Hawks’ excellent season shouldn’t be discredited because of playoff exit

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It’s easy to get caught up in narratives, especially on Twitter. Nothing can be good without something else being bad. As the Cavs blew out the Hawks to reach the NBA Finals, I saw this play out all over my timeline. The Hawks are the worst 60-win team of all time. Their phenomenal regular-season success wasn’t for real because they fell apart in the playoffs. You just can’t win in the playoffs without a superstar.

That, or, a very good team that absolutely could have made the Finals ran into some bad injury luck and one of the most dominant performances of LeBron James’ career.

At the beginning of the season, I picked the Hawks to win 48 games in PBT’s season previews. That seemed high at the time. It turns out I lowballed them by 12. Just about everything broke right for Atlanta after a summer that couldn’t have gone much worse. The racism controversy and lingering uncertainty about ownership could have hung over the team all year like the Donald Sterling scandal did over the Clippers during last year’s playoffs, but it didn’t. Mike Budenholzer achieved total buy-in to a system built on ball movement and passing up good shots to get great shots.

The downside to a system like that, though, is that all of the pieces have to be in place, and once injuries start to take their toll and players’ roles shift, the entire thing can unravel. The Hawks weren’t the same after Thabo Sefolosha’s run-in with the NYPD sidelined him for the year, and all throughout the playoffs they battled injuries to Al Horford’s finger, Paul Millsap’s shoulder and DeMarre Carroll’s knee before losing Kyle Korver to a season-ending ankle injury. Every team has dealt with injuries in the playoffs, and some handle it better than others. In that way, it’s easier to weather that storm when you have LeBron James. But that the Hawks lost to him should not be an indictment of their season or of Danny Ferry’s approach to team building.

In no way is the Hawks’ philosophy dependent on not having a star — they went hard after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in the summer of 2013 and even sniffed around Carmelo Anthony last summer. When they didn’t get one of those players, they were forced to regroup, and they deserve credit for maximizing their reality as well as they possibly could have, targeting the right role players and putting them in the right spots. If the Bulls don’t fall apart in the second round, maybe Atlanta faces a more favorable matchup in the Conference Finals, and then suddenly we might be talking about the Hawks going to the Finals.

The Hawks have a lot of questions to answer this summer, chief among them the worth of Millsap and Carroll. One of those questions isn’t whether they can win without a star, as if they can make one materialize out of thin air. They have the infrastructure in place now, and if everyone can get healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be serious contenders again next year.

Until then, they and their fans should be proud of what they accomplished.

Nets GM Sean Marks gets suspended for going into ref’s locker room after Game 4

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Emotions are high as the playoffs move into the second week. Things got a little testy between the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night as Jared Dudley got in the face of Joel Embiid after the Sixers big man committed a hard foul on Jared Allen.

That caused Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler to respond to Dudley, who overreacted to a good, hard playoff foul by Embiid. The result of the fracas was an ejection for Butler and Dudley, and a flagrant 1 on embiid.

But apparently that’s not the end of the disciplinary process for the NBA.

Nets general manager Sean Marks went into the officials locker room after the game — no doubt to discuss what happened here — which is a big problem in the eyes of the league.

According to a release by the NBA, Marks has been suspended for one game without pay and has been fined $25,000.

Marks will be suspended for Game 5 between these two teams on April 23rd.

The playoffs are high-stakes, but Embiid blocking the crap out of somebody shouldn’t result in someone going crazy like Dudley did.

Philadelphia beat the Nets, 112-108.

Everyone’s hero is dad who pulls son away from Nets/76ers fracas (VIDEO)

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Fathers everywhere can relate to this one.

You set up a bonding experience with your son or daughter, one you hope will leave an impression on them and create a memory that will last a lifetime… for example, you get courtside seats, just behind the basket, for one of the first NBA playoff games in Brooklyn, ever.

Then everything hits the fan.

Joel Embiid commits a flagrant foul on Jarrett Allen, Jared Dudley rushes in and shoves Embiid to stand up for his teammate, Jimmy Butler runs in to shove Dudley on the same premise, and suddenly there is a wave of large professional athletes about to trample you and your son. So, you grab him, move onto the court, and get out of the way.

There were two fathers with the same thought, one on either side of the fracas that spills into the first row.

Well done Dads. Well done, indeed.

Andrew Bogut says he plans to return to Australian league next season

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Unable to find a new NBA contract for this season, Andrew Bogut went home. The Australia native signed to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL, where Bogut ended up being the league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, leading the Kings on a deep playoff run.

When that run ended, the Golden State Warriors came calling, asking him to fill a role — a role that got much larger after DeMarcus Cousins tore his quad. Bogut has played well for the Warriors in the postseason, and there is a good chance Cousins will not be back in Golden State (the Warriors can only offer him a small raise off what he made this season, that likely will not be enough, even after the injury), so the Warriors may try to retain Bogut for next season.

However, Bogut says he is returning to Australia. Speaking to Matt Logue from the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney, Bogut said he gave his word to the Kings he would return.

“The be all and end all is that I gave my word (to the Kings)… That is basically what it comes down to…

“Someone outside of the Warriors could offer me a deal that would be pretty lucrative and a decent one-year deal, but I’m sold and locked in on coming to the Sydney Kings again to try and better what we did last season.”

Saying you’ll walk away from a lot of money and actually doing it are two different things, but Bogut is a man who stands by his word. He probably returns to Sydney for next season.

When that season ends, however, don’t be shocked to see Bogut back somewhere in the NBA helping a team make a playoff run.

Joel Embiid calls Jared Dudley “a nobody” (but NBA Twitter shows Dudley love)

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Jared Dudley has been in the face of the Philadelphia 76ers all series.

He was the guy who said Ben Simmons was “average” in the halfcourt (which echoed every scouting report on Simmons ever), prompting Simmons to respond, “It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.” The feud between the Sixers and Dudley was brewing.

Then came Sunday, when Dudley was ejected after coming to the defense of teammate Jarrett Allen, who had taken a hard foul from Joel Embiid. Dudley pushed Embiid, then Jimmy Butler pushed Dudley, then everybody got in a shoving match, and when the dust settled Dudley and Butler were ejected.

In his postgame interview after the Philly win, Embiid said Dudley was “a nobody.”

“First of all, he’s a nobody. And when opponents try to do stuff like that, that’s just to get us out of the game. Especially, I’m too valuable for my team. That’s why I didn’t react.”

That may be how the Sixers feel about Dudley at this point, but Nets fans and NBA Twitter loved the way Dudley stood up to Embiid and everyone else. This is just a taste.