Posts Tagged ‘Mike Budenholzer’

New faces, new places for All-Star starters

VIDEO: Stephen Curry is the leading vote-getter for the NBA All-Star Game starters

NEW YORK CITY — The 2015 All-Star Game will feature several first-time starters, as well several players making return All-Star appearances while representing new places. But perhaps the most surprising news from the All-Star voting results is a changing of the guard atop the polls.

NBA All-Star 2015Cleveland’s LeBron James, last season’s overall vote-getting leader while a member of the Miami Heat, led the voting through each of the initial voting updates this season. But a late push from Golden State’s Stephen Curry made the Warriors guard the overall leader, with 1,513,324 votes to James’ 1,470,483.

The other big surprise in final voting totals was the rise of Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. In the first voting totals, announced on Christmas Day, Lowry was in fourth among Eastern Conference guards, behind Washington’s John Wall, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. Irving started last season’s game for the Eastern Conference and went on to win the All-Star Game MVP.

In the most recent results, announced two weeks ago, Lowry had leapfrogged Irving to move into third place but was still over 100,000 votes behind Wade, with 406,974 votes to Wade’s 507,326 . But the Raptors campaigned hard for Lowry, with social media support from people like hip-hop star Drake and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which apparently rallied enough support to push the 28-year-old Lowry, who has never been an All-Star, into the starting lineup. Lowry finished with 805,290 votes to Wade’s 789,839.

Last season’s second-leading vote-getter was Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, with 1,396,294 votes. Durant went on to win his first NBA MVP award. But Durant has missed 23 of OKC’s 42 games this season while recovering from a foot fracture, while his teammate Russell Westbrook, himself a three-time All-Star, has missed 14 games with a hand injury.

For the second year in a row, forwards and centers were lumped into one frontcourt category. Each conference’s starting five will include one of the Gasol brothers — Memphis’ Marc for the West and Chicago’s Pau for the East, in his first season as an Eastern Conference player. New Orleans big man Anthony Davis, who one year ago made his All-Star debut as a Western Conference reserve, will join Marc in the Western Conference starting lineup, giving the West plenty of size along the front line.

Some players are noticeable by their absence. Despite winning the NBA title in dominant fashion a season ago, no San Antonio Spurs players were named to the starting lineup in the West. And in the East, no Atlanta Hawks charted among the top five, even though the Hawks currently are 35-8 and have a six game lead atop the Eastern Conference.

Houston’s James Harden probably has the best claim to a starting spot among those not voted to the starting fives. Harden currently leads the NBA in points per game at 27.2 per night. This year he was the only player over a million votes (1,069,368) not to make the starting lineup.

But could history repeat itself? Last season Harden was selected as an injury replacement for Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference starting lineup, and the announcement earlier today that Kobe Bryant suffered a torn rotator cuff last night puts his participation this year in doubt. If Bryant is unable to play, the Western Conference All-Star coach, Steve Kerr, will select his replacement in the starting lineup from among the players selected as reserves, where Harden would seem to be a lock. The reserves will be announced next Thursday night, Jan. 29.

Golden State’s Kerr will be the first rookie coach to coach in an All-Star Game since Larry Bird in 1998. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, who is just in his second year as an NBA head coach, will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be exclusively televised on TNT from Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 15.

THE EAST

Frontcourt

LeBron James, Cavaliers — No surprise that the league’s reigning best all-around player made the cut. After flipping from Miami to Cleveland in the offseason and a slow start with the Cavs, James recently sat out 8 games to recuperate from nagging injuries. In five games since returning, King James has averaged 30.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 6.0 apg.

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks — This must be a high point in an otherwise rough season for Anthony, who has averaged 24 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 33 games for the woeful Knicks, who are just 7-36 on the season. Anthony will likely be the only New York or Brooklyn representative in the game.

Pau Gasol, Bulls After 13 seasons in the Western Conference with the Grizzlies and Lakers, a move East to Chicago has vaulted Gasol into his first All-Star game since 2011, and the first All-Star start of his career. It’s well-deserved: At 34 years old, Gasol is averaging 18.7 ppg along with a career-high 11.4 rpg.

Backcourt

John Wall, Wizards — After making his first All-Star appearance one year ago as a reserve, this season Wall was voted in as the leader among Eastern Conference guards. The 24-year-old Wall is having a breakout season, leading the Wiz to a 29-14 record while averaging 17 ppg and leading the NBA at 10 apg.

Kyle Lowry, Raptors In his ninth NBA season, for the last few seasons Lowry has been the Eastern Conference player probably most deserving of an All-Star nod that never came. This season, Lowry is averaging 19.8 ppg, 7.5 apg and 4.9 rpg, career highs across the board.

THE WEST

Frontcourt

Blake Griffin, Clippers — All-Star Weekend is nothing new for Griffin — he’s been a participant every year since 2011, the same year he won the Slam Dunk Contest by leaping over a car. But his game has evolved over the years, using less power and more touch. This season Griffin is averaging 23 ppg and 7.6 rpg for the 28-14 Clippers.

Marc Gasol, Grizzlies — The younger Gasol brother has made just one previous All-Star appearance, in 2012. But Gasol was named the Defensive Player of the Year last season, and this season has assumed a central role in the Memphis attack, posting 8.2 rpg along with a career-high 19.3 ppg.

Anthony Davis, Pelicans – The Unibrow is officially among the NBA elite. After a summer anchoring the gold medal-winning USA Basketball team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Davis has continued his strong play into the season. The versatile 21-year-old seven-footer, in just his third NBA season, is currently averaging a double-double, with 24.3 ppg to go with 10.4 rpg, as well as leading the league with 2.9 blocks a night.

Backcourt

Stephen Curry, Warriors – Thus far this season, Curry has been the best player for the league’s best team. In his sixth NBA season, Curry is averaging 23.2 ppg and 8.1 apg for the Warriors, who began the season 16-0 and are currently 34-6 overall.

Kobe Bryant, Lakers — After sitting out last year’s game while recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, the Mamba was again selected an All-Star starter, although like last season, an injury could curtail his participation. Even at 36 years old, the 16-time All-Star has remained effective, averaging 22.3 points per game this season in 35 appearances.

Golden State clinches West All-Star coaching role for rookie Kerr

curry

Steve Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Larry Bird in 1998 (NBAE via Getty Images).

Steve Kerr woke up Thursday as the coach of the 2015 Western Conference All-Stars. He went to bed that way, too, but not everyone realized it late Wednesday.

The NBA officially crunched the numbers Thursday morning, noting that Kerr’s Golden State Warriors already had clinched the West’s best record through games played Feb. 1. That’s the cutoff date for designating the All-Star coaches. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer and his staff had earned the honors with the East All-Stars with the 35-8 Hawks’ home victory over Indiana earlier Wednesday evening.

Kerr’s spot on the West sideline for the annual showcase Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden was assured with the Warriors’ 126-113 victory over Houston in Oakland. It left Golden State with a league-best record of 34-6 with five games remaining through Feb. 1. Even if it were to lose all five, Kerr’s club would sit at 34-11, .7555, at the cutoff.

Portland, at 31-12 with six games before Feb. 1, could get no higher than 37-12, .7551. Memphis would reach 35-12, .744, if it were to win its five games over the next 11 days. Dallas would max out at 36-13, .734, while both Houston and the L.A. Clippers can do no better through Feb. 1 than 34-14, .708.

Had Portland beaten Phoenix Wednesday, the Trail Blazers and coach Terry Stotts might have gotten to 38-11, .7755, pushing the All-Star honor closer to the deadline. But few can quibble with Golden State’s status as the conference’s and the league’s most successful team through the first half of 2014-15.

The Warriors, who won a franchise-record 17th consecutive game, are off to their best start in the Golden State era. They are one of only 10 teams in NBA history to have won at least 34 of their first 40 games. Golden State ranks No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.487), as well as No. 1 in defensive field-goal percentage (.421). Its average margin of victory (11.8) is the fattest since Kerr played with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (12.2).

Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Indiana’s Larry Bird worked the East’s bench in 1998. He will be Golden State’s first All-Star coach since Don Nelson in 1992.

Kerr, a former 3-point specialist for Chicago and San Antonio, general manager in Phoenix and savvy broadcast analyst, downplayed the achievement as he and the Warriors drew close. “It’s more just keep getting better to me,” he told reporters. “Keep improving, keep taking another step forward. And if we do that, there’s a lot of good stuff to come.”

Most head coaches cite their staffs, who join them on All-Star Weekend, and Golden State is no exception, with Ron Adams, Alvin Gentry, Luke Walton, Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser and Keke Lyles all contributing. The Warriors players seem to value their input, according to a report Wednesday on MercuryNews.com.

 

“They do a great job of preparing us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry and those guys, they do a really good job for us with our scouting reports and their preparation.”

Bogut noted that the biggest thing he noticed with Kerr’s staff members was that they had “no agendas” and didn’t play favorites.

“It happens on a lot of teams, just to try to align themselves with certain guys in case there’s coaching changes or whatever, and that happens I’d say in 80 percent of NBA teams,” Bogut said. “I don’t see that on this team with this coaching staff. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I think that starts from Steve Kerr because he’s told these guys, ‘Do your job. I don’t expect you guys to get involved in politics.’ “

With both All-Star coaching staffs in place, the players come next. All-Star starters will be named on TNT Thursday evening, with reserves coming next week after a vote of conference coaches. Stephen Curry is expected to start for the West for the second straight year, but Kerr called it “criminal” if Golden State were to have just one All-Star. In his view, backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson should go to New York, too.

Said Kerr: “Klay deserves it. To me, the thing with the All-Star game that I’ve always felt long before I came to Golden State is the best teams deserve the benefit of the doubt. Players who put up stats are really good. Players who put up stats and help their team win a ton of games are All-Stars, and that should absolutely put Klay in the game.”

All-Star starters announced tonight on TNT

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Can the King stay on top?

The race between Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry to be the overall leader in voting for the 2015 All-Star Game looks to be coming down to the wire.

NBA All-Star 2015We will discover the winner tonight with the announcement of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game starters, which airs live on TNT at 7 p.m. ET.

LeBron has led in both the Eastern Conference and overall voting since initial totals were announced, totaling 971,299 votes in the most recent returns. Right on James’ heels was Curry, with 958,014 votes.

Sandwiched around the announcement of those voting totals, James missed eight games to rest injuries. Whether that absence will cut into James’ overall vote total remains to be seen. Since returning, he’s played in five games, averaging 30.6 ppg, 7.o rpg and 6.0 apg.

With attention focused on Curry and James at the top of the charts, it’s probably also worth keeping an eye on New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, who at last count was third overall with 922,381 votes, nearly 50,000 behind James but making Davis the only player besides James and Curry with over 900,000 total votes.

There haven’t been any changes in either Conference’s starting five since the initial voting totals were announced, but a significant surge happened in the last announcement totals. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry leapfrogged Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving to move into third among Eastern Conference guards behind John Wall and Dwyane Wade. The Raptors have mounted a significant social media campaign to get out the vote for Lowry, though at last count Lowry was still well behind Wade (406,974 votes to Wade’s 507,326).

If voting patterns hold, joining James, Wall and Wade as starters for the Eastern Conference should be Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol.

For the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol look to hold on to their spots alongside Curry and Davis in the starting lineup.

With last night’s Atlanta win over Indiana, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer clinched the job of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars and Golden State’s Steve Kerr will helm the Western Conference. Yet aside from Curry, no other players from either team were in the top five at any position in either conference in the most recent voting.

The starting lineups will be revealed during a special one-hour edition of the Emmy Award-winning pregame show “Inside the NBA,” featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Spurs at the Bulls (8 p.m. ET) and the Nets at the Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET).

The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Atlanta’s Budenholzer will coach Eastern Conference All-Stars


VIDEO: Mike Budenholzer talks about being named coach of the East All-Stars

The Atlanta Hawks have sparked debate in recent weeks regarding the 2015 All-Star Game in New York next month, with folks wondering if their ensemble style will be sufficiently honored when the East squad’s reserves are chosen by the conference coaches.

So what happens? The Hawks wind up being the first team to nail down a spot for the Feb. 15 showcase at Madison Square Garden. As it turns out, all of the Hawks’ team success means that coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff will work the game on the East sideline.

Budenholzer, in his second season with Atlanta (35-8), earned the honor when the Hawks beat Indiana Wednesday night at Philips Arena. The victory clinched the best record in the conference through games played on Sunday, Feb. 1, the cutoff for determining the All-Star coaches. Joining Budenholzer will be assistants Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Taylor Jenkins, Charles Lee, Neven Spahija and Ben Sullivan.

“It’s a credit to our players, our front office and our entire organization,” Budenholzer said. “I really feel strongly about our assistant coaches; I think they do an amazing job. It’s a great honor but it’s our players that put us in this position. It’s the players that deserve the credit.”

By beating Indiana, Atlanta stretched its winning streak to 14 games, matching the longest in franchise history, and won for the 28th time in its past 30 games. Six Hawks scored in double figures, as Atlanta shot better from 3-point range (13 of 29, 44.8 percent) than the Pacers managed overall (31 of 78, 39.7 percent). And yet it was marksman Kyle Korver‘s dunk in the first half that had people talking.

The 33-year-old got loose on a break and threw down for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012. That one, at Sacramento, came 199 games ago according to STATS. It was, by their count, Korver’s 16th dunk in 12 NBA seasons.

Korver has a good chance to join Budenholzer in New York, given his reputation among the league’s coaches and his statistically eye-popping season so far in shooting 50 percent, overall, 50 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent on free throws. But then, strong cases can be made as well for point guard Jeff Teague and big men Paul Millsap and Al Horford.

There’s uncertainty, too, in naming Budenholzer’s counterpart as coach of the West All-Stars. The same Feb. 1 cutoff is in play and Golden State’s Steve Kerr began Wednesday as the favorite owing to the Warriors’ 33-6 mark. But four more teams – Portland (Terry Stotts), Memphis (Dave Joerger), Houston (Kevin McHale) and Dallas (Rick Carlisle) – all were in striking distance with 10 days left.


VIDEO: The Starters talk All-Star Hawks

Blogtable: Biggest midseason surprise (and disappointment)?

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: Midseason surprises? | Texas playoff showdown? | What to do with Austin?



VIDEONBA TV’s crew takes stock of the league at midseason

> We’re halfway through the season. Who or what has been the biggest surprise these first 41 games? And biggest disappointment?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Anyone around the league who claims they saw the Atlanta Hawks doing this should be selling cars or running for office. No bleeping way. Year 2 under coach Mike Budenholzer, Jeff Teague‘s blossoming, Kyle Korver‘s outlier first half statistically and a pass-first, ensemble approach is one of the NBA’s best stories. As for disappointments, I’m looking at the Brooklyn Nets. Even though they’re reaping what they sowed with big talk, overspending and acquiring some wrong guys, it’s disheartening to see the Brooklyn honeymoon fizzle so fast.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two words nobody ever expected to be typing before the season began: Atlanta Hawks. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, et al have risen under the brilliant coaching job of Mike Budenholzer to become a stylistic clone of the defending champion Spurs and the best team in the Eastern Conference. To lift what has been a moribund franchise for more than three decades, is positively breathtaking. When it comes to disappointments, all conversations will begin and end in Cleveland, where LeBron James returned home to acclamation and promptly found himself knee-deep in team-wise cluelessness. But let’s not let Lance Stephenson off the hook for all he hasn’t done in Charlotte. Possibly the worst $27 million anybody has ever spent.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Surprise: Hawks. I thought they would be good. But like fourth-in-the-East good. Capable of winning a series or two, not at the elite level yet. This, though. To be 10-2 against the West along with 17-5 on the road, not to mention the long win streak of the moment, is filled with positives for an organization that really needed good news. Disappointment: Cavaliers. Easy call. I’m also disappointed in the 76ers. That roster should have the fewest wins in the league. Come on, Philly, don’t let the Knicks out-bad you. You worked too hard to be the worst.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Surprise to the Hawks, disappointment to the Knicks. Well, yeah, I can hear folks now: What about the Cavs? And that’s valid. However, I had a hunch the Cavs would need time (though not this much time) after blending in a new coach and three stars and also losing Anderson Varejao. LeBron said as much last summer. The Knicks are flat-out an embarrassment and, unlike Cleveland, have given up. As for the Hawks, they may be based in the East but they’re beating up good teams from the West. Unreal for a team that won 38 games last season and didn’t add anyone.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: My first answers are the Hawks and Cavs, for obvious reasons. But I’ll add the Bucks and Pelicans to mix things up. Milwaukee has taken advantage of the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference and doesn’t have a lot of quality wins, but I’d assumed that they would be one of the teams being taken advantage of (again). Jason Kidd has taken a young cast without a star and turned it into the most improved defensive team in the league. That was supposed to be New Orleans, with the addition of Omer Asik and development of Anthony Davis. But New Orleans has taken only the smallest step forward on defense and still ranks in the bottom six of that end of the floor. I didn’t think that they would make the playoffs, but with that frontline, I thought they could at least make a big jump defensively.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Until someone slows them down the Hawks remain the obvious and easy answer for the biggest surprise. No one saw this coming. NO ONE! But I think you could make just as strong an argument for the Portland Trail Blazers. Those 19 home wins and the way Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both played throughout the first half of the season certainly fueled this team. They have some of my favorite role players (Nic Batum and the ridiculously underrated Wesley Matthews) on their roster, too. They didn’t add any star power over the summer or do anything to suggest they were ready for a leap into the top two or three of the West. Coach Terry Stotts has done a great job, but sustaining this flow becomes the challenge for the second half of the season. It’s tough to get up there to the top of the standings. It’s even tougher to stay there for the long haul. The biggest disappointment … the options are endless. Based on my own internal expectations, it would be hard to top the New York Knicks. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were going to struggle with the transition. But the worst team in basketball, worse than Philadelphia or Minnesota? I didn’t see this face-plant coming.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Hawks are absolutely the biggest surprise, so much so that the other unforeseen performances – by the Warriors, Grizzlies, Rockets and Bucks – don’t seem so surprising by comparison. The biggest disappointment has been the Cavaliers: Not so much for their record as for the way they’ve reacted. I figured by now they would be showing more camaraderie and character and leadership, especially at the defensive end. And if there is any hint that their failure to pull together is the fault of the coach then further shame on them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Atlanta Hawks have been nothing short of shocking. I say that as a native Atlantan and former Hawks season-ticket holder who watches every Hawks game and even wrote the NBA.com Hawks season preview. If I didn’t see a 33-8 start coming I don’t expect anyone else to have suspected it either. On both ends of the floor, night after night, the Hawks have been a total delight to watch, and they deserve every watt of the spotlight they’re receiving. As for the flip side of the coin, it’s not altogether their fault, but the Oklahoma City Thunder’s start to the season has been brutal. And sure, significant injuries to your two best players are always trouble, but the Thunder have to start winning consistently right now just to have a chance at making the playoffs. 20-20 is supposed to be the result of Russell Westbrook‘s fashion glasses, not OKC’s record halfway through the season.

 

Biggest Surprise of 2014-15For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 17


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Blatt’s curve ball works wonders for Cavaliers | Russ goes wild on Warriors | Raptors are no match for Hawks | Kawhi’s comeback sparks Spurs

No. 1:Blatt’s curve ball works wonders for Cavaliers — Give David Blatt credit for recognizing a crisis and figuring out his own way of handling it, so to speak. All the denials in the world won’t make the Cleveland Cavaliers’ issues go away. The only thing that will quiet the current storm surrounding this team is winning. And the Cavaliers, after a 1-7 slide and six straight losses without LeBron James in the lineup, are suddenly on the other side, winners of two straight games after their Los Angeles sweep. They wrapped it up with Friday’s win over the Clippers. But the best move Blatt made came before Thursday’s win over the Lakers, when the coach threw a curve ball of his own into the mix and changed the tenor of things for all involved. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group explains:

Blatt has acknowledged that he’s continuing to make adjustments and admitted to having room to grow in his first year as an NBA head coach. Part of coaching is about feel and instincts, gauging what the team needs at that moment in time.

The best call Blatt made to get his team in the proper mindset against the Lakers was tricking his team into thinking they had practice the day before.

“(Bowling) didn’t seem to affect too many people’s jump-shots. This man (J.R. Smith) was throwing a six-pound ball around,” Love revealed. “Those events are fun. We were able to go out there and bowl, eat bad food and enjoy ourselves. It had us loose for the game.”

Loose hasn’t been a word affiliated with the Cavaliers of late; tense, or uptight would probably be better descriptors. There is a lot of pressure placed on this organization — from ownership, to management, on down to the players. It has been a tough road thus far.

Over the past month, the Cavaliers have either played a game off a single-day rest or participated in back-to-backs. It’s been that long since they’ve had two days or more off in between games. It’s good to get away sometimes.

Chemistry off the court is just as important as on the court. Or in a bowling alley.

“I was happy,” Kyrie Irving said after registering 22 points. “One thing that’s never seen on camera and I consistently say it, this is the closest team that I’ve been on. We always have fun whether we’re getting ready for a game or a practice or we go bowling, it’s a team activity that we just personally enjoy.

“We enjoy being around one another and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Obviously there’s things we’ve got to fix out there on the court, but relationship- wise, we couldn’t be any better.”


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving and the Cavs lit up Staples Center two nights in a row

(more…)

Blogtable: Why doubt the Hawks?

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: Buy Hawks or Nets? | Who is Atlanta’s All-Star? | Are the Hawks legit?



VIDEOCan the Hawks keep up their immense success once the playoffs begin?

> They’re the top team in the East right now, but they’ve also steamrolled their Western Conference opponents during this recent 23-2 run. This team is legit, isn’t it? Why are there still so many Hawks doubters out there?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAny team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency this deep into a season is legit in my mind. The Hawks defend without fouling, or at least without giving away a lot of cheap points at the line. They shoot lights-out. They have worker bees to run down those vaunted 50-50 balls. I think any reluctance to give them their full due as a contender stems from three things: Limited history as a power since the ‘Nique years, the absence of an easily accessible marquee name/personality and, most of all, their style. Atlanta went “3-crazy” in the playoffs last spring out of necessity — no Al Horford — and doesn’t hoist ‘em from way deep quite like that now (five of their eight most prolific shooters in the postseason took 45 percent of their FGA from the arc vs. just two now). But the Hawks still score fewer points off 2-pointers than all but four teams and more off 3-pointers than all but six, and that heavy reliance on range doesn’t fit the imagery of grinding, assertive playoff offense.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comYes, they’re legit. Their smackdown of the so-called power teams from the West proves that. The only reason that people doubt the Hawks is the long franchise history of mediocre basketball, early playoff exits, empty arenas and no excitement outside of Dominique Wilkins. They’ll fight their own past until they get a chance to do something about in the 2015 playoffs.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comYes, this team is legit. The doubt comes because of the Hawks’ history, not the Hawks’ present. People are getting caught up in reputations. And the instability in the front office and ownership doesn’t help. But this isn’t this isn’t a sudden flash that needs to stand the test of time. People could see Atlanta coming at least a season ago and maybe longer. Besides, half a season with some of the wins the Hawks have had is a pretty good test of time. That’s a roster with talent and a smart coach who will have a lot of success.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The doubters exists because (a) the Hawks are guilty by association with regard to the crummy East, and (b) they have no stars, and (c) the Hawks have never won two playoff rounds in their Atlanta history, so folks are waiting to see what happens in April/May. Also, there’s the sense that when the Bulls get it together, it’s their conference to lose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI can’t say why other people don’t believe in the Hawks, but I’m pretty convinced. They have the best record (9-3), the best offense (107.4 points per 100 possessions) and the second best defense (101.4) in games played between the league’s 12 best teams (the top 4 in the East, the top 8 in the West). Overall, they’re one of two teams that ranks in the top six on both ends of the floor, and they’ve played a tougher schedule than the other one (Golden State). Though Al Horford has come a long way since the beginning of the season, interior defense is still a bit of a question, so I’ll be curious to see them against Chicago on Saturday if both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are (relatively) healthy. Noah missed the first meeting in December.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe Hawks are indeed “legit,” and then some. Yet, as a veteran of some of the most diabolically bad basketball ever unleashed on fans in Atlanta (13-69 in 2004-05 was uglier than the numbers indicate), I get the reluctance to buy-in locally. It’s hard to believe in a team with the history the Hawks have acquired over the years is as putrid as we all know it to be. Every glimmer of hope has been met with a door slamming in the face of Hawks fans eager to jump on a bandwagon with no wheels. That said, I don’t believe in the ghosts of basketball past muddying up things for the ghosts of basketball present and the future. And these current Hawks are giving you everything you need to believe that they are destined for something special this season. The Eastern Conference crown is there for the taking … so why not the Hawks?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They don’t have anyone known for raising his level of play. That’s what the great players do, and that’s why they win championships. Will the Hawks be able to raise their level in the postseason? But then again, if the Bulls aren’t healthy three or four months from now, there may be no rival in the East capable of forcing the Hawks to achieve that higher level of play. What they’re doing right now may be good enough to earn them a place in the NBA Finals.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAtlanta sports fans have something I call the hammer of history constantly dangling over their heads. Over the last three decades, there have been so many Atlanta teams with championship aspirations who showed promise and got the city and the fans fired up, and then fell short. The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles and managed one World Series title. The Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in 1998 and got whacked. Georgia Tech made it to the NCAA Basketball championship game in 2004 and getting bumped off by UConn. It’s been all tease and minimal payoff, and Atlanta fans are understandably tired and suspicious of handing over their hearts too soon. So I get it, I do. The thing is? Right now, this Hawks team is for real. There’s still a lot of season to go, and I know it’s hard to embrace anything with that hammer above, but enjoy it Hawks fans. Stuff like this doesn’t come along very often.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 185) Featuring Chris Vivlamore

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You need theme music when you’re playing as well as the Atlanta Hawks have here recently (they’ve won 23 of their last 25 games after demolishing the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night on the road).

The dream is real for long-suffering Hawks fans who have waited for years to see their team atop the Eastern Conference standings and among the league’s truly elite teams. The Hawks sit atop NBA.com’s Power Rankings and have earned the universal approval of those who know the game intimately, and yet there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding the hottest team in basketball.

Maybe it’s the lack of superstar names on the roster (sorry Jeff Teague, Al Hoford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and others). Or perhaps it’s the long and sordid history of a franchise that, during its Atlanta history, has yet to enjoy that breakthrough season that ends with a trip to the conference finals. Mike Budenholzer and his bunch don’t care about the Hawks’ past. They are only concerned with the present and the future.

That future remains a bit uncertain. New ownership, potentially new management and even a few new faces on the roster could be in the works. No one knows for sure. And that’s why we thought it best to discuss all that and more with Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Episode 185 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 and the new best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Andrew Merriam.

– 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.


VIDEO: KG head butts Dwight and the chaos ensues

Hawks keep whupping up on the West


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO: The Hawks handle the Grizzlies at Philips Arena

Report: Agreement in place for Hawks to be on market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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