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.
Quin Snyder has evolved into one of the best coaches in the NBA (and my pick to win Coach of the Year this season). He’s built a development program and system in Utah that has turned Rudy Gobert into a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Donovan Mitchell into the face of a franchise, and Joe Ingles into a guy other teams covet. His players like and respect Snyder, and he has worked well with the front office of Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik.
So the Jazz are locking him up with a contract extension beyond the two seasons remaining on his deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder has agreed to a long-term contract extension, league sources tell ESPN. Snyder had two years left on his deal, and a new contract extends multiple years beyond that term, sources said.
After upgrading the team’s talent base over the summer, locking Snyder into an extension had been a top organizational priority.
Jazz fans should be ecstatic about this.
Snyder has built a system team in Utah, one that moves the ball beautifully on offense, and that has been tough to defend in the regular season, with the Jazz winning 50 games last season. Utah has made it to the second round of the playoffs the past two seasons, but when the level of play made that leap a lot of the system gets taken away by good defenses, and the Utah offense became Donovan Mitchell against the world. It didn’t work, Mitchell (still just 22) wasn’t fully ready and there was not enough shooting around him.
This past summer, the Jazz added Mike Conley at point guard and Bojan Bogdanovic on the wing, two excellent shooters who also can create off the dribble. Expectations are high in Utah.
Whatever happens, Snyder is their coach now for a long time.
Milwaukee was up 2-0 in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals on Toronto, having won those games by an average of 15 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had scored 54 points, pulled down 31 rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and was looking every bit the MVP.
Then the games shifted to Toronto, Kawhi Leonard took over — including guarding Antetokounmpo more — and the Raptors rattled off four straight wins to take the series on their way to the NBA title. The Greek Freak still averaged 20.4 points a night in those final four games, but the buckets were much harder to come by.
Milwaukee returns this season as the Eastern Conference favorites and legit title contenders, in part because of what they learned from that loss. Antetokounmpo told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports he learned a lot directly from Leonard in that series.
“I learned a lot from him,” Antetokounmpo said. “He knocked down free throws. He was calm. When double-teams came, he was swinging the ball but getting it right back. He was aggressive. He was calm but he was on a mission.”
Leonard is the living embodiment of the old John Wooden axiom “be quick, don’t hurry.” He’s not rushed, he’s rarely forced into shots he doesn’t want to take or plays he doesn’t want to make. That’s true of all champions on some level. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan all bring an inner calm.
If Antetokounmpo brings that to his game, the Bucks are one big step closer to a title.
The Indiana Pacers have started to explore the trade market for Domantas Sabonis. There are logical reasons for this: Sabonis is good (he was second in Sixth Man of the Year voting last season), yet he and the Pacers are nowhere near agreement on a contract extension, and the Pacers already paid big money for Myles Turner to be their center, how much do they want to pay Sabonis, too?
That’s sound logic if you’re in the Pacers’ front office.
If you’re Sabonis, it can feel like a slap in the face to a guy who put in a lot of sweat and passion for the franchise. That’s what Sabonis sounded like in this quote, via Scott Agnes of The Athletic.
The Pacers are not talking about the report, which started with the well connected and reliable Sam Amick at The Athletic.
Pacers’ brass needs to talk about this with Sabonis (and likely already have, behind closed doors). If the Pacers trade him, it’s likely not until after Dec. 15 at the earliest (when most players signed this summer can be included in a deal) and probably closer to the February trade deadline. That’s a lot of season to play out, and Sabonis remains a vital part of the Indiana rotation.
There is likely to be a lot of interest in Sabonis on the market. However, because he’s a center (a position teams are careful not to overspend on in today’s market) and in the last year of his rookie deal — meaning he becomes a restricted free agent next summer and gets more expensive — teams are not going to overpay for him. Right now the Pacers are asking for too much and interested teams are lowballing their offers. The sides will meet in the middle.
That middle could shift if Sabonis has a rough start to the season. Both sides need him to play well and feel comfortable, whatever is going on with the business side of his contract.