The Atlanta Hawks were definitely expected to struggle on Friday night when they found out that Josh Smith would be missing in action for Game 3 against the Boston Celtics. They didn’t really feel his absence in the first half, however, thanks to Tracy McGrady turning back the hands of time once he was summoned from the bench.
The former scoring champion looked like the T-Mac of old in the first half, showing nifty pull-up jumpers, sweet spin moves and generally doing everything people remember him doing during his prime — including a slick dunk around Mickael Pietrus — before needing to be helped off the court with an apparent ankle injury after scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds in less than 17 minutes of playing time.
When he injured his foot, McGrady shot a three-pointer and came down awkwardly on Rajon Rondo’s heel as the Celtics point guard attempted to close out on the jump shot. It wasn’t a dirty play, but it wasn’t easy to watch McGrady go down clutching his leg after a solid first half, either. The always-excellent @cjzero posted video of the incident on Youtube.
The Hawks led the Celtics 40-38 at halftime, thanks largely to McGrady’s play along with solid play from Joe Johnson, but things could easily fall apart if T-Mac is unable to return in the second half due to the sprained ankle. Atlanta is already missing Smith, Al Hoford and Zaza Pachulia due to injury.
Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.
He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.
Butler, on if LBJ is toughest guard: "If I say he is, then next time I play Durant, he's going to try to score 60. You're not gonna get me."
“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”
Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).
Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.
Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.