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? 

Thunder pick up Paul George in his return to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left, but George got a steal then hit a couple free throws.

The Pacers’ winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer’s blockbuster trade, didn’t go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn’t have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists.

The result: Both teams struggled.

Indiana led 27-22 after one but gave the lead right back by allowing Oklahoma City to start the second quarter on a 9-0 spurt.

After the Pacers answered with a 9-0 run, the Thunder closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to make it 51-46.

The trend continued in the second half.

Indiana charged back to take a 63-59 lead before the Thunder used an 11-2 run to pull out to a 73-69 lead going into the fourth.

Oklahoma City extended the lead to 92-81 with 5:16 to go but only scored six points the rest of the way. That was just enough to hold on.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. … Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. … Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. … Made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. … Center Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. … Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He’s in town for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.

ALL-STAR DAY

The Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.

A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.

The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league’s New York headquarters in an IndyCar.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.

Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.