One Stat, One Play: Russ in transition


VIDEO: One Stat, One Play: Westbrook in transition

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Russell Westbrook‘s game was already ridiculous, but he’s taken things to a new level in the last few weeks.

Westbrook won Western Conference Player of the Month honors by averaging 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists in February. And after missing a game to recover from a broken face, he put up 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in his first game of March, an overtime win over the Sixers on Wednesday. It was his fourth straight triple-double and it made him the league’s leading scorer at 27.0 points per game.

The highlight of Westbrook’s performance was a coast-to-coast drive for a two-handed flushafter a timeout. It was Russ at his best, getting the ball on the defensive end of the floor, taking off in a full sprint, and not slowing down until he’s thrown down a vicious dunk.

Those were two of Westbrook’s 16 fast break points against Philly. Of the 25 other teams who played on Wednesday, only eight of them had as many fast break points as Westbrook had himself.

The 16 boosted Westbrook’s average to 7.8 fast break points per game, by far the highest average for any player since 1996-97 (when we could start tracking fast break points).

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The video above is the latest installment “One Stat, One Play,” a quick look at Westbrook in transition.

It starts with defense. The Thunder rank 11th in defensive efficiency, but second in opponent field goal percentage. They force missed shots better than any team but the Golden State Warriors.

Westbrook rebounds a lot of those missed shots. He’s grabbed 15.6 percent of available defensive rebounds, the highest rate of his career and a rate which ranks third among point guards who have played at least 1,000 minutes.

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And when Westbrook gets the rebound himself, the break has started before his comes back down. So get your butt back on D and hope you can slow him down.

Westbrook takes his triple-double streak and his transition game to Chicago at 8 p.m. ET Thursday for the first game of TNT’s double-header.

Sager returns to TNT on Thursday


VIDEO: Sager At Christmas

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Another NBA star is making his return to action on Thursday.

Craig Sager will make his 2014-15 debut on the sidelines of TNT’s broadcast of Oklahoma City-Chicago at 8 p.m. ET. The league hasn’t been the same without Sager and his sartorial splendor, and he gave us a reminder of what we’ve been missing when he interviewed Carmelo Anthony remotely before the All-Star Game.

Sager was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last April. Since then, he’s gone through a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy and a bout with pneumonia. He hoped to return in person for All-Star weekend last month, but needed to wait a few more weeks so that his immune system would be strong enough to handle being around a crowd.

Back in November, our Shaun Powell chronicled Sager’s fight

He’s paid to be curious, and curiosity leads to questions. But interestingly enough, Sager didn’t ask a single question of the doctors when he was diagnosed with adult acute myeloid leukemia soon after feeling woozy last April.

Not even, Am I going to get through this?

“I didn’t have to,” he said. “I knew something was wrong. I figured whatever they’re doing to me, it’s designed to help me. I put my trust in them and did whatever they asked.”

This is where Stacy comes in. She is blond and beautiful and a former member of the Bulls dance team, and beneath the glossy exterior is a fierce and protective wife and mother of two. And an investigative reporter, because she took the mic from her husband and was relentless.

“I asked enough questions to the point where I probably drove the physicians crazy,” she said. “I had to do everything I could. I wanted to know why things were done: Why do you have him on this antibiotic? Just little things like that. I had to, because he is my life.”

This week, Sager spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and explained why he had to make a change of plans in regard to the suit he’ll be wearing…

I picked out leukemia’s colors which are orange and was going to come back wearing a orange coat and a pinstripe linen shirt. But that was when I thought I was coming back in the fall and it is going to be five degrees in Chicago so it would be a little out of place. It also doesn’t fit. So I have picked out something and got it made with Chicago colors in it. Also, my feet are swollen so I am not going to be wearing my normal crocs or ostrich shoes so Nike said they are making me a special pair of shoes.

Welcome back, Craig. The NBA is a better place with you on our TV.

Morning shootaround — March 5


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played March 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant waiting for pain to subside | Howard on schedule | James takes another hit | Noah working to stop violence in Chicago

No. 1: Durant waiting for pain to subsideRussell Westbrook is tearing through defenses and getting a triple-double every time he takes the floor. But the Oklahoma City Thunder are still in a fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, just a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, who have won six of their last seven games and just got Anthony Davis back. That doesn’t mean that Kevin Durant is in a rush to return from surgery to replace a screw in his right foot. He spoke about his eventual return with Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman

You had a reevaluation yesterday. Were you happy with what you heard?

Um, I’m more so just focused on trying to get this pain out of it and coming back when I’m ready, when I’m 100 percent ready and not trying to force it or play with pain. Just trying to conquer this little stage I’m in right now, which is getting this thing right, working as hard as I can in the weight room and on the court. Yeah, it’s tough, but I just gotta be ready to go.

Was there any relief that the pain you were feeling, there was a reason for it?

Yeah, now I know what happened in that Memphis game, in that Dallas game. I know why I was having so much pain and to have that corrected feels so much better. It’s just a matter of when somebody digs in your foot, you’re going to have some pain. That’s what happened when they reinserted a different screw. The pain that I had before is gone, but there’s still some pain there obviously from them going in there and stitching me up. But I should be fine soon.

You feel very confident you will return this season?

No doubt. No doubt. I’m looking forward to returning this season. No doubt. I’m not packing it in at all.

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No. 2: Howard on schedule — It’s been a month since Dwight Howard had a “bone marrow aspirate injection” on his right knee. Howard was reevaluated this week and his recovery is “on schedule,” but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be taking the floor for the Rockets any time soon, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes

Rockets center Dwight Howard’s “checkup” with the team physician, including an MRI, confirmed the team’s confidence that Howard is progressing “on schedule,” a person with knowledge of the process said, though reports from his workouts remain the most important measures of his progress.

Wednesday marked four weeks since Howard’s bone marrow aspirate injection, but Dr. Walter Lowe said last month that he expected the time out to be the key to healing the edema that had built up on Howard’s right knee, rather than the procedure.

“He’s coming along,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I saw him on the treadmill which is a good sign, but I haven’t seen him on the floor. Until you see him on the floor, who knows.”

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No. 3: James takes another hit — Three days after getting kicked in the groin by James Harden, LeBron James got tackled by Jonas Valanciunas in the Cavs’ win in Toronto on Wednesday. James isn’t the type for retaliation, but he’s certainly getting a little frustrated with the physicality, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes

After being the recipient of a second flagrant foul in his past three games, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James said he might have to take matters into his own hands in the future.

“Maybe I got to protect myself a little bit more, too,” James said after the Cavs’ 120-112 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas wrapped James up around the neck and shoulders as he drove the lane with 18.8 seconds left in the third quarter. The infraction was initially whistled as a common foul before being upgraded to a flagrant foul 1 after an official’s review of the video replay.

“I don’t want to get too much involved in it because I don’t want to cry about it because it’s not like I’m not able to get back up, but it’s a lot of plays that are just not basketball plays,” said James, who was kicked in the groin Sunday by Houston’s James Harden, resulting in a one-game suspension for the Rockets swingman.

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No. 4: Noah working to stop violence in Chicago — Joakim Noah is from New York, but Chicago has been his home for eight years now. He’s been trying his best to help curb violence in his adopted city, and has a new initiative that he talked about after practice on Wednesday. K.J. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune was there

On the direct heels of Noah’s well-received, anti-violence video “You’re Not Alone,” produced by Noah’s foundation and award-winning journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz, Noah has launched another initiative.

“I think the video was very important for people from all shapes of life to look at it as it’s not just a problem that’s just going on the South Side or the West Side. It’s everybody’s problem,” Noah said. “So me and my mother started this movement, it’s called Rock Your Drop: The Drop of Consciousness. It’s a necklace that represents a tear drop. It’s something we’ve been working really hard on. It’s to bring awareness to all the violence that’s going on and also that we’re all in this together, and you’re not alone.

“It’s our movement and we’re very proud of it, and we just hope that it can spread. The more money we raise with these drops, the programs we can put in for these kids.”

The necklaces are available for purchase on www.rockyourdrop.com.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Steve Kerr explains why David Lee didn’t play in the second half of the last two games of the Warriors’ road trip … Kevin Garnett says the Nuggets quit on Brian Shaw … Raptors coach Dwane Casey is using the last part of the season to do some experimentingKelly Olynyk returned from an 18-game absence in the Celtics’ win over the Jazz on Wednesday … and bidders for the Hawks continue to emerge.

ICYMI: Russell Westbrook, Western Conference Player of the Month for February, took an early lead for the same award in March with 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in the Thunder’s overtime win over the Sixers:


VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Russell Westbrook

Popovich swears July’s the limit

SAN ANTONIO — Over the years nobody has been more of an advocate of getting his players their proper rest during the long, grueling 82-game schedule than Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He’s stuck to his guns. He’s been fined for his beliefs and his actions.

But with NBA commissioner Adam Silver saying he’s open to any and all suggestions on how to cut down on back-to-backs and eliminate four-games-in-five-nights scenarios in the future, one place Popovich says he’ll draw the line is playing deep into summertime.

“I think the season’s long enough,” Popovich said Wednesday night before the Spurs played the Kings. “I will not come to work in July. If there’s a game in July, count me out.”

There are gourmet meals to eat, fine wines to drink and only so many days and nights in the dwindling off-season to enjoy the good life. So the three-time coach of the year maintains that even if a future Spurs team is back in The Finals after the Fourth of July, the players will have to figure out a way to get it done without him.

“Count me out,” Pop said. “Life’s too short.”

Ray Allen won’t play this season, considers comeback in 2015-16

All those teams that imagined Ray Allen as a catch-and-shoot threat in the corner, adding a late-season, potentially game-changing acquisition just in time for the playoffs, well, they and their fans can go back to daydreaming about Powerball and MegaMillions.

Ray gone. For now, anyway.

Allen announced Wednesday afternoon that he would not play in the NBA this season but that he would consider the possibility of returning for 2015-16. The news came via Allen’s representatives at Tandem Sports+ Entertainment, so no “Reports:” disclaimer or anonymous sources are necessary.

“Over the past several months, I have taken a lot of time to deliberate what is best for me,” Allen said in the news release. “I’ve ultimately decided that I will not play this NBA season. I’m going to take the remainder of this season, as well as the upcoming offseason, to reassess my situation, spend time with my family and determine if I will play in the 2015-16 season.”

That last part might be reworded as: “…see what sort of crazy free-agent offer some needy team makes to bring me back.”

Allen will turn 40 in July. As recently as three seasons ago, he ranked fourth in 3-point shooting (45.3 percent) and eighth in true shooting (60.7 percent) and he was the NBA’s fifth-most accurate foul shooter in 2012-13 (88.6 percent).

He’s always had the work habits of a monk and, especially since altering his diet in recent seasons, the body fat of a greyhound. But stepping back into the NBA after a year’s layoff, at Allen’s age, would be the sort of thing only Wilt Chamberlain or Karl Malone ever pondered. Allen has been healthier by far than Steve Nash, a Class of 1997 draftmate, and Nash – still on the fringes of the Lakers while they pay him what’s left of his $9.7 million this season – broke down last season after 15 games with a bad back.

As for performance, Allen averaged 9.6 points and 26.5 minutes for Miami last season, helping the Heat to their second straight NBA Finals with him aboard. He made 37.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in the regular season and 38.8 percent in 20 playoff games.

But the 10-time All-Star from UConn, who also played for Milwaukee, Seattle and Boston, had a modest 12.8 player efficiency rating (PER) both in the regular season and playoffs. Taking a career high 56.9 percent of his shots from 3-point range meant he shot a career-low 2.2 free throws, pro-rated to 36 minutes per game.

In a league in which every GM and coach is looking for an edge, interest in luring back Allen this season was high. “Ray has received enormous interest from a number of NBA teams throughout this season,” agent Jim Tanner said. “We will communicate with interested teams as Ray makes a decision for the 2015-16 season.”

Blogtable: Four-Player Race For MVP

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: MVP Race | Post-All-Star Sloppy Play | Statue-Worthy Players



VIDEO:  The Starters: MVP choice

> It’s a four-man race for Kia NBA MVP (Curry, James, Harden, Westbrook). In your eyes, what does one of these players have to do in the final six weeks of the season to separate himself from the rest of the pack and secure the MVP crown?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comFirst, don’t kick anyone in the store and get oneself suspended from a big game. That’s definitely a no-no in the MVP handbook. Second, don’t miss a quarter of your team’s games and, if you do, make sure it wins often enough whether you’re around or not to nail down a Top 4 seed. The ability to impact the game at both ends is nice and, oh yeah, bonus points for making one team The Finals favorite in its conference, then switching teams and making that one The Finals favorite in its conference. Now whom shall I choose?…

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThere are no set bars to clear, bases to touch.  In a tight race such as this with a handful of candidates, I’ll likely give my vote to the best closer.  Can Curry take the Warriors into the playoffs as the overall No. 1 seed?  Can Harden keep the Rockets in the mix for a top 3 finish?  After a slow start, it would be very impressive if LeBron could get the Cavs to leap all the way to No. 2 in the East.  Now that the question of making the playoffs has pretty much been answered, Westbrook would turn heads if he could help the Thunder leap as high as No. 6.  I’m looking for a finishing kick to seal the deal.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comNothing other than play better the final six weeks than they have the previous months. That’s the challenge: Who will go from an MVP-level of play to an even higher level in the clutch, when players and teams are supposed to be peaking and playoff seedings are on the line? That is particularly important for Westbrook, with every bit of supporting evidence critical after missing the large chunk of time. It might be easier to overcome that deficit other seasons. Not so much in this one with, as you mentioned, several deserving candidates.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In the case of James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, assuming their level of play stays the same, it’s how high they can elevate their teams in the standings. Steph Curry can’t take the Warriors any higher than first place, so he must stay consistent. This could be a photo finish involving Curry and Harden, the two most likely finalists, and if the Rockets finish within 5 games or less of the Warriors, I’d say the trophy is Harden’s.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: All of these guys have great individual numbers and all have made big impacts on their team’s numbers. I think it’s Curry’s award to lose at this point, but James and Harden aren’t too far behind. Harden has been carrying the Rockets all season and we all saw how bad the Cavs were when James took his two weeks off. But both might have to hope that Curry and the Warriors hit a slump between now and April 15.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com​In my eyes, which are working better than ever, it’s all about how you and your team finish. Crazy individual numbers will certainly help solidify the point for all of these guys. But Harden has the best chance to separate himself if, after his one-game suspension for the below-the-belt jujitsu kick on LeBron, he continues to blaze opposing defenses the way he has all season. For him to continue his torrid pace all season while others have come and gone from the scoring race, helps him separate from this pack. Sure, it’s perhaps a shallow way of looking at it. But when you’re checking all of the other boxes, that extra scoring punch could push Harden over the top.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe only thing LeBron should need is to keep Cleveland in play for the No. 2 seed in the East. It’s this simple: His return turned a hopeless franchise (for four years running) into a title contender. Furthermore, his current teammates have gone 2-9 in James’s absence this season. No rival has made a bigger impact on his team.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogHow about post one signature game? Each one of the guys mentioned have been tremendous this season, so good that I’m not sure they have a lot of room to get much better, at least on a nightly basis. It’s a tight race for the trophy, tight enough that I’m not sure which player has the jump on the award. But what might help push someone over the top is one huge game, maybe on a Thursday night on TNT or a Sunday afternoon on ABC. LeBron scoring 50? Steph Curry hitting a dozen threes? Something like that just may be enough to swing the voters their way.

Blogtable: What’s With The Recent Sloppy Play?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: MVP Race | Post-All-Star Sloppy Play | Statue-Worthy Players


> Since returning from the extended All-Star break, scoring is down, shooting is down, and turnovers are up. Did the long break throw players off rhythm? Or are other factors contributing to the recent sloppy play?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMy hunch is, what we’re seeing is a result of a) the season’s dog days, and b) teams limping along without injured players. Some folks in Chicago believe that Derrick Rose lost “it” over the long break, never got “it” back and somehow got hurt or became more vulnerable over the extended layoff. But the Bulls star can seemingly get hurt tucking his little boy into bed, so there’s no reason to legislate over that. I find it hard to believe that a few extra days off could have, collectively, such a drastic effect.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI think you’re reaching to blame the extended All-Star break. This is only a small sampling and these are just the vagaries of the long season.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt’s just fun with numbers at this point. If we get to the end of the season and the pattern holds, maybe you’ll be on to something. If the same thing happens again a year from now, then it becomes an actual discussion. Now, though, it’s a trend of the moment.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: There’s no scientific data to support a link between the long layoff and the sluggish play, so we only have our assumptions, flawed or not. I suspect the layoff might’ve had something to do with it but also this: Injuries, coupled with a half-dozen teams that waved the white flag and turned their roster over to young and inexperienced players to get a read on their long-term value.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are five teams with starting point guards who were thrown into unfamiliar offenses, and Milwaukee and Phoenix are two teams that have seen pretty big drops in efficiency after the break. But I think it’s mostly the long layoff. Offense is generally at its best with one or two days of rest, where players can maintain a rhythm and level of sharpness. We’ve already seen things pick up the last couple of days.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com​There is no way you are getting me to hate on the extended break. We’ll just have see some numbers suffer, because that break felt great. I don’t think the longer break throws off anyone’s rhythm. I think any break from the normal bump and grind of the season, any break of more than 72 hours, automatically causes a potential hiccup for most guys. I can live with that now and going forward. It’s a small price to pay for a few extra days of All-Star breakage.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe days off didn’t help for the short term. But this is also the equivalent to the month of August in baseball, when teams are searching for inspiration with the playoffs still many weeks away. The extended break was a new idea, and in future the teams and their players may develop better ideas on how to handle it; but overall this is not a big deal.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAsk Schuhmann. By that I mean, I haven’t seen the stats, and anyway, if you dropped the stats into my lap I wouldn’t even know what to do with them. Maybe a long break contributed in some way, but I don’t think everyone forgot how to shoot or lost their shape in a couple of weeks. But I do know that historically, this is the time of the season when a bit of ennui creeps in and teams start to look forward just a bit. With the playoffs just around the bend, to me it’s understandable if eyes drift a bit toward what lies ahead.

Blogtable: Statue-Worthy Players

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: MVP Race | Post-All-Star Sloppy Play | Statue-Worthy Players



VIDEO:  Bill Russell statue unveiled in Boston (2013)

> The Hawks this week will erect a statue of Dominique Wilkins outside Philips Arena. In your opinion, who’s next in line to be immortalized in bronze?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’d prefer to discuss what the next lofty tribute will be, now that statue-izing has trumped jersey number-retiring and perhaps even Hall of Fame immortalizing. How shall the really, really, really, super-special stars be honored to separate them from the proliferation of bronze figurines standing around outside sports arenas? Naming rights to the buildings themselves? Perpetual blimps that hover over the hero’s city on game days or, heck, why not 24/7/365? How ’bout team nicknames: the Boston Russells, the Chicago Jordans and so on? Maybe we need something on a grander scale, sized like the Collosus of Rhodes or the Statue of Liberty, only it’s Shaquille O’Neal standing astride the I-10 near downtown L.A. As you can tell, I don’t really care who gets the next statue, and no offense to ‘Nique, but we’re rapidly approaching the day when even Paul Mokeski and Chris Gatling get them.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe most obvious answer is Isiah Thomas, leader of the two-time champion Detroit Bad Boys and the best “little man” to ever play the game. But I’m also taking a stand for the pre-MTV generation and saying it’s long overdue for the Wizards to honor Wes Unseld. Go ahead, kids.  Look up those old videos of the 6-foot-7 Unseld using his brute strength and gritty determination to set teeth-rattling picks, rebound and throw some of the best outlet passes to start a fast break ever.  The Hall of Famer played 984 games, all with Baltimore/Washington franchise, leading the team to four Finals and the 1978 title, when he was named MVP of The Finals.  For 13 seasons, Unseld helped put the Bullets on a pedestal in the NBA and it’s time the franchise returned the favor.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Jerry Buss. The statue debate has become particularly passionate in Los Angeles anyway, a new level of status symbol beyond having a uniform number retired, and Buss clearly deserves that ultimate tribute. He was more than an owner. He steered his franchise to the unique glamour personality that lives on today while maintaining a championship level on the court from generation to generation. Buss was such a shrewd businessman and innovator that he became one of the few owners to make the Hall of Fame. It’s not just the Lakers who wouldn’t have been the same without him. Basketball in Los Angeles wouldn’t have been the same. The NBA wouldn’t have been the same. Bronze that man.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Kinda surprised David Robinson and maybe also George Gervin aren’t bronzed already in San Antonio, given what they’ve meant to basketball and the community. I’d vote them, plus Allen Iverson in Philly and Isiah Thomas in Detroit. But we might have to wait until Staples Center makes room in the crowded courtyard for Kobe in 5 years or so.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Tim Duncan, the anchor of five championship teams and at least 16 50-win seasons, is going to be the most deserving once he retires. For now, I’d say it’s either Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing. And since Barkley’s best was split between Philadelphia and Phoenix, a Ewing statue in the Madison Square Garden lobby would be most appropriate.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com​Having grown up in Bad Boys country during the 80s and 90s, I’m going with Isiah Thomas. Getting bronzed in Detroit (Auburn Hills for you sticklers) would be a huge step in a reparations program that should be underway for Isisah getting screwed out of his spot on The Dream Team. It’s tough to make up for one of the most egregious slights in the history of organized sports, but it would be a great gesture. Isiah delivered titles to Detroit during the most competitive era the NBA has ever seen. He went up against the giants from two decades and put the Pistons, Detroit and the entire state of Michigan on the basketball map (how’s that for 80s/90s slang?) and deserves to be recognized for doing so.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI’m not big on this idea that great athletes are automatically deserving of statues. Aren’t there more important contributors to be idolized? But if Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia are building them for their champions from the 1980s, then surely Detroit ought to be designing one for Isiah Thomas.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI am of a younger generation than some of my fellow scribes, so my thoughts will probably swing a bit more current than some others here. I’d like to see a Shaq statue in Los Angeles, and a Kobe one not long after that. Dirk has to get one in Dallas when he walks away, right? But those said, how about the Sixers erecting a statue of Allen Iverson? They’re doing their best to lose games and not be good right now, why not throw their fans a bone and build a monument to The Answer right there outside the stadium, or even downtown somewhere?

Morning shootaround — March 4


VIDEO: Highlights from games played March 3

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Smith calls Hawks fans ‘bandwagoners’ | Mirotic steps up for banged-up Bulls | Can LeBron’s milestone entice Ray back? | Duncan: No time to panic

No. 1: Smith calls Hawks fans ‘bandwagoners’Josh Smith brought an enormous bundle of skills to Atlanta and hung out his shingle for the Atlanta Hawks for nine years. But he eventually came to represent unfulfilled potential and a little bit of indulged stardom, to the point his services no longer were required. Smith left in 2013 to sign a fat free-agent contract with Detroit and has been a target ever since of however many fans cared to populate Philips Arena. The difference this season is that there are more of them, and their booing rankled Smith, on a mediocre night individually, in his return Tuesday with the Houston Rockets. Here’s Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com:

The interplay between Smith and the Philips Arena crowd was lively throughout the night. Smith, an Atlanta native who played his first nine NBA seasons with the Hawks, was booed loudly whenever he touched the ball. The catcalls grew louder in the third quarter, after Smith drained a 3-pointer that rattled around the rim several times before dropping in. Smith then shushed the crowd by placing his finger over his lips as the Hawks called timeout.

“I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners,” Smith said. “It really doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Despite qualifying for the playoffs in Smith’s final six seasons in Atlanta, the Hawks never finished in the top half of the NBA in attendance. This season, the Hawks are faring better at the gate and averaging just more than 17,000 per game, their highest total since Smith came into the league.

Smith was a polarizing player during his nine seasons in Atlanta. Chosen by the Hawks with the No. 17 pick in 2004 draft, Smith dazzled fans with his acrobatics, shot-blocking and athleticism. But despite being only a 28.3 percent 3-point shooter, Smith attempted more than 942 shots from beyond the arc as a Hawk. Toward the end of his tenure, a groan would emanate from the crowd at Philips Arena whenever he elevated for a long-range shot.

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 191) Featuring Dennis Schroder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – League or peer justice, which one is the right answer for James Harden‘s kick below the belt on LeBron James during the Houston Rockets-Cleveland Cavaliers/MVP showdown Sunday.

The enlightened crowd would obviously go with the NBA reaction, which was to suspend Harden for one game (Tuesday night’s Rockets visit to Philips Arena to face the Atlanta Hawks).

Here at the Hang Time Podcast, we don’t always fall on the right side of enlightenment.

We’d have handled it the old-fashioned way, the way they did in a bygone NBA era where players didn’t hesitate to dole out their own brand of justice when someone felt like they were wronged by someone else. That’s probably why we are not in charge of the NBA’s discipline dispersal, among other things.

It’s probably best that we stick to the discussion of these issues. And these days, there is no shortage of outstanding issues where the NBA is concerned. From the injuries in Chicago to Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to the ongoing MVP race involving Harden, James, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook to vetting the title contenders in both the Eastern and Western conferences to our opinions on Kobe Bryant‘s latest cinematic endeavor, we cover it all on Episode 191 of the Hang Time Podcast … featuring Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder.

We go through all of that and then some on Episode 191 of The Hang Time Podcast … 

 

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Andrew Merriam.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

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