Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Schroder’

Blogtable: Which two teams are most intriguing in the East?

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: Intriguing East teams? | Intriguing West teams? | Taking slow approach with rookie

> As the start of Eastern Conference training camps near, which two teams are you most intrigued by? And what depth chart battle/storyline/offseason move(s) by those teams will you be watching most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Two? Thought you said there wouldn’t be math on this. Well, I’m curious about a pair of East also-rans, New York and Milwaukee. The Knicks have undeniable buzz now, and I’m curious to see (in order of intrigue) how “back” Derrick Rose really is in his new surroundings as he eyes next summer’s free agency, how high of a priority Kristaps Porzingis‘ development remains on New York’s to-do list and to what degree Joakim Noah can put the paddles to that team’s collective heart. The Bucks, meanwhile, need significant bounce-back because they messed up the ramp-up of their rebuilding (you aren’t supposed to go from 15 victories to 41 to 33, especially when healthier and sporting an alleged big free-agent “get” in Greg Monroe). Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s nine-figure contract extension signed this week is the latest step toward a season that’s showtime now rather than any more dress rehearsals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Celtics and the Magic, for different reasons. (Among the many possible answers.) Boston has a chance to push into the top three and be in good position if the Cavaliers falter. Brad Stevens is a leading preseason candidate for Coach of the Year. Orlando won’t play at the same level, but several offseason moves (especially up front, and hiring Frank Vogel as coach) definitely qualifies as intriguing. The Magic sorting through options and now without Victor Oladipo should be a good watch wherever they are in the standings. The depth-chart battle among Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka will get the most scrutiny.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Bulls and Knicks. And not exactly a coincidence. The defections of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah this summer will have a measurable impact on each team; we just don’t know whether it’s positive or negative and to what degree. Both teams will give off some hints during camp about their identity and what we might expect at least for the first month or two. The Bulls need to address their power forward spot with either Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis, while the Rose-Courtney Lee dynamic will bear watching.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Indiana and Philadelphia. The Pacers could see a boost in their offense with the additions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, along with the development of Myles Turner. But their defense is likely going to take a big step backward with the departures of George Hill, Ian Mahinmi and Frank Vogel. Can Nate McMillan find the right balance, and how much longer will Monta Ellis be around? And of course, it will be fascinating to see just how good the Sixers’ trio of rookies — Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons — is and how Brett Brown is going to work out the frontcourt minutes while he still has all those guys plus Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Chicago Bulls and their three-alpha attack should provide for a fascinating chemistry experiment for Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff. We all know what Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler bring as individuals. How they mesh together and whether or not they can make the Bulls a top-four contender in the conference playoff chase remain the outstanding questions regarding this trio. The Boston Celtics swung for the fences in free agency and came away with a seemingly perfect fit in Al Horford, a veteran center/power forward who should stabilize things in the frontcourt immediately. He helped make Atlanta one of the top teams in the conference the past two seasons. I’m curious to see if Horford can do the same for the Celtics now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Heat have enough talent to contend for homecourt advantage in the East — if they can resolve their many issues, including the absence of Dwyane Wade’s leadership, the medical uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s future, the chemistry between Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, and the potential of Goran Dragic to become a go-to star, which at age 30 he must fulfill this year. This looks like an entirely different franchise because Wade is no longer there to accept the responsibility of making things right. It was his team and he took it personally when the team struggled. How do they replace that level of authority? The other fascinating team is Indiana, which will be playing in a hurry after surrounding Paul George with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. How quickly can 20-year-old Myles Turner emerge as their No. 2 star while creating mismatches at center? Another intriguing addition is backup center Al Jefferson, whose low-post game could enable Indiana’s second unit to change and control the pace.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Atlanta, for one. I know bringing in Dwight Howard to replace Al Horford was made with an eye on the box office, but what kind of result will it have on the win column? I also wonder if enough attention is being paid to the change at the point, with Dennis Schroder replacing Jeff Teague and being asked to take on a starting role. Another Eastern Conference team I think may be interesting is Orlando. I’ve always admired Frank Vogel‘s ability to get a team to play a cohesive style of play. The Magic are still staffed with a lot of youth, but I wonder if Ibaka playing a more central role will get him back to being the dominant player he was a few years back?

Morning shootaround — Sept. 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Shaq: Simmons a ‘LeBron-type player’ | Payne on mend for Thunder | Schroder embraces bigger role on Hawks

No. 1: Shaq calls Simmons a ‘LeBron-type player’ — As a Hall of Fame player and today as a TNT analyst, Shaquille O’Neal is never one to shy away from a bold proclamation. He’s also got a lot of pride in his alma mater, LSU, and will talk up a player from there from time to time. O’Neal tapped both of those wells as he gave his thoughts on the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons, during an interview at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com:

Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as one of the best to have ever played the game. He has solidified his place in basketball history, and now he is eyeing the next generation of potential stars in the incoming rookie class.

“I don’t know all of them, but I know my guy’s going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons,” O’Neal said last week in Springfield, Mass.

O’Neal said he has paid attention to only the top two picks, Simmons and Brandon Ingram. He got to know Simmons’ game before he was drafted by the Sixers when Simmons attended his alma mater, LSU.

O’Neal recognized Simmons’ multidimensional skillset, from scoring to ball handling to rebounding, which sets him apart as a 6-foot-10 point-forward. Even though Simmons played just one season in college, that was enough time for O’Neal to draw comparisons between him and one of the most talented in the NBA.

“He’s a LeBron-type player,” O’Neal said. “What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better — passing the ball, doing the small things — and Ben is that type of player.”

O’Neal defended Simmons’ collegiate performance and expects improvements from the 20-year-old in the NBA.

“He took a lot of flack, especially at LSU with not really taking over games,” O’Neal said. “But he’s young. He’ll get to that.”

Simmons will be a centerpiece of the Sixers system this season. He brings intangibles, versatility and a basketball IQ that is already beyond his years.

“When it comes to other aspects of the game, he’s very, very intelligent,” O’Neal said. “He plays the game very well.”

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Aug. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Harden organizes players-only camp | Kaminsky working to improve his defense | Sefolosha: Hawks have ‘different dynamic’ now

No. 1: Harden organizes Rockets’ players-only camp — Star players on NBA teams are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, with overall leadership of the team being perhaps their most important job to succeed at. As such, many standout players — from the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday to Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — are organizing players-only workouts and mini-camps before NBA training camps open in late September. According to Marc Berman of Fox26Houston.com, James Harden is doing likewise for the Houston Rockets:

For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.

Last September Harden had the Rockets players together for a minicamp in Los Angeles.

“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader.

“He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”

Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.

Eric Gordon said the Rockets players had a “good group” for players-only workouts around the same time as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

“It was just everybody getting together,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a real structured thing.

“It was just guys working out together.”

Brewer is looking forward to getting together with his teammates.

“I’ve got to go down there with the fellas,” Brewer said. “It’s a good thing. We got to get together. Get to know each other, team camaraderie. You need that, especially now days the way the NBA is. A lot of good players, but you got to be a team.

“We want to send a message that we’re ready to go. We’re going to work our butts off. All the guys have been working hard this summer. Last year was a year that we didn’t like. Everybody has a bitter taste in their mouth. So we can’t wait to get started.”

*** (more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cuban: Mavericks got “lucky” with free agent Plan B | Careful challenging Michael Jordan, even now | Waiting paid off for Lue, Cavaliers

No. 1: Cuban: Mavericks got “lucky” with free agent Plan B — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has never been one to hold his tongue in matters of business, basketball or politics. So when he talks about the Mavericks getting “lucky” with their free agent contingency plans this summer, he means what he says. The Dallas Morning News provides some highlights of Cuban’s recent discussion with ESPN Radio 103.3 in Dallas, where he discussed the departure of Chandler Parsons, the acquisition of Harrison Barnes and more:

Chuck Cooperstein: Unfortunately the Plan A [in free agency] didn’t work out the way you had in mind, didn’t work out the way you hoped it would. Even you knew that it was going to be an uphill struggle to make it work. Yet again, you’ve been able to sort of cobble something together that looks just a little bit more than interesting.

Mark Cuban: Yeah, you know I keep a whole trunk full of rabbits so I can put them in my hat. We got lucky. There’s not other way to say it. We knew we were long shots with both Hassan [Whiteside] and with Mike Conley. We knew Mike Conley wasn’t going to turn down the largest contract in NBA history. But we also know that it’s not just about the short-term, it’s the long-term. We wanted to introduce the Mavericks, our style and our organization to both of them because you never know when they’re going to be available in a trade. You never know next free agency. So many things can happen over a period of time in an NBA.

Look what happened with D-Will [Deron Williams]. I think our presentation to him from coach and Donnie [Nelson] in particular really set the groundwork for him understanding who we are. On one hand, we didn’t expect to get them to come to the Mavs, but we still think it served a function. From there Harrison [Barnes] reached out to me at 12:01 like, ‘Dude I want to come there. You’re my first pick, my only pick.’ I went back-and-forth with him like, ‘Yeah, we’d love you too but you’re a restricted free agent. Here’s our course of action. Here’s what we’re going to do.’ I laid it all out for him. He was like, ‘Okay, we’ll see what happens but you guys are my team.’ Fortunately it turned out the way it did.

Matt Mosley: Mark, why did you essentially pick Harrison Barnes over Chandler Parsons? Parsons ends up getting very similar, if not the same money, from Memphis. Y’all had a great relationship. I saw quotes recently [where] you said, ‘It continues to be a great relationship.’ Did it simply come down to the knee, the medical, as comparing Barnes to Parsons or do you just feel like maybe Barnes has more upside?

Mark Cuban: Can’t go into any details, but I’ll just say it wasn’t a basketball issue. Chandler obviously is a very, very skilled player. There’s a lot of great things to his game. But he’s, in essence, a different player from Harrison. Harrison is longer, more athletic, younger. Just like Chandler really didn’t get a chance to have his game blossom when he was with the Rockets. He just showed glimpses of it because of Dwight [Howard] and James [Harden] being there. I think Harrison was kind of in the same role. I think we’re going to give Harrison the opportunity and I know he’s excited about the opportunity to really shine and be a featured guy for us.

Chuck Cooperstein: I don’t know if you saw the ESPN piece…about the summer ranking of the Western Conference teams in which they had the Mavericks ninth. I said something, ‘Well, here we go again.’ Right?

Mark Cuban: You never know until you know. That’s why we play the games. If you look at last year you look at New Orleans, you look at Houston, you just don’t know. I would have told you last year, and I think I did tell you guys, that we’re about eight sprained ankles away from being a top contender. Now we’re probably only three, maybe four. You just don’t know. Look at Portland and what happened there. You just don’t know.

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — July 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Team USA continues rolling | Wade, Bulls a convenient fit | Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs

No. 1: Team USA continues rolling — With the Olympics now a week away, Team USA continued their exhibition schedule last night in Chicago, where they squared off against Venezuela. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Team USA managed to overcome poor shooting to still coast to an easy 80-45 win…

A miserable shooting night by both teams kept highlights to a minimum, but the USA Basketball men’s national team beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday night at United Center.

A sellout crowd eager to see both the Chicago Bulls’ Olympic representative, Jimmy Butler, and newest acquisition, Dwyane Wade — watching from the front row after his Bulls introductory news conference earlier in the day — did most of its noise-making during introductions.

At least, that’s how it went until DeAndre Jordan‘s alley-oop throwdown of a pass from Kevin Durant gave them something to roar about, putting Team USA up 62-37 with 6:47 left. Then Butler threw one down with 1:47 left to satisfy the locals.

Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson scored 13 points each for Team USA.

Heading into that final quarter, though, the teams had combined to shoot 29-of-104 (27.9 percent). The Venezuela team was pesky enough defensively to disrupt Team USA’s offense, which had purred along shooting 49.8 percent in its first three tuneups.

The Americans won those games — the opener against Argentina, followed by two against China — by an average of 45.3 points, outrebounding those opponents by an average of 21.0. By halftime Friday, they were on pace in both those categories — leading by 18, with a 37-12 edge on the boards — but their scoring was way down due to abysmal shooting.

Their 36 points through two quarters came the hard way: 12-of-40 on field-goal attempts, including 2-of-18 on 3-pointers. The NBA stars even missed six of their 16 free throws.

The Venezuelans hung tough deep into the first quarter, trailing 13-12, before USA ran off the game’s next 12 points across the quarter break. Venezuela’s John Cox, who led all scorers with 12 points in the half, got his crew as close as 28-18 before Team USA closed the half with eight unanswered points.

***

No. 2: Wade, Bulls a convenient fit — One of the more surprising signings of the NBA free agency period was Dwyane Wade leaving the only team he had ever played for, the Miami Heat, in order to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Wade met with the media in Chicago on Friday, and Wade said that this was not about money as much as it was a return to where he watched the Bulls play as a kid…

Wade was introduced Friday — wait, that’s the wrong word for one of the NBA’s most familiar faces, so let’s say reacquainted with Chicago media at a news conference at the Bulls downtown practice facility. The theme of the 45-minute “presser” was hometown-kid-returns, and strictly speaking, there’s no denying the truth of that. Wade was born in Chicago, grew up in the south suburb of Robbins, and went to Richards H.S. in neighboring Oak Lawn.

But he left Chicagoland after graduating to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee. After leading that school to the Final Four, the 6-foot-4 guard was drafted fifth overall in 2003 by Miami. And over the past 13 years, Wade established himself as the face, heart and soul of the Heat, stacking up 12 All-Star appearances alongside those three Larry O’Brien trophies.

Because Wade’s Miami teams were in direct conflict with the Bulls for much of his career, his roots mattered less to the fans at United Center than the city and logos on his uniform. He routinely was booed and, more than once, rather awkwardly, he was cheered when he fell or was knocked to the floor and it appeared he might be hurt too badly to continue. Wade even let on how that stung, coming in the building where he once had dreamed of playing and winning.

That was the dream-come-true of which he spoke Friday.

“I’m a Chicago guy, Chicago kid. I grew up here,” Wade said, before a fleet of cameras, a gang of reporters and lots of family. “I remember sitting on the floor when I could sit Indian-style and watching the Chicago Bulls win their first championship. I was 9 years old.

“We had this little-bitty TV — it’s about as big as an iPhone now — I remember looking at it and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be. I want to be a champion and that’s who I want to do it with.’ My dream of becoming an NBA player started here in my hometown.”

No one wants to be overly cynical, so if Wade really is scratching an itch — and maybe extending his brand to another major market for the growing conglomerate that he and many of his peers have become — by playing next season in Chicago, good for him.

That doesn’t paper over suspicions, though, that he signed with the Bulls out of spite when the Heat and president Pat Riley didn’t make him a higher priority when free agency opened July 1. Or that the Bulls had ulterior motives in their own right besides landing a player whom they’d had in their sights twice before.

Wade tamped down a few questions Friday about the breakdown in his negotiations with the Heat. Reminded that Riley later expressed — sincerely or not — some regrets that he hadn’t been more involved in the talks, Wade said he had been fine hashing out particulars with owner Mickey Arison and son Nick.

“This year, the direction and focus for that organization in Miami — which I have nothing but respect for and love for — was a little different than it has been in years past,” Wade said. “My focus and direction was a little different than it’s been in years past. … I had a contract offer in Miami I could have took. I decided not to take it. It was my decision to be selfish and live out a dream of mine.”

“So let’s clear up the notion that Pat Riley orchestrated me getting out of Miami because he didn’t offer me the money I wanted,” Wade added. “This was not a money deal for me.”

***

No. 3: Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs — After his head coaching gig ended with the New Orleans Pelicans, last summer Monty Williams joined the Oklahoma City Thunder as their lead assistant coach. But tragedy struck midway through the season, when Williams’ wife was killed in a traffic accident. Williams took off the rest of the season to focus on their five children, but he recently returned to work with USA Basketball, and as ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, Williams is expected to return to the NBA next season as an assistant for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.

The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.

One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.

Williams’ in-laws live in San Antonio and have been assisting him with the couple’s five children in the wake of Ingrid Williams’ death after a Feb. 9 collision in which a car crossed over onto the wrong side of the road and struck her vehicle head-on.

The children also have been traveling with Williams during Team USA’s domestic stops on the road to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team has played exhibition games in Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Chicago entering the final warm-up game in Houston against Nigeria on Monday.

The start of USA Basketball’s preparations for the Rio Olympics on July 18 in Las Vegas marked Williams’ return to the sport after five months away in the wake of the accident. In a SportsCenter interview with Hannah Storm that aired Friday, Williams said he’s “so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

“I’ve only had peace about a few things,” Williams told Storm. “I knew I had to take care of my kids and stop coaching, but also knew that I wanted to be a part of USA Basketball, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

“I can’t wait to get back and start coaching. I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to. My kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back.”

Last season was Williams’ first as the lead assistant in Oklahoma City under Thunder coach Billy Donovan. Williams previously posted a record of 173-221 in five seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. After the Thunder’s seven-game exit to Golden State in the Western Conference finals this postseason, Donovan confirmed that Williams would not be returning to the Thunder bench.

Williams got his start in coaching under Popovich as a Spurs intern in 2004-05 before making his debut as an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reflecting on the accident that claimed his wife’s life, Williams told Storm, “I got the call that nobody wants to get. And I knew when I was talking to my daughter, because she answered the phone, I knew at that moment that my life was going to change. I can’t explain it, but I knew that everything was going to be different. I didn’t know what was going on at the hospital; I just knew that my life was going to change. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. I just felt that in my heart like this phone call was different.

“It’s one of those things you never get rid of. You never forget where you were. You never forget what you were doing. It’s the phone call you don’t want anybody to ever get. Certainly [it] could’ve broken me to the point of quitting. But God and his graciousness has given me the strength and good people to help us go forward.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Dennis Schröder joined this week’s Hang Time Podcast … The Warriors will reportedly offer JaVale McGee a chance to make the team in training camp … Nets guard Greivis Vasquez has withdrawn from the Olympics and the Venezuelan National Team … Jarrett Jack says he’s about a month away from returning to full-contact workouts

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 242) Featuring Dennis Schroder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Three years into his NBA career and one thing is clear, Dennis Schroder has arrived.

An exciting change-of-pace backup to All-Star Jeff Teague with the Atlanta Hawks, Schroder takes over for Teague now on a revamped Hawks team that traded Teague and lost All-Star center Al Horford to Boston in free agency. The Hawks new look does include hometown big man Dwight Howard, once the most dominant big man in the league.

Ask any fan or pundit and they’ll likely debate the biggest risk, Schroder moving into a starting role or the Hawks betting that Howard still has dominant big man juice in his body.

But know this, Schroder is convinced he’s ready for prime time. He’s been clear about his ambitions from the moment he made the transition from his native Germany to the NBA

Hawks coach and team president Mike Budenholzer is also a believer. He’s the one who signed off on the trading Teague to Indiana and opening up the space for Schroder to ascend to the starting job (Bud also wisely signed veteran Jarrett Jack this summer to serve as Schroder’s backup).

The results of these changes will determine just how wise a move it was to make these moves now. Will the Hawks remain among the Eastern Conference playoff elite? Will Schroder and Howard energize a unit that has done nothing but roll on Budenholzer’s watch?

We dig deep with Schroder on that and much more on Episode 242 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.

– 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.

***

Report: Teague, Hill, pick swapped in three-team deal

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks are all trying to solve their point guard issues on the eve of Thursday night’s Draft, engaging in a reported three-team deal that would send Hawks All-Star Jeff Teague home to the Pacers, Pacers veteran George Hill to Utah and the No. 12 pick the Jazz own to the Hawks.

The proposed deal, first reported by The Vertical, cannot be finalized until July, for salary cap purposes.

Teague’s departure would indicate the Hawks are ready to turn over their starting point guard spot to Dennis Schroder. The Pacers, under new coach Nate McMillan, would have a homegrown product (Teague starred at Pike High School in Indianapolis) to pair with All-NBA forward Paul George. Pacers boss Larry Bird decided the franchise needed a new leader after this season, replacing Frank Vogel with McMillan, and clearly wants a younger and more dynamic floor leader for his team.

The Jazz, who have struggled to find the right fit at the position, would turn things over to Hill, who helped the Pacers to back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals while playing for his hometown team, in hopes that the veteran can stabilize a position of need for the franchise as they continue to chase a playoff berth.

Teague’s departure has been rumored for months. His name came up repeatedly in the run up to February’s trade deadline but the Hawks never pulled the trigger on any deals. This allows him a chance to continue his career in a more familiar environment and with an organization he grew up watching and rooting for. It also removes him from a contentious situation, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer inherited Teague when he took over and Schroder was drafted on his watch.

Teague earned his All-Star nod during the 2014-15 season, when the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games, reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time and placed four players on the All-Star team; Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Al Horford (an unrestricted free agent July 1).

 

Hawks at crossroads with roster

ATLANTA — Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to talk about it in the immediate aftermath of a second straight season-ending sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Al Horford wanted a little bit of time as well, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent wanted at least a day to process his thoughts about the Atlanta Hawks’ season and his future, before making any public comments.

It’s understandable. The wounds of the way the Hawks were dismantled this time were still fresh.

But another day or two won’t change the facts. As good as these Hawks have been the past two seasons under Budenholzer, the coach and president of basketball operations, they’re simply not good enough to deal with the Eastern Conference standard-bearer.

The Hawks are at a crossroads with their current roster and nowhere is that more apparent than with Horford, who will command a five-year, maximum salary on the open market this summer. Horford’s arrival as the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft signaled a transformative time for the Hawks, at the time one of the league’s perennial doormat franchises.

They own the longest playoff streak in the Eastern Conference with nine consecutive trips, second only to the San Antonio Spurs. Yet they are no closer to reaching a championship level right now than they were after Horford’s rookie season, when they pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in a first-round series.

Continuity has been the hallmark for the Hawks, since before Budenholzer took over, with Horford as the centerpiece. He’s an All-Star with an impeccable work ethic and a sterling reputation off the court. But he’s played out of position, at center, for majority of his nine seasons and would likely have to continue to do so if he stays here in Atlanta.

So do you retool or rebuild, with a decision on Horford providing an opportunity go in whichever direction Budenholzer chooses?

“Our season just ended minutes ago,” Budenholzer said. “At the appropriate time, we’ll sit down and we’ll discuss. I know we feel strongly about our group. We have a great group to work with player-wise, coaching and front office…at the appropriate time, we’ll take a look and we’ll discuss all those things. We love our group.”

Loving your group doesn’t change the bottom line. They’ve only been able to go so far as presently constituted. Even with an accomplished group led by Horford and fellow All-Star Paul Millsap, who re-signed with the Hawks last summer, aging veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver and point guard Jeff Teague, there is a ceiling with this group that doesn’t suggest that a great leap in production is looming. Kent Bazemore stepped into a starting role this season and shined, setting himself up for a nice payday of his own this summer as an unrestricted free agent.

So Budenholzer and his front office staff have ask themselves some hard questions about what they have to work with going forward. Is this a core group capable of escaping the logjam of teams behind Cleveland in the conference playoff chase? Do you stick with Teague at point guard or go with the younger and streakier Dennis Schroder? And if they’ve lacked a true go-to-guy, a bona fide superstar to lean on at crunch time, is this the summer to scrap the current program and chase a big name like Kevin Durant, the prize of this summer’s free agent crop?

Horford talked passionately about his love for the Hawks, the city and its fans and the way he and his family have been embraced from the start. You don’t dig in the way he has, serve as an agent of change for nearly a decade, and not develop deep ties.

“It means a lot,” Horford said of his affinity for Atlanta. “I’ve set up here with my family. We all live here. We live here in the summer. We live here year-round. I’m very grateful for all the people here. They have taken me in from the very first day, even though I was a Gator. They loved me. I really love the city.”

Love has nothing to do with the business of free agency, for either side.

But he’ll have suitors from around the league this summer, some that will no doubt offer the opportunity for him to shift roles and operate in his natural position.

He won’t be able to do that in Atlanta as long as Millsap is entrenched at power forward. The Hawks need a significant upgrade in size, scoring and someone to control the action at crunch time. The system they’ve used the past three seasons has worked well, sharing the load amongst a quality group of veteran players.

But as the Hawks have learned so painfully well at the hands of a deeper and much more star-filled Cleveland team the past two seasons, you can only go so far with the “system.”

Blogtable: Best bench left in the playoffs is ______?

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: Who made your All-NBA teams? | Which remaining playoff team has the best bench? |
Who should Mavs pursue in offseason?


> Of the eight playoff teams still standing, who has the best bench? And who’s the most important player off that bench?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: No sense overthinking this. Golden State has the best bench, versatile, deep, talented and at peace with the team’s pecking order. The other teams (most obviously San Antonio) have depth that works for them, well enough at least to be playing in May, and there are individuals among them who could be herded together to match or top the Warriors’ crew. But I’ll take Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights and the others as a proven unit and take my chances.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s hard to argue against the defending champs, especially with the efforts of Shaun Livingston and Marreese Speights in the playoffs. But I’m going to do it anyway. The Spurs regularly go 10 deep and virtually every one of them is a threat to win a game.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Warriors. That’s the Warriors with Stephen Curry. Without Curry, the bench is obviously weakened because Shaun Livingston goes from reserve to starter. He has been a key two one championship run already and the possibility of a second. But Andre Iguodala is the most important. Plays multiple positions, defends, can run the point.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The winner and still champion in this regard is Golden State. And that goes double for Andre Iguodala, still able to give the Warriors what’s needed (scoring, defense, energy) at that time he checks in. Shaun Livingston should get some love, too, given how he subbed for Steph Curry. Depth is what elevates the Warriors from all others.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Spurs had the best bench in the regular season by a wide margin, with an aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-10.9 points per 100 possessions. The depth advantage gets reduced a bit in the playoffs, when rotations are shorter, but with Patty Mills, Manu Ginobil, Boris Diaw and David West, they’re still the cream of the crop. Diaw is the most important player of the group, because he gives them frontline flexibility to match up with whatever opponent they’re facing and allows them to play both big and small at the same time. He’s the French Draymond Green, except that he came first.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Best bench, hands down, belongs to the Warriors. And it’s a tie for the most important player(s) off that bench between Andre Iguodala, the reigning Finals MVP, and Shaun Livingston, who is proving his worth to the franchise in Steph Curry‘s absence. If the Warriors do indeed get back to The Finals to defend their title, they’ll have done so behind the work of their bench and these two guys in particular.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: We’re seeing, again, that the Warriors’ depth is crucial. Last year it was sixth man Andre Iguodala who helped change the NBA Finals while being elevated to the starting lineup. This year the MV(Bench)P is Shaun Livingston, who is such a reliable fill-in for Steph Curry that Golden State doesn’t need to rush the league’s most explosive scorer back into the lineup. The fluid style of the Warriors owes much to their depth – and the versatility of that depth.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAtlanta’s bench is probably better and more versatile than most people realize. They have an above-average backup point guard (Dennis Schröder), a sweet-shooting stretch four (Mike Scott), a defensive specialist (Thabo Sefolosha) as well as guys like Tim Hardaway Jr. and (when healthy) Tiago Splitter. But to me the best bench of a postseason team belongs to Golden State, and you’re seeing its value right now with Steph Curry injured. Shaun Livingston is a terrific guard, able to play and defend multiple positions, and he’s stepped right into Curry’s spot and played capably. Andre Iguodala is coming off an NBA Finals MVP award, Festus Ezeli is going to command some real money in free agency, and Mo Speights draining threes is never not fun.

Heat, Hornets have no interest in playoff dramatics


VIDEO: Kevin Durant got tossed from Game 3 for smacking Justin Anderson in the face

CHARLOTTE — It’s playoff basketball, not professional boxing or mixed martial arts or anything of the sort. It’s just playoff basketball.

So don’t fix your eyes on this first round playoff series between the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets and look any deeper into any of the scrappiness between the two teams. Just because guys have to be separated now and then and words are exchanged, neither the Heat nor the Hornets are interested in any of the playoff dramatics going on elsewhere in this postseason.

“It’s the NBA, there aren’t really any fights,” Heat veteran Luol Deng said. “Not really, not during my time in the league. Guys don’t want to fight. There might be one punch and then it gets broken up. But no real fights. This isn’t hockey.”

Tell that to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or LeBron James and Andre Drummond or Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder. All of them have been been caught up in the first round dramatics, in one way or another.

Durant was ejected late in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 3 win over the Dallas Mavericks for smacking Justin Anderson in the face. Both Drummond and Thomas will not be suspended for contact against James and Schroder, respectively, that would have seemed to warrant suspension.

Game 3 of the Heat-Hornets series Saturday night featured plenty of opportunities for things to escalate and maybe even get out of hand, but cooler head prevailed time and again.

Hornets point guard Kemba Walker had one heated exchange with Heat center Hassan Whiteside that seemed like it was headed for craziness, only to have players on both sides calm each other down before things got completely out of hand.

“It’s the playoffs,” Walker said. “The intensity is up. Trying to win a series here. Both teams are going to be scratching and clawing, trying to do anything possible to win a basketball game. They have great ball pressure and so do we, so guys are going to get hit. It’s going to be tough out there … anything possible to win a game.”

Walker, however, went to make sure he set the right tone for Monday’s Game 4 showdown at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“I’m not a troublemaker,” he said and then smiled. “It’s just basketball, playoff basketball.”