Archives For James Harden

When the NBA season began, national analysts were divided on the question of whether the Hawks would make the playoffs. projected the Hawks to be contenders for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference. Nobody predicted the Hawks would be nine games up on second place and possessors of the NBA’s best winning percentage almost three quarters of the way through the season. However, since HawksHoop predicted the Hawks’ trajectory more accurately than most, I thought I’d explain why setting the bar high seemed like a good idea.

We all know the monkey on the Hawks’ back is the failure to advance past the second round of the playoffs since moving to Atlanta. There have been chances. In 1988, the Dominique Wilkins-led Hawks beat the Celtics in Boston to go up 3-2 in the second round. The Hawks lost Games 6 & 7 by two points apiece. In 2011, the Hawks tied their second round series with the Bulls 2-2 behind 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists from Josh Smith. Smith shot 5-for-19 outside the paint over the final three games and Jamal Crawford shot 3-for-19 from the field (0-for-7 from 3-point range) in Games 5 & 6 as Chicago eliminated Atlanta.

Perhaps the team’s best chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1988 happened in 2012. The Hawks faced an aging Celtics team in the first round as it had in the second round 24 years earlier. Atlanta lost Game 2 and surrendered home court advantage, but had a chance to win it back in Game 3. Rajon Rondo failed to record a single basket or assist in Game 3 while guarded by Kirk Hinrich. Larry Drew made the brilliant decision to sit Hinrich in favor of Jannero Pargo and Willie Green in the fourth quarter and overtime. Continue Reading…

The 2007 NBA Draft ranks among the most hyped ever. Greg Oden was projected to be the most dominant big man since Shaquille O’Neal. There was this skinny kid from Texas who was supposed to be good, Kevin Durant. And Florida had just won back-to-back NCAA championships with the son of former Milwaukee Buck Tito Horford. Somehow, against all odds, the Atlanta Hawks landed the draft pick that would propel the franchise to the cusp of championship contention.

The Hawks suffered through a 30-52 season in 2006-07 and finished with the league’s fourth-worst record. On March 22, 2007, the NBA Draft Lottery was held in Secaucus, New Jersey. Things were not looking good for the Hawks as the Trail Blazers, owners of the seventh-worst record, won the right to move into the top three. The Seattle SuperSonics (fifth-worst) likewise moved up. The Hawks owed a protected first round pick to the Phoenix Suns from the trade for Joe Johnson, so if the Hawks were pushed out of the top three, the team would surrender the pick.

But then, for once, the ping pong balls landed exactly right for the Hawks. After Portland won the right to pick first and Seattle second, the Hawks moved up to the third pick. It was a crushing blow for the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics and Bucks, owners of the league’s three worst records. With those teams moving past them, they dropped out of the top three of a draft with potential All-Stars available with the first three picks. Continue Reading…

With how good the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs often are, it is hard for road teams from the East to come into Texas and expect any success. The Hawks are not an exception to that, but Atlanta grinded out a rare victory in the Lone Star state, beating the Rockets 104-97. The Hawks now sit at 19-7 and have now won 14 of their last 16 games.

Atlanta managed to pull it out in the end thanks to some nice passing and solid execution. It also helped that Jason Terry completely forgot to cover Kyle Korver during one of the game’s most crucial moments.

While the game started off close, it wasn’t like that until midway through the third quarter. The Hawks had a decently-sized lead through most of the first half thanks to crisp ball movement getting them a lot of open looks. For the majority of the game, the best the Rockets could do was go on a small run occasionally, but the Hawks would withstand it and get right back to business and build up their lead once more. That was until the Rockets adjusted.

During halftime, the Rockets made some tweaks that managed to get them back into the game, tying the game up by the end of the quarter. Part of it was the Hawks just not hitting shots, but the Rockets rotations were much more organized in the second half; when the Hawks started to move the ball, the Rockets were right there to contest the shot. Continue Reading…


HOU.gif(23-14) 83 – 80 (20-17)ATL

Key Performers:
K. Korver (ATL): 20 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl
J. Harden (HOU): 25 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast

The Rockets jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but Mike Scott responded with eight first quarter points to keep the Hawks within a reasonable distance. The Hawks then won the next two quarters 55-42 to take a 65-60 lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, the Hawks used a DeMarre Carroll three-pointer to take a 79-78 advantage that they would not relinquish as four free throws from Kyle Korver iced the game in favor of the Hawks. The win gives the Hawks 20 on the season as they improved to 14-5 in Philips Arena.

Reaction grades [assessed 0-10]:

Paul Millsap: After four very rough games for Millsap, he was able to respond against Houston. His jumper was still a little off, but he did get a couple of three-pointers to fall. His four offensive rebounds were very important, as that was one of the keys that pushed the Hawks to victory despite a 37.2% shooting night from team. 7/10

DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre’s night kind of reminded me of Pero’s game against Charlotte. He was doing the little things throughout the game, but he could not hit a shot to save his life. Finally, with the Hawks trailing 78-76, he got a three to fall. 6/10

Pero Antic: Not a very good night for Pero, who finish with four points on eight shots. On defense, he wasn’t doing completely terrible, but Dwight was simply too physical for Pero on some possessions. The result was Pero getting into foul trouble and a minutes increase for Elton Brand. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Teague was outplayed by both Lou-Will and Shelvin tonight. Dwight Howard’s defense probably gave Jeff the most difficulties of any ATL player, as Jeff just couldn’t do what he wanted in the lane. Outside of the lane, Jeff was consistently short on his jumper, which is very reminiscent of how he was shooting the ball at the beginning of the season. 4/10

Kyle Korver: Kyle Korver has been the team’s top performer in consecutive wins against Indiana and Houston. Korver was 6-for-11 from the field and his three three-pointers in the third quarter were huge for the Hawks being able to take the lead. Korver also played very strong defense in the second half, as his digs and activity caused problems for Houston’s big and their guards. 9/10 Continue Reading…

2012-13 Record: 45-37 (8th in West)z-rockets

Playoff Result: Lost in First Round

Key Additions: Reggie Williams (free agent), Omri Casspi (free agent)) – oh and that Dwight Howard guy.

Key Losses: Carlos Delfino (free agent), Thomas Robinson (trade)

Projected 2013-14 Record: 52-30 (5th in West)*

What to Expect: Here’s the thing with Houston. Last year they were exceptional on offense with a very efficiency-driven approach. That meant a lot of threes and a lot of free throws. The flip side was that they were “meh” defensively with the team relying on Omer Asik in his first year as a starter and defensive anchor and Carlos Delfino who was 31. What changed? Well, they got Dwight freakin’ Howard.

Now immediately you think Dwight Howard, top echelon center, on top of this young and prolific core of James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley/Jeremy Lin means a cemented spot among the top teams in the Western Conference.

Yes, and no.

The Rockets’ biggest issue was their defense, and nabbing Howard to take Asik’s spot wasn’t a huge upgrade. Howard is obviously better at that end, but questions remain about his health with the back problem that seemingly has been bothersome for over a year. Not to mention that Houston really has little help defensively for Dwight, losing Delfino and quite possibly starting Lin over the defensive spark-plug Beverley this year. One could say starting Asik with Howard would alleviate these concerns, and that’s true, but they’d just bring up spacing ones on the other end. Obviously, Howard is a major upgrade over Asik in terms of offense. Continue Reading…


HOU (17-14) 123 – 104 (19-10) ATL

Key Performers:
C. Delfino (HOU): 22 pts, 4 rebs, 8 asts
A. Horford (ATL): 18 pts, 13 rebs, 4 asts, 1 stl


The Hawks, plagued by poor perimeter defense, allowed Carlos Delfino and James Harden to rain fire from outside the arc. Atlanta cut Houston’s lead to 5 in the fourth quarter, but Jeremy Lin’s stout defense and more defensive lapses from the Hawks enabled Delfino and the Rockets to put Atlanta away for good.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Smith’s strong defensive presence inside was one of the main reasons the Hawks were able to cut into the lead in the third quarter. He never played in the fourth as LD was resting Josh’s sore knee so he’d be available for tomorrow night, but 17 points and 7 rebounds in just 23 minutes isn’t too shabby. He also hit the jumpers he took, and while his shot selection wasn’t stellar, there’s no point with arguing the results. He was 5-12 from the field, but most of the misses, surprisingly, were within 15-feet. 6/10

Al Horford: Horford played a fantastic game as he initiated the offense early and was a beast on the boards. He hit his mid-range jumpers and played strong defense, but like Smith, he didn’t see any run in the 4th quarter. He played 31 minutes, and he was awesome in all 31. 9/10

Lou Williams: There are times when Lou Williams just cannot seem to miss. And for a stretch in the second half, it was one of those times. Lou caught fire from the perimeter and single-handedly resurrected a dead Atlanta offense. He came off of screens for his patented drifting three-pointers, he penetrated the lane for floaters and layups, and he seemed to cause quite a few Houston defensive breakdowns. He was the spark in this game, and had he played in the fourth quarter, the Hawks might have won this game– or at least seen a more friendly final score. 8/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza had one or two nice moments tonight, but for the most part, he was beat up inside by Greg Smith and Omer Asik. Both of those guys out-muscled and out-rebounded him in what was a difficult night for Pachulia. 2/10

Jeff Teague: Teague was a wreck to start the game, turning the ball over and missing from all over the field, but he initiated the Hawks second big 2nd half run. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, he was playing pesky defense, initiating the fast break, and finding open players. He finished with 9 assists on the night, but his 5 turnovers and 4-17 shooting line was the real story. Had he not struggled so much so early, Atlanta might have been in a better position going into the half.  5/10

Continue Reading…

RECAP: Rockets 109, Hawks 102

Bo Churney —  November 2, 2012 — 2 Comments


HOU(1-0) 109   –   102 (0-1)ATL

 Key Performers:

J. Harden (HOU): 45 pts, 7 rebs, 2 asts
L. Williams (ATL): 22 pts, 4 rebs, 5 asts, 3 stls

Well, welcome to super-stardom, Mr. Harden. The Beard went nuts, scoring 45 points (a career high) on 14-19 shooting and 15-17 from the line. Atlanta couldn’t stop him and Jeremy Lin, who nearly had a triple-double himself. Lou Williams had 13 in the 4th quarter, but it wasn’t enough to give the Hawks their sixth-straight season opening win.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Smoove did play good on the defensive end and showed some nice work around the basket, but again took too many jumpers. (2-7 on those) Asik did play great against him in the post, but Josh’s commitment at times around the basket was a plus. 18 points on 21 shots isn’t going to cut it, though. 6/10

Al Horford: Horford was just destroyed by Asik on the boards in the first half. He did shoot efficiently, though, going 6-10 with 14 points. Him only taking 10 shots (and only one in the first) is not the proper gameplan. 6/10

Lou Williams: Sweet Lou shot poorly early, but showed up late in the game and kept the Hawks in it. His play making off from the two-guard spot is such a contrast from ol’ Joe Johnson, and Lou’s driving ability opened up so many lanes and opportunities for Atlanta. I know Larry Drew likes to have a spark-plug off the bench, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lou slide into the starting lineup if he keeps playing games like this. 8/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza’s play, like Lou’s, was also instrumental in the Hawks getting back in the game. He had 13 points and 8 boards, which were huge considering the Hawks didn’t look like they could rebound anything against Asik for a while. 8/10

Jeff Teague: Had a quiet 14 and 7, which is great, but he still made some costly errors. For one, he wasn’t aggressive at all; the officials were calling practically any contact on drives, and Jeff hardly drove into the lane. There was also the possession late in the game, where he passed up and open three to pass to… Josh Smith… for three. (which I wouldn’t recommend, personally) 7/10 Continue Reading…


Well, that escalated quickly.

Unable to come to an agreement on an extension, the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded the reigning Sixth-Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets. For full details on the trade, click here. Harden will likely sign an extension with Houston before Wednesday’s deadline.

Believe it or not, this move does affect the Hawks.

If Harden remained in OKC without an extension, he would have become a restricted free agent after the season. Without the extension, it would be unlikely that the Thunder would match an offer for Harden. (which is obvious, otherwise they just would have given him the extension) With the amount of cap space that the Hawks will have, it is without a doubt that the team would have pursued Harden, even if he wasn’t one of the team’s initial targets. (which are still Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith)

I’ve got to hand it to Thunder GM Sam Presti, though; he does not mess around when it comes to his team. While Harden may be a great player, the contract that he is seeking would have completely restricted that franchise from making any moves in the future. They are still title contenders and can add more pieces pieces in the next couple of years, but they will surely miss Harden for his play-making abilities.