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Three questions the Atlanta Hawks must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 43-39 and made the playoffs for the 10th straight year, but had the point difference of a 39-43 team and lost in the first round

I know what you did last summer: Atlanta completed the breakup of the starting lineup that won 60 games a couple years ago, letting Paul Millsap leave in free agency (after trading Kyle Korver at the deadline last season). The Hawks also traded Dwight Howard in a salary dump rearrangement. New general manager Travis Schlenk is clearly rebuilding, adding No. 19 pick John Collins and an extra future first-rounder (acquired for renting cap space to pay a bought-out Jamal Crawford). But Atlanta isn’t jumping full speed into tanking. The Hawks also signed competitive veterans Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova.

THREE QUESTIONS THE HAWKS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Atlanta compete or tank? The Hawks look far closer to being the NBA’s worst team than a playoff qualifier. It’s hard to see a Mike Budenholzer-coached team starting the season tanking. But if Atlanta can’t surpass outside expectations, the strategy could change. When – or even if – that happens could play a large part in how this season looks.

In a weak Eastern Conference, it’s at least plausible the Hawks remain in the playoff race for a while. Veterans like Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli can play.

But if Atlanta drops in the standings, their playing time could get turned over to rawer young players, who’d likely sink the Hawks even further.

2) Is Dennis Schroder – or anyone – a long-term piece? There isn’t a single player on this team to feel confident will still be in Atlanta when the Hawks next win a playoff series, or even just make the playoffs. The Hawks slid into this rebuild after a long postseason streak, which means they haven’t had a top-10 pick in a decade.

Schroder is the closest thing to a blue-chip prospect on this roster, and he’s the only one earning big money (starting a four-year, $62 million extension this season). So, there’s a little more attention on him.

But John Collins, Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry are all indefinite keepers, too.

If Atlanta isn’t going to make the playoffs, success could be identifying which players to build around long-term.

3) Will Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova establish trade value? Dedmon and Ilyasova are hedges against rebuilding and the early favorites to start at power forward and center. These are proud veterans who will help the team right now – and work against the Hawks securing a high draft pick.

So, why sign those two?

Because Atlanta is surely holding out hope to be good. Teams rarely start the season tanking without first taking a shot at defying expectations.

But also maybe because Dedmon and Ilyasova will have positive trade value. If the Hawks fall out of the playoff race, they might look to deal Dedmon (two years, $12.3 million with a player option) and Ilyasova (one year, $6 million) to winners for younger players and picks. Ilyasova can block any trade, but if Atlanta sinks far enough, why wouldn’t he approve a trade to a better team, the only type of team that’d be interested in him?

Jeff Hornacek on Knicks standing up to LeBron: “I thought it was great”

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LeBron James totally dissed New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina. Or maybe he was just complimenting Dennis Smith Jr., and Enes Kanter likes to get in the middle of things? Or perhaps it was a barely-veiled shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson?

No matter which way you view this little NBA drama, there’s some kind of silver lining to take away for New York after LeBron got a little too close for comfort with Ntilikina during a recent matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

According to Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, that silver lining is how well Ntilikina, Kanter, and the rest of the squad did when standing up to James.

Via the NY Post:

“I thought it was great,’’ he said on the newest edition of “The Jeff Hornacek Experience” that debuts Friday night on MSG Networks after the Knicks face the Raptors. “When we played back in the day, there was a lot of that. So you don’t see as much now in today’s game.

“But, you know, whether the comments from LeBron were aimed at Frank or the Knicks or Phil [Jackson] or whatever it was, I was happy that Frank gave him a little shove and then when LeBron stood in front of him and Enes jumped in there. That’s kind of the chemistry that gets developed when guys are playing for each other. You saw Enes jump right in the middle of this and said, ‘Nah you’re not gonna do this to my young guy.’ So that’s a great sign to see the togetherness of our guys.”

So to recap:

1. LeBron was taking a shot at Phil.
2. Enes Kanter didn’t like that.
3. Jeff Hornacek likes that.

Clear? Ok, good.

The Warriors really had an eye on Joel Embiid’s trash talking (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid has a reputation around the league already, and for good reason.

The man who continuously lobbied Rihanna to give him a chance for a date has other NBA players hoping they beat the Philadelphia 76ers just to avoid Embiid’s trash talking.

Indeed, the Golden State Warriors beat Philly on Saturday night, 124-116, thanks in part to a huge rally in the second half. A 22-point deficit had to be overcome for Golden State, and not just to add to their win column.

The team also wanted to sidestep Embiid’s silver tongue:

Both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant said they wanted to keep Embiid at bay. Durant’s comment was particularly funny, and can be seen in the video at the top of the article (fair warning, Durant used some NSFW language).

The Process is now The Reputation.

Former Knicks, Warriors F David Lee announces retirement from NBA

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One of the NBA’s more under appreciated forwards has announced his retirement from the NBA.

David Lee, who spent time in his career with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs, told the NBA world about his retirement via his Instagram page on Sunday.

Lee, 34, played last season with the Spurs. He averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for Gregg Popovich’s team.

Via Instagram:

Lee played 14 seasons in the NBA, the majority of which came with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Lee was seen as an unsung hero, nabbing rebounds and doing yeoman’s work from the power forward position.

The Knicks traded Lee to Golden State in the summer of 2010 for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two second round picks. He was part of the Warriors’ 2014-15 NBA Championship before eventually being traded to Boston in 2015.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

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We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.