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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

The Atlanta Hawks, historically, have had trouble acquiring star power via free agency. And in a summer where Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors shook the NBA to its core, Dwight Howard hardly seems to qualify.

 But Howard’s return to his hometown—where were first introduced to the 6-foot-10 slender teenage with a Hollywood smile in a no. 12 Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy jersey—couldn’t have come at a better time.

 The front office was unable or unwilling to come to terms with Al Horford on a long term deal, and Howard’s signing a three-year deal was good insurance for their franchise cornerstone’s eventual departure to the Boston Celtics. The move lets Atlanta remain competitive now without tying up the cap over a longer period of time.

Now, the Hawks job isn’t done. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver still remain from the All-star foursome selected to represent Atlanta in New York a year ago. Kent Bazemore played the best basketball of his career this season and will return after signing a four-year $70 million dollar deal, and a confident Dennis Schroder steps into the starting point guard spot. But Atlanta still has a dearth of elite shot creation, and, even if Schroder takes a leap as the starting point guard, there’s still a lack of depth behind him. But perhaps Howard diving hard in pick and rolls can generate more gravity than Horford or Millsap were able to muster working from the elbows.

And though Atlanta already had a quality defense, maybe Howard’s different defensive skill set allows the team to shore up some weaknesses that appeared in the playoffs the past two seasons.

As the 2nd best defensive team in the league, you would be hard pressed to find a glaring weakness. Dwight’s biggest impact defensively will be providing rim protection for a team that ranked 2nd in rim protection field goal percentage holding a opponents to 44.9%. Atlanta also ranked first in blocks, defensive rebounds and field goal percentage defending 2 pointers. However, what we found out against bigger, longer, athletic teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers (swept) and Milwaukee Bucks (1-2 regular season series record) is that Atlanta doesn’t have the athletes to match.

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Lebron is unstoppable when he has a full head of steam headed towards the basket, but the lack of size and shot blocking ability is apparent

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Frye gets to the pain and because of his length there is no shot any Hawk has to contest.

As an individual, Dwight’s presence on the defensive end is far more imposing than Horford’s or Millsap; so opposing players are certainly more careful attempting a shot around the basket. Last season, when facing the champion Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwight’s defensive field goal percentage contesting shots less than 6 feet was 33.33%(2 games), compared to Al Horford’s 66.7%( 3 games). Watching Tristan Thompson gather several offensive rebounds for 2nd chance points throughout the semifinals was a reminder that Atlanta ranked 18th in that department, another area Howard’s 8.4 defensive rebounds per game will come in handy as opposed to Horford’s 5.5.

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Tristan Thompson out hustles entire Hawks frontcourt using his instincts and leaping ability. Two attributes Dwight uses when rebounding the ball.

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Dwight howard rebounding activity

Budenholzer will have to tweak the scheme just a tad bit in order to fully capitalize off of Dwight’s strengths by not allowing him too far away from the basket as Horford might off been at times. Now not saying Howard doesn’t have the capability to cover a guard off a pick n roll for a couple seconds, but it’s not exactly his comfort zone. Luckily for him he will be playing with a supporting cast that is instructed to wreak havoc on the perimeter in order to reduce easy driving lanes to the rim. Nevertheless, Howard is one of the best erasers in this league and has been for quiet some time.

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Howard protecting the rim

 

The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year leaves an offense first, second, and then defense third mentality in Houston for one of the best defensive coaches in the league.

The Hawks finished in the top three in defensive rating over the past two seasons. What Budenholzer has done is highly impressive, given the lack of size and rebounding capabilities on the roster, and now he has a game-changing player with the ability to shore up both of those deficiencies. Atlanta has sorely missed that imposing presence anchoring the defense, sort of similar to what Tyson Chandler meant to those Dallas Maverick teams.

Al Horford and Paul Millsap did all they could in conjunction with a perimeter group who swarmed ball handlers with pressure defense to speed offenses up and out of their comfort zone, but they still lacked great size on the frontline. Howard is a rim protecting presence who should allow defenders to scramble less, maintain the integrity of their rotations, and clean the glass.

Another important note is that due to Budenholzer’s all hands on deck philosophy, he should be able to keep Howard’s minutes in check.

Over the past couple seasons Dwight has not looked like the Superman we saw in Orlando, and much of that can be attributed to injuries (knees and back) and poor coaching philosophies he was forced to endure. However, he is not absolved of blame. Defense is all about effort and he looked disengaged at times last season. The injuries are something Atlanta is taking a risk on, but the mental stability is much more concerning. Howard discussed the situation in Houston on Inside the NBA on TNT during the playoffs.
“As a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what’s going on,” Howard said on TNT. “If I could bring the ball up the court, shoot threes, go between the legs and do all that stuff, that would be great. But I have to rely on my teammates to get the ball. Now, there have been times where I’ve been upset and I’ve taken myself out of games in situations, and that’s on me. I have to grow to be a better player at that.”
Howard played 71 games and the entire first round, so the issue as much a mental block as physical. He averaged just 13.7 points per game, the second lowest of his career, on just 8.5 field goals a game, on a team that took 7,392 regular season threes during his tenure.

He now joins a philosophy that believes in ball movement and has shown they don’t mind playing through their bigs as Atlanta averaged the most post touches last season with 19.8 a game—two factors I’m sure played a large part in his decision. Howard will certainly find much more comfort playing with a willing passer in Dennis Schroder, especially in pick and roll situations, which will force defenses into a tough circumstance with shooters like Korver and Bazemore spotting up.

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Howard in Pick and Roll

 

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Howard rolling to rim

Schroder is much more prone to use picks to create better looks for his own scoring options. Last year he ranked third in frequency of using the pick and roll with a 54% rating, two spots above Chris Paul, and having five of his 11 points per game come from that play type. At this point in his career he is not threat to defenses shooting the ball and typically uses the likes of Millsap and Horford’s offensive prowess to his advantage. During Wednesday’s press conference Howard stated that Dennis reminds him “of a bigger Rondo.” And said that the pick and roll game with both of them will be hard to defend.

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Schroder to Horford

Howard may not be the midrange shooter that Horford was for Atlanta, but he certainly is just as effective rolling to the rim awaiting a pass from a point guard. Even with the lack of touches he this past season, Howard still shot 60% as a roll man during it all. If you have watched him long enough you understand that he’s quiet comfortable in pick and rolls, but the real questions lie in the post. We were all optimistic when he walked into los Angeles to work with all time leading scorer Kareem Abdul Jabaar, but that soon faded after he battled a bad back all season long and never quiet got in sync with Mike Dantoni. He then heads to Houston where 3-time NBA champion Kevin Mchale and the masterful footwork teachings of Hakeem Olajuwon’s awaited him, but that too never manifested.

So for Atlanta, barring any vast improvement in his low post scoring ability, Dwight is already one of the top offensive rebounders in the league, which can be a source for points, but he will be most successful in Atlanta’s offense stationed closer to the basket (he shot 69.6% from less than 5 feet last season) feeding off the playmaking ability from his teammates, rather if it’s a drive and dish or off a pick and roll. Budenholzer will still need to call his number for post ups, but idea is not to exhaust him too much by demanding he create his own offense majority of the time. Although the playing style was not in his favor last year, just 244 of his 976 points came from post ups.

Another luxury Howard now has is that this scheme also encourages interior passing between its bigs to create easier scoring opportunities—a similar scheme is currently ran on the Los Angles Clippers between Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan whenever they play two-man game from a hi-low or pick and roll setting. Millsap is a better floor spacer than Griffin, and close enough of as a passer.

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Here we see a series of clips showing Blake Griffins passing abilities in the Hi-Lo situations.

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Dwight did share time on the floor with a passing forward in Josh Smith; and Hi-Lo situations is something he’s shown no problem excelling in like Deandre Jordan.

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Millsap to Horford

Howard is now 30 years old with a history of injuries and enough drama to fill a Netflix series. The Hawks, on the court, have been a stable franchise in recent years in search of a catalyst to hit a higher ceiling. Beginning a new chapter, Howard will now wear #8 in hopes that a return to his Atlanta roots will be just what his career needed.  Recently, Howard spoke with the Atlanta Journal–Constitution about the ultimate goal in Atlanta and his motivation preparing for next season.

“I want to do whatever I can to bring a championship home,” Howard said Tuesday, “I know it’s not going to be easy. I’ve worked extremely hard this summer, every summer. I’m very motivated. I’m really ticked off about last season. I’m looking forward to coming back with a different mentality.”

 

Home is a place of refuge, a place to reset, regroup and re-energize; but for the Hawks, all they received was a 121-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the first two and a half quarters, they returned back to the style of basketball that brings the most success to them as they forced turnovers, played physical and mailed in good looks from 3-point land. This game, Coach Budenholzer decided to shake things up a bit by adding more defense and hustle to the lineup, replacing Kyle Korver with Thabo Sefolosha and giving Kris Humphries more meaningful minutes.

“You have to change. We’re in the playoffs,” said Al Horford, who scored 24 points. “We’re fighting for our playoff lives right now. At this point, we have to do some changes because what we’ve done hasn’t worked. We felt good about tonight, but we had some mistakes that cost us.”

Those mistakes Horford referred to came mostly in the the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, as Cleveland made adjustments that then forced the Hawks into questionable shot selections, wasteful possessions and worst of them all, turnovers. The fourth quarter defense looked much like every quarter in Game 2, as Cleveland’s ball movement found the right shooter at the right time.

Atlanta plays best when their defense initiates their offense, but that was no more, and they were forced into a shootout they had no bullets for. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks drew first blood in their round one matchup against the Boston Celtics, 101-102, to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague and Al Horford, who both registered  double-doubles, while the Celtics were led by Isaiah Thomas’ 27 points and eight assists.

Kent Bazemore also had a great game for the Hawks, scoring 23 points and was a constant menace to the Celtics’ defense with his cutting action.

A tale of two halves

The Celtics were pretty poor on the offensive end in the first half — 12-of-52 (23.1%) shooting and 2-of-16 (12.5%) from behind the arc made for a very disappointing first half for the Celtics. Bad shots, settling for jump shots, and some great defense displayed by the Hawks limited the Celtics to 34 first half points. However, sometimes words simply aren’t enough, and with that I present you the Celtics’ first half shot chart.

Continue Reading…

With the Hawks crossing the halfway point of their 82 game regular season, it is time to look back at some of the successes and failures of the team.

The team’s record sits at 24-17 prior to Monday’s match against the Orlando Magic, on pace for 48 wins for you math majors. This would be a 12-win drop off from last year despite only a couple of roster changes during the offseason. It was common thought that the Hawks wouldn’t be able to match their performance from a season ago given natural regression. The first half of the season has only proved that line of thinking correct. Still, the team has a real shot at a top two seed in the Eastern Conference and will look to enter the playoffs in better shape this time around.

Let’s dive right into what has gone right early in the 2015-16 season.

The Positives:

Kent Bazemore

By now you’ve heard Baze’s story. A four year player at Old Dominion, Kent went undrafted in 2012 and has had to fight for playing time in the Association. James Herbert of CBS Sports recently detailed his early struggles and his improvement since becoming a Hawk in 2014. 

Kent shot 32.7% from three in sporadic time over his first two seasons in the NBA with the Warriors and Lakers. Last season, he shot 36.4% from long range. This year? A brilliant 41.9%. Kent credits a revamped shooting stroke and it has showed in his results. But he has also elevated his game in other ways.

Kent is playing the most minutes of his career at over 28 a game and has responded with double digit scoring for the first time as well. He is fourth on the team in points per game (12.8) and third in True Shooting Percentage (59.2%). In addition, he has turned into a real pesky defender with a 0.4 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DPM) and over a steal per game.

Long regarded as just a slasher with monster hops, the man from Kelford, North Carolina has refined his game into a well-rounder contributor. Baze was once only known for his bench celebrations, but now his electrifying play between the baselines is causing others to go wild from the sideline. It was only a few months ago when questions surfaced about the team’s ability to replace DeMarre Carroll. Well, I’d say the Hawks have found their replacement plus some.

Continue Reading…

Paul Millsap scored his 10,000th career point and finished with 21 points, six rebounds, three assist as Atlanta defeated the Brooklyn Nets 114-86.  Dennis Schroder recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 assist leading the bench that outscored Brooklyn’s 53-31. Thaddeus Young was Brooklyn’s leading scorer with 18 points shooting 8-12 from the field. On the second game of a back to back it is important to spread out minutes and Coach Budenholzer was able to do so in a winning effort.

“Good effort by our group. I think a lot of guys played well. The bench was really good for us, said Coach Budenholzer. The first half was a little bit back and forth. We got some cushion. They threw a punch to start the third quarter. It was good to see us take that and extend the lead. A lot of different guys played well. A little different combinations tonight, so it was good to see different guys in a little bit different situations play well”

Atlanta shot the ball well in the first half, shooting 50% in the first quarter and 60% in the second quarter. Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 10 points apiece, while Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young led Brooklyn with 14 followed by Wayne Ellington with nine. Once Thabo Sefolosha, Dennis Schroder and the rest of the bench were inserted into the game late in the first quarter and to start the second, the defense picked up and the Hawks were able to pull away to a 44-32 lead with 7:12 remaining in the 2nd quarter. However, a couple fouls by Atlanta, threes from Joe Johnson and Brooklyn were able to cut the lead to just seven as the half ended. Continue Reading…

Over the past decade, the power forward position has been in a constant state of flux; evolving from bruising rebounders with the hint of a midrange jumper, to floor spacing 3-point threats, and on to today’s playmaking variety.

Paul Millsap, through different points in his career, has fit each description — adapting to meet the position’s demands:

With the proliferation of specialized 3-and-D wings, the power forward position has become an important source of secondary playmaking — attacking the brief 4-on-3 advantages created by defensive reactions to a pick and roll.

Once limited behind Carlos Boozer on the bench in Utah, Millsap has worked himself into one of the most notable playmaking power forwards in the NBA. He has developed similar ability to pass and make plays in open space to counterparts Draymond Green, Boris Diaw and Blake Griffin. Each is with the right coach, in the right system and surrounded by the right talent to show off their inner point guard.

Millsap’s demeanor is quiet and workman-like, so at times his impact may get lost in the flash of a Jeff Teague crossover or the intricate off-ball choreography that frees Kyle Korver up for an open 30-foot 3-pointer. But make no mistake, Millsap is the concrete, glue and stick that holds this team together.

Continue Reading…

 

The Atlanta Hawks have won six straight after capturing a 117-98 victory over the visiting New York Knicks. Atlanta is now the only Eastern Conference team on the season with 20 victories.

In the first quarter New York came out scorching hot, shooting 14-of-22 overall. Knicks’ superstar Carmelo Anthony led the way with nine points in the opening period. New York outscored Atlanta 33-22 in the stanza, holding a 21-6 lead at one point.

In the second frame, Atlanta showed its resilience, besting New York 38-31 to cut into the Knicks’ 10-point lead. Jeff Teague led all Hawks scorers with nine points, on a perfect 2-of-2 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Atlanta entered the half down 63-60.

The Hawks owned the third period, outscoring the Knicks 27-12. Paul Millsap added 11 points and five rebounds for Atlanta as the Hawks took a 12 point lead into the final period of play.

The fourth quarter saw Atlanta build a commanding 24-point lead, while outscoring New York 30-20 in the quarter. The Hawks used a balanced effort in the final period, en route to putting New York away 117-98. Continue Reading…

Despite playing in front of a home crowd mostly filled with Laker nation, the Atlanta Hawks found a way to drown out the noise and grab a much needed 100-87 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Al Horford led Atlanta with 16 points and nine rebounds while  finishing with a game-best plus-16 plus/minus. The win involved much more of a balanced effort offensively than the hawks have had in their recent games as three starters finished in double figures and the bench contributed 41 points. Kent Bazemore led the bench with 15 points and shot 50% from the field and 67% from three.

In the first half the Hawks defense made their presence felt as they forced the Lakers into eight turnovers, three coming from rookie D’Angelo Russell who struggled with breaking the half court trap Atlanta constantly threw his way. Many of the Lakers could not find a rhythm, rushing several of their shots leading to 32.5% field goal percentage.  However, the Lakers made it a game in the third quarter as they began the second half on a 7-0 run, followed by an 11-3 run midway through the quarter. Jordan Clarkston stepped up and led all Lakers in the third as he scored 11 of the team’s 30 points.

“I think our defense gave us a cushion in the first half gave us a cushion, but we had a significant lag in the third quarter,” said Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer. “I think two nights in a row in the second half we have not been as good as we need to be. It is really both sides of the court. We need to focus on being a better defensive team, being more solid when we are up.” Continue Reading…

Spurs Rout Hawks 108-88

Eric Yeboah —  November 29, 2015 — Leave a comment

In their fourth game in five nights the Hawks fell to the San Antonio Spurs 108-88 with the largest lead being 30. This win marks the 18th straight home victory against Atlanta. The Hawks struggled from the field shooting just 42% from the field and a season low 23% from three in the game. After the first quarter the Hawks led 25-23 and it seemed that they would fight through the sores and heavy legs.

However, the second quarter began and ended horribly as scored just 12 points shooting just 27% from the field and 12.5% from three, meanwhile Leonard recorded 11 of his game high 22 points. During this quarter the team posted a -19 plus/minus rating while the spurs forced them into 6 turnovers leading to a 17 point lead.

Mike Scott lead Atlanta with 14 points (his 13th time scoring in double figures), five for nine from the field and +6 plus/minus rating during his time on the court. The spurs dominated the frontcourt showdown between the two as Millsap and Horford only accumulated just 16 points and 12 rebounds, meanwhile Duncan and Aldridge posted 23 points and 24 rebounds. The same story goes for Atlanta’s backcourt with just 12 points from Teague and Korver as the length of San Antonio threw their rhythm completely off forcing several contested or adjusted shot attempts.

Hawks return home Monday, but Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder wont be the easiest bounce back game.

Tip off at 8:00pm