NBA Playoffs: Hawks give Bulls a run for their money on the boards

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In their Game 1 victory, the Atlanta Hawks pulled off a hell of a trick: not only did they completely negate one of the Chicago Bulls’ greatest advantages, but they did so in a way that flew completely under the radar.

Sure, they bothered Derrick Rose and limited Carlos Boozer. They also took away Chicago’s defensive efficacy by hitting tough shots against considerable pressure. But those things were well evident and, in the aftermath of the game, well-covered. Yet, the fact that the Hawks — a decidedly subpar rebounding team — managed to play the Bulls — the only team in the NBA to rank in the top five in both offensive rebounding rate and defensive rebounding rate — to a draw on the boards went slightly ignored. Basketball fans and analysts are trained to look for glaring differences, but in this case it was the absence of a glaring difference that should have stood out most.

Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are strong rebounders, but Chicago’s boarding prowess is a team-wide effort; Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, Ronnie Brewer, and Luol Deng all do good work on the glass, and the balance of strong offensive and defensive rebounders made the Bulls the best overall glass-cleaning team in the NBA this season. That standing wasn’t exactly on display in Game 1, as Atlanta limited the effectiveness of Chicago’s offensive rebounders while the Hawk bigs fought to create extra possessions of their own. Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, and Jason Collins each grabbed at least two offensive boards, while Joakim Noah and Carlos boozer had just one offensive rebound combined.

We’ve seen the Bulls’ rebounding technique in action; there’s no concern of whether Chicago can rebound well in the context of this series, but merely whether they’re willing to put in the proper effort. This was just a matter of execution and effort, and Chicago’s regulars — from Noah to Boozer to Deng to Brewer and beyond — just didn’t attack the boards as assertively as they have all season. It’s an easily remedied situation, but the fact that it’s a situation at all grants the Hawks credit for yet another improbable accomplishment. Out-rebounding the Magic (who are a strong defensive rebounding team, but below average on the offensive end) was one thing, but to meet the Bulls at a point of strength and force a draw was a considerable accomplishment.

Rose, after his struggles and a late-game ankle tweak to boot, will be front and center in the Game 2 spotlight, but keep an eye on the rebounding column. The Bulls should have a considerably easier time if they take care of their responsibilities on the glass, and the Hawks should have yet another chance to steal a win on the road should they remain as successful in their rebounding pursuits.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.