The Atlanta Hawks got their heads handed to them Saturday night by the Washington Wizards. A 32-point beatdown. That would be loss number four in a row. They are stumbling toward the playoffs, and this is not a team anybody has seen flip the switch.
The last two of those losses were without Josh Smith — but he is still the story.
Larry Drew is on the hot seat for the Hawks — this team has taken a step backwards this season — but the bigger problem is that he may have lost the locker room because he could not control Smoove, Sam Amick reports at Sports Illustrated.
And then there is the not-so-obvious sensitive spot: the Josh Smith factor. Drew has been unable to stop the veteran from being a season-long disruption and undermining his position with his other players in the process. Add to that the relative affordability of cutting him loose (he’s owed $1.5 million for next season, lockout notwithstanding), and Drew is looking very vulnerable unless he can lead a deep postseason run.
Where is the veteran leadership on this team? Either Joe Johnson has no faith in Drew either or he didn’t have enough backbone to stand up to Smith and tell him to get in line.
The Hawks defense this season was exactly the same as last season statistically — they gave up 106.7 points per 100 possessions both times.
But Drew came in promising more ball movement in the offense, no more iso-Joe, and the team never seemed to buy into it. That or they were incapable of executing it (meaning they are unwilling or incapable passers). Either way, the offense went from 111.9 points per 100 possessions last season (second best in the league) to 106.5 this season. The results are 44 wins (and they should probably not have that many), which is down from 53 last season.
Drew is and should be in some hot water. Drew and Hawks fans can dream that a healthy Jason Collins can body up Dwight Howard and lead the Hawks to a first-round upset of the Magic. And that winning cures all ills. But that seems about as likely as getting the Golden Ticket to visit the Wonka factory.
If Smoove is a locker room problem, the issues in Atlanta are running deeper than Drew or no Drew and will be much harder to fix than management may realize. Especially in an organization known for over-valuing what they have.
Report: NBA not bringing other eight teams to Disney World bubble
The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said.
The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said.
Bringing those other eight teams to the Disney World bubble was always a ridiculous idea. Why would the NBA jeopardize its highly profitable setup just so some lousy teams could train and maybe hold glorified scrimmages?
Voluntary team workouts are a reasonable allowance. Though it’s difficult to ensure players coming and going from a team facility won’t spread coronavirus, some players are playing basketball in groups, anyway. At their own facilities, teams can at least enforce protocols to increase safety. And players who’d rather be more careful wouldn’t be forced to participate.
There’s no reason to make anything mandatory. These eight teams’ seasons are over.
Suns keep winning, T.J. Warren keeps scoring, Nuggets outlast Jazz in 2OT
The Suns are unbeatable. T.J Warren is unstoppable. And the NBA is unapologetically fun.
Just another day in the NBA bubble.
Phoenix – already the NBA’s only undefeated team at Disney World – moved to 5-0 in seeding games with a 119-112 win over the Heat.
The Suns are still a half game outside play-in position with a tougher closing stretch than the ninth-place Trail Blazers.* But Phoenix sure is making the race interesting, and Portland isn’t closing the door.
*Both teams still play the 76ers and Mavericks. The Suns also play the Thunder. The Trail Blazers’ last seeding game is against the Nets.
Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Suns should absolutely be encouraged by this stretch. Unlike an early-season surge, when Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio carried big loads, Phoenix’s young players are leading the charge now. Devin Booker scored 35 points tonight. Jevon Carter added 20 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting off the bench. Deandre Ayton (18 points and 12 rebounds) continues to impress. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson have steadily contributed at forward.
Expectations are rising for next season.
First, the Suns aren’t ready for this season to end soon.
All the best bubble stories were in Phoenix last season.
But then the game got going, and both teams’ competitive juices took over.
Donovan Mitchell drove for a layup to force overtime. Nikola Jokic converted inside to force double overtime. Finally, Jamal Murray – who scored 23 points in his first game of the resumption – put Denver up for good with a jumper then 3-pointer in a 134-132 victory.
keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps
@damianlillard respect that too in my stint with my first team I had more success… Dame time running out g
George did lead the Pacers to Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, losing to the eventual-champion Heat. Indiana also pushed Miami to Game 6 in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. George doesn’t get enough credit for those achievements.
Though Lillard’s Trail Blazers peaked in the 2019 Western Conference finals, they got swept by the team that lost in the NBA Finals.
Maybe it got too personal for George, who has overcome major injury and returned even better. He surely doesn’t want to be called a chump at this point in his career.
But I disagree with George’s championships-only argument. There is plenty of room for major achievements that fall short of a title – like the Pacers’ deep playoff runs George cited. And Lillard’s series-winning shot last year. George was the casualty on that play. There’s no way around it, and it’s likely still a sore spot. That was a high-profile moment that supersedes missed free throws in a seeding game.
Lillard and George can go back-and-forth about their accomplishments. Both have done plenty in this league. Their individual routes to success show their contrasting values. Neither are wrong. They’re just different.
That’s perfectly fine and – when it leads to spats like this – fun.
Damian Lillard misses clutch FTs, Trail Blazers blow key game against Clippers backups
But that group ended the game on a 12-2 run to hand Portland a devastating 122-117 loss.
The Trail Blazers are now just half a game up for ninth in the Western Conference. This further opens the door for the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and even Kings to make a play-in (and gives the Grizzlies more breathing room for advancing to that stage).
After McGruder hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a pair of free throws with Portland down one. Lillard is arguably the NBA’s most clutch player, and he had made 89% of his free throws this season. But he missed both – to the particular delight of injured Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:
Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who – I sent him before at the end of a game. Paul George just got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. So, they know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me, which is a sign of respect, and it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. So, I’m not offended by it. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.
I love Lillard’s ability to remain calm and in control. Kudos for him for finding a way to boast after missing a pair of free throws that effectively cost his team a big game. Really. Lillard’s emotional maturity is an asset.
Expect the Trail Blazers to follow his lead and not further unravel. They can and probably should still be favored to reach the play-in.
But their margin for error definitely just shrunk.