Hawks apparently ready to bid against themselves for Joe Johnson

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Thumbnail image for johnson_game.jpgYou just knew somebody was going to make the mistake this summer of offering Joe Johnson a max deal that extends too long at five years.

Didn’t expect it to be the Hawks, though.  

That is what the New York Daily News is reporting the Hawks will do, adding that they want a new coach to keep Johnson’s regular season minutes down. Because that was the problem, the reason they got swept, not the Magic’s defense. Or overall superior talent level. Right. Sure it was.

Dwane Casey is the favorite to succeed Woodson, who did not endear himself to management by playing Joe Johnson extended minutes this season. Johnson had a nightmare series against the Magic and management thinks that he got worn down vs. Orlando. Despite averaging only 12.8 ppg on 29.8% shooting – far below his season averages (21 ppg on 46%) – that’s not going to stop the Hawks from offering their top player a maximum-salary contract. They’re not about to let him walk, even if they’ll be overpaying

Because these rumors come from the Daily News, please sprinkle liberally with salt.

If it is true, then Hawks management is about to blow it. Not the hiring Dwane Casey part — that is smart and some team like the Hawks or the Clippers is going to make a good hire there.

But Johnson is not a max player. Nobody thinks he is or plans to offer the max — he is a good number two guy, a top flight wing player who will get you points when played with another guy who can draw defenders and set him up. Which is what Nash did for him in Phoenix (they had Amare Stoudemire, too). For the Hawks, they relied too much on Johnson to be the creator, not the finisher.

A new coach, a more defensive focus to create turnovers and get Atlanta out and running more, plus a point guard that could run the break will go a long way to making the Hawks better. Johnson could certainly be a part of that. But at max money? That is too steep a price to pay, and if the deal is the five or six years the Hawks will regret the last couple years of that.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.