Associated Press

Inconsistent Hawks showing only glimpses of last year’s form

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ATLANTA (AP) — Kyle Korver stared at his sneakers, breaking into a slight smile as he thought back to a year ago.

The Atlanta Hawks were in the midst of a perfect January and a 19-game winning streak. They were on the way to having four players and their coach claim spots in the All-Star Game. They were setting themselves up for a 60-win season and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

A rout of the hapless Brooklyn Nets brought back some good memories.

“It felt like we were playing so great,” Korver said late Saturday night, sitting at his locker after the 114-86 blowout. “Things were really clicking.”

Unfortunately for the Hawks, they’ve struggled to maintain the form that made them one of the NBA’s most surprising teams last season. There are nights like this one, when they dismantled the Nets in the second half with the sort of fast-breaking, team-first, always-making-the-extra-pass style that once had them being touted as an East Coast version of the Golden State Warriors.

But, while the Warriors went on to capture the NBA championship and have taken their game to an even higher level, the Hawks faded down the stretch last spring, were blown out in the conference finals by LeBron James and the Cavaliers, and are now trying to figure out a way to separate themselves from a pack of teams in the improved East.

The Hawks reached the midway point of the season at 24-17 – nine wins worse than their mark at this time in 2015.

“The word that I think’s been coming up is a little consistency, or lack of consistency,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ve shown at times we can be a very good team. But the team that does it the most often – whether it be within a game for 48 minutes, or game to game, week to week, month to month – those are the teams that kind of emerge through the season.”

The most noticeable drop-off has been from Korver, who underwent a pair of offseason surgeries and has struggled to regain his shooting touch. He is hitting just 36.2 percent of 3-point attempts, a significant dip from his league-leading 49.2 percent last season. Without Korver providing the sort of outside threat that requires constant attention, defenses are able to sag off the arc, clog up the passing lanes and focus on disrupting the point guard duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.

Outside of Korver, transition defense has been a problem at times. The Hawks are giving up 100.6 points a game, a jump from last year’s 97.1, and it’s easy point to the loss of defensive stopper DeMarre Carroll in free agency as the reason. But Carroll’s replacement, Kent Bazemore, is a high-energy, overachieving player who has done an admirable job stepping into the starting lineup, so that’s certainly not the primary issue.

Also, Atlanta’s major offseason additions haven’t added much. Tiago Splitter has battled nagging injuries and missed 13 games. Tim Hardaway Jr., acquired on draft night for a first-round pick, has hardly been a factor at all. He played in just four of Atlanta’s first 35 games and did several stints in the D-League, struggling to adapt to Budenholzer’s style of play.

More subtly, the Hawks are going through a period of adjustment, as they try to deal with opponents who take them much more seriously and have painstakingly dissected the style that made Atlanta so unstoppable not so long ago.

“We have a little bulls-eye on our backs,” Teague said.

The past eight days were a microcosm of the Hawks’ season.

They turned in one of their most impressive performances in a 15-point win over Chicago, only to lose to both Charlotte and Milwaukee, two of the worst teams in the East. Then, after being tied with lowly Brooklyn early in the third quarter, the Hawks suddenly transformed into last year’s version.

“We’d all like to be better,” Budenholzer said, sounding more than a bit frustrated. “But if we knew the answer, if it was in a pill or something, we’d take it.”

Despite their up-and-down play, the Hawks still have high hopes for this season. Cleveland has built a fairly comfortable lead in the East, but the second seed is up for grabs. When Bazemore looks ahead, he pointedly mentions playing into June – the time for the NBA Finals.

“We’ve been on the cusp of something great,” he said. “It’s just a rough patch of the journey.

 

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers and former Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni are 76ers candidates
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.

Victor Oladipo denies trade rumor he wants out of Indiana

Victor Oladipo
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It was a trade rumor that kind of came out of nowhere — maybe more as a thought exercise for Celtics fans hoping to move on from Gordon Hayward — but it got traction: Victor Oladipo reportedly wanted out of Indiana.

Not true, Oladipo said.

Oladipo jumped on Instagram Live with rapper Fat Joe and shot down the rumors (hat tip Clutch Points):

“I’m a Pacer. I’m a Pacer…

“Those rumors on the internet, I don’t know where they’re coming from, I’m just focused on getting my knee right for next year.”

He said later in the interview he wants a ring, he wants “hardware” because that is needed to show you are one of the greats, and he would consider leaving the Pacers to get it. But that wasn’t a short-term thing. (Also, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Elgin Baylor and a lot of other guys would like to talk with you about that attitude.)

Oladipo returned mid-season from his knee injury to a Pacers’ team that finished as the four seed in the East but got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Oladipo never quite returned to his All-NBA form after coming back from injury and averaged just 14.5 points a game in the 19 regular season games he did play. Oladipo is owed $21 million next season, the last year of his current deal.

Whether he wants out of Indiana or not, at $21 million and with questions about just what level of player he is post-injury, there is not much of a trade market for Victor Oladipo. Indiana more than likely runs it back under a new coach — who has yet to be chosen — and banks on a healthy Oladipo helping the team make the next step.

Adam Silver: Goal is to start next season in January, in team arenas

Adam Silver
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The NBA bubble — which has worked and gotten the league to the NBA Finals — may be a one-off.

The goal for next season is a January start with games being played in team’s arenas, even if fans are not yet filling the buildings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his annual address before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday.

“As for fans in seats, it’s certainly our goal, but it’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said. 

Silver refused to be locked down to any details — most people around the league expect a February start, or later — and said the league might have to return to a bubble, or hybrid-bubble, for part of next season. However, he hoped testing and technology would allow NBA games in NBA buildings, with players going back to their homes at the end of the night.

This is dependent on rapid testing and where the virus is in our nation as we get into December and January than it is on a vaccine.

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite.”

The other part of starting next season is figuring out the league finances and setting a salary cap. The league’s revenue took a serious hit with around 20% of home games canceled, then the playoffs delayed and moved to a bubble. Silver said salary cap and other negotiations are taking place between the NBA and the players’ union. The league has set a date for the 2020 NBA Draft — Nov. 18 — however, the start of free agency, training camps, and the tip-off date for next season are still open and being discussed.

“I don’t have expectations of labor issues… I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we’ll work them out as we always have,” Silver said.

Those are the future. For now, Silver was clearly proud that the bubble worked and that there could be a lesson there for the nation.

“The basic protocols that we’re all following are working,” Silver said. “I mean, the testing is only needed to demonstrate that at this point. By wearing a mask, by exercising appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance… that’s what’s working.”

Also of note from Silver’s press conference, he was asked about there being just four Black head coaches in the NBA right now after Nate McMillan (Indiana), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), and Doc Rivers (L.A. Clippers), all were let go (there are currently six open coaching jobs around the league).  Silver said he has had talks with teams that have had openings, making sure a diverse field of applicants is considered, but added the NBA has not thought of adding a “Rooney Rule” to the hiring process.

“I know we can do better,” Silver said.

 

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals preview
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Lakers 116, Heat 98
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0