Could the Hawks really look to trade Josh Smith?

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JSmith_Slam.jpgI won’t for a second claim to know what any of the decision-makers in Atlanta are thinking, but some rumors make you wonder if they are at all. Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse posted a story linking the Hawks to Shaquille O’Neal (not crazy about it the idea, but why not?), and as something of a footnote, dropped this on us:

The Hawks have recently been exploring the possibility of trading power forward Josh Smith as part of their summertime makeover, according to sources around the league.

Oh, okay well that’s — wait, what? First the Hawks give Joe Johnson an absolutely insane amount of money to preserve the status quo, and now they’re bent on destroying it? Somehow this report makes absolutely no basketball sense and plenty of managerial sense (or rather, stands in line with the Hawks’ somewhat zany precedent) for Atlanta.

Josh Smith is at least one of the two most productive Hawks. He’s a great defender as long as he’s not asked to defend wings and a produces like a star even if he’s not a go-to option. Smith became a more efficient offensive player in ’09-’10 (he posted a career-high field goal percentage at .505), which had a fair bit to do with his continued rise. Yet the Hawks want to take that, they want to take one of the most gifted, young power forward in the game, and swap him out with another player who isn’t likely to be as gifted or productive.

Maybe the Hawks have fielded offers that have piqued their interest, but I just can’t imagine this ending well. It’s so hard to get fair return for talented players (particularly ones), and considering Smith’s established role and familiarity with his teammates (as well as new Hawks head coach Larry Drew), doesn’t it just make more sense for Atlanta to stick with the All-Star-caliber power forward that they already have?

The answer is yes, unless there’s something huge lurking behind the curtain. Obviously if Smith can be moved for one of the league’s established studs (and we’re talking the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard mold here, folks), the Hawks should try their damnedest to make it happen. But if they’re simply moving Josh for, say, a decent replacement point guard, Atlanta would be dooming themselves to mediocrity.

With Joe Johnson set to make a king’s wage over the next five seasons, Atlanta won’t be a major player in free agency in the foreseeable future. They pretty much have to make modifications through trades, or else depend on the internal improvement from Smith, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague. Neither is likely to produce extremely positive results; Smith and Horford are terrific and Teague is certainly talented, but there’s no reason to believe they’ll make enough progress to seriously improve the Hawks as a while. Smith, Horford, and Teague will get better and better, but Atlanta needed a serious upgrade to take the next step as a franchise, and instead they gave Joe Johnson what will become known as the worst contract in basketball.

Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. After everything we’ve seen from the Hawks as an organization with this core in place, do you trust them to get the right returns on a Josh Smith trade? 

Anthony Davis opens All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey

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LOS ANGELES – Anthony Davis often relies on his Pelicans teammates to set him up.

Tonight, he gave a nod to one of them.

Davis started the All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins‘ No. 0 jersey. Cousins and Davis were both voted starters then drafted by LeBron James, but Cousins can’t play due to injury.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

Very cool gesture by Davis. He’s an excellent teammate.

No, Joel Embiid didn’t cheat during the NBA Skills Challenge

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The Internet got itself all in a huff on Saturday as they watched the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge. In particular, the matchup between Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid stirred up a bit of controversy.

Specifically, folks accused Embiid of cheating.

During the passing section of the obstacle course, Embiid didn’t actually make any of his passes into the ring. He then proceeded on the next section and was neck-and-neck with Markkanen as they tried to finish out the head-to-head competition. Markkanen won, but that didn’t stop folks from saying the 76ers All-Star had circumvented the rules.

We now know that’s not true.

According to the rules (provided on the NBA media site, page 47 of the 2018 NBA All-Star Media Guide) Embiid was allowed to move onto the next section even though he hadn’t completed any of his passes. A player only has to exhaust the rack, not complete a pass. It appears rules sort of assume that if a player stands there trying to complete a pass three times they’ll fall so far behind they won’t be able to catch up.

Re-watching the video, it appears Embiid knew this rule to the game and figured if he didn’t make the first one he would quickly try to blast the next two passes off the rack so he could then move onto the next section.

Embiid even took to Twitter to head off accusations that he had cheated.

Via Twitter:

Trust. The. Process.

Rumor: Jeff Hornacek shoved Joakim Noah during confrontation

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The saga between the New York Knicks and Joakim Noah has been ongoing for sometime, with the latest story being that there was some kind of verbal altercation between the former All-Star big man and head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Noah has not played for the team since Jan. 23, and he is now separated from the Knicks as they try to find a solution to shed him from their roster.

We now have a better idea of what kind of urgency New York has to make that move.

A report from the New York Daily News has given us more information about the confrontation between Noah and Hornacek. The latest addition to the story is that it was not just words between the Knicks coach and Noah, and that Hornacek actually pushed Noah first during the confrontation.

The two then had to be separated.

Via NYDN:

Noah was banished from the Knicks after an altercation with coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice last month. The disagreement stemmed from Noah’s lack of playing time, and it turned physical the day after he logged only five minutes against the Warriors.

While no punches were thrown, the Daily News learned that Hornacek was the first to shove Noah before they had to be separated.

In our last update on this story, Dan outlined how that could be made possible. No team is going to trade for Noah at this juncture in his career, so the only real option for New York is to waive him.

Here’s how that looks, according to our own Dan Feldman:

If the Knicks waive Noah without a buyout, they’d have two options after paying out the rest of his $17,765,000 salary this season:

Pay Noah $18,530,000 next season and $19,295,000 the following season
Pay Noah $7,565,000 each of the following five years via the stretch provision

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder during a lost season in the Big Apple.

Kobe Bryant tells Shaq he was planning to leave Lakers for Bulls (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal got their three championships together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars were part of the three-peat team that won in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But the story that perhaps overshadows those accomplishments in the modern era is the story of Kobe vs. Shaq, and the long-standing beef that was between the players even after they split in 2004.

The back-and-forth between the two is part of the fabric not just of the Lakers, but of pop culture as it surrounds basketball. The Shaq/Kobe beef even has it’s own Wikipedia page that’s longer and more well-sourced than most of the papers I wrote in college. It’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Kobe and Shaq sat down in a long special that aired on Saturday as All-Star Weekend ramped up that revealed quite a bit about their time together and their relationship. One of the more interesting anecdotes was Kobe telling Shaq that he was planning on leaving the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in 2004. That plan was quashed when the team sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July.

Via Twitter:

That would have been a major shift for LA and for Chicago. The Bulls drafted both Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon that year, and traded for Luol Deng. The team improved by 24 wins the following season, and adding Bryant may have altered that trajectory and of course sent shockwave of consequential changes through the league. Heck, Scottie Pippen retired that October, but perhaps he would have stayed for one more year with Kobe?

The rest of the interview was interesting, and there were lots of tidbits of information that had people talking. Bryant and O’Neal rehashed their fights, Shaq’s infamous rap dissing Kobe, and mooning Sacramento Kings fans after beating them in the 2002 playoffs.

The biggest takeaway from the interview was how the one-upsmanship between Shaq and Kobe, although subtle, still remains.

As context, Bryant has done a fair bit of career revisionism as he tries to alter his public image now that he’s not a player. He’s painted himself as a “storyteller” and has tried to make his single-mindedness appear praiseworthy rather than destructive. It’s mostly so he can sell shoes well into his 50s à la Michael Jordan.

In the sit down between the two Lakers greats, Shaq did some legacy revision of his own. He played off his continuous egging of Bryant over their careers as simple media manipulation, calling himself a master marketer. It really was a thing to see something that hilariously disingenuous, especially as much of the conversation between the two — including many admissions on each side — were about times they made each other sincerely angry.

The two finished the interview by taking photos next to some championship trophies (Kobe with more, of course) and exchanging laughs and hugs.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.