile wing that can play both ends of the floor as well as take some of the ball-handling duties and pressure off of the three point guards the Hawks rotate.
Bembry is ready to help where he can to give the Hawks a boost after a 3-13 start to the season.

“I’m definitely ready to get back out there, it’s tough when you’ve got a lot of guys that’s hurt and a lot of new guys coming in with big roles,” Bembry said. “I was looking forward to the start of the season, but I took the loss at the beginning and now I’m just trying to come back out there and try to help my teammates get a win somehow.”

For the second time in two weeks, the Hawks lose a heartbreaker to the hottest team in the NBA.

Atlanta walked into a Philips Arena filled with more green than a Wiz Kahlifa video. Fully aware of the the Celtics 14-game win streak that was at stake. They gave Boston their best shot but fell short 110-99.

“I knew at some point whether when they made the run or at the end of the game they would come back at some point,” said John Collins. “Talented and a well coached team you know will come back with something.”

Out the gate they jumped out on the Celtics to an impressive 26-10 lead. No suprise if you ask them, they believe they can run with the best of them. But, they also understand this Celtics team is as elite as there is in the league.

“Sure you believe, when you go up 15 points or however much we were up,” said Collins.  “It always creeps into your mind. But these guys aren’t going to lay down. They aren’t going to give up their streak.”

Impressively, Atlanta very rarely blinked whenever Boston made a run through the first three quarters.

The resilience was evident all night long. Celtics started the 2nd half with a couple buckets from Al Horford and Jaylen Brown to reduce the lead to just one, then Schroder responded with 8 points. Brown cashed in a 3 with 5:49 in the third quarter to give the Celtics a three point lead — Luke Babbitt responded with a three of his own. The ball movement was evident all night and created good looks.

“People can see we can compete with anybody,” said Malcolm Delaney. “When we pass we look like one of the best passing teams in the league. “

Passing is just a portion of the battle when you face a Brad Stevens’ team that has rallied from a significant deficit several times during this current streak. Atlanta on the other hand will need to address their late game struggles. Tonight was another reminder after they trailed by just one with 6:35 left in the 4th quarter that they will continue to lose games if they can’t find an answer.

“Some of the leads we have when we got back into the game after losing the lead we need to take those possessions more seriously,” said Delaney. “That’s how we will win a couple games. When you look deep into the stats, we are terrible at finishing games.”

They won’t have much time to harp on this loss with a trip on Monday to San Antonio, who have won six of their last eight.

 

 

It’s the little things.

Atlanta Hawks’ point guard Malcolm Delaney dives on the floor to tip a loose ball away from a Boston Celtics’ guard as Dennis Schroder sprints full speed after the loose ball. Schroder gathers the ball just before it goes out of bounds and finds center DeWayne Dedmon streaking down the middle of the paint for a dunk. Two points, all based on a few small, extra efforts.

The Hawks’ energy was evidenced throughout Monday’s game on a couple of occasions. Late in the fourth quarter, a Kent Bazemore pass was intercepted by Marcus Smart, Schroder did not pout or hesitate, it was a dead sprint back to get into position to where Schroder ultimately earned a charge. Next possession, Schroder hit a mid-range jumper to put the Hawks ahead by one.

Little things.

“For every team, it’s (hustle) is going to give energy into the game when somebody hustles or dives on the floor like Malcolm (Delaney) did, that’s why I chased the ball down,” Schroder said. “Those kinds of plays give the team energy. We competed for 48 minutes, we did a great job sticking with them, but they hit some tough shots, we’ve got to give them credit.”

Prior to the 2017-2018 NBA season the chatter league-wide stated that the Hawks weren’t supposed to be good. They were a lottery-bound team with slim hopes of many winning nights.

Well, they don’t seem to know nor care what they are ‘supposed’ to be. The Hawks knocked off the presumed top-dogs in the Eastern Conference Sunday evening in a 117-115 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Monday, they battled the team that was considered the next best thing in the Boston Celtics to a 110-107 loss. The Hawks had their chances and with a little over a minute left in the game the Hawks looked up and saw themselves in the lead.

Little things.

“We don’t have a superstar or whatever, so we’ve got to do all the little things like competing on the defensive end, dive on the floor whatever it takes to win some games,” Schroder said. “I think we got better tonight competing for 48 minutes and they hit some tough shots and you’ve got to give them credit.”

The Hawks’ loss Monday night dropped them to 2-9 on the season, a record that was expected but deceiving. The Hawks have been in most of their losses with only three coming by a margin of 12 or more. Bazemore feels that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that has been the first 11 games of the season and thinks the energy and effort of the last few games have brought the team closer together.

“Our record doesn’t show, but it’s not as bad as it looks,” Bazemore said. “We’ve been in pretty much every game. I thought the Houston game and probably the Milwaukee game out of the 11 we’ve played were the only two that we kind of didn’t show up. Going into the last three games actually brought us closer together. If you’d have told someone we’d split these games at this point of time in the season, they’d probably laugh. To get one of the two is big for us. We actually had chances to win two, so it’s early in the season and we still got 71 to go so anything can happen.”

This time last year Taurean Prince’s primary focus was adjusting to all the challenges the NBA has to offer along with satisfying his rookie duties. This year he is facing a new challenge — fatherhood.

Ameera Prince arrived five months ago, but surprisingly, an emotional player like Prince initially expressed very little feeling.

“It was so surprising really because I didn’t cry or anything. It was so indescribable. Something you really can’t describe unless you go through it. Seeing her is like that’s me right there. From that moment your entire mindset changes on how you do things and how you carry yourself. Five months have flown by just like that and I’m getting better every day. It’s amazing. Just getting to see her smile every morning she wakes up. Even the times she cries you get a chance to comfort her.”

 

Via Instagram: @taureanprince

The first child for any parent offers up challenges that you won’t be prepared for. Now add a demanding and travel-heavy NBA lifestyle on top of that, and you are in for a ton of work. It doesn’t matter if you are one of the best players in league with commitments from endorsers pulling you left and right or the 12th man at the end of the bench.  Fatherhood never stops.

The physical demands Prince faces day in and day out means less time spent with Ameera. So he’s appreciative of the work and love his long time girlfriend shows their daughter.  

“I have an amazing girlfriend. She does so much being that I’m tired a lot of the times. Credit to her. She wakes up in the middle of the night and takes care of my daughter. I try to do the little things like make bottles and feed her. But my girlfriend is a great mother.”

Via Instagram: @Taureanprince

Prince may not know it all when it comes to fatherhood, but he does understand what showing support truly means when it comes to raising a child. Before he left to play his college ball at  Baylor, he helped his mother raise his baby brother for two years following the death of the baby’s biological father. Prince’s mother needed someone to help watch the baby while she was at work, Taurean was there. Feeding and changing diapers, Taurean didn’t mind.

Fast forward six years later and the same devotion is reciprocating from his family.

“It’s great. My father lives in Atlanta, so he’s ten, fifteen minutes down the road. Anytime my girlfriend needs something he watches her weekends at a time so that sometimes me and her can get alone time and go kick it. When my mother is in town, she watches her. Everybody loves her and those who are first-time parents always need that support. Its different for the second or third time around. But the first one we are grateful for the people that show love to her.”

A big part of playing this game is not only for love, but to financially secure your family for years to come. Just last month the Hawks picked up his third-year option to lock him in for another season.That security allows Prince to create a quality lifestyle for Ameera to grow and blossom within.

However, a quality lifestyle does not negate the obstacles she will face as a woman once she embarks on the world. Prince is fully aware and believes that a sound parenting foundation is critical, but her own experiences will mean just as much.

“You can’t control a lot of the things that we are scared about. All we can do as parents is do what we can do for them the first 18 years of their lives and lead them in the right direction. Lead them towards greatness and success. Lead them to do things that we didn’t do in order to be successful. That is my only goal. When she’s grown, she’s grown just like when my parents released me into the world. They allowed me to make my mistakes and that allowed me to become the man I am because of the mistakes I’ve made. They advised me to do better and that’s all you can do for your daughter. All you can do is prepare them for what you know or what you think they will face and leave the rest up to them.”

The same importance applied to the work Prince puts into perfecting his craft on the court is equally exerted towards his conduct and being a better person. He’s continuously paying attention to how he treats anybody he interacts with. The goal now is leaving a lasting legacy that Ameera will not only be proud of but adopt as a way of life.

“My main thing I want to leave behind is how I treat people. I hold myself accountable for shaking hands every time I’m done working out, whether it be the coaches or the people who rebound for me. Respecting all things until somebody gives me a reason not to. Yes sir, no sir, no mam, yes mam and just doing right by people whether they’re the janitor, GM or the owner in any establishment. I just want to shed that to her and do right by people. God will take care of the rest.”

No longer is he Taurean Prince the NBA player. The correct phrasing would now be: Ameera’s father, who plays basketball for a living.  

 

CHICAGO — Hawks players won’t tell you, definitively, who their leader is, their face, their most well respected voice, because it’s not clear who exactly that is.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks are basketball’s constitutional monarchies—with one player serving as the practical and symbolic leader of the team—then the 1-6 Hawks are a liberal democracy, with a decent amount of haves and a handful of rulers, but equal voice dispersed to all its constituents.

“Things go a little more smoothly when you don’t hear just one, two, three guys talking all the time,” Kent Bazemore said. “I think it works when you do everything by committee.”

The Hawks under the Budenholzer administration (2013 to present) have always been democratic in their leadership, even during times of success, though the current quality of play certainly hasn’t warranted any star treatment. 2014-15’s 60-win team was widely celebrated for its unselfishness, which was evident both on and off the court. The starting five, after all, was collectively given the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.

Budenholzer’s Hawks teams have never had one defining, authoritarian voice. Dwight Howard attempted to disrupt that dynamic through his behavior last season, and was promptly jettisoned away. Besides virtually demanding for more minutes during his exit interviews, Howard’s selfish need to be the center—of the locker room, of the offense—resulted in multiple Hawks players screaming in jubilation at the news of his departure, according to Zach Lowe.

“We all get along with each other,” DeAndre’ Bembry told HawksHoop’s Eric Yeboah earlier this month. “We have no problems off the court. Us being cool off the court is where it starts and makes its way towards the court when we play together.”

This season, the departures of Paul Millsap and Howard have created a bit of a power vacuum in its wake, one that the likes of Dennis Schroder and Bazemore have begun to partition. But the two believe in the model of Hawks democracy in leadership. Bazemore, for one, prefers it.

Rookie John Collins applauds Bazemore’s willingness to embrace egalitarianism.

“We are a brotherhood when [Bazemore’s] with us,” Collins said. “He doesn’t mind doing it from the top to the bottom.”

Equality doesn’t mean that the elders don’t teach, though. Bazemore is loud, expressive, animated—especially on the defensive end of the floor—and that method of instruction has helped the younger players reinforce concepts.

“Any time I’m on the court, he tries to help me during the game on where I can do better,” rookie Tyler Dorsey said. “I think that’s what’s rubbing off on me [from Bazemore] the most—learning what to do in those game situations.”

Schroder, by contrast, leads by example, consistently setting the tone by hitting the deck for loose balls and making high-energy plays. It’s this dichotomy that Bazemore thinks makes their leadership tandem effective.

“It’s very, like, yin and yang,” Bazemore said. “Two different styles, and both effective.”

As helpful as Schroder’s on the court leadership may be, his off the court struggles—Schroder was arrested for battery and was suspended last season for failure to report—have been road blocks in his progression into a full-time governorship, and is further evidence of the Hawks’ current power vacuum.

Equality in voice can easily breed a power struggle, if manipulated accordingly. So far, through six losses in seven games to start the season, no one’s started to point the finger. There is a blueprint on how to maximize egalitarianism under Budenholzer’s watch, if 2015 is any indication, but whether the Hawks can find it—with entirely different, lower-quality building material—is the question. Liberté, égalité, fraternité: the Hawks way?

“We got multiple guys chatting, feeling like they’re being a part of the conversation,” Bazemore said. “We’re all in a dog fight together—the more the merrier.”

John Collins, standing at an undersized 6’10”, has matched up with some of the biggest bodies this league has to offer—like Dwight Howard, Timofey Mozgov, Dirk Nowitzi and Timofey Mozgov—in the first few games of his career. Collins received his first heavy dose on October 9th, when he was tasked with boxing out 7’1″, 255-pound bruiser Marc Gasol. Good luck with that, right? Despite the disadvantage, he snagged eight boards. Shocking to some, but not to those fully aware of his rebounding prowess.

Collins doesn’t just feel as if its his responsibility to rebound—he takes pride in it.

“Of course I take pride in it,” Collins said. “Part of being a great defending team is getting stops and finishing the play with a rebound. It is really important to me. Using my athletic ability regardless of the matchup on the offensive or defensive glass.”

Take a look his draft reports and you’ll find scouts raving about his motor, low post scoring ability and, most importantly, his rebounding. Atlanta has finished in the bottom half of the league in rebounding twice over the last three years—they placed ninth last season primarily due to Dwight Howard’s expertise.

Obviously Howard is gone, but Collins is demonstrating, in his mere 19 minutes per game, that Atlanta has acquired yet another force on the boards.

Last Friday night’s home opener was no different, as he found himself battling with Denver’s 6’10”, 255-pound Nikola Jokic and 6’11”, 255-pound Mason Plumlee on several occasions. Collins scrapped and scrapped all night long until he was able grab eight rebounds. On a night when he shared the floor with Kenneth Faried, another relentless worker on the glass, Collins showed in many instances that he has the same motor.

The rookie grinds on the glass and understands matchups—which explains why he currently sits fourth among rookies with 7.3 rebounds per game and first in offensive rebounds.

“On the offensive end I’m just trying to use my athleticism and quickness to get around,” Collins said. “Either by tip backs or whatever I can force. On the defensive glass its really about boxing out and trying to find a body—or just attacking the ball.”

The most important aspects of rebounding are positioning and anticipation—especially for someone of Collins’ size.

“For me its almost like the more outmatched I am, weight or height, I think for me to just get a body on him will help my teammates get the rebound,” Collins said. If its a guy I know I can box out pretty well, then I’m pretty comfortably, I try to attack it. If its a guy stronger than me or more experienced than me, I try to hit him first. Make sure my guy doesn’t get the rebound.”

As the Atlanta Hawks attempted to an ultimately futile comeback in the third and fourth quarter of Sunday’s 117-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, a new, slightly unfamiliar face was among the familiar ones.

Isaiah Taylor, a second-year player out of the University of Texas found himself running with the starters late as incumbent backup point guard Malcolm Delaney sat, not seeing a minute in the second half. Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer was pleased with Taylor’s speed, energy, passing, shooting ability and ability to create for himself and his teammates while starter Dennis Schroder was out of the game as well as high energy on the defensive end.

“When he’s been on the court I think just his speed, his ability to get to the paint and really his willingness to pass kind of collapses defenses and he finds guys,” Budenholzer said. “He’s made shots too. I don’t think he’s shot a lot of 3s, but he made one early tonight. He’s made a couple in other games and getting to the free throw line. I think just giving him a chance, he’s a young guy. Like I said when we first got him, I think we’re excited about having him and seeing him grow.”

Taylor, who signed with the Hawks one day before the season-opener against the Dallas Mavericks, logged what was tied for his season-high 16 minutes Sunday in the loss and put in seven points for the Hawks.

Taylor has spent the first six games of the 2017 season acclimating to a new team and a new philosophy. Sunday, Taylor felt as comfortable as he’s been in a Hawks’ uniform and it all started with a three-pointer early in the first half. Taylor feels the shot allowed him to bring the energy that Budenholzer covets and ultimately led to him seeing extended minutes late.

“Whenever you come in and hit a bucket, it’s just like ‘let’s go,’ that’s everybody’s moment, I don’t care if you have no energy at all, you get in the game and you get a bucket, you’re automatically going 100 percent,” Taylor said.

Taylor only played in four games last season for the Houston Rockets, but the experience of learning from James Harden and the coaching staff of the Rockets and the coaching staff of the Rockets’ G League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers has helped Taylor prepare for the minutes that he is seeing so far in 2017.

“It helped me a lot going down to the D League last year with RGV,” Taylor said. “That coaching staff down there was amazing. I think they helped me a lot during my progress in the NBA. They got me ready for this moment.”

Taylor could be a big part of the Hawks’ rotation moving forward as they search for combinations that work after losing six games in a row. Taylor has finally gained his footing in Atlanta, a process that was aided by the fact that Taylor played against John Collins in summer league and has watched all of the Hawks from afar the past few seasons. Gaining the consistent minutes and the trust of his teammates is the next step for Taylor.

“I’m doing all right,” Taylor said. “I played against John (Collins) in summer league. I know what ‘TP’ (Taurean Prince) can do. Before I got here I watched a lot of these dudes on T.V. before. It’s just gaining trust in them and them gaining trust in me so that I can put them in position to be successful on the court. I think that’s the next step for me to feel even more comfortable.”