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Posts Tagged ‘Hawks’

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.”

Horford responds to Heinsohn’s critique


VIDEO: Al Horford goes up top for the alley-oop against Boston

ATLANTA — Al Horford didn’t take the bait. 

It’s the playoffs, after all. And he knows better than to partake in anything that will shift the focus away from the business at hand, namely his Atlanta Hawks focusing on their preparation for Game 2 against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night at Philips Arena.

So when Horford was informed that Celtics great Tommy Heinsohn made some disparaging remarks about him after he led the Hawks with 24 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in their Game 1 win in this series, he shrugged it off. Heinsohn told a television audience watching the Celtics’ postgame show that Horford was “not a great player. Get a man on him and he has trouble scoring.”

“I didn’t see it, but that’s his opinion, you gotta respect it,” Horford said after the Hawks’ practice Monday afternoon. “I do. That’s his opinion and that’s how he feels.”

Horford is a four-time All-Star who has helped the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his nine NBA seasons. That includes his rookie season, when the Hawks pushed the No. 1-seeded Celtics to a Game 7 in a first-round series en route to Boston winning the title 2008 NBA title.

There’s no extra motivation needed, Horford said. Just being in the heat of playoff battle is enough, no matter the opponent.

“I’ve been in the league a long time,” he said. “I know I have to focus on my team and this is the playoffs, we’re in a great position and we have a great opportunity, so we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore rolled his eyes when informed of Heinsohn’s comments, and offered up his own retort.

“Oh, wow, I’m sure Al is going to come out and prove somebody,” Bazemore said. “You know Al’s a great player and he’s extended his range. He can shoot it now, he protects the rim and blocks shots and he’s a great leader. I could go on all day about all the accolades he has. Al’s a great teammate. There’s always someone that’s going to say a guy’s not a great player. Even Jesus Christ had haters.”

 

Nets pick Atkinson as new coach

The rebuilding, reconfiguring, resurrecting of the Nets takes the next step with the move to name Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson as the new head coach in Brooklyn.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the news and the Nets made it official on Sunday that Atkinson signed a multi-year contract.

“We are thrilled to announce Kenny Atkinson as our new head coach and to welcome him and his family to Brooklyn,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks in a statement by the team. “Kenny’s years of NBA coaching experience working under successful head coaches such as Mike Budenholzer and Mike D’Antoni have provided him with the foundation and experience we were looking for in a head coach. We believe that Kenny’s core principles, leadership, communication skills and exceptional background in player development make him an ideal fit for the culture we are building in Brooklyn.”

Atkinson currently serves as an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks and will continue in this capacity until the conclusion of Atlanta’s postseason. With respect to the Hawks and their playoff schedule, a press conference to formally introduce Atkinson will be held on a date that has yet to be determined.

“I’d like to extend a personal welcome to Kenny and wish all of us success as we begin a new era at the Brooklyn Nets,” said Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “Aside from his tremendous skills and experience, he has the mindset we need to build a winning team day by day, step by step. Together, we can do great things.”

Atkinson has spent the past four seasons with the Hawks and became Budenholzer’s top assistant two years ago when Quin Snyder left to take over as head coach in Utah.

“I’m very happy for Kenny and excited that he’s earned the opportunity to be a head coach,” said Budenholzer. “His competitiveness, knowledge and feel for the game, and passion for player development are all at a high level and will serve him well as a head coach. With him and Sean in place, the Nets have a very strong foundation to build on.”

An upbeat personality and a history of specializing in player development are key traits for Atkinson. He and the 40-year-old Marks, also in his first season on the job, will have plenty of heavy lifting to do in getting the Nets up off the bottom of the standings. The Nets finished this season 21-61 under Lionel Hollins and interim coach Tony Brown.

Morning shootaround — April 17




VIDEO: The Fast Break — April 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING
It’s all about Curry’s ankle | Brooks eyeing Lakers | Familiar Raptors headache | Bradley injury could doom Celtics
No. 1: All eyes are on Stephen Curry’s ankle — Yes, the Warriors dominated, owned, locked up and threw away the key on the Rockets from the moment they walked onto the court at Oracle on Saturday. But after a 104-78 thumping in Game 1 all that anybody in the Bay Area — and all around Dub Nation — could think about was Stephen Curry limping off the court with a “tweaked” right ankle. Our own Scott Howard-Cooper says Curry seems to be the only one not worried about the injury, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr was taking no chances:

It was Stephen Curry and ankles, it was the first 48 minutes of what could be months of playoffs, and it was every bit the rout that could have been expected in a 1-8 matchup. He was lucky the Warriors hadn’t wrapped him in a mass of down pillows and called the cops to escort him home at halftime.

“Well, he saw I was writing the five players’ names on the board who I’m sending out there and he saw his name wasn’t on there and he was incredulous,” Kerr said. “And I said, ‘I don’t like the way you’re moving right now.’ He said, ‘No, I’ll be all right,’ and of course he’s going to say that. He’s a competitor. He wants to play. But we’re not going to let him play if there’s any risk of making it worse. Obviously we’re hoping that we’re going to be in the playoffs for the next couple of months. So we don’t want to make any chances.”

Including in Game 2 on Monday. More will be known as the Warriors gather for a workout Sunday morning at their practice facility, namely whether the joint stiffens and swells overnight, but Kerr is calling him questionable for now with Golden State obviously wanting to avoid an ankle that remains problematic for weeks.

“Right now I don’t see a scenario where I’ll be out,” Curry said after scoring a game-high 24 points despite playing just 20 minutes, making eight of 13 attempts overall and five of seven behind the arc. “Obviously if it’s not right and at risk of further injury and what not, that’s the only thing that I think we have to worry about. Pain tolerance and all that stuff, I kind of know what I can deal with on the court. But you don’t want anything more serious to happen favoring the ankle or what not. So that’s what we’ll pay attention to the next few days.”


VIDEO: Curry tweaks ankle

(more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 233) Featuring Marvin Williams

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Times are good for Charlotte Hornets veteran Marvin Williams and they could get much better by the weekend.

Williams and the Hornets are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth, cementing one of the surprise seasons in the league behind the work of a core group that includes Kemba Walker, Williams, Nicolas Batum, Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin.

And with North Carolina back in the Final Four, the lone No. 1 seed to make it through the craziness that is March Madness, Williams could have plenty of reasons to celebrate. (His memories of winning it all at North Carolina in 2005 are fresh in his mind, even if it seems like a lifetime ago to others.)

There is still work to be done, of course, on both accounts. But Williams is close to achieving a level of satisfaction only a few can appreciate. The No. 2 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams is enjoying what is arguably the finest season of his career.

For all that he’d done before joining the Hornets, including helping start the Atlanta Hawks’ Eastern Conference-best streak of nine straight playoff appearances, everything fell into place for him upon his return to North Carolina, his home away from home.

Marvin joins us to talk about his basketball past, present and future and much more on Episode 233 of The Hang Time Podcast, where we also talk about the Final Four, the latest and craziest involving the Los Angeles Lakers (yes you D’Angelo Russell and Nick “Swaggy P” Young, trying to steal the spotlight from Kobe Bryant at the end of his farewell tour). 

Check out all that and more on Episode 233 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Marvin Williams.

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.

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VIDEO: Marvin Williams rises up to deny his former North Carolina teammate Raymond Felton

Report: No punishment for Howard


VIDEO: Dwight Howard’s incident during Saturday’s game vs. Atlanta

It was a sticky situation, but it looks like Dwight Howard will slide away with no penalty.

The NBA will not fine or suspend the Rockets center for use of an adhesive substance Saturday night in Atlanta, but sent a memo to all 30 teams that its usage is “strictly prohibited,” league sources said, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Howard used a spray on his hands during the first of two Paul Millsap free throws in the first quarter of a 109-97 loss to the Hawks. When Howard touched the basketball and it was bounced to Hawks Millsap at the free-throw line, he noticed the stickiness and the referees replaced the ball.

Following a team practice Monday in Oklahoma City, where the Rockets will face the Thunder Tuesday night, Howard defended his reputation.

“I just think that it’s getting overblown, like I’m doing something crazy,” he said. “But again, I’ve never been a cheater, never been the type of player that has to do something illegal to win. It’s upsetting, but I can’t control it now.”

Howard cooperated with NBA security officials over the past day, and the league advised teams Monday that all equipment used for games must be appropriate for a basketball and any substance that could gain an advantage is not prohibited.

Curry sits out practice, questionable for Tuesday’s game


VIDEO: Stephen Curry goes down against the Oklahoma City Thunder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Adrenaline no doubt carried Stephen Curry through the scintillating finish of the Golden State Warriors win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night, after he went down with a sprained ankle and was stepped on by Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook.

But Curry sat out of practice today and Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters he is questionable for Tuesday night’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), though he was not listed on the Warriors’ injury report as of this afternoon.

The Warriors beat the Hawks 102-92 on Feb. 22 at Philips Arena. Tomorrow’s return date is the Warriors’ first home game after their recent seven-game road trip that began in Phoenix before the All-Star break.

Curry has played in 56 of the Warriors’ 58 games this season, missing back-to-back games against Dallas (Dec. 30) and Houston (Dec. 31) with a bruised shin. The Mavericks won in a blowout with Curry missing, but Draymond Green and Klay Thompson took control as they bounced back with a win over the Rockets.

 

NBA, NBPA and NBRPA join forces for cardiac screenings


VIDEO: Hall of Famer Bernard King was an unstoppable force on the basketball court

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The wake-up call for Bernard King came the morning after the 2015 Naismith Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The night before he’d spent a good hour talking with fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Moses Malone about everything but basketball. It was a joyful time, King said, a chance for old friends to catch up on one another’s lives after the game.

But before King could open the door on his car as he headed to the airport that next morning, he received the news that Malone had died suddenly, yet another member of the NBA family gone way too soon.

That’s one reason why King was one of 25 retired NBA players to take part in a cardiovascular screening for local NBA alumni Saturday at Philips Arena, a program sponsored by the Hawks in conjunction with the NBA, the Players Association and the Retired Players Association.

“We’ve lost a lot of guys over the last couple of years,” King said, “Moses, Darryl Dawkins, Jerome Kersey and before that Pat Cummings, just to name a few. And a lot of these guys have died of heart attacks. So I think it’s great that the league, the players association and the retired players association are joining forces to try and figure out why that is and what we can do to adequately provide for everyone.”

Malone died in September of a cardiovascular disease, a month after Dawkins died of a heart attack. It’s the loss of those close to you, King said, makes the reality of the situation even more real for he and his fellow retired players.

“It certainly hits home,” he said. “These are guys you’ve competed against and played with or against for so many years. I sat with Moses for 90 minutes at the Hall of Fame just laughing and joking about everything you can think of going back to our days playing together in Washington. We didn’t even talk about basketball. Before I could even get in the car the next morning Meadowlark Lemon, who we just recently lost, and Artis Gilmore stopped me and asked if I’d heard about Moses. I said, ‘what are you taking about? I was just with him last night.’ And they told me he’d died last night. So yes, it’s disheartening that anyone would lose their life like that, whether they were a professional athlete or otherwise. The bottom line is, too many guys are dying at too young an age.”

That’s one of the main reasons the cardiovascular screening program was initiated, said Joe Rogowski, the NBPA’s Director of Sports Medicine and Research. The first one was held in Houston in December. Saturday’s event included Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, Hawks Vice Chairman Grant Hill, who was instrumental in the event being held at Philips Arena, as well as more recently retired players like Tony Delk.

“This is fantastic,” Delk said. “I’m 42 and very conscious of my health now that I’ve stopped playing. So when I heard they were offering this program free to retired players, I made sure to get my name on the list. When you’re playing, you take so much of this for granted, you’re talking about some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world. But none of us is immune to the issues that come with getting older.”

Rogowski worked in the league for a decade and said that the NBPA’s executive committee was discussing player health and retired player’s health during a meeting and idea for the screening program came out that exchange. It was placed on a high-priority list by the executive committee and fast-tracked for this season.

The NBA and the NBRPA jumped on board immediately when informed about the program, Rogowski said, and now that they have the Houston and Atlanta screenings in the books, there is much more to come.

“It’s been a truly collaborative effort,” he said. “From the NBPA, the NBRPA and the league to all of the specialists we fly in from all over the country to the teams, both Houston and here in Atlanta, for allowing us to set up shop and use the space in the arenas. It’s the same group that goes from city to city. And were thankful we’re doing it, because we’ve found some things that need to be addressed. And this is just the first step in a long-term process that will help us address the needs of the players, past, present and in the future.”

Rogowski cited the program’s mobility as one of the crucial elements to the success of the first two screening events. It can travel and reach the retired players in a place that is familiar and comfortable for them.

“I consider this a golden opportunity,” said King, 59, who has lived in the Atlanta area for over 15 years. “You have the finest experts here, health-wise, to check you out and ensure that your body is okay and functioning the way it should be. Those opportunities don’t always present themselves to you after you are done playing, so I made sure to get my name on the list before it filled up, because it was first come first serve.”

Morning shootaround — Feb. 22


VIDEO: The Fast Break — Feb. 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors beef up big man ranksVan Gundy takes blame for Pistons’ surrender to Davis | Lakers to start Russell the rest of the way | Was Lebron was right about Waiters?

No. 1: Warriors beef up big man ranks — What do you get the (championship) team that seems to have everything? Another big man, if you are the Golden State Warriors. They’ve added former Cleveland center Anderson Varejao, a LeBron James favorite during their time together with the Cavaliers, who helps bolster their big man ranks with both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli ailing. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle provides the details on the Warriors’ big man insurance policy:

The Warriors went without a center in their starting lineup out of necessity in Saturday night’s victory over the Clippers.

The team, however, didn’t consider that a long-term option, and on Sunday, it reached an agreement to sign free-agent center Anderson Varejao to a veteran minimum contract, league sources confirmed.

The Warriors cut forward/center Jason Thompson to clear roster room for Varejao and complete the move, which first was reported by the website, the Vertical.

Varejao, who’s 6-foot-10, had spent all of his 12-season career with the Cavaliers before being traded last week.

He was averaging career lows in points (2.6), rebounds (2.9), blocked shots (0.2) and minutes (10) for Cleveland before being sent to Portland in a trade-deadline deal Thursday. The Trail Blazers immediately cut him in a salary-cap move, and the Warriors expressed interest in the 33-year-old. They beat out other playoff teams who tried to ink him once he cleared waivers Sunday.

“I have not been notified of that, but it makes perfect sense, right?” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Friday night when told that his team’s interest in Varejao had been reported by ESPN. “I don’t even know if I am allowed to even mention his name. I can get fined by the NBA. I don’t even know what the rule is.”

The interest increased when starting center Andrew Bogut was forced to miss Saturday’s win at Staples Center because of a sore right Achilles tendon. Backup center Festus Ezeli is on the shelf after undergoing left knee surgery and is expected to miss at least another month.

With Bogut and Ezeli out, it was thought that Kerr might give either Marreese Speights or Thompson a start in the middle against the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, who’s 6-11.

Instead, the Warriors went small with 6-6 swingman Brandon Rush joining the starting five. That moved Harrison Barnes to power forward and shifted 6-7 Draymond Green to the center spot. Green responded with his league-leading 11th triple-double in the Warriors’ 115-112 win.

Varejao twice averaged double-doubles in his career (2011-12, ’12-13), but his numbers have fallen considerably since then. He didn’t play in the Cavs’ six-game loss to the Warriors in last season’s NBA Finals.

***

 No. 2: Van Gundy takes blame for Pistons’ surrender to DavisAndre Drummond had no chance. Neither did Tobias Harris or anyone else the Detroit Pistons tried to throw at Anthony Davis Sunday, when Davis dropped a NBA season-high 59 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the New Orleans Pelicans’ win at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t blame his players, though. He owned up to this one, pointing the finger at the man in the mirror after Davis etched his name in the history books with his monster performance. John Niyo of the Detroit News explains:

There was no voiding Sunday’s result, though, and rather than ripping his team, the Pistons coach ripped himself for the effort against Davis, who finished 24-of-34 from the field to post the NBA’s single-game high for the season and the best ever at the Palace, topping LeBron James’ 48-point outburst in the 2007 Eastern Conference finals. Davis had 51 points in the final three quarters alone, and later shrugged, “After a while, you feel like any shot you put up is going to go in.”

“That one’s on me,” Van Gundy insisted. “You’ve got to come up with something. A guy can’t get 59. That’s terrible coaching. Terrible.”

Whomever you want to pin it on, the Pistons have now lost eight of their last 10 games to fall two games below .500 for the first time all season — and two games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

And before you blame this latest skid solely on new faces and changing roles, remember the Pistons are 5-11 since that roof-rattling win over Golden State in mid-January.

They’re 6-13 in the last six weeks, with a road game at Cleveland on tap.

That might explain why Van Gundy had little interest Sunday in talking about the pending trade or the depleted lineup or the possibility changing roles might have something to do with his team’s disjointed performance at both ends of the floor.

Davis lighting up The Palace scoreboard certainly wasn’t the only issue Sunday. Marcus Morris, whose duties were altered the most by the trade with Orlando for Harris, finished with a season-low two points in 34 minutes. He and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — coming off a core-muscle injury — are a combined 10-for-45 from the field in the two games since the All-Star break.

“Why would the trade set it back?” Van Gundy countered, when asked about Morris. “He’s struggling. I don’t know if it’s with the multiple roles or if he just can’t get the ball in the basket. No excuses, though.”

But answers? We’ll see, especially now that Anthony Tolliver’s status is in limbo as well. In his second game as a starter following the trades — a place-holder for Harris as he gets adjusted to his new team — he limped off the court following a collision with Andre Drummond in the first half Sunday. Tolliver was headed for an MRI after the game, another troubling sight for a team that’s headed the wrong direction in the standings.

“I think everybody’s frustrated,” Van Gundy said. “Nobody likes to lose. Of course everybody’s frustrated. We’ve just got to keep playing through stuff.”

***

No. 3: Lakers to start Russell the rest of the way — After a nearly three-month stint coming off the bench, Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell is back in the starting lineup and apparently there for good. Russell and Lakers coach Byron Scott have had their issues this season, but with the team’s season headed for an ugly finish of the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, it’s time to let the rookie go. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com has more:

“It was just time,” Scott said when asked why he moved Russell back to the starting lineup, where Russell spent the first 20 games before being moved to the bench in December.

“Each month he has seemed to get better,” Scott continued. “He’s really starting to understand what this game is all about. He still needs to pick it up at times. Obviously on both ends he needs to continue to work, but I like what I saw [Sunday], and I like what I’ve been seeing from him over the last couple months.”

Russell’s playing time — and lack thereof at times — has been the biggest hot-button issue surrounding the 11-46 Lakers in what is on pace to be the worst season in franchise history. Scott has often benched Russell in the fourth quarter or, in one instance, pulled him for “trying to take over the game.”

“I get this question asked all the time. I don’t really care,” Russell said of starting versus coming off the bench. “I just want to play the right way. If that’s coming off the bench or starting, I just want to make an impact right away. I wish we could’ve won, just so I could feel better about it. But I trust coach’s decision and go with it.”

What does Russell hope to accomplish in the final 25 games?

“I just want to get better,” Russell said. “Coach always said, you’ve always got something to play for no matter how many games we’ve got left. However many games we’ve got left, I feel like I’ve still got something to prove.

“And I don’t want anybody to take it the wrong way, but you feel like your best players are your starters. And I feel like I’m going to keep the confidence and say that I’m one of the best players, so I feel like I just want to keep proving that I deserve to start, deserve to be out there and play crunch time minutes.

“With these last few games, I want to show that I have to be out there, like build that trust with my coach that he has to put me on the floor.”

Russell said being in the starting lineup along with guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Julius Randle will allow the trio of promising young players to build even more chemistry together.

“We can grow. We can play a lot tighter,” Russell said. “There’s a time when you can learn from each other as far as when one or them or myself mess up, we can figure out how to grow or we can watch film together. We should’ve done it earlier in the year, but I guess we were caught up in different ways. We can really take this time to grow together.”

***

No. 4: Was LeBron right about Waiters?Dion Waiters wasn’t a good fit in Cleveland once LeBron James decided to bring his talents home to northeast Ohio. So when the Cavaliers traded Waiters and went instead with J.R. Smith, much was made of the move. People wondered if LeBron and Cleveland had given up on Waiters too soon. But maybe LeBron was right, per Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman, who highlights the struggles of Waiters against his former team after the Cavaliers thumped the Thunder Sunday:

Waiters was awful for the second straight game. He followed a pointless Friday night game against Indiana with an equally fruitless game against his former team.

Waiters made LeBron the General Manager look incredibly wise. Waiters famously was traded by the Cavs to the Thunder 13 months ago because LeBron preferred to play with the mercurial J.R. Smith. The same J.R. Smith who made five of eight 3-pointers Sunday for Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Waiters missed his first seven shots, including an air-balled 3-pointer and a wild drive in which the ball bounced off the backboard 13 feet off the ground. Waiters made only his last shot, a 16-footer with 3:40 left in the game. That basket came with the score 109-88.

By the third quarter, Billy Donovan was designing plays for Waiters to boost his confidence, the Cavaliers were letting Waiters shoot and he wanted no part of it, preferring to drive and pass and keep the embarrassment to a minimum.

Seemed clear that Waiters was pressing to produce against the Cavs, who discarded him. Just as he did back in December, when Waiters scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting and the Thunder lost 104-100.

“Nah,” Waiters said. “Shots I normally make, I just missed. It’s going to come around. I ain’t worried about it.”

You can’t blame Donovan if he’s worried about it, though the Thunder’s first-year coach stood by his man.

“I’ve got confidence in Dion,” Donovan said. “When a guy’s not shooting the ball well, to me, that’s when you gotta really trust him. Obviously Dion hasn’t shot the ball great, but the guys in that locker room still believe he can help us.”

Donovan is right. He has no choice but to trust Waiters.

Not in the starting lineup. As soon as Andre Roberson is healthy, he needs to get back to opening games. The Thunder starting lineup with Roberson has been fantastic two years running, so even when Waiters is hitting, Roberson should be the starter.

But the Thunder has to have Waiters contributing offensively. His defense is solid. And who else off the bench is doing anything? Anthony Morrow can’t defend, and he’s made just 5-of-20 on February 3-pointers. Kyle Singler? Newcomer Randy Foye is available, but he’s 32 and on the downslope.

Waiters has to play and play well for the Thunder to prosper. The Cavs proved that.

“They were loading up on Kevin and Russell quite a bit,” Donovan said. “I thought our offense was OK in the first half. But when we did move and share the basketball, and found Dion or found different players, we didn’t make enough shots. For Dion, I thought he had some good looks tonight and it didn’t go down.

“I think maybe pressing’s probably a good word. Maybe he was a little bit. I don’t think it had anything to do with Cleveland as much as it had to do with probably coming out of last game.”

Maybe. But I don’t buy it. Looked like Waiters desperately wanted to prove LeBron wrong and instead proved him right.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pistons are still waiting to get clearance on their trade for Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus ThorntonKobe Bryant never shied away from the legacy of Michael Jordan in Chicago … Tonight’s Warriors-Hawks matchup (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV) at Philips Arena lacks the sizzle of last season’s tilt between the best of the best … The Indiana Pacers’ gamble on Myles Turner continues to pay off handsomely for Larry Bird … Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is looking forward to adding a quality veteran in David Lee today

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 223) Featuring Dominique Wilkins

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Comparing NBA eras, be it individuals or teams, is often a painstaking process that relies more on your intuition and sharp eye than it does any real science.

That’s one reason why Hall of Famers like Dominique Wilkins, do their best to stay away from the ghost chasing many of us do when we try to rate the basketball legends of the past and present. So when Larry Bird is asked to assess his vaunted 1986 Boston Celtics and the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, there’s really not a right or wrong answer.

There is only his perception of what those teams accomplish in their respective eras and the fantasy of what it would be like to see Bird, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson match up against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Same goes for any glorified rankings of the top players in league history at any position (#ESPNrank is stirring up fantastic debates these days) or any other attempt to reflect the current crop of superstars and teams against their historical counterparts. Too many of the dynamics have changed from say 30 or 40 years ago to now. There are fare too many variables to get a handle on anything other than a theory about who would come out on top in any hypothetical equation.

None of that stopped us from quizzing Wilkins about these very topics, and so much more, Episode 223 of The Hang Time Podcast. Just because there are very few easy answers doesn’t mean you don’t ask the question.

So see if you can make sense of it all on this week’s episode.

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.

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VIDEO: Dominique Wilkins talks about competing with Larry Bird in their collective primes


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