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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.  

 

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.”

The Hawks fell to 1-2 on Sunday afternoon, losing 116-104 to the Nets in Brooklyn. The biggest loss in that game might not be in the box score, though, as starting point guard Dennis Schroder went down with an ankle injury.

With that in mind, HawksHoop’s Jeremy Johnson and Eric Yeboah share their observations on the game.


Jeremy Johnson

Dennis Schroder’s Ankle

Schroder went down in the 4th quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Losing Schroder for an extended period of time could be catastrophic. As of now, Schroder is the team’s leading scorer and only focal point and one of the only players that can create his own offense outside of Malcolm Delaney and Marco Belinelli. Both will need to do more on the offensive end. We will also probably see more of Isaiah Taylor, who joined the team just before the season opener.

Postgame, Budenholzer was asked about Schroder’s injury and said, “We hope its just a sprained ankle and nothing more. He will start to rehab and we will update when appropriate.”

Dedmon more than a center

Last season, the Hawks featured one of the final “true centers” in the NBA with Dwight Howard on the roster. Howard has been one of, if not the best centers in the league for the past decade-plus. With him moved on, the Hawks brought in Dewayne Dedmon from San Antonio. So far, Dedmon has been a better fit in the Hawks’ system. When I first got word of the Hawks adding Dedmon, I had similar concerns of fit. I envisioned Dedmon giving the Hawks put backs, blocked shots, and I expected him to act essentially as a less expensive clone of Howard. That hasn’t happened. Dedmon looked more like former Spurs’ teammates LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. With the Hawks going to the five out system, Dedmon put his entire arsenal on display. He attempted a few 3-pointers early and hit one. He hit a couple nice mid-range shots that I had no idea he could shoot. Though he only played 21 minutes and scored seven points, Dedmon has made it easier for the Hawks to run their system with the starting unit.

Too much pick-and-roll?

The Hawks lack of a super star level focal point on offense forces them into the ball movement style offense which the pick-and-roll happens to be a big part of. The Hawks have some athletes that make teams respect the roll off picks such as John Collins. Every time Collins sets a pick, you can almost hear the crowd and bench inhale and hold their collective breath as Collins can embarrass any backside defender sliding over or any guard switched off because of the pick-and-roll. But there are stages in the game where is seems every possession is pick-and-roll. The offense goes stagnant with so much being run based off the pick and roll. In the second half Sunday, there was more typical ball movement and off ball screens, but as the season progresses the Hawks may want to find different ways to get Collins involved. Dennis Schroder also benefits from pick-and-roll but when teams defend it like the Nets did in the first half, Schroder is ineffective.

DeMarre Carroll Vs. Taurean Prince

Former Hawk and current Brooklyn Nets forward DeMarre Carroll and Hawks’ forward Taurean Prince look alike and play alike. Are we sure they’re not brothers?


Eric Yeboah

Offensively Hawks still working the kinks out

Through three quarters, the Hawks looked out of sorts shooting around 30-percent from the field. Fortunately a 23-8 run in the fourth quarter brought them back from the dead and tied the game at 99. It wasn’t enough to overcome their offensive struggles, which ended up being the deciding factor as it was Friday night in Charlotte. Budenholzer and staff wisely instructed the team to attack the open seams often, which resulted in 36 trips to the free throw line (converted 91.7-percent) — they had 29 total through the first two games of the season.

Atlanta lost control of this game due to many sloppy possessions from their guards/wings — that simply can’t happen for a team that relies so heavily on those positions. Careless passes and poor ball control from Schroder, Prince, and Bazemore turned into fastbreak opportunities for a Brooklyn team that thrives in uptempo scenarios. The best way in limiting fastbreak points from a team like Brooklyn is not only limiting turnovers, but retreating back on defense is easily just as important. However, in order to retreat properly and with enough defenders to stop the fastbreak, the offense must also do their part by taking better shots in a flow that doesn’t throw players out of position to contain the fastbreak. Atlanta did none of that on Sunday and it proved to be a key to Brooklyn’s success.

The Hawks do everything as a team offensively, but there is no secret so far that Schroder and Belinilli are the most reliable options. This loss to Brooklyn showed they are still in search of a reliable third option along those two to counter an opposing teams offensive run, or just when their own offense starts to stick. Prince would be the obvious choice, but he will need to improve in his decision-making department in order to make a significant impact.

More touches for Dedmon please

Dedmon scored just seven points in Sunday’s lost to Brooklyn, but when he touched the ball he was efficient shooting 60-percent from the field. The pick-and-pop situations with Schroder have a ton of potential if they continue to find the right angles to exploit the defense. The new system now creates more spacing for cleaner looks at the basket in a pick-and-pop scenario. Last season, Schroder and Paul Millsap were not able to create much of a bond in that department due to teams packing in the paint on Dwight Howard. As we’ve seen so far this season, that won’t be the case with Dedmon who looks very comfortable shooting both a 15-footer and a 3-pointer. Additionally, the onus doesn’t just fall on Schroder, as guys like Bazemore and Prince should make a conscious effort creating for Dedmon when they drive to the basket and the defense collapses. There were times in Sunday’s game either one could of kicked it out to Dedmon for a jumper or shoveled a pass to him on the baseline near the basket for an easy 2. Once again, it’s very early in the season, but Dedmon has the skillset to become a bigger contributor for the Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks opened the 2017-18 NBA season with a big win on Wednesday, as the Hawks defeated the Dallas Mavericks 117-111 on the road.

What were the major keys in getting victory No. 1 up in the win column? HawksHoop’s Jeremy Johnson and Eric Yeboah share their observations on the contest.


Jeremy Johnson

Dennis Schroder has the keys

Point guard Dennis Schroder is fully in control, as he now has the offense running through him all of the time. Yes, he was the point guard last season and showed flashes. The light shined it’s brightest in the playoff series against the Washington Wizards, but we wondered if it would carry over into 2017.

It appears that it has. Schroder put up 28 points in the season opening win; not a career-high by any means, but the way he did it was a little unique to what we’re used to seeing. The Hawks allowed Schroder freedom. The freedom allowed Schroder to take 26 shots, and he made 13 of them. The aggression is promising and leads me to believe Schroder is primed to be a fringe All-Star this season.

Collins has a special motor

Rookie John Collins didn’t take long to acclimate to the NBA. The 20-year-old put in 14 points and five rebounds in his debut in 22 minutes. Collins came in the game playing at a speed higher than most on the court and converted a putback dunk and ran off picks in attack mode from the word “go”. Collins’ motor is the reason for the early playing time, and because of that, he didn’t seem too out of place on either end of the court. Impressive for a player in his first regular season game.

The Hawks don’t read predictions

The Atlanta Hawks don’t seem to know that they’re not supposed to be good this year. From the tip, the Hawks played with an attitude and an expectation that they were supposed to win, despite the changes to the roster and despite the preseason talk of a restructure or rebuild. The defense was solid, but there were a lot of open shots the Mavericks left on the floor or just flat out missed, which is a concern. The Mavericks ended the first half 5-for-23 from 3 and finished the game 17-for-45. Time will tell if the defense will cut off those open shots or if the preseason prognoses will hold true.

Either way, the defense will be at the core of which way it titters.


Eric Yeboah

Marco Belinelli shines in debut

Belinelli didn’t play much of the preseason, but that didn’t stop him from scoring 20 points off the bench. He finished with a plus-13 and it was apparent. The Hawks offense flowed with ease when the ball was in his hands. There were times he ran the point in the halfcourt set and times he orchestrated a fastbreak — either way, he created easier scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Dallas never could pin point how to control Belinelli because his attacks came in many ways like: a hand off from a big man, as a cutter, and of course off the dribble. The times he was paired with Dennis Schroder were beneficial to both as it afforded Schroder another spacer and playmaker.

Hawks need work in defending corner 3s

The defense was extremely scrappy Wednesday night and will have to be throughout this season. When Budenholzer opted for a small ball lineup they were able to speed up Dallas’s offense and force long rebounds (50) in their favor. The obvious downside was that once Dallas broke that first line of Atlanta’s defense, it forced the defense to collapse and opened up the good looks from the corner 3-ball. Dallas didn’t shoot the well from downtown when you look at the final numbers of this game –just 38-percent, but it was the open attempts from the corners that stood out, especially in the second half. Whether it was Wesley Matthews or Yogi Ferrell, Dallas understood when to shift towards the corner once the Hawks wings committed to defending the basket.

 

A great defense adapts to any and every sort of offensive attack. Coach Budenholzer and staff will keep their foot on the necks of this young team all season long on giving a strong effort defensively. Guys like Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon are in the starting lineup for that very reason. However, even as disciplined as those pieces are, how do you counter point guards with an athletic gene we all wish we possessed like Russell Westbrook and John Wall? Now add Dennis Smith to that list.

In Thursday night’s108-94 preseason finale loss to the Dallas Mavericks they were reminded what problems it can cause.

“It really changes the dynamic of the game when you have a scoring point guard, an aggressive point guard,” said Kent Bazemore. “Because you have to be honest. They have a good team. A well coached team and they execute to a T. He picked us apart early and picked his spots on when to attack in transition. He found guys out of the pick and roll. He made some really good passes from what I saw. He is ahead of his time. He is an under amour guy so I definitely have a little love for him.”

Dynamic point guards like Smith have a knack for not only forcing you to adjust, but wearing you down mentally. The amount of attention to detail they require is a tall task. Relentlessly demanding all five defenders to account for their talents. It’s almost unfair… matter of fact, it is unfair and downright brutal.

John Wall was a force in last years playoffs when he torched the Hawks for 29 points and 10 assists a game. The Hawks did everything to load up the defense to whatever side of the court he had the ball on. They gave him different looks each game. Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore all took a shot at him — but to no avail. Dennis Schröder even began to guard him full court to disrupt Wall’s flow–didn’t change the outcome.

Dennis Smth Jr has those exact capabilities to force a team to completely shuffle their deck. He throws a wrench into the works and then some. But, better for the Hawks to get a glimpse of him now before next Wednesday’s season opener in Dallas.

“He’s an impressive athlete,” said Coach Budenholzer. “The way he can get to the paint. His overall command of the game. Haven’t seen a ton of him but the little that I saw of him tonight was impressive. They have a good young point guard and he should continue to grow and improve under coach Carlisle.”

Athletic point guards are a pain to deal with. For a Hawks team that will rely a ton on their effort and chemistry — now more than ever before — these type of guards will be a tough, if not the toughest task to face this season.

However, if defense is Atlanta’s calling, then they will need to figure it out, because the era of the athletic point guard is in and it’s not going to stop in order to help the Hawks.

Preseason to some may seem boring and meaningless. However, within it lies bits and pieces of winning basketball that originates from chemistry and cohesiveness. Atlanta is one of the younger teams in the league — these games carry plenty of value towards starting the year off playing quality basketball.

As always, defense is the priority under Coach Budenholzer, but breeding fruitful offensive habits are far from an afterthought.

“I feel like we are getting a little bit more into our offense,” said Taurean Prince. “We realize the multiple options we can get out of a lot of sets in a lot of things that we do. I feel like in the first few games we were keeping it simple and trying to get used to each other. But now we are starting to get into the spring of things and how deep we can get. I think we can be hard to guard.”

In Monday’s 100-88 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, they showed improvement offensively, and it didn’t have to appear in the box score. Yes, they finished shooting 45-percent from the field, but that’s not the sole purpose of this discussion Setting good hard picks and sound ball movement tends to facilitate positive energy that finds good shots. Doing things like trusting a teammate will shift towards his designated area at the right time for an open shot or keep the floor balanced demonstrates reliance and helps sustain fluidity.

When players don’t trust in one another is when the offense tends to stagnate. But, once guys begin to find comfort in their role is when good things begin to happen. These Hawks are headed in that direction and only time will tell if they reach their aspired destination. For the meantime, acknowledge the small victories along the way veteran Kent Bazemore knows all to well and has recognized the progress in just a few games.

“So the first game we played there was a ton of standing and too much thinking,” said Kent Bazemore. “Now I think we are starting to get players moving into the right spot. As you saw tonight with so many assists, we had. We did a good job of passing the ball and making plays for each other. Now we are starting to be a little more fluid offensively and getting shots out of it.”

The offensive system has proven to be conducive to winning over the years. The players, returning and new, must believe not only in the system but each other. Cliche? Not considering how many new faces fill this year’s locker room. Good news is according to DeAndre Bembry concerning off the court comradery– the new are mixing well with the old like a Bruno Mars record.

For a youthful team like Atlanta that will pay off immensely when the flight gets a little rocky later in the season.

“We have always had the right habits,” said DeAndre Bembry. “Especially the starters like Dewayne Dedmon coming from San Antonio and just playing the right way. Making the right pass. We all get a long with each other. We have no problems off the court. We all know what we need to do in order to be good. But us being cool off the court is where it starts and makes it way towards the court when we play together.”