Christmas season is upon us. It’s a time to reflect back on the year, to spend time with family and to smugly step over people for that last bit of Christmas shopping, like Allen Iverson over Tyronn Lue.
The 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks were a gift to the city and their fans all around the world, as an oft-forgotten team reached dizzying heights never seen before in franchise history. While the current team has yet to soar like the year before, the new ownership and return of the NBA’s coach of the year brings stability to club with a volatile past.
The team knows it is better to give than receive, as evidenced by their 25 assists per game that ranks third in the association. But there are a few items each member could use heading into the meat of the season. And so, I would like to offer each member of the Hawks the perfect Christmas present as they look to turn a corner heading into 2016.
Jeff Teague: A year’s supply of ankle wraps
Jeff Teague has not matched his All-Star level production from a year ago, but a good chunk of that can be attributed to an ankle injury that still plagued him early this season.
Jeff Teague on the difference in his play tonight: "My ankle wasn't hurting today".
— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) December 24, 2015
In the Hawks’ final game before Christmas, Teague, finally on two ankles he could trust, had a stat-stuffing box score of 23 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals. Or should I say stocking stuffer?
Kyle Korver: a bottle Eau de Skunk cologne
Kyle Korver was in the midst of a legendarily great shooting year this time last season, which culminated in the first All-Star appearance of his then 11-year NBA career. This season, defenses have taken notice to not let Korver wriggle free in transition or coming around down screens, hugging him tighter than ever before. Kyle is shooting a merely “really good” 41.7% from three this year, after knocking down a ridiculous 49.2% of 3-pointers a year ago. The solution? Apply a little of this stinky French cologne to water the eyes of dreary defenders with the stench of displeased skunk. Opponents will think twice about fighting through picks to swarm Korver after getting a whiff of this potent combination.
Thabo Sefolosha: a civil court plea agreement or outright victory
Ask the casual NBA fan about Thabo Sefolosha and the response will likely be about him being the victim of police brutality, rather than his basketball accolades. Thabo was found not guilty weeks ago on all counts levied against him by the NYPD stemming from an early morning incident outside a famous New York club. Now, Thabo has filed a civil suit against the NYPD to help restore his name and stand up to malpractice from those who intend to protect and serve. In this politically divisive climate, a win would provide hope to those with lesser means to fight charges like this in court. We’re rooting for you on both courts, Thabo.
Paul Millsap: a photoshoot for Wheaties
Paul Millsap has stepped up his game in a big way this year. Paul is logging career bests in PER (22.6), TS% (57.6), points per 36 minutes (19.3), assists per 36 minutes (3.6), and Basketball References’ Box Plus/Minus (5.0) and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (.197). He’s had a monster year any way you slice it, and thus needs to be rewarded with a spotlight straight out of the early 2000’s.
Al Horford: Bubble wrap for the shoulder/pectoral area
In January of 2012, Al Horford suffered a left pectoral tear during a lockout-shortened season. The Hawks would recover to finish 4th in the East, but suffered a first-round exit to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, even though Al made his triumphant return in Game 4. Then, in December of 2013, Horford tore his right pectoral muscle. The Hawks would flounder to a sub .500 record after a 20-10 start to the season, falling in seven games to the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. Sensing a pattern here? It’s about that time to wrap Horford in bubble wrap and copious amounts of ice until we get through the winter blues unscathed.
Dennis Schröder: A free visit to the orthodontist
You may have heard by now about Dennis’ dental issues. After having a tooth knocked out during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he resorted to this method of saving his veneer:
— Dennis Schröder (@DennisMike93) December 22, 2015
Schröder has yet to correct the issue so maybe Santa can bring him a coupon for a visit to the nearest dentist or orthodontist.
Shelvin Mack: A “you’re appreciated card”
Mack has seen his minutes slashed with steadier play from Dennis Schröder but still remains up for the task whenever his name is called. The hardest thing I can imagine a player has to do is accept a minutes reduction for the good of the team. But Shelvin has always been a team-first guy. Still, Mack deserves a bit of heartfelt appreciation for not raising any funk about it.
Lamar Patterson: A massage appointment
Patterson was a long shot to make the Hawks’ roster this summer, but impressed the staff enough with his play during both Summer League and in the preseason to capture not only a roster spot, but a rotation spot. The process of banging against wily but strong NBA veterans is an experience that has to wear on a young guy physically and mentally. A professional massage can help soothe the young athlete in more ways than one.
Kent Bazemore: A dartboard and darts
What do you get your favorite little sharpshooter in your life for Christmas? How about another toy to work on his aim. Coming into the season, Kent averaged a pedestrian 34.4% shooting from beyond the arc. This year? An excellent 40.2%. You can’t ask for much more in a 3-and-D guy, so during his off days Kent can channel his precision toward darts as opposed to the hardwood.
Justin Holiday: A gift card to a fancy steakhouse
Listed at a generous 6’6” and 185 lbs., Justin could use a few big meals in a row to help fill out his frame. He has a long wingspan and his corner threes can help space the floor, but a healthy gym schedule and a couple of thick rib-eye steaks could help him better fight against bigger wings on the defensive end.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: A nice all-white suit
Listen, if you’re gonna take a seat on the bench, you might as well look good doing it. I previously wrote about the folly of the Tim Hardaway, Jr. trade here, but it’s a sunk cost at this point. I’m sure THJ already has plenty of suits in his closet to match his DNP-CD track record, but why not a nice all-white one straight out of a bad prom photo or low budget rap video? Hopefully he won’t put that fresh new suit to much use and proves enough to join the Hawks rotation by season’s end, but I’m bearish on those wishes.
Mike Scott: Mike Scott emojis
If Kim Kardashian gets her own emojis, so should Mike.
Mike Muscala: Moose googles
Instead of having to contort his hands to do his signature bench celebration, a trip to the local arts and crafts stores can aid in future dances. Just take a pair of fake thick-rimmed glasses and hot glue on some plastic moose antlers. It’s a perfectly cheap DIY project you can put together on Christmas Eve after all other gift ideas have been exhausted.
Tiago Splitter: A large ice pack to apply directly to the hip
Splitter is looking to regain form after sitting out seven games with hip soreness. Splitter is needed to counter the big bodies down low around the league, but his 12.4 points on 52.5% shooting and 7.3 rebounds per 36 minutes are the lowest rate in his career. Splitter has been a very consistent performer in his six-year NBA career, so there is no need to worry just yet, but any effort to reduce his hip soreness and/or inflammation would be appreciated.
Walter Tavares: A neck pillow
“Edy” has been assigned to the D-League three time so far on the young season and figures to receive a few more assignments in the weeks ahead. This means hopping on and off planes at a high rate, and repeated travel can make even the hardiest person turn weary. A neck pillow will help Edy comfortably catch some z’s on those long cross-country flights.