It’s a secret to no one that Paul Millsap is absolutely key to the Atlanta Hawks and any playoff run they hope to have. But he’s had to carry a very heavy burden this season…
Paul is averaging a career-high 18.1 points per game this season but you’d know, if you’ve watched the Hawks on a regular basis this season, that Millsap is the only consistent offensive player for the Hawks. Dennis Schröder is somewhat consistent but when he’s off…he’s really off. Tim Hardaway Jr. can bring the fire but he can be a little streaky — feast or famine, to an extent. Kent Bazemore has been extremely inconsistent this season whilst Thabo Sefolosha isn’t asked to score a whole lot and has struggled shooting the ball this season. Dwight Howard, meanwhile…the less said about Dwight’s offense the better.
When the Hawks have struggled on offense in games they dial-up Paul Millsap, and he’ll — more often or not — make something happen. Whether that’s outright scoring himself, get to the free throw line or make a play for someone else…Millsap just makes things happen for the Hawks. He makes them tick.
As we know, Millsap plays more than one side of the ball unlike the Hawks’ other offensive players, like your THJ’s and Dennis Schröder’s, whose defense often leaves a lot to be desired. Paul has been tasked — and has also asked in some cases — to check the opposing team’s best small forward/power forward and even center. In a game against the New York Knicks and where Carmelo Anthony is on fire, Millsap guarded him down the stretch and did a wonderful job, coming up with multiple, huge defensive stops.
Happy Friday! This Week in the Hawks Episode 10 is here for your listening pleasure. Bo Churney of FanBuzz joins me as we discuss the trade deadline and the moves the Hawks made: Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Scott and the reported efforts the Hawks made to try acquire Paul George and Jimmy Butler. We also talked about the Hawks’ decision to fill their two free roster spots with Lamar Patterson and Ryan Kelly, who were signed to deals on Friday too and the breaking news of Dennis Schröder’s one game suspension against the Miami Heat on Friday.
Thanks again to Bo for hopping on and thank you for listening! If you enjoyed, a share on Twitter is always appreciated.
Monday afternoon’s game against the New York Knicks marked the Atlanta Hawks’ 41st game of the regular season, the halfway point of the Hawks’ regular season. It has certainly been a topsy-turvy 41 games to say the least and with the Hawks not in action until tomorrow, now seems like a good time to breakdown the Hawks’ season so far using a number of different headings and awards.
Let’s go through the splits — and where in the league the Hawks rank — first and then we’ll have a lovely little chat about it.
(Stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference and are correct as of January 16th)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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