PBT Extra: Despite ending, Hawks had season worth celebrating


The Atlanta Hawks had never won more than 57 games in a season. They had never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

This season the franchise won 60 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Once there, the banged-up Hawks got swept by a banged-up Cavaliers team. That led some narrow-minded people to say they didn’t accomplish anything. I pity fans who view the world thinking if you don’t have the ultimate victory then it was a waste; they miss out on the joys of building, growing, the small victories of life. The Hawks had an exciting season, they filled an arena that in past years felt like a mausoleum, they played beautiful basketball for months at a time.

It’s something to build on.

The Hawks are not like the Cavaliers — they can’t luck out and have the best player on the planet decide to come home and change their fortunes. Kevin Love isn’t going to push for a trade to go there. Superstars will not fall into their lap. They need to lay out a system and get the right people to fill the slots in it. It’s the only way they can build. They have taken huge step in the right direction, one they can build on. To dismiss that as empty is shortsighted and just plain wrong.

LeBron James: ‘I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season’


The Cavaliers have made it to the NBA Finals, just as many expected the moment that LeBron James announced his return, and the deal to acquire Kevin Love via trade had been completed.

But James himself had his doubts.

LeBron was careful not to make the same elaborate championship promises that he did when leaving Cleveland the first time to join the Miami Heat. He was coming into a completely new situation, with a rookie NBA head coach and young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who, along with Love, had never experienced the postseason.

After the sweep of the Hawks was complete, and James had time to reflect on the accomplishment, he admitted that getting to the Finals in his first season with this club was something he never envisioned.

“To be at this point tonight sitting up here talking to you guys, like I said, it’s very emotional,” James said at the postgame podium. “Could I foresee this? At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t. I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season because I just knew that we just had to get better and I just saw how young we were and how young‑minded we were at that point in time. But I knew I had to lead these guys, and if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place where they haven’t been before.”

Look at all that’s happened since James signed on:

– Anderson Varejao was lost for the season due to injury.

– Dion Waiters was traded out of town.

– J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov were added via midseason trades.

– Kevin Love was lost for the remainder of the season in the first round of the playoffs.

– J.R. Smith was suspended for the first two games of the second round.

– Kyrie Irving missed two Conference Finals games with a knee injury — both of which were Cavaliers victories.

And there’s probably even more that could be mentioned.

James was right to doubt whether or not his goal could be accomplished with the team he joined in July. But the one that remains standing and will play in the Finals in June should be more than capable of competing with whoever comes out of the Western Conference.

WATCH: Cavaliers crowned Eastern Conference champs


When LeBron James left Miami to rejoin the Cavaliers last summer, many expected that he (and Kevin Love) would lead the team to the NBA Finals.

But the way it happened, with Love being lost in the first round of the postseason due to injury, and with Kyrie Irving being injured and out for two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, was anything but easy.

It’s been eight long years for Cavaliers fans since their team played in the NBA Finals, but that’s what James and his teammates delivered by completing a sweep of the Atlanta Hawks. Receiving a trophy on their home floor with confetti raining down is just what James and the Cleveland fans envisioned some 10 months ago, and they’ll hope to see it one more time in June once the Finals matchup with the Warriors (which isn’t yet official, but is widely expected) is finished.

Dwyane Wade congratulates LeBron James on fifth straight NBA Finals apperance


With the Cavaliers’ win Tuesday night, LeBron James has made to five straight NBA Finals. The last people to do that? Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Bill Sharman and other members of the 1966 Boston Celtics. LeBron, Russell and Cousy are the only three players to play in five straight All-Star Games and Finals, reports the Ellias Sports Bureau.

It’s another impressive feat from the game’s best player, and the congratulatory mentions rained down on LeBron after the game. Including one from one of his best friends — Dwyane Wade.

Wade had a hand in that — he was central to the Miami team that made four straight Finals, winning two.

But the Eastern Conference is the domain of LeBron — when he moved back home to Cleveland the Cavaliers became instant contenders with a real shot at the Finals. Despite injuries to Kevin Love (out for the playoffs) and Kyrie Irving (dragging around a sore left leg), LeBron found a way to lift this team to the NBA’s biggest stage.

Wade appreciates that.

Report: Hawks’ Paul Millsap may require offseason shoulder surgery

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The Hawks tore through the first part of the regular season, but things slowed after the All-Star break, and have now come grinding to a halt in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Thabo Sefolosha was lost before the postseason began with a broken leg, and Kyle Korver was lost in the series against the Cavaliers with an ankle injury that will require surgery. DeMarre Carroll has been playing, but has been a shell of himself after suffering a knee injury in Game 1.

And yes, there’s more.

From Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

The most serious of those is Millsap’s sprained right shoulder, which caused him to miss five games in early April and has never fully healed. There are whispers that it might require surgery after the season.

Every team has injuries at this time of year, and the Hawks will get no sympathy from their current opponent. The Cavs lost All-Star forward Kevin Love in the first round, while Kyrie Irving has hardly played in this series because of knee troubles. But LeBron is the ultimate equalizer, able to turn even a battered roster into a contender. That’s what superstars do.

This tidbit comes in a longer piece about the way the Hawks are constructed, and whether their equal-opportunity style is one that is capable of winning a championship.

I’m not yet convinced.

Atlanta’s hot start, one in in which the team won 40 of its first 48 regular season games, was partly due to having the element of surprise in being so good so soon, and Korver putting up all-time great shooting numbers that had defenses with little time to prepare second-guessing their coverages.

As the season wore on, however, and the Hawks became a known quantity, teams were able to adjust. The Nets even picked up two playoff wins against Atlanta, and that seemed wholly unlikely before the first round began.

Atlanta fans will blame the high volume of injuries for the team falling short in the postseason, and making it to the Conference Finals, even in the watered-down East, remains an accomplishment worth noting. If the team comes back intact next season and can shake the injury bug, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s once again capable of getting this far.