Opportunities Missed

Frustration and everything else that cost the Hawks Game 3

With 5:30 left in the game, the Hawks and Cavs were tied and LeBron James was dragging up and down the court.  Atlanta had managed to hang tight in a game full of drama and big shots, but their season long deficiencies became glaring issues after losing their heart and soul in the first half.

Coach Bud couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to start the game.  James was scoreless in the first quarter and with Kyrie Irving out that meant the Cavs were relying on some unproven talent to step up.  Unfortunately, the Hawks managed just a 3 point lead going into the 2nd quarter……really…..LeBron scoreless for 12 minutes and you’re only up 3….not a good sign.  James didn’t even get a field goal until almost 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter.  This is not the way to take advantage of a slow start by the other team’s best player.

Fast forward to the final minute of the first half……

Matthew Dellavedova and Al Horford are chasing down a loose ball and as Al is reaching down for the ball, Delly is falling to the ground and into Horford’s knee.  Horford then drops down with a WWE elbow that gets him a Flagrant II and is told to kick rocks.  We can debate whether the play deserved an ejection or if Dellavedova is a dirty player, but the reality is that Al Horford is considered a pro and a leader.  He’s gotta know his importance to his team.

(For the record:  Dellavedova dove after loose balls that both Hawks players “reached” down to grab.  Coaches don’t teach players to “reach hard” they teach young players to dive for the ball.  Get over yourselves…..the Cavs were throwing Atlanta beat downs before Korver got hurt!)

So with Horford gone, the Hawks seemed to just lose steam.  They hung tight and even forced overtime, but I never got the feeling the Cavs were in trouble.  Teague dropped in 30, but had no help in the backcourt.  Demarre Carroll is making a valiant effort with his knee injury, but his 2 assists and 10 points were a drop in the bucket compared to what he gives up on defense.  He doesn’t have the lateral quickness or the core strength to battle with LeBron and he’s severely hobbled when going up for rebounds.

Kyle Korver, out with an ankle sprain, wasn’t even missed last night.  Shelvin Mack shot 50% from the field (3/7 from 3pt) and gave the Hawks 4 rebounds to go with his 13 points.  What doesn’t show up in the box score is the physical play of Mack.  He carries his 6-3/207 with a lot more strength and shows more on defense than Kyle ever has.

The other two contributors for the Hawks last night were Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore.  Both had seen their minutes cut in the postseason and I couldn’t understand why.  Scott’s minutes had been cut in half until last night and even though he didn’t shoot well, he grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 2 assists to go with his 8 points.  Bazemore is a different kind of player for the Hawks.  He isn’t always terribly efficient but he has slashing capabilities and rebounds well for his size (7 last night).  He’s no Kwahi Leonard, but that’s a role that’s gone unfilled in Atlanta all season.

I appreciate that Coach Bud is finally going all out with his rotations.  When you’re facing the King, there can’t be any bad ideas…..only options.  But being scrappy will only get you so far.  Players get you to the Promised Land, not philosophies and the Hawks simply don’t have the players to match up.  As solid as he was last night, Shelvin Mack was the guy with the last two looks for Atlanta……LeBron, CP3, Chef Curry, The Beard he is not.

Everybody loves the gritty underdog, but in the end it’s the big dogs that hunt.

 

Say anything…rant

I’m looking for a heartbeat….

I wanted to write about the amazing game Steph Curry posted for the Warriors.  I’d hoped to break down how the Hawks might battle back into their series and give the Cavs a run in the East.  I spent my morning thinking about the NBA draft and the different scenarios based on team needs.  These were the topics I WANTED to think about today.

Instead, I’m still wrapping my brain around yet another cop skating by after spraying a brown person with bullets.  I’m also trying to reconcile why I saw a post from Jalen Rose about it and not a damn word from anyone else in sports.  I understand many professional athletes fear voicing an opinion but I’m done giving them a pass.

When young black men and women were being mistreated during segregation athletes such as Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali didn’t remain silent.  Ali sacrificed 3 years of boxing because he refused draft induction.  Two young black men made a statement in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico on the medal stand.  Carlos Delgado protested the singing of America the Beautiful because he felt the wars in the Middle East were ridiculous.  I applaud all these men for what they did to further their conviction, but far more often, especially in the modern era of huge contracts and big money endorsements, athletes are more and more silent.  Michael Jordan was always famously silent whenever anything controversial came up.  Tiger Woods remains “above” the fray…..even as other golfers are making racists comments and the mainstream golf media is critiquing every shot and second-guessing each putt.  I can’t even recall a significant response to the Rodney King verdict……and outside of O.J. that was THE defining judicial moment of my lifetime.

All this is to say:  SAY SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING, THINK SOMETHING!

I respect the t-shirts worn, moments of silence and hashtags as much as the next person, but where is the statement?  Where is the outrage?  Where is the soundbite calling for action?  Hell, where’s the Vine with an athlete supporting the police, GOP or conservatives?  (All opinions are welcome)  What’s it gonna take for the young black and brown men and women of professional sports to break the silence and speak up for all of those who wear their jerseys and emulate their play?  Why don’t we require more than just leading by example?

I’ll tell you why…..becomes money trumps conscience and Political Correctness trumps honesty.  I can’t tell you the last interesting player interview I heard.  As long as players continue their canned answers the endorsement deals keep rolling in.  I’m not hating on cash, but damn….can I get a glimpse of humanity?  No, because we don’t value humanity unless it’s OUR humanness.

This is a rambling rant, but the lack of honesty and soul among athletes is disheartening.  I miss the poetry of Darryl Dawkins, the realness of Manny and the social conscience of Jim Brown.

So I’m calling out LeBron, Kyrie, Horford, Teague and any other player moved to do so:

Make a STATEMENT in Cleveland!  Give the media something REAL to report.  And tell all the people, young and old, that speaking out is OK and standing by is NOT.

 

Hawks’ 3-Point Specialist Kyle Korver is Out For the Rest of the Playoffs

As if it couldn’t get any worse for the Atlanta Hawks, it just did. After getting handled rather easily by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2, the team found out that their best 3-point shooter Kyle Korver is going to miss the rest of this year’s NBA playoffs.

Korver limped off the court in the third quarter with a high right ankle sprain after Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova rolled on his ankle while diving for a loose ball. Korver wasn’t that effective in this game as he scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, grabbed 1 rebound, dished out 1 assist, and had 1 steal – real close to a quadruple double.

The Hawks are unsure of whether or not Korver will need ankle surgery.

Korver’s Value to the Hawks

Losing a 3-point shooter is bad for any team, but here are some statistics that show that losing Korver is a huge blow to the Hawks:

Korver was one of four Hawks players who made the All-Star team this season (Teague, Horford, Korver, Millsap).

  • Korver is 6’ 7” and plays as a guard/forward hybrid. This means he could have been guarding someone like J.R. Smith AKA J.R. Swish and/or LeBron James, two players that have obviously been going off in this series.
  • Korver averaged 12.1 ppg during the regular season and led the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage…for the second consecutive season.
  • With Korver on the court, the Hawks have outscored their opponents by 60 points this postseason.
  • With Korver off the court, the Hawks have been outscored by 30 points this postseason.

What This Means for the Hawks

 Honestly, after the Spurs fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the divisional round and the Chicago Bulls basically quit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, I thought this team would be the next biggest threat to Cleveland matchup-wise. All season long, the Hawks have been playing a brand of basketball similar to Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs AKA LeBron’s kryptonite. In fact, the Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer worked previously under Popovich as an assistant coach so he is very familiar with coaching team basketball rather than relying on Superstars to carry him to the Promised Land. However, this is perhaps the Hawks biggest flaw.

The Hawks don’t have a consistent go-to-scorer on the team. In just about every game they’ve played, it seemed like someone different was always stepping up. That’s great for a team like the Spurs who have top players at their positions like reigning defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard and the ageless Tim Duncan, but the Hawks virtually have a bunch of role players on the team. After losing Thabo Sefolosha to an off-the-court incident with the NYPD just before the start of the playoffs, Korver was the only other 3-point specialist left on the team. Now someone else is going to have to take up that mantle and whoever is going to do it, probably will not be as effective as Korver.

Trailing 2-0 in the series, the Hawks should probably hit the panic button because it is going to take a miracle for them to win this series now.

(Statistics courtesy of ESPN and my own knowledge)

All That Glitters…..(is not a contender)

How did the Hawks REALLY get it done this year?

Atlanta finds themselves in the Conference Finals as the number one seed in the East and sporting the second best record in the league.   They did it without a “Superstar” and are taking on THE superstar of the league in King James and his Cavaliers.  This storybook season of team basketball and selfless players has made for some teary-eyed traditionalists, white-haired journalists and fringe players.  But saying the Hawks are the best in the East doesn’t necessarily make it true.  Their success has been as much about luck as anything else.

The Eastern Conference was pretty much a dumpster fire this season.  The Atlantic featured two teams tanking – initially because their rosters stank, then they designed garbage rosters to stink on purpose.  The Central was the brightest spot with two winning records and one team finishing at .500.  The Southeast, Atlanta’s division, was abysmal at best.  The Magic and Hornets were playing for lottery spots from opening night.  Miami’s logo should have been a question mark going into this season with all the turnover in their roster.  That left the Wizards to compete with the Hawks and their roster looks pretty similar to Atlanta’s with the exception of John Wall.  So I’m gonna call “boo-boo” on the 60 wins Coach Bud’s guys put up this year.  It’s tough to win games, period, but when the competition is as lacking as the Eastern Conference was this season expectations should be somewhat tempered.

For all you stat riders, here’s some interesting numbers regarding YOUR Atlanta Hawks:

  • ATL was 2nd in assists per game – but gave up almost as many to their opponents
  • ATL out rebounded overall and gave up more than league average of offensive rebounds
  • ATL was in the bottom third in the league in free throws attempted
  • ATL gave up almost as many 3 pt shots as they made

The biggest advantage for the Hawks came in the training room.  Until Thabo Sefalosha got an NYPD beatdown, the Hawks had only had minor bumps and bruises this season.  They didn’t even have an injury worthy of the league report!  Miami lost Chris Bosh to a life-threatening blood clot and Charlotte had 5 guys on the injured list from late March on.  Injuries happen in sports and you can only take what’s given, but Atlanta’s luck has put them in an awesome position with regard to health.

As we’ve seen through the playoffs, the Hawks have talented players who have been successful in the right situations and lucky in others.

  • The Nets exposed the Hawks dependence on the 3 and Kyle Korver’s inability to get his own shot.
  • The Wizards challenged the Hawks inside and only when John Wall got hurt did Teague and Shroeder have an impact.
  • The Cavs exploited weakness in the post and a lack of toughness in the forwards in Game 1.

The keys to making this series competitive:

  • Find a way to get Korver open or sit him. He’s a defensive liability and can’t score off the dribble.
  • Develop a rotation with Teague, Shroeder and Carroll (if he’s healthy) since none of them are lighting it up.
  • Brand and Antic need to eat some lane. Allow them to body Thompson and Mozgov while Horford and Milsap play a scoring role.
  • Get away from the traditional – use your unpredictability to your advantage. Chaos Theory

 

 

Rockets Dwight Howard will play in Game 2 vs Warriors

 

Dwight Howard And Chandler Parsons by jrg1975, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jrg1975 


(AP)–“I want to be out there, but the most important thing is that I’m out there for the whole series.” Dwight Howard said.

Dwight sprained his left knee when he and teammate Josh Smith crashed into each other during Game 1 of the Western Final vs Warriors Tuesday night.

With his positive thoughts along with his teammates optimism, resulted in a positive result because Dwight Howard will be playing in Game 2 Western Conference final against the Warriors.

 

Ray Rice dodges domestic abuse charges

 

Ray Rice and his wife attend local New R by AndrewDallos, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  AndrewDallo

A New Jersey judge has dismissed felony aggravated assault charges against Former Ravens Running back Ray Rice due to his completion of a pre-trial intervention program.

TMZ released a surveillance camera footage in September that caught Rice violently assaulting and knocking out his then girlfriend now wife Janay Rice in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and then suspended by the NFL, however he won an appeal that reinstated him-but to no avail Rice remains teamless.

 

Cavs take Game 1 vs Hawks in the East Finals

 

Al Horford by valdezign, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  valdezign 

As Demarre “Junkyard Dog” Carroll was being helped back to the locker room by fellow team mate Kent Bazemore after suffering a leg injury in the 4th quarter.  Atlanta’s plans of utilizing Carroll as the defensive weapon against Cleveland came to a sudden halt.  With home court not being an advantage, the Hawks lost to the Cavaliers 97-89 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. The uncertainty of Carroll’s return for the remainder of the Finals is up in the air. Either way for Game 2  held Friday at 8:30 pm expect to see Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague,  and Dennis Schroder going hard in the paint to secure a worthy defense against King Lebron James.

Fans support TNT Reporter Craig Sager

 

TBS Analyst Craig Sager by pvsbond, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  pvsbond 


Fashion-he-sta and TNT sports reporter Craig Sager has been unable to return to the sidelines because he is battling leukemia and has to undertake another bout of chemo. With an outpouring of support at the Game 1, Hawks vs Cavalier Eastern Conference finals. Fans, current and former pro athletes have showed their support by dressing in their best dressed Sager swag, with colleagues Reggie Miller, Chris Webber,and Charles Barkley who sported Sager-like Blazers. Shaquille O’Neal sported a Sager-like suit.  Ernie Johnson sported a special pheasant feather bow tie. We salute Craig Sager and wish him a speedy recovery.  #SAGERSTRONG

 

WNBA Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson suspended

 

24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - San Fra by GLAAD, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  GLAAD 

Just after Phoenix Mercury center married her girlfriend Tulsa Shock forward Gloria Johnson, they were slapped with a 7 game suspension for their domestic squabble last month.

This comes after both the NBA and NFL leagues have had their share of domestic violence.
The WNBA issued a statement on it’s  WEBSITE with it’s president Laurel J. Richie commenting, The WNBA takes all acts of violence extremely seriously. It is our strong belief that violence has absolutely no place in society, in sports or in this league. As president, it is my responsibility to protect the league and uphold its values. Our athletes represent the WNBA, and they all must abide by the league’s standards of conduct. In this case, Brittney and Glory failed to do so, and that is unacceptable.