The Hawks let their best player (Paul Millsap) leave without offering him a contract. They traded their second-best player (Dwight Howard) in a salary dump that reduced the payroll only slightly. They also watched other key contributors (Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha) depart in free agency.
“We want to continue the success we’ve had, but realize we might have to take a step back,” Schlenk said. “We just don’t want to dip down 2-3 years in a row. We realize that young players in this league take their lumps but we don’t want to send the message that we’re (fine) with losing.”
Competitive people involved in running NBA teams and casual fans don’t want to tank. But it seems the Hawks are missing an opportunity.
Their young core is fine, but hardly inspiring. An additional high first-round pick could bring everything together, but Dedmon and Ilyasova just make it less likely Atlanta bottoms out – without significantly increasing the odds of gratifying short-term success. Even in this Eastern Conference, it’s unlikely the Hawks sneak into the playoffs. Picking in the middle of the lottery could doom Atlanta onto the treadmill of mediocrity.
To be fair, the Hawks aren’t reliant on only their own first-round pick. They’re also owed protected first-rounders from the Rockets, Timberwolves and Cavaliers. But only the Houston pick can ever land in the top 10, and it’s just top-three protected for 2018. Most likely, the Rockets win a lot next season and convey a pick in the mid-to-high 20s in the upcoming draft.
Atlanta’s own pick is, by far, the team’s most valuable mechanism for adding premier young talent. But the Hawks have downgraded the value of that pick in the name of not wanting to sink too low in the short term. That’s not a tradeoff I would have made.
Anthony Davis on sprained ankle: “Rolled it pretty bad… I’ll be fine”
Anthony Davis has been the best Laker throughout the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Davis averaged 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and the Los Angeles Lakers are outscoring the Nuggets by seven points per 100 possessions when Davis is on the floor.
Behind the play of Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and now just have to do what the Jazz and Clippers couldn’t: Get one more win.
Which might be harder to do after Davis rolled his ankle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Davis stayed in the game after that, but could it impact him in Game 5?
“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
Laker coach Fran Vogel noted that with ankles it is often the next day when there is a sense of the severity.
“We’ll see how it responds overnight, responds to treatment,” Vogel said. “Yeah, there’s always concern with an injury like that. It was good for him to play through it, but we’ll see how he responds overnight.”
With the Lakers just one win from the NBA Finals, if Anthony Davis can walk he will play on Saturday in Game 5. The Lakers want to close this series out, they have seen what happens to teas that let the Nuggets hang around.
LeBron James speaks more on Breonna Taylor, power of Black women
LeBron also had taken to social media to talk about the challenges Black women face.
The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond! 👸🏽👸🏾👸🏿❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
When asked about that Tweet after Thursday’s game, James was more than willing to open up on the topic.
“You just look at the history of America and the disrespect that Black women have gotten for the last 400 years. You can’t turn a blind eye to that,” James said. “When I look at my household and see my daughter, who is five on her way to six, my wife and my mom, rest in peace my grandmother, so many Black women have done so many things for me. Seeing the sacrifices they made, especially my mom when I was growing up. They were disrespected along the way and it’s still like that today.
“In the case of Breonna Taylor’s case, it’s just shown once again that the walls of the neighbor is more important than her life.
“So not only did I want to acknowledge all the queens in this world, all the Black queens in this world, but the ones in my life, the personal ones, too. I just kind of had a moment yesterday. I mean, I have a lot of moments, but felt like it was important to let Black women know that you’re not alone. No matter the disrespect or what they may feel, don’t stop. Because that’s exactly what they want you guys to do. They want you guys to stop. They want you guys not to be as powerful as you guys are, not as strong as you guys are, as determined as you guys are. They want you all to be at bay. They want you to accept what’s going on. For sure, I won’t allow that.”
Powerful words from LeBron, who once again is using his platform to speak for a lot of others with these sentiments.
Second chance points, clutch LeBron defense earns Lakers win to go up 3-1 on Denver
It’s a simple and obvious truth about any basketball game: The team that shoots better usually wins.
The Denver Nuggets shot 50.6% in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, including 10-of-28 from three (leading to a true shooting percentage of 62%). The Los Angeles Lakers shot 47.5% overall and 10-of-30 from three (a true shooting percentage of 59.7%). The Nuggets shot better Thursday night.
However, the better shooting team does not win when it gets crushed in another key area.
The Lakers grabbed the offensive rebound on 40.4% of their missed shots — including at three critical possessions in crunch time — and scored 25 second-chance points to Denver having six. Combine that with an aggressive and attacking LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting to the free-throw line 28 times — Denver as a team had 23 free throw attempts — and LeBron playing fantastic defense down the stretch on Jamal Murray, and a team can overcome a shooting deficit.
While the Nuggets came back from 3-1 down on the Jazz and Clippers, this series feels different — Denver may have run out of miracles. The way the Lakers closed out this game showed why the Lakers will not go the ways of Jazz and Clippers.
Once again, Davis was the best Laker on the floor, scoring 34 points on 10-of-15 shooting plus playing strong defense (his light rebounding numbers, five in this game, are overblown because the Lakers as a team are rebounding well).
But there are two key reasons the won the Lakers the game — two critical reasons they were able to hold off a Denver comeback when the Jazz and Clippers faltered in similar situations:
• The Lakers were dominant on the offensive glass, as mentioned above. They got a second chance on four out of 10 missed shots (the league average is about 26-27% of missed shots become offensive rebounds). Dwight Howard was doing it early, Davis was doing it late (plus Rajon Rondo had a critical one), but the Lakers getting a second chance to score and run off some clock down the stretch changed the game.
• LeBron James asked to guard Jamal Murray down the stretch — in the final five minutes of the game Murray was 0-of-3 shooting.
“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it…” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said postgame. “Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until ‘Bron took that assignment.”
Vogel isn’t kidding. Murray was torching the Lakers, getting into the lane, and finding a way to finish — including maybe the best layup of the playoffs so far.
Murray finished with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but LeBron held him mostly in check down the stretch (Murray did hit four free throws).
LeBron also had a strong game despite his jumper not falling because he hunted mismatches, throwing the Denver defense into a scramble, plus LeBron commands a double team when he gets the ball at the elbow or on the block and that opens things up.
Another key for Los Angeles was a great first half from Dwight Howard, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half while keeping the ball out of Jokic’s hands. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points.
Davis rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, limped around on it, stayed in the game and made some plays down the stretch. A slowed Davis would be a reason for concern for the Lakers.
“My ankle feels fine,” Davis said postgame. “I’ve got tonight, tomorrow, before the game to get it back to where it is, but it’s good enough to play. I rolled it pretty bad, but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
If Denver is going to shock the world, it needs to keep Paul Millsap and his defense on the floor more, then the Nuggets need Gary Harris and other bench players to step up with big moments.
The Nuggets also need to find a way to slow LeBron and Davis. There may not be an answer to that question.
Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron
Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.
Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.