Atlanta’s management felt the Hawks got pushed around by the Orlando Magic when they were swept out of the playoffs last year. Because they were.
So what did they do about it?
Nothing, really. I like Josh Powell, he is a better player than he gets credit for (he’s solid as a role player off the bench) and he has maybe the best iPod playlist in the league. Powell now has a couple of rings. But that experience and playlist are not bringing rings to Atlanta.
The Hawks did go after Shaquille O’Neal, but the ownership — a consortium of investors GM Rick Sund has to get on the same page for major decisions — would not make the serious commitment, according to Jeff Schultz at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Boston had the more title ready team — they have just been to the finals — so Atlanta needed to make a bigger financial commitment.
The Hawks can be an entertaining team. But they’re also a flawed one. Signing Josh Powell and Jason Collins doesn’t cure their size problem in the post. Al Horford is playing out of position. This decision more likely ensures that they again will be the No. 4 playoff seed in the East and exit in the second round.
How much of this is the result of money? A lot. Ownership and general manager Rick Sund did not want to go into a tax situation with the salary cap. That meant not doing anything of significance to improve the team in free agency this offseason (other than overpaying to keep Joe Johnson).
The Hawks have $67 million in committed salary for 12 players right now (via Sham Sports). Throw in the cap holds and they are at the tax line of $70 million. By the time the Hawks sign a couple more minimum salary guys to round out the roster, they will be flirting with the tax line.
Shaq could have put them over that line. And what he has left as a player may not have taken the Hawks any farther in the playoffs.
But the fact is the East got better. Orlando, Miami and Boston are contenders. Chicago is nipping at their heels. Milwaukee is going to be right there, maybe just a step back. Atlanta may well be the four or five seed going into the playoffs again, but then what?
Then they get what they paid for.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)
Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.
As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.
First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.
As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.
But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).
Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.
Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)
“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.
Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.
Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.
Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.
Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.
After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.
Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.
On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.
But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.
But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.
Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.
This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.