Archives For Avery Yang

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.”

Mike Budenholzer announced at practice on Wednesday that Thabo Sefolosha would not play in Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics.

Budenholzer had suggested yesterday that Thabo would sit, stating that there was a “little more uncertainty,” and that there was “not a lot to update there,” before confirming that he would be missing his sixth straight game today. Sefolosha’s right groin strain could very well keep the swingman out for at least one of the Hawks’ home-and-homes against the Cleveland Cavaliers this Friday and Sunday.

As of now, there is no indication as to who would start in his place, but the past five games have seen rookie Taurean Prince in the starting 3-spot vacated by Sefolosha’s injury. Prince will likely take the bulk of the 26 minutes that Thabo averages when he is on the court on Thursday — as he has been these past five games.

Rapper Gucci Mane is seeking equity in the Atlanta Hawks.

In a podcast with Bill Simmons on Tuesday, Gucci was asked what he thought the Hawks needed to do to have a better fanbase.

“They should’ve brought me in as one of the minority owners,” Gucci replied. “If they would’ve did that they would’ve changed the whole landscape.”

“That’s one franchise that I would love to be a part of,” said Gucci later on in the podcast.

The discussion begins at about the 24:40 mark.

 

 

His first proposition if he is given that minority stake? Move the Hawks to East Atlanta — the region oft-repped by Gucci, whose newest album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, is due for release on December 16th.

“We should move them to Moreland and call them the East Atlanta Hawks,” Gucci said.

Gucci’s ties to the Hawks have been well-documented in the past and, in his second official show in Atlanta since his release from prison this past May, Gucci performed at Philips Arena during halftime of the Hawks’ November 22nd loss against the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was at that game that Gucci proposed to his longtime girlfriend — Keyshia Ka’oir. Simmons referred to the well-publicized proposal as “the best thing to happen to the Hawks in the last 25 years — since Dominique Wilkins.”

The two went on to ponder whether or not the Hawks’ ownership would ever find out about Gucci’s wish.

“Maybe they’ll hear about this and they’ll reach out,” Gucci said.

“I bet they hear about this — somebody write a blog post,” Simmons responded.

Well, here it is, Bill.

ATLANTA — Despite James Harden’s 30 point and 12 assist effort — his fourth game, out of six total games played this season, of 30 or more points and 10 or more assists in a game — the Hawks were able to play cohesively enough on both ends of the floor to defeat the Rockets 112-97 on Saturday night.

Though buoyed by an all-encompassing performance from the Hawks’ starting lineup — all five starters finished the game with double-digit points — the Hawks’ play on the defensive side of the ball was the true catalyst for the victory. The Rockets finished with a season high 25 turnovers and littered each quarter with poorly weighted lead passes down low and along the perimeter. The amalgam of poor execution on the part of Houston and the steady defensive intensity of Atlanta coalesced into an effective defensive performance.

“The discipline to keep Harden off the free throw line and the activity to still create turnovers probably puts us in a position to have a great defensive game,” Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Dwight Howard put together his fourth straight double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Howard had four rolls to the rim that resulted in alley-oop dunks, and his presence in the paint served as a defensive anchor throughout.

In what was one of the signature plays of the game, Howard leapt up to meet the Rockets’ KJ McDaniels at the rim after the latter attempted a dunk over Howard. As Howard extended upwards, it looked, on video review, as if he got all-ball on his extension, but to no avail — it was called a foul by the referee. The crowd groaned in disapproval, finally awakening from a slumber that permeated the peanut gallery until just about this point in the match.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” said Howard on the referee’s second quarter missed call. “We miss plays, you guys misspell a word sometimes.”

Paul Millsap toyed with Nene and Ryan Anderson in the post. Millsap scored a bulk of his baskets on drives to the hoop set up by the Hawks’ selfless offense, but three baskets in particular against Nene displayed Millsap’s refined offensive post game. In an ideal coupling of hesitation moves and quick feet, Millsap knocked in three easy shots within six feet in a span of minutes against a confused and disenchanted Nene. One play in particular left Nene several feet to Millsap’s left as Millsap let his shot go, despite the fact that Millsap started his possession posted up by the elbow. Millsap finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, a customary night for a man who is not customarily recognized for his abilities.

Kent Bazemore, after a tough first five games from the field, came into this game looking to fire up shots despite the fact that his gun hasn’t been quite as accurate as it once was. Through his first five games, Bazemore shot 27.7 percent from the field — he shot seven for 12 on Saturday night, increasing his overall field goal percentage by more than six points.

“I’m very happy with Baze,” Budenholzer said. “The shots are going to go. The offense is going to come. It’s great for him to see a bucket go.”

Bazemore utilized the corner three against the Rockets in order to get back into his shooting groove. During a minute stretch in the third quarter, Bazemore knocked down two of his three 3-pointers on the night by slyly drifting to the corner and smoothly knocking down two open threes from virtually the same spot.

“[The corner three] is a comfort zone for me,” Bazemore said. “A lot of threes I took early this season were wing threes, top of the key threes — so when you’re trying to find your rhythm you always got to go back to what you know and what feels comfortable.”

Bazemore finished the game with 20 points, four assists and four rebounds to go along with one of his signature post-game Baze gazes that interrupted Dwight Howard’s interview. Howard later described the gesture somewhat facetiously as: “the ugliest face ever.” Kyle Korver (10 points, four for six from the field) and Dennis Schroder (17 points, 12 assists) rounded out the double-digit scoring quintet.

As has stayed rather constant throughout the year, dependable defensive intensity took a plurality of the responsibility for the Hawks’ win. Even if specific players struggle, like Bazemore had been up until tonight, the team is able to combat a potential dearth in offensive production with hard work on the defensive side of the ball. Look for that mantra to hold true as the team continues to mesh, fully, into Budenholzer’s defensive philosophy.

The Hawks play next at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, November 8.

ATLANTA — Two thirds of the Hawks’ newly minted $70 million trio — Dwight Howard (11 points, 19 rebounds), Dennis Schroder (14 points) and Kent Bazemore (seven points, one for seven shooting) — played admirably on Thursday night, but it was the play of two bench players — quintessential Hawks basketball — that triggered a 24-4 run in the fourth quarter that sealed, then sent, the proverbial letter to give Atlanta a 114-99 opening night victory over the Washington Wizards.

The game was close throughout — neither side held a lead larger than eight — until the fourth quarter. The aforementioned bench players, Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points, eight for 13 shooting) and Thabo Sefolosha (13 points, six for eight shooting), wreaked havoc on defense along the perimeter, relentlessly pressuring the Wizards into a series of bad passes and poor shot selections in a fourth quarter that the Hawks entered with a mere one point lead.

“Even I could figure out [Sefolosha and Hardaway Jr.] were playing pretty decent,” Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “There would have been like 18 hands and arms pulling me back if I tried to take them out.”

Dwight Howard’s regular season homecoming debut was a fruitful showing. Besides grabbing his customary double-digit rebounds, he navigated the post with some nimble back-to-the-basket moves — but it was his presence on defense that manifested to be his greatest contribution. Howard’s defensive presence in the paint was palpable, contesting shots with ease in his 30 minutes of play, proving to be every bit the interior threat that the Hawks wanted him to be when they signed him to a three-year, $70.5 million deal in the offseason.

But, evidently Howard was most impressed with his rebounding total.

“I got boards in Atlanta,” exclaimed Howard to no one in particular, in the tune of Desiigner’s “Panda,” as he readied for a shower post-game.

The steady hand of Paul Millsap proved, as he always does, why he may be the most underrated player in the NBA. Millsap aptly exploited the poor defense of Markieff Morris to the tune of an easy 28 points to go along with seven rebounds on 55 percent shooting. Morris was no match for Millsap’s potpourri of spin and hesitation moves, which were often started on the perimeter, where Millsap was able to bait Morris too close with pump fakes from three, giving Millsap ample time to drive past and directly towards the hoop.

Ultimately, there were a few signs of the early-season rust that can be easily rinsed away — if all goes right — as the season progresses.

“This was our first game [but] our spacing wasn’t great tonight on the break,” Korver said. “I think we executed pretty well, but we’ve seen practices where outlets are getting further out there — they’re getting up the floor faster.”

If Thursday’s night triumph served as any indication, there isn’t much rust for the Hawks to scrub off as they adjust to the beginning of another arduous season. But, to remove even a small amount of rust on a metal pipe, the proper time, tools and persistence are necessary.

The Hawks play next at Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12:00 p.m.