HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Now that NBA.com’s John Schuhmann has straightened us out on the true importance of the preseason, we’ve identified some other teams whose showing this month requires further study.
We spotlighted one of the big winners — Minnesota — Monday morning, and could have included the Hang Time Grizzlies. They’ve demolished the opposition as well, winning all seven of their preseason games, prompting this gem from my main man Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal:
The last time the Griz won seven preseason games was before the 2003-04 campaign. They went on to win 50 regular-season games and earn the first of three straight playoff berths.
“Whoa,” center Marc Gasol said. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
But not everyone is enjoying this time.
The Hornets and Hawks have combined for just two preseason wins to go along with nine losses.
And just so we’re clear folks, Schuhmann’s numbers don’t lie:
In the past six seasons, 11 teams have gone through the preseason either undefeated or with one loss and all 11 have made the playoffs. During that same span eight teams have won just one game or have gone winless, and only one of those eight teams (the 2007-08 Cavaliers) made the playoffs.
— That’s cause for concern in New Orleans, where expectations are admittedly lower than they have been in recent years, due mostly to the drama surrounding Chris Paul and all the front office and coaching (Monty Williams) changes that have gone on. Dell Demps knew he was taking over a tough situation when he left San Antonio to help resurrect the franchise in the Crescent City. One thing the Hornets do have going for them, though, is all of the principle figures are on the same page, per John Reid of the Times Picayune:
After a summer of turmoil involving trade rumors regarding Paul and whether he could be happy playing for the franchise, having him on board is vital for Williams, who was hired in June and is the league’s youngest head coach at 39.
Also important is West accepting the changes Williams has implemented. Williams emphasized West becoming a better defender and also score and rebound more in the low post rather than settling for step-back jumpers.
“Chris and David lead in different ways,” Williams said. “David may take a guy to the side and say some things to him. Chris is talking, and he knows what we want to do on offense. I don’t know any head coaching job that’s easy, but it certainly benefits me having Chris.”
— That’s cause for concern/panic in Atlanta, where expectations are as high as they’ve been in the last decade for a team coming off a 53-win season with the top eight players of the rotation intact. Sure, the rest of the Southeast Division beefed up tremendously in the offseason, particularly Miami. And new coach Larry Drew has had to deal with a litany of injuries throughout this preseason. But how do the Hawks explain the listless defensive performances and peculiar offensive power outages that have plagued them this month? Monday night’s beat down at the hands of Orlando paints a bleak picture, per Michael Cunningham of the Journal Constitution:
The Hawks have used their loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals last May as motivation for this season. The Magic swept the Hawks with a total winning margin of 101 points, an NBA record.
Before the game Monday Drew said this is a “new year” with a “new attitude” for the Hawks. Instead, there was the same feeble offense, defensive breakdowns and visible frustration that usually show up in their games against Orlando.
The Hawks led 1-0, tied it at 3-3, and then trailed from the rest of the way. Atlanta trailed just 44-34 at the half despite missing 29 of 41 shots but Orlando scored 35 points in the third quarter to pull away.
The Magic won their 20th consecutive preseason game.
“That team is on a mission and we’ve got to get like that,” Drew said. “They are certainly a measuring stick. They are getting the job done now; they are now waiting until the regular season. We have to do the same.”
The Hawks better hurry up and get started because the regular season starts in a week.