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6-17 at 10.05 PM

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.

Coach Budenholzer hasn’t lost more than five straight games since his first season in Atlanta — until Friday’s 104-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks returned home Friday night in search of not only a win, but to find their mojo they had when they started the season 9-2.  One of — if not the biggest — keys to that run was the bench. A bench that ranked 4th in scoring and averaged 45 points a game in October has now slipped to 32 points per game over the last five games. Both units are struggling in a number of areas, but the offensive possessions are the most glaring.  

“I think we are all just in a bit of a rut right now,” Kyle Korver said post-game Friday night. “It’s the first unit, it’s the second unit. We need to get the ball moving again and get everybody involved.”

“I would say a lot of possessions are not good enough,” said a visibly frustrated Mike Budenhozer. “We are not getting the looks that we need to get and then when you do get a good look it puts a lot of pressure to make those good ones. The game gets hard that way; you want to be free flowing. I don’t think we are getting a lot of good possessions to make those good looks feel right.”

During the winning streak, whenever the starters were in a close contest the bench was there to save them. Whenever the starters had a substantial lead, Muscala, Sefolosha and Hardaway stretched it even further. The road trip called for the bench to step up more than ever, as the Hawks played five games in eight days. Those eight days consisted of a starting unit averaging just 25 points a game and shooting 37 percent from the field.  Once again, the starters struggled, shooting just 34 percent from the field tonight and once again contributing 45 points. The reserves simply weren’t enough to gloss over the troubles hindering the 1st unit.

“Some things we have to get better with, our pick and roll actions,” Kyle Korver said. “Dennis and Dwight are still new to each other in a lot of ways and they’re still figuring it out. We have to do whatever we can to help them, give them better spacing, but I think it’s a lot of parts of the offense that’s a problem, not just the pick and roll.”

The losing streak hurts, yes, but even worse is an absence of fear in opponents when they have to try and stifle this offense. An offense that was once able to wear defenses down until a white flag was waved or break out on a 12-2 run in a blink of an eye to shrink a deficit currently looks like a distant relative.

Defenses are making a stronger effort to close the paint off pick and rolls and, by doing so, throwing off an offense that works best when the inside presence is established first. Before the five game winning streak ended, Atlanta was ranked fourth in points in the paint — averaging 47 points a game — however, over the last three games, they’ve been held to just 38 points a game.

“Teams are sending three or four bodies at me as I’m rolling to the basket to make sure I don’t get any easy baskets,” Dwight Howard said. “They are forcing our guards to make plays, so it’s just a little adjustment that we are going to fix.”

The Hawks don’t  have many off days to rest and watch film to recuperate,m as they face the 2nd seed Toronto Raptors on Saturday night on the back end of a back-to-back, and return home Monday where Russell Westbrook awaits them.

Hawks Rave About Taurean Prince

Eric Yeboah —  November 17, 2016

The second night of a back-to-back game usually requires much more production from a bench. The Hawks bench, currently ranked fifth in bench scoring, has been one of the league’s best thus far. In their sixth straight victory they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 107-100 without the services of Dwight Howard (quad) and Thabo Sefolosha (knee). The starters appeared sluggish and out of sync in the first quarter, shooting just 35 percent from the field, prompting Coach Budenholzer to quickly turn to his backups.

The Hawks began the second quarter trailing 26-21 until a SportsCenter top-10 dunk along the baseline by rookie Taurean Prince jumpstarted a 19-0 run.

“I thought Tauren was great,” Budenholzer said postgame. “Just the physicality he plays with, the aggressiveness he plays with, really gave us a big boost on both ends of the court.”

“That was really nice,” said Mike Muscala of Prince’s dunk. “I was pretty surprised, I did not see that coming. He’s going to be a really good player.”

Picked 12th in this year’s draft, many may have been expecting more appearances this season from Prince. However, with a veteran like Sefolosha that Bud can trust and the sharp shooting Tim Hardaway Jr has displayed, Prince has been forced to remain patient, but ready. He was just that on Wednesday night, logging eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes of action.

“In my opinion the best teacher is experience,” Prince said. ” For me to get out there with the guys. We put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes that people don’t see. I am ready for the opportunity, whatever opportunity I can continue to get, I will continue to take advantage of it.”

The opportunities will be fed to Prince gradually as the season progresses under a Budenholzer that has a tendency to keep young wings on a short leash. Tim Hardaway Jr and Kent Bazemore both are examples of what happens when a organization takes time in laying out a program that makes a concerted effort to truly deduce — to a science — a player’s strengths and weaknesses, along with what steps need to be taken in order for him to maximize his talent.

“Just another testament of the Atlanta Hawks player development system,” said Bazemore on Prince’s play on Wednesday night. “A guy works hard every day and when he gets his name called he’s ready. That’s one of his [Taurean] greatest attributes is he’s fearless, he’s out there chirping, hitting people, finishing above the rim and that’s his game. It’s good when you can get a young fella this early in his career and be that confident.”

Confidence is what got him to the league — it’s part of what drew the Hawks to him and it’s also how he will gain minutes going further. The untapped potential he possesses, along with his high tenacity level, is a coach’s dream, especially to a true teacher of the game like Budenholzer. Prince, like any other rookie, is still grasping schemes, counters and what making the right play at this level entails, but if Wednesday night is any indication, his ascension has only just hit its genesis.

His dunk is a must see, a show stopper and one of the most exciting plays the Hawks have executed this year. But that alone won’t keep him on the floor — playing the Hawks’ brand of basketball will.

“Anybody that comes into our team you kind of have to learn how we play, said Korver. Its not about just having talent and attacking the basket, there’s a method to the madness. He’s got a lot of natural ability and talent. For him, I told him at half time his best play was when he drove to the basket and whipped it to Tim for the shot. I told him that was your best play, not the big awesome dunk that you had, which was incredible. He’s just got to keep feeling how we play and I think that is a great play to go back and review.”

 

ATLANTA — Despite James Harden’s 30 point and 12 assist effort — his fourth game, out of six total games played this season, of recording 30 or more points and 10 or more assists in a game — the Hawks were able to play cohesively 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 amalgamation 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.

Kent Bazemore hasn’t gotten off to the start he would like to so far this season offensively, but knocked off the rust just in time for one of his biggest free agency suitors this summer — the Houston Rockets. Bazemore finished the game with 20 points, shooting 7-12 from the field and 75 percent from beyond the arc. Last season he showed improvement all around, but especially from downtown, shooting 50 percent in the first six games as opposed to just 15 percent this season. It’s far too early to begin to panic, but after agreeing to a 4-year, $70 million contract in the offseason, more eyes are observing Bazemore than ever before.

“I don’t think it’s about the contract,” Bazemore said. “It’s about me having another year in the NBA, this is my fifth year. I have very high expectations for myself. I’m trying to exceed them for myself and I may be pressing a little, but that’s human nature, you want to be great.

Bazemore has mostly been known as a defender in this league, so his offensive production has rarely been his sole focus. He has always guarded the opposing team’s best wing player — like a James Harden or Lebron James — but now he’s also being asked to handle the ball a little bit more this season with the departure of Jeff Teague and insertion of a young Dennis Schroder, which may take some time to adjust. However, more responsibility offers a chance to reach his own offensive goals and aspirations. Guys like Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler can serve as an inspiration for someone like Bazemore — both dominant defensive wings who were able to work their way into being dominant two-way players.

“Being a two way player is what I want to be known for,” Bazemore said. “Defense is what got me here and is probably 10 percent physical attributes and the rest is mental. But I want to continue to expand my game as a player and don’t want to be a guy teams don’t have to guard because I’ve been that guy so much in my life.”

 

However, for Bazemore, his optimism stems from his play last year that resulted in career highs in several categories. Houston took notice of Kent’s improvement and aimed much of their offseason energy in his direction, hoping to add more versatility alongside Harden and Ariza. In a league obsessed with the long ball more than ever before, his services were in high demand. Bazemore’s. The decision between the two organizations was far from easy as his relationship with Coach Mike D’Antoni was strong enough to pique his interest.

 

Listen to Bazemore below as to what ultimately kept him in Atlanta.

 

 

At the moment he’s happy and secure in Atlanta under a Budenholzer system that puts him in the best positions to make an impact on the offensive end. The biggest task for him this season is finding a comfort zone off the dribble in midrange territory. Good defenses will force him off the three-point line and into circumstances when a pull up jumper is necessary. Coming into tonight’s game he was just 6-28 from 16 feet to the three point line

His bank account may have changed but the gleeful kid from Kelford, NC remains positive and grounded in what got him this far.

 

“It’s all about timing and putting in the rhythm. Still putting in the work,still showing up, still lifting weights and still playing defense. The shot will come, there is no need to panic”, said Bazemore.

 

Watch Bazemore’s first 20 point game of the season below!

 

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks began their new season with a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena. Let’s dive right in.

Fourth quarter burst led by Tim Hardaway Jr.

Wow, those are words I didn’t think I’d type this season…

The Hawks led this game by one point (81-80) heading into the fourth quarter but a 20-4 run — with a lineup Paul Millsap and the second unit — in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quickly turned this game from a tight one to a near blowout. But it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who absolutely exploded in the fourth, scoring 12 of those 20 points during that decisive run. He shot 5-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from behind the arc in the fourth, it was so good to see Tim have a game like this. He had a bad, very bad, beginning to the preseason but started to turn it around near the end of preseason and he showed up last night when the Hawks really needed some offense because it wasn’t looking pretty at time with Dennis Schröder running the point.

That lineup that led the fourth quarter charge — Delaney, THJ, Sefolosha, Millsap and Moose — had astronomical offensive ratings (points per 100 possessions). Malcolm Delaney, 121. Tim Hardaway Jr., 135. Thabos Sefolosha, 126. Paul Millsap, 115. And Mike Muscala, 116. And all of these guys played over 20 minutes too, not garbage time. Well, except for Malcolm Delaney, he played 19 minutes and 58 seconds…

Regardless, THJ provided the Hawks with the spark they needed in the fourth, he was fantastic. More of this, please!

Continue Reading…

ATLANTA — Two thirds of the Hawks’ newly minted $70 million trio — Dwight Howard (11 points, 19 rebounds), Dennis Schroder (14 points) and Kent Bazemore (7 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 to a tune of only three fouls in 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 it was the amount of rebounds Howard notched that impressed him the most.

“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, even a small amount of rust on a metal pipe requires the time, the tools and the persistence to remove it completely.

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