Archives For Al Horford

(Feature image: Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Ah, draft night… One of my favorite dates on the NBA calendar. I don’t know what it is about this day that I look forward to so much. I suppose the fascination of which player ends up where, and what he can contribute to his new team is what which really grips me the most. What said player will be able to blossom into over the next few years, what said player’s arrival means for an existing player on the team already, and so on…

Personally, I find it hard to explain why I love draft day so much — it’s just a great day for all involved. Unless you’re the Brooklyn Nets this year, in which case, there’s always next year. Or 2019, whichever.

It’s not just a very interesting day for the fans — who spend weeks speculating and discussing/arguing who their team should select — but it’s also an interesting day for executives all around the league, as the future of their franchise potentially hangs in the balance by a thread of one draft pick. Some executives, however, are going to be busier than others, with the Nuggets, the Celtics, the Suns, and the Sixers all owning at least three first round picks. Each.

It’s going to be a pretty busy day for Atlanta Hawks too, who have the 21st overall selection as well as two second round selections (44 and 54).

Naturally, the question all Hawks fans are asking is “Who should we draft?”. But to thoroughly answer that question, we must do our research, and identify all the different forces at play here. There’s all sorts of different avenues the Hawks could explore when approaching this year’s draft, and today we’re going to address them — and by doing so, identifying the area (the area that I at least believe) the Hawks should draft in. Then we’ll be able to ask, and answer, the original question.

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The late composer and lyricist, Irving Berlin, once said “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…”. If that saying is true — and I believe it to be so — then the Atlanta Hawks’ melody still lingers, despite their unceremonious exit at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month. The Hawks made some sweet, sweet music (not love) this season, and that melody still lives on, even as we head into the summer.

In the second instalment of “Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks” — the mini series where we remember the good things about the Hawks season just passed — we’re going to look at the best individual performances of the season — the moments of magic that got us out of our seats. If you missed the first part, where we looked at the best games the Hawks played this season, you can check it out here.

Before we get cracking though, there’s a few honorable mentions to make note of. These are very noteworthy performances that didn’t make the final list — mainly because I don’t want this to drag on for nearly 3000 words when it doesn’t need to be that long — but deserved attention.

Shout out to Al Horford’s 30-14 game against the Rockets on December 29th, in one of the Hawks’ best wins of the season led by Horford and his five made threes. Shout out to Paul Millsap’s stat stuffer against the L.A. Clippers on March 5th: 20 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. And, finally, shout out to Jeff Teague’s 19 points, 14 assists (one turnover) performance against the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs.

Now that we have those out of the way…

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The phrase “The King is dead, long live the King!” never made sense to me as a kid. I mean, why would you say “long live the King” if he just died? I would later learn that the phrase originated in the 1400’s, when King Charles VI died and then his son — whose name you’ll never guess — Charles VII immediately succeeded him as King. The phrase basically means that the old King is dead, long live the new King.

As quick as we tend/want to move onto the new regime/ruler — in this case, the next chapter of Hawks basketball — there’s an entire regime of old that just passed to be remembered, whether it was a reign of terror or prosperity. As much as you want to serve the new King, you have to bury the old King. At the burial, words recalling the King’s life are told, and — hopefully — many memorable moments are shared.

Though we look forward to the 2016-17 Hawks, we must bury the 2015-16 Hawks, and we’ll share some memorable moments about the Atlanta Hawks’ season, as they’re slowly laid to rest. More specifically, we’ll share the good memories about the best games that the Hawks played this season.

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The Atlanta Hawks’ 2015-16 is now officially over, meaning the journey that they set out on — when training camp began — has ended, at least for another season. And when a journey ends, one gets reflective and casts an eye back to when the journey began and upon the journey itself, armed with the knowledge that they did not have when the journey started. So, let’s do exactly that today. Let’s cast an eye back on the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks season.

The big story heading into the Hawks’ season was that DeMarre Carroll had left Atlanta for pastures new north of the border, to be a part of the Toronto Raptors. I don’t think there was any question that the Hawks wanted to keep DeMarre, but his breakout season and his great playoff run meant that he priced himself out of a return to Atlanta, who could not afford to keep both him and Paul Millsap, with the Hawks only reserving the Early Bird Rights as both had only been with the Hawks for two seasons.

The Hawks did not sign a wing to replace Carroll, knowing that either Thabo Sefolosha (once he recovered from his leg injury) and the developing Kent Bazemore would be more than capable to step up in his absence. However, as both of these guys were bench players while Carroll was at the club, the Hawks’ bench would take a hit from either Thabo or Bazemore — obviously — needing to leave the bench in order to step into the starting lineup. So, the Hawks traded for some wing depth on draft night, sending the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft to acquire Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., in a move that certainly raised eyebrows.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers completed their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks as they took Game 4 in Atlanta with a 100-99 victory in Atlanta. The loss marks the end of a fun season in Atlanta, but the crushing exit at the hands of the Cavaliers — in a second successive sweep — has many Hawks fans torn on where the franchise needs to go next. And we’ll get there in good time, here at HawksHoop but, before all of that, let’s just finish the postmortem of this Game 4 loss.

Block or goal tend?

With 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hawks led 97-96, with the Cavaliers inbounding the ball underneath Atlanta’s basket. Some nice man movement from the Cavs out of the timeout allows LeBron — who frees himself of Paul Millsap — to receive the ball and put it up on the glass for a layup. However, James finds his effort swatted from behind by Millsap, who thinks he has the clean block and rebound, but the whistle sounds and the call is goal tending and the basket counts. As the play is reviewable — as there are less than two minutes remaining in the game — the officials take a look it.

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This Hawks team has many qualities, their most important one being pride, was called upon in a potential sweep versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Similar to Game 3 they fought hard, showed their mental toughness, togetherness, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to earn its first playoff victory over LeBron James and company in the past two seasons.

“Not sure, it’s something we have to go back and look at,” said Al Horford about what it will take to get over this hump. “Obviously, it’s not enough, it’s not enough of what we have. We fought hard, we gave it all we got, but we will see what happens.”

“Its unfortunate, we wanted to beat this team so bad,” said Paul Millsap. “They left a bad taste in our mouths last year. This year we thought we had them figured out. They did something completely different than last year. That they shot more 3s this year compared to last year and it killed us.”

Tyronne Lue’s implementation of more ball movement and the 3-point shot became the difference maker this year, covering up any difficulties or adjustments the Hawks may have given them. Kevin Love alone scored 12 of his 15 third quarter points from downtown (finishing with a game high 27 points) after Atlanta had out scored them in the paint and out hustled them on the boards in the first half. The team took a total 152 3-point attempts in this series — made 77 — with 45 attempts coming from Game 2’s eruption. Not even the league’s second best defensive team had an answer for that, especially with players like Kyrie Irving and LeBron James penetrating.

“Its a product of [LeBron and Kyrie] guys playing well and downhill,” said Love. “They’re so devastating and tough to stop when they are doing that, they can spray it out to the corner. They draw so much attention. They do it in different ways. But in doing that, Channing is going to be open, JR is going to be open and I’m going to be open.”

Millsap knows the new wave of high volume 3-point shooting team in the NBA isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

“That’s where this league is going. 3-point shots are killer man. They shot the mess out of the ball. When everybody on the basketball court can shoot like that, it puts your defense at a tough spot. We struggled with it all night, all series.”

Not having enough is nothing foreign to Atlanta Hawks fans over the past five to seven years. They have been sitting in limbo, teetering between elite and average for some time now, losing in the either the first or second round eight of the last nine seasons. Dennis Schroder’s last second possession to win the game defines this team’s issue in a nutshell; having to trust a 6-foot-1, 170 pound 22 year old backup point guard to force a Game 5 against a experienced bunch lead by King James.

The 2015-2016 Atlanta Hawks faced several uphill battles throughout the season, whether its a struggling Kyle Korver, a starting point guard conundrum or the loss of Tiago Splitter. Regardless, this team managed to re-invent itself into a defensive juggernaut, which speaks volumes.

The contract discussions of Kent Bazemore, Horford and adding more talent in the off-seeason (with the salary cap rising) will be the main focus for Mike Budenholzer. However, a lot of times for teams looking to get over the hump, hitting reset too soon may set the franchise back tenfold.

There are only two ways to look at it. Either the glass is half full or half empty. The success they shared over the past two years it could be the former and should not be taken for granted; but better yet each individual allow it to be used as fuel knowing how close they have come.

“I think that individually we can get better,” said a reassuring Millsap. “That’s from me on down the line. I think as a collective group we can all be better. I think if we keep everybody here, we will continue to grow. We will get better. We will get to the next level and I think that’s what this teams wants to do. We want to take that next step, get to the that next step in basketball.”

The Atlanta Hawks’ season now hangs by a very fine thread, as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter to take Game 3 (121-108) and, with it, take the commanding 3-0 series lead.

After the Hawks lost Game 2, I shared the stat that LeBron has never — in 16 playoff series — lost a playoff series after going up 2-0. History wasn’t kind to the Hawks then, and it’s not looking good for them now. No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 hole and comeback to win the series 4-3. The Cavs will have the opportunity to complete their second consecutive sweep over the Hawks on Sunday afternoon. For the Hawks, Game 4 is do-or-die, even though the ultimately fatal blow was dealt last night.

Fourth quarter of doom

The Hawks entered the fourth quarter with a five point lead and a Kyle Korver three-pointer put the Hawks up 94-85 with 11:14 left. After the two teams traded punches for a couple minutes, the Hawks still led 101-93 with 9:14 remaining. Obviously, this was plenty enough time for the Cavs to mount a run, and mount a run they did. From that point, the Cavs finished the game on a 28-7 run, shot 56% from the field (9-of-16), shot 55.6% (5-of-9) from behind the arc, and made 5-of-6 from the free throw line. The Hawks, meanwhile, shot 21.4% (3-of-14) from the field, missed all four of their three-point attempts, and only shot two free throws making one (again, from the 9:14 mark).

Huge fourth quarter efforts from LeBron James (10 points, three assists), Kyrie Irving (12 points, two three-pointers), and Channing Frye (11 points, three three-pointers) led the Cavs to a 36 point fourth quarter, outscoring the Hawks by 19 points in the final period. Frye’s 11 point fourth quarter points were part of a 27 point display, while shooting 7-of-9 from behind the arc.

It was such a disappointing result for the Hawks, not only because the loss means that the Hawks are now 0-3 down, but because Hawks played a good playoff game. Think about how mad this is:

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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 face an uphill battle in their second round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Cavs blew out the Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. That scoreline is kind to the Hawks, in all honesty. They were blown apart by the Cavs and their outside shooting, and deserved to lose by at least 30.

Before we get to that, we should recognise the situation the Hawks are now in: they’re in trouble, and history does not favor their side…

I can’t find the stat that I saw on Twitter last night, but it was something like “the Hawks have never recovered from a 0-2 series hole in franchise”, but I may be mistaken… Either way, things could be a lot better.

Anyways, let’s get to Game 2. Funnily enough, there’s not much to really discuss but what there is to discuss, we’ll be spending a while on…

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals (93-104) on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as LeBron James led the way (as he so often does) with 25 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. Kyrie Irving added another 21 points to Cleveland’s cause. The Hawks still have an opportunity to capture home court advantage when the two teams go at it again on Wednesday for Game 2.

There’s lots to get to today because, as always, the Hawks know how to make things interesting for Hawks bloggers/writers etc.

A very winnable game escapes Atlanta’s grasp

The Hawks had, somehow, managed to keep themselves within arms length of the Cavaliers (10-ish points) when they ought to have been down by at least 20. However, as much as the Hawks were one run away from making this a game, the Cavaliers were always one run away from blowing this game wide open.

And that’s exactly what happened in the third quarter, as a 12-4 Cavs run meant that the Hawks were suddenly trailing by 18 points, with the crowd fully engaged fresh off of a thunderous LeBron dunk that put the Cavs up 72-54. Now all of a sudden the Hawks have gone from within a run of being in this game, to being in real danger of being blown out in Game 1 — how was their response? Immediate. Mike Scott canned a three-pointer to immediately hush the home crowd, the Hawks got a stop the other way, and then Dennis Schröder drained another three-pointer. In the blink of an eye the deficit was just 12 and the Cavs called for a timeout.

Great initial response from the Hawks not bury their heads after what could’ve been a game breaker for so many teams. A power-dunk from LeBron that put the Cavs up by 18 in the third quarter, with the crowd going nuts. Many teams never recover from that, but I think Mike Scott (being Mike Scott and doing Mike Scott things) shooting and making that three was massive at that time for the Hawks. The crowd is instantly hushed after that shot, and that helps the Hawks in their quest to get another stop. It fuelled the comeback. Never change, Mike Scott…

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