The Hawks other question: Is Al Horford a max player?

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Ahorford.jpgThe Atlanta Hawks don’t really treat Al Horford like an All-Star, like a guy who deserves a big-money contract. But he is.

And it looks like the Hawks are realizing that, according to the Sekou Smith at the Hang Time blog at

The Hawks have until Oct. 31 to reach an extension deal with Horford on his rookie contract. If they don’t he becomes a restricted free agent next summer where other teams can bid and the Hawks can match. Maybe, depends on what comes out of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

With that CBA issue looming, there is motivation for both sides to get a deal done. Maybe the rules will change for guys like Horford after their rookie deals and they will be free to test the market unrestricted. Maybe not. But however Horford tests the market you can bet there would be interest and some team may go very big. For Horford he knows he can get a larger deal now than he can after that new CBA is in place. The Hawks don’t want to lose him, Horford wants to get paid…

You can expect a deal.

The question is how much to pay him — Smith reports a near max deal is coming. Is that fair market value? Depends on how you look at the market. If Rudy Gay is worth max money in Memphis, then Horford is in that ballpark. If you are of the opinion that only the Kobe/LeBron one-named guys who can fill a building are max guys, than no. But then you hate the whole economic structure of the NBA (and probably are an owner). Either way, Horford is in for a big payday.

Horford averaged 14 points a game last season on a team that barely ever runs a play for him. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith get all the shots, Horford shoots a good 55 percent but can’t get a touch for long stretches. Maybe the motion offense new coach Larry Drew is bringing in will change that.

Horford can also defend. People that only saw him try to stick with Dwight Howard in the playoffs may dispute that, but that’s unfair. First, nobody defends Dwight Howard well. Second, Horford is charged with protecting the rim on a team where the defensively challenged Mike Bibby and Johnson are your starting guards. There are guys slashing into the lane with impunity. Horford does a lot to keep order down there, as much as you could hope for.

Horford may really be a four, in the sense that you can put a Pau Gasol or Chris Bosh at the five but they are really fours, too. Not that Horford is quite on the level of those two, but the step down isn’t as far as people think. He’s good, just in a place where his skills have not been well utilized. Maybe that will change.

Rumor is the Hawks only want to give one more long-term deal and that either Horford, coming out if his rookie contract, and 30-year-old Jamal Crawford will get it. In that case, the easy choice is the young big man. And he deserves it anyway.

LeBron James with two-handed halfcourt bounce pass for assist (VIDEO)

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Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:

Kobe gets great introduction, loud ovation in Philadelphia

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Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game —  but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.

In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.

Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.

That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.

Rumor: Nets testing trade waters for Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic, Otto Porter Jr.
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If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.

First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.

Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.

Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.

Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.

Just a reminder that Joakim Noah would like some more run

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Joakim Noah is playing 20.6 minutes a night coming off the bench for Fred Hoiberg and the Chicago Bulls this season.

And he doesn’t like it. He wants more run. He was getting 10 minutes more a night last season under Tom Thibodeau, and Noah wants some of those minutes back. Nick Friedel of ESPN sent out a tweet that was a reminder of just that.

Three thoughts here.

1) Reducing minutes for guys who battle injuries every season by the time the playoffs roll around was one huge reason Fred Hoiberg was brought in to coach the Bulls and Tom Thibodeau was shown the door. This isn’t just Hoiberg, the minutes reduction comes from management. While it is possible Noah’s spot in the rotation shifts (he could start at some point) and he might get a little more run, the Thibodeau era is gone.

2) There are legit reasons for Noah to want to play. First, he is a competitor who doesn’t like sitting. Second, the Bulls’ defense is elite when he plays (allowing 95.5 points per 100 possessions) and the Bulls outscore opponents by 1.3 per 100 when he plays. Finally, Noah is in the final year of his contract and scoring just 3.1 points per game is not going to help him earn more cash in the next deal.

3) Barring injury to another big, don’t expect a change.