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.
Report: Knicks have reached out to Frank Vogel to judge interest
The Knicks have made contact with the agent for Frank Vogel, but have not yet requested an interview, according to a source close to the former Pacers coach.
According to the source, Knicks GM Steve Mills has done his due diligence in contacting Vogel’s reps. He expressed that Phil Jackson has not made a decision on how to proceed. The key to the exploratory phone call was finding out whether Vogel would have interest in the job, and it seems he does.
Jackson has said he wants someone he knows, and someone committed to running the triangle offense. The Lakers did employ Vogel as an advanced scout during the Jackson era, but don’t confuse that with any relationship between the two. Also, while Vogel’s Pacers ran some triangle action during his tenure, that was while Brian Shaw was his assistant. And that’s very different than jumping in with both feet full time.
Vogel also reportedly has interest in the Rockets job, a team farther along the path to contending and with a more stable management structure. But the Knicks are at least making the call, it’s a start.
Boris Diaw says sometimes Popovich leaves him in blowouts just to lose weight
Diaw only saw a little more than eight minutes in Game 2 against the Thunder, which was not about conditioning and all about the matchup. Still, expect him to get more run in Game 3, he is one of those guys who makes the ball move for the Spurs and they need to get back to that.
Lakers’ GM Kupchak got “a chuckle” at idea team would trade top three pick
The Lakers are going to be aggressive this off-season. Jim Buss, the guy with the final say on basketball operations, gave himself a deadline to get the Lakers “back into contention” (which is vaguely defined, but we can say at least the second round of the playoffs) and things need to happen sooner rather than later.
The Lakers had the second-worst record in the NBA and with that have a 56 percent chance of having one of the top picks three picks in the draft after the NBA Draft Lottery May 17. If they fall to four or farther, the pick goes to the Sixers as the last remnants of the Steve Nash trade.
Would the Lakers move that pick? Depends on what the offer they get back is.
But the Lakers should explore the trade market. That’s just smart business. What they can’t do is get so wrapped up in the idea of getting good fast that they make bad decisions that haunt them down the line. Don’t overspend on players not ready to step up in their role, don’t trade assets for B-list guys that are a step sidewise but older and more expensive. Don’t sacrifice the foundation for a few short term wins. That said, the Lakers’ MO has never been the slow, patient build.
Kupchak also spoke about the need for an experienced assistant next to new coach Luke Walton (one with a defensive pedigree) and the Lakers’ plans to do better in free agency this time around. Via Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
Kupchak on free agency: "You learn something every year" and in last year's "Lakers didn't have as much to sell as we have this year."
Some of these guys, when they come into the league, they think they’re entitled. And I thought that’s how he felt when he first got with us. He almost tried to act like he was a veteran, and I tried to make sure that he knew that he wasn’t a veteran. You have to earn your stripes. So, yeah, there were times where I was a little tough on him just to bring him back down to earth, to let him know that this is not an easy task when you’re in the NBA. That’s the easy part is getting there. The hardest part is staying there, getting better and better and better. So, yeah, I had some tough love for the young man. But just like I told him, “When I stop talking to you, that’s going to be a problem.”