Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Hawks’

Hawks officially initiate sale process

HANG TIME BIG CITY — Following a report late last week that the embattled Atlanta Hawks ownership group had come to an agreement to sell the franchise, this morning the Hawks announced that the team is officially for sale.

According to a news release from the Hawks …

The Atlanta Hawks today announced that its owners have unanimously approved a plan to sell the franchise and the Philips Arena operating rights. The sale will commence immediately. Atlanta Hawks Basketball and Entertainment, LLC has retained Goldman Sachs & Co. and Inner Circle Sports LLC to advise on the sale of the franchise and ancillary assets.

The Hawks should have no shortage of suitors. Early reports noted two potential ownership groups based in Seattle interested in purchasing and relocating the team, although an NBA spokesman noted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the team would not be moving …

The Hawks have won 20 of their last 22 games, and are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference at 27-8, the latest in a season they’ve led their conference since the 1993-94 season.

Curry closes on James in final All-Star voting update

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The King is still on top … but just barely.

LeBron James remains the overall leader in voting for the 2015 All-Star Game in the latest results released today, with 971,299 votes. But Golden State’s Stephen Curry is right on his heels with 958,014 total votes. In the third and final 2015 All-Star voting update, James and Curry remain atop their respective conferences, as they have been from the start.

NBA All-Star 2015The top ten vote-getters remain unchanged. Joining James in the East are Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, with a backcourt of John Wall and Dwyane Wade. Along with Curry in the West are Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt alongside Curry.

There was some movement in this latest round of results. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry was a big gainer, passing Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving for third among Eastern guards, but with 406,974 votes, Lowry is still over 100,000 votes behind Wade for a starting spot.

Washington’s Marcin Gortat passed Chicago’s Joakim Noah to move into sixth among Eastern Conference big men.

The Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks still don’t have a player in the top ten; Hawks forward Paul Millsap is 13th overall among Eastern Conference forwards.

This is the final voting update before the All-Star starting lineups are announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 22, during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com at 7 p.m. ET, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith. Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 19.

This year, for the first time ever, fans have the power to vote for any active player in the NBA using the new online ballot. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The recently-debuted uniforms feature nods to all five boroughs of New York City.

Hawks keep whupping up on the West


VIDEO: The Hawks are reaping the rewards of buying into their system

If another team from the East won nine straight against the West, folks would be pushing them as title contenders. Heck, if a team from the West won nine straight against the West, folks would be pushing them as title contenders.

As it is, the Hawks must find satisfaction in delivering impressive whippings now and waiting until the playoffs to convince some of us that they’re true heavyweights.

On Wednesday they closed strong against the Grizzlies and put another thick Western pelt on their wall. Overall, the Hawks are scorching right now. It was their 20th win in their last 22 tries and  they’re starting to get comfortable on top in the East, where they’ve opened a 2 1/2-game lead on the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls. Raise your hand if you had this penciled in a long time ago.

And against the West, well, who saw this coming? The Hawks have now beaten wins against the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies and swept the L.A. Clippers. If those wins haven’t done wonders for their court credibility — yet — it has positioned them well in terms of confidence and in the standings as mid-season approaches. Suddenly, there’s drama building, thanks to the Hawks. Since the weak East doesn’t appear to have a true super team, who’s to say the Hawks can’t stay on top?

There are two perception forces the Hawks are battling. One is their history: the team has never reached an Eastern Conference fianls and was last in a conference finals in 1970 … when Atlanta was in the Western Division. Even in the Dominique Wilkins years, the best the Hawks could do is win a playoff round. Until they go deeper, you can understand why skeptics are keeping their arms crossed.

The other issue is their lack of stars. The Hawks could cruise into the All-Star break in first place and not have a starter in the All-Star Game and may only have one on the team (at least Mike Budenholzer would be the coach in that situation). But maybe that’s the beauty of the Hawks: they can play so unselfishly and not need one designated player to bail them out — at least not in the regular season.

However, this is the right time to mention Jeff Teague. There’s no point guard playing at a higher level in the East right now, and that includes Kyle Lowry of the Raptors. Teague punished Mike Conley on Wednesday, especially down the stretch, with a back-breaking 3-pointer and another bucket to put Memphis on ice. He has scored 20 or more points in each game of the Hawks’ current six-game win streak. In the last month, he’s had big moments against Conley, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Ty Lawson (who shot 1-for-10). Figure that a few of them will make the All-Star team.

“That’s what you want, to be really consistent every day,” said Budenholzer. “That’s what we keep pushing Jeff on. I think he’s made a lot of progress. He’s making some good things happen for himself and his team.”

Teague is scoring on step-backs, slashing to the rim and setting up teammates for shots. He’s a sight for very sore eyes at Philips Arena. For years, the Hawks paid the price for passing up Paul (and also Deron Williams) in the 2005 Draft. They had the second pick and while they needed a point guard, they took Marvin Williams instead. Williams impressed the Hawks and, to be fair, a few other teams on the basis of pre-Draft workouts. He ended up being unspectacular in Atlanta and GM Danny Ferry was applauded for dumping his contract two summers ago on Utah. Meanwhile, the Hawks sifted through a variety of short-term answers at point guard, most famously an old Mike Bibby, before drafting Teague and giving him time and room to grow.

(In an interesting twist, the Hawks also drafted Dennis Schroder in 2013 and his development this season has been a pleasant bonus.)

If Teague keeps this up, then he (and possibly Paul Millsap) could rep the Hawks in New York next month. By the All-Star break, we could also have an even better handle on the Hawks and it could be favorable.

The schedule turns kind as the Hawks close out January with seven straight at home. The good news is with the Falcons done for the year and no other sports competition for a while in Atlanta, Philips Arena is filling up. The building erupted when Kyle Korver drilled Memphis with a late 3-pointer.

The “bad” news? Only three of those games are against teams from the West.


VIDEO: The Hawks handle the Grizzlies at Philips Arena

Morning shootaround — Jan. 7


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony says he’s not shutting it down yet | Reports: Seattle investors eyeing Hawks | Young likes Lakers’ ‘atmosphere of winning’ | Bucks’ Sanders explains his recent absences | Trade winds start to pick up

No. 1: Anthony ‘not shutting it down for the season yet’ – Debate has raged over the last week or so about whether or not New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony should stop playing this season to rest his sore knee. While the team may want Anthony to think about such a move, he’s not interested in doing that. In a video posted on Bleacher Report, Anthony says he plans to keep chugging along this season:

“I’m all right, I’m not shutting it down for the season yet, just trying to take some time to get it right. I know there’s a lot of fans out there that are kinda upset, kinda down on the team, kinda down on the players right now, kinda down on the situation, but I will say it will be greater later. Just be patient with the team, with the organization, with the journey, with the plan, with what we’re trying to create, what we’re trying to accomplish. Greatness don’t happen overnight, but that’s what we’re trying to build here.

“As far as me, I’m rehabbing. I’m around the clock getting treatment, therapy, trying to do what I got to do so I can be at my greatest.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses whether or not Carmelo Anthony should shut it down for the season

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Report: Agreement in place for Hawks to be on market

HANG TIME BIG CITY — After a tumultuous offseason and a brilliant start to the season, the Atlanta Hawks are now officially for sale, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore.

This news would seem to provide a path for a clean resolution to what has frequently been a complicated ownership situation. The Hawks are currently collectively owned by several groups, based in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York.

News of the Hawks being for sale first surfaced in September, when majority owner Bruce Levenson announced he would sell his stake in the team after sending a racially insensitive email to GM Danny Ferry two years earlier. The Levenson news came just days before the revelation that Ferry had made a racist statement on a conference call with the ownership group. Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence before the season began, and Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer assumed responsibility for basketball operations.

According to Vivlamore, the groups within the ownership group are now able to sell the entire franchise to whomever the new owner or owners will be. Writes Vivlamore:

The Washington-based group, led by controlling owner Bruce Levenson, announced in September that it would sell its 50.1 stake following the discovery of a racially inflammatory email that rocked the franchise. An independent investigation discovered an e-mail Levenson wrote in 2012 that included racist remarks about the fan base and game operations. Levenson’s partners Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman are also stakeholders in the original group known as the Atlanta Spirit.

Agreements are also in place for the Atlanta-based group of Michael Gearon Jr. and Sr., Rutherford Seydel and Beau Turner to sell its stake. The group owned a combined 32.3 percent of the franchise. In addition, the New York-based group, led by Steven Price, has agreed to sell its 17.6 percent stake.

The sale process has been on-going since September as the ownership groups worked on how much of the franchise would be made available of an organization with a tarnished image.

The team will be officially on the market next week, according to a league source. The Hawks have retained investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and Inner Circle Sports to handle the sale process. The firm will gather and vetting prospective buyers.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the franchise, the Hawks have begun the season 23-8 and are in second place in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks current ownership group, formerly known as Atlanta Spirit, purchased the Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena in 2004 from Turner Broadcasting. Within a year, a disagreement over a contract offer to free agent Joe Johnson devolved into a lawsuit between members of the group, with original member Steve Belkin eventually agreeing to sell his share. There were various reports through the years that the group was looking for outside investments, and in 2011 they sold the Thrashers to a group based in Winnipeg.

Also in 2011, they announced that they had reached an agreement to sell majority ownership in the Hawks to real estate developer and pizza magnate Alex Meruelo, who would have become the NBA’s first Hispanic owner. That deal eventually fell through due to reported financial concerns with Meruelo, and Atlanta Spirit announced the Hawks were no longer for sale.

In response to Vivlamore’s report, the Hawks told him in a statement:

James, Curry remain All-Star voting leaders

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The King still reigns.

In the latest NBA All-Star balloting results, released this morning, Cleveland’s LeBron James remains the leading overall vote-getter. James, who had 552,967 in the initial voting results, has 775,810 votes in the second balloting totals.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who was the leading Western Conference vote-getter in the first results, remains atop the Western Conference though just behind James in overall balloting, with 755,486 votes.

NBA All-Star 2015The top five players in each Conference remain unchanged in the second results. Kobe Bryant and Curry are the top guards in the Western Conference, with Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol the top three frontcourt players. Tim Duncan and James Harden are the two Western Conference players closest to moving into the starting five, with Duncan roughly 50,000 votes behind Marc Gasol, and Harden about 180,000 votes behind Kobe Bryant.

In the Eastern Conference, the only move among the starting five is a flip-flop between two starters. Chicago’s Pau Gasol, who was roughly 18,000 votes behind New York’s Carmelo Anthony in the first voting returns, has moved into second place among Eastern Conference forwards, with 372,109 votes to Anthony’s 365,449.

Chris Bosh is currently in fourth place among Eastern Conference forwards, about 70,000 votes behind Anthony for a starting spot.

John Wall and Dwyane Wade remain atop the Eastern Conference guards, with Kyrie Irving about 90,000 in third, about votes off the pace.

The biggest gainer overall is Portland’s Damian Lillard, who was eighth among Western guard in the first results, but has jumped to fifth in these second results, leapfrogging Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson and Rajon Rondo. Lillard, however, remains about 550,000 votes behind Bryant for a starting guard position.

The team most under-represented in regard to their record is the Atlanta Hawks, who currently have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 23-8, but their highest-ranked player in the second voting results is Paul Millsap, who is 13th among Eastern Conference forwards (34,751 votes).

This year, for the first time ever, fans have the power to vote for any active player in the NBA using the new online ballot. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The recently-debuted uniforms feature nods to all five boroughs of New York City.

Blogtable: Bulls bound for Finals?

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: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEOJimmy Butler has emerged as a go-to scorer for Chicago this season

> Chicago is on a roll and appears to be making a beeline to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Is this the season the Bulls return to the NBA Finals? If not, tell me who’s gonna stop them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThis is the best Bulls team since Michael Jordan retired for the second time, as far as depth and potential, so there’s no reason – on paper – that it shouldn’t get to The Finals. Cleveland, more than its general meshing, has a problem in Anderson Varejao‘s injury that might not get fixed until the offseason. Toronto, in postseason savvy, is a step behind Washington. And the Wizards, for all the confidence they gained last spring, would have trouble defending against this more-potent Chicago lineup. Atlanta? I respect the Hawks, but one-trick ponies have trouble in seven-game series. So the biggest question for Chicago remains Derrick Rose‘s long-term health and availability. Which means the “who” who might stop the Bulls must be … uh, trainer Jeff Tanaka? (Just kidding, Jeff)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With Jimmy Butler stepping up his game this season, the Bulls have an improved offense and appear to have the pieces. But their defense has lost some of its teeth and Derrick Rose’s continued health still nags. I’m not ready to make Chicago the favorite. Have to like what the Raptors have done with best record in the East even with DeMar DeRozan out. Most efficient offense in the league and no-nonsense bulldog point guard in Kyle Lowry, who won’t go down easy. And let’s not write off the Hawks as just being the same old Hawks.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThey were my pick at the start of the season to come out of the East, and to win the whole thing, so I’m not going to change now. Certainly not with the big jump from Jimmy Butler and the rejuvenated Pau Gasol. Rose’s health history obviously makes it something of a risk pick, and it is tough to push all my chips in with that medical chart, but, yes, the Bulls are the team to beat.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIf they stay healthy, the Bulls have pole position in the East. They’re not a perfect team, but they bring more size, experience, defense and coaching to the playoff table than anyone else. The Raptors and Wizards haven’t done anything yet, the Hawks are a few stars short of going deep into May, and let’s not get started about the Cavaliers. If Jimmy Butler we see now is the Jimmy Butler we’ll see in the spring, then the East is theirs to lose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The top four teams in the East – Toronto, Atlanta, Washington and Chicago – all have the potential to be a top-10 team on both ends of the floor. Toronto’s depth gives them an edge in the regular season, but Chicago — with its combination of talent (especially on the frontline), system, experience and coaching — is best set up to win in the playoffs. Health and durability through heavy regular-season minutes will always be a concern and it would be tough to pick them against the field, but the Bulls should be the slight favorite to be representing the Eastern Conference in The Finals.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAll of the components are there for the Bulls to finally make that long awaited return trip to The Finals. The Cavaliers were supposed to be the team that could roadblock the Bulls, but they aren’t that team in their current state. The Wizards have the talent to give Chicago a major test, yet they still cannot boast as deep or as balanced a roster as the Bulls can when fully healthy. The Raptors and Hawks would provide a stern playoff test, but both would come up short in three extremely important categories (size, seasoning and star power). The Bulls have everything you need, including Derrick Rose in uniform and not street clothes. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows that his team’s time is now. Chicago’s championship window is open now and it must take advantage of it.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe biggest concern for the Bulls is their own ligaments, tendons and muscles. Given the recent history of injuries among their best players, this is no small threat. If they are healthy, then they are it in the East. If they’re vulnerable physically, then the race becomes a scramble with anyone currently in the top five (plus Miami, which still has hope of pulling things together) having a shot at reaching the NBA Finals. Whereupon that team will be destroyed in five games or less.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I will recuse myself from answering the Atlanta Hawks because of inherent legacy fandom. (Even though I think the Hawks could knock off Chicago this season.) But I will say this: Why is everyone writing off the Cavaliers? I mean, I understand that it’s fun to watch a burgeoning empire stumble out of the gates, but the story this week about the team possibly not believing in Blatt reminded me so much of the first months of Erik Spoelstra’s tenure in Miami, when sources said the team may not have been buying into what he was selling. But the Heat stuck with it and I think we can all agree that things worked out pretty well there. The Cavs may have posted more misses than hits to start the season, but I think it’s short-sighted to write them off today. Cleveland still should be running with the Bulls by the end of the season.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 31


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe clears up why he passes or shoots | Love misses game vs. Hawks | Report: Bucks to meet with Martin | Pistons’ Drummond hitting his stride

No. 1: Kobe clarifies his view on passing vs. shooting — If you missed it last night in Denver, Kobe Bryant put on a show en route to his 21st career triple-double (and second of 2014-15). Bryant amassed 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and, after that stellar performance, decided to chat with the media a bit about the difference between his scoring and passing personas. The Los Angeles TimesMike Bresnahan has more:

Kobe Bryant had a lecture for media members as they surrounded his locker.

He had just accumulated the 21st triple-double of his career, a 23-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist endeavor Tuesday against Denver. Time to wag the finger, Dikembe Mutombo style.

He wasn’t angry at all — the Lakers had just won, 111-103 — but he firmly batted away a question about his passing vs. scoring personas.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard for you guys to understand that. No, I really don’t,” he said. “Like, it’s fascinating to me. When [teammates] are open, they make shots, it’s easy. I sit back.

“When they don’t and we’re down 15 or something points, I try to get it going. Sometimes I make them. Sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, you think it’s because I’m not passing the ball. It’s really that simple. You guys have a very hard time understanding that for some reason.”

Since returning from a three-game rest, Bryant has taken 21 shots while handing out 18 assists. Before he went on his week-long sabbatical, he was averaging 4.6 shots for every assist.

He said he spent some time analyzing his game while he was sidelined. He promised to not try to blow past people anymore. He wanted to get to his spots in the post and back people down.

And, sure, be more of a distributor.

It was easy to believe after watching the last two games, especially Tuesday.


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Kobe Bryant’s triple-double vs. Denver

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Morning shootaround — Dec. 27


VIDEO: Check out all the highlights from Friday’s action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Josh Smith makes winning debut for Rockets | Magic rouses LeBron, Cavs take win | Watch out Kobe, here comes Dirk | Bucks looking for different advantages

No. 1: Josh Smith makes winning debut for Rockets — There’s no place like home for the holidays … as long as you have a home. After being waived earlier this week by the Detroit Pistons, Josh Smith agreed to a free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets. Friday night he made his debut for the Rockets in Memphis against the Western Conference power Grizzlies, tallying 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in Houston’s 117-111 overtime win. As Jonathan Feigen writes in the Houston Chronicle, Smith provided the Rockets exactly what they were looking for when they signed him…

The Rockets had no intention of relying so heavily on forward Josh Smith with the ink on his contract barely dry.

They did not even intend to play him so long into the night.

The Rockets knew they wanted Smith the minute the Detroit Pistons cut him loose.

They needed him as soon as they plugged him into the rotation.

With the Grizzlies defending Smith with Vince Carter, the Rockets went to him again and again down the stretch Friday night, not only helping key a comeback to a 117-111 overtime win but offering a glimpse of the sort of talent they had plugged into the mix.

“They think big of my talents,” Smith said. “This is a team that instills confidence in all of its players.”

With the two-season disaster in Detroit rapidly behind him, Smith had 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in his Rockets debut, tacking on the game-winning free throws in overtime when he grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds and then knocked down a pair of free throws for a four-point lead.

***

No. 2: Magic rouses LeBron, Cavs take win — The Orlando Magic are still in the nascent stages of their rebuilding plan, and as such still have lessons to learn. Last night, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without an injured Kyrie Irving, the Magic learned an important truth: You come at the King, you best not miss. With Orlando leading the Cavs 64-62 in the third quarter, Magic forward Tobias Harris and LeBron James got tangled under the basket and exchanged some heated words. Whoops. As Chris Haynes writes, Harris woke a sleeping giant, helping push Cleveland to the win…

James looked out of sorts. Disinterested. He had three turnovers in the first 10 minutes.

Orlando was up 64-62 in the third quarter and a coasting James was 5-for-13 from the field. The Magic was on pace to steal one. Harris, acting as the catalyst, had 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

Then things suddenly changed.

Midway through the third, Harris was facing up James on the baseline and to create some separation; he flung his elbows around in the vicinity of James’ face. James backed up to avoid the connection, but he took exception and said something to Harris.

The two jawed back and forth at one another and had to be separated. While walking away, Harris yelled, “Stop flopping.”

“He barked up the wrong tree,” the Cavs’ Dion Waiters said of Harris after the game.

A sleeping giant was awakening.

Two possessions later, James stole a crosscourt pass and shot out on a one-man break. Orlando’s Elfrid Payton managed to get a hold of James from the back and James took him along for the ride to finish the left-handed layup, plus the foul.

The four-time MVP proceeded to trot past Orlando’s bench to have a few words before taking his foul shots. Just like that, James was awakened.

“That’s the best player in the world,” the Cavs’ Kevin Love said. “That’s something you don’t want to do.”

From that point on James dominated Harris, going 5-for-7 in the final 17 minutes. He scored 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth. After that alteration with James, Harris only scored one point. He finished with 17 points on 6-for-12.

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No. 1: Watch out Kobe, here comes Dirk — Much was made earlier this season of Kobe Bryant‘s pursuit of Michael Jordan and the third spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Last night there was another repositioning of the list, though a few spots down from Kobe and MJ. Dallas’s Dirk Nowitzki moved into 8th on the all-time scoring list, passing Elvin Hayes in a 102-98 Dallas win over the Lakers. As Dirk joked after the game, he’s now got Kobe squarely in his sights, writes ESPNDallas.com’s Tim McMahon

“I told [Kobe] that I was going to catch him,” Nowitzki said after his Dallas Mavericks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 102-98 with Bryant resting and watching from the bench. “But that’s going to be tough.”

Nowitzki now stands eighth among scorers in NBA history, five spots behind Bryant, after passing Hall of Fame forward Elvin Hayes on Friday night.

Nowitzki needed six points entering the game to pass Hayes, who finished his career with 27,313 points, and did so on a midrange jumper off a feed from Monta Ellis on the opening possession of the second half.

Nowitzki, who has been battling a stomach illness for about two weeks, finished the game with 14 points in 24 minutes, giving him 27,322 points in his career.

“I’m fortunate to have great teammates to put me in position to keep scoring, even as I’m older,” said Nowitzki, a 36-year-old who has spent his entire 17-year career with the Mavs. “It’s been fun. Still competing at a high level and hopefully will win a lot more games these last couple of years, which really means more to me right now than all the points. But it’s definitely been a fun ride.”

Hayes is the second top-10 all-time scorer passed by Nowitzki this season. Nowitzki bumped Hakeem Olajuwon to No. 10 on the list in a Nov. 11 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Nowitzki, who is averaging 18.5 points per game this season, likely will pass Moses Malone (27,409 career points) in early January to move into seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

With 32,365 points and counting, Bryant is almost certainly out of reach for Nowitzki. However, Nowitzki should pass Shaquille O’Neal (28,596 points) next season and has a chance to move into the top five by passing Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) before he retires.

***

No. 1: Bucks looking for different advantages — The Milwaukee Bucks were purchased by a collection of investors led by some New York financial titans in 2013, and since then they’ve been attempting to build a stronger infrastructure for the franchise, in some ways by utilizing some creative thinking. One way they’ve done that: Spending money on people who do things NBA teams have traditionally undervalued, or perhaps not valued at all. For instance, as Kevin Randall writes in the New York Times, the Bucks recently hired a “facial coding expert”…

So in May, the team hired Dan Hill, a facial coding expert who reads the faces of college prospects and N.B.A. players to determine if they have the right emotional attributes to help the Bucks.

The approach may sound like palm reading to some, but the Bucks were so impressed with Hill’s work before the 2014 draft that they retained him to analyze their players and team chemistry throughout this season.

“We spend quite a bit of time evaluating the players as basketball players and analytically,” said David Morway, Milwaukee’s assistant general manager, who works for the owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. “But the difficult piece of the puzzle is the psychological side of it, and not only psychological, character and personality issues, but also team chemistry issues.”

Hill contends that faces betray our true emotions and can predict intentions, decisions and actions. He employs the psychologist Paul Ekman’s widely accepted FACS, or Facial Action Coding System, to decipher which of the 43 muscles in the face are working at any moment. Seven core emotions are identified: happiness, surprise, contempt, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

Before the 2014 draft, Hill spent 10 hours with Milwaukee’s team psychologist, Ramel Smith, watching video of various college prospects and picking apart the psyches of potential picks. The Bucks had the No. 2 selection over all as well as three second-round picks, one of which they traded.

A vexing player at the top of the draft was Dante Exum, a point guard from Australia who was projected to be taken among the top four selections. Smith had done player personality analyses but wanted to validate them by having Hill present his player assessments first. The Bucks selected Jabari Parker with their top pick, and Exum fell to Utah at No. 5.

“Nothing against Exum, but emotional resiliency, stability and an immediate, assured presence were all key considerations in support of selecting Parker,” Hill said.

Until he sustained a severe knee injury on Dec. 15, Parker was among the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds. Exum is averaging 4.9 points and 2.0 assists coming off the bench for the Jazz.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jared Dudley couldn’t miss last night in Atlanta. Like, literally, he couldn’t miss … Kenneth Faried was basically unstoppable for Denver last night … After passing him on the all-time scoring list, Kobe Bryant said Michael Jordan urged him to now go after Karl Malone … Did Kevin Garnett play his final game in Boston? … Quincy Acy got a one-game suspension for his Christmas Day scuffle with John WallDajuan Wagner is in the early stages of mounting a comeback

Reports: Josh Smith to sign with Houston Rockets

HANG TIME HQJosh Smith, a versatile 6-foot-9 power forward recently waived by the Detroit Pistons, will sign with the Houston Rockets when he clears waivers, according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarwoski:

Josh Smith has agreed to sign a deal with the Houston Rockets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Detroit Pistons on Monday released Smith with two years and $26 million left on his contract, unable to find a trade partner and unwilling to move forward with him on the roster.

Smith will likely sign a deal with the Rockets for the biannual exception of $2 million once he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. His agents, Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather, informed the Rockets of the decision on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.

The Rockets believe Smith can step into the starting power forward spot.

For the Rockets, the addition of Smith closes a several-year pursuit of the talented but enigmatic power forward and moves him onto a frontline with his childhood friend, center Dwight Howard. The Rockets had a history with Smith, including a free-agent pursuit in 2013 that factored significantly into Smith’s choice of Houston over the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.

Smith signed with Detroit in the summer of 2013 after nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. In just over one season in Detroit, Smith averaged 15.5 points per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game. He shot just over 41 percent from the floor, and 29 percent from the three point line. The Pistons waived Smith with two full seasons and $26 million left on his contract.

“We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future,” said Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy. “As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced. In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person.”

Since being waived, Smith was linked to several teams, including Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers. In Houston, Smith will play alongside his former AAU teammate and close friend Howard.

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard has more on what influenced Smith’s decision:

Wanting to play for a winning team with a chance to win the title, Josh Smith has decided to join the Houston Rockets, sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

The veteran forward, let go Monday by the Detroit Pistons less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract, cleared waivers Wednesday.

The Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies all had been listed as potential suitors for Smith’s services.

As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported late Tuesday, Houston ‎assured Smith that he would start if he joined the Rockets, which essentially clinched his decision.

Sources said Wednesday that Smith made it known that he would only consider teams that would guarantee him a starting spot, which essentially made it a choice between Houston and Miami.