Posts Tagged ‘Marvin Williams’

Horford, Hawks Soaring Post Deadline





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In the moments after last Thursday’s trade deadline, when Hawks general manager Danny Ferry emerged from the team’s war room without anything major to report, he laid out a reasoned plan for why the Hawks didn’t do anything significant.

His explanation for not trading Josh Smith, who had been the subject of most of the biggest and best trade rumors heading into the deadline, probably sounded cliché to most.

But Ferry was just speaking the truth — as he sees it — when he made his case.

“We were in an unusual situation with Josh’s contract, our cap space and flexibility going forward, having a good team right now,” Ferry said. “There were a lot of factors that played into this. The main factor is we value Josh. He’s been important to our group this year and we want to finish the year strong. Hopefully, we play well and we’re a solid playoff team in the future.”

Ferry wasn’t necessarily referring to the Hawks’ immediate future. But the players obviously got the message after nothing major happened on deadline day. They’ve won three straight since the deadline, six of their last seven games and have moved into a tie for fourth place with the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Al Horford, still smarting from not making the All-Star team, posted his career-best sixth straight game of 20 or more points (23) and grabbed a career-high tying 22 rebounds in Monday night’s win over the Detroit Pistons. Smith added 23, Jeff Teague 20 and 12 assists and role players Kyle Korver (15 points) and Devin Harris (11) chipped in again with big contributions off the bench.

The Hawks are playing with the same energy that drove them earlier this season. Fueled by doubts that they would remain in the playoff mix after Joe Johnson (Brooklyn) and Marvin Williams (Utah) were traded away in the offseason, they smashed the competition early, scoring big road wins over Oklahoma City and Memphis in the first few weeks of the season.

They struggled in January as the trade rumors heated up around the same time they lost Lou Williams, the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, for the season with a knee injury.

But like they have done so many times the past six seasons, the Hawks continue to do what no thinks them capable of, and that’s grind away against all odds. Coach Larry Drew has done an impressive job of holding things together with a roster filled with players who are probably not in the Hawks’ long-term plans.

That stubbornness/resilience is part of what makes this mismatched group so intriguing.

“We are playing with an edge,” Smith told reporters after the win over the Pistons. “We are playing confident. Whenever we are playing confident like that and just having fun out there, it’s fun to be a part of.”

Getting Smith to buy in for the remainder of this season, and perhaps beyond, is one of Ferry’s main objectives in the coming weeks and months. There were trades on the table for the Hawks, names like Paul Pierce and Amar’e Stoudemire were tossed around, but nothing that included the complete package of assets Ferry was looking for in exchange for a player he values the way he does Smith.

“You weigh everything as you make decisions with your roster and with trades,” Ferry said. “I understand the media and the bloggers and the people who are NBA junkies, it was a very Josh-focused trade deadline here in Atlanta. But we talked about a lot of different things. We did a couple different things. We weighed the positives and negatives of each of our opportunities, and with our situation we felt the best decision was to stand pat, based off some of the things we were looking at.”

The Hawks are looking at nothing but opportunity right now. They are two games behind the New York Knicks for the third spot in the Eastern Conference, and just 2 1/2 games behind the Indiana Pacers for No. 2. The Miami Heat have a comfortable cushion over the rest of the field.

But that No. 2 spot could very well be up for grabs over the next two months. And the Hawks should be right in the middle of that chase, provided they keep doing what they’ve been doing of late.


Hawks’ Smith Headlines Trade Deadline Rumblings





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Josh Smith‘s days of playing before an ambivalent crowd at Philips Arena are numbered. If we’re reading the trade deadline tea leaves correctly, he might even be down to his final 48 minutes there on Wednesday night when the Hawks host the Heat.

The Hawks’ attempts to convince Smith to stick around until the summer, when he’d be a free agent, have not slowed a number of teams pursuing the versatile power forward.

In fact, the list of teams with reported interest in Smith seems to grow with every tick of the trade deadline clock. The Hawks have let it be known that they are willing to move the Atlanta native by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. And a player with his unique arsenal of skills can fit in any system.

The Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers are all either in full-blown pursuit or monitoring the situation closely in the hopes of landing Smith via trade … or perhaps later via free agency. That leaves the Hawks in the position of being very selective with their decision, while also needing to act now. There will be fewer potential trade partners to work with in July, courtesy of the particulars of the new collective bargaining agreement.

The max-deal conversation that has raged for weeks was, like many things in the Twitter era, not fully understood by most of the people. They were simply repeating the stories of Smith and the Hawks agreeing to disagree about his value to the team that drafted him with the 17th pick overall in the 2004 Draft.

Smith never said he demanded a max deal or else from the Hawks. A source close to Smith confirmed that the conversation between the two sides never ventured into that realm. Smith simply answered a question the way you’d expect any competitive NBA player to answer it when presented with the premise of “Do you think you are worth max money?”

The funny thing is the Hawks, spanning two different front office regimes, have never really made clear what monetary value they have assigned to Smith. His current deal — he’s in the final year of a five-year, $58 million contract — was one the Hawks had to match after the Memphis Grizzlies made a play for him as a restricted free agent in 2008. It’s a bargain for a player who has been as productive as he has during that time.

Since basically his first season, Smith has been on the proverbial trade market every February. And the Hawks have drafted player after player (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Al Horford) who were supposed to supplant Smith as the team’s best option at his position. Yet Smith has been steady. For every knock on his game — the ill-advised jump shots no one wants him to take, the spotty decision-making and the well-publicized dust-ups with coaches Mike Woodson and Larry Drew — there are things Smith and only a handful of other players can do on a given night.

Two players in the entire league average better than 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Reigning league MVP LeBron James is one of them and Smith is the other. Smith is the only player averaging better than 17, 8, 4 and one block (he actually averages 2.1).

When the Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to the Nets last summer, the playoff forecast for the franchise changed dramatically. Smith and Horford were left to lead a team of good role players that few people expected to be among the Eastern Conference’s best teams early this season.

There is a high probability that Hawks fans who have grown disenchanted with Smith’s game over the nearly nine years he’s played before hometown crowds. That throng will get their wish and see him move on. It’s up to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry to sort through the mess and find the right deal (with the most assets — players, draft picks, etc. — they can get for their best player).

And all indications are that’s exactly what he’ll do by Thursday’s deadline. (more…)

Hawks Hot On NFL Falcons’ Tails In ATL

HANG TIME MIDWEST — The Atlanta Hawks and their fans (hey, they know who they are) probably are too busy enjoying this nine-victories-in-10-tries ride to focus on teams other than the one they’re facing that night. But if they wanted to, hoo boy, could they have some laughs at the Los Angeles Lakers’ expense.

While Lakersland wrings its hands over its glamour team’s 9-11 start, the Hawks are flying below pretty much everyone’s radar at 12-5. That puts them third in the Eastern Conference, slotting in where we might normally expect to see the Boston Celtics or the Indiana Pacers.

Even as the Lakers were going through their massive offseason makeover – adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, among others – in pursuit of an insta-contender, the Hawks were undertaking a more traditional tear-down-and-rebuild. Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, two central pieces of a squad that made five straight playoff appearances, were traded away more for salary-cap maneuverability than talent returned. New Atlanta GM Danny Ferry appeared to just be getting going.

Now he and the Hawks might be closer to a destination than they could have predicted. Coach Larry Drew, whose job security was bandied about during a 2-3 start, sounded in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story like he hadn’t seen this coming.

“I knew these guys as individuals,” Drew said. “I knew what their skill level and their talent was. The big question was, would it all fit? Would they mesh together?”

The offense, with Drew opting to speed things up now that the “iso-Joe” focus through Johnson is gone, still is coming along. The Hawks rank just 13th in offensive rating (104.6) and are 28th in offensive rebounding, while making only 69.6 percent of their free throws.

But defensively, Atlanta is a unit. Sixth in defensive rating, second in opponents’ turnover percentage (16.5 percent), all the while giving away points through fouls and free throws at a stingy pace (Hawks opponents average only 20.4 FTA).

Point guard Jeff Teague ranks 10th in assists percentage. Al Horford already has played more games than he did in 2011-12 (torn pectoral muscle), at a higher level (16.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg) than in his first five seasons. Then there’s Josh Smith, finally looking like a cornerstone player even as he heads toward unrestricted free agency. Smith is making more 3-pointers (38.1 percent) while taking fewer, his blocked shots are back above 2.0 and he’s enjoying himself so much that signing elsewhere might not appeal to him the way it once might have. As Smith told the AJC’s Jeff Schultz:

“No disrespect to anybody else. But when you’re willing to do stuff [together] off the court, it creates a different kind of bond. Guys really care for each other. It makes us want to help each other out on the defensive end that much more.”

And to think, it’s all happening without Howard, the All-Star center Atlanta coveted but a fellow who has his hands full now – and his freedom looming – out West.

If the Atlanta native wants to add the Hawks to his short list of possible destinations for 2013-14, it will be a different club than the one he and others anticipated a few months ago.

Wizards Fall To 0-12 … And Counting

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Along the maddening trail to 0-12, there have been the gut-punches — three points combined in consecutive overtime losses to Charlotte (double OT) and at Atlanta, a near-22-point comeback at Dallas, four points at Indiana, OT at Boston and a three-point home loss to the Celtics.

Close was not the case Monday night at Verizon Center. The still-winless Washington Wizards, still without point guard John Wall, were run out of their own gym by the surging San Antonio Spurs, 118-92, the largest margin of defeat in an already defeated season.

Adding insult to injury, former Wizards big man Andray Blatche, who’s still pocketing $23 million from the franchise after being amnestied in July and eventually signed by Brooklynis taking cheap shots at his old team in the media and through his own brand of bastardized English on Twitter:

Such is the depressing life of the Wizards. Team president Ernie Grunfeld‘s dumping of high-priced Rashard Lewis for veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor has been a disaster. The hailed return of Nene lasted two games before yet another departure to rest his problematic foot. In Nene’s limited floor time of 49 minutes, Washington is a plus-31, so the big fella can definitely help pound out a ‘W’ if he can stay on the court.

Still, Randy Wittman‘s bunch must now be viewed as a serious contender to crash the league record for consecutive losses to start a season. Just two seasons ago, the Wizards lost 25 consecutive road games to start the season, the third-longest such skid in NBA history. Last season they started 0-8.

Now they’re two-thirds to 0-18, the worst start ever by an NBA team and owned by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets. The lockout-shortened 1999 Los Angeles Clippers and the 1988-89 expansion Miami Heat started 0-17. These Wizards are the 12th team in NBA history to start a season with 12 consecutive losses.

They’ll try to avoid a baker’s dozen at home Wednesday night against a smarting Portland team that dropped an ugly one at Detroit on Monday night.

How realistic is 0-18 or — gasp! — worse? Here’s their next six: vs. Portland, at New York, vs. Miami, at Atlanta, vs. Golden State, at New Orleans. Those six teams are a combined 49-34, and the worst of the lot, the Hornets (4-9), beat the Clippers in L.A. on Monday.

Then comes this hefty four-pack: at Houston, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Miami, vs. Atlanta.

Before the Wizards fell to 0-7 nearly two weeks ago following a 107-101 defeat at Dallas where they reversed a blowout, but couldn’t tie it up in the final minute, first-year Washington forward Martell Webster said he and his teammates, many of them new to the team as well, are determined to turn around the moribund franchise.

“Who else is going to do it?” Webster said. “It’s easy when things don’t go well to start blaming and start pointing fingers, but I don’t believe in that. When you think about it with your family, when you have problems you don’t point fingers, you work to resolve the problem as a family, as a unit, and I think that’s the most important thing. We’re a family, a unit and we’re not going to point fingers. We’re going to take accountability and responsibility for all of our individual actions, but at the end of the day we’re settling the problem ourselves.”

Still, there’s little doubt that as the losses mount so does the mental anguish.

Back To Future With Favors On Bench

On the official score sheet, it was the midway point through the fourth quarter on Monday night.

In the minds of those laying the foundational bricks for the Jazz, it was a hopeful glimpse into the future.

Denver’s Danilo Gallinari had missed a 3-point shot from the left wing and Enes Kanter was there to gobble up the rebound. He looked up and fired a pass to Jamaal Tinsley, who was in a full sprint up the sideline. Tinsley swung it across the court to a sprinting Gordon Hayward and, with barely time for the ball to settle into his hands, Hayward hit the runaway freight train that was Derrick Favors barreling back on the left with a perfect feed for a slam dunk.

Six seconds, three passes, two points and not once did the ball hit the floor.

Some day down the line this should be a steady part of the Utah offensive diet — a huge helping of the 6-foot-10 Favors filling the lane on the fast break and filling up the box score.

In his third season, Favors is tugging at the reins to get loose, and eventually there will come a time when coach Ty Corbin won’t be able to keep him out of the starting lineup.

There were plenty who thought that time for the third-year power forward was the beginning of this season, and they were ready to move veteran Paul Millsap or center Al Jefferson to make room.

With his team playing unevenly a little more than a week ago, Corbin made his own move to put Favors into the starting lineup in place of Marvin Williams in an attempt to go big across the front line with Millsap and Jefferson.

However, that experiment lasted only two games — wins over Washington and Houston — as Favors could not find a comfort zone with his fellow bigs, shooting just 3-for-10 and 2-for-7, respectively. Favors’ overall scoring and rebounding numbers did not go up as his minutes stayed roughly the same, and the move actually left the Jazz more vulnerable defensively with Millsap at a decided disadvantage trying to keep up with opposing small forwards.

Perhaps the biggest downside to using all of the big men together as starters was making the Jazz more deliberate and ponderous on offense at a time when the league is more about quickness and pace.

Favors scored 16 and grabbed 14 rebounds in his first game back as a reserve in Friday’s win over the Kings, then was handcuffed by foul trouble and didn’t manage a field goal in the rematch the next night in Sacramento.

With the Nuggets running the floor and making shots, they built a 16-point lead on Utah Monday night. Then, Favors came on strong — scoring 12 of his 19 points and playing powerfully around the basket to spark a second-half comeback in a 105-103 win.

The win kept the Jazz 6-0 at home, the first time they’ve started that quick since the 2008-09 season, and yet they remain rather inept on the road and appear in their current state no threat to be much different than the just-better-than-.500 team that sneaked into the No. 8 spot in the playoffs last season.

Without a sudden change in character, it will keep the heat on the Jazz to think about moving Millsap or Jefferson ahead of the February trade deadline.

Though it’s consistency out of him that would force the issue, it’s a thought that gets more tempting every time the Jazz run a break that end with Favors barreling toward the hoop with another glimpse of the future.

Mo Williams And Co. Bring Much-Needed 3-Point Shooting To Jazz





HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — It took nearly 32 minutes for Mo Williams to splash his first triple Wednesday night in his return to the team that drafted him nine years ago.

It came from straightaway, and 23 seconds later he buried a second 3-pointer from the left wing. His night back where it all began would end with only those two treys going down on a rather tame, for Williams, four attempts from downtown Salt Lake.

Yet his rapid-fire 3s in the third quarter counted as the two biggest buckets in the Jazz’s runaway season-opening victory over the Dallas Mavericks. A 74-74 tie suddenly became an 80-74 Utah lead and then Williams’ third consecutive bucket for eight straight points ultimately led to an 18-2 burst to close the third quarter leading 92-76.

That two long balls ignited the decisive run in the Jazz’s 113-94 victory is drenched with significance. (more…)

Hawks Have New Faces, New Pressure

ATLANTA — Josh Smith considers himself a realist. And he’s never been one to hold his tongue where his team is concerned.

So while you might hear championship talk from someone in every single training camp around the league this time of year, the Hawks’ forward refuses to play that game in a situation where name tags were actually necessary like they were at media day Monday at Philips Arena.

Only five of the 18 players the Hawks will suit up for their first practice Tuesday were a part of the organization last year. The Hawks jettisoned six-time All-Star Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets) and starting small forward and former No. 2 overall Draft pick Marvin Williams (Utah Jazz) as two of the nine players sent packing during a summer makeover/fire sale engineered by new general manager Danny Ferry.

That leaves Smith, All-Star center Al Horford, starting point guard Jeff Teague and back up big men Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson as the returning nucleus of a team that made five straight trips to the playoffs. A sixth is as far as Smith is willing to go with his preseason hype before seeing this new group, complete with as many as  in action.

“Every summer I take a look at my team and try to make an educated guess about where we fit,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a challenge, going against some of the top-notch teams in the East when you consider Miami comes back strong as ever. Boston went out and got better, got a couple of steals late in the draft to go with what they already had. Basically, all of the teams that were up there made moves to stay in that mix. I’m not going to lie, it is going to be a challenge. But it’s always been a challenge for us. And we always seem to find our way into the playoff mix. This season is no different.”

(more…)

No Deal Puts Smith, Hawks On Clock

 

Pick your poison.

Would you rather have Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, highly motivated, driven to have the best of what will be nine NBA seasons after this one, improving on 2011-12 numbers (18.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 21.1 PER) that were better than anything he had done before and hitting the free-agent market as one of the plums of 2013? Or Josh Smith, gone sideways, cranky over nonstop questions about his contract status, the object of repeated trade rumors and all of that affecting his market value to other teams and also his production for the Hawks?

Hawks management already has made its choice, apparently. It is banking on the former while accepting some risk of the latter by stating that a contract extension this season for Smith is unlikely. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Atlanta’s new GM for the paper’s NBA blog:

According to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Smith and his agents have said he would like to remain in Atlanta.

“I’ve been clear that I value Josh as a player,” Ferry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He has worked hard this summer and I believe he is going to have great season. I’ve been in contact with his representatives. Josh and his representatives have been clear that he is excited about the direction of the team and wants to be part of the future in Atlanta. That being said, I don’t expect the contract situation to be resolved until next summer.”

(more…)

Hawks Want Smith In The Flock

HANG TIME, TEXAS Danny Ferry has been on the job for only a few weeks and already he’s backed the moving van up to cart off Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.

So are the movers ready to lift Josh Smith like an old sofa and carry him to the door next?

Not so fast, Ferry tells Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“He’s a really good player,” Ferry said. “I love his ability to pass the ball. I love his ability to make game-changing plays defensively. I love his competitiveness. If I was out there playing, I would want Josh on my team.”

But does Smith want to be here? He wasn’t available for comment Tuesday, but Ferry said he has met with him twice.

“He’s excited for next season,” he said. “We haven’t really gone in that direction with him [on roster plans]. But we’ve talked about how we’re going to play. We’ve talked about other players. His ideas, my ideas. I’m just trying to establish a relationship.” (more…)

Hawks’ Ferry Clearing Space For A Run At Dwight Howard, Now Or In 2013?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In his first eight days on the job, new Hawks general manager Danny Ferry cleaned up the biggest mistakes of the men who preceded him and positioned the Hawks as potentially the biggest player on the free-agent scene in 2013.

By agreeing to trade the remaining four years and nearly $90 million on Joe Johnson‘s contract to the Brooklyn Nets for five players and a lottery-protected Draft pick in 2013 and Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris and his expiring contract, Ferry put the Hawks in a position to work with $30 million in cap space next summer.

He has rid the franchise of Billy Knight‘s Draft blunder in 2005 (Williams ahead of both Deron Williams and Chris Paul) and Rick Sund‘s free agent fiasco of 2010, when the Hawks signed Johnson to a $126 million deal, the richest deal in the league.

Do the math. The Hawks are shedding $100 million in outgoing salaries and taking back a fraction of that ($24 million), which gives them all sort of flexibility to make a play for hometown All-Star Dwight Howard (who has demanded a trade from Orlando) this summer or next summer when he’s a free agent.

(more…)