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The days of guys like Joe Johnson and Kyle Korver bombing it from deep are gone, but the 2017-18 Hawks are surprising with their 3-point point shooting so far this season.

The Hawks currently sits fifth in the NBA among the best 3-point shooting teams. They’ve only finished  with a Top 5 ranking twice this decade, but this team has a different agenda than the past.

Shoot more 3s.

“That’s what we do,” said Taurean Prince. “That’s what we plan to do going into every game.”

Saturday night, Atlanta grabbed just their sixth win of the season, but it was the the 3-point performance that stole the show. They shot 17-33 from 3. Ersan Ilyasova, who finished the game perfect from beyond the arc, was responsible for five of them. Whether it was off a semi-fastbreak or a baseline cut to a corner, he found good looks throughout the night.

Dennis Schroder, DeAndre Bembry and Prince understand how important it is knowing the whereabouts of Ilyasova, Tyler Cavanaugh and Marco Bellinili. The 3-point line is the lifeblood of this team’s offensive prowess.

“You got to have your eye open for three point shooters,” said Bembry. “Marco is somebody like Kyle Korver. You always have to know where they are at. Coach forces us to take a lot of open shots. Don’t turn down anything. From that the numbers are just going up higher. If you are going to give us that jump shot we will take everyone of them.”

Ilyasova joined the team last year as an attempt to fix Atlanta’s spacing issues. But he wasn’t enough to stop the Hawks from finishing 23rd in the league. This season however spacing is the least of their concerns.

“The difference is the starting lineup,” said Bembry. “They are all shooting at a high rate right now. Tonight as you can see, Ersan definitely started us off. Its hard to guard stretch fours who are picking and popping. Starting with him hitting threes. Taurean is shooting around 40-percent. Dennis and Baze starting to get going. That’s a hell of a starting lineup shooting the 3. Then you have Belinelli and shooters coming off the bench.”

The most impressive aspect of this shooting display not only tonight but all season is the efficiency. Yes, they are attempting 27 shots per game, ranking just 18th in the league, but the focus here is the quality of shots. The 5-man out offense is producing the necessary space and open looks that they didn’t have at their disposal last season.

They have the right pieces for this system and its giving opponents fits. They are tough, active and confident shooting the NBA’s deadliest game changer.

“They play with five 3-point shooters most of the game,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel. “They shoot a ton of them. That’s the style of play that they play. You try and contain Belinelli off those pin downs and more importantly Schroder. His penetration. All of their guys just driving on you and taking advantage of the space makes them tough to guard.”

Atlanta had won four of the last five meetings against the Cleveland Cavaliers coming into Thursday night’s game. They flirted with a fifth victory after leading the King and his servants 69-63 at the half, but fell short 121-114.

“They are tough,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “Schroder puts a lot of pressure on the defense. They have multiple guys that can shoot the basketball and put it on the floor. They can make plays.”

Dennis Schroder, who had phenomenal performance posting 27 points on 58-percent shooting from the field, came off a pick towards the elbow of the free throw line with 2:11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a chance to take the lead. His shot barely grazed the front rim. What happened next was almost a certainty.

LeBron trotted down the left side of the floor and responded with his patented left wing 3-pointer to seal the deal. Splash.

Atlanta threw everyone they could at James throughout the night. Taurean Prince took a shot at him. DeAndre Bembry matched up with him most of the fourth quarter. Even Ersan Ilysova took a swipe at him.

In the end LeBron James did what LeBron James wanted to do. Finishing with 24 points and 12 assists — just three assists shy of matching Atlanta’s starters — his fingerprints were all over the Cavs’ 10th straight victory.

Despite the loss, it was another shot a top tier team for the Hawks, an opportunity Prince relishes as a competitor.

“I like playing those type of guys,” said Prince. “Iron sharpens iron. I don’t feel like I will get better unless I continue to play those type of guys. Guys like Paul George. Just continue to further my career and my abilities as a defensive player.”

Atlanta has shown the tendency to gear up for these games. Tonight they scored 114 points on a Cavaliers defense that has improved recently. Without Dedmon, they dominated the paint outscoring the Cavs 50-40. Their record is no indicator, but Boston, Detroit, San Antonio and Cleveland will tell anybody they had to earn those victories against these young Hawks.

“Not discrediting any lower tier teams, but we get hyped up for games like this,” said Prince. “This is an opportunity to show who we are. Opportunity for guys to get better against great players.”

It may have taken 18 games, but John Collins finally heard his name called by Ryan Cameron as the Hawks starting power forward. Collins faced a All-Star front-court tandem in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan and didn’t disappoint, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds — his fourth double-double of the season.

Luke Babbitt and Mike Muscala’s injuries facilitated this into fruition, but the call up was earned. Collins has played a role in some of the Hawks most impressive comebacks of the season whenever they’ve faced a large deficit, and he currently leads the team in PER and win shares.

“I like his game a lot,” said Blake Griffin. “I’ve watched him play this season. Physically he’s ready. He plays the game the right way. He does exactly what I’m assuming he’s suppose to do within their offense. He’s got a super high ceiling.”

One moment he found himself guarding the all-purpose attack of Griffin, who finished with a triple-double, then on the next possession would have to find a way to position himself to score around the defensive anchor that is Jordan.

“I like him a lot, said Deandre Jordan. “He’s physical, long and very good rebounder. He’s active around the rim and dunks everything. He just need to keep working. He has a great coach in Budenholzer. They put him in spots he can be successful. I like him a ton.”

As he typically does on a nightly basis, Collins attacked the glass without concern of who stood in his way and tonight was no different. Hustled, banged and battled with the NBA’s 2nd best rebounder in Jordan was yet another impressive sight given the disparity in size. But that’s what Collins does–work, work and work some more.

That level of activity generated openings in the clippers defense for easy dunks.

Griffin, known for his highflying highlights early in his career can see a ton of potential in the Hawks young phenom and  poke with Collins after the final buzzer.

“I told him to keep working. He’s going to be a beast.”

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.

 

 

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.