Archives For Al Horford

The Hawks dropped their first game of the 2014-15 season with a 109-102 loss to the Raptors, and it could have been much uglier that that. Atlanta started out sloppy and played poorly on the defensive end, but a late run sparked the team. Costly mistakes threw away their final chance to come out on top.

Despite the loss, there were a few things we can take away from the game:

  • DEPTH
    The Hawks lacked depth last season — mostly due to injuries — but were coming into this season with a lot of versatile players on a deep bench. By the beginning of the second quarter, Mike Budenholzer had played 11 guys, showing how deep this team really is. Elton Brand was the first sub off the bench, followed by Kent Bazemore shortly after. On more than one occasion, Bud rolled out a Mack-Bazmore-Sefolosha-Scott-Brand lineup, and it proved to be a nice spark. Scott was the best bench player in the game, channeling his fire emojis for 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting. In the end, 10 guys played at least 11 minutes, and no starter played over 33 minutes.
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Hawks Fall to Raptors 109-102

Bo Churney —  October 29, 2014 — 4 Comments

The NBA’s season opener brought the Hawks to Toronto, where they faced off against the Raptors in Al Horford’s return to regular season basketball.

The Raptors used a 9-2 run at the end of the second quarter to take an eight-point (60-52) lead into halftime. They would not relinquish this lead and instead built upon it in the third quarter. 11 different Raptors scored in the third quarter, allowing Toronto to build a double-digit lead that left the Hawks scrambling for ideas.

Toronto continued their run at the start of the fourth quarter, with their lead ballooning to as many as 19 mid-way through the period. However, Mike Scott and the Hawks re-found the 3-ball late in the game and quickly chipped away at Toronto’s big lead. A DeMarre Carroll layup that was goaltended with 35 seconds left made it a 105-101 game in favor of Toronto and the Hawks quickly fouled DeMar DeRozan to send him to the line. DeRozan missed both free throws, but jumped to just the right spot off the miss to grab the long rebound. DeRozan was then fouled again, making both attempts on the second trip to the line and essentially dashing the Hawks’ comeback hopes.

Horford looked good in first regular season game since December 29, but he was still rusty and tentative with his jumpshot. The result was 6-for-15 from the field for 12 points. Despite that, Horford still played well in the other facets of the game, grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, dishing out three assists, and block three shots. After the game, Horford said he started to get into a rhythm in the fourth quarter, and it showed when he sank back-to-back jumpers that helped the Hawks cut into the large Raptor lead. Continue Reading…

Unlike years past, this year the Southeast Division looks wide open. Not only that, it’s the most powerful it’s been in years. The defending division champion Miami Heat may have lost LeBron James, but they still have one of the five best coaches in the NBA, and two to three all star level talents. The Wizards are coming off a year where they advanced to the second round, and some think they should have gone as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. There’s some swagger going on in DC with John Wall claiming to have the best backcourt in the NBA. To help their quest for the conference finals and beyond, the Wizards went out and signed Paul Pierce; another year older, but he’s still as crafty as ever.

Then there’s the Charlotte Bobcats Hornets. To go with their rebrand, they’ve upgraded the roster, signing Lance Stephenson. Charlotte surprised many last year, grabbing the 7th seed in the East and finishing with 43 wins. They will be looking to have a repeat of last year. Not far behind Charlotte is Atlanta. The Hawks are fully healthy this year, and with Al Horford’s return, they’re looking to make a playoff run of their own. Then there’s…well the Orlando Magic are a team and they play basketball. With a wide open division, it’s anybody’s for the taking. Except the Magic, they are awful.

Miami Heat

MIA

The Heat are coming off the roughest offseason in the division. They lost LeBron James, and no matter how you spin it, they’ve downgraded. Miami has gone from surefire contender, to being predicted as low as 7th in the East. They have a lot to prove this year if they’re going to earn back some of the respect they’ve lost.

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With the new-look Cavaliers unproven, the Heat missing the game’s best player, the Pacers decimated by injury (Paul George) and defection (Lance Stephenson) and the Wizards replacing defensive ace Trevor Ariza with the aging Paul Pierce, the Eastern Conference is as wide-open as it has been in recent memory. As such, I believe the Hawks should be setting lofty goals. Assuming Al Horford is able to fully recover from his most recent injury and have a healthy season, I believe the Hawks should be aiming for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

I expect the Pacers to join the Knicks, Bucks, Celtics, Magic and 76ers in missing the playoffs this season. I believe the Heat, Pistons, Hornets and Nets will compete for a playoff spot but not home court advantage. That leaves the Cavaliers, Bulls, Wizards and Raptors among teams I expect to compete with the Hawks for home court advantage in the first round. The Raptors are a danger because of their continuity. The Wizards may start slow due to Bradley Beal’s injury. The Cavaliers have unproven depth and chemistry. The Bulls face question marks concerning Derrick Rose’s health.

Of all those teams, the two I’d least like to see the Hawks face in the second round are the Bulls and Cavaliers. Thus, for the Hawks to finally break through to the Eastern Conference Finals, a level the franchise has never achieved since moving to Atlanta, I believe the Hawks should make it a team goal to avoid playing the second or third seed in the second round by securing the top seed. If the Hawks are able to secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, I’ll take my chances in the second round against the team that wins the four-five match-up in the first round. Continue Reading…

Hawks Helped Nix Lottery Reform
According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti led a successful, last-minute effort to nix the NBA’s proposed lottery reform, which would have evened the odds for lottery teams to move up to a higher pick. The Hawks were among a group of franchises with ties to the Spurs (which includes Presti and OKC) that voted against reform and prevented it from receiving enough votes to pass.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained some of the rationale behind the proposed changes to ESPN.com:

I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.

Despite this stated purpose, the proposal would have increased the odds for the 48-win Phoenix Suns to move up in the draft by 400% compared to the old system, if the proposal had been in effect as of the last draft. The ESPN.com article explained the motivation for reform as follows:

Reform proposals were aimed at two elements: increasing the odds of the best teams in the lottery jumping up into the top three spots and also lowering the floor for the worst teams to drop.

And Lowe extrapolated as follows:

The league’s proposal would have injected more randomness into the process, undercutting the ability to plan and increasing the likelihood that a solid team near the bottom of the lottery lucks its way into a star.

That might deter tanking on some level, but it also raises the chances of a scenario in which a team wins multiple lotteries despite some on-court improvement. No one seemed to like it much when Cleveland won a third lottery in four years in May.

If Silver’s stated purpose is to discourage tanking and direct talent toward teams that need it, how could he possibly justify giving a 48-win team a 400% better chance at landing one of the top picks? How does such an incentive discourage a fringe playoff team from tanking out of a low playoff seed? The goals and methodology behind the proposed reform seem to work at cross purposes.

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The Hawks finally conquered the Hornets 117-114 after the game was needlessly extended in overtime.

The officials were atrocious at the end of regulation, but they were even worse in overtime. The Hawks’ final offensive possession in OT — which started with 5.5 seconds left — took over six seconds until Thabo Sefolosha was fouled. The game should have ended, but then the refs reviewed the play for about ten minutes before deciding to put 2.8 seconds back on the clock with Sefolosha at the free throw line. It was an enormous gaffe that led to the game lasting about 15 minutes longer than it should have. If the NBA is serious about trying to reduce the average length of games, maybe look into overly long official reviews and excessive end-of-game timeouts instead of tinkering with the long-time rules of the game.

If you can’t tell, the officials really put a bad ending on what was otherwise an interesting game. Both teams stuck with a mix of starters and rotation players for the duration of the game and some legitimately fun basketball was being played. My complaining and soapbox speaking aside, there are plenty of positives and negatives to discuss about the Hawks from their win. The biggest negative clearly being the team’s continued inability to hold on to leads that has been persistent since last season.

“We’re playing well in stretches,” said Coach Budenholzer in his post-game presser, “and we’re playing beneath our standards for significant stretches. All of us, we need to get better.”

After being outscored 35-23 in the fourth quarter against the Pistons on Saturday, the Hawks blew a 17 point halftime lead when Charlotte was able to force overtime. Continue Reading…

By now you’ve probably read Lakers coach Byron Scott’s comments about 3-pointers. Scott told ESPN.com that 3-pointers help teams make the playoffs but don’t win championships. The numbers show that the opposite is true. The majority of recent NBA champions had the most made 3-pointers in the playoffs, often after posting middle-of-the-pack numbers during the regular season.

The Hawks’ loss to the Pistons was a textbook example of the importance of the 3-pointer. Late in the fourth quarter the Hawks held a 10-point lead while shooting 44% from 3-point range. The Pistons, meanwhile, were shooting only 27% from distance. Brandon Jennings, one of the most infamous streak shooters in the NBA, got hot and hit three in a row. Suddenly the Pistons were shooting 38% from 3-point range and the Hawks’ lead was a distant memory.

The real story of this game, however, is that Andre Drummond is an absolute monster and force to be reckoned with. One coach who is well-acquainted with the importance of the 3-pointer is Stan Van Gundy, who brought in former Hawk Cartier Martin as part of an offseason scour for anyone who could hit a long ball. Van Gundy will shortly be in the unique position of coaching the best center of three successive generations after previously coaching Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Continue Reading…

The Bulls technically won this game 85-84 after Jimmy Butler hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Which is nice for Chicago fans. It’s nice to win games. The problem with this for me is that the Hawks gave away this preseason game long before Butler’s 20 point fourth quarter.

Why am I almost completely ignoring the fourth quarter? Because this is the preseason and Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and Pau Gasol leading a 20-point, fourth quarter comeback against John Jenkins, Jarell Eddie, and Adreian Payne doesn’t inspire much in terms of what we should expect from this Atlanta Hawks team. (besides that the Hawks clearly care more about resting their main players)

Here is what I did takeaway, though: Atlanta’s starters (sans Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap) and main bench players dominated Chicago’s rotation. The offense was not very efficient, but they were getting good looks, not turning the ball over, and scoring enough to overpower Chicago’s anemic offense.

Al Horford put up four points (2-for-6 shooting) in 16 minutes, but he also had six rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He looked like his usual great self on defense and was progressing the offense by immediately running defensive rebounds up the floor. His jumper is still a bit short, but that is something that should progress as he gets more meaningful minutes on the floor. Horford had a plus-12 rating for the game. Continue Reading…

When Reggie Miller and Rick Fox predicted on NBA TV that the Hawks would miss the playoffs this season, I chuckled. But when ESPN.com projected the Hawks as the 7th-best team in the East and Tom Haberstroh wrote that the Hawks’ depth is “shallow as a puddle,” it was time to break my silence on the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks. Please take a few moments and let’s talk about the deepest team in Atlanta Hawks history.

Here’s the full quote from Haberstroh from ESPN’s preseason power rankings:

Although the Hawks mostly struck out in free agency with tons of cap space at hand, they reeled in former Thunder 3-and-D specialist Thabo Sefolosha to add much-needed depth. However, the team’s bench is still as shallow as a puddle after they shed Lou Williams’ contract.

The Hawks’ trade of Williams and former first-round pick Lucas Nogueira for the partially-guaranteed contract of John Salmons will remain a topic of debate for years to come. The team traded a useful bench player (Williams) and a former pick with some promise for a $7 million contract with only $1 million guaranteed. If you’re still dumbfounded by this move, consider this: There’s a very strong possibility that the trade was part of Danny Ferry’s preparation for a sign-and-trade offer to the Pistons that would include a max contract offer for Greg Monroe.

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After 10 months on the sidelines due to a pectoral injury, Al Horford finally returned to action on Tuesday night for a preseason matchup with the Miami Heat.

But it was an inauspicious return for Al Horford, as Chris Bosh won the tip, scored a layup, made a jumper and recorded three rebounds in the first three minutes as the Heat opened on a 14-0 run. Bosh’s two baskets on Horford during that run looked effortless and Horford’s baseline turn-around was well short and unconvincing.

You can’t lay it all on Horford’s plate, however, as the entire starting unit played the first quarter in a listless and disinterested manner. Jeff Teague’s layup and free throw, a pair of threes from DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver and a short jumper and layup by Paul Millsap was all the offense the starters were able to muster in the 1st as the Heat built a 31-16 lead heading into the second quarter.

Horford showed signs of life in the second quarter, assisting Mike Scott on a dunk and hitting a 13-footer. However, James Ennis, a player whose rights Danny Ferry traded to the Hawks’ division rivals, made a dunk and hit a corner three to counteract Horford’s positive efforts. Continue Reading…