One way or another, it will be summer of change for Hawks

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Few teams are going to have a more interesting off-season than the Atlanta Hawks.

From the general manager whose contract is up to the coach with an option hanging out there — not to mention the Josh Smith trade request — there are nothing but questions in Atlanta this summer.

In theory they could look similar at the start of next season — all five starters are under contract for another year — Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Smith and Al Horford… plus they have Zaza Pachulia, too.

But that’s it. Nine players are free agents for the Hawks — Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmanovic and Jerry Stackhouse are the biggest names.

It’s just hard to discuss what direction they will go until the status of general manager Rick Sund is cleared up. If ownership brings in a new general manager the status of coach Larry Drew and his contract option is certainly up in the air. It might be even if he stays.

Whoever is calling the shots will have a lot on their plate. That starts with Smith, who reportedly requested a trade last year and was shopped around, but with no takers. Smith is an All-Star quality big man owed $13.2 million next year in the last year of his deal, he could be moved but brining back equal value on the court would be very difficult.

The Hawks could keep their starting five — which went to the second round of the playoffs three straight years but couldn’t get by Boston missing Al Horford for most of the season and the start of the playoff series — and try to build a bench around them that could take the Hawks to the next level.

Ahh…but there is that little problem of money.

The Hawks at nearly $61 million in payroll are already over the salary cap and $10 million away from the luxury tax line. They have a mid-level exception ($5 million) and can re-sign the players on their roster they want to have back. But this is a team that does not go over the tax line, so it is about $10 million to fill in 9 roster spots. Do the math. You’re not brining in a whole lot of depth and quality with that money.

Does the Hawks bring back Ivan Johnson, showed flashes of good play and flashes of immaturity? What about Tracy McGrady? Jannero Pargo?

It feels like the Hawks could see a big shakeup this summer, with changes to the core of the team, starting with Smith. Horford is the anchor and Atlanta could start to rebuild around him.

They just need to decide who is doing the rebuilding.

Draymond Green goes down, Rockets rally to spoil Warriors ring night 122-121

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Draymond Green is not the best player on the Warriors. He’s third or fourth best, depending on what you think of him vs. Klay Thompson.

But Draymond Green is the most important Warrior — what they do defensively does not work without him (and their small ball playmaking suffers as well). Without him, they are not the same.

That was on full display Tuesday night in the season opener — the night the Warriors got their 31-diamond rings and the latest banner went up at Oracle Arena. Green tweaked his knee in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth, and that’s when the Rockets outscored the Warriors 34-20 to come from behind and steal a win, 122-121.

Kevin Durant almost saved the day for Golden State with a baseline jumper as time expired — the referees called it good, but an official review showed the ball was still in his hands when the buzzer went off.

James Harden had 27 points and 10 assists to lead the Rockets. However, the real story was their revamped bench outplaying the Golden State bench — Eric Gordon looked like the sixth man of the year with 24 points, P.J. Tucker had 20 and shot 4-of-6 from three, and Luc Mbah a Moute added 14.

The Rockets made their final push in this one with Chris Paul sitting on the bench. CP3 sat the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game, and the Rockets thrived with Gordon, Harden and an old-school (meaning, like last season) offense. After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni said that Paul was out there “playing on one leg” due to his knee problem, and Paul could miss more time.

Golden State was also without Andre Iguodala, who tweaked his back lifting weights over the weekend, according to coach Steve Kerr. Not having Green or Iguodala hurt the Warriors defense, especially against an elite offensive team.

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

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With Draymond Green sidelined after tweaking his knee in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets were able to make a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and upset the Golden State.

But Kevin Durant almost saved the game for the Warriors.

Down one with 10 seconds to go, the Warriors were able to get Stephen Curry a good look at a three but he missed it. The ball was volleyballed around a little, and Durant got a hold of it and took a 15-footer along the baseline that the referees on the court ruled a game-winner — but when reviewed it left his hand a fraction of a second too late.

It was the right call. And this is a big boost for the Rockets as they try to find their identity going into a long season.

 

The Warriors’ championship rings have 31 diamonds in them (VIDEO)

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Tuesday night meant the return of NBA basketball, and of course what we all wanted to see: the Golden State Warriors.

In the second game of the evening, the Warriors squared off against the Houston Rockets. Before the teams tipped, the Warriors received their championship rings in front of their hometown crowd at Oracle Arena.

Wearing special Nike hoodies with the phrase “The Champions” on the back, the Warriors received their rings to a standing ovation.

Perhaps the best part of the ceremony was finding out the official gemstone count in the rings. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, the rings have 31 diamonds in them.

Via Twitter:

Hmm. 31.

3-1.

3-1 lead.

Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

Report: Cavaliers ditched Kyrie Irving tribute video idea vs. Celtics

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It was the first game for Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving back in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Irving spent the first six years of his career in Cleveland before being traded to the Celtics over the summer.

Of course, there was no love lost between the two teams nor between Cavaliers fans and Irving. Boston won the opening tip which Irving gathered, prompting a round of boos from the audience at The Q.

Perhaps more interesting was that the Cavaliers had a tribute video lined up for Irving but decided not to run it.

According to multiple reports, the video was set to run during a floating point in the game, but the operations folks in Cleveland never found the right time.

Another report from Cleveland.com has said that the aforementioned video had set off a few Cavaliers players.

Via Cleveland.com:

According to team spokesman Tad Carper, multiple Cavs officials, including majority owner Dan Gilbert, chose not to show the video because “we were expecting to run it at a floating opportunity based on the right moment, and we felt that moment never presented itself.”

Carper said the decision to cancel the video was not “directly” tied to the gruesome ankle injury to Celtics guard Gordon Hayward with 6:50 left in the first quarter, either.

A source with direct knowledge of Cavs’ players thinking told cleveland.com that several inside the Cleveland locker room were upset Monday upon hearing that a video was planned.

The video would have upset some inside the Cleveland locker room? I wonder which ones.