NBA Playoffs, Hawks Bucks game 4: The return of Josh Smith? Atlanta better hope so.

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Thumbnail image for JSmith_Slam.jpgIn game three, the Milwaukee Bucks gave the Atlanta Hawks what I’ve long called “the Steve Nash treatment.” It worked, too.

The best way to beat the Suns is to make Steve Nash a scorer. It seems somewhat counterintuitive, because Nash can score, and well. But the theory is you’d rather have him score 30 and keep his assists down, not let his teammates get involved, because when everyone is involved is when the Suns are most dangerous. Phil Jackson has used this with success as Lakers coach.

In game three, the Bucks switched Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and his stifling defense off Joe Johnson and on to Josh Smith. Then they gave the Hawks the Nash treatment — let Johnson get what he gets, but don’t let his teammates get involved.

It worked. Mbah a Moute didn’t let Smith even get the ball in places he liked — almost all Smith’s touches came off offensive rebounds (he had nine). Smith was taken totally out of the flow of the offense, and that effected his shot. Even when Mbah a Moute was out Smith was missing. The only time he was his aggressive self is when Carlos Defino had switched back onto him for a play. It didn’t last.

The Bucks won. They made the move, now the Hawks have to counter.

First, after rewatching Smith’s plays (thank you mysynergysports) he missed a lot of shots he normally makes. Chalk that up to Mbah a Moute bothering him and getting in his head, or just to an off night, it doesn’t matter. Smith can’t, and is not likely to, have another night like that. If he does, this series could be 2-2 heading back to the ATL.

The other thing the Hawks need to do is get points in transition, they had their lowest number of fast break points in the series in game three. But more than just traditional fast breaks, the Hawks need to just push the ball and get Smith and Horford and Crawford the ball before the defense is set. Get some easy buckets that get the team going.

For the Bucks, they need more of the same. That includes big nights from Brandon Jennings, John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse. They need to get out early, and reinforce on Atlanta how poorly they play on the road.

Tonight is make or break for the Bucks. Let Atlanta do their thing, this will be over in five. But tie them up and an Atlanta team that tends to underachieve in the playoffs will have a lot to think about.

Report: NBA teams at restart to scrimmage against unlikely playoff opponents

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We know the NBA schedule for the restart, beginning July 30.

What we don’t know is what the schedule is for the pre-seeding games scrimmages. However, now we have a clue of what will look like courtesy Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is the logical way to do it. We’re already going to have the Lakers vs. Clippers on opening night with Frank Vogel and Doc Rivers making sure not to tip their hands for the looming showdown, followed by plenty more games like that. We don’t need more of that in the preseason.

Each team will play three scrimmages before the seeding games start. The schedule for the scrimmages is expected to be released soon.


Report: NBA approves list of social-justice messages for jerseys

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The plan for NBA players to put message of social justice onto their jerseys?

Despite snags with using the names of victims of police brutality, it’s on.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA reached an agreement Friday on social justice messages that can be displayed above the number on the back of jerseys when the league resumes play July 30, a source told ESPN’s The Undefeated.

The list of the approved suggested social messages, per the source, for the back of the NBA jerseys: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

Missing from that list: Free Hong Kong.

OF COURSE the NBA has a list of approved messages. The NBA can promote social justice. But there are going to limits to running a protest movement through a multibillion-dollar corporation. This is a league that allowed an owner to remain in place for years after his racism and sexism came to light, brought up its attire rules when players wore “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirts and still requires its players to stand for the national anthem. There was no way the league would allow more-controversial slogans on jerseys.

Now, “I can’t breathe” is an approved message for a jersey, because the middle has shifted. Customers and employees want to see companies support racial justice. Society is changing.

Fundamentally, the NBA is not. Its still a business concerned with making money.

Praise the NBA for doing good. But also don’t lose sight of the bottom line.

Pelicans top assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will not join team at restart

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It’s still unknown whether Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry, 65, will be able to accompany his players to Orlando for the NBA restart.

What we do know: Pelicans’ associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, 67, will not join the team due to underlying health concerns. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.

Bzdelik is known as a defensive specialist, one who helped turn the Rockets defense around a couple of years back with a switching scheme. While the Pelicans defense was not sharp early in the season as the team battled through injuries, they were a top 10 defense after the All-Star break.

After negotiations by the NBA Coaches Association, coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando based on their age alone. There must be other underlying factors. That appears to be the case with Bzdelik.

Bzdelik was the head coach of the Denver Nuggets for three years and has been an assistant coach for a number of teams.

The loss of Bzdelik hurts, but it becomes exponentially more difficult for the Pelicans if Gentry is not the head coach. Where does that stand? “I have no idea, I really don’t,” Gentry said in a conference call with reporters this week. He added he plans on coaching, but the decision on whether he can attend is not his.

The Pelicans are not alone, the Lakers will not have assistant coach Lionel Hollins on the bench either.

New Orleans enters the restart with the best chance of any team in the West to finish with the nine seed and force a play-in series with Memphis (that series is two games, the Pelicans would have to win both). While New Orleans is in a virtual logjam with Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio, it is the Pelicans who have the easiest schedule.

And, Zion Williamson looks ripped and ready.

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Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins ‘red flagged,’ will not travel to restart

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NBA coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando for the NBA’s restart based on their age alone. There had to be other underlying factors.

Lakers’ assistant coach Lionel Hollins, 66, has such a condition and will not be traveling to the restart with the team. Via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel hinted at this speaking to reporters Thursday.

As part of getting approval to be in the bubble in Orlando, everyone — whether it be players, coaches, team staff — had to submit a medical evaluation, helping the league screen the most vulnerable to COVID-19 should they become infected. Hollins, the former Grizzlies and Nets head coach, was held back on that count.

The Lakers still bring an experienced and deep coaching staff to the Orlando restart with Frank Vogel and the head coach, Jason Kidd as his lead assistant, plus Phil Handy, Miles Simon, Mike Penberthy, and Quinton Crawford.

The Lakers will be without starting guard Avery Bradley, who has chosen to stay home with family rather than take the risks playing in the restart.

The Lakers begin the restart as the betting favorite to win the title behind the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.