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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their latest contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 102-99 at Philips Arena. Russell Westbrook notched his sixth straight triple-double with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Anthony Morrow added another 15 points off of the bench.

Not an awful loss

Depending what way you look at it, of course Sure, it’s the Hawks’ seventh straight loss and their tenth in their last 11 games and that’s obviously not fantastic. If you looked at the result, but not the game, you’d be disappointed. But having watched the game, the Hawks did everything they needed to do — over the course of a 48 minute game — to win this game. Unfortunately, there exists a man named Russell Westbrook, who we’ll get to later.

What was most encouraging (to me) from this game was the return of Atlanta Hawks basketball: ball movement. The Hawks were moving the ball as we’re accustomed to seeing and they finished the game with 26 assists, the most they’ve registered in a game since they dished out 29 assists against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 16th. Stuff like this has been missing of late, it was good to see it return.

(Great ball movement here even though it didn’t result in a bucket)

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Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

Oh boy… The Hawks somehow managed to follow up their 36 point loss against the Detroit Pistons with a 44 point loss against the Toronto Raptors — 128-84 — at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday evening. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 21 points, one of eight players who scored double digits for the Raptors. The Raptors outscored the Hawks 42-14 in the fourth quarter.

Tailspinning out of control

This was the Hawks’ ninth loss in the last ten games and their sixth in a row. I’m reluctant to call this a crisis as long as Paul Millsap (who missed his third consecutive game last night) is out, but Paul Millsap — while he’s very good — is not worth 44 points. So, what’s going on? Let’s look at some of the issues from last night.

Ball movement

Subheadings? Oh man, that’s when you know things are bad. The Hawks aren’t moving the ball like they used to. Now, this isn’t to say the ball movement has died. Even last night there was some very nice ball movement, but the ball is sticking more now than it did in the past. Guys are either keeping hold of the ball too long or shooting it when they should be looking to pass. Here are a few examples from last night.

Take this possession, even though Dennis Schröder scores on this possession, he’s just holding the ball for way too long, it’s stuck with him. For this entire possession no one else touches the ball.

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Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks (without Paul Millsap) dropped their fourth game in succession — and their seventh in eight games — after losing out to the Phoenix Suns at Talking S(h)tick Resort Arena, 107-109. Brandon Knight led the Suns in scoring with 23 points while receiving other significant contributions from P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley, who scored 17 points each.

End of the road (trip)

Atlanta’s five game road trip is finally over. It’s been a rough week and a bit for the Hawks, five games in seven nights and only a 1-4 record to show for all their efforts. It’s safe to say everyone is looking forward to putting this road trip behind them and getting back home to Atlanta.

“…it’ll be good to get back home, sleep in your own bed and get ready to get back at it.” — Kent Bazemore

“You never feel good when you have a tough road trip and you’ve lost a few in a row. But I think we are looking forward to going home…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

It was a weird game for the Hawks to drop. Not so much of the opposition (although the Suns were 5-13 heading into last night’s game) but listen to these stats from last night’s game:

The Hawks shot 50% from the field, shot 36% from behind the arc, scored over 100 points, scored 21 second chance points, scored 20 fastbreak points, scored 29 points off of the Suns’ turnovers and had three players who scored 20 or more points… And still lost. Kent Bazemore had an… interesting, shall we say, way of describing how the Hawks have been playing of late.

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 Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks suffered their sixth loss in seven games as they dropped a tightly contested fixture against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, 105-100. The Warriors had three players who scored 20 or more points, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry both scored 25 points while Klay Thompson added 20 points to the Warriors’ cause.

A valiant effort, reason for optimism going forward

Although the Hawks did lose their sixth game in their last seven games, they can be proud of how they played competed against arguably the best team in the NBA, the Warriors now winners of 12 straight games. This was not a bad loss. The Hawks played some good defense — holding the team with the highest offense efficiency in the Warriors (115 points per 100 possessions heading into this game) to 101 points per 100 possessions — and played some good offense, much better than we’ve seen it of late and they cracked 100 points for the first time in six games.

“Definitely better than what it (the Hawks’ offense) has been. We still have to get better. It’s a loss. It goes on to the record. It’s tough but we’ll take and build on it.” — Paul Millsap

The Hawks seemed to run out of gas a little bit in the fourth quarter, where the Warriors outscored the Hawks 25-19. The Hawks missed some decent looks and when the Warriors’ defense clamped down, you just weren’t sure who was going to step up for the Hawks offensively.

A period of the game that, I thought, proved costly for the Hawks was that period of the game where end of the third quarter ends and the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. misses a three-point attempt in the dying embers of the third quarter, and from the resulting stop Ian Clarke drains the buzzer-beating three to cut the Hawks lead from four to one heading into the fourth quarter. The Warriors, with the crowd now energised, reeled a quick 6-0 run that gave the Warriors a five point lead, a lead they would not relinquish.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

On the second night of a back-to-back, without Dwight Howard and Thabo Sefolosha, the Hawks notched their six consecutive victory after they topped the Milwaukee Bucks 107-100 in Atlanta. Paul Millsap led the way with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Jabari Parker scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half for the Bucks.

Decisive second quarter

The Hawks entered the second quarter trailing 26-21 and reeled off a 19-0 run to begin the second period in what proved to be a decisive run as the Hawks outscored the Bucks 31-9. The Bucks shot 3-of-28 in the period and faced an uphill battle the rest of the way.

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“We couldn’t make the ball fall in the second quarter. We scored just nine points. It was hard to recover.” — Giannis Antetokounmpo

This run was sparked by the second unit and their energy was instrumental in reeling off the run and with Thabo Sefolosha sitting this one out, Taurean Prince finally got the opportunity to showcase what he’s all about.

Prince had the building rocking when he exploded to the rim for this dunk.

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Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks made it five wins in a row following their latest conquest over the shorthanded Miami Heat — who were without Goran Dragić and Justise Winslow — with a 93-90 road victory. The Hawks were led by Dennis Schröder’s team high 18 points while the Miami Heat were led by Tyler Johnson’s game high 19 points and Hassan Whiteside’s 19 points, 25 rebounds performance, the most rebounds in a game by any player in the league so far this season (as well as a season high 10 offensive rebounds).

Dwight Howard’s injury: last night and going forward

The Hawks got the win but the big news from Miami was that Dwight Howard injured his left quad and sat out of the fourth quarter. Speaking after the game:

“It’s super tight right now. Really painful. I wanted to come back out there but they said it wasn’t worth it this early in the season. There is a lot of pain. We are going to get treatment tonight, get treatment in the morning and see how it feels.” — Dwight Howard

Howard sustained the injury when he banged into Hassan Whiteside late in the third quarter. Coach Bud said that the Hawks would be “aggressive” when it came to treating the injury (since the Hawks play again later today at home to Milwaukee) and Dwight is officially listed as “questionable” for tonight’s game.

Dwight had been doing a good job defensively on Whiteside, but his absence meant that the Hawks had their hands full trying to deal with Whiteside in the fourth quarter. They struggled initially but Paul Millsap decided he wanted to guard Hassan as the Hawks’ center in crunch time.

“Usually whenever Paul asks for something, he gets it.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Millsap took up that position with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Whiteside had grabbed five rebounds (three of them offensive) in the fourth quarter up to that point, how many did he secure in crunch time after Paul checked in at center? One.

“I feel like I can cause him some problems. I can get to his body, get low, keep him out of the paint. If he catches it, use my hands to disturb him. The few times he got it, I was able to deflect it.” — Paul Millsap

Yes, with those “f***ing amazing hands” Millsap’s hands can indeed cause problems… But it’s worth pointing out that Whiteside (on the second night of a back-to-back) was pretty gassed by this stage of the game and I’m sure it did contribute.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks stretched their winning streak to four games with a 117-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, who were without Joel Embiid (rest). Dwight Howard recorded another double-double (guess we should just get used to that) with 10 points and 11 rebounds while Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 18 points.

Another great bench performance

For the second game in a row the Hawks’ bench put in a great performance — 54 points led by Tim Hardaway’s game high of 20.

“It was a good win. The bench continues to be very, very big for us. A lot of different guys played well. It’s good going into a big week next week.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Speaking after the Hawks’ win over the Bulls, Thabo Sefolosha said “…Different nights, different guys step up” and that rung true again last night. THJ added 20 but perhaps the surprise of last night was Kris Humphries adding 13 off the bench. Malcolm Delaney added another nine points and six assists.

“Tim had an incredible game, but he wasn’t the only one. Kris Humphries as well. We’re rolling right now. We’ll try to keep it up. We wanted to play a little bit better from start to finished but we had some spurts where we really played well, played together and executed on defense and offense.” — Thabo Sefolosha

I had concerns about this bench at the start of the season but they’ve been great so far. And look, take this with a grain of salt, these are the Sixers and they still suck, but even still it’s good to see the bench getting things done.

“I just feel like we have a lot of guys who are playing well right now, a lot of guys playing with a lot of confidence. They are mixing and matching well. They are sharing the ball well. I think to have that, if you want to call it a wave, different guys making plays that’s what it takes for us to be good.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

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

Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

It’s time. After a whole summer of talking and a little bit of action in the preseason, it’s time for Atlanta Hawks basketball — proper. This Thursday, at Philips Arena, the Hawks tip off their season against the Washington Wizards. And let’s be honest, we have no idea how this Hawks team is going to fare this season in the Eastern Conference. We’ll get to why that is in a bit, but first let’s go over what the Hawks did this summer and we’ll take it from there.

In: Dwight Howard, Malcolm Delaney

Out: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich,

Drafted: Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry

For better or for worse?

Al Horford is gone — gone because the Hawks didn’t want to max him (and not even the max as it turned out) for five years and gone because he wasn’t the front office’s top priority. It’s as simple as that. Jeff Teague requested a trade, that was granted and now he resides in Indiana. The two most important positions on the court are, arguably, the point guard and center positions and now the Hawks have to plug in new players into those respective positions. That’s always a concern heading into a new season, especially for a team that preached continuity at the end of the season.

To replace Horford and Teague the Hawks added Dwight Howard and gave the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder.

I still believe that Schröder is not ready to be a starting point guard in this league. I feel he’s still too erratic and one of those players where he’ll do something and you’ll sit there and think “What the flip was that, Dennis???”. And that happens often too. I also worry about his shooting. One of the better things Teague did last year was shoot 40 % from behind the arc — a team best. Schröder shot 32% from behind the arc. Offensively, Jeff just makes better decisions and is a better offensive player than Dennis. But the one thing Dennis does have going for him is his defense — his defense is absolutely ready for a starting role and he should improve the team at the point guard position from a defensive point of view. I still think it’s too soon though…

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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

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Have you ever known a thing — or a person — to be present in your life for nine years, only for them to walk out/exist no more after one June night? Well, that’s the reality of what happened to Hawks fans with Al Horford this summer — the All-Star center who left the only professional team he has ever known to join the Boston Celtics.

Horford was a constant in Atlanta ever since the day he was selected by the Hawks with the third overall pick in 2007, and the thought of him not being a part of the pre game player announcements (and part of the Hawks as a whole, of course) is certainly an odd thing to think about now, let alone actually seeing (or not seeing him in this case) the reality of situation on opening night.

Normally the thought of Al Horford leaving Atlanta would have been near catastrophic as the Hawks aren’t normally known for attracting the top free agents, thus filling the void Horford left (who certainly ranks among the better centers in the league) would’ve proved very difficult. But the Hawks did not leave anything to chance in an unpredictable free agency and decided to bring a center on board, even before Horford announced his intentions to sign with the Celtics.

But the Hawks didn’t just acquire any center, they acquired a high profile center — at least in terms of his name — in Dwight Howard. While the Hawks aren’t getting the best version of Dwight Howard, he was a very big fish for the Hawks to catch — the Hawks don’t normally sign players with a name as big as Dwight Howard’s. But what his signature provided the Hawks with was a very decent safety net in the event Horford did choose to leave, which he ultimately did. With Dwight’s signature agreed upon, losing Horford was not as catastrophic as it could’ve been.

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